Friday, July 23, 2010

Blogger disagreements – when does it begin to hurt?

There was a heated discussion this week, mainly involving Moar HPS and Righteous Orbs, on the topic on whether healing without using addons can be better in some aspects, and if it’s snotty to say that it is, thus implying that addon-using healers are worse. I refuse to dive into the question as such. It is several days old, has been beaten to death, resurrected, and died again. I’ll let it lie.

However, the discussion became so hot that I somehow felt a bit uncomfortable following it. I know for sure that I would have felt a bit overwhelmed if there had been some 100 comments on some other blog, which all agreed on that Larísa at the Pink Pigtail Inn is completely wrong.

We’ve seen this kind of animated discussions a couple of times before in the WoW blogosphere – sometimes even causing blogs to shut down.

Cynical or senitive
And I can see this from two sides. One part of me is very straight forward, boarding to cynical about this.

As a blogger I think you need to develop some sort of skin. Not everyone will have barkskin, but if you take the slightest disagreement as the end of the world and a personal attack, blogging is probably not for you. If you speak up publicly there will be people who listen and not everyone will love you. That’s how it is. Live with it or leave.

But another part of me can understand why bloggers get emotional. Many of us are blogging in a quite personal style, leaving out, if not our names, at least our thoughts, our personalities, our emotions and our creativity on a level that is more intimate than I think many readers understand. We blog soul naked. We invest ourselves quite heavily – probably more than what is sensible – in our blogs and our internet personas. And when we’re under attack, it can easily feel as if it’s your person that is attacked – not necessarily the idea you might have tossed out a bit randomly, without getting every single word perfectly right.

I’ve been writing professionally for some 20 years by now. Receiving feedback – including negative criticism – is a natural part of my job. And it has never ever affected me, probably because I’m so confident in what I’m doing. I know my job and I’ve had superiors and colleges to give me support if needed.

As a blogger on the other hand, you only have a vague idea about what you’re doing, why you’re doing it and how good you are at it. You’re questioning yourself and the results of your work constantly. And if the readers turn against you, you stand alone. There’s no one around who will cheer you up and help you look forward, no shoulder to cry on, no friend to lend you a ear if you need to just whine a little bit.

Why discussions are good
Does this mean that most bloggers don’t like discussions? Heck no! At least I love it. If there would never ever be anyone who disagreed with me, I’d be seriously worried about my blog, because it would imply that the content was pale, blend, completely uninteresting or too mainstream to catch the interest of anyone. I'd rather see people think for themselves and disagree with me, than fall asleep from pure boredom.

It’s in the good discussions a blog will sparkle and come alive. If you avoid everything that could be touchy and create a friction, your blog will most likely fade away into oblivion eventually. And above all –it will be way less fun to write. There’s nothing as fun as to put out a well formulated angry rant!

Showing a little bit of temperament once in a while isn’t bad; it’s one of the essential ingredients of most blogs.

I had a bit of a discussion here at the inn this week, when I posted about why I think accountwide achievements is a bad idea. A lot of readers disagreed with me. And for instance Lume wrote a couple of very long and elaborated comments where he argued for his sake. Did I get upset with Lume for that? Did he hurt my feelings? Absolutely not!

There were a couple of reasons for this. One is that we discussed this in a civilized way where we could listen to each others arguments, agreeing on that we could see this from two angles.

I could absolutely agree with much of what he said, as I often do in an argument. There isn’t any black and white, just gray nuances. Lume and I had ended up in different conclusions, where I would weight the pros and cons like 60-40 and he would put it the opposite way, 40-60. However I’m really glad and grateful when someone shares their point of view, even if they don’t agree with me. A good discussion in the comment section will give the readers a better and more balanced article, way better than it would have been if Lume hadn’t bothered to comment.

When it gets personal
The other reason why I didn’t mind arguing with Lume is that he kept his comments to the topic. He didn’t go personal about it. You see – trolls I can deal with without any problem. But if there’s anything I find it hard to handle calmly and detached, it’s when readers start to talk about me as a person and their expectations on me. “I’m disappointed with you…” “I used to like you and I’ve read you for such a long time, and now you’re doing this to me, I can’t believe it…” That kind of comments sometimes hurt me more than they should, especially when they’re not coming from our Mr “Anonymous”, but from someone whose nickname I recognize.

I have several issues with this kind of comments. One is that reading my blog is for free. I can understand if you write open letters to your travel agency, your government or your car salesman if they’ve somehow deceived you with their promises, where you express your “disappointment” with them. But to an amateur blogger? Exactly how could that kind of comments help to improve anything?

