It's amazing how things can get out of hand on the Net. Take Frank DiMauro of Chapel Hill, NC, in the US.
He emailed the CEO of animation studio, Blur, commenting on a TV commercial featuring the cartoon character "MySimon" from the shopping comparison Web site of the same name.
Wrote Mr DiMauro: "Some feedback re: my simon character created by your studios. I find him annoying, obtrusive and the last person on earth I would invite to a party. I would hate my host forever if someone like that ever showed up at a party I was attending. What were you guys thinking?"
Six hours later he received a reply from Tim Miller, CEO of Blur. It was frank and to the point.
"Thanks for your email Frank, a few points I'd like to make:
1. Fuck You.
2. Don't you have anything better to do with your life instead of writing emails like this? Did you just get completely bored with masturbation?
3. He was designed by an ad agency- not us, which you would have guessed if you knew fuck-all about this business. Is that the clue phone ringing? I think it must be for you.....
4. We do appreciate your assessment of how annoying the My Simon character is, since it appears that you're an expert in that area.
5. I'll bet your dick is very small.
Over the next 24-hours the two men exchanged increasingly abusive emails. It ended with Mr Miller who said: "This has been really fun Frank and I and myself and the animators have had a really good laugh so far but we've got some work to do, so I'm going to have to sign off now--for good. I suggest you send your next email to www.enlarge_my_penis_please.com."
That was six weeks ago.
Last week the complete email was posted on FuckedCompany.com - one of the Web's great sites that has built its success on the dotcom slump.
In just over a week more than 1,600 messages have been posted on the site, many attacking the actions of Mr Miller. Thousands more have read the exchange.
In an interview with The Register Mr Miller said that he thinks someone at Mysimon.com posted the email on Fuckedcompany.com - but he can't be certain.
He's received 370 emails on the subject. Around 70 back his handling of the affair. The rest contain a torrent of abuse. Not only do the emails contains abusive language, some threatened him and his family.
Mr Miller pointed out that Mr DiMauro's original criticisms were based on the personality of the MySimon character. Yet Mr Miller claims he was not responsible for it. His studio merely animated a character already handed to them on a plate.
"Blur is a computer animation studio, " said Mr Miller. "We are not a dotcom."
"I was an artist responding to an art critic," he said.
However, he accepts that the exchange got out of control and believes he's learned a valuable lesson about email.
"I was in a funny mood that morning," he said. "I was being purposefully juvenile, purposely sophomore-ish. Maybe it got a little out of hand." ®