Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Blogging about your guild may put you in trouble

Tamarind, one of the brightest shining stars on the blogging sky, has gotten himself into trouble. Or rather his passion for blogging has. His honest, frustrated rants about some guild drama has lead to even worse drama once his guildies found out what he had written.

Finally he saw no other alternative than to g-quit, name change and server transfer, to be able to get a fresh start and regain his blogging anonymity. It seems a bit rash and very drastic - an overreaction according to some commenters, or even unfair and plain wrong.

In one way I can understand him completely. Tam is just as passionate about blogging as I am - it's equally important to him for his WoW experience as the time he actually spends in the game. He had to find a way to be able to keep blogging the way that suits him best - the very personal, not to say intimate kind of writing, where you get so close to him that you can literally see his beard grow, smell his sweat, listen to every heartbeat. If you write in such a way, everyone in your immediate neighborhood in the game will also be drawn into the spotlight, something they never asked for. So of course it makes sense to try to keep it anonymous to protect them.

But even if I can sympathize with Tam, I still personally would advice against the secrecy. Certainly - there are many million players, hundreds of realms, thousands and thousands of guilds, which could make you think that it would be easy to remain unnoticed. Nevertheless - somehow the truth tends to come out sooner or later - with hurt feelings, distrust and guild drama as possible consequences.

Drawing the line
Every WoW blogger has make his own decision about where to draw the line for how much they leave out themselves and others. There are several established bloggers, like for instance Matticus, who are totally open and not only publish their real life name, but also their CV and a picture. Others want to keep their blogging and gaming apart, like Tam, wanting to write about anything that comes to mind without having to explain it to people who get their feelings hurt.

I've chosen a third way: I'm open with who I'm playing online, but I don't leave out my real name. (Yeah, I'm fully aware of that I've probably left out a bit more details about my real life than would be advisable. If someone really made up their mind to stalk me, they would probably succeed. But why should they? If anyone wants to reach me you're always free to e-mail me. I get WAY too few e-mails through my blogging!)

I've even taken the openness a bit further than just displaying my armory link on the blog. Every since I took my first stumbling steps as a blogger, I've always informed the guild I've been in about this project. It came naturally to me, since my blog from the start mostly was a way to save the guild forum from some of my text wall rants about stuff that didn't matter much to anyone else. I wanted to direct the few who might be interested to the blog - and of course my guildies also served as some sort of audience. They gave me a handful of hits every day - which is all a newborn blogger asks for.

Hundreds and hundreds of blogposts later I would be honestly surprised if there was more than a couple of my guildies who actually keep up with all my writings. I don't think my shameless advertising of my blog address in my forum signature helps. Like most players with any common sense, they are more interested in catching up on news about incoming patches and the latest strategies and theorycrafting, than to listen to what's going on in the mind of that pink haired gnome in their raid. I really don't blame them.

However I do count on that there's a chance that they'll end up reading any post I've written, and I always have this in mind as I'm writing. It's not as if I'm deliberately censoring the blog, but I never write anything that I couldn't tell my guildies upfront. The closest I've been to badmouthing my guild is probably to rant a little about some less-than perfect nights we - like every other raiding guild - sometimes have. But the bashing always is mostly directed at myself, not towards my fellow raiders.

The team perspective
You may ask why I'm so careful. What does it matter if I rant a bit in a diary? It's my thoughts, my blog, I can write whatever I want to, right?

No, I don't quite think so. At least if you're into raiding. Raiding is more than anything else a team sport. This means that you have to work on building trust with your fellow players. You do that best by communicating with your team mates - giving them feedback, positive as negative, sharing your thoughts and emotions, discussing, getting annoyed, sorting things out - but always within the team. What's brought up in the team should basically stay in the team in my opinion. Or at least the team should get it directly from you first, before you even consider sharing it publicly, preferably with their permission.

