Flaming

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Nalates
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Flaming

Post by Nalates » Fri Jan 22, 2010 10:35 am

Flaming
Everyone has some idea of what is meant by flaming in forums and emails. Some realize the relationship between flaming and ad hominem attacks and add that to their definition. A practical definition is provided in the Wikipedia:
Wikipedia wrote:Flaming is hostile and insulting interaction between Internet users. Flaming usually occurs in the social context of a discussion board, Internet Relay Chat (IRC), by e-mail or onVideo-sharing websites. It is usually the result of the discussion of heated real-world issues like politics, religion, and philosophy, or of issues that polarize subpopulations (for example, the perennial debating between PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 owners). Internet trolls frequently set out to incite flamewars for the sole purpose of offending or irritating other posters.
Reference

The last part of the definition about ‘offending’ is where most ad hominem comments are directed. Still an ad hominem attack is only a small part of what is considered flaming. An ad hominem attack is not necessarily a flame and a flame is not necessarily an ad hominem attack.

Flames are usually blatant and tend to get personal. The subtle and often veiled insults are still flames but less often identified as such. As the subtleness increases it gets harder for moderators to recognize or handle them. Belittling another person is another intellectually dishonest tactic and a subtle flame.

Behaviorists, sociologists, psychologists and others studying flaming behavior are looking for solutions to handle work place and political issues caused by people flaming one another. A part of that body of work deals with causes, definitions and responses.

For analytical purposes the behaviorists find current definitions are incomplete. They also note the behavior is not limited to communication via computer based forums. Email, paper letters, faxes, phone calls and face-to-face communication have instances of similar behavior. Flaming is generally associated with hostile and or aggressive behavior exhibited on the Internet. That limitation is arbitrary and the same behavior can appear in any communication.
Patrick B. O'Sullivan & Andrew J. Flanagin wrote:Common among lay observers is a representation of flaming as a highly negative message that functions something like a metaphorical flamethrower that the sender uses to roast the receiver verbally. Accordingly, flames have been characterized as "incendiary messages" (Tamosaitis, 1991) and "inflammatory remarks" (Bernthal, 1995). Typical descriptions represent flaming as "scathingly critical personal messages" (Cosentio, 1994), "rude or insulting" messages (Schrage, 1997), "vicious attacks" (Dvorak, 1994), "nasty and often profane diatribe" (Chapman, 1995), "derisive commentary" (Tamosaitis, 1991), "vitriolic online exchanges, poison pen letters" (Dery, 1993), or "derogatory, obscene or inappropriate" language (Seabrook, 1994). Stewart (1991) identified "overheated prose" and "brusque putdowns, off color puns, and anonymous gripes" as flames and Tamosaitis (1991) argued that flames are "not constructive criticism nor heated debate."


Reference: An Interactional Reconceptualization of "Flaming" and Other Problematic Messages:shock:
...or in my words, A Second Look At PITA Messages/Conversations.
Emphasis added…

Researchers have also recognized that the labeling of ‘flame’ is context dependent (culture and close personal relationships) and subject to interpretation by the reader. They further recognize it is not always a ‘bad’ thing.
Patrick B. O'Sullivan & Andrew J. Flanagin wrote:Consistent with these perspectives, we approach the issue of flaming (and related types of interactions) with a focus on how it occurs, why it occurs, and what function it serves, rather than with a preconceived value judgment. Just as there may be anti-social motivations for hostile messages, there may be a number of pro-social motivations and outcomes associated with aggressive or hostile messages. For example, harsh language could be used to provoke a reticent individual into a healthy, constructive conflict. A criticism could be used to establish the sender's credibility by demonstrating a willingness to offer critical comments and not just bland, agreeable feedback.

The idea that it can be a positive thing really complicates constructing rules and guidelines for forum discussion.

To further complicate things, basic communication theory considers one outside a communication cannot reliably know the essence of a message’s meaning to the sender or receiver.

O'Sullivan & Flanagin created a table of the various interpretations and intents and inferences of a message to help define a ‘true’ flame. Based on the labeling in the table they discuss what is and is not a ‘flame’ and begin to define what they feel is an appropriate response.

While the paper is for purposes more precise than our needs it does reveal the causes for flames, results and appropriate responses. Their working definition of ‘flame” they use is: A "flame" is a message in which the creator/sender intentionally violates (negotiated, evolving, and situated) interactional norms and is perceived as violating those norms by the receiver as well as by third-party observers. :?

