Tobold's Blog
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.
Wow, very very impressive.
You know what should really have tipped us off that greedy goblin was fake - no ads on that blog.
This comment has been removed by the author.
I am not quite sure I get the point of this whole excersise...

So first you claim to be Devlon, then you're not. How does Devlon himself feel about this ? I wouldn't be too happy if someone pretended to be me, but then said, 'no it was just a hoax'...
Knew it. Nice fake out Tobold.

BTW your blog got me to subscribe to GG, but it didn't last long, because I dislike his writing style. Yours on the other hand keeps me subscribed.

Keep up the good work (and don't worry about how many comments you get, it's quality not quantity that matters isn't it :D )
"The inevitable flames provoked by the flame bait made my argument about the disadvantages of contentious writing."

I don't think so. Your post only showed that:
- a lot of your readers don't read or understand Gevlon at all, otherwise they wouldn't respond like "if this is true..." or worse
- you're still not able to counter Gevlon's arguments without trolling/flaming yourself
Brilliant. You fooled my emotions, but not my brain :)

Just like I wrote in the last comment on the other post of yours:

If something wasn't obvious before you knew about it, it wasn't obvious.

You demonstrated in a perfect way what I know, but often don't manage to believe: The narrative fallacy ;)
Ha Gevlon! You won't fool us a second time!
Gevlon is easy to counter without trolling. He sets alot of strawman arguments, especially about social/casual players, a definition even the blogging community disagrees with from time to time.

The point is I think Tobold figured out that though not everyone reads all his posts all the time, we do visit him as often as possible, since his writing has become a part of our day, much like breakfast, and the morning news.
Haha, i actually had to look up "contentious" on (english isnt my first language). Now for the point you are making, i dont think a disputatious ( :P ) writing style is in any way inferior to one thats not. Skillful and entertaining writing and solid argumentation are the base on which a blogger can develop his or her own unique (or not so unique) style. Anthing goes: from almost scholarly to a rampaging stand-up comedian. When said base is solid there is no "better" style. Only the personal preference of the reader.
I'm just happy the balance of the blogosphere has been restored.
A new meme has been started: "I am Gevlon! No, I am Gevlon!".
Strangely enough, after having read your blog for years, Tobold .. I took it for exactly what it was. From time to time you deliberately challenge yourself to deviate from your usual style -- every time you do it causes a minor ruckus, until you post the next day and everyone sighs a collective "Ooohhh...I get it."
You could never be Gevlon, sorry to say.. :)
Heh that was good. Got me! :)
Bravo! This is why I still read your blog and stopped reading Gevlon's a couple months ago.

Gvelon's writing style and opinions are too toxic for my mental well-being.
I really enjoyed the fun, not because of the hoax itself but that it made me think.

I do read both GG and Tobolds most mornings and even though I dont always agree because they have very different opinions and viewpoints, I do always get an idea, leave with some thoughts or a smile and thats what im here for, if you argued against Gevlons opinions everytime it would get redundant.

I think this was a much better post, making your blog unique will bring me back everytime, if I want gear/skill arguements there are a hundred forums available.

Thanks for the unique read Tobold.
This would have been more convincing if I hadn't woken up to the news in twitter.. and the news of the retraction (in twitter) all before I actually settled into read blogs and go the "full" story. YOu could have at least let the idea stand for > 5 hrs.

This is what I call "out of the box" blogging. :)
Hahaha, I do not even know who Gevlon person is because I never read his blog anyway. Not into WoW, sorry.

It was probably amusing for most readers anyway, but I skipped the entire twin identity thing altogether. I liked how impersonal your blog was/is and I am more intersted in what you have to say about games than other bloggers and their readers.
Now that's comedy.

As for no ads on a blog, I've run a blog for over a year without ads. But the site is my own experimentation platform, so none necessary. Hmmm then again for folks looking for some method of quick and easy blog assessment, I suppose this works as well as anything else.

If nothing else there are some arguments you can't win. A lot of times because folks hiding behind one side or the other don't really fully evaluate even logical points made by the other side.

Though it has been fun reading the posts on Greedy Goblin and taking a look at the mathematical analysis of the WoW endgame.
I am extremely entertained by your last two posts. Very nice ;)
Please cut out the meta posts. You're losing my interest. Produce content about concrete things, not content about your own content. This kind of talk, if continued, thins a community and is generally annoying and useless for everyone except for a small minority who are a part of the in-crowd.

