Friday, May 23, 2014

How I Got Into Blogging (I Was Banned Twice)

Stubborn over at Sheep the Diamond convinced me to write this story.  It's admittedly not something I really wanted to write, but perhaps it'll prove interesting/useful/whatever to someone.

I actually wasn't involved in anything beyond the official forums/guild websites/class websites for the longest time -- until probably 2011/2012.  Granted, part of that was me quitting at the end of BC until the end of WotLK, but even then I was content to sometimes post stuff on the forums, chat on our guild site, and help advance theorycrafting for shadow priests.  I even wrote the original Elitist Jerks PvE thread for shadow priests.

If you ask me how I went from that to reading blogs, I really couldn't tell you.  My guess is that someone on EJ had a blog in their signature or something and I decided to check it out one day -- then things probably cascaded from there.  But even at that point I never entertained the idea of having a blog of my own.  I simply read and rarely commented, focusing more on other things.

During that time period I obviously became acquainted with a decent variety of blogs and had some favorites.  Some favorites were due to being related to my class/spec.  Others were just interesting.  And some were due to me respecting and admiring them.  But, as it turns out, I was wrong about two blogs in that last category.  Dreadfully wrong.

And so we hit a series of unfortunate events in fall 2012 that led to blacklisting two blogs and creating this blog.

Before we go any further I want to mention two things:

1, I am not going to use names in this post.  We'll just call them bloggers X and Y.

2, if I quote someone directly I have documented proof of that quote -- be it screenshot, email, or something else -- and am willing to provide it if it is claimed I am lying or something.  If I paraphrase then I do not have documented proof and am simply relaying the situation as best I can.

So what exactly happened?  We'll start with blogger X.

Blogger X has a comment policy that has the following bits (it's larger but I'm cutting it down to the important sections):
I know that the world consists of many different people, all of whom have different opinions. You’re welcome to share your viewpoints here, even if you disagree with me, but the instant your view and the way you express it at all infringes on my view/the views of others, that’s usually the line where I’ll remove your comment.


I’m happy to enter into discussion with anyone about darn near anything related to the World of Warcraft, but on my blog, it’s done on my terms — politely and with respect.
Seems reasonable enough, no?  Can disagree all you want as long as you're not a jerk about it.  Let's see how well that holds up.

Blogger X wrote a post about how they did NOT like the Dragon Soul nerfs, how nerfs were terrible for the game, etc.  I wrote the following as a response and tried to leave it as a comment on their blog.
First, I'm the GM of a 10 man heroic raiding guild that raids two nights a week (  We formed at the very end of WotLK and built up our roster during t11.  We killed Heroic Ragnaros about two months before 4.3 hit and killed Heroic Madness the day of the 10% nerf.  We had a 2% wipe at the 5% nerf which was heartbreaking.  After that, we went back and cleared the entire place at 0% nerf (we were 6/8H pre-nerf, for reference) to prove we could and because we were really annoyed with the rapid nerfs.  In short, if anything you'd think I'd be the most against nerfs because of our limited schedule and we want to beat the content at 0%.

But I'm not.  Well, I'm against the incredibly rapid nerfs of Dragon Soul, but I'm not against them in general.

The fundamental question to me is: what happens when you reach your limit?
In other words, what happens when a guild faces a boss it simply cannot defeat.  The raid team as a whole simply isn't skilled enough to beat the boss, even with gear from months of farming.  It simply won't make enough of a difference, the people just are not good enough.  To be clear, I am *not* talking about being able to overcome the boss with some extra gear in a few weeks (or even month or two).  It's a situation where you're wiping on Heroic Ultraxion at 20% and you can only get 15% more DPS from gear eventually.

A guild in such a situation has two options:
1, replace people.  Easier said than done, especially when friends are involved.  And again, we're not talking a top world guild here.  Attracting capable recruits can be incredibly hard and drama can easily arise from someone being told "Sorry, you seriously just need to pull 5% more DPS or we can't beat this boss."
2, stop trying.  In other words, be content with being 1/8H in Dragon Soul for 6+ months.

