About internet comments and agressive communication

These days, an online magazine I follow wrote about a topic I love researching. I saw some fallacious, poisonous comments and inadvertedly tried to reason with the individual that wrote those things.

Worst thing I could possibly have done.

Of course it didn’t work out. Of course the individual tried to use every single mean she or he had to make me feel bad, to make me think I’m worthless, my arguments are a piece of crap, I’m a stupid teenager trying to reason with a god-like creature that she or he is.

That made me think about how we usually run conversations through internet. Because I work with GNOME, a thick skin naturally grew. I eventually have people yelling me “y u keep breaking stuff?” or “stop making this piece of crap” or even “ur product is bad, u offend me by releasing it” (and yes, they’re all real comments). After some time, this kind of thing becomes just background noise which we have to work with every day. I can only think that other contributors faced the same kind of top-notch treatment.

It makes me wonder how did we get in this rotten state where people try to push you down for nothing but a few seconds of selfish, ego-driven pleasure.

Is there anything I can do, right here and right now, to improve this situation? How can I encourage people to have non-violent conversations? How can I create meaningful dialogs in this chaotic place where people exchange bad words as part of their routines?

Extending this to the GNOME community, what can I do individually to make our community an even warmer place where people can develop themselves and find use for their skills? What can I do to make our community the role model of how a tech community should be?

9 thoughts on “About internet comments and agressive communication

  1. Life is too short to feed the assholes.

    Be around nice people. Thus, giving value (your time and presence) to them.
    Let the assholes choose between accept loneliness, void and darkness or learn to live in society.

    Also, remember that the internet is full of kids.

    And ask GNOME to update Empathy so people can use it (haha).

    In another words: keep breaking stuff, keep making this piece of crap and keep offending me by releasing your bad product. Just, meanwhile, continually delete the assholes of your life, memories, and space-time 🙂

    Hugs ❤


    1. Hey Diogo, thanks for the positive words. I know that these individuals are the famous “loud minority”, but still, wouldn’t it be nice if we all could talk without the fear of being touching an agressive individual?


  2. Thanks for a thought-provoking post.

    Experience has taught me that if a reasonable person clashes with an unreasonable person, the reasonable one will always lose, because he or she has boundaries. Therefore, if you want to remain a reasonable person, the best thing to do is avoid clashing with the unreasonable. I have a zero-tolerance policy. That means that when I read the comments on a post and they turn poisonous, I just close the browser tab and don’t come back, no matter how wrong the commenter is. People who push you down and feed on negativity don’t deserve any of your attention.

    And the best thing you can do for the community is always model the good behaviour, and don’t let those who commit the bad behaviour hang around.


    1. Hi Philip, thanks for sharing your thoughts.

      I think your position is absolutely valid, and I intent to follow your advice – but there is a question I still have to solve. Using the magazine I talked as an example: that individual was writing fallacies in public. He or she could indoctrinate the ignorant. Wouldn’t the absence of reply, in this kind of situation, be noxious? Wouldn’t I be agreeing with the individual through silence?

      I don’t have these answers, and I really want them. I think that, solving this paradox of indifference, I’d have a pretty good method to conduct myself through a community.

      Again, thanks for sharing your thoughts.


      1. Back in 2005/2006, when PulseAudio was still hotly debated, I remember reading through these walls of comments on blogs (most likely Lennart’s) where a bunch of people would complain/attack, and then someone would calmly refute them. An ignorant like me would have been indoctrinated were it not for the counter-arguments.

        The story repeated itself in 2011/2012 with systemd.

        Did they convince the attackers? No.
        Did it help me? Yes.

        So, if you really really want to engage (it is a judgement call), then I’d suggest writing one calm, well researched counter-argument for the sake of any passer-by and call it a day.

        Someone (could have been Jon McCann) once told me that he has a mailing list threshold – one e-mail per thread, at the most two. I try to stick to it, and it has helped. I try to hold back on the first post so that I can gather all the points that I want to refute, and, most importantly, to consider whether it is even worth engaging or not.


  3. I agree with Philip, you don’t want to waste your time and mental health taking the negativity.

    One thing to consider is that trolls have such visibility because they are the vocal ones. A good way to fight that is to show your love and support whenever you can. Ignore the trolls and spread the love, that will kill them with kindness.

    Keep up the good work you do, it is much appreciated. ♥


  4. I think it was Mark Twain who said “never argue with a stupid, he’ll lower you to his level and defeat you with his experience” :). Truth is some people enjoy dragging others into misery, ideally you’d never engage with them, but once started the best thing to do always is to quit ASAP.

    IMO it is just a human condition what you’re trying to fight against here, the first that should be helping these guys is themselves. Just think of this people as the hopeless cases they are and keep on with life, there’s awesome stuff left to do :).


  5. Hey Georges,

    As you may know, I try to protect newcomers/students like you kinda were from these issues. Of course you are not longer a newcomer and grew a thick skin.

    One thing I realize is, some people just want to use part of their free time to do that. You don’t love ranting sometimes? With no reason, just yelling. Didn’t you never found in a situation with a friend that only wants to vent, not a real solution to his/her problem? The worse thing you can do in this situation is to actually provide solutions. They just want to vent.

    This situation is similar, they just want to rant, because for them feels good. What can you do to improve the situation? Nothing! That precise situation is what they want, not real solutions. Don’t worry, because if someone really wants a real solution, he/she will come in a positive and open way, because the final goal for him/her is to fix the problem, and he/she knows very well venting is the opposite of that 🙂

    So just don’t deal with these people in these situations. Don’t try to improve something when is already how they want it to be, because what is “improving” in this situation for you, is actually the opposite (and therefore worse) of what they want, just rant.

    Cheers and take care!


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