Straw pole

OK everyone, here’s this evening’s straw pole.

Angry Muppets 2.0

I do think this is stretching the point now.

Text from Dog

This morning, I have mostly been laughing at stuff like this.

And this:

Like those? There are tons more at the Tumblr page. One of those brilliant ideas you wish you’d had first.

Blast from the past

OK, you’ll either get this or you won’t. (My children did!)

 

Nature abhors a vacuum

Me: You know, I should never vacuum the house without wearing trousers.

Emily: Why’s that?

Me: Well, because when I unplug the nozzle to do all the corners, my leg hairs get caught in the kinks in the hose. It’s quite painful.

Emily: See, I was thinking you were going to say your di-

Me: NO!

Footprints

Thank you, George Takei.

One bear at bedtime

Spotted this in an Abingdon shop window. It was, in its own way, quietly tragic.

 

The Green Man

Ah, Stephen Green.

Wife-beater (according to the Daily Mail, so that’s almost certainly a pack of lies). Fundamentalist. Convenient source of outrageous quotes. The man who hints that Tesco’s recent failures are divine intervention, whilst formerly suffering some divine intervention of his own, as we may see below. It’s a despicable organisation, harking back to a golden age of Britain that never really existed except through the rose-tinted spectacles of its bigoted, This England-subscribing fan club. Green himself is a borderline hate cleric, although even hate clerics occasionally get their comeuppance:

I’ve followed Christian Voice with some interest since the Jerry Springer debacle. It was their fifteen minutes of fame, and they have since vanished into relative obscurity. I can recall the online petition that Stephen set up asking to be excused from paying the legal fee that the BBC demanded of him after his failure – there were plenty of legitimate signatures, but also a fair number of people who simply turned up to ridicule him. That seems to be the pattern: I’d be willing to bet that Christian Voice has its share of supporters, but for every paid-up subscriber, there are a thousand others (believers and atheists alike) who treat the organisation with the contempt and disdain that it deserves.

But they’re still around. And a while ago, after a lengthy period of apparent inactivity, they relaunched their website. It now has a swish new layout, regular updates (predominantly from Stephen but with a few from a chap called Robin, with whom I seldom agree but who does admittedly have a decent command of English and fair research skills) and – crucially – a much improved commenting system. I confess I’m something of a regular visitor. I mentioned just the other day about not feeding the troll, but fundamentalism fascinates me, because I’m always interested in how intelligent people could come to such extreme viewpoints without questioning.

I’ll also confess that my frequent refreshes became derived in part from something of a crusade to get noticed on there. Curiously enough, I found that all my replies – with one exception, if I remember correctly – were ‘moderated’ and then inconspicuously dumped without explanation. It was like a black hole. Meanwhile, the most outspoken critic of anything that they post on there is a man named Dave, who purports to be 52 and father to two grown-up children. Assuming he exists (more on that in a moment) Dave is, like me, probably checking the website hourly (I exaggerate) for new posts and comments. When there’s a juicy story, he’s always there.

The thing you should know about Dave – as nice as I’m sure he is in the flesh – is that the man couldn’t argue his way out of a paper bag. He’s guilty of the same sorts of generalisations that Stephen himself lists on a regular basis. His responses are poorly constructed and often miss the point. They also seem to be moved about a bit. In this particular thread, Dave was complaining about censorship and posts being deleted or altered, which is of course a moderator’s remit, but that didn’t shut him up.

Anyway, eventually, tired of being ignored, I wrote and submitted this.

“Dave, your posts are edited because it suits CV’s agenda, which is to wax lyrical about a so-called golden age that never actually existed, and adopt a fundamentalist reading of the Bible which is nonsensical and borderline farcical. But atheists are capable of being silly too – and in turn, the arguments you make in your responses are generalised and reactionary and frequently as illogical as the very ones that CV purport in their propaganda.

Have a look elsewhere on this page. Can you see my response to Stephen’s earlier query? No? That’s because THEY NEVER INCLUDE ANYTHING I POST. Over the past few months I’ve come up with several rational, measured responses (and one or two that were admittedly a bit flippant) to posts or comments and they all get rejected. I get the feeling that they don’t want to argue with someone who could actually argue back, coherently and without losing his rag. It would be very easy for me to direct all my ire at an inconsequential little pocket of fundamentalism with no real clout apart from to provide the tabloids with occasional page five quotes, for the sake of upping the web page hit count, but the truth is that CV doesn’t have any real authority because no one (apart from you) is taking it seriously. The sad thing is there is actually some worthy material up here – the scandal about forced adoption and the problems in North Korea are two recent examples of serious causes that need to be brought to our attention. For all their picketing CV have the capacity to do some good, but it gets buried beneath all the whinging about Tesco and gay marriage.

