The Secret Cause of Flame Wars. I found this an intersting article. I have been in a few flame wars (but not many!) and I think the conclusions of the article are accurate. It is just too easy to misinterpret what others mean online or in an e-mail format.
Another cause of flame wars at some forums I post at is drinking I think. It is clear to me that some of the late night posters are drunk and their posts at night have more errors and are more hostile in tone than the posts they make during the day. (Hey, that is also what causes bar fights!) I guess some forums are great fun if you are intoxicated...
From the site:
"Don't work too hard," wrote a colleague in an e-mail today. Was she sincere or sarcastic? I think I know (sarcastic), but I'm probably wrong.
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.
"That's how flame wars get started," says psychologist Nicholas Epley of the University of Chicago, who conducted the research with Justin Kruger of New York University. "People in our study were convinced they've accurately understood the tone of an e-mail message when in fact their odds are no better than chance," says Epley.