[Home]DiminishingReplies

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One way to drain heat out of a FlameWar is to make your answers shorter than the last answer of your opponents. Writing longer answers, and adding more arguments to a flame-war will let flames leap higher. Write terser statements.

The Rule of Diminishing Replies states:

In a FlameWar, make sure you spend less energy in your reply than in the original post. Make it shorter. -- AlexSchroeder [1]

Instead of asking:

"What has this got to do with that? This makes no sense... bla bla bla bla"

Just keep it short:

"I don't understand."

or better:

"Huh?"

to the max:

"?"

If all participants follow this rule, then there will be a point when there is nothing left to write about. If only you follow this rule, then at least your flaming partner is wasting more of his precious time and energy than you are.

Discussion

Obviously it might be better to not reply at all. Sometimes, however, it is hard to leave things as they are. Perhaps there is still a chance that the other party learns (probably not), or there is another audience (now or later) that will read the exchange, so you feel that leaving allegations unanswered is to your own detriment, or perhaps you just aren't wise enough to let bygones be bygones. It is a boring ExitStrategy, and an example of DissuadeInteraction.

Everything you write helps to tempt a reply. Hence, LimitTemptation by replying as briefly as possible.

Compare Wiki:OnlySayThingsThatCanBeHeard.


This doesn't work. If the opponent feels you aren't responding to them, i.e. cutting communication, you will only grow the conflict as they grow frustrated with you. You have to transcend the argument first, and then write shorter statements about the argument. e.g. "Perhaps we're miscommunicating. I think I need some time to consider how to express myself clearly." rather than a ten page long essay to "clarify" the discussion. -- SunirShah

I think the important point here is to avoid responding unless you really have something new to say, rather than rebutting the flame point by point. Flame wars are circular by their very nature, which imitates a natural, interactive discussion style. In online forums, everyone can see the original posts, so there is no need to repeat material. It's tempting to reframe or paraphrase a point already made, but it accomplishes nothing useful. I used to follow a three-post rule on UseNet: I would never make more than three posts in a discussion on any topic. I now believe that three is too many, so I try to state my case once and remain silent thereafter. I make exceptions if it's clear I've been misunderstood, or if the topic has drifted into new areas, or in those cases where I really do think of something new to say.

Consider the oft-repeated words of Ari Fletcher, former press secretary for President Bush. When being flamed by journalists at a press conference, who would paraphrase a question already asked, he would respond: "I refer you to my earlier answer." While in Ari's case this is a PowerAnswer, an equally effective but more egalitarian response is "I understand what you're trying to say but still disagree for the reasons I gave before."

CategoryConflict


Discussion

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