Why are official WoW forums so crap?

In my guild forums, I just read this reply. It struck me. We’d been talking about how the official forums are a fairly pointless place to post, or to try resolving anything, or to complain even.

I wrote this:

You can’t win fights on the internet when its a forum full of people who want to bully others.

A guildmate Rotnronnie replied:

Why is it that we have to go to external forums to interface with the intelligent yet non-elitist subset of the wow community?

Does forum moderation need to be run as an autocracy?

Can’t it be decentralised to an entrusted group of regular posters?

What struck me is that question: why hasn’t Blizzard delegated some moderation of their forums to the community? You could allow people some moderation rights, such as locking threads. You’d have some policies around behaviour, maybe trolling too, and simply get it to be enforced by a larger team than the official community managers.

It wouldn’t be simple at all. Setting it up would take a right proper effort. Policies devised, that’s visible to us, but hidden would be the policies for moderators: how to moderate, what’s acceptable, what’s not. How to complain to official Blizzard staff if you think the volunteer moderator was wrong, and so on.

Blizzard could do that though.

So, they’re smart. They’d have thought of this and decided against it. Why haven’t they done it?

Possible answers:

  1. they think the forums are fine as-is (unlikely)
  2. the cost/benefit equation doesn’t stack up (likely, no tangible benefit, all cost, only intangible gains)
  3. their forum technology has weak permission structures, so doesn’t delegate power well (likely)
  4. they will do it in the future (possible)
  5. they do not want volunteers to be subjected to the vitriol of the official forum-trolls (very likely).

I don’t know the answer. It’s an interesting question though.

Another reason this question comes up is because of my recent foray into Allods Online. I still really like that game, and they fixed the cash shop pricing, but I’m not playing it at the moment because I got into my druid alt.

Allods’ botched the PR of their initial cash shop pricing is the worst PR disaster I’ve seen, or heard of, for a product of significant value (~$12M or more). Not only did they get the pricing wrong, they didn’t announce the pricing was coming, then when it was atrocious they were silent for days. They’re just silent, no official voice even saying “we’re working on it” for days.

They do have delegated forum mods (called ‘Astral Scholars’) on the Allods’ official forums. They’re volunteers. They too got torn a new one when the pricing was bad, as if somehow they were (a) to blame (b) complacent or (c) implicitly retarded because they asked everyone to calm down.

Allods’ might have given a private briefing to the Scholars, but I don’t think so as there was no evidence of it, so the poor buggers were left out on a limb to try calming down the screaming geeks.

Fascinating. Organisations so easily fail at the basics.

On the subject of customer interaction, I had to get my authenticator unlocked yesterday. I’d done too many wrong passwords somehow, maybe international keyboard or something screwy. The queue was an hour long. I had to hang up a few times. Third attempt, whilst building lego with my four-year old son the phone at my side on speaker, I finally got through. They have been flooded with compromised accounts (not mine, I’m OK) because the phishing attempts are so plentiful now and that clever man-in-the-middle hack would have got some results too.

The chap was really helpful and friendly, fixed me up, made sure I was able to log on before dropping the call. My son got a bit impatient; we hadn’t finished building the Power Miner yet. :)

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12 comments to Why are official WoW forums so crap?

  • Ténacity
    Twitter: xxiceman720xx

    Is it possible that Blizzard is afraid to appoint moderators from the community due to the fact that Blizzard is trying  to minimize lawsuits? I guess it goes into the “training category”. Blizzard can’t hold some guy who has been loyal forum poster moderator responsible for abuse, misuse of power, or really anything without a contract. Can’t get contracts without confirming age 18+ and real name. There is just too much money involved to risk an appointed forum moderator jeopardizing the largest MMO in history.
    I’m 100% sure it has to do with time, effort, risk, and ultimately money. And I’m also 100% sure if WoW was owned by a smaller company that wasn’t so large and “corporate” they would have a better forum.
    I don’t know much about the wow forum other than that it is unreliable for the most part and is full of young adolescents with enormous egos. All of the moderators “blues” are in my opinion baby sitters and parents.  Its likely BLizz treats the forums as a playground for the children to play/fight and only have moderators step in to avoid serious conflict which could lead to lawsuit.
    Maybe when cataclysm hits they will reset the forums and appoint some  non paid moderators.

  • I think it’s a bit of #2 and a lot of #5, except that when factoring the cost you have to think about liability as suggested by Ténacity.
    Even on good external forums, I’ve seen people who I thought of as upstanding flip out one day and do a 180 on their treatment of others.  I suppose we all have a breaking point.  Blizzard may be afraid of trying to judge people as qualified to moderate based solely upon their performence while not under pressure / attack from the trolls.

    One point that may not have been made – they do delegate some moderation, in that they have the “report post” button.  I’m not sure how many of the intellient, non-elitist forum crowd make use of it.  Perhaps the technology improvement that Blizzard should look into on the forums is karma tied in with this button.  The more karma you have (because you report posts that Blizzard agrees should be locked), the greater power you have to auto-lock posts via this button.
    No one person could lock a post on their own, but if enough people with a good reporting track record vote to, the post is at placed in a mostly-locked state to be confirmed by a blue.  At least that way the troll threads would die quickly, even if the ultimate fate (locking) is the same.
    This would also protect the forums from one person with high karma flipping out and trying to lock legit threads – a large group of people would have to collude to do so, and evidence of that would be pretty easy to piece together.

