The Flaming reference article from the English Wikipedia on 24-Jul-2004
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This article is about the Internet meaning of the word "flaming". For other meanings, and meanings of the word "flame", see Flame.

Flaming is the practice of posting messages that are deliberately hostile and insulting to a discussion board (usually on the Internet). Such messages are called flames, and are often posted in response to flamebait.

Although face to face flaming is as old as time itself, flaming on the Internet started in the Usenet hierarchies. A flame may have elements of a normal message, but is distinguished by its intent. A flame is never intended to be constructive, to further clarify a discussion, or to persuade other people. The motive for flaming is never dialectic, but rather social or psychological. Flamers are attempting to assert their authority, or establish a position of superiority. Occasionally, flamers merely wish to upset and offend other members of the forum, in which case they are trollss.

Similarly, a normal, non-flame message may have elements of a flame – it may be hostile, for example – but it is not a flame if it is seriously intended to advance the discussion.

Table of contents
1 Flame wars
2 Geek use of the term "Flame wars"
3 External Links

Flame wars

A flame war is a series of flaming messages in an electronic discussion group or message board system such as usenet, mailing lists or forums. There are a number of characteristics of electronic communication which have been cited as being conducive to flame wars. Electronic communications do not easily transmit facial expressions or voice intonations which may serve to moderate the tone of a message. Also, there is typically a lag time between the time a message is transmitted and the time a reply is read. These two characteristics can cause a "positive feedback loop" in which the emotional intensity of an electronic exchange increases to extremely high levels.

Alternatively, flame wars may be instigated deliberately by Internet trolls. Not all trolls are successful, though.

Some flame wars have entered into Internet folklore, such as the Meow Wars between Harvard students and the "Meowers".

Jay W. Forrester described a phenomenon that often happens in flamewars whereby participants talk past each other. Each participant employs a different mental model (i.e. due to fundamental differences in their assumptions about what a particular word or concept means, they are actually discussing two different things).

Geek use of the term "Flame wars"

Many Geeks and Nerds will call a serious academic discussion on the internet a "flame war", especially discussions involving topics Geeks find so dear, such as computers, science, and technology. For example, the serious academic discussion between Andrew S. Tanenbaum and Linus Torvalds on microkernel versus monolithic kernel operating system design has been described as a famous flame war by both geeks and at Wikipedia. Despite being designated a "flame war" the debate has been studied by serious computer scientists and researchers, and continues to remain recommended and even required reading in courses throught the United States on OS design and implementation.

Geeks have called the debates about the relative merits of Intel Pentium versus PowerPC, or Pentium 4 versus Athlon XP, or Microsoft Windows versus MacOS X, or Apple's decision to go with NeXT over BeOS as "flame wars", even though the discussions are often highly technical and non-inflamatory. The reason Geeks and Nerds like to describe such debates is that they are often highly passionate about science and technology, and they like to take opportunities to show off their high intelligence around other Geeks and Nerds.

Also, the debates on certain topics in theoretical physics, such as loop quantum gravity versus string theory between Lubos Motl and John Baez and Steve Carlip has been described by string theorist and harvard professor of physics Lubos Molt as a "flame war" -- despite the fact that they were a source of fruitful articles on quasinormal modes of black hole physics.

Geeks can be very passionate about certain topics in science, technology, and science fiction, but despite the debates being called "flame wars" the debates themselves are often very constructive. As a result, the term holy wars is also used in place of "flame war," depending on the user's preference.

External Links