Flaming 101

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What is it about the Internet?

Went over to Storage Review and they published this part of an email:

“I am very pissed off that you always skew your scsi drive reviews against IBM. You knew damn well that the 18.4 gb 36Z15 was the proper drive to test, by far faster than any 15k rpm drive. Yet you purposely chose the 36 gb model.

“Explain why not reviewing (sic) the 18gb model. You can not explain it except with lame excuses. You owe the site users an apology and promise to revise your findings by testing the 18.4 gb 36Z15 against the Cheetah x15. It will blow the Cheetah out of the water and you know it. Tell me how many Cheetah drives have been given to you complimentary by Seagate to bias your reviews?”

By the way, here’s the “biased” conclusion:

“In conclusion, the Ultrastar 36Z15 easily delivers the best workstation performance we’ve measured to date. It shatters WinBench 99 WinMark records as well as perfoming solidly in our IOMeter Workstation Index. When it comes to servers and databases, however, the 36Z15 doesn’t wallop the first-generation Cheetah X15 as well as many would hope.”

Hardly written by the Seagate PR department.

And what was the reason why an 18Gb drive wasn’t tested. Was it bitter hatred for IBM. Was it malevolent evil?

IBM only had 36 GB SCA units available at the time of the review.

Flames are the (mostly) testosterone-fueled forest fires of the Internet. Like wildfires, they’re unavoidable. Unlike wildfires, though, they can be improved upon.

“Wah, Wah, Let Me Win!!”

You cannot truly have a game (or argument) unless you acknowedge at least the theoretical possibility you can lose. In the case of an argument, for instance, you may not have all the relevant information.

In this particular case, unless the guy does Vulcan mindmelds, he could not possibly know for certain whether or not his conclusions are correct. In fact, there was a pretty simple explanation for what Storage Review did (and unsaid, but clear
to anybody who regularly visits the website is that it wouldn’t have made any real difference anyway).

It seems like in this guy’s mind, though, it’s a closed loop. The website was tried and found guilty, and that’s that. He cannot possibly be wrong. In his mind, he’s automatically won.

Have you ever played a game with a small child, and at some point, the child says, “Let me win?”

I don’t see how this is any different.

You cannot have a true game or conversation or argument with someone who “has to win” like that little child. When both parties “have to win”, that redefines futility.

I can’t say I get messages like these very often. The vast majority of emails I get from those who disagree with me, or find something wrong, do not carry this attitude at all, but are good and helpful.

But every once in a while I get the other type.

I never cease to be amazed by people who try to whack me, then are clearly shocked that I might disagree with them and defend myself rather than roll over, play dead and “let them win.”

I’ve gotten responses like “I don’t see why you’re getting defensive.” Well, gee, after you essentially call me a moron, what did you expect?

I never understand how people can write messages like that, and not expect a response. Maybe they’ve convinced themselves they’re a verbal nuclear power no one can withstand.

From this receiving angle, those “nukes” look more like wet firecrackers, and I can hardly believe I’m the first survivor of such a “holocaust.”

Unless, of course, you always think you win.

The Best Offense Is A Good Defense

I know, the popular saying says the opposite. In reality (and particularly in flaming), though, a good defense all by itself can win, and provides a great springboard for any offense.

To me, it just seems to be something everybody can and should do, no special skills or talents required, just a little effort, homework and thinking.

Here’s the approach I take. To me, it just seems to be something everybody can and should do. No special skills or talents required, just a little effort, homework and thinking.

Is It Arrogance, Or Homework?

I’ve had a few people complain over the course of time that I sound arrogant or patronizing. I suppose that’s because I sound pretty sure of myself.

Now why is that? Is it because I’m Ed Stroligo? No. I’m pretty sure of myself on something only after spending some time and effort to inform myself and making sure I have a reasonably solid basis for saying what I say before I say it.

It’s not the personality; it’s the homework. Ask me for an instant answer about mascara if you want to see me hesitant and unconfident.

Homework means understanding what the point is, why I think what I think, and what are the important and not-so-important elements of that belief. I try to explain how and why I came to whatever opinion. If there are contrary opinions out there, I try to address them upfront.

