Newbie flambe on alt.peeves

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One of my hobbies is the ceremonial preparation of that staple of internet cuisine, newbie flambe.

I don't usually do this in any spirit of malice. However, I believe in the old-fashioned virtues of netiquette; of reading a group before you post to it, of keeping posts relevent to the group in which they are posted, of not spamming, and of not being egregiously stupid (for example by reposting someone else's long rant, followed with a one liner of the style "I AGREE").

alt.peeves is a newsgroup inhabited by the more irrascible, not to say more literate, denizens of the hotter side of the net. It's ostensibly for the discussion of peeves -- anything that irritates you. But it aspires to a higher level, and sometimes the results of posting a whine there (as opposed to alt.whine) can be to provoke the older-timers beyond belief ...

Subject: Re: PEEVES WANTED!!
From: (Charlie Stross)
Date: Thu, 03 Aug 1995 16:02:09 +0000
In article <3vjfuk$>, (Silverfork) wrote:
>Dear anyone,
>    I'm tempted to write an article on how people are so rude on the
>internet (people on AOL aren't rude, they are only when they're pissed off
>because of people who judge them by their service). The fact that this
>happens to be a newsgroup on peeves doesn't give you an excuse to be rude.
>Go think on that!

Nope. I've already done my thinking on that matter, and I've done it long and hard: you're way out of line.

Newsgroups on the internet acquire a distinctive cultural flavour from the people who frequent them and the issues that are discussed therein. Usually the name of a newsgroup has some direct bearing on its content; for example, you can reasonably expect to be flamed into silence if you try discussing the Conspiracy that Had JFK Assassinated in comp.unix.solaris.filesystem.bugs, and the people on will write you off as just plain weird if you try talking to them about the refractive index of lime jelly.

Thus, the name is related to the content, and for most practical purposes on usenet the map is tenuously related to the territory.

However, some newsgroups are rather more, ah, unclear on their identity. For example, take alt.flame. What is it about? The thermochemistry of oxidation? Vicarious abuse of bystanders? Auto-da-fe? You can't immediately tell from the name that it's actually populated by spotty geeks who like heaping invective on each other, but that is actually the case. It's a content model that is related to one particular interpretation of the newsgroup's name, albeit not the only one.

alt.peeves is even more of an ambiguous hole in the semiotic infrastructure of the cybernetic wilderness. It was apparently created as a forum for people to blow of steam about things that annoyed them. However, it fairly rapidly developed a subculture, slang, and social environment of its own, and a body of literate, vociferous, and opinionated posters who have elevated the peevish rant to the level of an art form in its own right.

You may consider the current state of alt.peeves to be an undersirable blot on the landscape of the family-friendly internet, but you should pause to think this through: it has been stable, in more or less its present form, for at least the past four years. Peevers come and go, but alt.peeves endures, forever griping and fretting and burping up newbie souffles whenever a clueless wanderer such as yourself dares to stick an exploratory hand into the meatgrinder of discourse.

alt.peeves is therefore metastable; it is a vast and evil semiotic superorganism, composed at any one time of the combined writings of perhaps one to two hundred participants. It eats and regurgitates its own contents endlessly, occasionally worrying at yesterday's dinner and sniffing after the spoor of the other terrified newsgroups that quail in fear of an invasion of peevishness --, and various kiddie-spawn-raising groups and effective cycling groups have felt the iron tread on their collective neck in recent memory, and there have been clashes at irregular intervals between alt.flame and alt.peeves.

The metastable nature of alt.peeves is maintained by a simple mechanism: the wall of flames to which clueless newbies like yourself are subjected with merciless efficiency. Not everybody encounters the flamminiferous treatment; to qualify for a roasting you need to prove yourself worthy of it. You have already gone a fair way down that road. Just having an AOL account is not in and of itself a capital offense on alt.peeves; but it instantly places you under suspicion of having a room-temperature IQ. You need to work hard to overcome such a handicap. You can do so by reading the group for a while, until you have at least half an idea about what is and is not done on alt.peeves, and by contributing something worthy to the superorganism -- say a muscle group twitching in the virtual perineum, or an extra incisor in the jaw that rips the throat from our hapless victims. It is there, as an arm or an agent of the mean lean peeve machine, that you will find fulfillment and bliss, your true purpose in life: as a mindless component of a destructive dialogue generator that engages in blistering and merciless repression of all dissident opinions.

We are the future of the internet.

You are our dinner.

We are the most efficient, attack-trained group mind in cyberspace.

You will be assimilated.

Surrender your protein now!

-- Charlie

PS: If you want to republish this article, you may apply for non-exclusive world serial rights. I'm sure my agent will be pleased to talk to you. Note that the author of this work hereby asserts his copyright under the terms of the Berne Convention. Unauthorized reproduction is VERBOTEN and will result in a rapid referral to my lawyer ...

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