Friday, May 25, 2012

Community: It Makes us and it Breaks us.

Any internet community is driven by its people.  While people might be brought to communities for the content the community has to offer; a common interest; a game; information; it is the community itself that determines whatever it will thrive or crash and burn.

I know I've been a part of various internet communities and I am sure everyone that reads this has as well.

The perfect example is a support forum.  If you are having an issue with something, lets say a computer problem, you look around for forums that offer to help.  You make a post describing your issue, giving as many details as you can, and asking in a polite way for assistance.

Forum one has responses like...
- Just buy a new computer you cheapskate.
- How can you not know how to fix that yourself, are you an idiot.
- U iz screwed lolololol.

Forum two has responses like...
- If you go to your setting and change option two that might fix it.
- Have you tried to run the repair option.
- Check this folder for a filed named this and delete it and restart, that might help.

Forum three has responses like...
- Lots of technical jargon that if you did not know what it meant it would be no help.
- A long drawn out expansion that explains why it happened and why what you did fixed it.
- A long post that goes on like a short story but gives you what could have been a one line fix.

These are the three types of communities that I have seen that seems to be the most likely to be found around the internet.

Community one is full of people that really do not care about anyone but themselves and find it more fun to insult than help.  Your chances of getting any meaningful help in this community are slim, but not completely impossible.  Even in bad communities like this there are usually a few decent people around.

Community two is full of people that don't mind helping if they can.  They might not be the most knowledgeable or the most well spoken people but they try and can usually work, as a group, to help people out.  It might be hit or miss, it might take a while, but they can help you.

Community three is a group of people that are all very intelligent and knowledgeable about whatever the topic is and unless you have a basic grasp of the topic they are talking about to begin with you will be lost, instantly.

Now lets go back to those forum posts and see how they turned out after a week.

Forum one we see...
- 68 posts, 2 of which actually pertain to what was asked.  The other 66 are either insulting you or insulting someone that insulted you.
- Nearly all the posts will contain someone using internet slang, a few you might have never even seen before.
- At least 1 person posting a meme, usually not even one that makes any sense to what is going on.
- People posting stuff you can not figure out no matter how hard you try.
- When all is done you will feel your IQ just dropped 15 points by reading the thread.

Forum two we see...
- 24 posts, which contain 7 solid ideas and two people arguing over their ideas on the matter, but at least in a way that can not be considered very insulting.
- People that actually seem like they want to help you with the problem, even the people arguing offer apologies for it happening in your thread.
- The 2 far fetched ideas say they are so and the posters mentioned it might be worth a shot even if it might not work.
- The 4, of the 5, reasonable ideas are quick and to the point.  One or two of them might even have said they had that problem themselves.
- The last one is usually a long drawn out description of everything you can do.  This one idea has a dozen ideas all wrapped together.
- When all is done you feel like you might actually be able to figure this out.

Forum three we see...
- 4 posts only.  4 very long posts.
- Post one will be roughly 6 paragraphs explaining everything in full detail.  All the things you need to know and a lot more that really do not help you any but might in interesting to someone with some knowledge on the situation.
- Post two is someone pointing out a small error in the thesis that the first person posted and presents his reasoning for believing it is wrong in his own 4 paragraph post.
- Post three is the post one person thanking the other person for pointing it out and then explaining how he made that error, or came to that conclusion, in his own 8 paragraph rebuttal.
- Post four is some guy that just says, I think they covered it all but if you need any more information on the topic you can check these 14 links on the topic that I just happen to have because I keep this stuff around.
- When all is done you are left thinking you are going to need to post on another site to ask them for help trying to figure out what these guys said while trying to help you with your original topic.

If you think about it, this three style of community system works well.

If you like to just joke around and mess with other people, you have community one to satisfy your needs.  If you want a decent environment with basically average people that sometimes joke, sometimes take things serious but always consider that it is a community and not their personal playground there is community two.  For those that only the facts matter and there is no time for just having fun when there is data to be considered and posts to be written that you can use your knowledge to its fullest potential with than community three is for you.