This doesn’t make me or anyone else always right, just more likely than with no homework.

No matter what I do, though, I’ll never always get it right. I’ll make mistakes, or not have all the critical pieces of information. Sometimes, I’ll end up being wrong.

But even if I refused to acknowledge that, I’ll still be wrong.

Some people seem to think they aren’t wrong until they admit it, like it’s up to them. No, you’re wrong when you’re wrong. Truth doesn’t need your permission to exist.

Nobody is going to bat 1.000. Only God does, and everybody (except maybe yourself) knows you’re not Him. So why pretend that you are? That’s a guaranteed loser position.

Settle for being right as often as possible. Put your efforts into being right, not denying that you’re wrong.

As long as I (or you) do the proper homework, though, either of us should have a pretty good batting average. That’s good enough, and better than most, which should give you a decent degree of confidence.

What that means is enough confidence to say, “Prove to me I’m wrong,” but not enough to say, “You cannot prove me wrong.”

Nobody should ever think their opinion has to be the final word, unless all you do all day is say “2+2=4.”

“I think you’re an idiot, therefore you are”

Whether you’re trying to make a point, or trying to say someone is wrong on something, the burden of proof is on you. Some people think all they have to do is show up and proclaim their own wisdom or someone else’s idiocy, it is so. Some more apparently think if they use the right insults, that proves them right.

“You (fill in the insult), you’re wrong” all by itself proves nothing but the speaker’s mental or emotional ineptitude. “You (blank), you’re wrong because . . .” at least has a fighting chance.

You should not think something becomes true just because you say it. Seek the truth first, then say it. Make truth’s side your side.

Castles And Cards

A big, but often neglected part of knowing the truth is knowing what’s important and and what’s not-so-important.

If someone points out an error or mistake which doesn’t change the essential validity of the main point, I’ll acknowledge the minor point, but won’t reverse myself on the big issue if it still holds.

In military terms, this would be called “defense in depth.” What I often run into is the opposite, what I call the “house of cards” defense.

People in a “house of cards” defense think they have to defend anything and everything, no matter how minor, to the death, or else the whole structure falls.

In reality, what they are usually defending are some outlying shacks made of cards with an inner, pretty-solid castle. However, they think that if you knock down a shack, the castle falls down, too. They literally can’t tell the difference between what’s solid, and what isn’t.

Mac advocates are very prone to this. There are some good solid reasons for some people to own Macs, but Mac advocates rarely bring those points up. Rather, they throw themselves like lemmings onto the Mac’s weakest points, like speed or price.

On my end, I occasionally get somebody who undeniably knocks down one of my outlying shacks, and think they’ve won the war. Sometimes they even do a victory dance immediately thereafter. They get rather upset when I don’t wave a white flag behind my castle walls. 🙂

Are You Men, Or Peacocks?

There seems to be a fairly common belief out there that being a man means just strutting and striking an attitude. That’s not being a man, that’s being a peacock.

And like a peacock, it’s just all show. Once you ruffle the feathers a bit, there’s nothing solid backing up the image.

It’s been my experience that a lot of these peacocks are really Pillsbury Doughboys half-baked in the oven. Break the crust, and it’s still soft inside. The menacing posturing growls turn into whines.

Flexibility and Foundation Beats Bluff and Bluster Every Time

If you build your life on bluff and bluster, this only has a chance of working when the game is bluff and bluster. What if your opponent is playing another game? Do you even know there’s another game? What if the opponent is ready to play, “Call the bluff and ignore the bluster?” Now what do you do?

To me, do you know when a flaming war gets won? Before it even starts.

To me, a flaming war is like being in a swamp with quicksand pits. If somebody is playing peacock, and I see they’re strutting on quicksand, all I have to do is get on solid ground, and figuratively lean on them. The more they struggle, the more I lean, and the faster they sink.

Do I always win such a battle? No, but let’s say I don’t lose too often. 🙂 But that’s not because I’m Ed Stroligo; it’s because I know what quicksand is and stay out of it.

So should you. More homework and less hollering will mean more wins.

Besides, how intimidating can you make an email or forum post? 🙂

I’ve talked about defense today. Tomorrow, I’ll talk about offense.

Email Ed

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