Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
Making readers uncomfortable

It has been made abundantly clear to me by a significant number of comment over the years that it makes a lot of my readers uncomfortable when I talk about myself. They much prefer me in "sage mode": Dispensing wisdom, writing analysis, giving advice, reviewing facts, reporting news, and telling funny stories. But when I show too much enthusiasm, write about what worries me, react with emotions to some negativity, or show interests outside the narrow world of MMORPGs, it is making people flinch and wince. Bad news is that I'm not going to stop to write at a more personal level. Because being totally impersonal is an impossible task, and because this blog wouldn't even exist if it weren't about my feelings.

I totally understand why it makes people uncomfortable. After all MMORPGs are basically fantasy worlds into which we escape to avoid having to deal with the real world and real emotions. Dealing with people online, in games or blogs, allows us to reduce them to specific roles: The tank, the healer, the blogger. There are less dimensions to "my guild's main tank", or "Tobold the blogger", than there are to real persons. If these characters suddenly start showing more depth, the tank skips raids because of personal problems, or Tobold whining about his angst that his warrior is becoming obsolete, it quickly becomes inconvenient to have to deal with that.

But as much as someone might prefer me as being impersonal, in reality that just isn't possible. Just like there is a real person with real feelings behind that tank avatar, there is a real person behind Tobold the blogger. Sometimes I just have a bad day, or I rant, or whine, or go off on a tangent, or worry, or am happy. And people telling me I shouldn't let my feelings show usually just cause me to rant or whine even more, because such comments touch me on a personal level, and thus provoke a personal response. This is a one-man operation, there is no editor who could edit out unseemly content that isn't perfectly neutral or politically correct. The only way you *do* have to "edit" me, is to simply not read the posts that make you uncomfortable.

And as I mentioned, the personal stuff is a necessary condition for the existence of this blog. Because I am not a robot, but a real person, there has to be something in it for me that causes me to write this blog, people don't do things without any motivation. And there is obviously no financial incentive. You might think that this blog is about MMORPGs, but in reality this blog is about me. I blog because I feel a need to express myself. This is my place, my retreat, my Cheers where everybody knows my name, the place I hang out, where I can talk about the stuff that interests me, or bitch about my problems. To get me to leave my personality at the door, I would need to be motivated otherwise, for example by being paid for my work. I guess you could get a magazine with a similar amount of game content for about $50 per year, so how about you all send me $50 per year? Thought not. I think that getting ample content for free in exchange for having to put up with the occasional personal post is the better deal.

And yes, I'm perfectly aware that this post made you feel uncomfortable again. "Tobold's Blog: Making readers uncomfortable since 2003" :)
So Tobold, what school of economic theory do you subscribe to?
Doh! Your telling me your not really just a Tolbold-a-Tron 3000!
Stop worrying about people's comments, Tobold! Just keep blogging!
I dont think you're ever really impersonal. Your sage mode may sound sagey to people who dont know much about the subject, but certainly some of your sage modes about subjects I know a lot about are not objective and are very very personal. So I think its pretty clear its a blog, its your opinion and feelings no matter what you write about. Even when it sounds like you're giving us information, that information is full of your own personal feelings, experiences, perceptions, interpretations & assumptions. There's no such thing as truly objective writing - how could there be?
Actually, I'd pay a reasonable subscription fee. You write regularly, you write well, and you're writing about topics that interest me. That's worth something. Maybe not $50 a year, mostly because you don't hit the volume of material that a full magazine would, but I'd pay $10.
You can't stop flaming, especially if you write a post about holy priests. Most people don't understand that they should enrich your initial post with their constructive comments. Keep up the good work and don't change to please or you'll loose a lot of readers.
Do you want cheques made payable to Mr Tobold or CASH :P

You are always going to upset some of the more irrational Fanbois who come back at you with an axe to grind. There's really no point taking any notice of those poor demented souls.
So Tobold, what school of economic theory do you subscribe to?

I am, and have always been, Keynesian. Fortunately the Milton Friedman, Chicago school of economics, is currently much out of favor, as it is being held to account for the current financial crisis. Too much of the wealth created in the past decades landed in the hands of those who wouldn't spend it, creating a savings glut and financial bubbles, instead of pushing up demand.
I've said it before, but it bears repeating in this context: I read this blog because of the blogger, not especially the subject matter. I don't play MMORPGS, and never have. I don't even play much RPG single player (a few of the old old SSI games to the finish, Diablo I, but I never got far with Baldur's Gate or similar games) but I'm interested in your persepective on them
I love your blog and the more you show of the person behind it the better. I want to be touched by blogs somehow. Good blogs are like friends that you're hanging around with. That's the only way I can describe it. For that reason I liked this very post a lot. I wouldn't mind seeing even more of this kind of posts rather than rational, informative sort of posts. But that's just me. Anyway, as you self point out: it's YOUR blog, your corner of the world where you can express yourself the way you want. It's sad you have to deal with all those trolls. But I guess it comes with a huge readership. (Sometimes it's nice to be a small, insignificant blogger that noone ever reads. It's easier to nejoy your freedom.)
I'd probably not still be reading the blog were it not for the "real Tobold" moments. Impersonal journalism is considerably overrated.

