However, the discussion became so hot that I somehow felt a bit uncomfortable following it. I know for sure that I would have felt a bit overwhelmed if there had been some 100 comments on some other blog, which all agreed on that Larísa at the Pink Pigtail Inn is completely wrong.
We’ve seen this kind of animated discussions a couple of times before in the WoW blogosphere – sometimes even causing blogs to shut down.
Cynical or senitive
And I can see this from two sides. One part of me is very straight forward, boarding to cynical about this.
As a blogger I think you need to develop some sort of skin. Not everyone will have barkskin, but if you take the slightest disagreement as the end of the world and a personal attack, blogging is probably not for you. If you speak up publicly there will be people who listen and not everyone will love you. That’s how it is. Live with it or leave.
But another part of me can understand why bloggers get emotional. Many of us are blogging in a quite personal style, leaving out, if not our names, at least our thoughts, our personalities, our emotions and our creativity on a level that is more intimate than I think many readers understand. We blog soul naked. We invest ourselves quite heavily – probably more than what is sensible – in our blogs and our internet personas. And when we’re under attack, it can easily feel as if it’s your person that is attacked – not necessarily the idea you might have tossed out a bit randomly, without getting every single word perfectly right.
I’ve been writing professionally for some 20 years by now. Receiving feedback – including negative criticism – is a natural part of my job. And it has never ever affected me, probably because I’m so confident in what I’m doing. I know my job and I’ve had superiors and colleges to give me support if needed.
As a blogger on the other hand, you only have a vague idea about what you’re doing, why you’re doing it and how good you are at it. You’re questioning yourself and the results of your work constantly. And if the readers turn against you, you stand alone. There’s no one around who will cheer you up and help you look forward, no shoulder to cry on, no friend to lend you a ear if you need to just whine a little bit.
Why discussions are good
Does this mean that most bloggers don’t like discussions? Heck no! At least I love it. If there would never ever be anyone who disagreed with me, I’d be seriously worried about my blog, because it would imply that the content was pale, blend, completely uninteresting or too mainstream to catch the interest of anyone. I'd rather see people think for themselves and disagree with me, than fall asleep from pure boredom.
It’s in the good discussions a blog will sparkle and come alive. If you avoid everything that could be touchy and create a friction, your blog will most likely fade away into oblivion eventually. And above all –it will be way less fun to write. There’s nothing as fun as to put out a well formulated angry rant!
Showing a little bit of temperament once in a while isn’t bad; it’s one of the essential ingredients of most blogs.
I had a bit of a discussion here at the inn this week, when I posted about why I think accountwide achievements is a bad idea. A lot of readers disagreed with me. And for instance Lume wrote a couple of very long and elaborated comments where he argued for his sake. Did I get upset with Lume for that? Did he hurt my feelings? Absolutely not!
There were a couple of reasons for this. One is that we discussed this in a civilized way where we could listen to each others arguments, agreeing on that we could see this from two angles.
I could absolutely agree with much of what he said, as I often do in an argument. There isn’t any black and white, just gray nuances. Lume and I had ended up in different conclusions, where I would weight the pros and cons like 60-40 and he would put it the opposite way, 40-60. However I’m really glad and grateful when someone shares their point of view, even if they don’t agree with me. A good discussion in the comment section will give the readers a better and more balanced article, way better than it would have been if Lume hadn’t bothered to comment.
When it gets personal
The other reason why I didn’t mind arguing with Lume is that he kept his comments to the topic. He didn’t go personal about it. You see – trolls I can deal with without any problem. But if there’s anything I find it hard to handle calmly and detached, it’s when readers start to talk about me as a person and their expectations on me. “I’m disappointed with you…” “I used to like you and I’ve read you for such a long time, and now you’re doing this to me, I can’t believe it…” That kind of comments sometimes hurt me more than they should, especially when they’re not coming from our Mr “Anonymous”, but from someone whose nickname I recognize.
I have several issues with this kind of comments. One is that reading my blog is for free. I can understand if you write open letters to your travel agency, your government or your car salesman if they’ve somehow deceived you with their promises, where you express your “disappointment” with them. But to an amateur blogger? Exactly how could that kind of comments help to improve anything?
If you don’t like a blogger you previously used to enjoy, you can quietly stop reading without making a huge public affair about it. If you really want to tell the blogger about your disappointment – by all means, send him or her an e-mail and maybe you can sort it out. Eye to eye – that’s how I think you should take that kind of conversations. Not shouting it out over the rooftops in front of thousands of readers. Because I think that’s a rather ungrateful way to reward someone that you’ve enjoyed reading for free for such a long time.
Gevlon and Totalbiscuit
Then there’s of course an entirely different approach this. If there’s anyone who is used to get a lot of harsh comments, it’s Gevlon. And he just shrugs it off, saying that those anonymous punks can’t hurt you. They don’t know you, they can’t touch you. Letting them get to you is just a waste of energy.
A more extreme standpoint is the one of Totalbiscuit. He’s probably one of the most hated members of the WoW community, who gets entire threads dedicated to discuss his person in the WoW forums. A lot of hatered there going on, I’d say! Does he mind? Not the slightest. The more people talk about him, the better. It will give more clicks on his website, more viewers to his videos and in the end more incomes to him, because he gets money from ads.
How I handle criticism
We all have to find our own approach on how to handle criticism.
What I do is that I try to keep the discussion as civilized as possible in the comment section. If a comment has a tone of “personal attack” in it, I try to get too agitated about it, but answer as calmly as I can, not letting myself get dragged down on a sewer level. The only comments I delete is /unsubscribe, because it doesn’t add anything substantial. I think this works pretty well. There isn’t much drama going on here at the inn. I suppose our superb ale helps also, calming down our guests.
But if drama ever would appear and the bar guests would start to become violent, waving and calling their innkeeper names, I’d try to get some inspiration from Gevlon’s and Totalbiscuit's approach, not taking it too seriously.
In the end, as I’ve said many times before, we’re building sandcastles. It’s just pixels, opinions flying around in this twisted nether and within a few years all of this will be gone and forgotten. WoW as well as our blogs. Life will go on. It’s easy to forget that in the heat of the discussion.
Also, bear in mind that the shit storms we see around here is nothing to what other WoW bloggers have seen in the past. I tell you - nothing. Do you remember when I whined a little bit at that hunter podcast where they talked about the lack of good mage blogs? There were so many bad reactions, so much hatered towards BRK expressed after that, that I wrote him an e-mail and apologized for what I had caused. And you know what he replied?
"Never apologize for the reactions of The Mob. Listen, I've been through more flame-wars than all other WoW-bloggers put together,times two, and add 50. You're fine, I'm fine, everybody including the readers and commenters are fine. Well, Paladins aren't fine. But we have a plan for THEM. "
I couldn't have put it better myself.