I think the definition fits their purpose but is about has handy as a lead balloon for our purposes. I include it because it has an aspect our typical definitions lack. While I consider what they are saying is a flame is any communication that does not fit our normal style of conversation and context, I find it too broad for our use, but it includes the idea of ‘our normal standard of conversation’.

Knowing that it is difficult for a third person to reliably know what a writer intended we may write a more useful definition that moderators could use. Before I attempt that also consider; problems in forum communication often arise from misunderstandings. Moderators are no better at understanding writers’ intent than anyone else. Rather than place the difficult task of interpreting intent on the moderators, I think it is better to replace the understanding of a writer’s intent with whether or not the style and words are appropriate by forum standards.

Often flaming is used as a deliberate but intellectually dishonest debate tactic. One is often deciding if an opponent is being emotional and reacting or calculating and deliberate.

Flaming is often an act of hostility. In general conversation I suspect many consider hostility synonymous with anger and aggressive behavior. Some psychologists define it as a display of a refusal to accept evidence one’s perception of the world is inaccurate. In other words they refuse to give up a belief in the face of evidence that would convince a less invested person.

When tactics used to protect a belief are out of proportion to the context of a conversation (flaming) it is usually and indicator evidence presented is making a belief untenable. That is the reason that those more aware of the tactics of debate and behavior consider a point won when one supporting the opposing viewpoint resorts to flames and other intellectually dishonest tactics. People can go into such a state without being aware of what they are doing. Remember the last time you were apologizing for things said in the ‘heat’ of the moment. That heat can blind us. In more rational moments we realize we were out of control. Maturity at some point moves us to be responsible for those moments and correct them.

Handling such outbursts is usually a matter of calling attention to the high emotional level. The challenge is in doing that without being flip, patronizing or making one’s own emotional response.

Deliberately flaming is also a propaganda tactic used to lay the foundation for a ‘Spiral of Silence’ to isolate opposing opinions. The tactic is defeated or enforced as more people speak up. Those that do not tolerate confrontation well are often intimidated to withdraw or remain silent. Moderators often have to step in and control heated discussions. But, members of the forum also have to decide how they will handle it and whether they will continue to participate, speak up or leave.

As volatile topics draw more members into the discussion, clicks and groups of friends can begin to line up and take sides. Those running agendas (in politics especially) will often form teams that are called into tilt a discussion one way or the other. It is difficult to know when a group of people chime in because of similar beliefs or because a team is working the conversation.

Moderators may notice people that seldom post on the forum and only post in concert with specific people. It is indicative of clicks or teams but not proof. It is hard for moderators to notice and keep track of all that is going on and various relationships. Most members won’t even be able to track or notice what may be happening. So, only the more blatant flames would be likely to be noticed.

Obviously the complexity of the issues can make one’s head ache. So, we need something that is simple enough to understand and broad enough to encompass these concepts. So, considering all these points I’ll suggest:
Suggested wrote: Defintion
A Flame is an intentionally hostile and insulting posting using an aggressive and/or disrespectful style and language inconsistent with the normal context of the forum. A flame is apparent to the recipient and third parties reading the post, regardless of the writer’s intent.
Insider-Insults are considered flames. It is the recipient’s duty to report and explain the insult and provide substantiation of such when reporting such insults. Moderators will decide based on the forum context and their reading of the post whether the post is inappropriate for the forum. The information provided and the moderator’s reading and understanding of the post will be their bases for deciding if any action is to be taken in regard to the writer.

Repeated flaming is grounds for temporary or permanent banning.

Examples
Only an idiot would think ‘A’ is better than ‘B’. – Indirect insult - flame
You are an idiot for thinking ‘A’ is better. – Direct insult – flame
You are a Cyan lover. – Direct ad hominem – not necessarily an insult or inappropriate – Context dependent. Within the Uru forums context it is not necessarily a flame.
Styles of Flamer: Flame Warriors (humorous)

Caveats
Most flames are ad hominem or personal attacks on a person. However, ad hominem attacks are not always inappropriate or flames. The moderators make the final call on whether a post is a flame in the context of this forum.
Nalates
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ZeroCool
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Re: Flaming

Post by ZeroCool » Sat Apr 10, 2010 11:04 am

Thanx again Nalates for the information.