But the reason my posts get rejected and yours don’t, Dave, is that you can’t really argue back. I have met many people like you online and the responses and quotes and statistics you chuck out are so familiar that you could easily be a sock puppet – someone who they’ve made up that makes them out to be relatively measured and rational. Or maybe I’m just too old and too jaded. Either way I’ve heard a lot of what you say before and most of it doesn’t make any more sense than what Stephen’s saying. You don’t really read the posts; you just look for stuff that fits with whatever soundbite you want to chuck in that week. The net result is that people will read this and think “CV are crazy, but at least they’re polite – look at the idiots who reply”. And everyone is happy.

I write this not believing for a moment that it will be published – but after my complaints about never having comments uploaded, they’ll probably include it now, just to try and make me look silly. Either way they now know what I think, so I’ve lost nothing.”

And that very afternoon, I had a one line response from Stephen Green.

From: Stephen Green
Sent: Wed 28/03/2012 16:34
To: James
Subject: Time

There just aren’t enough hours in the day to get sidetracked into the kind of nit-picking you revel in, dear James.

My reply:

From: James
Sent: 28 March 2012 20:42
To: Stephen Green
Subject: RE: Time

That’s not an answer. You call it nit-picking but I’m actually raising valid objections to the articles you post. Even if you don’t have the time to engage in argument is that any legitimate reason to censor or ignore my posts? If your arguments are as robust as you claim, and if my critiques are nothing more than cosmetic nit-picking, why be so threatened? Surely by including them you’d lose nothing, or at least far less than I did? I also wouldn’t take a non-response as a sign of defeat; I engage in discussion with others myself and if someone fails to respond to my query I don’t assume that I’ve won; I just figure they’ve got tired of discussion and moved on to bigger and better things.

The bottom line is that I think you purposely ignore me and others like me (and I know there are others) because we’re far more of a threat to you than someone like Dave, who quite clearly couldn’t argue his way out of a paper bag. If I’m wrong on that, then I apologise for the value judgement. But you must appreciate – particularly given your media form – that this is how you come across.

– – –

Fast forward a couple of weeks. And here we are again, and the debate goes on. This time, ‘Dave’ is whinging about posts being deleted and censored (at least he is at time of writing; for all I know by the time you read this the whole exchange will have been deleted). There’s a lot of back-and-forth banter between Dave and Stephen which is tantamount to two kids arguing in the back of a car.

At this point I snapped, and submitted the following:

Stephen, please stop using sockpuppets. It’s getting embarrassing now. You lot really are pathetic.

From there, our email conversation went like this:

From: Stephen Green
Sent: 19 April 2012 15:08
To: James
Subject: Sockpuppets

I had to look it up.

Wikipedia:

A sockpuppet is an online identity used for purposes of deception. The term—a reference to the manipulation of a simple hand puppet made from a sock—originally referred to a false identity assumed by a member of an internet community who spoke to, or about himself while pretending to be another person.[1] The term now includes other uses of misleading online identities, such as those created to praise, defend or support a third party or organization.[2] A significant difference between the use of a pseudonym[3] and the creation of a sockpuppet is that the sockpuppet poses as an independent third-party unaffiliated with the puppeteer.

James, I am totally perplexed by that definition. Just what am I being accused of?

Stephen

From: James
To: Stephen Green
Sent: Thursday, April 19, 2012 3:26 PM
Subject: RE: Sockpuppets

I’m saying that you’re creating false accounts to make yourselves look better. Sock puppetry occurs when someone pretends to be someone else in order to support their own views. This is either by creating someone who fully endorses what you say, or by creating someone who vehemently disagrees with you, but badly or aggressively, so that you’ll then get support from others.

I’m suggesting that Dave is a sockpuppet because there has to be a reason why you include his posts and then ignore mine (and, as I’ve said before, those of others). I still don’t buy the nitpicking thing. By and large I’m not abusive, although I can be a little forthright sometimes. If you don’t have the time to reply, put the posts up there and let your supporters (you know, those genuine people whose posts you swear you’re not making up) argue back. The impression I get from your website is one of erratic censorship and inconsistency. It’s your call, of course. You own the thing. But I do wonder why on earth you redesigned it and built in this commenting system if you were seemingly afraid to speak to people or have them tell you what they think. If you wanted it to be a winning endorsement of your viewpoints, then why on earth are you publishing *anything* negative? Why not include the posts that agree with you? At least that’s consistent.

