October 20, 2005

An Exemplary Flame War

I've long argued that weblog comments are not worth the risk -- that they inevitably devolve into damaging, acrimonious, and expensive flame wars. (Links at the end of this post) I continue to think comments and blogs are a bad mix: if you want to respond to a blog, write the response in your own blog.

If you still want to have comments, or manage a forum or wiki or other social software system, I'd strongly recommend a careful study of this long (and growing) thread at eGullet, discussing The Seasoning of a Chef, a recent memoir by Doug Psaltis. (Via Meg Hourihan)

This is a spectacular accomplishment: a managed flamewar that appears to be burning under control, despite a host of factors that I would expect to leave the thread a scorched wasteland:

Yet, somehow, this controversy has raged through two weeks and 13 pages without passing the boundaries of civility.

I'm taking a very liberal view of civility here: the underlying question is whether author Doug Psaltis was deceitful or not. These were, literally, fighting words, said in public and soon picked up by major newspapers and magazines. Still, nobody has violated Godwin's law and called someone else a Nazi, and I fancy most of the participants might eventually be willing to speak to each other.

I think that a the management of this fight might repay careful study.