25 January 2011

Commenting on Controversy

Although I often participate in discussions about WoW on the internet, it always amazes me how many of the comments seek to shut down the conversation rather than participate in it. It's not even that I necessarily love each and every one of the conversations that go on, but if I can't clearly agree or disagree I won't barge in to call it all off. My problems with this are twofold:

1) commenters presume to tell the blog owner how to use their own webspace, and
2) commenters enforce their own opinion of what merits discussion.

Get out of my internet

Self-hosted or not, a blog is a space where one or multiple contributors produce original content to be published on the web. They have control over what is published (assuming that the host or ad contributors don't limit or direct the content, which I think applies to a great many WoW bloggers). When a blogger makes a post, they are making it public to the internet, and assuming that they have left comments open (even if moderated), they are open to a dialogue about said content. Some posts generate a lot of discussion, particularly if they are about topics that aren't able to be summed up in a few simple factual statements. Obviously, the most recent one is equal gender representation of raid bosses in WoW, and before that there have been other interesting topics like behavior in pugs or sparkle pony sales.

If a blogger makes a post and leaves comments open to discussion, it's perfectly all right to voice agreement or disagreement and explain why. If I come out with "All Worgen are ugly as sin," I won't be troubled if you say "You're wrong; they have adorable snarling faces." We may disagree about it, but we are having a discussion. However, if your response is, "Stop talking about Worgen, I don't care about this," well...no. Don't come in to a blogger's slice of internet and tell them how to use their space. If you don't want to talk about the topic, then skip the post and refrain from wasting time commenting. Tangentially related to this is screening comments which personally attack the blogger rather than their ideas - no one has to use their own space to host personal attacks. Unless they are breaking the law, it's no one but the blogger's business who and what gets a space on their website.

Let me tell you what's important

There are two layers to a commenter telling a blogger that their chosen topic is not as important as another. The first is WoW specific, where discussions about gear or strategy get a free pass as de facto important information, but criticism of the game is less important, particularly if it's about things like respect or equality. The interesting thing is that the argument often used is "it's just a game." In which case, why are we wasting all this RL time calculating our best stat, QQing to Blizz about class balance or heroic difficulty, fleshing out RP backstory, hell, why are we even wasting our RL time playing just a game? If it's not this argument, it's that more popular topics like PVE or PVP information are the most important and always merit post space, with discussion about lore, RP, achievements, companion pets, and of course criticism of the game reflecting society's *isms being devalued as not worth time or effort to discuss. Commenters don't get to tell a blogger what is the most important thing for them to discuss. If it's not important to you, don't spend your important time commenting.

The second layer is something that occurs a lot in social justice discussions - a concern troll advises us against wasting keystrokes on unimportant things and suggests other topics they consider to be worthy of discussion. This is basic derailing, a silencing tactic that says "stop having the conversation you want to have and talk about what I want you to." When it comes to, say, feminist topics, people love to rank causes on their worthiness of discussion: why waste time talking about unequal pay when we should talk about gendered violence, don't talk about violence when we should talk about Haiti, forget Haiti when we need to talk about the intersectionality of poverty and accessibility of healthful foods. Holistically, all are feminist issues, and when a blogger chooses to talk about one, that is the focus of the discussion and if you'd like to talk about another one, find another platform. So if a blogger makes a post about a topic near and dear to them, don't derail it by demanding they change the subject.

Suggestion for commenters who consider current controversy a waste of time:

Say you take your own advice, and don't waste time reading or commenting on any blog posts you find unimportant or unnecessary. (I'm assuming the reason you describe them as such is because you actually believe that, rather than secretly disagree but don't want to come off as a silencing concern troll.) So you stop entirely reading about gender equality in WoW and keep playing the game you love, and the discussion continues without bothering you. Then, one patch releases a 6-boss raid with 3 female bosses and 3 male bosses, and a 4-boss raid focusing on some matriarchal baddies, so 4 female bosses. [For the record, I'm not saying that every raid from now till WoW's demise should be female-dominated, since that would be the same problem, just that this one, acknowledging earlier imbalances, attempts to give the flipside.] Would you throw up your hands and say, "No! I can't play this game with all these female NPCs running around! How can I have fun now?!" If you're like any of the raiders I know, you'll hardly notice, and instead throw yourself into the boss tactics and sweet loot. Assuming Blizz continues to create challenging and exciting encounters, you lost nothing with regards to your playtime, and those having the discussion gain what they requested.