I enjoy the blog thoroughly - keep it up!
I'd actually prefer to see more of 'what goes on behind the curtain'.

From a news outlet like CNN, you expect dry analysis. From a blog, you come for opinions and rants. While I'm sure you could keep it on the 'professional, business only' side of things all the time, it's refreshing to be reminded that the people writing these things (the content creators of the internet) are people too, just like the readers (and consumers of said content).

As an avid reader and creator myself, I like to see what's going on backstage from time to time ;)
Your personality belongs to this blog and this is the way it should be I think. Whine, rant etc. as much as you like. Many times I dont agree but if I always agreed I wouldnt come back after a while I guess:)
I've read all your blog entries from the beginning but have never left a comment until now: Today's blog entry has to be my new favorite. It's your blog. Just Own It.
As long as we're talking about academic theories, critical theory and modernity/post-modernity in general has put the lie to any notion of objective, depersonalized blogging. Not only is your blog a product of the transaction with your audience, it is a reflection of you and your cultural, sociopolitical context from which you can't ever escape.

In any case, you don't need to justify yourself Tobold. If this site is cathartic for you then it justifies itself; and a few thousand of us also find it interesting!
Feelings... nothing more than... feelings...

$50, Tobold? Sure, give me your bank account number and I'll send it right away! (wink)
As others have said... if readers can't deal with the blogger behind the curtain, sod 'em. Seriously. Sure, we prefer not to interact on a personal basis if we can help it these days, but that doesn't mean you have to conform to that. You know it already, so don't let the "I don't care what YOU think" stuff put you off.

I'd rather read this than yet another "I just went to the bathroom" pseudo-personal twitter entry.
Love your blog Tobold, but I think the problem with your "personal" posts is that they typically come off sounding whiny. They're often just a rehash of "I can write about what I want" - which you can, but telling your readers that just makes you sound like some teenager who needs his blog comments to all be positive so you can feel good about yourself.

Don't get me wrong though, I'm a huge fan of the blog :) And I don't mind personal posts really ... it just seems that they've all been the same attempt to justify why you blog, which is just unnecessary.
In any case, you don't need to justify yourself Tobold.

Wasn't even supposed to be a justification. I just found the subject of personal blogging and how some people react to it interesting. The recent troll events certainly influenced my train of thought, but this is something going on much longer, for example the reactions to when I didn't really know what to do with my warrior (which miraculously solved itself in WotLK).
It's your blog Tobold. If you want to copy-paste "All work and no play makes Tobold a dull boy" three hundred times, that's your prerogative. We can always vote with our feet.

me, I'm sticking around. keep up the good work.
Screw 'em Tobold. That's your name on the header.
I've got you on my RSS reader, and I admit I don't read all of your posts, but I do read most of them.
Something doesn't grab me, I just don't continue. For the most part, I value your opinion on just about all of the topics you cover on this blog, MMO-specific or no.
Tobold, I've been a long-time reader of your RSS feed, but I don't think I've ever come here to post a comment. I keep reading your posts about how people tell you to write about this and not that, or not liking what you write about, or this one about people being "uncomfortable". I'm with many of the other comments here: it's your blog; write about whatever you like. Start a series on how cute your cat is, if you like. I may skip it, I may read it, but that's the choice I get to make, isn't it?

To all the people who have a false sense of entitlement and think they can tell Tobold what to write in his own blog: go away. Read what you like, don't read if you don't like it. Just, please, if you choose the latter, don't waste our time telling us about it. Just quietly go away. Thank you.
STFU emo carebear, no one wants a whiny post about your 'feelings' noob.

I'm actually under the impression you try TOO hard to keep your personal opinion out of posts. Maybe that comes from writing for as long as you have, and knowing when it's best not to incite flames, but the post I find the most interesting are the ones you take a solid stance on, like when we went back and forth on whether PvP is a viable model for a massive MMO. Often your posts, to me, are a bit too reporter-like, and don't include that final paragraph with your personal take on the subject.

You're a smart guy, with a lot of rational MMO experience, sharing your opinion on a subject is often more insightful than a random forum post, or even a newer gamer/blogger. People don't come here to find out what's happening in MMO land, they come here to get your take on it.
From a news outlet like CNN, you expect dry analysis
That is the kicker.
For some reason about almost 6 months ago this rumor started that us bloggers were "news". I think this is where the issues come into play.
We are NOT news, and we are very opinionated.

I still remember being told by others to report on what I do, and avoid THEIR games...


I am not a reporter. Neither are you. You continue giving us your opinions about the games you wish to comment on, just like I will, or any other commenter/blogger here..

