Saturday 22 May 2010

Lurking on a forum near you!

I enjoy looking round the message threads on various canal forums and on-line magazines. On some forums I'm quite an active participant. However on others, I am what might best be described as a lurker. I read and digest quite a lot of the stuff, but I don't feel that I want to contribute a great deal. I still visit the ones I don't contribute to, because every now and then I pick up a useful tip, or maybe a way of doing something I had not considered. Not all forums are welcoming to outsiders, the unwelcoming experience is brought about by the childish antics of a small minority of their membership. It is just for this reason that I am a lurker on some forums and more active on others.

The actions of the Trolls is the main reason for my reluctance to contribute on some forums. Whilst there are some excellent blogs and traditional websites that are full of interesting information about some aspect or other of canal life. At the same time there are also a few canal open forums where the quality of the experience is sometimes spoiled by a small vociferous minority who make the "atmosphere" most unwelcoming. It would seem to me that as they have little or nothing of note to contribute for themselves, therefore they seek their need for fame through written belligerence.

However, one strange corollary is that at times the main protagonists would seem to be women. Now I know that this might make me sound like a sour old misogynist, however it could not be further from the truth.

The problem for the forums is that the boundaries of acceptable behaviour are broken down bit by bit. In an almost insidious, sly and underhand way. Until a point is reached where rather than be a sounding box for boating issues. The forum becomes a platform for the disruptive under the guise of freedom of speech. The reputation of the forum and its character soon become a byword for bad taste. I am not highlighting the well meaning and sometimes robust conversations that take place between the membership. I am talking about the disruptive minority who have nothing of any worth to contribute. Who’s disruptive behaviour would not be tolerated for a moment in our school children, and yet the perpetrator of such disruptive behaviour are supposed to be educated and sensible adults.

There is one curious and predictable action that always takes place on the less salubrious forums. If anyone starts to criticise the behaviour. And god forbid that anyone should highlight the short comings of some, especially their lack of acceptable behaviour. In no time at all, bristling with indignation and self denial come the main perpetrators and protagonists. The next trait displayed is what I call “sleight of hand”. The perpetrators then change the subject by hi-jacking the thread of the conversation. Bolstered with a few of their protagonists friends they deliberately “go off topic”. If that fails, it comes down to straight bullying and confrontational tactics. The vociferous and onerous few gather around each other trying to deflect the truth. They will then start to question the motives of individuals. Trying to blacken reputations and give themselves a falsehood to cling to.

In a nod to Shakespeare, “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”* “The perpetrators of either gender doth protest too much, methinks, as well.”

*Hamlet Act 3, scene 2, 222–230

Yet the likeness to Shakespeare does not stop there. The perpetrators can be become characterised in their own right.

Note to self, I must write one day about the different characters.

Stop Press: I did and its here Click Me

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