If you don't get what I mean, try to see it from a different angle. Suppose that you didn't blog yourself, but had a vocal, well known blogger with a high profile and a lot of readers in your guild. How would you react to see your person discussed publicly in somewhat negative terms, and you didn't have any means of defending yourself?

There's always two sides to a story, how could you give your version? "Start your own blog" is easier said than done. Everyone hasn't got the writing skills, the passion and the time it takes to get a blog established and read. Is it morally OK to share whatever you want to behind their backs, when they're practically defenseless?

As an established you have to take responsibility for what you write, trying to foresee the consequences and ask yourself if you're ready to deal with it. If your guild is crap, maybe you should rather talk to your officers to try to change it, and if that didn't give any result, leave it before you start writing blog posts about your frustrations?

Considering the impact
The more successful a blog becomes, the more do those issues matter. I recently found my blog being number 1 on some sort of ranking list over WoW blogs. Don't ask me how it happened or what it's really worth; I haven't got a clue. Something is really broken with that list - I can't understand how PPI possibly could have any bigger impact than WoW.com, MMO-champion and EJ. And probably it's just a temporary thing anyway. Nevertheless it makes me think a bit extra about the effects of my writings.

The Swedish author Astrid Lindgren wrote in her book about the red haired super power girl Pippi Longstocking, that if you're very strong you also need to be very kind.

We who are into this blogging business need to consider this from time to time. You may feel fragile and powerless as you're ranting your heart out, sharing your burdens, but the posts can have much further impact to our guildies and closest game friends, than you ever intended. We who master the language have a certain advantage over others,which is easy to forget. Remember, we're dealing with real people, not avatars. And this is the case even if you choose the path of anonymity.

And to Tamarind I send my hugs and get-well-wishes in your witness-protection program, as one commenter called it. Whatever you do, please don't quit blogging. Things got a bit messy. You learned a lesson. We all did.


Klepsacovic said...

If someone cannot say it, perhaps it shouldn't be done. If it is done, then it should be said.

Bristal said...

Totally bummed that I couldn't access his blog today, and now I know why.

I've often wondered how guild members felt about having their dirty laundry aired out here.

Not good, eh?

SlikRX said...

His blog WAS accessible earlier today (noonish, pacific time)

IMHO, I think Tam may have gone a *little* too "intimate", but I think any problems that arose are caused more from the guild than him.

His posts were not personal attacks, they were not ostracizing, but they were critical about how things started to happen with the "Felchers" and some new trends within the guild.

I'm truly sad that Tam felt he had to do what he did. However, based on the brief glimpses he's permitted us to see recently, I think the g/quit was inevitable. (and needed for his own sanity)

Fitz said...

Indeed you do have to be careful with what you say online, not just about guild members on a blog. Some people learn this the hard way, including myself but in a real life context. If you have people reading your blog in your circle of friends, some moderation on rants is just part of the game. If you don't have readers, it's a diary not a blog. That's OK, but people have to understand the difference.

Interestingly enough, my recent RP entry got a couple of very interesting reactions from our guild leader and the revealed stranger who left the guild a couple of months ago. It makes you really respect the power of the pen.

Gevlon said...

I never had this problem, simply because I always stayed out of any kind of guild drama. Now I run my own guild(s), and blog what I want. If someone /gquit because of that, I won't cry.

Ulv said...

I subscribe to the view that I shouldn't say or post anything that I wouldn't be prepared to say to the people involved face-to-face.

I also use the acid tests:

1) Is it factual.
2) How would I feel if it were said about me.

As a GM I'd far prefer people to air their opinions than be passengers but I can see how some might be annoyed about Tam bearing all on his blog.

As I posted on his blog though - someone like him, blogging like he does, would be more than welcome in my guild. Or any that values people that care about a guilds direction.

Tam said...

Thank you for your kind words, and well-wishers Larissa. I'm touched you think of me as a star - I'm not feeling entirely sparkly at the moment. Mind you if I'm blogging so intimately you can smell my sweat, that's slightly too intimate for comfort I reckon...

