No matter how airtight your argument is, there will always be people who either find flaws, disagree with your premises or are just plain contrary. A lot of discussions turn into flamewars because one side or the other won't stop until everyone admits they're right, and once the reasonable arguments have been rehashed to death, all that's left are personal attacks and other noise. It's okay to clarify if you think someone misunderstood what you were trying to say, but once you've stated your position clearly, shut up on that topic. If your arguments are solid and your premises sound, you will convince those who can be convinced...don't sweat those who won't be convinced.
"You're wrong" is not the same as "you're stupid." Heck, you may even *be* wrong, and the poster is pointing out a valid flaw in your post. Now, this is not to say that I'm advocating a sort of relativism, where everyone can be right and everyone's entitled to an opinion (well, they are, but they're entitled to incorrect opinions too). Just don't take a correction as an insult unless it's blatantly obvious (like, "You're such a pustulating sore for thinking THAT!"). Again, as above, if you think the person is disagreeing with something you didn't say, clarify what it was you did say. But don't expect to convince him.
Okay, so you've been called a pustulating sore for saying you like
Wheelie. This is the hard part...blow it off. Ignore the insult and the
insulter. If there's valid points buried in the insult, you may want to
respond to them, just edit out the name-calling. If necessary, paraphrase
instead of directly quoting. But by NO MEANS should you insult the person
back, because that turns what could have been an interesting discussion into
a pointless name-calling fight. And while some people can be quite
entertaining in their name-calling, it's generally not worth the time it
takes to skim the post.
Mind you, sometimes you may attract someone who has made it their life's goal to get a rise out of you, and it can be very hard to ignore them when they follow up to every post of yours with invective and foul language. But this is pretty rare, and you're still better off ignoring them, because the more reaction they get from you, the more entertainment they get out of bothering you, and they longer they'll stay.
Someone posts off-topic, and it offends your sensibilities. Fine, tell
them they shouldn't do that, but do it by email, not in public. Few things
start protracted flamewars more efficiently than public discussion of
on-topic versus off-topic. The FAQs and other guides which get posted
periodically should be enough public discussion of these matters.
And remember, it's virtually impossible to stop someone from making their first off-topic post. Be firm but polite in explaining things to them and they'll be less likely to make their second off-topic post. Blast them, and they'll blast back.
No matter what you do or don't do, flamewars will happen. A newbie is
born every second, and tends to post before reading any of the instructions.
When you see a flamewar start, just step back and let it burn out on its own,
don't add fuel of your own...even telling someone to stop flaming will make a
flamewar last longer. You'll feel better for not getting all riled up by
reading the flames, and your reputation can only improve if you don't
contribute to the flamewars. Well, at least your reputation among the
Remember, "He who lies down with dogs gets up with fleas." That pithy epigram means that there's always unpleasant side-effects from getting in the middle of a bad situation, even if you go with the best intentions.
Of course, the flip side of the coin is that you should contribute positively to a.t.t. After all, if you remove the noise and there's no signal underneath it, you haven't gotten much done.
Dave Van Domelen, "He who lies down with penguins gets up with snow in his skivvies...."