Being more informed from this post should help me to post with an eye towards the readers feelings and reactions to what I am trying to express.

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Re: Flaming

Post by Nalates » Mon May 31, 2010 8:46 pm

Flaming is generally considered a negative. However, a more succinct definition of flaming is provide in Netiquette (a 1994 book by Virginia Shea). The book is paraphrased and available online. Rule 7 covers flaming.
"Flaming" is what people do when they express a strongly held opinion without holding back any emotion. It's the kind of message that makes people respond, "Oh come on, tell us how you really feel." Tact is not its objective.

Does Netiquette forbid flaming? Not at all. Flaming is a long-standing network tradition (and Netiquette never messes with tradition). Flames can be lots of fun, both to write and to read. And the recipients of flames sometimes deserve the heat.

But Netiquette does forbid the perpetuation of flame wars -- series of angry letters, most of them from two or three people directed toward each other, that can dominate the tone and destroy the camaraderie of a discussion group. It's unfair to the other members of the group. And while flame wars can initially be amusing, they get boring very quickly to people who aren't involved in them. They're an unfair monopolization of bandwidth.
I doubt this changes any of our minds on flaming. But, it does change my idea of how a rule might be written. I can see how this rule phrasing might even be easier to enforce by moderators. Is a flame ever justified? They think so and I see their point. I do not believe there is an easy sure fire way for moderators to consistently decide justification issues. But a count of exchanges is easy.

Rule 7 on its own does not address abuse or bullying. In the context of the book abuse and personal attack is addressed. Where things are addressed and how much one relies on context is part of one's philosophy on forum rules. Sixteen years down the road one has to wonder how the rules are holding up... At the time it was written we did not have bullying laws and stalkers were not an everyday news item. So, something has changed and I think Rule 7 could use some updating.

They discuss the use of [Flame ON] and [Flame OFF] meta tags and why one uses them, which I consider a good addition to this section. I do think we are progressing beyond that mentality. But, I suppose it could still server a purpose.
When you really want to run off at the keyboard -- but you want your readers to know that you know that you're not expressing yourself in your usual measured, reasoned manner -- you need to let them know that you know that you're flaming. So before you begin your rant, simply enter the words FLAME ON. Then rant away. When you're done, write FLAME OFF and resume normal discourse.
In 1994 they definitely saw flames differently.
Although flames often get out of hand, they have a purpose in the ecology of cyberspace. Many flames are aimed at teaching someone something (usually in overstated language) or stopping them from doing something (like offending other people). Flame messages often use more brute force than is strictly necessary, but that's half the fun.

Netiquette does ask that you consider the art of flaming before pulling out the flame-thrower. Any wannabe with an email account can ignite a firestorm of ill-conceived and boring flames. It takes diligence and creativity to pull off an artful flame. Who knows -- if your flame is good enough, you might even make it into the Hall of Flame (see "Flame newsgroups" on page 79).
What we consider abusive flames they labeled Gross-Out or Deliberately Offensive Flames.
Otherwise known as the Deliberately Offensive Flame. By definition, these flames have no redeeming value. Often they involve uncalled for personal attacks. Sometimes they amount to no more than racist or sexist drivel (see "The PC Flame" on page 78). Netiquette forbids gross-out flames, except in clearly marked gross-out domains (see "Flame newsgroups" below).
Their solutions for handling deliberate insults are somewhat similar to what we are discussing now.

Once I've thought through some of this I'll formulate a rule suggestion. If you have one now, post it.
Nalates
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Re: Flaming

Post by kaelisebonrai » Tue Jun 01, 2010 7:34 am

While the Netiquette rules are a useful tool, many of the original rules were devised for a /very/ different internet as there is today. =)

http://tools.ietf.org/html/rfc1855 <-- this is the correct reference for the rules. RFC 1855 is the correct spec for Netiquette. =)

As you can see, there are *many* things that do not apply to the internet of today. =)

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Re: Flaming

Post by Nalates » Tue Jun 01, 2010 7:11 pm

Thanks...

RFC 1855 was written October 1995... it is also not easily linked to by topic, making it hard to reference. It's also written in a more formal style I suspect many will find less readable.

Reading through it I'm not seeing any new ideas... your right they miss as many of the new issues as Virginia's book does. The writing there lack's the color and sense of history Virginia conveys.