I do appreciate the posts examining *isms in WoW, although participating in them is often a double-edged sword. It's a very personal topic, and as one of my favorite writers puts it: "[...] they wonder, these intellectual, clever, engaged men, why my voice keeps raising and why my face is flushed and why, after an hour of fighting my corner, hot tears burn the corners of my eyes. Why do you have to take this stuff so personally? ask the intellectual, clever, and engaged men, who have never considered that the content of the abstract exercise that's so much fun for them is the stuff of my life." If I don't engage much, it's likely for this reason.

To summarize, should you comment on a post, only do so if you are willing to address the actual topic, rather than silencing, derailing, or dismissing the discussion. Furthermore, limit any attacks to the idea itself and not the person, and we can continue to create an interesting and respectful WoW blogging community.


  1. Great post.

    I don't think I'll ever understand people who take the time to post "this is a pointless post" without offering any insight or rebuttal.

    I thought Gevlon's post was pointless because it focused on (flawed) math, and gave a one-paragraph hand-wave to apparently appease anyone who felt there is an issue here.

    Despite thinking it was poorly done, flawed, and confusing, I still read the comments on his post where people basically said "Why did you write this? go back to writing your normal content" and thought it was rude.

    I felt the execution was way off, and his deductions were completely wrong, but I would never jump into a comment and say "don't write about this topic."

    I have also been thinking of putting up a comment policy that just said "attack my argument, not me."

  2. Very nice post and very true.

    I find that, as I am still getting a feel of where I am going at with my Blog, comments should be constructive, or at least relevant to the topic.

    As for the feminist part, it's a nice example but I wonder if players really pay attention to the gender of NPCs or Mobs, and if they do, why?

    You've made me curious at least :D


  3. Thank you!

    Quite frankly, a lot of the "this isn't important" comments really smack of disagreement, but the commenter doesn't want to come out and say something like "women don't need/deserve equal representation" because well, that looks kinda bad. And if the commenter really, truly doesn't think it's a topic worth talking or reading about, why on earth are they wasting the time to pop in and say so? That's entirely counter to their comment!

    It's annoying that it has to be spelled out, but I imagine if you are going to keep making insightful and discussion-oriented posts you may want to institute a clear comment&moderation policy just to save yourself further headaches.

  4. @Arphalas: Hello! Thanks for your comment. I agree that comments should be relevant to the topic at hand, but up till now I haven't had nearly enough of them to warrant any defined comment policy! (A blessing or a curse...?)

    You are probably right, in that the average player probably does not pay attention to the gender of NPCs/mobs. I myself didn't even realize that there were female centaur until like...a month ago. Whether others do or not, I will say that since I do have strong feminist tendencies and tend to do a lot of social justice reading, I do pay attention to things like what NPCs say, do, and are. For instance, did you know that in the new druid hub in Desolace, there are male and female nelves but only male tauren? I'm not going to go on a posting crusade about it, but I remember being like "hey wait a minute" and flying all around looking for more tauren ladies. Not a one to be found! Pretty amusing stuff.

    Sorry about the novel. Suffice it to say that I am curious and am glad you are too!

  5. I haven't had to delete any comments yet, but I've had to threaten a few people who got pretty nasty and venomous at me.

    Some people take posts very personally, almost as if you are attacking them personally by having a belief that is different to theirs - so they come in all guns blazing to defend themselves (in an offensive way).

  6. @Keeva: Yeah, I definitely got that impression from the commenter who kept insisting that people should not tell him what to think. It's like, Keeva isn't telling you what to think! She's just presenting some damn data and her opinions about it! Gaahh!

  7. If you went back through his Twitter you would have seen him praising Gevlon's article, then soon after, saying that my article was "ridiculous bullshit".

    Basically, a fan of Gevlon not impressed that I was saying Gevlon's math was a load of rubbish. And, despite the fact that I gave a lot more in the way of logic and reason, he still said that I wasn't presenting anything constructive. Slight logic fail.

    Basically - a fan going on the defensive.

    But I wasn't attacking Gevlon the person or the writer, I was attacking his bad math and terrible logic. Unfortunately it seems that some people can't tell the difference between an attack on a person and an attack on an argument.