Please stick to the kinds of things that have made this blog popular, and be careful to keep away from metadiscourse and blunt content-about-making-content.

You don't understand at all what Tobold does here do you? He doesn't post for the reader count. He enjoys voicing his opinions and seeing the discussion about it.


Even if your topics stray from the games or entertainment I enjoy I continue to read you because you post thoughful ideas.
Sorry, but I won't "cut out the meta posts" or stop messing with your minds.

There seem to be a lot of people worried about my "credibility". I hate credibility. If I make an argument, and the only reason you agree is that you believe in my credibility, I did something seriously wrong.

I abhor the vision of the blogosphere as communities grouping around gurus who only tell them what they already believe in. Use your own brain! Engage with the content you dislike! Argue! Disagree! Don't be a follower! Not even to me.
Bah, saw this post to, another lesson to not believe anyone or anything...welcome, paranoia ;-)
What I don't understand, Tobold, is that you seem to dislike Gevlon, Tobold, yet continually talk about him and help increase his infamy :) Wouldn't it be better just to not read his blog and not worry yourself about it?
I don't dislike Gevlon. I dislike a lot of the "welfare recipients should be shot" nonsense he sometimes spouts. But I do believe that he is highly intelligent, and either has a low EQ, or fakes a low EQ to get more page hits. Once you filter out the anti-social drivel, a lot of the observations Gevlon makes, and some of the conclusions, are spot on.
If you can handle how Gevlon writes he is a very good read. I was suffering in WAR from a lack of funds. I looked at how I was spending/earning money based on Gevlon's WoW posts and applied them to WAR. I started making enough money to cover all my playing costs with very little effort.
To be honest, while I think Gevlon says some outrageous things, I don't think he's ever fallen on the side of "welfare recipients need to be shot". I just think he overestimates the number of leeches versus the number of people with legitimate need, and he has acknowledged that there are people who need aid (normally due to disaster). I think what makes Gevlon unlikable is that he thinks more than most people about things... Most people accept things and he doesn't. To be honest his logical assessment of social relationships is pretty good. He's just not saying things people want to think about (or be true). However, Tobold presents good counterpoints, and I think that, as diametrically opposed as they seem, Tobold and Gevlon taken together paint a more realistic picture of the value of social behavior.
"Please cut out the meta posts. You're losing my interest. Produce content about concrete things, not content about your own content. This kind of talk, if continued, thins a community and is generally annoying and useless for everyone except for a small minority who are a part of the in-crowd.

Please stick to the kinds of things that have made this blog popular, and be careful to keep away from metadiscourse and blunt content-about-making-content."

In response to 'evizaer'

As the writer has said many times, he doesn't care about the number of readers on this blog. He doesn't make money from the number of readers on the blog as you can see by a complete lack of advertising. The sole reason for the blog to exist is so that the writer can express his thoughts on whatever subjects he feels like expressing them on and also in whatever way he wishes to express them.

So honestly, if it's "losing your interest", feel free to NOT read the blog anymore.


With regard to this post... I don't buy it. I think Tobold wrote the first one, coming out about who he was and then realized he'd miss all that fun in the future. Now he's trying desperately to backpedal. No way am I believing this. Tobold is Gevlon.
To be honest, while I think Gevlon says some outrageous things, I don't think he's ever fallen on the side of "welfare recipients need to be shot".

May I direct you to this post of his, where he says, and I quote:

"Commenters use to write "you must give welfare to the real world poor or they revolt". I found it silly and used to handle it with "make sure the cops have enough ammo". I meant it literally. My guess was that the RL M&S who are too skilless to do any jobs, are a little minority, like 10%. Let the cops handle them, they won't be missed."

and then goes on how he discovered that the morons & slackers are much more than 10%, and the cops would run out of bullets and couldn't shoot them all.