If you don’t like a blogger you previously used to enjoy, you can quietly stop reading without making a huge public affair about it. If you really want to tell the blogger about your disappointment – by all means, send him or her an e-mail and maybe you can sort it out. Eye to eye – that’s how I think you should take that kind of conversations. Not shouting it out over the rooftops in front of thousands of readers. Because I think that’s a rather ungrateful way to reward someone that you’ve enjoyed reading for free for such a long time.

Gevlon and Totalbiscuit
Then there’s of course an entirely different approach this. If there’s anyone who is used to get a lot of harsh comments, it’s Gevlon. And he just shrugs it off, saying that those anonymous punks can’t hurt you. They don’t know you, they can’t touch you. Letting them get to you is just a waste of energy.

A more extreme standpoint is the one of Totalbiscuit. He’s probably one of the most hated members of the WoW community, who gets entire threads dedicated to discuss his person in the WoW forums. A lot of hatered there going on, I’d say! Does he mind? Not the slightest. The more people talk about him, the better. It will give more clicks on his website, more viewers to his videos and in the end more incomes to him, because he gets money from ads.

How I handle criticism
We all have to find our own approach on how to handle criticism.

What I do is that I try to keep the discussion as civilized as possible in the comment section. If a comment has a tone of “personal attack” in it, I try to get too agitated about it, but answer as calmly as I can, not letting myself get dragged down on a sewer level. The only comments I delete is /unsubscribe, because it doesn’t add anything substantial. I think this works pretty well. There isn’t much drama going on here at the inn. I suppose our superb ale helps also, calming down our guests.

But if drama ever would appear and the bar guests would start to become violent, waving and calling their innkeeper names, I’d try to get some inspiration from Gevlon’s and Totalbiscuit's approach, not taking it too seriously.

In the end, as I’ve said many times before, we’re building sandcastles. It’s just pixels, opinions flying around in this twisted nether and within a few years all of this will be gone and forgotten. WoW as well as our blogs. Life will go on. It’s easy to forget that in the heat of the discussion.

Also, bear in mind that the shit storms we see around here is nothing to what other WoW bloggers have seen in the past. I tell you - nothing. Do you remember when I whined a little bit at that hunter podcast where they talked about the lack of good mage blogs? There were so many bad reactions, so much hatered towards BRK expressed after that, that I wrote him an e-mail and apologized for what I had caused. And you know what he replied?

"Never apologize for the reactions of The Mob. Listen, I've been through more flame-wars than all other WoW-bloggers put together,times two, and add 50. You're fine, I'm fine, everybody including the readers and commenters are fine. Well, Paladins aren't fine. But we have a plan for THEM. "

I couldn't have put it better myself.


Ratshag said...

"Well, Paladins aren't fine. But we have a plan for THEM."

Yeah, he's gonna get his gorilla pet ta flings poo at them. Pallies hate that....

Gevlon said...

The legendary "/unsubscribe". If they would mean it, we would have no readers at all. I could never imagine that they would troll even your absolutely not offensive blog. (my thoughts:

PS: the totalbiscuit link is broken

Pewter said...

Well said Larisa. I am very hesitant to critcise other bloggers, but I also have relatively low traffic and a VERY low ratio of trolls (despite covering social justice topics).

I think I will bookmark this and re-read it before I disagree with another blogger publically. It will help me to keep my head cool, and my text respectful.

Zelmaru said...

I'm really glad that both you and Miss Med are waving the banner of "chill out, people!" It's totally ok to disagree, but things can easily get out of hand - and sometimes it gets swept away more by comments and commenters than by the original bloggers themselves.

spinksville said...

I've seen some bloggers have very active arguments where both of them (and their readers) seemed to be enjoying themselves.

But a lot of people really don't enjoy that. I don't know the answer, except that you may need to know your audience and what types of subjects might set them off.

One thing I do try to do is thank anyone who points out if I have made a mistake in a post (either an error of logic, or didn't research well enough, or a typo) and mention them in any corrections. I think it's just polite, and respectful to anyone who bothers to comment.

But also, as a writer, my job is not necessarily to convince people that I am always right. It's to present my argument so that people understand it well enough to decide if they agree or not, and know why they agree or disagree. So I guess one of the reasons I enjoy well thought out arguments in the comments is that even if everyone disagrees with me, I feel my post was effective.

I actually do have a vague policy for moderating comments but haven't really had to use it yet. (I'd just edit out any parts which looked like personal or group attacks, with a note as to why it was edited.)

The addon question is an interesting one. But I don't think it's the addons that got people upset here, it's the notion that someone else was calling them a bad player. Which they probably weren't actually.