The former breaks social bonds that Blizzard wants to preserve in these guilds because it's one of the strongest ways to keep people subscribed.  The latter gets people to quit the game since there's no forward momentum.  Neither of these solutions is ideal.  Blizzard wants these less skilled players to be able to still get a feeling of progression instead of saying "Well, we came as far as we can, might as well quit until the next raid tier."  So they slowly (hopefully) but steadily nerf the raid.  In theory, people who are serious get done with everything before nerfs hit and anyone who wasn't done wouldn't have finished anyway (again, in theory).

This obviously does have the effect of it being less respectable to finish a tier only partly.  My guild, in the midst of being formed, only went 7/13H in tier 11, but we were proud of it.  Had we formed in Dragon Soul (or in future tiers), there would be an expectation that we'd be 8/8H by the end.  But I think Blizzard's concerned with the guilds that would simply give up without nerfs since they'd literally hit a brick wall (for THEIR guild) and potentially quit.  So Blizzard tries to let them see more content via slow nerfs.

If the DS nerfs had started at the beginning of May, would your guild have been as upset (that would have given you 5 months instead of 2 months at 0%, and yes, the fact that those 2 months included holidays really sucked)?

Note that no one is really up in arms about people clearing t11 in t12 or t13 gear.  I don't really see the slow nerfs as anything different as a general principle, just a matter of timing.  Exceptions like Herald of the Titans and Challenge modes are just that, exceptions where difficulty is effectively locked in place.  But that's not the case for the vast majority of the game and I'm not sure it should be the case for raiding.

Do you think challenge mode type scaling should be applied to older raid tiers within the same expansion (aka, scale down players to 502 max for heroic vaults or something similar)?  If not, why not? 
I don't know about you, but that seems to be a pretty reasonable comment to me.  So what happened?

Well, first, blogger X's spam filtering system banned me for trying to post the comment, claiming it was spam.  Presumably this was due to length or the link, not sure.  I tried again on a different account, same result.  Tried posting some other stuff like "Testing, does this work?" with mixed success -- it worked on new accounts but the old ones were still banned.

Note that the ones eaten as spam were shredded, gone, erased.  The stuff like "Testing, does this work?" was put into a moderation queue (and I was notified of each result).

"Well, this is annoying" I thought.  So I contacted blogger X via email explaining the issue.  Got this response:
Hi there, Balkoth. I apologize for the issues you've been having. I've
taken a quick look and don't see any comments listed as "spam" that
look legitimate.

What I did was approve one of your four (!) follow-up comments, the
one using the name Sarm and as the email.
Using that name and email combo should allow you to post.

Again, sorry for the troubles. Hope that helps. I'm off to bed as it's
now 4:30am!
As you can see, blogger X was confused about what my exact issue was but responded politely trying to help.  We sent a few more emails back and forth before X understood that some comments were flat out being eaten and not even being sent to the moderation queue -- not something you really expect to happen, right?  So X said:
Well, I'm puzzled. Can you email me the comment? I'll try to post it
myself when I get back home.

Again, sorry for the issues.
Still good, trying to work this out.  So I emailed X the comment I posted above and waited to see the result.



So I emailed X a day later with a follow-up:
I was wondering if you might have an update on this.  Noticed the comment wasn't posted on the blog, not sure if you're having the same difficulties I had or if it's a different issue.


Three days later I sent a second follow-up:
I was curious about the state of the comment that you asked I email you.  I noticed it still wasn't up and you've made two posts since then (including one post mocking a rather inflammatory comment someone tried to leave).  Is there an issue?


Now, we know two facts here:

1, X REALLY cares about comments.  Massive comment policy, moderation queue, the whole nine yards.  So it seems rather unlikely X just *forgot* about this.

2, X was quick to respond to the earlier emails and quite helpful -- right up to the point where they saw the comment and realized I disagreed with them.

