Breaking the internet (hotels, guestnet style)

Paul Vixie vixie at
Tue Dec 8 15:52:23 CST 2009

> Date: Tue, 8 Dec 2009 15:21:30 -0600
> From: Jorge Amodio <jmamodio at>
> Among the many wonderful things Internet has created in the past 2+
> decades, it gave birth to a countless number of "Internet Experts" ...

for example, some of us got a chance to witness the following.  i've
removed all identifying marks.  (i was NOT the author NOR the offender,
but the author does read this mailing list, and several of you will no
doubt recognize the flaming style once you consider the time/date stamp.)

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To: ...
Subject: Re: verbal brickbats 
Date: Sun, 02 Jun 96 23:37:40 PDT
From: ...

My guess is that most people just ignore you. Which might be a shame,
because your point of view is different enough from the average member
of the list that you are valuable here just by being different. I think
of you as a pompous egomaniac nut case, but that's just my opinion; I
have no Greek or Latin quotations to back it up and no 5-point treatise
about how some part of scripture says you're a bad person. It's just
what I believe, based entirely on what you've said here.

In your world you're a fancy professor with power and authority. You're
probably the intellectual terror of [your] postal code. Here in my
world of cyberspace you're just an arrogant twit who knows Greek. If
you want to spend your time making impassioned arguments to the people
who already agree with you, then just keep doing what you're doing. If
your goal is to change somebody's mind about one of the topics that you
address, then you need to learn both some manners and some rhetorical
technique. If you want to teach somebody, to expand somebody's
understanding, to increase the number of people in the world who agree
with you, then please listen to me, because here in cyberspace I'm the
guy with the power and experience and authority and you're just an
insect. ...

Let me give you a few pointers on being taken more seriously. 

  * First, you have the habit of making arguments from authority, rather
  than as an individual. Sometimes it is important to establish
  your authority in some area, in much the same way that an expert
  witness in a courtroom establishes his credibility and authority on the
  topic for which he is to testify. 
  You may think of yourself as an authority on the matters that you are
  expounding on, but we don't yet. Your academic pedigree and your
  quotations from ancient languages are just bluster here on the Internet.
  The general principle here in cyberspace is that we participate as
  individuals and not as representatives of authoritative bodies. You can
  earn the right to wield the authority of some body on whose behalf you
  speak, but you don't walk in our door holding that authority just
  because you are B.A., M.A., Ph.D. and have a white beard. 

  If your goal in writing to the Internet is to change somebody's mind
  about some topic that you care about, then you really must learn to
  communicate in a very different style. 

  * Second, you are constantly trying to impress us with how much better
  educated you are than we are. This might be related to the first item,
  above, since if you're going to be arguing from authority then you
  probably need to keep establishing that you have some authority. I
  think you'll find that this is a pretty highly educated crowd, but you
  don't catch us relying on our academic pedigrees instead of on our
  ability to communicate. I am quite certain that I have absolutely as
  many degrees as you do, and I am completely certain that I know many
  more obscure languages than you do, but if I can't win an argument with
  you based on what I say and how I say it, then my degrees are all just
  puffery, aren't they?

  But in establishing a precedent of authority and pedigree as the basis
  for power, you are treading on dangerous ground. Here in cyberspace you
  aren't in your world, you're in mine. If you make the mistake of trying
  to establish some ground rules in which argument by authority is the
  norm, then you'd better make sure that you don't ruffle the feathers of
  somebody who has more of it than you do. I can make the Internet do
  anything I want it to do. I can perform the digital equivalent of
  heaving lightning bolts in front of your chariot, and rending the earth
  beneath your mail reader. I can turn your hard disk into a toad. I'm a
  technocrat. But I won't, because we professionals don't act that way. I
  don't have to brandish my power and authority and education and
  knowledge of arcana in order to get people to listen to me. I try to
  make a crisp argument and let my words carry that argument. If I fail,
  then I don't go running for some Greek derivation or invoke some
  long-dead philosopher. Heck, I don't even go running for analogies from
  Clint Eastwood's "Unforgiven", which is every bit as fine a piece of
  literature as Aristophanes.

  * Third, you convey a complete disdain for your reader. Your writing
  style reeks of the belief that your time is so much more important than
  the time of your reader that you can't be bothered to write correctly
  or to edit what you write. If you'd like to have more readers, then it
  would be very worthwhile for you to be more respectful of them. Among
  other things, this means that you need to write in a way that makes
  it easier for your reader to read: use real sentences with real
  capital letters at the beginnings of them, and do try to spell as many
  words right as you can muster.

So mind your manners, learn to communicate better, stop insulting your
readers, and then come back and contribute your intellect to [this]
mailing list. If you keep acting like a jerk I'm going to wake
up some morning, yawn, make a cup of tea, and then vaporize your
mailbox. Sometimes we supremely powerful technocrats just have a bad

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