Thursday, February 25, 2010

Breaking News: Your Opinions Aren't Automatically Important Just Because You Write for WoW.com!


Well, I guess that's only news to the bloggers at wow.com.

Rant incoming.

WoW.com (formerly wowinsider) is in a unique and powerful position to influence the views of the community. And I believe that power comes with some responsibility (thanks, Uncle Ben) that lately (and only lately) the wow.com staff have begun to shirk.

A lot has been made about wow.com's supreme and shameful irresponsibility in posting hoax rumors about Cataclysm alpha as fact and stirring up an unnecessary shitstorm by massaging the facts from a Blizzard Support Department Budget Meeting. They explicitly tried to make a non-story seem like some diabolical plot by Blizzard to screw people, when it very clearly was not. They should be ashamed.

But that's not even what I'm posting to criticize them about.

When you go to MMO-Champion.com, you are looking for pure news, distilled down to bullet points. When you go to Tobold or Spinks or Gevlon, you are looking for opinion. You don't go to Tobold's blog expecting updates on the latest patch notes and blue posts. And you don't go to MMO-Champ expecting opinions about WoW and its community.

But there is a place in between. This place is WoW.com. It is the largest WoW blog, and holds the distinction of being the only one that actually pays a staff of dozens of bloggers to keep the spigot of posts coming constantly. It can do this because it's owned by AOL's blog network and uses its unparalleled (well, unparalleled by people working alone for free) ability to produce content to drive millions of hits to the site for advertisers. I can't find the numbers at the moment, but I remember seeing some estimates, and the number of people who visit that site every day is staggering. Good for them! (But bad for the community!)

WoW.com covers everything. They post news in a relatively timely fashion (read: after their staff reads it on MMO-Champion), have guides to all classes and aspects of the game, follow the community (including their machinima and horde-themed cupcakes), and include editorials, classifieds, and advice columns. They are basically analogous to a full newspaper, while blogs like Tobold's are limited to an opinion column, and MMO-champ amounts to a basic news feed.

For so many years, this worked well. However, lately, the staff has begun to abuse the fact that they have the ears of a massive chunk of the WoW audience to push their own personal, petty opinions (often in the guise of news posts!) without the benefit of point/counterpoint to temper their views. They are starting to act like a pure opinion site, which poses some major problems.

They have no unified editorial voice. So any single blogger can post his/her own petty feelings and have it read by millions. Meanwhile, their name, their content stream, and their massive audience all position them as seeming to be *the* definitive source on WoW. So when their bloggers express an opinion, it's going to hold more weight than it should. It's going to seem, to many readers, like this is the voice of WoW.com and its opinions should be considered greater than others.

The most egregious example of this was Adam Holisky's post from mid-December, in the wake of 3.3, entitled How the WoW Community is About to Push the Self-Destruct Button. How obnoxiously arrogant do you have to be (and this coming from someone with a PhD in arrogance) to presume to tell the entire community what they "need" to do? That because Holisky's opinion differs from theirs, they must be a "minority" that "needs" to do what he says because, for some reason, his opinion matters more than theirs? You expect more professionalism from someone getting paid. And you expect more restraint from someone with such a large audience available to him. He's abusing the audience the site gives him to trumpet his own opinion.

To all of the wow.com staff. People do not come to wow.com for your opinion. They come for information. So every time you push your opinions on them, you are failing them and failing at your job.


Wow.com did not build it's audience on your personal opinions. So every time you express them, you are abusing the audience.

Since then, it's gotten even worse, because now WoW.com bloggers are inserting their opinions into the news stories. It's not so bad when a post is clearly labeled and titled as an editorial. It's another matter entirely when it's the only post about a piece of news, and the post actual is all about the blogger's own personal feelings on the subject.

