After a particularly trying weekend moderating the Macworld forums, it occurred to me that there are a handful of ways to become an Internet pariah in a very short period of time. In the hope that you might not fall into some of these traps, allow me to enumerate those ways.
1. Troll Let’s start with the most obvious. Take up an unreasonably opposing point of view simply to get a rise out of people. This is most effective when you visit a site devoted to Subject A and then state that just about everything related to that subject stinks. For example, visit a Nikon forum and slam its cameras in favor of Canon. Trail over to the Huffington Post and gush over Sarah Palin’s first literary effort. Drop by our sister publication PC World’s site and let them know just how much you love Snow Leopard and despise Windows. Whether your comments are based in fact or not, they’re unlikely to be welcomed.
2. Passionate cluelessness Okay, we get it that you have very strong political/religious/hygienic views. Derailing a discussion of the benefits of a new computer graphics chip to present those views in inglorious detail may not be the best way to make friends and influence people.
3. Dispassionate cluelessness Several years ago a little something called “Google” rained down from the sky. This Google provides the means for finding answers to many, many questions. I’m routinely amazed at how helpful people can be when others need assistance, but it’s unwise to abuse their patience by clamoring for increasing amounts of help when the answer you seek is a simple Google search away.
4. Nitpick Nothing repels a crowd like the self-appointed grammarian. These are the people who sideline discussions to correct the spelling and grammar of other people in pursuit of “quality”—forgetting that the Web has no borders and it’s possible that English is not the first language spoken across the globe. Or that, perhaps, ideas are more important than the exact verbs, nouns, and adjectives used to express them.
Nitpick an article or blog post? Absolutely fair game. Correct the grammar of your fellow forum friends? Nuh-uh.
5. Insult I can’t recall the last time I saw a positive exchange of ideas result from one person calling another a moron, idiot, or worse. The difficulty is that most true morons, idiots, and worse fail to recognize the truth of these words and react by replying in kind.
6. The “Nazi” thing Godwin’s Law. Become familiar with it. Compare anything but Hitler to Hitler and you lose.
7. Promote your stuff. Endlessly. Want to lose Twitter followers in a hurry? Have your signature scraped by forum administrators? Just keep offering up those links for your contests/site/book/iPhone app/job/pharmaceuticals/deals without a smidgen of additional worthwhile content.
8. Hold a grudge Remember that guy who called you a tool on AOL a decade ago? Don’t you wonder what he’s doing now? Wouldn’t it be sweet to track him down on Flickr or Facebook or Twitter or any number of Internet forums and rip away at the old wounds?
No. No, it wouldn’t. Get over it. It’s creepy.