Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, February 02, 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.
Comments:
I was definitely amused at one point to see on your last post that you had deleted too many comments and that it had cost you a reader.

A) No such thing as too many deleted comments if there are too many abusers/unsubtle trolls.

B) Buh-bye to a reader who doesn't get point A sounds like everyone walks away happy!

With regards to tangential topics... I rather like that sometimes the comments I read seem to spin off into a discussion with its own value. Here, anyway.
 
One other characteristic of trolling is the deliberate use of fallacies. Say.. the slippery slope argument.
 
Learn2Write Tobold n00b.

(Troll Moderation Test). :P
 
I was definitely amused at one point to see on your last post that you had deleted too many comments and that it had cost you a reader.

Note that he only complained after I had deleted one of *his* comments. I tried to explain him that losing the trolls was kind of the point of comment moderation.

(Troll Moderation Test).

Not the best place to try this. I moderate less in the threads about blogging, and more in the threads about gaming. That is because comments on the style of my blogging are on-topic in the former, and off-topic in the latter.
 
Say.. the slippery slope argument.

Slippery slope suggests that people would not want to end up where it leads. That is obviously not the case in the extreme soloing scenario, many people clearly would love that. As much as you would hate it, the solo MMO isn't all that unlikely by 2020.
 
I've always thought of trolling as a matter of objectives. You write what you think, even it it will upset someone. Trolls write what they think will upset someone.

Anyway, I'll be happily awaiting more provocative posts. And on a side note: I can't believe that yesterday's post was provocative!
 
Controversial posts like yesterday's are the reason I keep coming back here. You tend to be much more thought provoking than most other mmo writers and I'm sure most of your readers appreciate it.
 
Actually trolling can only be defined by the INTENT of the writer which is unknown to everyone but him. One can write the same post fully believing in it.

So besides obviously insulting and offtopic comments "this iz fail cuz everything tobold writes is fail lol", accusing trolling is always ad hominem attack.

The post itself (without the intent of the author) must be examined.
 
As the original author of the deleted troll comment i'd like to just share a thought.

What you did in your previous post was creating a dystopic vision of the near future. This is pretty much what Orwell did with his book 1984, but while Orwell really did think about the world he is creating you just singled out one topic (solo vs grouping) and took it to it's extreme. While one can imagine that 1984 may be a possibility, your vision was completly absurd.

Yes STO did something in that direction, but you still got raid content which is used by players grouping together. Tbh if your vision would come true, WoW finally wouldn't be called MMORPG anymore, but ORPG.

So why did i call troll? Your vision was absurd, but still it is a valid form of pointing out things. Just take them to the extreme, so everybody can see it.

Why did i call troll? Because i didn't like your dystopia and i wanted to troll you.
 
I've been following you for only about 6 months and never felt the need to comment, I've just enjoyed the reading.

I don't have much to add to the conversation other than, the whole reason I've followed this blog for as long as I have. While I don't always agree with the posts, I've never felt like you've been out to cause problems in the community.

The post in question even caused Gevlon to post a thoughtful, non hostile, or semi-hateful topic. I think that in itself speaks for itself.
 
Slippery slope suggests that people would not want to end up where it leads. That is obviously not the case in the extreme soloing scenario, many people clearly would love that.
And many people would not. A theocracy would be an utopia for some and a dystopia for some.
As much as you would hate it, the solo MMO isn't all that unlikely by 2020.
That sounds like a strawman. I'm sure it wasn't your intention.
 
That sounds like a strawman.

You sounded as if you were accusing me of trolling by using a slippery slope argument in my WoW 2020 post. I was trying to point out that a development towards a solo MMO is *not* a slippery slope, but a trend. I have no idea what strawman you are talking about.
 
You sounded as if you were accusing me of trolling by using a slippery slope argument in my WoW 2020 post.
So you wrote several pro-community posts and then wrote a "tongue in cheek" post about the future of the opposite viewpoint and didn't intend it to be a slippery slope argument?

I was trying to point out that a development towards a solo MMO is *not* a slippery slope, but a trend.
Is it a trend that you like? How would that trend be reconciled with your call to fulfill the social responsibility towards the community? But then again, that social responsibility is quite easy to fulfill if the community's size is one.

I have no idea what strawman you are talking about.
I don't hate the idea of a solo MMO. I've actually played (and payed for) a few already.
 
Is it a trend that you like? How would that trend be reconciled with your call to fulfill the social responsibility towards the community?

I like grouping with nice people. I also wouldn't mind playing that solo MMO. What I don't like is the current situation where people group, but consider the other group members as necessary evil, and don't feel any sense of obligation or goodwill towards them.

Unlike Larisa, I'd rather group with an NPC than with a moron who calls me "healer" instead of using my name, and who blames me for his repeated inability to not stand in the fire. But I'd rather group with my guild mates than solo.
 
Actually trolling can only be defined by the INTENT of the writer which is unknown to everyone but him. One can write the same post fully believing in it.

@ Gevlon -- Sometimes the intent of the person writing the post is obvious by the words, content or connotation of the post itself. No need to delve deep into someone's mind every time to know his/her intent. Sometimes all is needed is to read the post in the spirit it's written.
 
I don't think you can "troll" your own blog with an original post there. You can wind people up but I don't think that's the same thing.

I think you could troll the comment thread of your own post on your own blog though.
 
And I've seen a certain Bhagpuss write on Raph's blog: "Heh! I was poking Tobold with a stick there. Didn’t expect the “ouch” to pop up over here."
 
Might have done!

My main problem isn't trolling, it's that I don't know what I'm going to say until I read it back, and that's usually after I've pressed "Post".
 
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