I know, I know, this has been covered many times. It's a common idea, to post a list of dos and don't on internet etiquette, and manners, and all sorts of happy horse pucky. Because that's what it is. Horse pucky.
Etiquette implies that there's a pre-established set of rules that everyone knows about, but actively chooses to disregard. While there is a faction of folks like that, and we all know them as the lowly troll, I personally think they're in the minority. What makes up the rest of the group is:
1. The willfully ignorant. They have a good idea that what they're doing is not cool, but they don't really care. So they pull a Cartman, saying "Screw you guys, I do what I want". People attack them, and they fire back, feeling fully justified. You know the type. "I just speak my mind. I'm just honest and upfront. I don't sugercoat things." There is a difference between being honest and upfront and being a jerk, but they never learned it.
2. The actually ignorant. Lacking in social skills, they can't understand why every time they post, someone jumps all over them, and they are reactive rather than attempting to figure it out.
3. As I just found out today, language barriers. Even if you're speaking English to another person who's speaking English, you can take something completely out of context, and you may not even be wrong.
I know what you think I mean...things like "I couldn't tell he was being sarcastic." While that is something else to consider, this isn't what I'm getting at in this example. I consider that to be common sense, and not worthy of note. I know, common sense isn't common, blah blah blah....we'll get to that later on.
Here's what I mean. How a Brit words something could be taken as judgemental by an American, because they structure things differently in their phrasing. So that person you thought was being passive-aggressive could just be British. Seriously. I had this conversation. We all understand that there are terms that mean different things to Americans, but apparently what we consider a passive-aggressive dig in their case can simply be a declarative sentence.
Recognize the common factor here? An hint: it's not about them. It's about you.
People react to these folks as if they were the aforementioned troll. They respond in kind, because they have no idea why they're under fire, and drama ensues where it isn't necessary. So what's the solution?
Simple. Look for clarification. Ask them to further explain their position. Simply lurk and see what happens. In short, take a minute before you jump all over someone because you THINK you know what they're saying. Know what I'm sayin'? Clarity, my friend. It can save lives. Okay, maybe not, but it could lower blood pressures all over the internet, which is a nice thought. And if it turns out to be an actual troll, well...don't feed them.