This makes it very difficult for me to draw a conclusion other than X is a lying hypocrite who claims to allow polite disagreement while refusing to allow such comments.  Who also effectively banned me from their blog since A, their system auto-banned me, B, X never undid this, and C, X refused to post my comment.

So I blacklisted X and never returned to their site except to copy part of their comment policy for this post.  I was thoroughly disappointed -- I had thought this was a reasonable minded and fair person who I had been reading for some time but they showed their true colors when someone disagreed with them.

And as you might guess from my previous note near the top I do have this entire email exchange as proof.

So that's one ban.  How about the second?

Blogger Y obviously runs a blog.  They're ex-military, married with at least one child.  They seemed to be a good person as well who got upset when people were jerks and weren't afraid to call out asshattery on their blog.  I admired them for that and thought they were a tremendous boon to WoW -- the kind of player that shows not all WoW players are basement dwelling jackasses.

I had read their blog for a while and one day noticed they were going to do an ICC run (this was during the mid/end of Cataclysm) -- so I offered to go along and help in an email:
I'm not sure if I've ever actually posted on your blog, but it's one of the ones I do follow and enjoy reading.  I'd be happy to go with you on the Icecrown Citadel run tomorrow night at 6, with the caveat that I would need to leave at 7:20ish for my own raid at 7:30.  I don't need anything of any kind from there, but I thought it might be an interesting experience if you were short a body.  Add Battletag Balkoth#1847 if you'd like (regardless of whether you have room in ICC, even).
Went on the run, was fun, got this email afterward:
Thanks again for coming along, Balkoth. it was a lot of fun!
That was October 29th.  The first post on this blog was November 17th.  So what went wrong?

Well, a week or so later I left a comment on their blog.  I don't even remember what the blog post was about nor do I remember what my comment said -- it wasn't anything earth-shattering or a thesis or anything.  Checked back the next day to see that it was...gone.  Not only that, but I was banned from posting.

I still had Y on my Battletag in-game, so I whispered them to ask what happened.  I don't have the beginning of the conversation but I do think I have most of it.  To keep this relatively SFW I've censored two expletives which were used in a good way in this case -- you can fill in the blanks with something nasty and you'll get the gist.
Y: It doesn't really matter at this point.  The comments are gone and clearly your tone and the way you said things offended me and <my spouse's name>.  That's enough for me to carry away from it.

Balkoth: I see.  I actually discovered this when I tried to respond on the brawler's guild post with some information from a recent blue post that answered something you wondered about in your post.  Noticed my comment didn't appear.  Checked on the other post, noticed those were gone.  You know what made me really notice your blog?  The rant you did about the <expletive> who was an <expletive> to Navi.  Because I completely agreed with you and found it refreshing to see others thing the same way.

Y: Look, the thing is, my blog is a personal place where I post things.  I never object to anyone posting disagreement, but I draw the line at things that get personal.  I'm sorry that you didn't feel what you meant to say warranted it, but what came across most definitely did, since the comment that did was originally held by <my spouse's name> as unapproved until I could look at it and see if I agreed.  Usually I'll just let stuff through, but in this case I must have thought it was directly personal.  If you didn't intend that, I can understand that.  It can be difficult to get a tone of voice accurately in type.  But, and this is important to me...I am very busy.  I was putzing around in game while waiting for something in real life to be ready.  It is right now.  So I have to leave.  I will be on again later, and if you'd like to pick up the conversation again then, that's fine with me.

Balkoth: All right, and I'd like to, yes.  Have a good afternoon.
So we already have an interesting peculiarity: a comment that was apparently so offensive it warranted banning me but Y doesn't even remember what it said.  Just that it clearly offended them.

But whatever, Y seems willing to talk about it and understands sometimes tone can be an issue on the internet.  I look forward to talking again to Y in the evening and log off myself.  Later than evening I log on and check to see if Y is online again.


Y had removed me from Battletag.