  • The answer is; none of the above.
    In a forum as large as the WoW one, you want to keep it as open to players as possible. Giving power to some visitors over others does not grant openess or even a better forum.
    Case in point: mmo-champion.
    Dispite it being and incredibly fantastic news site, the forum there is a cess-pool of trolls and feeders and know-it-alls and all around horrible posters, with a few fantastic posters hidden somewhere in there.  He has even done more than you suggest Blizz should do when getting moderators. There is an app required to become commenter, and they each have their own moderating columns. All that this has generated is tiny kingdoms of dictators that either let troll post slide, or help flame, or in some cases even post the infamatory posts themselves.
    It is not a happy forum at all, dispite boubuilles best efforts.
    Blizz seems to have chosen the forum option of removing the worst trollers and deleting the worst posts and trying to keep it under control by repeating the code of conduct over and over again, thus still keeping the forums open to as many of their players as possible.
    Personally, I think they took the route that was the lesser of two evils.
     
    Interestingly enough this is the same problem that Wikipedia is facing these days. And long term, this problem of having moderators based on whom the other moderators agree on, is a huge problem for wikipedia. I realise that this is beyond the scope of your post, but you might find their problems – of having fewer and fewer people handle more and more of the content on their site – very interesting.

    • Gravity
      Twitter: gravitydk

      That is interesting indeed. On mmo-c, though, if he wanted a different standard, he could simply make that the policy. He could say “no personal attacks, no ascii pictures, no stupid blah blah, etc” and enforce it. However, to appeal to the mass market perhaps his business decision was to be very relaxed, and open.

      Wikipedia is a fascinating example with their revert-wars and other problems. Yet that’s a site which has very clear, unambiguous policies on everything. I think their problem is more about people disagreeing on what a ‘fact’ is and two camps arguing it out without conclusion. Now that truly is a hard problem to solve.

  • Forums and community sites lie along a spectrum ranging from the paragon of highly-moderated debate, Elitist Jerks, through the official forums down to somewhere like MMO-C. Where they lie is mostly determined by the expectations set up over a long period in the past.
    Communities and their expectations of behaviour change very slowly; you won’t clean up somewhere like MMO-C overnight simply by appointing more mods and banning the worst offenders, you need to encourage the good posters to return as well to raise the average. The official forums intrinsically attract a pretty wide range of posters, because that’s where the Blues live, but with external sites people will generally feel more free to up sticks and move elsewhere if the quality goes down.
     
    Back to the original topic, I’d also probably agree with Ténacity’s point in general. With community-run sites like MMO-C or EJ there is an expectation that they will also be managed on a best-effort basis by that same community, and you’re a bit more forgiving; with an “official” site people have higher expectations of the quality control of the moderation: it needs to be totally transparent, consistent and appealable. As an analogy, you might forgive the person selling home-grown fruit with the odd spot or bruise, but you expect the supermarket to have better quality control systems in place, and to get your money back if they fail.

  • Dogmeat

    As far as your authenticator, that is really, really interesting.
    I’ve had my authenticator get locked out twice in the last month.  The first time there was actually a blizzard tech in the forums unlocking accounts for people. He (or she) unlocked my authenticator for me without talking on the phone or getting any other information.  The second time I waited on hold for 1:15.
    Today they’re doing maintenance on the authentication servers.  Coincidence?  Perhaps the issue isn’t just fat fingers, but an issue with the servers where they’re erroneously either locking people out or messing the actual validation up occasionally.

  • I think the forums are modded a little bit: the really bad threads and posts mysteriously disappear.
    I don’t know why the forums aren’t modded more than they are, but I get the impression that Blizzard likes having a place where players can say whatever and feel like they (the players) have freedom of speech/feeling of being in control/trade chat after hours.

  • Kuren

    I think the current situation is probably ideal.  Having third party forums allows you to focus on the issues and topics you want.  As DK tanks we mostly are talking between ourselves here.  The official forums are really a way for Blizzard to get feedback.  Of course the signal-to-noise ratio is low but even if a large number of customers are immature or unreasonable, they would still be a bad company not to allow them to post.  They had to draw a line somewhere and they did.  I just think it would be impossible to police those forums without either restricting it to a small group and/or having huge costs in time and resources.
    Just think of all the ridiculous talk in your server’s trade chat.  All of this talk just propagates what sounds like children talking or complaining.  It’s going to show up on the forums too.  I just show up to play the game and have a good time.  I ignore the less desirable parts.  I’m sure Blizzard employees do too.  It’s a huge game and any software engineers or even people working in business can attest that mistakes will happen.  They don’t need people complaining non-stop every time something goes wrong but it will happen anyway.
     

  • The big thing about the official forums is that Blizzard knows exactly who every poster is. You cannot post on their forums without logging in with your registered details. They know all your billing details, and have the power to suspend or cancel your account. That goes against the grain..I much prefer this type of environment.

  • Cloee

    I’ve been playing an MMO that had exactly this feature and it is way worse. You should be careful what you are wishing for. Everblue‘s concerns are justified.

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