I think ... hmm ... I think I probably need to think (thinking is the key) more about anonymity. You may be right that it will cause more problems in the long wrong. I suspect it was probably an attempt to put a plaster over an amputated limb and fix a problem that is generally much bigger than a plaster.

I'm well aware that I was a Bad Blogger - and I over-vented, and this an unfair / morally objectionable use of a blog.

Jb said...

Hm. This Tamarin guy comes across inteligent enough on hes blog. But but but. The reasons to why he wants to separate wow life from the blog escapes me and did he really expect hes wow blog to stay uknown to hes guild ? Hes writing wow stuff, hes writing about guild drama so sooner or later hes out of the water, unavoidably. So playing wow, writing about it on a blog..... then someone on the servers reads the blog and makes the connection----> server transfer ????????????????
I smell the burning wow flesh all the way back to Beta.

Larísa said...

: well, I’m not sure there’s ONE truth out there. Each blogger hast to put up his own ethical guidelines. What I’ve described in my post works for me however.

@Bristal: I think he’s had some technical issues unrelated to the guild drama tbh. The blog is up and running again.

And yeah, it might be worth considering from time to time how you’d feel if you were the one written about.

@SlikRX: Yeah, I wasn’t completely surprised to see it tbh, although I hadn’t thought that much about how his blog posts were looked upon in the guild. The events described in the posts smelled of wounds within the guild, possibly not unhealable, but bad enough.

@Fitz: yeah, it’s no different to blog about your guild than to blog about your real life employer. You have to realize that we make tracks on the internet and sooner or later someone is bound to find out.

@Gevlon: straigthtforward and fair enough. I bet it keeps your sanity at a healthy level, although you might miss out some of the joys in teambuilding. Not that I think you would notice or appreciate it that much. You’ve got another approach, which I fully respect. To each one his own, or how they say it.

@Ulv: It sounds like a good test, that we all should ask ourselves when we’ve got the gut feeling that we may be pulling things too far. Actually I originally planned this post to be more about how it is to have a blogger in your guild – is it an asset or a burden? But the post took another direction. However I may come back to that topic, unless someone else picks it up.

@Tam: oh, we all know that the stars are out there, still sparkling, even when there are some clouds coming in the way temporarily. We’re just fine with your sweat Tam. Actually blogs that are too slick, too polished, blogs that only smell of perfume and never of sweat, leave me pretty much cold. They just don’t grab my interest like your blog does. So brush off the dust, heal your bruises, and join us again when you feel ready for it. Your voice is essential to the wow blogosphere.

@JB: I don’t quite get what the ”burning wow flesh” is. But yeah, I consider him very intelligent. Still we can all take decisions that we later come to regret. It’s a part of the constant process of learning about blogging, about living. Throwing himself into anonymity might not be the most brave thing to do, but in all his writings Tam has always show huge courage. Unlike many of us, he’s never afraid of sharing his innermost thoughts and feelings, and he’s humble enough to always question himself, always trying to learn and somehow move forward in the pilgrim journey of life. I’m looking forward to see what will come next.

Tam said...

Oh, I meant to say, more importantly, congratulations on PPI - it has a well deserved place at the top of any list you care to mention :)

crankyhealer said...

Anonymity... I keep my in-game identity under wraps. This is because I'm pretty sure my guildies wouldn't appreciate me talking about them to the entire internet, even if it's not in a derogatory fashion. Most of them don't read the guild forums, so even if I "outed" my blog, most of them would be oblivious that it existed... so I don't think it would be fair for me to be naming names in an outlet they know nothing about... again, even if naming names is innocent enough, and usually as an example in an overall philosophical point.

Think about it this way... if you take boring pictures of your friends, and put it on Facebook, and your facebook profile is public... sure the photos are innocuous enough, but they're being put out there for anyone to see.

Imperial said...

