The Futility of Flame Wars

I recently witnessed a cringe-worthy flame war between two consultants on a blog. You’ve probably seen your share too.

Most flame wars start with a spark: someone leaves a critical comment on a blog or in some other forum, which provokes a response from the author. Then the criticizer adds fuel to the fire with another comment, more strident than the first.

Before long, the author and critic abandon the original disagreement and start sniping at each other. Finally, the exchange deteriorates until the combatants are disparaging each other’s expertise, credibility, or position in the industry.

Here’s my question for the flame throwers: Why do you do it?

Maybe you think a flame war will attract people to your site. But most will come just to watch a fight or pile on–not the readers you really want.

Debate is fine, but you’re not going to resolve a disagreement with a flame war. Once it starts, no one is listening or responding to anything other than the personal flaming. Any legitimate issue goes up in smoke.

Besides, such exchanges make you look petty and petulant to readers and prospective clients. You won’t endear yourself to many clients by insulting your colleagues.

If you’re tempted to start or jump into a flame war, consider this: you’re not as right and the other person isn’t as wrong as either of you think.

And no one wins a flame war–there are only losers.

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