|The release of the iPad Mini and the Microsoft surface have brought with them a rash of uncivil and inappropriate threads. I can count on one elbow the number of times I have seen the word "fanboy" or its faux-hipster alternate "fanboi" used in a comment that led to a productive discussion.|
Everyone has opinions about consumer electronics. Everyone's entitled to them, even when they're wrong. I owned and liked a Windows Tablet PC at one time! But truly and honestly, are we discussing things that gratify our intellectual curiosity when we attack each other or the authors of the fine articles for their bias? Are we really bringing fresh insights to the table when we complain that the marketplace is capricious and sometimes values things we think are superficial?
As hackers--and I include in this definition those who hack software, hardware, social behaviour, and marketplaces--our mission is first to UNDERSTAND and then second to INFLUENCE. When we read a review, no matter what we personally think of its flagrant bias or the comments of others on the thread, we should aggressively throttle our temptation to wield the flame-hammer. We need to ask ourselves, "What understanding would my comment add?"
The same is true when we see someone else violating these precepts. The downvote (and flag, where available and appropriate) are the right tools for the job. Most of the time, calling someone out for diluting the discourse simply adds to the noise while simultaneously feeding the troll.
(This is one of the reasons I have a personal policy of either responding or downvoting but never both. If it deserves a constructive reply, why is it worth a downvote? If the reply would not be constructive, I downvote and move on.)
If we as a community are unable to throttle the bile effectively, then perhaps we should ask the moderators to do it for us. There's no shame in deciding that non-technical articles about iPads or surfaces or what-have-you are better off in /r/technology.
I know that in a few days or a week these articles will go away as the novelty of newly released products fade. But the reason I am speaking out regardless is that the echoes of this type of discourse last much longer and I fear they will spill over into other threads. I believe that forums like this need a zero-tolerance policy towards the kind of divisive incivility I've read lately.
I'll close by misappropriating an old joke: "Do you know why the flames about consumer electronics are so vicious? Because the stakes are so low."