Example 1. So Matthew Rossi doesn't like it when people skip bosses in a dungeon. Tough shit. Guess what: there's a reason why so many people skip that stuff, and it has nothing to do with "not being able to bear a 20 minute dungeon". They are only there for frost emblems, and I don't get why you think your personal desire to clear every boss in OK should outweigh their desire to skip it, especially to the point where you claim moral superiority and call them lazy. Oh, and by the way, the Blue post by Cyrgil doesn't even say what you claim it says, Rossi. It actually has nothing to do with legitimate boss-skipping in places like OK, but just explains why they don't put in a mechanism to automatically skip to the last boss in all dungeons. But thanks for spreading your misinformation without even bothering to post the quote or even understand it. Now millions will read your opinion with no counterpoint and use it to make the lives of perfectly nice and rational people more difficult. Thanks so much.

Example 2. This one is smaller and more petty on my part. Matt Low (who's personal blog World of Matticus is excellent) posts a brief news clip about the Night Elf Mohawk NPC being removed from the game. Then he goes on to fill space by ranting about how much he hates the grenade. Which is of absolutely zero value to anyone reading news. Stop it.

Imagine if you read a news article in the New York Times entitled "Obama Passes Health Care" in the news section and the article read: "I hate Obama, and today a disasterous health care bill was passed by the evil snakes in Congress that's certainly only going to screw the country up." Maybe you agree with that statement, but the point is it belongs in the opinion section, not the news section.


So please, wow.com bloggers: take the responsibility that goes with your massive audience and noteriety seriously. Stop abusing it to try to unduly influence the playerbase with your personal opinions without giving equal voice to disagreement. (I mean outside the largely-ignored comments section) Stop even abusing it to waste everyone else's time by venting your ill-thought-out personal feelings and masquerading it as content.

Thanks.


Oh, and if you have any sympathy for wow.com, this will kill it: check out this shit. Michael Sacco should issue a public apology. Or be . . . heh heh . . . sacked. :D

9 comments:

LarĂ­sa said...

I think WoW com has an identity problem. To me a blog is something small and personal. It's basically a one-man project or possibly two- or three if you have a couple of guest posters who appears occasionally. But it's NOT a hired staff with some 20 or more writers. I think wow.com would make much wiser if they tried to inmprove as a News site. That's what they are and should be. But of course it requires a lot of ethics, journalistic standards, professionalism etc. It would need them to tighten up A LOT. Stopping to just refer what mmo-champion writes, stopping to just write whatever rumor is going around without solid evidence to back up the stories... It takes a lot of work.

This said - I still read wow.com regularly. Like it or not it IS a sort of focal point for the community. And some of their posts in the past have actually been good.

I guess they're just a bit... uneven. Maybe sometimes a bit too anxious to have a stated amount of updates every day, no matter if there really is anything worth reporting or not. Demands from their owners perhaps? Some pressure put on them?

However I think they'd do wise to stop looking upon themselves as bloggers.

Just my two cents.

Oh, and how happy I am btw to be a free, unpayed amateur blogger. The freedom! It's so sweet, isn't it?!

tyra said...

Bias is a part of news, always will and always has been.


Even NYTimes has it, although it's harder to find.
For another example, go look at Fox News.

http://www.psychologyofterrorism.com/subpage6.html


Is a nice description (focuses on terrorism examples, he uses it for classes on understanding terrorism... the Powerpoints are public.)





It's an issue, but it's not one with just wow.com ;)

They aren't really bloggers, but they're kind of unique as far as i know. so i don't know what else to call them. Either way, take it all with a grain of salt!

Hatch said...

@Larisa: I still keep them in my RSS reader and check out the ocassional post. The warrior class column is especially good.

They get paid per-post, so that's probably why it feels like they are forcing it sometimes.

@tyra: agree, bias is pretty much part of all news. But I don't think we should accept that. This is a gaming blog, so I'm going off about gaming stuff. Nobody wants to hear me talk about nytimes or fox news, even though I could do similar rants about both of them. :)

Derevka said...

A-fucking-men.

/bravo

I really cant stand wow.com lately... with all the new bloggers (particularly the new Healing priest addition), minus 1-2 exceptions of the new and existing staff. It is self promoting sycophantic garbage. /cheers

Matticus said...

