It is interesting to see internet forums develop “forum friendships” between people who likely have seldom even met each other, the varying levels of initiative, and the rare truly stumped request for help.
“Forum Friendships” in many ways are natural – while people seldom really want to hang out with “clones of themselves” most people do gravitate towards “like thinkers.” Kind of natural as these like thinkers share a common language and value base. They see each other as “getting it.”
Unfortunately, groups of “Forum Friends” can become a sort of clique to other forum participants, especially if the “Forum Friends” is seen as a closed group. Some forums legitimize their cliques by identifying the clique members, often assigning administrative or moderating tasks to the clique members.
If you see a response that goes “Who the blanketly-blank are you [to say blah blah blah]?” it is often from someone who didn’t recognize the status (experience) of the poster they are responding to.
Initiative (and the lack thereof)
“Initiative” is the positive way to contrast the lack thereof in order to point out the pure sloth in so many forum posters.
These sloths don’t do any research, often are highly opinionated despite their lack of research, tend to post without enough detail thinking the rest of the world shares their concerns, and often seem to think the world orbits around their issues.
The meter out information thinking that world should play “twenty-questions” just because of their laziness.
You usually get a good tip-off when they title their threading starting post “Mad in Timbuktu, I have a Problem” rather than giving their problem enough detail in the title to be searchable later.
They almost never have their facts in order and presented with clarity.
The sloth’s lack of initiative leads them to skip posting the who, what, when, where, why and how, (nothing but the facts…) and they seldom tell you what they have already tried or those results.
They haven’t read the manual, don’t followed the directions, never heeded the cautions and regularly engage in changing so many things that they can’t get back to what once worked for them.
In several recent cases they even erased the known working setups from their machines, introduced the chaos of a major Windows update, and then layered on the new software. When their system didn’t work it was everyone else’s fault, rather than self-inflicted problems they heaped problem-upon-problem.
Sloths also somehow expected factory people to pick out his needs from among forum threads, track the sloth’s contact information down, and out of the blue initiate calling him while opening up his help ticket! Talk about self-centered and not following his own best interested by opening a help ticket.
Or the ones who post a problem after business hours on a Friday, perhaps even initiating a help ticket request, and then rant & rave early Monday morning that they hadn’t been helped yet.
Perhaps they think firms should have 24/7/365 standby technicians to help them through their foibles?
Often these folks really just want attention – any sort of attention – as a way to fill their empty lives. Often, they are irate at what turns out to be mostly reframing and operator error, bold enough to rant in public but not humble enough to eat their crow when the problem falls in their laps.
We of course have those prone to parroting – that reply to forum requests while truly being no more informed that the requester. Often, they literally make up stuff, post from mental confusion, or offer fixes they not only haven’t actually tried but that they don’t seem to understand.
Some of this comes from uncurated forum threads- threads which responsibly should be trimmed, annotated or even removed. It is a disservice to allow incorrect & obsolete information to stand with as much weight among the correct information & solutions in a forum. Perhaps it is a small mercy that the native forum search is such a poor tool?
Some cases of really complete lack of personal initiative
One set of special case posters are those so deficit in initiative that they don’t read the manuals, don’t watch the videos, and even set aside the quick-start guides packaged with their new gear.
One can understand all of that, IF the person had made arrangements to have someone locally help them get their gear up and running. Wouldn’t even need to be a ham, as in many cases a clever teenager would whisk through the setups quickly.
That they don’t arrange their own resources for success, while expecting the community to rally with community initiative behind their open lack of initiative is a problem.
Sloths crossing to Troll Status
One of the defining characteristics of an internet troll is to emotionally force others to take unneeded action based on the troll’s goading.
Perhaps these folks are “minor trolls” or are they truly unable – the “Truly Stumped?” Really doesn’t matter when what should be a request for help becomes demanding. They become “major trolls” when they include insults to others in their posts.
Hiding by Posting Online
It is always interesting how people are on-line – the most spineless and clueless become brave and all-knowing, those who never have touched the problem firsthand imagine themselves as subject matter experts….
And then when facts & logic fail them the ad hominem attacks are their last refuge attempting to appeal to the peanut gallery and hoping for the intervention of the forum lords.
Soon we will see a post where longevity as a ham will be offered as some sort of “sacred” relic to which all should bow. That every day of their ham engagement was just an endless succession of “Groundhog Days” of intellectual nothingness is ignored.
I’ve found one’s elders in a hobby are easily divided into those engaged/innovative/mentoring sorts and those intellectual placeholders covered in the dust of sloth & self-righteous opinions largely at variance from the facts. A few fall in the middle – but like iron filings dropped on a magnet most gravitate to one polarity or the other.
Then you will see these forum trolls go off if anyone else isn’t 100% correct or makes a mistake. They are all over it.
As is said “Pedants delight in error, not in truth, and fall upon it like scavengers on a carcass.” – Theodore Dalrymple
Suggestions for a Better Forum
IMHO moderation can do the community forum a great service by:
- handling trolls
- Removing or definitively marking incorrect/obsolete information – strike it out before it causes trouble (formatting the text with strikeout is a way to meet the idea that nothing gets removed while indicating what is incorrect or has been replaced.)
- Closing all old threads after a month of inactivity but allowing closed threads to be reopen and restarted after an appeal to the moderating team.
- Pushing for inclusion of version numbers and since the software loses the information, requiring dates in posts
- Stop rewarding the most vocal trolls with essentially free stuff (talk about feeding your trolls!)
[EDITED 12 JULY 19 –
Great intentions are not effective moderation.
This morning this most appropriate quote crossed my desk:
“Knowing is not enough; we must apply.
Willing is not enough; we must do.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
– END EDIT]
Without moderation a community moves from supporting the innovative to enabling the ambitious mediocrity and feeds the trolls.
We can do better.