So I think "what can I do to convince Y they have the wrong impression of me because I'd like to try to salvage this?"  And I remember what drew me to their blog in the first place -- a rant about how some people were being jerks to clueless/weaker players.  Something came to mind.

A few months earlier I met a random guy in LFD who was new to the game -- helped him realize he shouldn't quest in Duskwood at level 44, gave him advice when he asked for it, helped him out when he ran into trouble, etc.  Turns out he caught on to making gold fast with the AH and wanted to buy a Heroic Ragnaros mount.  I helped him arrange a buy with a guild on his server.  Then after waiting like three months for the day the guild told him "We're not selling to you anymore, taking a friend of ours instead, bye!"

If you make a promise like that as a guild, you don't break it.  Especially not after the guy has been waiting patiently for three months (and notably NOT making other arrangements to buy the mount).  So I made a thread on their server forum to call out the guild for being a bunch of jerks.

Which seemed like something Y would love -- "Oh, hey, Balkoth is doing the same thing I did by calling out jerks on their behavior and defending people getting taken advantage of."  So I sent them an email saying "Thought you might find this interesting" and linked the thread.

Then I get a response back (sadly I cannot find this email exchange, I really wish I had it).

Y accused me of claiming I would try to get them in trouble in a public spectacle, that some people might be cowed by such a threat but not them, that they were ex-military and not afraid of me, that I could bring it on, and that if I wanted to play thug on the internet then "Maybe you could even create your own blog, carve out a public venue to share your opinions" because I was banned from their blog, presumably.  That's the only fragment I have verbatim from their rant.

So I sent an email back explaining how that wasn't what I meant at all, how I was showing that I too was defending people being taken advantage of and calling out jerks on their behavior -- just like they were.


No response.

I decided to make a desperate last ditch attempt.  I made a character on Y's server, earned 1000g, and sent it to Y with a message saying something along the lines of "Look, you have this all wrong.  Just give me five minutes on Vent to talk about this and here's 1000g for your time and proof of my good intentions."


No response.

So I blacklisted Y as well.

Note that this behavior is in stark contrast to like 99%+ of blogs -- for a very long time, those were the only two blogs I ever blacklisted (a month or so ago I added a third).  Because I'm willing to disagree and listen to someone who I can respect, but I wanted nothing to do with lying hypocrites like X and flat-out jerks like Y.

So there's my story.  I got banned from one blog for posting polite disagreement.  I got banned from another blog for...some reason I still don't know and got taunted that maybe I should make my own blog.

Well, I did!


  1. Wow, you're much more tolerant than me. My approach is more in the lines of the "big city citizen", i.e. "why should I waste my time to deal with your stupidity/incompetence when there are another million interesting people at hand"?

    As a result I tend to ignore/blacklist a lot quicker, without taking the time to exactly find what went wrong. A harsh reply I ignore, it can be the heat of the moment, but if the thing get systematic then it's goodbye time. What I mean is that I can understand that someone can have some impulsive reaction because they had a bad day, they are tired or anything, but just like *I* apologize for my asshole behavior in those situations, I expect them to do the same without me going out of my way to kiss their asses. So if they don't, well, good bye and good riddance, it's not like I'll be running out of interesting people/blogs/games/etc anytime soon.....

    And BTW I actually think that in most cases the root cause is the one I mentioned, i.e. someone has a bad day and replies harshly to a message. On the internet we lack all the body language, you are what you write, but in a message a big part of the content comes from the interpretation of the reader. People should realize that and be more careful when they react..... or even better, be ready to do a 180 turn when they realize that all that has happened is a simple misunderstanding.

    1. It comes with the territory of being a guild master, have be very patient/tolerant!

      And yeah, this mainly stung me because I respected these two people prior to these incidents -- weren't just random blogs I saw for the first time.

      "People should realize that and be more careful when they react..... or even better, be ready to do a 180 turn when they realize that all that has happened is a simple misunderstanding."