Congrats on your ranking Larisa! I love your writings. I read it almost everyday. I'm going to try and make an effort to comment more often since I know bloggers enjoy the feedback.

I do feel bad for Tam but I get why he did it. If you want to freely openly rant in your blog and not hurt other people, I see no other way than to stay anonymous.

I'd rather he didn't censor himself to any degree because the raw emotion in his writing is what makes it so good. It may have been a bit of a knee-jerk reaction but you have to do what makes you happy. WoW is a form of entertainment after all and if you can't enjoy the things you like about it most, then why bother?

Hatch said...

This is the main reason I'm anonymous. :)

Veneretio said...

Remaining anonymous is impossible on the internet, I hope Tam learns from this and instead of trying to reset things... instead just tells the next guild that he's got a blog.

outdps said...

I used to be pretty particular about my RL anonymity- I really didn't want anyone connecting my real life to my online life. Not worried about other gamers, but about the stigma against them in the real world.

That said, my new soapbox's policy is to use RL names, and I've kinda gotten to like it. Sure, Google now tells anyone who's bored enough to ask how much of a geek I am, but that's not such a bad thing.

But on the topic of my character- I have always, from day one, been upfront about who I play. I am also very very careful to never say anything I wouldn't be able to defend in any audience. If I want to smack-talk in trade, I have to use a bank alt :P

(ps. I think my browser ate my comment- sorry if this is a double)

Arioch said...

My blog started as just something to keep me feeling social and provide an outlet.

When I started it, I only told one person. I didn't want to push it in my friend's faces, "look at what I'm doing now!" or make them feel obligated to read it out of courtesy.

I've always been open with my main character, rarely spelling out explicitly what server I was on, but there have always been enough clues that a dedicated individual can track me down. Now that the blog has become a recruitment tool, it's much more apparent who and where I am.

When I speak of others, I obtain permission before using names with the rare specific call out for asshattery. Yes, there may be enough details that a very curious individual could figure out the players involved, but they would really have to go out of their way to do so.

I think most readers aren't going to take the time to do the research, hell, most readers don't even click on provided links. They want to share in the story, not log details in a ledger.

Most of my officers read my blog and a few of my raiders. While I keep that in mind, I don't let it alter what I'm going to say. I may change how I say it, but I'm still going to publish my message or rant.

Gronthe said...

I don't believe in restricting any speech of any person or blogger, but I do believe that not one single person or blogger should consider him/herself exepmt from any and all consequences of what they choose to write.

This is what bloggers and real people deal with every day. I can tell by boss to "suck it", but I must be prepared to be fired. I can rant about my guild, but must be prepared for my GL to kick me out for not dealing with guild issues in the manner he/she wants.

Personally, I try to not blog about guildies without telling them. But that belief comes from a personal value set, not law or stated rules of blogging.

Holly said...

now while the only blogging I've ever really done has been here, and I've kept all guild drama out of it for obvious reasons, I've never been one to hide my feelings, in my writing, or to the guild. If I think somoene is being unfair, I say so to them. If I think the mage doing 1800 dps and standing in the fire in my icecrown raid is a bad player, I say so, and tell hime he needs to step it up.

In some ways this has often alienated me from my guilds, but the ones that have embaced me, realize that I'm fair in my rantings. If it's something private, it stays in private between me and who it is, unless it can't be resolved. If it can't be resolved, I move to the next highest person up, if it doesn't get resolved there, I will take it all the way to the top. Be it raid leader or guild master, if it's still not resolved, I either just accept it, or I give ultimatums. It has meant some big upheavals for me, I've never transferred servers, I've never changed my name, I am who I am, and I think I'm good enough that people are willing to bend when I have a legitimate issue.

I'm not one for guild drama, or silently fuming. It's just my personality, I nip it in the butt 'hey, we resolve this now, one way or another' because either way it will usually reach that piont, and the sooner it can happen the clear, faster, and more effecient the cut. I've been on the giving and recieving end of the cut, and I don't regret my choices because now I'm in groups that just lack the drama i read in other guilds. Our biggest drama is someone not being able to show up for a raid because their cat is on fire, or fighting over who to give loot too, not because someone's being a loot whore, but because everybody is passing to others.

