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Flame wars and their origins

 
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Saw this article today, which reports on a psychologist's experiment to see whether people can accurately intuit the tone of an email (or presumably, a forum message.) Apparently, in this study, at least, people did no better than chance at guessing whether someone is being sarcastic or not. It's easy to see why such major misunderstandings can erupt in a forum like this from time to time. Something to keep in mind, anyway.
 
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Oh yeah? Well, I never like you either
 
Ernest Friedman-Hill
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Now, class, observe how Max's emoticons make his intentions clear. He genuinely hates me and my whole family.
 
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I've participated in discussions on very controversial topics with people who disagree profoundly without it ever devolving into a flame war (though each party probably privately thought to himself, "What a jerk!")

I believe I'm very good in sensing the tone in an e-mail. The giveaways are word choice and the plausibility that the person could actually mean what they said.

It's understanding what people mean when they speak in person that gives me trouble. I think my mind lacks the requisite real-time operating system.
 
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Never mind sarcasm -- straightforward communications are misinterpreted all the time. One of my next projects will be inventing a new language that will leave no space for ambiguities. In that language, when one person tells another person, "Trivada goorgles guratis", it will mean exactly that: "Trivada goorgles guratis". The language will probably have some mathematical basis and structure, there will be no synonyms. I am also thinking of leaving adjectives out, since they are the source of all evil.
 
Frank Silbermann
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Originally posted by John Smith:
Never mind sarcasm -- straightforward communications are misinterpreted all the time. One of my next projects will be inventing a new language that will leave no space for ambiguities. In that language, when one person tells another person, "Trivada goorgles guratis", it will mean exactly that: "Trivada goorgles guratis". The language will probably have some mathematical basis and structure, there will be no synonyms. I am also thinking of leaving adjectives out, since they are the source of all evil

The difficulty is that humans tend to think in terms of analogies and metaphors, which are never perfect but only useful in limited contexts. It is in part through these analogies and metaphors that words acquire new meanings; where these metaphors and analogies break down, ambiguities result.
 
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"Kill him not save him"
can be taken as
Kill him
Not save him
or
Kill him not
Save him
 
Ernest Friedman-Hill
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Originally posted by Ajay Mathew:

or
Kill him not
Save him



Only if begun this clone war has.
 
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Originally posted by Frank Silbermann:
The difficulty is that humans tend to think in terms of analogies and metaphors, which are never perfect but only useful in limited contexts. It is in part through these analogies and metaphors that words acquire new meanings; where these metaphors and analogies break down, ambiguities result.



And just to prove the point, I'd argue that this statement is ambiguous, as follows:

1. We learn the words and sentences of a language, and somehow ascribe meaning to those things (analogies and metaphors being part of our arsenal of learning tools). That associative process can differ between people, particularly, as you indicated, when new meanings are associated with old terms and not everybody in the discussion shares the same associations.

2. One person can try and explain themself to another person by explicitly trying to use the mechanisms of analogy and metaphor.

The first case is pretty much a universal constant challenge in communications. The second one I've noticed isn't a constant - some people seem to really relate to analogy-based explanations, and some really don't relate well to it at all.

So, there you go... two meanings for slightly different contexts to prove your point.
 
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I normally try the Append-A-Smilie rule. This is the idea that each paragraph written should be imagined to have an invisible smilie at the end. A similar thing is to imagine that the person writing the paragraph is smiling while they do so.

Its all too easy to sometimes imagine a conversation as being a heated debate between two opponents. In this light almost anything can be seen as aggressive. A better way of looking at it is as a friendly conversation between two people in a bar. They're having a couple of drinks, and have struck up a conversation about something. Are they aggressive? Nope, they're just having fun debating something.

Originally posted by John Smith:
In that language, when one person tells another person, "Trivada goorgles guratis", it will mean exactly that: "Trivada goorgles guratis".

Have you ever tried it in English? Its very hard.

I sometimes try stick to the idea "Say what you mean, and mean what you say". I pause before speaking, and then try to say a sentence which matches exactly what I think - no lies, no implied hidden meanings. The problem is that people then think I'm doing the exact opposite! By pausing first, and perhaps not using a normal ambiguous phrase, I come across as being someone trying to talk "spin", and loading a phrase with hidden meaning. Maybe this is a strategy which suits written conversations rather then spoken conversations.
 
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