Saturday, November 12, 2005

Trolls, Buffoons and Queens

This going to be one of those thoughtful posts... no pictures, but something has been occupying my time and I have to write about it because it just clicked for me.

In two of the online *worlds* which I frequent, there has been a bit of trolling going on. One is innocuous and probably short lived. The other has caused major rifts in the community and friendships are being irretrievably broken.

Someone posted a long description of this type of behavior and the sub-groups along with do's and don'ts in handling trolls. I should probably copy it here or post a link, but maybe another day.

The only comparison I have is that when we were flying balloons.... well, my husband was flying - I was chasing... a similar thing happened in *real life*.

We had a small pocket of balloonists in our area. One pioneer of the sport had brought it back home with him and had trained a few pilots. We were a close, fun group. Flying in Amish Country, we had made certain self-governing rules. Among them was an agreement to do no *champagne flights* in deference to the religious beliefs of the people in whose fields we often landed. We were also careful to avoid landing near animals, on planted fields and to be extremely polite to the landowners.

It's hard to keep a low profile when you are flying a 6 story balloon around the county, but since it was a group of peole who had a common interest and shared their knowledge and love of the sport freely, we were happy to basically do our thing and only needed to seek publicity when there was a special public event coming up. As I said before, it was a close knit group and we had a lot of fun and friends within it.

As time went on, the technology of the sport improved and it became an easier (but still rather expensive) sport to enter. Still it demanded knowledge and self-control. Flying a balloon (and landing safely) is more complicated than it may seem.

Someone entered that relatively exciting arena. This person learned from the real pioneers of the sport (or craft) and then decided to become the expert, spokesman, *source of all knowledge and adventure* in that field. He was loud, crass and decided, "The hell with the rules... I make my own rules!". "I can afford this.. don't tell me what to do." He brought in his own *Varsity* team and basically acted as if he had invented the sport and brought it to our area... never mind that one of the first hot air balloon pilots in our area and the US had been flying for many years before he came along.

This guy was often featured in our newspaper with tales of the wild exploits he was *planning*. He sought out high-profile sponsors and his name became synonymous with ballooning in our area. The champagne flights began and tales of his misadventures were circulated among the old-timers who shook their heads and watched as the red areas on the map (places where land-owners had forbidden landing) grew.

Most of his grandiose schemes came to naught. The reports of the events were never published, only the plans. Many of the older balloonists just stopped flying because the connection to this buffoon was made one time too often. Supporters and critics argued about his influence and many good friendships were broken over this fellow.

He had destroyed a wonderful sport in our area through his grandstanding... I haven't heard about him in years and all the great events we used to have here have died out.

I'm sure there are other reasons why this has happened, but I see his entry into the sport as the catalyst....

Now, I'm seeing this in other areas. One person should never be permitted to destroy a group. I've seen terrible fighting on forums about herbs & soaps, because one person decided to become the be all and end all of the topic.

Now I'm seeing it in the glass forums as well.. I didn't understand why I was not impressed with some of the *stars* in the glass sommunity. I even took a couple of classes from some of them - which left me even more unimpressed with the personalities of those upon all praise is showered.

I love the free exchange of information that is available on the web these days, but now I know why, when someone sets themselves up as *the* expert, I want to run in the other direction.

Sorry - this probably doesn't even make sense to most people reading it, but just think about it when you are humbled by someone's knowledge in your field.

We are all here to learn - from each other. EVERYONE has something to contribute. Especially in the arts.. and anyone who divides a group is a serious threat to the community as a whole.... IGNORE THEM! Do not feed their ego.

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