SRS Blog > Toxic internet forums

Published 28th August 2010

I was searching the internet recently researching a model locomotive built in the 1970s, several of the Google results linking to discussion board type sites, which I hadn't come across before. Whilst there was some useful information, I was struck by and depressed at the relentlessly didactic nature of the posts and the general level of misanthropy, largely hidden behind anonymous online identities.

One simple request from a man I happen to know well, asking for contact details for Gordon Smith (he of soft-pop safety valve fame) was met with a rude, unhelpful post to the effect that if he couldn't make safety valves and needed to buy them he shouldn't be attempting model engineering. The fact that he was actually simply asking for a spring specification so that he could make his own valves (Gordon only produces the designs, he doesn't manufacture valves) was obvious to anybody who read his original request before leaping in with a reply. The fact that wouldn't have been obvious from the initial question was that the man comes from a three generation model engineering family, with many fine engines to their credit (and were, indeed, exhibiting at Leamington Spa last week), himself generous with his help and advice to others.

It seems about the only words you never see on these boards is "I don't know" - the contributors seems to be omniscient in their outpourings. It reminds me of CB radio which was all the rage when I was at school - lots of unattributable, anonymous voices chattering in the ether with nothing much to say...