Posted by: COSI | January 19, 2010

Are We Still Comment-Flaming

I remember pretty vividly the first teleconference back in the early 80’s that I was part of with people around the country connected through these new 300 baud modems dialed up through the phone lines. (For comparison, base level internet connections now come at about 1 Mbps, or megabits/sec– that at 1,000,000 bits per sec was incomprehensible in our day. We were excited when 1500 baud modems came out! 😉

That first teleconference had about 20 people, we all introduced ourselves, and then had an incredibly slow conversation watching each other type comments on the screen at the speed of a very slow teletype. The moderator indicated your turn with a “ga” for go-ahead, to which you entered your comment trying to type as fast as you could to keep the conversation going. Yet, teleconferencing was still enthralling from this new idea of communicating through the computer connectivity. Everyone knew each other’s identity and the comments were polite and respectful.

Then, as a part-time developer of educational materials for Apple Computer, networking grew to the AppleLink network they had developed for communication with their developers. Many developers, like myself, were around the country working under contract and could easily communicate without regard to time or geographic distances. Apple set AppleLink free after awhile and it become America Online (AOL). I became a forum leader, managing conversations on the topic of computer use in classrooms. (And no, when AOL went public and all of us were offered stock at $10/share as a struggling private school teacher I didn’t buy any—but don’t get me started on my lost opportunity!)

It is when I was an AOL forum leader that I first experienced the way in which writing to a computer could bring out the worst in some people. A vitriolic posting would come by, someone would respond—maybe even trying to soften the writer to the issue, followed by an even more vitriolic posting. It became too common and acquired an identity called “flaming.” And this was often when the online community was small enough that most people were identifiable to one another.

Now there is the anonymity of blog posting and online comments. Sadly I see the unpleasant tendency of some people going even further negative than the old “flaming” messages—so much so that the editor of the Dispatch chose to write about it in a recent column.

I’ve been surveying the comments to not only recent articles about COSI, but other community issues. If I didn’t have a broader perspective I’d think Columbus is only populated by angry individuals ready to lash out at anything that they can set their sights on. A few sturdy and solid souls will work to balance the comments—thank goodness.

I miss the days when the online community was just evolving and more congenial and respectful.
But I thank, big time, the readers of my blog for your courtesy and thoughtful postings and comments—maybe we can sustain this little oasis of civility where differences of opinion can still be shared with respect. THANKS!



  1. Sir,

    I thoroughly enjoyed this post and it saddens me to watch this downward trend. I find it even more troubling that the decline in politeness and respect is not restricted to the online community but it appears to be a pervasive disease infecting all of society. Observations of lost deference and civility can be made in line at a grocery store, walking through a shopping mall, on television, waiting in traffic, even at the doctor’s office. Examples of rudeness, some to the point of aggression, have become common place. Being raised in a Southern home etiquette and courteousness were demanded and taught to be points of pride. I like to think that a true Southerner still prizes good manners however I have noticed a dramatic shift even in my native Georgia. I do not know how to correct descending social behavior but until courtesy becomes common practice again I will apply it with unflinching rigidity.

    Very respectfully,

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