Anger online (in March)
Posted 9 Apr 2005 at 21:55 UTC by bwh
Yesterday Uraeus posted a note about an entry about how harsh things have gotten in the online world, worrying that things seem to grow worse as time goes by. However, I've watched this trend for years and find that it's a seasonal thing; things will get better. :-)
Yesterday Uraeus posted a note about a blog entry by Daniels about "burn out and aggressive tones in the online world", mentioning that things seem to get increasingly harsher as time goes by, noting that it's not only in the open source community but throughout forums across the online world. "Not sure what can be done about it though."
In and out of online projects over the past decade, I've kept an eye on this and notice that it seems to follow a trend. Through many flamewars, burnout periods of myself and others, forks, project collapses, and so on and so forth, I've noticed that March seems to be when these things are most likely to occur. I would bet that if there was a way to track "project ending dates" or plot flamewars that you'd find a big spike in March.
Why is this? I don't know - could be that the weather tends to be rotten, holidays are over, school's a drag, etc. I hear that even beyond the online world, March is a psychologically downer month, so all this is probably some human nature phenomenon.
Anyway, the good news is that it passes. Flamewars die out, life goes on, summer comes and things get better. My advice is to plan on taking plenty of me-time in March, don't get caught up in the negativity, and help your projects hold onto their sanity.
For what it's worth, I've also noticed a seasonality in positivity in the online world - October! October and November appears to be the _best_ time of the year for online projects, when cool ideas start getting put into practice, when new people pour into successful projects, and lots of work gets under way. I bet if you plotted "start dates" and "releases" for open source projects, November 1st would show a spike.
Anyway, that's my theory. They say March comes in like a lion and out like a lamb, and I figure that holds for online mood just as much as it does for the weather. :-)
March special?, posted 12 Apr 2005 at 03:04 UTC by Mysidia »
I don't see that March is necessarily so special.. Do you
have actual data here to rule out subjective elements?
You see, I think harshness/anger, as they were are year round and rather pervasive on Internet blogs, forums, etc.
More of a consequence of the medium and anonymity (and tendency to
excess/spontaneity) than anything.
There could definitely be seasonal influences, I expect
that there are, but there could also be a
coincidence... perhaps tensions are high in the spring.
Observations of what happened in one or two Marches in a
couple of years wouldn't necessarily infer there is something
special about the month or be all that predictive.
Perhaps what you observe is merely the absence of something special
in the later months like October.
The sudden change of things back to "normal levels" of flame
wars, releases, start dates, etc, after the season of good
tidings and winter celebration passed earlier in the year
might mislead one to think that March is special when in
fact, it is just near the slope downwards... i.e. around
the same as most of the months that follow.
I have not personally noticed March as especially different than other months, and I am not quite convinced March is all that special.
An actual plot of project releases, release dates, end dates,
throughout the months of the year could be convincing that
it is all that special if the sampling of projects to monitor
release dates of was large enough and done in an appropriate, representative way.
Flamewars are something are more difficult to measure, and i'm sure
they vary according to the forum.
Of course it is nice to think that things will get better...
but try not to greet March with negativity, right? _shrugs_ :)
If human beings simply need to learn better/different impulse control and management of miscommunication then several factors may help improve the situation soon:
1. Technology is improving. Different communication styles are getting spread out with groups forming that are effective in their use. People will tend to cluster within comfort zones. As they do so they should get better at recognizing and dealing with visitors unfamiliar with local channels, groups, teams, etiquette, etc.
2. Children within the industrialized democracies are getting exposed to computer technologies and group/team exercises in schools. Eventually the better socialized influx of knowledgeable (in group dynamics) new adults should have a positive impact on the hostility and agressiveness levels currently seen from large groups of random strangers attempting to create this new internet/grid technology.
3. As computers get better interfaces for domain specific endeavers and non computer literate (non mathematical, non electronics savvy, etc.) subject matter larger numbers of highly educated humanities type specialist should start showing up. Managers, politicians, public service personnel of all kinds in the aggregate probably do charm better than egotistical overachievers in the mathmatical and technical fields.
4. Populations get war weary eventually in the real world. Individuals and groups get/find creative ways to establish peaceful enclaves for relief. Fortunately one can reduce exposure and participation in online wars from personal activities by simply logging off for a while. Unfortunately the large value of near instant asynchronous communications makes people reluctant to take sabbaticals or go on a walkabout when tensions get high.
I am fairly optimistic that now that we have some shining examples of emergent civilized zones such as advogato.org, wikipedia.org, livejournal.com, kuro5hin, wiki, etc. that improvement in peaceful cooperation among experienced internet workers, visitors, and group citizens can be percieved and will continue to be learned and emulated by newcomers.
It is after all faster to learn by copying than via original trial and error so we can expect improvement as shining examples continue to grow brighter and fork offspring with mutating improvements.
If any of the above is approximately correct then it should be possible to identify a long list of similar considerations and draw some curves and integrals to predict the peak in per capita incivility.
Perhaps a social scientist using a Boinc client participatory science experiment could use a lottery of predictions to spur interest in financing his research similar to what the climateprediction@home folks have tentatively discussed in their briefing materials.
In closing, I will note that my personal online anger problem has started subsiding. It was frustrating initially to realize the internet enabled several lifelong dreams but I could seem to use it effectively with appropriate people. Now I have a better handle on the technology and have started contributing positively to several projects critical to personal goals. The initial outpouring of anger and frustration builtup and suppressed over four decades of life has now passed. It is as if a boil had been lanced. I find myself slightly more forgiving of others projected personal into my personally created virtual mental space or "noosphere". Now that I am calmer and less unstable I am better at interacting with "trolls" briefly (and I hope more assertively) when a couple of cultural clashes or newcomer's launch wars within the scope of web resources I use and value greatly.