Learn from the Masters: 7 Internet Discussion Rules That Will Save Your Reputation (and Sanity)
One of qSample’s management roles is to engage online with peers in the market research industry—in different LinkedIn and Google+ groups. It’s not a chore, mind you, but an added avenue to make connections and pursue edification.
Discussions can get heated, of course. Most of us are passionate about our work. Yet our team consistently remains calm and helpful by following certain laws. No, I am not talking about federal or state laws pertaining to the internet (although we follow those!).
I am talking about ancient ones—at least in tech terms—carved upon digital stone tablets by Hammurabi debate-veterans and later democratically ratified by the collective agreement of members from websites of yore.
These internet laws or rules are unofficial and informal. They are more like etiquette guides before entering an online forum, comments section, or social media thread. Still, they may go a long way in not just keeping the peace of your online community but keeping your very sanity intact. In fact, we have drawn upon these internet laws during qualitative research projects, especially with incendiary topics.
Here are the main ones, and you’ll thank me next time you jump into a chat room argument to prove that Beyoncé is part of the Illuminati.
I’m sure many of you can relate to Godwin’s Law:
As an online discussion grows longer, so does the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler.
Author Mike Godwin conceived Godwin’s Law in 1990. It was implemented for those arcane Usenet newsgroup discussions, then spread to all internet symposiums. It’s regarded as the most popular and accepted internet law, more so during political seasons.
Godwin created this maxim to point out how often the accusation of Nazism was flung around in debates. He also wanted to point out that that these mentions minimized the horrible history of Hitler’s regime.
Godwin’s Law gradually evolved into a fallacy where an individual publicly lost a debate on the internet as soon as he or she whipped out the ol’ “Hitler Card.”
For example, if one person on a Facebook thread about baking cupcakes abruptly calls a member a fascist for using margarine instead of butter, Godwin’s Law can be summoned and the accuser summarily group-shamed.
Poe’s Law states:
Without a clear indication of the author’s intent, it is difficult or impossible to tell the difference between an expression of sincere extremism and a parody of extremism.
In short, it means that without the appropriate caveat (or emoticon), making fun of a position by mimicking it playfully (and sometimes maliciously) can be mistaken for actually taking that position.
I’m sure you see the dangers.
On the flip side, Poe’s Law cautions against taking at face value any posted position on the internet without some clarification. Hastily flying off the handle at some joker’s attempt at satire can leave one later on with the proverbial cyber-egg on the face.
Poe’s Law originated with Nathan Poe in 2005 in a Creation & Evolution forum. It was a sensible reaction to various members adopting opponent’s views seemingly to strengthen their arguments.
I know most of you have experienced Danth’s Law:
If a person has to insist that he or she has won an Internet argument, it is likely the said person has lost.
Danth’s Law further states that beating that dead horse of an argument long after the argument has ended is…well…beating a dead horse (and wasting everyone’s time). This tends to happen often, as some people just cannot let go of their cupcake recipe.
The name of this internet law stems from a discussion posted on the RPG.net forums in 2005. The disagreement involved two members, Danth and Spiderman1fan—centering on the profound topic of role playing rules.
Wheaton’s Law exists in all faiths and governments, for the most part. It simply goes:
Don’t be a pain.
(Replace the word “pain” with the nickname of President Nixon’s first name, though).
Wheaton’s Law was coined by actor and writer Richard William Wheaton III, during his keynote speech at the 2007 Penny Arcade Expo. A central theme of Wheaton’s speech was the need for sportsmanship in online gaming. Surely, Spiderman1fan did not agree to it.
The key is to be rigidly nice on the internet, margarine or no margarine, if anything for that peace of mind once you have to get back work and deal with “pain” coworkers.
The Law of Exclamation was first recorded in an article at FactCheck.org in 2008. The law declares:
The more exclamation points used in an email (or other posting), the more likely it is a complete lie. This is also true for excessive capital letters.
This internet rule pertains as well for arguments on boards or forums, and we all silently wonder when that blessed day will come when a device is manufactured without a Caps Locks key.
In addition, The Law of Exclamation draws from the wisdom of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels—claiming that the more exclamation marks someone uses in writing, the more likely they are mentally unbalanced. Pratchett uses the analogy of a man wearing his underwear outside, but you can find your personal meme of lunacy.
Pommer’s Law has never happened to me, except when I’ve gone online for information…
A person’s mind can be changed by reading information on the internet. The nature of this change will be from having no opinion to having a wrong opinion.
The best place to find data to take a stance is everywhere, not just the internet. There is a reason God invented books, thought leaders, academics, and Jeopardy. A widened net of research will save you much agony on internet discussions, unless you come armed with Danth’s Law first.
The Hawthorne Effect isInot exactly a law, but in the name of margarine it should be! (!!!). We certainly rely on it at qSample during quantitative research projects.
Here it goes:
The Hawthorne effect is a term referring to the tendency of some people to work harder and perform better when they are participants in an experiment. Individuals may change their behavior due to the attention they are receiving from researchers rather than because of any manipulation of independent variables.
It may sound complicated, but for online discussion purposes, this is a simpler definition: People are often going to tell you what you want to hear, when you want to hear it, and how you want to hear it.
You may be able to shrug off the negative, but don’t let the positive go to your head. Many who support or applaud your hallowed stance on an issue just don’t know enough, just don’t care, or just don’t want conflict.
Stay stoic, my friend.
More internet laws exist. Many know and follow the revered 34 Rules of the Internet. Further axioms will surely surface from the scars of those burned in the bonfires of online altercations. With the ones mentioned here, though, not only will your sanity and reputation remain intact, but you can reflect on how many times in the past you might have broken Wheaton’s Law and became a…pain.
And don’t do it ever again.
This article was written by Miguel Conner from Business2Community and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.