Wacky ‘Flaming’ Wednesday

Duration:  Wednesday only – February 17, 2009

This is a twitter assignment.  It is actually a flaming competition (old Net style).

Please use the hash tag for all your competition entries (#smed10) so that I am able to find all the tweets.

Remember Chapter 1 of the Cluetrain Manifesto:

The Internet became a place where people could talk to other people without constraint.  Without filters or censorship or official sanction — and perhaps most significantly, without advertising. Another, noncommercial culture began forming across this out-of the-way collection of computer networks. Long before graphical user interfaces made the scene, the scene was populated by plain old boring ASCII: green phosphor text scrolling up screens at the glacial pace afforded by early modems. So where was the attraction in that?  The attraction was in speech, however mediated . . .

Consider that these early denizens of the Net were, for the most part, young, brash, untrained in the intricate dance of corporate politics, and highly knowledgeable of their craft. In the prized and noble older sense of the term, they were hackers, and proud of it.

Many, in their own assessment if not that of others, were net. Gods — high priests of an arcane art very few even knew existed. When disagreements arose over serious matters— the correct use of quotation marks, say — they would join in battle like Old Norse


“Jim, you are a complete idiot. Your code is so brain-damaged it won’t even compile. Read a book, moron.”

Today, we tend to think of “flaming” as a handful of people vociferously insulting each other online. A certain sense of finesse has largely been lost. In the olden days, a good flame war could go on for weeks or months, with hot invective flying around like

Rhetorical shrapnel. It was high art, high entertainment. Though tempers flared hot and professional bridges were sometimes irreparably burned, ultimately it was a game — a participatory sport in which the audience awarded points for felicitous disparagements, particularly well-worded putdowns, inspired squelches.  It was not a game, however, for the meek of heart. These engagements could be fierce.  Even trying to separate the contestants could bring down a hail of sharp-tongued derision. Theories were floated and defended with extreme energy and enthusiasm, if not always with logical rigor. Opinions tended to run high on any given topic. Say you’d posted about your dog. And, look, you got a response! “Jim, you are a complete idiot.  Your dog is so brain-damaged it won’t even hunt…”

If you’d happened to see the first version of the comment to Jim, you might grin at the second. If not, your mileage might vary. But the point is not to extol flame wars, as amusing as some could be. Instead, it is to suggest a particular set of values that began to emerge in what linguists might call a well-bounded speech community.

On the Net, you said what you meant and had better be ready to explain your position and how you’d arrived at it. Mouthing platitudes guaranteed that you would be challenged. Nothing was accepted at face value, or taken for granted. Everything was subject to question, revision, re-implementation, parody — whether it was an algorithm, a political philosophy or, God help you, an advertisement.

Now here are the rules:

  1. You must start with a quote – but you may not use the any of the big books – the Bible, the Torah or the Koran.  (This is not a religious war / jihad).
  2. Then trawl for the hash tag #smed10 and find someone else’s quotation to insult while insulting the person as well – it must be directed @name of person.
  3. Insult as many people as you can – both directly or insult someone else’s insult.
  4. Your remarks must be clear, easily understood and must be clever or sharp witted.
  5. You may not swear at the person or insult their mother, father, religion, or family (No HATE speech please) – we can now insult each other without being RACIST.  Right.
  6. You are responsible for you own comments, even if this is an assignment.
  7. The person with the cleverest, funniest remarks will win a prize – I am working on it.  Winner to be announced next week.
  8. Remember it is not about the number of insults but about the wit of the insults.  And the insult potential of your original quotation.
  9. Have fun and remember to remain friends.
  10. You could write a blog post about the experience – perhaps pick your own winners.

I will keep you posted (pun).  May the best wit win

“Weak, Marian, Weak.  You need help, no actually you are passed help. There is no hope.”