If you will notice in the warcraft community, on the forums and on the servers, you can see that we have it all.  We have a lot of people from group one, group two and group three.  We fill all roles and that is what makes the warcraft community unique and extremely hard to balance.

If you where looking to solve a computer problem you could easily look at some previous posts on the three forums I mentioned and decide which one is for you.  I would choose group two for most, group three only if it where a topic I understood well to begin with and group one if I was in the mood for some self abuse.  I am not sure how communities like group one survive but a search of the internet will show you that there is always at least one very popular community like group one on every topic you could think of.

That is where the problem with the warcraft community lies if you where to ask me.  We are all parts from different puzzles mixed in the same box.  We might all be warcraft players, but we are not all playing the same game.

Take a look at any thread on the forums and you will see what I am talking about.  Take the standard "I Quit" topic that someone goes into details why they are quitting.  Not one of the troll looking ones, a real thought out one with valid concerns on the part of the writer.

You will see a large portion of people posting things like, "can i haz ur stuff", or "don't let the door hit you in the ass", or "good, one less whiner." while you will also see a few people wishing them well and saying they are sorry to hear they lost their love for the game even if they did not know them and finally there will be a post here or there that will pick apart why the person is leaving and explain, in painful detail and at least 5000 words how the thing they are leaving because of is actually something that has been good for the game.

There you go, all three communities represented in one single post.

So why is the issue of community becoming a much larger issue with the game, larger than it has ever been before?

Because more and more people are migrating to group one and group one, in my opinion, sucks.  They do not make for a feel good community.  They exist for ripping things apart and not building them up.  They overwhelm people, like a swarm of bees.

People in group two are usually give or take, some post but most don't which is a sad thing.  Those are the bread and butter for the mixed community that is warcraft.  They are the average joe.  They are the ones that help people.  They are the ones that make people feel welcome.  They are the ones that speak in layman terms.  They are what most communities are built on.

The group three people will usually find their topics and talk in them, usually among themselves, and occasionally make a huge post to explain things in another thread if they have a belief that someone in that thread might actually take the 15 minutes to read their short story.  Otherwise they know their time is better spent in threads where they know people are willing to read something that takes more then 20 seconds to finish.

Group one and group three can survive on their own, they can even survive together.  If a thread is a group one thread and a group three posts in it the group one people will pass right by it and post TL;DR.  If a group one person posts in a group three thread the exact same happens.  A group three reader would see a one line post and not even bother reading it because nothing important can ever come from only one line.

Group two is the bread and butter of every and all communities.  Remember I said there would be a few decent people in a group one forum?  Those would be the decent people that just like that humor, they would be the group two people that just hang out in a group one world.  Same goes for the other end.  A group two person that is knowledgeable on a topic can fit perfectly in a group three world as much as a group two person that likes to be silly can fit in a group one.

Group two is the glue that holds the community together.

This is the reason the warcraft community is falling apart however.  Because of the sudden loss of group two people.  Many have given up and become more likely to say "can i haz ur stuff" instead of "good luck in real life, be well".

The group one people have scared away most of the group two people.  I know, from my own experience only, that I never post on the official forums, or any wow related forums for that matter, because I do not want to deal with group one people.  It is not that they bother me, it is that they waste time and can easily turn what could be a good conversation into a troll fest or a flame fest.  I love to joke around and have fun, but unlike a group one person, I know the time and place for such things.  I have no time for group one people and I am sure I am not alone either.

Even in trade chat on whichever server I play if someone asks a question I always like to help but I never help in trade.  I whisper the person directly with the answer and after they say thank you I say, you're welcome, if you ever have a questiond feel free to ask if you see me on because it is better than letting those trade trolls get their hands on you.  That usually brings a laugh and more so brings another person that would have been a group two person out of the community and into the secret world of whispers where people can talk and not have to deal with trolls telling them that survival is the best mage spec.

Warcraft did something special creating what they did.  They created a community that was growing for a long time while having all three groups of people in one place.  It is a rare phenomenon on the internet for sure.