Anyway, this is the part where you deny it completely and say I don’t know what I’m talking about. You may be right. If he *is* for real, then my goodness he’s an idiot. My point – and this is serious, now – is that surely you redid the CV website as a way of attracting new supporters as well as providing a soundboard for your existing flock? Because if that’s the case, you’re really not doing a very good job; you still come across as a lunatic fringe group rather than as anyone who has anything of value to offer. You’re just turning yourselves into a joke, a source of comic relief, at the cost of anything constructive that you might have to say. As I said before, as opposed as I am to the homophobia on CV you have raised a few good points recently about the social services scandal and the problems in North Korea, and it’s a shame this is getting buried beneath the garbage. Even a stopped clock tells the right time twice a day.

Trust me on this. If we’re idiots, we’ll come across that way when your supporters speak in favour of you. We’ll be hideously outvoted and eventually we’ll give up. But if Dave’s a sockpuppet, you’re breaking one of the cardinal rules of online behaviour. Conversely, if he’s for real, by all accounts you’re routinely censoring his posts. Either way you don’t come across terribly well. I don’t like or agree with your views, but I would at least like to have the capacity to respect you, and to debate with you earnestly, and to say why I think your views may be wrong or to understand why my own may be in need of adjustment. I suspect there’s more to you than the tyrant you’re portrayed as in the media, and I suspect there may be others out there who feel the same. But you’re not really doing yourselves any favours.

James

From: Stephen Green
Sent: 19 April 2012 15:40
To: James
Subject: Re: Sockpuppets

Dear James,
Oh, I see. No, sadly, Dave is for real. I only censor his posts when he spells things wrong or delete them when he gets really boring.
As for you, our website is not the forum for disgruntled Christians to publish division within the Church.
Our battle is with secularism, not other believers.
Going back to the sockpuppet thing, it is very sad that you find it within yourself to accuse me of such a lack of integrity. Unto the pure all things are pure.
Yours in Jesus’ mighty name,
Stephen

From: James
To: Stephen Green
Sent: Thursday, April 19, 2012 3:53 PM
Subject: RE: Sockpuppets

See, now that’s the explanation I was looking for.

So what you’re basically telling me is that you don’t mind criticism from atheists you can rebuff but you don’t want to expose the fact that Christians are all arguing amongst themselves? I don’t think we needed CV to draw attention to that; it’s fairly obvious that the church is about to implode! I also think it’s a shame that you don’t want to actually have the opportunity for debate, given that no one I know believes that you speak for anything but an unrecognisable sect of Christianity. By that rationale, your battle is with other believers, because unless we talk about this and find common ground the Church is eventually going to collapse in on itself, and I think you and I both know that. Part of my disgruntlement stems from the fact that the press still go to you for quotes, purely because they’re more interesting than anything a mainstream spokesperson might have had to say, so there’s a lot of sensationalism.

I shall not expect a reply to this; I fear this is where you and I must part company, and now that I am clear on what you are trying to do I shan’t submit any further comments. I do wish you well. As a parting nod I should let you know that in the light of your comments about Peter Tatchell’s visit to Greenbelt a couple of years ago I actually wrote to them and said that your comments about left-wing bias in the speaker list did have some validity, and perhaps they should ask you? It’s shame they never did. We might have got on.

James

Of course, he had to have the last word.

From: Stephen Green
Sent: 19 April 2012 16:03
To: James
Subject: Re: Sockpuppets

Dear James,
No, that is not what I am telling you. I allow a couple of less potty-mouthed atheists to comment for the point of debate. I do not agree that Christians are ‘all arguing amongst themselves’ nor that the Church is going to implode. And if they are and it is, CV is not going to draw attention to it to the world. However, if you want to organise a debate with me, within the Church, I’ll be happy to turn up. Just choose your time and venue and the motion.
Perhaps you ask them to stage it at Greenbelt?

Yours in Jesus’ mighty name,
Stephen

I confess I was almost tempted. (Almost, but not quite.)

