We all know that the Web had ended the tyranny of geography and had allowed people from all over the world to come together in forums or blogs to share their ideas with each other. But sometimes, people can still forget that not all the participants in some conversations have the same background and point of view.
I once participated in a discussion in one forum when a newcomer joined in. It was his first time in that forum so nobody really knew anything about him or where he came from. And unfortunately for him, the topic is a bit hot. It is of the mine-is-better-than-yours kind of topic. In fact, the embers were already starting to glow even before he came onboard.
Then he made a post in nonsensical English. I must admit that I could not understand what he was trying to say. If not for the individual words, I would have thought that it was written in a language other than English. He said things like “I lift me high verily ahead of you not me”. (or something like that. I can’t recall the exact words but I do recall that there is no discernible structure in his sentences. It seemed like the words were placed in a random order.) There was also something about catching a duck or something. And based on what happened next, the other participants seem to have the same problem.
They turned their virtual heads to this newcomer and either directed their annoyance toward him or mocked him. I myself was not sure at first if this person was truly serious or was merely trolling. After observing the exchange for a while though, I began to believe that he was quite serious because he really tried to explain earnestly what it is he was trying to say by saying it in different ways. But his efforts were in vain. Not one seems to understand him.
So I asked myself “if he is not trolling, then why does he write that way?”. I mean, my English may not be good but his is incomprehensible. That question was answered when an enlightened soul came in and asked the newcomer what translation software he used. He told the newcomer that he noticed, based on the newcomer’s IP, that he came from <country> and thus, he presumed that the newcomer did not speak English. So that was it.
That newcomer was trying his best to join and contribute to the forum, even bothered with translation, and got flamed and mocked in return for his efforts. How wrong was I to assume that everybody there spoke English! This is the World Wide Web after all.
Since that time, I have made it a point to check on people’s profile and even search them first in Google sometimes before commenting. By doing that, I can have a glimpse on the person’s temperament. Not that I’m spying or something—it’s public, anyway—but it’s just nice to know where to place and how to phrase yourself properly.
I don’t do that all the time; but only in instances where the topic has explosive potential. In those instances, a Google search detonation kit might come in handy. For example, If most of the person’s comments are about how great L. Ron Hubbard is, then you should know better than to bash Scientology. You don’t have to agree with her but you don’t have to pick up a fight either. Afterall, we don’t have to be right all the time and impose our ideals and ideas to everybody, right? Right. So let’s go get some friends in the other side of the world.