It is also what is now coming back to hurt them.

I've said it and so many others have said it as well.  If I ever leave wow it will most likely be the people that make me leave it and not the game itself.

Even when I was on the verge of quitting during the dreaded double zul torture it was not running the zuls over and over again that pushed it to the edge, it was the people I would run into in them that pushed me to the edge.

I waited 25 minutes for this?  A group that is filled with people that can't step out of green slime, can't do over 5K DPS, can't say one word in party with a curse or an insult?  I waited for this?

The zuls where only bad because of the community in them.  They where not really as bad as the community made them seem to be.  The people... the people... it was the people.  As much, and as often, as I say the zuls almost made me quit it was not them.  It was the community.

With the continued addition of random grouping and no accountability for rude and/or inappropriate actions the group one is growing in numbers never seen before.  Group two is becoming more and more introverted.  They want to keep to themselves.  If anything, the open community of the looking for whatever system is actually hurting the local community as well.

I used to be a pug person.  I would join them when I could.  I got to know people on my server.  The looking for system has made my views of others change to instead of thinking there were some bad players and some bad people I think they are mostly bad players and mostly bad people.  With that, I do not even pug on my own server any more.

This is because the balance of the community is shifting to be way more group one people.  Group one communities can survive but they can not survive in a mixed community.  At least not in the way they want to survive.  A group one needs to be kept in check or it will consume the community they are just trying to be a part of.  Look at the slowly disappearing group two people to see.  They are either joining group one or just not talking; playing at all any more.

The community is what makes or breaks us.  The big question is can blizzard fix the community to get the balance back in order?  Or more so, should they?

In the end what I said earlier holds true.  It is the community that makes people quit.  A community filled with better people and better players would be a better community.

Should blizzard do something about the "can i haz that" people?

I would love to see something done about them but I am pretty sure I am alone here, or maybe I am just being grumpy again.  Who knows.


  1. you're definately not alone... but we're in the minority I fear...

  2. I think the problem is that Blizzard do not believe the problem is on their side. Here's a quote from a blue post linked through MMO-Champion:

    "We're with you in that the game is just more fun when you have friends and guildmates to run with. The issue we run into is, "what happens when they're not available but you want to do things?" So the most we can do is facilitate the means to get with others easily. We can connect you to other players, but we can't force people to talk or be social. It's going to take effort from the community itself to make it a more social experience by being social. I don't think what you're referring to is a design issue."

    I think they couldn't be more wrong.

    First of all, according to that quote, they're pretty much saying that the LF system is their answer to fixing the community. In my opinion, the LF systems, including the cross-realm battlegrounds, is a big reason why the communities got diminished in the first place.

    Second, they say it's not a design issue. I think it is. The community can only thrive within the boundaries set by Blizzard. They are responsible for the community. Communities don't simply fix themselves. It needs to be policed, either from a higher power (Blizzard) or from the community itself. And since Blizzard has made it very hard for the community to police itself they need to take responsibility themselves.

  3. Anon, Grumpy's GL:

    Honestly, the only long term fix that will solve the problem is a rollback of the Looking for system to make it server based only. For those servers with such low populations that such can't be supported, Blizzard can either open up free transfers to the server or alternately, merge such servers with other low population servers.

    So long as a population suffers no consequences for affording asses a chance to show theirs, the asses will show off their nether regions to the detriment of the community as a whole.

    Personally I would love to see the Looking for system simply abolished as a tool that had some good ideas, but didn't work out in the long run. When it first came out, I worried it was a tool that would destroy a lot of guilds but instead it turned out to be a tool that destroyed the community of each server.

    Being as the howls of protest over going back to the pre-Looking for system of talking via chat to set up a run, the limitation of making it server based only is the only alternative that I can see with a chance a restoring some sense of community.

    However Blizzard seems to be doubling down on the idea of cross server play. Perhaps (though I don't think so) the new implementations of cross-server low population zones will be alright, along with the battle tag id system instead of the real id naming and some newer sense of community will emerge from the chaos.