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There is an unstated expectation in online communities that conflicts will stay within the bounds of the community. Whatever passionate battles may ensue, whatever flamewars are fought, there is an expectation that these will not extend beyond certain boundaries. Scope of conflict is limited to the community.

But, AvoidIllusion. Changing the scope of conflict is a standard political technique. If the stakes are high enough, individuals or communities may act outside community walls. This is an AntiPattern. To contain the conflict, therefore, LimitScope.

While rare, individuals have been known to follow contributors around to other communities in an attempt to discredit them (c.f. WhatIsaStalker) by breaking down WalledIdentity, and bringing the usual round of ad hominem attacks to a new audience.

Scope can be extended to the RealWorld. A DeathThreat or LegalThreat might be made in anger. Usually these mean nothing, but if followed through they can become quite dangerous. If you do have a stalker, enlarging scope to get a total restraining order or bench warrant or similar device will move the stalking outside the 'Net and into the RealWorld, and you may in fact worsen the situation.

As a general rule for safety, don't ExpandScope beyond what your opponent has already done.

Communities occasionally act to expand scope limits as well. Outing (c.f. FairOuting) is a form of scope expansion. So too is the making of abuse complaints to ISPs or contacting a participant's friends and acquaintances in MeatSpace -- family members, employers, and so on.


An effort to expand scope is inevitably born of one party's despair and another's indifference. When someone is indifferent to conflict, thinking "there's nothing they can do to me," the only real choices are either to concede or to expand ScopeLimits?.

Perhaps the AntiPattern of conflict ignoring scope has to do with personalities, and the tendencies of some to take all disagreements personally? A disagreement that two people may have in the context of one community may be irrelevant in another. -- FrancisHwang

Yet, when we see those who do this well, we find it sociopathic and disturbing. Two barristers shout at each other across the courtroom, red in the face, blistering with indignation. After the case, they go to the same pub and laugh and joke. People find that hard to accept, admirable though it may be. If we find two people flaming each other to pieces, and then we see them in another context as being the best of friends, we see that as inconsistent and evidence of trollishness. It's all part of society's IdentityOppression.

Case: a restaurant

Once I was at a restaurant for breakfast. The service was terrible -- inattentive, slow, and rude. It was clear to the waiter that we were upset and would leave no tip. The service deteriorated further, presumably because the waiter thought we had no recourse beyond our (alreaday inevitable) refusal to leave a tip. We got up and left without paying for our food -- leaving the waiter no choice but to explain the whole thing to the management. We had expanded the scope limits beyond the point where the waiter thought we would stop.


I wonder if the more accurate advice should be to MatchScope? (very TitForTat). It is possible for two people in some conflict to collectively LimitScope, but neither person can completely prevent the other from expanding the scope of the conflict. --MartinHarper


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