      Exactly. On the internet, especially if nothing important is at stake, you should try to interpret things as generously as you can, not immediately jump to the worst possible conclusions. So much is missing in terms of tone/body language.

  2. Well, that is an interesting way to get started, I admit. Though I have to wonder did you start the blog because you wanted to make your opinion heard and couldn't get it out on those big bloggers posts - I suspect it was.

    As a small time blogger that doesn't really say much of anything except what's on my mind. Sometimes, words are hard to interpret - but incidentally have you noticed that those who preach about tolerance are often the least tolerant of us all?

    1. "Though I have to wonder did you start the blog because you wanted to make your opinion heard and couldn't get it out on those big bloggers posts - I suspect it was."

      To some degree, yes. Perhaps I was naive, but prior to those incidents I felt like if I ever had an opinion on something I could leave it in a comment...but those incidents opened my eyes to censorship and just how awful people you respected could be. And how I could be flat out banned for expressing my opinion in a reasonable way.

      Perhaps it was from coming from places like the WoW forums and Elitist Jerks -- I expressed my opinion openly (and reasonably) in both places and never had any issues. You never got banned or censored for disagreement.

      But then these happened and...yeah. And I strongly suspect based on your previous comments that you know who they are, too.

      "but incidentally have you noticed that those who preach about tolerance are often the least tolerant of us all?"

      Sometimes, yes.

      You'll note I don't have a comment policy. Nor does Stubborn. Nor does Rohan. Nor do you. Etc.

      The implicit assumption is that we'll delete anything truly awful (like a comment that's nothing but expletives or something) but otherwise we're willing to let just about anything go.

      I think it's more of a "If you have a five paragraph long comment policy, that's a massive warning sign" deal, though. Because otherwise you could get by with saying something like "Don't be a jerk" or even nothing at all.

  3. That is the longest, most intriguing reason for starting a blog I have ever read. Usually it's along the lines of "I think I write good, so hear is moar blogs." My origin story dates back to the 90s, but it was similar to the above line. I wonder if blogger x or y has read any of your blog posts and/or commented anonymously?

    1. It's entirely possible they have, not like I try to track everyone's IPs or something.

  4. One of the reasons I started blogging was because I got a temp ban from Blizzard's forums for posting a matter of fact comment that I thought no one could possibly take offense at (it had to do with keybinds versus clicking) and yes, it still rankles even though it was years ago.
    I'm too lazy to have a commenting policy, if people wish to disagree with me online then they are more than welcome too. It's that potential which makes things interesting but then I like PvP.

    1. Apparently some people like echo chambers more than they like interesting, sadly. I like different perspectives because maybe I missed something and should change my mind. Won't ever be able to fix my mistake if I don't listen.

  5. As my first introduction to your blog, this was an intriguing read. I wasn't aware of such a policy for commenting apart from removing overly offensive comments. To this day I've only removed a couple of comments from one individual after they asked me to do so (since it wasn't relevant to the post).

    I recognise one of the bloggers you're talking about and it's true, sometimes it's hard to get your tone or sentiment across. In fact, it's the reason someone remove me from when they misunderstood something I wrote in the first place - I guess it's to be expected when you don't use names in your post but the people who know me well know who I'm talking about, even if these other acquaintances don't.

    1. Funny how "overly offensive comments" can mean very different things to different people, eh?

      But yeah -- I wouldn't remove a comment unless like 75% of it consisted of expletives or it was literally nothing but insults (like the entire comment being "your mother is fat and you smell" or something).

      Which blogger do you recognize, out of curiosity? X or Y?

      And you'd think more people would understand that tone is hard on the internet and give people the benefit of the doubt -- or at least be willing to listen to an explanation. Sadly not as true as you would hope.

  6. Personally, the discussion is the best part. It allows you to understand things from another persons point of view. Not everyone plays the game the same way so sometimes it can be hard to understand why others feel a certain way about a topic.

    1. Hence why I'm interested in talking to a wide variety of people whose perspectives are massively different from my own, yeah.