Adgamorix said...

New Beta patch will make Paladins immune to monkey poo. Story at 11.

Redbeard said...

Well, Paladins aren't fine. But we have a plan for THEM.


Rhii said...

I'm going to start a WAR on behalf of all paladins everywhere. Boycott PPI and BRK!!

(couldn't help myself, sorry)

I will admit, I felt *strongly* in favor of one side of that recent discussion and I watched it play out with (more than) a little amusement.

However, I tried to make my own commentary brief and as neutral as I could. It's tough, as we've seen before, when you accidentally start something and then find yourself needing to defend a post written in five minutes as though it were your doctoral dissertation.

Inno said...

Dear Innkeeper,

I appreciate your style in dealing with your customers. People can come up to your inn to have a drink and relax. They may choose to listen to the comfortable buzz going on around them or they may even speak up if a topic stirs them to action. There are times when patrons express outlandish claims and it's perfectly okay for the innkeeper to clean up the mess and then continue serving patrons. It shouldn't ever be personal since it's your business that you're running and we're non-paying patrons. Hell we're not even asked to tip.

Thank you for your blog I really appreciate it.

River said...

As someone who takes people on regularly, I love it when it becomes personal. One time I had a troll come on my personal blog, and made comments about me moving back home, and what a loser I was...what the troll didn't know, and if he would of read further he would of found out I moved back home to take care of my handicapped parents. The troll looked like an insensitive jackass. Not the effect he wanted fo'sheezy

People say they don't like drama, but you know what without drama life would be pretty boring, and in every good story you need a villian...

I don't mind playing that long as I have a part in the show.

Gronthe said...

Where so much media outlets thrive on controversy for controvery sake, and creating arguments where none exist, it's nice to come here and read or take part in discussions I know won't be filled with personal, hate-filled ramblings.

I've seen a few blog fights, and it never turns out pretty for either party. Nobody wins in a heckling match.

I've never experienced really bad trolls or personal attacks, but I agree with you that bloggers need some kind of a skin, and it better not be paper thin.

@ Adgamorix: I heard that the plan for the Paladin's involved a company called Panda Poo Incorporated. PPI hmmmm? Interesting...

Larísa said...

@Ratshag: Pallies are really an ideal target for cunning attacks. They're so sensitive you know. As confirmed by GC the other day.

@Gevlon: Oh dear, another broken link. Fixed. /hugs to my best proof-reader!

And as I said: I try to become a bit more like you regarding my view on commenters.

@Pewter: Glad if I can be of any help! Yeah, it's not entirely easy to know how to put your words to get it right when you're dealing with another blogger who you maybe like and respect and still want to keep a good relationship with.

@Zelmaru: yeah. I think everyone likes to post a wellwritten post that gets a lot of attention and comments. But there is some turning point where you suddenly get a foul taste in your mouth and start wishing you had put your words differently, not stirring up so much.

: a comment policy... wow. that's advanced. Even if you don't use it. I don't think I could edit out parts of comments in Blogger even if I wanted to.
And yeah, I agree that I love the comments I get - even when they disagree with me - maybe especially whan they do so. As long as they keep it civilized, respectful and non-personal I'm up for a good discussion. Anytime.

: Hm... did I steop on someone's toes here. Ouch!

@Rhii: yeah. I think it gets especially tough if you're running a blog which normally has a way smaller readership, but suddenly becomes like the center of the blogosphere. I can imagine it's a bit overwhelming.

@Inno: That was a damned nice comment, mate! Your next drink is on the house. Cheers!

@River: oh, you've certainly never shyed away from that role! I try to be a bit calmer, more down-to-Earth. But I suppose no-one is immune; it may happen that I too get carried away a little from time to time.

Larísa said...

@Gronthe: Shhhh! You're revealing the true nature of the PPI!!!!
Corporate secrets! Hm... should I take the ban hammer and delete your comment maybe?

Got to check my comment policy... No mentioning of this kind of situations. It's clearly not a case of /unsubscribe, so I'll let it pass.

Joking aside: thank you for your support. I'll try to keep the comments of the inn this way. And to be honest 99 percent of the commentry is. There really isn't much editing necessary. Only a bit of advertising spam for obscure stuff now and then that I have to delete. That's all.

I'm really blessed with mostly wonderful readers.

Codi said...

It was an interesting situation, to say the least! I've written very controversial posts before where things can get really heated, but those posts were on things that -knew- would be hot topics and was ready for them. This whole kerfuffle came at me from left field and I was completely unprepared.

