Thursday, November 19, 2009

Online Forums, opinions and time.

People who know me in person tend to acknowledge that I am the same in-person as online. Personally I count that as a blessing and a compliment. Working in the gaming industry for the past eight years I've been to a number of conventions all over the US and many of my "online friends" have become more like "real friends" because of it.

That said, I have met a great number of people online and in-person that drive me absolutely batty.

A bit of background.
I grew up in a very strict household in Texas. There was no such thing as arguments, excuses, debates, explanations or anything of the sort. Not for me. Between parents maybe...while they were married...but never with me. Speak when spoken to and "No excuses" was it. There was never a good explanation...those were just excuses.

When I grew older I rebelled and went my own way. Honestly I don't know how I still have any friends from the 80's and 90's. I was an argumentative asshole. After two tours in the military (two separate branches) I learned to handle things a bit better...but I was still very much not a person who would be silenced. By GOD I WILL be heard! Nobody will shut me up! I also learned an appreciation for other people that I didn't have before.

While I had been silenced and now refused to be set aside, shut up or dismissed...I wouldn't allow it to happen to others either...least of all by my doing.

Opinions became more and less important. Good conversation, good debate with people with open minds or at least not entirely closed ones became important.

In the gaming industry there are a number of forums. Online you can find a forum for everything. Several usually. I used to subscribe to several and fought battles with trolls regularly. Now I don't.

I guess at some point I just ran out of interest. Not in my hobbies, work or things I'm interested in (I still have difficulty admitting any "fandom" as it has such a negative connotation.)

I'm a busy guy. I'm also a selfish motherfucker when it comes to my time. I work a lot. Freelancers usually do. At least the ones that do it full-time. I work a regular work day on contracted work, and squeeze in additional work for nights and weekends. That leaves me little time for what I love: games. I try and get in a weekly RPG session and maybe play on the Xbox360 a couple nights a week after work. My weekends are usually tied up with either work or X360 or painting miniatures. That's about it.

What I have little time for is online forums.

Often the forums are filled to the brim with eager fans with strong opinions who have no other venue to be heard. Forums are a haven for Trolls, who have nothing better to do than make trouble and argue. They have sad little lives with no personal power, so they take it from others by being a cockbag to others online. In "the old days" you would simply come home, holler at the wife and kids, kick the dog and drink a beer and watch Monday Night Football. In the internet era, they go online and beat up on other fans.

You get these people who have shitty jobs where they are told what to do and they have no say-so, no power and they chafe at it. Their lives are going nowhere and they can't get away with arguing with their boss/ spouse/ kids or people they go to the internet where they are anonymous and act like a complete twat to whoever crosses their path. Sad really.

This of course is a complete over-generalization.
You also have people with an agenda to push, or an opinion to validate. You also have what I call the silent majority who come and go who I think just come along to see what's up, get some info, and are never heard from again. If you look at any forum the ratio of "members" to "active members" is almost always skewed. I always feel bad for the poor bastard who comes online to ask a question or post an opinion on something he's excited be curb-stomped by some "active member" asshole who needed someone new to shit on. I digress.

To be honest, most people don't want to have to think. Especially they don't want to have to RE-think a position/ opinion/ agenda. They want validation. A pat on the head and an agreement. Yes-men. Oh they rarely admit it, but in this age of doing more with less, budget crunches, stress, short attention spans, as well as a changing culture of political correctness and social softness...people are still getting chewed out but not able to handle it.


20 years ago it was far more common to get an ass-chewing at work and we were inured to it. Now we have this feeling of oppression. "They can't talk to me like that, I'll call HR and complain. This is a Hostile Work Environment!" What happens? People come home and pass their feelings of oppression on to others.

It's human nature to complain. I was an Infantryman. I don't think anyone bitches as much about their job as Infantrymen. There is this deep seated need to vent. Your job/ marriage/ life want to vent. Many people feel hurt by how their days (lives) have turned out. Unfortunately many pass this on to others. Not only to they complain, but they form defensive opinions and theories to justify themselves. Misery loves company. Misery creates many bullies...especially online.

