Dave Taylor has a post where he answers the question (as he does) – “Should I flame jerks who send me hostile email?”. He writes:
‘Years ago, I’d just go on the attack and give as good as I got, which of course just spiraled into this terrible scene where I wondered every time there was a knock on the door. Trust me, there have always been weird psychos on the ‘net and it’s awful hard to differentiate between a 15yo boy who pretends he’s in his mid 20′s from the bored 38yo testosterone laden guy who might just get in the car and drive 300 miles, on “low burn” the entire time, to confront you when you least expect it.
>Life’s just too short.
>Nowadays I either just delete hostile messages or actually respond by asking them why they’re communicating in that fashion and whether we couldn’t communicate in a more civil voice so we can try to resolve the situation. Not to get too “crystals and tarot cards” on you, but I do believe that positive intention can do a lot to improve the world.’
He goes on to give an example of an exchange that he had.
All in all I think Dave’s approach is pretty decent and as I track my own blogging experience I’ve probably gone through a similar progression from angrily defending every attack through to something similar to what Dave does.
Of course occasionally it all gets too much and I bite – and usually regret it later. When I do this it’s generally a signal that I need a holiday.