@BraxKedren to @dawnsrose: What should/could Bioware do to clean up their forums.
@Drast_SL to @dawnsrose: Why anonymity makes most people a douche bag.
Do you avoid official forums, or even some of the fan sites due to the level of negative interaction you get from comments?
I know I do. I have found that posting on forums seems to frustrate me. I may have a really good point, or comment, but I find that about half the responses to either the original post, or to the comments are negative, and downright inflammatory.
I have been told that my aversion to these locations is due to my feminine sensitivity. Yet, I don’t really think so. I am no longer a teenager, and have been around long enough that I really like to have a positive experience with things I read and participate in.
I work hard in my opinion pieces to be balanced in my approach. I can be an opinionated person, just like everyone else. But I don’t think that I need to force my opinion on people. I want to show both sides of the situation, yet still express my opinion.
I know that I am sensitive about the language that can be used in posts. But, I am also an adult and know how to ignore people that are just venting with language a sailor would blush at.
I have to admit I still do not understand where certain terms get to be popular, when they are just silly, and offensive.
Wikipedia: In Internet slang, a troll is someone who posts inflammatory,extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community, such as an online discussion forum, chat room, or blog, with the primary intent of provoking readers into an emotional responseor of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion.The noun troll may refer to the provocative message itself, as in: “That was an excellent troll you posted”.
In modern English usage, the verb troll is a fishing technique of slowly dragging a lure or baited hook from a moving boat.The word evokes the trolls of Scandinavian folklore and children’s tales, where they are often creatures bent on mischief and wickedness.
The contemporary use of the term is alleged to have appeared on the Internet in the late 1980s,but the earliest known example is from 1992.Early non-internet related use of trolling for actions deliberately performed to provoke a reaction can be found in the military; by 1972 the term trolling for MiGs was documented in use by US Navy pilots in Vietnam.
What I find interesting about the history of “trolls” is it all started as a bit of humor. People would post in Usenet about a subject that was just over the top, or discussed frequently, and wait to see the new people to Usenet reply. Or, they would plant misinformation or delude readers on newsgroups, often as an attempt at humor rather than provocation. At this time, the noun “Troll” was usually applied to the act or the post, not to the writer.
From the information I have mined from the internet itself, trolls have been studied for their behavior and for their emotional and self esteem responses to their posts.
As I have read these studies one of the things that came to the forefront is that most trolls seem to strive to disrupt, argue, and promote antipathetic emotions of disgust and outrage, which give the troll a sense of pleasure. Being able to do these things under the mask of anonymity enhances or magnifies the actual act of trolling.
When your name and e-mail are not connected to your comments there is a feeling of freedom in what you can say. The comments and posts can now cause trouble in a way that victims or readers react that the troll can “feed”from and delight in the turmoil.
This delight can go to huge extremes; not just posting offensive comments, but posting pictures and defacing Web pages and reputations around the death of people. If there is a group having an emotional response to an event, the troll will come in and drop the bomb of inappropriate behavior that changes the situation to one of a volatile nature.
What is interesting is that, as I look at the Star Wars forums, many of the posts that are being called trolls really seem to be misunderstood. In the written word it is hard to read sarcasm, happiness, seriousness, humor, or even anger. How you read a post or comment is in your brain, and it may not match what the person who wrote it was trying to express. I find as I get to know people on the internet, the people that seem to read less “into” a post are the people that have a bit more chronological age. When dealing with the 35+ age group, you’re dealing with a population that watched less television, had less access to computers at very young ages, and are likely read more. Now this isn’t saying that “older” folks don’t get offended by what is posted, but many times they are less likely to fall into the trap of replying to it. They are more likely to report the post as offensive to the administrators and then move on.
The young, on the other hand, tend to be more reactionary. It is almost like their identity is tied up in defending something, and when that something is attacked they react out of proportion to the actual importance of the topic.
So, I combed through the internet looking at what’s been said about trolls, flaming and general disruption of forums and sites. What I found was that there is not enough information to make a solid judgment on why people do what they do. It has been shown that when a person does not have to be associated with their comments, they are more likely to be aggressive, disruptive, even offensive and violent. Are these behaviors and reactions how these people are actually feeling, or are they indulging in this activity as a fantasy? We can’t answer that. What can be done is to impose limits, controls and less anonymity.
This job is huge. Just in the Star Wars forums there are pages upon pages of threads that are pages and pages long. The staff available can’t read everything, which then means that not every troll is addressed. Much of this now falls on the participants. If it is not reported, then people must not have been offended or felt that the post was inappropriate.
Let’s look at an example: A thread on the forum begins which discusses the Mac OS. Many comments in this thread are productive; they discuss the ways to run a game that is not made specifically for Mac. But then you get into posts that tell Mac users that they are not worth addressing. What does this post do? It causes uproar, and now the thread disintegrates into arguments and ceases to be productive. No one in the thread reports the offensive posts, and many cannot resist the bait that was placed there for them to react to.
Now this is just one thread, and this thread is huge. Not everything posted in there is offensive, but at times it ceases to be a productive thread. This seems to be the goal of the troll, at least on these forums. They want to disintegrate a conversation into arguments and uselessness, then see how long it lasts, and how upset people get. If the community assisted a bit more in its own policing we may be able to cut this down a bit.
The one group that does not fall into trolls, yet can be just as offensive, if subtle, is the elitist players. These are the people that talk down to a weekend tester, because they have been in the general testing. The implication of their comments are that weekend testers are somehow less important, or more stupid, and so one. When looking at the way test invitations were sent out, a weekend tester has the same likelihood of being a long-time tester of beta games as the general tester. Neither one is better then the other. They are invited for different reasons and for different goals. General testing is there to play through the game, to test as many aspects as possible. The weekend tester is there as a second set of eyes. Most of the weekend testers will not make it past level 20, but that content is actually the most played in any game, so should be debugged as completely as possible. There is also the current stress test being planned. This type of test can not be done without the participation of the weekend tester.
I know this has gone a bit long, and if you are still here reading then maybe I actually said something compelling to you. What I was trying to look at here, in the most objective a way possible, is the way humanity uses the internet, and our SW forums, to create uproar and unrest. I have no idea the percentage of people that participate in trolling and flaming, but I do know that a small group can make a huge impact. And, currently, the impact is that the game forums are becoming burdensome to visit. It is difficult to find a thread that has not been visited by the troll. I don’t think it’s Bioware’s complete responsibility to fix this. They set up the rules that we can post within. Now it is up to us as participants to help point out when a post has gone over the line. This will make it so Bioware can address the issue. If we do not participate in the policing of our own community, then we have no right to complain about how it has become invaded by the troll.
You can follow Rosie on Twitter at @Dawnsrose. You can also contact her directly via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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