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Wired News:The Secret Cause of Flame Wars

Wired News: The Secret Cause of Flame Wars: “According to recent research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, I’ve only a 50-50 chance of ascertaining the tone of any e-mail message. The study also shows that people think they’ve correctly interpreted the tone of e-mails they receive 90 percent of the time.”

Ah yes, the difficulty of some forms of online communication is that loss of visual and verbal cues which are so integrated into our speech. Sure some of these are overcomed with say video IM, and VOIP, but they still exist in email, message boards and plain old IM.

I know I’ve been misinterpreted several times by friends and coworkers. That’s why I’ve taken to using an excess of “!” and emoticons when I type emails, though I think it misrepresents me as being more cheerful than I really am in person. I also now reread emails and postings several times before replying to one that irks me. As for flame wars on bulletin boards – I just don’t react (though I’ve never been attacked either). I hate the waste of flame wars – having to read through all the crap to get to the few real, decent posts.

For those of you who use virtual reference, what do you do to train yourselves for this problem? Or do you?


About Jen

An instructor, a reader, a dog-owner, and advocate; that's how I define myself and these aspects directly impact my interests and conversations.


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