Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Forum Privacy

Yes, I know my title is boring.  I also know my post here is a bit disjointed.  Bear with me.

Blizzard has sounded the death knell to its official World of Warcraft forums by announcing that they will be changing them to require that posters display their real names.

Do you know what will happen to the forums? They will be dominated by those who have nothing to lose--no money, no reputation, no career--and those with more experienced (and usually more civil) voices will stay away. People who work in PR, people who hold security clearances, single mothers, etc., will not want others to be able to do a search on them and find out they were posting on the relative merits of various spell rotations. Many people who have maintained stickies have stated they will no longer be maintaining them. And there will still be trolls, just as there are still bullies in real life--people who do not care that they are being silly or rude, even when you look them in the face. People with real questions will move to unofficial forums, where they can ask questions in relative anonymity and not be embarrassed because of their supposed ignorance.

I learned long ago that trolls are a part of forums, whatever forums they are. You just ignore them. Recognize them for who they are and put them mentally in the appropriate slot. Remember that your main audience on a forum is the large amount of people silently reading. You will never be able to change the mind of the person arguing and baiting you, so you present your argument to the ones who are really thinking about what is being said. This is the advantage of having a low-level, cross-server alt on which to post. You can present your arguments without ramifications in-game, and those whose opinions are worth having will consider your arguments on their merit and not base them upon the level of your avatar.

I find that the majority of the people who seem to support the change, by and large, are those who do not believe anyone will be able to pinpoint them by their names (too common) or who do not have much to lose (college students). Basically, they do not think they can be hurt by having their name plastered about in a gaming forum searchable by the public. They do not consider those who are vulnerable.

Someone on the WoW forums stated the following:  "The bad community of WOW now have a tool that is realid to harass the good members with."

I have to agree with this poster, poor grammar notwithstanding.  By requiring people to post using their real life names, Blizzard is, in essence, enforcing civility by the implied possiblity the poster could be looked up and harrassed in real life.

Blizzard posters say they realize that many people may quit the forums and they do not care.  If this proposed change goes live, I will be one of them.  I contributed, not prolifically, but fairly regularly, to the Guild Relations Forum and the Druid Forum.  I was probably the one really consistently civil person on the Gorgonnash forums.  I used other forums for convenient guides on other healing classes and answers to nitnoid questions.  But if I cannot post, I will not read, and this is a change I cannot tolerate.

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