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[ih] History of Flaming

On 5/16/2013 4:14 AM, Ioannis Korovesis wrote:
> On 05/16/2013 01:46 PM, Laboha wrote:
>> Hi, I'm new to this mailing list. I'm a German technology journalist
>> and blogger. I'm very much interested in the history of internet, that
>> is why I joined this list. I'm currently working on an article about
>> the history of flaming or flame wars. I have found several, but mostly
>> after 1985. I had difficulties to find examples of flaming earlier -
>> any tipps on that? Boris
> This phenomenon arose in earlier networks such as BITNET, USENET, also
> see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flaming_%28Internet%29
> yannis

Email in the form we now know it, started in the early 1970s.  Flaming 
appeared immediately.

Certainly as soon as the Reply command appeared -- called Answer in its 
first incarnation, with John Vittal's MSG program, flaming became a 
regular occurrence.  Easy replying facilitated overly-quick and 
underly-considered responses.

The fact that the target of the flaming is not immediately present means 
that we are really responding to our internal model of what they said 
and meant, and internal psychological models differ from reality wildly. 
  Clarification interactions are expensive for email; so we tend just to 

The earliest mailing lists, also from the mid-70s, saw flaming in force. 
  Group dynamics in an email context seem particularly fertile for 
growing flames.

I used to summarize that it took each of us about 6 months to get a 
reasonable degree of control over the flaming impulse; not perfect, as 
continues to be clear to this day, but at least /some/ control. 
However, we did eventually get one participant who demonstrated zero 
learning and we came very close to talking to their employer.  Then we 
got a second person afflicted even worse...

As for IM, in the early 1970s, with my brother and me on separate coasts 
we would regularly interact using the BBN Tenex Talk mechanism, which 
was identical to the style of today's IMs, except that it showed a 
character-at-a-time as it was typed.

One day my brother typed something that could be taken in multiple ways 
and I decided to have some fun, pretending to take it as upsetting, 
though I knew that wasn't what he meant.  With a huge grin on my face I 
typed back some sort of outraged response.  He was of course immediately 
and profoundly apologetic.

It took me a moment to realize that he couldn't see the grin, so then we 
started 'chatting' about exchanging affect information when typing.

We developed a few symbols for smiling -U- and frowning -M- and smirking 

And in an engineering environment, that's probably all the range of 
affect that one should need...


Dave Crocker
Brandenburg InternetWorking