There were some really good comments that made me consider different view points and really think, which was nice. But there were always wads of people who either had nothing to really add other than their disagreement or just wanted to make it personal. I pretty much tried to go with Gevlon's system, although after awhile it was just -tiring- to deal with and I wanted the whole thing to just go away.

I can see how someone like this makes other bloggers close down shop, I really can. Lucky for me, my skin is thick!

Stabs said...

I think blogging is one of the safer ways to discuss contentious issues. We each have our own blogs, our own little private space. If we fall out (as if anyone would ever fall out with Larisa but bear with me), if we fall out then I can stop coming here and I can remove your comments or implement comment authorisation.

I can't think of any other environment quite so safe where people are getting heated. There's no physical threat, a safe place to retreat and the ability to shut the other person out.

I got banned from a blog recently for disagreeing with the blog owner. Which is fine, I won't go back and he won't be troubled by me again. I'm still perfectly free to speak my mind.

Compared with forums blogging is just miles more civilised and grown up, even heavily moderated ones like EJ and Something Awful.

Anaia said...

People are often drawn to blogs because they feel more personal, and therefore critical comments feel personal. I hope you don't tone anything down and as BRK said, never apologize!

Dyre42 said...

Coming from a background in political blogging what passes for criticism/disagreement on most WoW blogs seems pretty tame. By that I mean I haven't seen a a death threat to date on a wow blog.

P.S. If you need me I'll bed over at Pewter's blog trolling the comments. :P

Jayd said...

Thank you Larisa, that was a lovely post. As a new blogger I haven't yet had to deal with any harsh criticism (because I have a total of 4 readers, I think!) but it's always in the back of my mind that someone is going to violently disagree with me at some point and I'm going to need to handle it well. Your post gave me some great advice on keeping perspective on things. It will all be gone and forgotten in a few years anyway, as you said! Thank you. :)

Barrista said...

"I can understand if you write open letters to your travel agency, your government or your car salesman if they’ve somehow deceived you with their promises, where you express your “disappointment” with them."

So, what if someone says they are disappointed in the blog because it has steered away from what it was originally? That the mood of it has changed in some way? Is that acceptable?
Because regardless of what Gevlon says, some of us do unsubscribe (I have done so with a few recently).

Ultimately, it's your blog. If you don't care if you have zero subscribers or a million, then you can not care. Somehow, you strike me as caring to some degree.

TotalBiscuit said...

This is my opinion on the matter

Dwism said...

I think this was a bad example to be honest. Although one blog did get a new reader for a while, that blog poster was just plain wrong.
And incredibly ... wrong.

The other blog is on my blogroll still. I was sort of planning to write about how and why said blogger was wrong, from a real end-game healers PoV, but it seems a) it sould not make a difference to said blogger, because depsite being proven wrong said blogger keeps on going and b) people seem very angry about something that was discussed and resolved back in vanilla.

But I guess bloggers have a tendency to go in circles and discuss the same topics over and over.
(not like Im not like that either :D)

Kaputt said...

Criticism, an interesting topic.
As an actor, which also is about opening up and honesty, I have to deal a lot with that.
And I am not good at it. :)
There is so often a big divide between the one criticising and the one getting criticised.
"Why are you telling me this?" I sometimes ask and get the answer:
"Dunno. Though you wanna know."

A few times I made the mistake to say, no, not really which never was a good idea. People are sensitive that way.
I am still looking for a good way of finding out what people really want to tell you if they criticise your work.
Its the strangest thing when after a long discussion the person says that his: "Damn, that scene sucked a lot. You should do it this and that way" was ment as a:
"I loved what you did, exept that one little part."

I now try the approach of only thinking about criticism when I have some internal distance to the thing getting criticed.
"Thank you, I think about it."
Its not so good for communication but at least it gets you through the day sometimes. :)

Ophelie said...

When you step back and look at things, it can be really amusing how strongly people can feel about the most insignificant things. I once came across a blog post raging about how I was a shame to my class because of my Sindragosa strategy. I had no idea people felt so strongly about boss strategies!

It was the same with 10 man vs 25 man fighting. So much drama over something as silly as raid size preferences.

I thought your "lack of mage blogs" post was cute and encouraging to mage bloggers. I was confused when people started getting upset over it!

I hadn't actually paid much attention to the whole addon fiasco until now. I had read Codi's post, but I hadn't read Tams until you linked to it. It all looks like a giant misunderstanding. I didn't interpret Codi's post the way Tam did at all. Maybe it's just because I'm used to her writing style and have interacted with her personally a few times, but yeah, everything just got read sideways and blown out of proportion.