You know what? I'm not that kind of guy. I love my job. I'm not oppressed. I go (well...went) on forums to chit chat with other fans and be helpful. On forums such as RPGnet...I have no place. Honestly it is SO overflowing with loud opinionated assholes with no interest other than giving grief, arguing, pushing an agenda or otherwise spreading negative shite that I really just don't have the time for it. Same is true with many RPG sites.

Hobby sites (minis stuff) tend to be a little better as long as you stick to hobby-related stuff. Stay the hell away from any sort of rules discussion (where the rules lawyers reign supreme and can argue to their black little heart's content) or fluff discussion (where everyone has a set opinion and will never flex from it).

Pretty slim pickens, huh?

I'm an opinionated guy, just like anyone else. I think what sets me apart is that I try exceedingly hard to be objective, listen as much as I speak and remain respectful of the opinions of others. What sets me on fire is the guys who are completely disrespectful of the opinions of others. I have a happy life and I like to share it. I get tired of miserable people and their negative crap...and their willingness to spread it in order to make themselves feel better.

Opinions are like assholes...everyone has one and they are all equally stinky.
When it comes down to it, your opinion is no more, or no less important and or valid than mine (and vice versa).

Facts are different, but most folks seem to pose their opinions like facts. Blegh. Whatever.

Like I said, I'm a busy guy. My time is limited and I'm very selfish about it. I simply have no time or patience for online tom-foolery. RPG forums just have little to offer. Occasionally some good material comes up (like on RPGnet regarding stolen/ "used without permission" artwork for publications. Very important for someone like me! Unfortunately I had to dig through 20+ pages of ranty arguments and legalese over whether the subject could be brought up and arguing over who can tell whom to shut up.

Yes, I read the whole thing. I'm also a reviewer. I ALWAYS read the whole thing. I can't stand the idea of writing or even worse...commenting about something I haven't fully absorbed.

The point is, 20+ pages of thread for maybe one page of real data. The meat. I got one page of good material, one headache, and an urge for whiskey and 6:30 AM.

Now tell me that is worth it.


Matthew James Stanham said...

Heh, heh; forum goers do indeed have a tendency to present their opinions as facts, and it is interesting for me because before I found my way to these forums I was inclined to do exactly the same, something about the medium of casual conversation versus the written word seems to require that the latter needs a much clearer disclaimer when unsupported statements are made.

Is it mainly ass-holes being ass-holes? Quite possibly, there are a great many on the internet, and it is easy to forget that it attracts a subsection of society, rather than society in general, and that is just as true within whatever hobby subgroup a given forum is devoted to.

I find forums and other forms of on-line interaction (like blogs, for instance) very addictive, and breaking my interest in them has been a challenge in recent years, partly because I am a bit compulsive obsessive completionist, meaning I will seek to read every post within self established boundaries...

I also strive to get the best out of forums, and they can really be an amazing nexus of information, but there are also issues of signal to noise ratios, forum life cycles, and tendency for groups to form and splinter off.

At what point does it become no longer worth it? I am none too sure at this stage, but it must be somewhere between "time put in" and "benefits accrued". I feel increasingly confident that the day is shortly coming where I am going to put almost a complete kabosh on my forum going. Will I be better off? Maybe.

Jeff said...

I went through a phase (I think it was a phase) where I checked in on several forums. RPG related as well as 40k stuff. I'm not sure where the tipping point was or what all contributed to it (did I just get busier?) but I do know that at some point I just realized I was putting in more work and not getting anything (well...much) back except heartburn.

I think at one point I believed that I could "change things" and "make a difference" in raising the bar (as I saw it) as far as signal to noise went. I'm not sure if that was arrogance on my part or not. Maybe it was.'s hard to stop/slow the wave of negativity that people project anonymously, comfortably. There's a lot of misery out there and people want to vent or dish it out (misery loves company) and I can't say it'll ever stop. The best I can do is either a cost or simply limit my exposure to it...which is the more selfish way to do it (which I've chosen apparently).

Louis Porter Jr. said...

Don't you know the internet is a danger place like a back alley on the West side of Baltimore, minus the crack. Be careful out there and just shoot first and lrt god sort it out.