Thursday, August 27, 2009

Contentious writing

Of course the previous post wasn't true, I'm not Gevlon. Of the various commenters, Rem came closest to the truth, by saying "I think (sure, I can be wrong) most of you (including Gevlon) didn't fully understand this post. It's not the truth. Nor is it a prank. It's just Tobold's subtle and verbose way of showing us, what "contentious" writing style actually looks like, and why he's not in the business of producing flame bait, even if such always generates more feedback."

I basically started the day with two subjects in my head, both of which I wasn't totally sure whether I should write about. One was a request from one of my readers, who asked me to reply to Gevlon's "proof" that gear doesn't matter in raiding. That reply would have said something along the lines that I think (and Gevlon confirmed that with a post of his) that Gevlon knows perfectly well that raid success is a combination of gear and skill. And it would have said that I suspect that Gevlon deliberately chooses the most contentious way possible to get his point across, with the goal of getting maximum uproar and feedback, in a way which would be called trolling on a message board. I wasn't sure whether I should write this, because such a post would have basically been "feeding the trolls", being exactly the sort of response that such contentious writing tries to evoke.

The other subject in my head I wasn't sure about was a reply to some of the comments of yesterday's post, who advised me to write more outrageous stuff instead of balanced analysis if I wanted feedback. I started thinking about what to say about that, but that post would have been a balanced analysis on the advantages and disadvantages of contentious writing. When writing about a subject, do you want to blast out your favorite one-sided argument, to get the other side of the coin in the comment section? Or do you want to demonstrate that you have thought about the pros and cons, and risk nobody replying because you already said everything there is to be said? But of course if I had written it that way, the style of the post would have given away my obvious preference, however balanced I try to present it.

Neither post would have been especially interesting, nor thought-provoking. Gear vs. skill has been discussed a hundred times, and a long post about how I write my blog would just have diluted the excellent input I got yesterday. By stating so many completely different opinions my readers already made it perfectly clear that there is not one optimal writing style. It is unlikely that I'd even be able to completely change the way I write, nor would that change be universally welcomed.

But while thinking about the two posts, I noticed the obvious overlap of the two subjects, my writing style being diametrically opposed to what I suspect is Gevlon's deliberate tactic. And I observed that apart from the style, and more often than not being on opposite sides of the discussion, we were rather close in our subject area: World of Warcraft, economics, social interactions. Which led to the thought that Gevlon could be regarded as something of an "evil twin" of mine. And then I realized that writing all this together in that "hoax" of me claiming to be Gevlon made much better, more thought-provoking blogging.

That wasn't about the number of comments and feedback posts I'd get, but about the more fundamental question of how you get your readers to think about the things you are currently thinking about. The "hoax" touches a lot of very interesting subjects, like identity on the internet, trust, the value of flame bait to get inherently passive readers to respond, and whether straying from a well-known "brand" style from time to time can liven up a blog. However you want to call that post, I am pretty sure it did make you think. And the posts that make you think are the good ones. And in the end, like Rem said, I got my point across: The inevitable flames provoked by the flame bait made my argument about the disadvantages of contentious writing.

No comments:

Post a Comment