So I'm not allowed to have an opinion? Let me put it out there that I respect and understand entirely where you're coming from, but I'd like to be given a chance to respond (and I'm only speaking on behalf of myself, not the entire organization).

We're not CNN.

When it comes to news, our job has primarily been to grab news from whatever source (MMO Champion usually has us beat just because they can break the data mine quicker), and then offer a perspective or stance on it, break it down and elaborate on what it means, etc, etc. I do it to get a bit of community discussion going about it (I really like/dislike X, what do you guys think?). And that's always been what the spirit of blogging has been about, to generate back and forth commentary and discussion. News is strictly one way. You watch TV, but you have no voice. You read newspapers, but all you have are letters to the editor which may not get read or published. But with a blog, everyone has a chance to provide a voice whether it be on the site or as you have done here on your own blog.

If WoW.com became strictly a news site, there would be absolutely nothing to write about. How often is there WoW related news? Not very. Some days its overflowing, the rest of the time it is utterly stagnant. The site offers a myriad of content ranging from guides, to news, to opinion, to everything.

Instead of approaching it as a strict newspaper, try thinking about it as an online magazine instead.

But I will keep your feedback in mind next time the Murloc Rocket Launcher comes out. Perhaps I'll just write a short one-two line post stating that it's being removed instead of adding paragraphs or screenshots of simple pranks and annoyances I've had to endure ^^.

In all due seriousness, I'll tell what I tell the raiders in my guild. I will listen to what you say, but it doesn't mean I'll always act on it. But I guarantee I will listen.

Rem said...

Your "Example 1" is flawed. Wrong, even.

Rossi wasn't saying anything against skipping optional bosses. As a matter of fact, he made it known on a few occasions that he's very much a proponent of skipping optional bosses when it comes to his own gaming. Nor was the article in any way related to OK, save for the image used in the header, I assume because OK is what most people still most associate with "long and tedious".

To be perfectly precise, Rossi wasn't even reporting the blue post itself. Instead, he was commenting on the request of some random poster to make all bosses optional, in a sort of "well, I'd really like to get my frost emblems just mailed to me, but you guys seem to have this thing for dungeons, so I'm basically fine to just zone in, zerg the final boss and zone out again .. deal?"

Again, there was never talk about the treatment of the currently optional bosses. The query was about making all bosses optional, which Rossi called ridiculous, using the blue response as proof of it being "officially" judged ridiculous. To use an analogy to your analogy, it was more like "today congressman X made the outlandish suggestion to close down all hospitals, which was fortunately immediately shot down by the administration".

Should he have "commented" at all, rather than merely reporting? Well, you said it yourself, for pure news you go to MMO-Champion. I read the blue conversation in question on MMO-Champion first, as always. Reposting it without adding some value would have no .. well .. value.

Brent Michael Krupp said...

I'm pretty sure you're doing it wrong.

Wow.com has always been utter crap. Every once in a while I make the mistake of following a link there and reinforce my opinion. Read mmo-champ, read some real bloggers, read EJ. You're covered. Wow.com is pointless.

Keredria said...

Wow, where the heck have I been not reading your blog?!?! Anyways, now that your blog is in my feeder, I can continue.

I agree with this 100%. I have been a little distrubed with the blogging atmosphere today as compared to oh two years ago. In my personal opinion, there seems to be so much more arrogance and "ooh look at me, I'm a top blogger so I know everything and I am always right!" type blog epeening today than there was back in the day.

It makes me miss folks like Phaelia like Resto4Life.

Hatch said...

Thanks for the feedback, everyone! I encourage everyone to read Matt's rebuttal so you get the opposing view, and check out my first example for yourself to see what you think. I still stand by my interpretation, but I admit that there is room for interpretation.

And to clarify a bit more, I like some of the opinion stuff WoW.com does, like the class columns (particularly the warrior one). I like mixing my peanut butter and chocolate, but not my news with my opinion. :)