So now we know. (But crucially, does Dave know?) CV has a stringent censorship system in place because it suits their agenda. That’s Stephen’s prerogative, of course. I’d probably delete any obvious examples of trolling from this blog, if it ever generated enough traffic to get those sorts of responses. In any case, I’m now clearer on exactly what he’s doing, although I still think his commenting system is utterly pointless, given that his own responses are invariably superficial and petty and unpleasant. The very fact that it’s a ‘battle’ against secularism is what gives him away; his only response is to shout louder than the ‘enemies of God’, which goes to show that if he really considers himself a Christian, the apple has fallen very far from the tree (before rolling down the hill, drifting across a lake and getting swept out to sea, where it’s swallowed by a porpoise).

I have no love for Richard Dawkins – I think he’s a grumpy bugger in need of a big hug – but I would love to stick him in a room with Stephen, because Mr Green would be utterly demolished. I still don’t believe this has anything to do with battling secularism; he’s just aware that most believers despise him and thus disengages from speaking with them. In the meantime we’re stuck with the inconsequential banality of his online ranting. In the unlikely event of him showing up here, of course, I’d endeavour to ensure that his comments were included, although I can’t guarantee I’d reply. I can fight my corner, but I’m not convinced I have the debating skills of someone like Dawkins that are required to truly make Stephen Green look like the idiot he is. On the other hand, I don’t really need them. He does a pretty good job of that on his own.

Random office shots #34

My colleague’s mail order Toblerone surpassed all our expectations.

Virtual Inanity

Just the other day, the Daily Mail printed yet another article about a Facebook-advertised party that went hideously wrong. It was your typical teenager-advertises-on-social-network-site-and-three-thousand-people-turn-up-and-trash-the-place tale. It’s probably exaggerated by the press, if it’s even true at all. But there are enough silly stories like this to make me believe that at least some of them probably happen. MPs and celebrities demonstrate with alarming regularity their apparent inability to use Twitter. Teachers say stupid things online about their classes. And on and on it goes. I doubt the validity of much of what I read, but they can’t be all made up.

Nonetheless, there’s a wider problem, and it’s that a generation who don’t know how to use the web responsibly are now bringing up another generation of people who also won’t know how to use the web responsibly. Let me elucidate. People of my age and slightly older are reasonably tech savvy, in that we know how to get online, stay safe online and have an awareness of the history of the web and technology in general. If I was to list the following words, for example –

  • Angelfire
  • Excite!
  • Lycos
  • Ask Jeeves
  • ARC and ZOO
  • BBS
  • 3.5” vs 5 ¼”
  • X-Copy
  • Yellow home page
  • Badger Badger Badger Badger MUSHROOM MUSHROOM

Ooh, look at you. You’re practically salivating with nostalgia for 1998, aren’t you? It was all so much simpler then. You could get an online nom de plume without fear that it had already been taken. User group digests came through exclusively via email because that was the best way of tracking them. Amazon didn’t have a U.K. website. (To anyone under the age of eighteen who happens to be reading, yes, this really was the case once.) And the nearest you got to explicit material online was the erotic stories archives at literotica.com. Apparently. So I’ve read, anyway.

But even then the internet was populated by stupid people. You know the ones. They can’t spell. They WRITE IN CAPITALS. They don’t read the original post or article before commenting. They pass round everything they read without scrutiny, and believe everything they read without analysis. They have no manners or social graces because online you can get away without them. They have been online for longer than I have, and they’re still around. And a good number of them have probably cohabited, married and spawned (not necessarily in that order) within the last decade, so there’s a good risk that their children are going to grow up with the same habits. We cannot rely on teachers being able to clue them up, because a third of them seem to be frightened of the technology, while another third are guilty of exactly the same kinds of behaviour.

My own children have adapted to the online world with the sort of speed and capability that you’d expect from people who’ve been exposed to it more or less since birth. My eldest (nearly seven) is almost as good at Sonic the Hedgehog as I am (and yes, I knew this was going to happen sooner or later, but personally this is a little sooner than I’d have liked). The middle one (nearly five) wants an iPhone: we have told him he has to wait until he is twenty, which is an effective stall. The youngest…well, the youngest is still watching Postman Pat, but he did just get a V-Tech laptop for his birthday, so I suppose it’s just a matter of time.

There’s nothing exceptional about any of this. But there’s a difference between knowing the technical side of things and knowing how to use the technology appropriately. Any idiot can drive a car with sufficient competence to impress an examiner on a given day – given time, they may even drive it well, knowing how to accelerate quickly, take corners at speed and brake in the rain. But this doesn’t make you a responsible driver, as the bloke who cut me up at the business park roundabout last Friday would do well to remember. Tailgating, failing to give way, inappropriate and dangerous overtaking and driving too slowly are all irritating habits that many people continue to practice simply because they know they can get away with it.

