Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Thought-provoking or trolling?

It nearly impossible to write anything about MMORPGs with which everybody agrees, given how very different opinions are on that subject. But even if it was possible, I would argue that it wouldn't be helpful for a blog to make posts like that: Provoking thoughts, and as a result provoking an interesting discussion, is something that I would say differentiates a good blog post from a bad one. So when I manage to pull off a post like yesterday's, where half of the commenters consider that vision of the future of MMORPGs as a horror vision, and the other half can't wait to play that, I consider that a job well done.

Nevertheless I got a Buzz telling me that my post had "gone too far", and I had to delete a comment accusing me of "trolling". Now I'd consider the wisdom of Wikipedia stating that: "Application of the term troll is highly subjective. Some readers may characterize a post as trolling, while others may regard the same post as a legitimate contribution to the discussion, even if controversial. Like any pejorative term, it can be used as an ad hominem strategy to discredit an opposing position by attacking its proponent. Calling someone a troll makes a negative assumption about that person's motives.". Depending on what definition you use for trolling, anything which is provocative could be labeled as a troll post, which given my previous definition would mean that every good blog post is trolling. I would say that being provocative isn't a sufficient definition of trolling. As Wikipedia says, it is far too easy to simply label anyone you don't agree with as a troll to discredit him.

Looking at various definitions of trolling, one frequently listed attribute of trolling is being off-topic. Now I could claim that my blog is about everything, so all my posts are on topic. But even if you'd disagree with that, you'd have to admit that provocative posts on MMORPGs are very much on topic here. If I'd post a sarcastic post on the Republican health care reform repeal being a way to turn "Hell, NO!" into law, I'd be far more vulnerable to an accusation of that being a troll post, because politics are off-topic on this blog.

Another important part of the definition of trolling is that it deliberately provokes emotions instead of thoughts. Of course that isn't always black and white, a post can provoke both emotions *and* thoughts. But I'd argue that my personal blogging style, which is heavy on text and supportive arguments, and light on profanity, is primarily aimed at getting people to think. Just because MMORPG players are highly tribal and tend to react emotionally if somebody publicly dislikes their favorite game doesn't make every MMORPG review a troll post.

After years of comment moderation I'd say I can spot a troll comment, but of course that remains subjective. One relatively sure sign is troll comments being often short, to the point of being one-liners, and often contain insults. "Learn2play n00b" is a troll comment I'd delete, while somebody writing an argument why he thinks that "bad" isn't a valid style of playing is not trolling, even if he disagrees with me, and thus I let his comments stand. I should get somewhat more aggressive with people frequently and deliberately derailing threads through off-topic remarks (/wave Nils), but often I wished I had the technical means to *move* such a comment to a new thread instead of just having the choice to delete them or not.

As I said at the start, opinions on what a MMORPG should be vary widely. I have my own vision of what I'd like MMORPGs to be, and I have an analytical mind which sometimes makes me think I spotted some trend or development. This blog is here for me to express these thoughts of mine, being fully aware that some people will disagree with my vision, or dislike developments I describe. And the comment section is here for you to express your thoughts on the topics I describe, whether you agree with me or not. Any intelligent discussion is welcome here. I will keep trying to be thought-provoking, but how emotionally provocative that is to you very much depends on your own attitude towards my by now rather well-known general stance on MMORPGs. Not only do I not want to troll you and provoke angry emotions in you, I'd go so far as to say that your anger isn't really welcome here. If you start foaming at the mouth every time somebody even mentions a certain highly successful MMORPG, or talks about casual games or play styles, maybe this simply isn't the best spot for you to hang out at. I've learned which blogs not to read to keep my blood pressure down, and can only recommend you to do the same.

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