Because of publication dates I suspect RFC 1855 is built on, or at least influenced by, Virginia's book.

I'll include a link in the wiki for completeness.
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Re: Flaming

Post by kaelisebonrai » Wed Jun 02, 2010 3:24 am

As much as you may prefer Virginia's book, the actual netiquette spec is RFC 1855.

If you refer to "netiquette" you refer to RFC 1855. =)

Also, noting that RFC 1855 was written /later/ than Virgina's book, it is also more "current", such as it is.

So, regardless of your fondness, the 1994 book is out of date, and inaccurate when referring to netiquette. =)

where RFC 1855 and the 1994 book differ, RFC 1855 is "correct" =)

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Re: Flaming

Post by Dot » Wed Jun 02, 2010 2:29 pm

Kal, then, what would you take out of the formal definition of netiquette with regard to flaming as useful for today?

The aim of the discussion is to tease out accessible and usable principles. Formal definitions by their nature are less friendly and accessible, so how might this one be made usable? Then a cross-reference/link can be made back to the underlying principle so that interested readers can follow up.

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Re: Flaming

Post by Nalates » Wed Jun 02, 2010 7:35 pm

'Correct' is odd usage in relation to a standard. Standards are neither right or wrong. They are just a standard. We change and update them as needed. People conform or not depending on their application.

Nor are standards laws. So, we use what ever works for our purposes. Dot's point is well made. What significant difference is there between the two in regard to flaming?
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Re: Flaming

Post by Mac_Fife » Fri Jun 04, 2010 7:50 pm

Nalates wrote:'Correct' is odd usage in relation to a standard.
Now, come on... In fairness, kaelisbonrai used the word in double quotes, which to me meant it wasn't intended to be taken literally (interesting, in that this sort of interpretation issue is probably a key factor in many of the themes that we're discussing in this section ;) )
Nalates wrote:Standards are neither right or wrong.
OK, going a bit off-topic but that's one of those over-generalizations that I pick up on: Sure, in many cases, standards are only guidelines that you can either choose to follow or not. But how would you feel if the guy who wired up the mains electrics in your house said "Nah, I don't bother with the Wiring Standards, and noone has died so far, that I'm aware of"?
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Re: Flaming

Post by Nalates » Fri Jul 09, 2010 4:15 pm

'Correct' in quotes can be taken several ways, true. It is possible to take things several ways and that is often what creates a communication problem. The usual uses of quotes in kaelisebonrai's post seems to fit as emphasis more than other possibilities, unless he is being satirical. The general context of the post seems to be about which is more correct.

In the ways I thought of that use of 'Correct' may apply, I found its use odd. It strikes me as a use of the idea that since something is culturally accepted its 'correct' it is better, a sort of authority argument for the use of an RFC over a book. Dot's question goes to the heart of sorting out what it is in the RFC that is more pertinent than the popular book, which more people are likely familiar, is more often quoted, and presents the material in a more readable way.

Your analogy of standards and following good practice is a good point. However, how an electrician wires a home or business is not just a matter of NEIS, NEMA, or IEEE standards, it is a matter of law and becomes very much a matter of correctness. The standards are used as a guide for building codes, with authority of law, to which code conformance is a legal requirement of building permits as well as part of the construction documents. The ideas of computer code format, for instance, and electrical wiring points out the degree of importance and, I think, the reason for a distinction between guidelines and rules or laws. While I might be annoyed with hard to read formatting a disregard of home wiring could result in a loss of life. To directly answer your question, I do feel differently about the two.

Whether a concept on flaming is to be used as a guideline or a rule and how it will be implemented is part of the discussion here. Many people get rule bound and use rules to beat people up. I am not enamored with that tack. Because of the complexity of human dynamics and the ideas that on occasion a flame may serve a useful purpose, people growing and maturing, and shifts in culture the underlying intents are more important than the words of a rule. 'Correct' seems to take one away from the idea of a forum's feel and the creation of an atmosphere and the flexibility needed. What is better, inaccurate, erroneous, or out-of-date about the book vs the RFC, other than some framing of authority, is not brought out, even after Dot's question.

Including the reference is to the RFC in the wiki material is reasonable. My preference for quotes from the book over the RFC is obvious. Neither is more correct or particularly better than what we come up with.
Nalates
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