The same applies online. There is little accountability for the things you say and do – even in an age where people can be sent to prison for racist tweeting (despite all the hysterical scaremongering about loss of freedom of speech, the Liam Stacey case was, I suspect, an exception, made solely to prove a point). You can have an account ban but a new one is easy to set up. You seldom have to face the people you’ve transgressed, even the ones on social media where a real-world connection is more likely. Typing a rude comment is easy and requires little intelligence or technical ability (cf. more or less any YouTube comments page; when it comes to inane, pointless ridiculousness, YouTube is the hub).

I’m not out to fight the trolls. Deliberately provocative online behaviour has always existed and will always exist as long as you don’t get people knocking on your doors beating you up for the things you said online. For every heartfelt Noel Edmonds story / Richard Bacon documentary that exposes the shocking manner in which some people choose to behave, there are a thousand new trolls in the wings waiting to spring up. You can’t explain the rules of engagement to a troll, because he already understands them – he just doesn’t care, and thus the worst thing you can do with any troll is to give them exposure. Put simply, don’t feed them. They are out for a reaction, and if everyone online were to ignore every comment that was obviously troll-like, the trolls would lose overnight and there would be no point to them, and they’d simply dwindle and die out. Sadly, this is never going to happen, so I think we have to live with trolls as an unavoidable component of online life, like the idiots who chant at football matches. You can change the law overnight, but changing attitudes takes years, decades or even longer. Don’t assume things will improve any time soon. Just deal with it.

No, the people I’m after are the ones who genuinely don’t seem to be able to grasp certain rules and guidelines. A number of said guidelines are listed below. I maintain that failure to understand basic netiquette has nothing to do with age or intelligence. My father is in his sixties and quivered in fear whenever he had to programme our video recorder, but he has become, over the past decade, remarkably good at shopping online, and ignoring obvious hoaxes or looking them up if he’s unsure. It took some time and education and a few pointers (some from me, some from a few of his clued-up friends) but he’s grasped it. I consider myself reasonably well-behaved (not always impeccably, then again nobody’s perfect), but I learned the rules of online behaviour through a mixture of common sense and through making my share of mistakes along the way. And if I can, anyone can.

So here’s what we should be teaching our children, our friends and our parents, because this is the stuff that really grates, and that you’d think would be obvious, but apparently it isn’t:

Social Networking

1. Don’t put anything on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace or YouTube that you wouldn’t want plastered on the front of a tabloid. Just because it happened, it doesn’t mean you have to tell everyone about it. This applies to privately posted material as well. If you must share such things digitally, stick to email.

2. There is no charge for Facebook and there is no plan to introduce one. Just because you read it on the internet, that doesn’t make it fact. Don’t start a new group lambasting Zuckerberg for that; have a go at their draconian copyright policy instead.

3. By and large the world is not interested in what you had for breakfast. Be selective. You don’t have to post for the sake of posting. You really don’t.

4. If you upload public videos, be prepared to have them ripped apart by people who have nothing better to do. You must grow a thick skin if you’re going to survive.

5. You don’t need that many friends. Do you? Really? This isn’t a numbers game.

6. Don’t tag people in photos unless you’re sure they’re going to be happy about it. Relationships have been damaged by inappropriate tagging. In fact, go through your photos before you upload them, and make sure you really want to share every single one. Quality over quantity.

7. Don’t use text speak for updates. Write the full word. It’s not rocket science.

8. ‘LOL’ and ‘ROTFLMAO’ are used far too frequently, undermining any sense of sincerity they might once have had, and too often for things that aren’t funny at all. Don’t use them. Just write [laughs] instead. People will know what you mean.

9. Be wary of friending people you work with. Under no circumstances make friends with your boss or – if you’re a manager – any of your direct reports, unless you no longer work together. Keep discussions about the office away from social networking sites, unless they’re either vague (“had a rubbish day”) or positive (“had a great time at the Christmas party”). They will get passed around before you know it. The word ‘private’ does not exist online, not where a good headline is concerned.

