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Bill Hicks takes a weekly look at the hot topics in the TES chatrooms

There are times when it's a relief to get away from the frenzy of the Opinion and Personal forums. The final week of term was such a time.

Anticipatory demob fever ruled.

Take the "Argument" thread. This is how it starts: "I think we're all being far too nice to each other lately, so come on you bunch of ******* let's fall out a bit." As if any such encouragement were needed.

When the same marauding gang of posters starts to deconstruct our forums'

understated Christmas decorations, it's a signal to retreat into the relative tranquillity of the Curriculum forums.

After the mosh pit of Opinion, it's therapeutic to dip into Maths and eavesdrop on a dozen cerebral souls discussing the square root of minus one. Of course, temperatures rise as specialists collide over complex number theory, but what's this? By post nine, wolfian, who started the thread, is apologising for being "a bit snappy".

Modern languages used to be an even quieter place. But if there were sociologists of online communities, this is probably the forum they would be studying now, to observe the adverse as well as positive impacts of rapid population growth.

In September, a phalanx of unusually exuberant teachers joined the forum.

Some of the longer-term residents were not amused. Amarula's complaint of November 29 sums up much of the ill-feeling: "You have totally hijacked this forum. Frankly, we couldn't care less about your cyber affairs and your virtual binges. Go on Personal!"

On December 7, one of the quietists, FloFrench, flings down a challenge to the ringleader of the new rowdies, Londo Molari: "Si tu as si peu d'ouverture d'esprit, je me demande pourquoi tu as etudie les langues!"

(Londo has been mocking French posters and flaunting a sort of music hall xenophobia.) Insults fly. There are tears. Appeals are made to the authorities (us). We apply ungents, tap a knuckle or two.

And on December 8, one of the new wave - puuaauufina - starts the thread, "Hands up if you like this forum the way it is
!!!" Catmother, a popular veteran, worries that it's "turning into a private club", and adds: "I get ignored all day at school by my pupils. I don't like feeling the same here!" Cue for Londo and others to comfort Catmother, who seems to command universal respect. Peace in la vallee? Maybe not, but a lull long enough for Webturtle to test our profanity filter with Italian expletives. Much to his delight, it lets them through.

Bill Hicks is editor of the TES website.

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