Discussions on forums and newsgroups: What's the point?
If you're intelligent, reasonable and willing to discuss things and/or talk about different viewpoints, then the worst thing you can do is discuss things and/or talk about different viewpoints. This is because most people cannot properly reason/argue, have silly convictions which they are not willing to discuss, cannot deal with any criticism, do not reply to requests for information etc. Ok, there are some exceptions to places where discussions can be meaningful, and I will elaborate about that at the end of the page.
Here's a list of problems you will encounter in any discussion:
- Most people cannot be bothered to do any work (besides posting messages). An example is someone who asked a guy who says he has 2 different cameras that he's interested in, to make a comparison picture. He got the answer 'doing a review is boring' (as if making one comparison shot is doing a review!). If you ask such a question to most people on a forum you will probably give some reply indicating they won't do it, because it takes too much time or whatever. No-one has an obligation to do such a thing of course, but you should be aware of this fact. If you analyse the useful postings, then you will notice that only a few people ever do real work that they share (making comparisons, writing up their experiences). Another example: I asked on the dpreview.com forums about problems with the WB2000 camera in a long posting and there was no reply. Later the WB2000's picture quality came up in another thread and I reiterated the problems I had: It gives crap quality long exposure nightshots. Of course there was lots of talk, but when I asked if anyone could make a night time long exposure shot to see if my camera (which I had returned to the shop) was in fact faulty, no one could be bothered to do this. Of course not. And when it came to picture quality someone posted a picture of smallish size (nowhere near 10M pixel) as 'proof' that it takes sharp pictures. The only way to review sharpness is with full size pictures! Showing a meaningless smaller size picture was almost certainly because he felt the need to assure himself he made a good buy, see the next point.
- Lots of people feel the need to defend the purchase of a product, especially if it's expensive. Such people get annoyed with other people who criticize that product, or with reviews, because the equipment they have, is given a low rating by those people/reviewers. I see this a lot with criticism about my reviews of esp. the SON28 dynamohub for example. The criticisms were all invalid... I also see it a lot on the dpreview forums about cameras.
- Same as above but about viewpoints: People who are like religious fanatics and don't accept other people's viewpoints. If someone gives a different viewpoint, small minded people won't accept this. See my criticism about linux/GPL advocates for example. It's not just on Linux newsgroups and forums, such things happen everywhere. Criticize (or just have a different opinion to) what they have/want/think and you get a flamewar. Criticize in a place where the prevalent opinion is this way, and you will not get a flamewar but you will be bullied. These people cannot accept other viewpoints nor criticism to their viewpoints. They will not give arguments but nonsense arguments in which they reverse the argument. This is also what sociopaths/psychopaths like to do, so I suspect many such people are in fact sociopaths.
- Then there are people who don't know much yet act as if they do: Bullshit artists. Such people just make up 'facts'. They state things which they probably really believe are true, but which are often nonsense. As a beginner in any given field it's hard to figure out who the bullshit artists are. You almost need to be an expert for this. The mixing of false and true statements from such people means it takes time to know if someone is a bullshit artist or just someone making a few mistakes (in case it's about simple things).
- People who post a lot and equate that with having knowledge. Not just knowledge, authority even: Authoritarian bullshit artists. These are worse than the simple bullshit artists, they can twist an entire forum into something useless if there are a few followers of such a nutter who gang up on others who disagree. Such people then leave due to the hostile atmosphere. In this way the bullies are creating a 'haven for themselves' where they respect each other and think they know it all.
- Autists, aspergers and sociopaths/psychopaths: I think a lot of the people with attitude problems (the bullies, the zealots) are such people. Although they have little or no feelings for others, this does not mean they are logical. On the contrary. Almost all the people I ever got annoyed with (on mailing lists, newsgroups, forums) were almost certainly such people who are quite easy to recognice from a style of writing which is insensitive and crude (and they don't understand humour, and if they make jokes or use smilies they are not funny/inappropriate). Oh yes, and of course they also show themselves by completely missing the point of certain postings/remarks. The strange thing is that such people are NOT logical thinkers. Note also that being intelligent, at least having scored highly on an IQ test, does not mean someone can argue. A high education is also no guarantee of anything. Example: I've discussed some things related to a collectable HP calculator I was selling, with someone who has a Ph.D in Physics, and from the style of writing I gathered he is somewhat autistic, but also I completely wiped the floor with him in an email exchange, and the funny thing is, he didn't realise I wiped the floor with his arguments because he didn't understand the reasoning! I will look up those emails and post them on this website as an amusing example.
I suspect Jamie Hyneman from the Mythbusters is also in this category btw. See the problems he has with his co-host, his jokes which aren't funny, his laugh which sounds fake and his compulsion for order and neatness, etc.