That is the part I like...
You should put a "donation" widget (paypal makes it ez). You would be suprise by the generosity of people. Bloggers are like columnists, they express an opinion, but they get paid. The only difference is that maybe if you were getting paid (by donation or else) you would have a contract with those donors to deliver some content. And if you stop, some might get pissed... but hey, they would still have enjoyed the nice content you've put up until now. Whatsoever, why not ?
Because I am not a robot, but a real person

Someday we will be able to fix that. Then we'll all be robots, with no uncomfortable feelings!
Bad news is that I'm not going to stop to write at a more personal level. Because being totally impersonal is an impossible task, and because this blog wouldn't even exist if it weren't about my feelings.

Do I need to know more about you to understand your posts, or to understand where you're coming from as a gamer? Nope. Your ability to communicate your thoughts about MMO's, with the written word, is more than enough to keep me interested. I dont need to know personal details about your life to understand your thought processes about MMO's, nor do I need to know your political or economic leanings to understand why you're unhappy with your Priest in the post WOTLK release leandscape. I can identify the one without requiring a need for the other.

Your views and opinions on the "inner workings" of MMO's are truly insightful and thought provoking, and more often than not you're on the cutting edge of what types of changes should be made in game development. I eagerly "classify" your blog as an informative hub concerning MMO related topics, and while I'm apparently in the minority here, my only reason for coming here is for information about MMO's.

I support ToA's notion of a donation widget, especially if it serves to maintain your motivation for writing about MMO's =)
But Tobold...if you took your emotion out just think how much more money the bots could make from copying your content! Think about the children!!!

Okay anyhow - I've noticed a lot lately where people think bloggers = professional bloggers and != dude/dudette doing this because it's a hobby. I guess as things mature people will understand better - they may not change, but gain a better understanding :)
You mean you don't bleed oil when cut??

I say it's your blog, talk about yourself all you want!!
Personally, I don't like it when people make personal statements.

Another post that shouldn't have to be posted, because people should understand what blogs are. I enjoy reading your blog, Tobold, nigh daily, and have no problem skipping a few of your ~less interesting posts and not bitching about it. If you ever become truly uninteresting, I'll just move on, nothing said. As it is now, though, yours is the only blog I read regularly.
Weird, I actually like the personal stuff, otherwise i'd think you're just some cold analyst :).
Cheers, Tobold. :-) I like your style of writing, which I see as 80% objective and 20% opinion. And you're much more rational than most of the bloggers out there, maybe because of your background and vocation in science.
"I am, and have always been, Keynesian."

Seriously, I've always thought you were a Chicago Boy, Tobold. :)
I too thought you fell into the Chicago school but, boy, I am glad you are a Keynesian. I prefer to think of you as a rational person who has a grip on reality =)

Ahem... Well I still read all your posts, even though I'm not a mumorpuger, so I prefer the personal stuff way more than that digital heroine stuff.

Being a mathematical economics student means that I also have a special interest in your educational posts, and I wonder how it would be to have been one of your students during your PhD.
The thing with personal posts is that they aren't really about games and they also aren't really opinion pieces, so I don't really find them as interesting to read myself. Or rather, the writer has to make a special effort to make them engaging if I'm going to stay interested (unless it's a personal post by an actual personal friend). Also, blogging about blogging can feel a bit insular (like writing poems about writing poems) if you're not careful.
I should have posted yesterday, but I didn't take the time to say this: thanks to you Tobold, I started to wonder the MMO's and games in general. Till then I just played and gritted my teeth. And since that, I have come here for your thoughts and insights, not for the news. Like Openedge stated, the 'bloggers are news' rumor started somewhere around half a year ago, and it has stuck to the trolls especially.

Just keep doing what you're doing and take your personal stand on issues. That's what makes this blogging so interesting.

I'm feeling a bit hot and bothered down in my Calvin Kleins because of this post.
Never felt uncomfortable with your approach, Tobold - I'd prefer more rather than less.
One of my more favorite threads by Tobold was about his experience of buying a new car. That it was such a different process/experience to the way I, an Australian-American, have always bought my cars was probably what made it so intriguing.

Reading BRK's blog, without a doubt my favourite threads are his Airman Howell stories. They're nothing to do with WoW or Huntering, they're very personal, and they reveal a lot more about the Blogger behind the Blog. And yet there's always critics of his Airman Howell stories.

You can't please all the people all the time, so don't even bother trying to please anyone. This is your Blog, write it for yourself. I like getting comments on my Blog too (shows I have readers ;) but as I often treat my Blog as a journal and a place to vent that probably turns many potential readers away. That's okay because I'm (usually) writing for myself and if people want to comment and we get a small discussion going, that's good; if not, that's fine, too.

Bottom line. It's your Blog, Tobold, write for yourself, we just come here for the cake. I'm sure someone said there'd be cake.
Anyone made uncomfortable by this post is a moron and you should ignore them. I love your blog and all your posts and your personal perspective is great. Pay no attention to the dolts that complain.
I like your blog, BECAUSE its a mix of personal and gaming.
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