Today's Weather

Internet discussions are fickle things, rife with hyperbole and frivolous gestures. Watching them is often like watching weather patterns; while always unique, they invariable follow one or more predictable trends.

Today's trend is fairly familiar, though not as common as others. The often combative nature of discussions tends to draw roughly even or at least equally vocal battle lines. On some occasions, however, this equilibrium either fails to be established or is suddenly broken and the facts and fabrications of one splinter come to dominate a discussion.

The rough weather equivalent is a hurricane. The eye is the heart of the discussion. Here nothing is moving; the conclusions and premises that came to dominate the thread are now sacrosanct and untouchable. Surrounded by the swirling vortex of self-feeding repetition, no rhyme or reason may enter and break apart the storm.

A fairly good example of this, and the impetus for this post, is the Slashdot discussion of Blizzard's announcement that StarCraft II would not feature LAN support. The discussion is now thoroughly swamped with comments decrying the move. Playing over the internet will be many times slower than LAN play they repeat over and over, along with various comments about past transgressions by Blizzard and how they no longer care about customers. A general "woe unto us" attitude has developed, and any suggestion that things aren't as bad as they claim does nothing to stop the wailing and gnashing of teeth.

The gale of self-pity is reinforced by the number of posters who join in. As each posts their lament it is validated by and adds strength to the others. No matter how solid the argument brought against them, their perception of majority status or superiority prevents it from being properly considered. Instead, their own repeated statements, whether they have any bearing or not, appear to them as nullifying the offending argument.

Eventually the frenzy will die down and the discussion moves forward. Until then nothing can be done but to find shelter and wait it all out.

This phenomenon is easily identifiable at a quick glance. Typically you will see a handful of instigators posting in constant repetition to one another along with the occasional individual, all sharing the same view. The chain is only broken occasionally by single posts which are never followed up upon due to either being ignored or the futility of the situation being self evident. On the rare chance that someone attempts to put up continued resistance, flame wars are often incited and the discussion is lost.

But fear not. Real life moves on, or as a wise man once said sarcastically, "Collective nerd rage on the internet is inherently representative of majority opinions."

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