  8. It's times like these, when you find that you cannot win with a trolling commenter, that you must resort to snarky .gifs.

  9. My latest commenter:

    "I agree with the first line at the top of this post. It’s a damn game, don’t let your personal social/political issues bleed over into something as simple as a game.

    Use the energy to do something more constructive, like actual Gender Equality issues…instead of bothering a game design company (or its players) about this subject.

    I come here for interesting druid info, not for feminist movement info. I’m sorry for the quick rant."

    Textbook derailing!

  10. I'm a historian with an Literature minor, and I started my blog purely for the purpose of writing -whatever the heck- came to my mind as I was questing in WoW. If it was reviewing the lore of a character, fine. If it was discussing controversial topics, fine. If people don't like it? Fine. It's a venue for me to write in and use my mind on something that is a hobby to me as opposed to a job.
    I often got called a feminist nazi in highschool because I once angrily declared to a guy in the hallway that I did not need to know how to cook just because I was female and that if I learned, it would be for the practical reason of LEARNING. He actually, sincerely, felt it was bizarre that I could not cook and thought it was a failing of me as a female. People don't get out sexism is still SUCH an issue... and I love the quote you posted.
    I honestly feel like in a blog that isn't commercially supported in someway, you should be able to post whatever you want without your readers getting all testy or trying to dictate what you should write on. It's your blog. If they don't like it, let them make their own blog. And then they can put up a blog post about bloggers who don't write on subjects they want to read. Everyone's happy then! I love discussions in comments, but people trying to 'close' the conversation in their favor is so obnoxious.

  11. @thunder: Thanks for your comment :) I went to your blog via comments on TBJ and I like it!

    I super hate the ideas that 1) being a feminist is a bad thing and 2) males and females are required to do things to adhere to stereotypes about males and females. I think both are based on some gross misinformation, but I try to keep my deep thoughts on that contained in blogs that specifically address such topics because it's frustrating to think that I have to somehow prove what I consider "common sense". As if I would produce a mathematical chart that unquestioningly proves that I deserve respect / equal pay / don't have to be thin or made-up or wear pink to be feminine. BUT I digress.

    Yep, blogs are dictated by their writers. When they want to talk they leave comments open, and when they don't they close or moderate comments, and that's their prerogative. If you don't like that, leave or talk about it elsewhere :D

    @Keeva: I realized from your "why blog" post that I'm very likely one of the people who misinterpreted your pink knickers posts as controversy and suggestion, so is there any wording in this post that you'd like me to change to better reflect your posts?

  12. Oh, yours wasn't a bad comment or anything. And it wasn't so much that my post was controversy, but the controversy stirred up (and now there's more, now that Gevlon has responded).

    It didn't bother me that you called it controversy, I was mostly just asserting that my posts had been written because I really hated the AWFUL math that had been presented, and the contradictions, not because I wanted to tackle the feminist issue.

    The feminist issue discussion came later, in comments.

    Don't sweat it. There were a few other people who told me I was stirring up drama, it was mostly aimed at that.

  13. Ok I'm glad to hear that. I think it was because how I interpreted Gevlon's post - that his intention was to show the numbers and claim "Don't worry, everyone, you can call off the feminism and go home because I have proven that Blizzard has slightly improved their female representation!" So even though your post was merely a reassessment of the numbers and not a comment either way on what Blizzard should do or why they should do it, I rolled them all together. And of course the commenters assumed that you were trying to not only give accurate numbers, but make some sort of ~statement~ or call to action. Being confronted with the privilege of being the default gender is hard, qq!

  14. I lost count of the number of times that I said I'm not addressing the issue, I'm just fixing the bad math. Makes me think he didn't actually read what I wrote, because he accused me of "whining" about the "injustice".

    What whining?

    Where did I comment on whether it was good or bad?

    My closing paragraphs actually said that I wasn't going to have time/space to comment either way.

    I don't think he read my articles properly at all. His second piece was most likely written in advance and waiting for someone (me) to blog, so he could just insert a name.

    Almost all of the comments were against him, not for him, too.. so he didn't get the reaction he was looking for. No doubt he still thinks it was a huge success and he is amazing. *shrug*

    As I said in my comments - the very thing he is trying to make fun of me and call nonsense is what he did in his first article. And he doesn't even realise.