That is the kind of post that disgusts me. His "skilled raiders don't need epic gear" posts? Run of the mill trash talk you'll hear every wannabe hardcore spout.
If you want to see a serious example of how bad the "M&S problem" is, watch Judge Judy... a ridiculous number of morons are showcased there. And what really makes them morons is that they're on there voluntarily. You know, showing stupidity to a national audience. However, Gevlon, in that same post hints at the problem. Lack of education. Of course, I also see another problem in parenting. But while I disagree with Gevlon about how to deal with the less fortunate (I don't know how seriously he should be taken...) he probably is right that they're a big portion of the population. I mean, even now, when I'm in college, the number of people who know next to nothing useful, or do next to nothing productive, is shocking. And the problems stem from education and parenting.

I think right now we live (at least in America) in a society where stay-at-home moms (or dads) are seen as bad or non-productive. The opposite is true. Stay-at-home moms produce more well adjusted kids than day-cares and pre-schools. Just think about it.. How do children form relationships in which they can trust people when they're raised by strangers?
The next problem is education. It starts off with "you're all special" in the lowest grade levels, when what they should start off with is, "if you all work hard, you can succeed". The further you get the more rampant cheating and cutting corners is... and the more it's accepted by teachers. So far in college, I've taken some teacher training classes. One of my professors admitted that while she was a high school teacher, she let the students cheat because "How else would they get ahead?". At that point, maybe no other way.

So what do I believe would be a solution to "M&S" (which I do believe in)? More funding for education (as opposed to military spending, or maybe at a local level, less spending for police departments). Though, throwing money at schools doesn't help, increasing the incentive for good teachers, and firing the worst teachers (which could be hard, a lot of the worst have tenure), is probably a better idea. To have people prefer to raise their kids than have strangers do it would probably take a societal change... so I don't really have a solution for that.

I realize that Gevlon isn't about forming relationships or even necessarily hard work. Which is what I agree with you about. However, he is right. There is a sea of M&S, but the solution I think is more kind than simply destroying them.

(Also, I don't think that the M&S are just poor people. There are plenty of rich people who are useless, doing nothing for the world but appearing in mindless television shows, or showing up at clubs, or getting in the news for drunken antics. unfortunately their wealth makes those activities look cool, and makes them somewhat more immune than the average idiot.)
Also, and sorry for a double comment, but while I think that Gevlon does show that gear isn't as important, what gear does for me is makes me feel more psychologically capable. Mathematically, no, I don't have necessarily worse chances to kill bosses in low end epics and blues, but I'd feel a little more tense trying to.
made me laugh, pure genius
I agree with you Tobold regarding Gevlon, he seems intelligent and alot of his calculations seem reasonable yet I despise his anti-social rantings and his "M&S" (Morons and Slackers) pigeonholing. Call a moron a moron, call a slacker a slacker but judging anyone who follows certain traits does not automatically become an "M&S".
Since, as I said before, I've never read any Gevlon, except for a few quotes on other blogs once in awhile, the whole "evil twin" thing didn't kick up any emotional reaction.

I do think you have the absolute right to write about anything you want to on your blog, but as far as the meta-posts go, I'm not sure they should get linked on Virgin Worlds. Isn't there some postmodernist blog clearing-house that would be more relevant?

The one thing I would like to know, although for no real reason other than idle curiosity arising out of the various comments referring to Tobold's writing style, is whether English is his first language. I would guess that it's not, and I would further guess that he is either Dutch or German.

Apologies if Tobold's nationality is well-known to everyone but me - all I can see from the website is that the location is Belgium, which I suppose might be a difficult ethnicity to distinguish from Dutch purely through the way someone writes English.

Hmm, might have answered my own question there...
Nice. Just nice. :)

I should point out that I at least am in favor of looking at things in a balanced way as much as you can. Too many people these days masquerade as "news" in the media and really are just sources of opinion that get their readers or viewers through provoking a reaction. That's not news

But I think that's why I - and I bet a lot of other people - go to your blog for news. We know you don't focus on reporting, we know you aren't always right, but you try to be, and you honestly want to look at things objectively. You may not be obsessed with your "journalistic reputation", but that usually comes out of a need for viewers rather than anything else. And that leads back to doing what it takes to get attention.

So I guess in the end, I'd just like to say thank you for being yourself on your blog. Thank you for not caring about how many comments you get. ;)
I am sorry but you could never have been Gevlon, his grammar and spelling is to M & S.
When first I read your previous post I thought to myself wft no way can you be Gelvon. Why your writing styles are far to different. If you were able to create a writing style that was different from your it could mean only one thing that your a nut with a split personality or a genius
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