Obviously I don't think WoW would work if everybody was as up front and confrontational as me, but my method works for me, and it means nobody is surprised when I go on a rant in guild when it reaches a breaking point.

Matticus said...

Dumb question, but what's a CV?

Suicidal Zebra said...

@ Matticus (assuming you're not pulling our legs)

CV = Curriculum Vitae, similar to a Résumé.

pugnaciouspriest said...

It took me a while to be a bit more open about what I wrote - I still don't have an armory link but I should do that - it's not hard if your interested to read my about me - or armory me - I am a lot happier being more open.

Glenn said...

I get the having to gquit maybe. But the changing names and leaving servers sounds overly dramatic to me. If it was truly that bad, maybe the gms should have been involved.

Larísa said...

@Tam: thanks!

: Even if I’m open about my blogging, and not publishing any bad stuff about my guild, I normally don’t put out names either. Something keeps me from doing it, even if it would be something positive or flattering. I don’t know why, but I think the picture reference you make is relevant.

: Thanks! It seems as if Tam has come to a conclusion about how to do in the future. I think we can look forward to read more emotional posts.

: yeah, it seems that he has come to the same conclusion now.

@Outdps: Well, I’m kind of public in my job, so I feel it’s better not to be open about my name. But yeah, if my real life circumstances would have been different, I’d be glad to share that too.

@Arioch: It sounds like you’ve thought it through. Personally I’m too lazy to go around taking permissions from people. It takes too much effort. So I keep the blog clean of any stuff involving others that feel too personal, and I also don’t publish names of my guildies, not normally at least. Might have happened once or twice, but not as I recall.

@Gronthe: Yeah, it’s really very much a personal choice. But I think more bloggers should think a bit closer about it. I’ve seen quite a few drama incidents in blogs like the latest one, giving me the impression that many bloggers never pay any attention to what might happen.

@Holly: yeah, taking the conflicts when they’re small and fresh is always the best strategy. If you let things be and rant about them in a blog instead of confronting the persons involved, you risk that the whole issue will grow to much bigger proportions than it deserve.

: whatever Suicidal Zebra said.

t: yeah, it was quite recently that you “came out” as a blogger, wasn’t it? I think it was a wise call.

@Glenn: well, Tams blog has always been a bit of a rollercoaster, kind of dramatic. That’s also what makes it so fascinating to read.

Jb said...

Burning wow-flesh = burnt out from a long time playing the game. Happens to alot of people, including many friends.

Matticus said...

Zebra: Thanks, no I was totally serious. I never heard of that term before. In Canada we just call them resumes ^^.

We Fly Spitfires said...

My blogging motto has always been to never write anything that I wouldn't say to someone's face or in public. Well maybe that says more about what I'd be willing to say in person rather than anything else :)

Still, I'm not a fan of rants on blogs and of course venting steam is going to cause issues if someone you're writing about reads it. Best way to avoid it is to not do it.

Fitz said...

@Larisa - Thankfully it wasn't an employer, but I did make it vague! I was still in law school and it regarded the absolute crap treatment we got from a teammate in a moot court competition, but the rant went like wildfire through the school and made people very divisive about me. As an attorney, I'm not really able to talk about what I do during the day at a dinner party, let alone on facebook, thanks to ethics rules. Good policy to have anyway.

Chev said...

Hm interesting read Larísa, thanks. I'll definitely remember that Pippi Longstocking advice, it made me smile.

Haven't told anyone in my guild about my blog, but went over the post or two I'd written about joining the guild and being 'tested' as a tank, in case I'd said anything to offend. No problems found, but remembering to be human to your fellow humans is key.

If the theme or angle of your blog was to be ranty, it would be hard not to have drama at some point, though.