Thursday, May 01, 2008

How Not To Argue On The Intarweb

I got into a flame war in the comments section of a blog that i read recently regarding my comments on a post that the blog author had made about somebody else's blog (isn't the internet fun?). This wasn't long after Paul Graham got lambasted for his essay that made an analogy comparing normal employees vs. founders to zoo animals vs. animals in the wild, and then followed that up with an essay explaining how people should properly respond to his essays.

I found these occurrences interesting because of the indirect and yet public nature of the debates. I'm sure this went on in the regular press in more intellectual times, but certainly at a much more deliberate pace. I learned a couple of lessons from this that i think might come in handy should i ever write anything that someone else reads.
  1. If a large number of people respond negatively to something you write, you should probably consider the possibility that it was offensive and not merely misinterpreted.
  2. If you think what you wrote was misinterpreted, you should probably consider the possibility that you didn't write it that well.
  3. Be very careful about generalizing from small, non-random samples to the entire population with no interim stopping points (even if that's what i'm doing here).
  4. Do not respond to your detractors with smug blog posts about logical fallacies.
  5. Responding with "Whatever" means you lose the argument.

1 comment:

J said...

I'm intrigued by the way the internet seems to bring together rare individuals with the same bizarre lunatic viewpoint that, they feel, is validated merely because someone else on Planet Earth shares it.

Then, when anyone should be so bold as to point out a fallacy in their theory, the glocks and shivs come out to ensure the offending "troll" is publicly quartered.

They proved their superior intellect, by golly.