- People who reverse complaints: I was reminded of this by someone I talked with about the problems on forums. Suppose you say you have product X, and it doesn't work well, or suppose you complain about the responses from people when selling something second hand, then what often happens is that a bunch of wankers start making comments disregarding any facts you give but saying that you are probably the problem: You are not using the device properly, or you are not being friendly enough towards others in your responses, when it's clear from the description that this is a ludicrous way to respond. Some of such people use an acronym for what they think which states that the problem is 'the person behind the keyboard'. The people I've seen using this acronym are of the autistic variety (I mean no feeling, disregarding various arguments, no insight etc.), and I suspect such people who do this complaint-reversing are again in the range of autists, aspergers and sociopaths/psychopaths (sociopaths are people who like to reverse arguments so it could be they are in fact sociopaths).
- Lots of people twist facts: They read not what is written, hear not what is said (a similar thing is the problem of eyewitness accounts in accidents which are notoriously unreliable, where people 'see' what was not there). This twisting of reality is a general problem, not just on forums, and occurs a lot. I will give an example: I read on a website (a blog with comments) from someone with a university education, where he criticised a guy who was on TV the day before, and who thinkgs global warming is not an issue. According to that blog writer, this guy vehemently claimed that cold-records had been broken in the USA as an example that global warming is not taking place. The blog writer then proceeded to give numbers showing that no cold-records had been broken at all. I agree with the guy making this blog that the guy who appeared on TV is an ass which all people who don't believe global warming is an issue that we should do something about, seem to be, but if you are criticizing someone, it should be about what he really says, not what you think he says. So I was interested in hearing all this guy said to check and see what else he said. I watched the TV programme via http://uitzendinggemist.nl, on which I can see most Dutch programs from stations Netherlands 1,2,3. Then I noticed that the guy did NOT say what the blog writer said! It went like this: Presenter: "It's pretty cold in the USA now, cold-records have probably been broken!". The guy said "Possibly". So, that guy did NOT claim cold-records were broken but also from his disinterested response to that statement and the rest of the conversation that he was not interested in those cold-records at all. The presenter was the one who brought it up making an assumption that there were record colds in the USA. So the blog writer completely distorted the fact, despite having a university education in an exact science.
You can look them up, but here's a brief outline: autists/asperger/sociopaths/psychopaths have no or almost no feelings for anyone except themselves. Autists/aspergers have trouble interacting with other people which is why you can find so many of them on the internet. Psychopaths/sociopaths are like the ultimate assholes. Psychopaths can't hide this, sociopaths can pretend to have feelings and pretend to fit in, except it doesn't work on me. I recognise such people in an instant. There was a Horizon programme 'Are you good or are you evil' (7 Sept. 2011) which was interesting though it only told me 2 facts I didn't know, as I have been aware of the problems of sociopaths for many years, also that they get appointed to the top of positions in companies. It showed that usually in the top of companies there are a lot of sociopaths (far more than in lower levels), but that these people fail in actually achieving something (for that company). These people are ruthless (because they don't care about anyone but themselves) which is I suppose why boards of companies elect such people as CEO or in the boards (something I mentioned since about 2004-2005 in my criticism about Schiphol for example; the reason is that share-value driven companies behave in a way similar to a psychopath (and with media-whoring as done for example by Gerlach Cerfontaine in the case of Schiphol, a sociopath) as there is no regard for anything but profit, and thus the people steering it appoint people who behave that way). These people are the ultimate bullshit artists... In that Horizon programme it was said that usually half the people below such a person loathe him, the other half, who are impressed by the bullshit artistry, like him (or her; I don't see many women like this btw.). In that Horizon programme it was claimed it is very hard to find out if someone is a sociopath, but I disagree. The fact that usually half the people below such a person loathe him/her and the other half think he/she is great is proof already that it must be possible to know it (without doing a brain scan): this fact already gives an objective test! But also, as I said, I can recognise such people almost instantly. From the way they look, and the type of things they say, arguments they make.
In the good old days of usenet (much better than dog-slow forums to be honest) you had FAQs and people reprimanding persons where relevant. This hardly happens on forums, rules are barely enforced, people who write nonsense are hardly ever corrected. On self-moderating forums like slashdot org you have the problem of mob-mentality expressing itself by a bunch of bullies downvalueing a posting resulting in it becoming invisible to most people unless they explicitly set their browsing level low enough. This has happened to a posting I made recently, which is very deep but flies over the heads of all linux/GPL zealots and thus modded as flamebait, see Linux/GPL fanboys/zealots.
The only forums where things are worth discussing are usually German language forums. Here the bullshit artists are kept in check by people who do know what they are talking about. On almost all Dutch and English language forums there is no point discussing anything due to the problems I listed above. Well, ok, I've seen 2 exceptions of forums that I visited: candlepowerforums and mtbr.com (at least the lights sections). This is almost certainly because of the nature of them and the type of people who post there: People who make/build things and really examine them.
Examples of how I treat people who don't behave
Last modified: Mon Apr 23 07:00:56 CEST 2012