Like Jong pointed out once, Tam's too talented at blogging for his own good.

It's an interesting world, this whole blogging thing. On one hand, we WANT to be heard, we WANT a reaction. On the other hand, reactions sometimes take unexpected turns and the emotional backlash can be pretty intense.

Larísa said...

@Codi: Good to hear you're coping fine. I didn't agree with your post in the first place, I thought Chas and Tam were right in their criticism. But seeing the monumental storm that followed in comments and on other blogs I thought myself into your situation. And I felt... kind of sad. It became a bit too much.

@Stabs: Actually you're right. And it gives me the thought: maybe we shouldn't even fear those shit storms that may appear sometimes - but rather see them as a good practice in a safe environment where we can train ourselves to cope with fair - and unfair - personal criticism and see that it's not as bad and dangerous and threatening as we believe.

@Anaia: I am who I am and even though I hopefully change over the years after some kind of personal development and learning, I have no plans on tuning down anything just to please the guests. Don't worry!

@Dyre42: Aye. I think we're probably fairly kindhearted and polite people. Softies. With a couple of exceptions, "meanies", such as TB and Gevlon. ;)

@Jayd: Thank you! I'm glad if I can help out in any way!

: I can't understand the need to express that disappointment publicly to be honest. What's the point apart from to bring someone down?

A more constructive way of giving feedback could be to comment on a post you DID like and say " I loved this post because it You used to write more on this topic back in time. I have missed this kind of posts. I'd love to see more of them in the future, rather than the xxx posts you've been focusing recently, which doesn't interest me quite as much."

I think that negative feedback can be a gift. But you need to put some effort into it.

And no, I don't care if I have 100 subscribers or 2 000. But I would miss Gnomeaggedon and Gevlon and Dwism and others if they stopped coming by every now and then. The readers I know and have talked a lot with become like old friends. But as long as I know that someone likes to hang around in the bar and listen to my ramblings and maybe add a sentence here or there, object when I'm rambling or nod if I happen to get something right - as long as that is happening, I'm just fine.

: Win!

@Dwism: Eh... I wasn't talking about this particular case in my entire blog post. It was more like it make me think of how I handle conflicts and criticism in my own blogging. As I've said before I thought that the original post was badly formulated and that RO were right in their criticism. However I got... affected, feeling that it became... a bit too much of it all. People have started to apologize and I think it's out of the world now. Unless someone revives the topic... Ahem...

@Kaputt: I can imagine you face that a lot in a way more direct manner than I do. Face to face. And beneath the skin. I think the short approach you've settled for sounds like a sound way to deal with it.

@Ophelie: yeah. It gets out of proportions sometimes. But on the other hand - emotions and strong opinions about things is what makes blogs sparkle a bit. In one way you can shrug at everything in a "it's just a game" approach. But at the same time, that can easily turn into indifference, and if you're so uninterested and void of involvement in everything, what's the point of blogging at all?

Tam said...

I'm just glad it's over with.

Ophelie said...

@ Larisa - That's very true, and the blogosphere would be a very boring place if everyone was overly polite with everyone else all the time. Heated discussions are what make people stop and ponder their own thoughts on something they normally wouldn't pay attention to. Yet sometimes, when the arguing stops being fun, I can't help but step back and think "you realize what we're fighting over, right?"

Jaedia said...

Excellent post.

The personal attacks are a pain. Name calling and being nasty after a misinterpreted piece of text, and the "your opinion is wrong" style comments. They bug me. The people who come along and just share their differing opinion however are fine, after all, they're only doing what the rest of us do - sharing their opinions.

2nd Nin said...

:( I missed a wonderful chance to argue and make long posts on many blogs... cést la vie.

Disagreements are fine, often it is through disagreement that we actually move towards something more true and better. Very rarely is an idea so perfectly formed at inception that it needs no refinement.

What I find odd about this dispute though is the whole concept and the sides arguing. Addons can only present the world in a different way to the user, it allows you to configure the world response to something you feel comfortable with. Much as with learning some people read books, others make mnemonics, some listen overnight, some people just fluff their way through exams... at the end of the day the base UI shows you all you need to perform your tasks, adding anything (including macros) allows you to customise your interaction and view of the world.

Addons vs not is purely personal, of course there are performance issues (if you cannot move mouse, click, select heal within a gcd you are better macroing / addoning to remove some of the loss). With or without them I find the 1.5cd gcd slow on occasion, but either way as long as there is no actual performance loss they are simply a presentation issue like swapping mouse to the left for a left hander.

Anonymous said...

Very Interesting!
Thank You!