I think there is a lot going on here with this phenomenon. A lot of different needs are being met by a lot of people. We are learning what bothers us and what doesn't, what hurts others feelings, what this kind of hurt feels like, how to defend others, how to rise above and sink with bitterness. Nerdraging is behovely, and everybody involved is getting something useful out of it.
Agreed. I find this all intriguing. I've witnessed a number of major flame wars, and have participated in a few. I'm curious as to the causes, prevention, and elimination. I think there are multiple reasons that flame wars occur. One common thing I frequently notice, is an "us and them" mentality. Even a carefully constructed non-imflammatory posting can foster increased flaming when a line between us and them is drawn. Titles such as fan bois and haters polarize people to take stands and close minds. Peopel have a tendency to gang-up against each other. And they seem to gain self-importance by the belittling and failure of others. There is soooo much more. Many motivations, triggers, amplifiers. There are things that can be done. Some combatants in a flame war are genuine in their motivation for participation. THeir behaivor can be guided. Others just like to cause trouble. They can be handled. Some have pre-meditated motivations. These must be identified and dealt with.
I've seen this phenomenon in real life, face to face situations. In town hall meeting. In meetings at work. In family council. When people have a problem with something which goes unexpressed; there is a tendency to rage when time comes to finally let it out. Particularly as other people begin venting their rage. The domino affect and all that.
There is so much more. It requires a dissertation to describe. It is a complicated phenomenon with a multitude of variable aspects. Difficult or impossible to fully comprehend. But as relates to forum moderation, there are some tactics that can be deployed to allow a less destructive venting. Deletions and bans not necessarily being one of them. This can quickly create increased rage and add a new element of us and them to the war. The point is to gradually lessen the raging not add an new element for be raged against. Control the venting. Allow a structured place for the rage to vent under careful control. Lay down the rules and dictate how the debate goes down. Commit to consistent enforcement. Cut offending posts out of civil discussion and dump the offenders into a dedicated thread created for the purpose (no-one can then cry a free speech foul ~ this can get as disruptive as the original trouble and is a tactic employed by trolls. Also, these dump threads will provide a limited peer pressure affect ~ every bit helps). Explain user violations and ban only under clear cut situations. As a forum mod and admin you don't have to explain yourself. But if you want to avoid creating new problems which extend the trouble, then it behoves you to be transparent and predictable. And being predictable, means that some people won't violate because the rules have been made abundantly clear. People learn rules by witnessing enforcement. Who reads the rules anyhow? ;~p Again there is more. And some tactics to fight flame wars occur behind the scenes and are not for general consumption.