10. There are no plans to give away free iPads. If it sounds too good to be true, it really is.

11. Conversely, Facebook is a free service. Just remember that before you start complaining.

Email

12. Do not – repeat, do NOT – hit reply all unless you really, really mean it.

13. If you’re included on an obvious virus hoax that’s been cc’d to a number of other people, don’t reply to all saying “this is fake”. It embarrasses the original sender (and this may be what they need, but that doesn’t make it right). Send them a private message directing them to Snopes and leave it at that. And do not be smug about it, unless you really don’t like them.

14. Microsoft have no plans to give you money for forwarding emails. Don’t be stupid. Similarly, banks will never email you to ask you to log in and change your details.

15. Consider using plain text occasionally. It keeps the message size down.

16. The best way to check the authenticity of any suspicious-sounding email or viral warning is to copy and paste a selection of the text (in quotes, if this works) into the Google search bar. Sometimes this will take you to Snopes, sometimes it won’t. Sometimes the warning will be genuine, so don’t be too cynical.

17. Use distribution lists with care. Some of the stuff you send may be inappropriate for some of the recipients.

18. On a related note, do not send glurge. Ever. Under any circumstances, and on pain of death. I mean it.

Online Discussions

19. Unless it’s wildly impractical, read through the whole discussion before commenting. Just make sure that the question you were going to ask hasn’t already cropped up earlier.

20. Newspapers and websites will lie to you. They have an agenda, which is to sell more papers or knock up the hit count. Concurrently, they want you to feel a certain way and react in a certain manner, and they know how to manipulate you. Do not start a new discussion expressing your outrage at Britain’s immigration policies or the existence of homosexual propaganda in schools unless you are absolutely sure that what you’ve read is reasonably accurate. Read between the lines. (If you want to start a thread lambasting a particular article’s political stance, or ripping it to shreds because it’s full of holes, then this is acceptable, if ultimately rather pointless.)

21. If at all possible, type your response into a plain text email and then copy and paste. (Don’t use HTML unless you’re sure it’ll work with the interface you’re using.) If it’s a long post, save it periodically and before you post it to the discussion; sometimes comments can get lost in the ether.

22. Do not feed the troll.

23. Spellcheck and proofread everything you’re about to post, however brief. It’s very easy to words out and completely change the meaning of what you wanted to say. You run the risk of looking stupid if you don’t at least have a cursory glance.

24. Please, for the love of God, keep the emoticons to a minimum. Don’t use them at all if you can help it. Try and say it in words. And anyone who adds a row of smiling, winking animated yellow faces will be shot on sight.

25. Don’t use auto-signatures; they’re lame and you have to keep reading them to work out if they’re part of the message or not.

26. Try and criticise what the person has said, rather than the person. And yes, there’s a difference.

27. If it’s someone who’s died that you’ve never heard of, don’t say so. If it’s an issue that doesn’t interest you, I don’t care. If it’s a TV program you’ve never watched and don’t plan to, don’t bother telling me. I couldn’t give a rat’s arse. Go and find something that does interest you. Would you sign the book of remembrance for a person you’d never met saying “I have no idea who this person is”? Same thing.

28. Don’t criticise anyone else’s spelling and grammar, even if it’s appalling. It gets you nowhere and simply weakens your own argument. Exceptions may be made for obvious idiots who have ideas above their station and insist they have IQs of 148, but even these should be used with caution.

29. There are plenty of comments about pointless articles. We don’t need any more. Newspapers no longer have to worry about printing costs, which is why there’s so much rubbish online. Live with it.

30. Never, I repeat NEVER write in capitals. It’s not so much the ‘shouting’ label; it just makes it hard to read. There’s a reason why Terry Pratchett only had Death speaking one or two sentences at a time.

31. Do not feed the troll.

32. Be careful of using online sources to verify the credibility of your argument, unless they’re airtight. For every set of statistics or commentary you can produce, there will be a dozen others that your opponents will also be able to pull out that contravene them. Wikipedia can be an invaluable resource for summaries and certain facts, but use it with extreme care.

33. Do not reveal your name, age or gender unless it’s really important. And consider having a blank avatar, because people will judge you on its content, rather than on what you’ve written.

34. Conversely, do not take facts that people give about themselves at face value. It is ridiculously easy to lie on the internet and people will, frequently.

35. There is a clear and concrete difference between being in the right and simply being right. Make sure you learn it.

36. Do not feed the troll.

So there we go. We start telling people about this, we may be able to raise a generation of people who can actually behave properly online, and the web will be a much nicer place. If I’ve missed anything, please tell me and I will edit the post accordingly to include your submissions. It would be nice to make this a reasonably comprehensive list!

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