Jeff Vogel: This Is Me Trolling You

Posted: January 6, 2011 in Misc.

Thanks to Twitter, I stumbled upon a blog post written by indie game developer, Jeff Vogel. The post was titled “Three Reasons Creators Should Never Read Their Forums.

Go ahead and read it. If anything, you’ll have the same reaction I did: You’ll laugh.

Ok you done?

Good.

I think Jeff here has a skewed point of view. On one hand, he has a forum where people can discuss his games and whatnot. But he doesn’t read it. In fact, the whole post is about why creators should NEVER read their forums!

I was about to write him a comment, but I figure I would just post my thoughts on here, since he will probably auto-delete my comment for “trolling.”

Customer service is the same, in ANY industry. Veterinary medicine (my field) is a hell of a lot different than software development, but the premise of customer service is exactly the same: Keep your customers happy, and they will keep paying you.

Of course, there will be trolls. Trolls exist in all forms of business. Here are my common troll complaints, in the veterinary field:

On Pricing: “You charge HOW MUCH for neutering?
On The Fact We Have The Word “Clinic” In Our Business Name: “You mean, you’re not free?
or
What do you mean I have to make an appointment?!
On Boarding: “What do you mean my pet needs to be vaccinated?
On Coming In For A Visit: “You mean I have to actually bring in my pet for you to diagnose him? THAT’S OUTRAGEOUS!
On Wearing Gloved For Aggressive Animals: “Fluffy doesn’t bite so you don’t need to use those!
On Vaccinating Pets: “Fluffy doesn’t go outside, so therefore, she doesn’t need to be vaccinated.
On Allergies: “My pet doesn’t go outside!
On Getting Medication Even Though We Haven’t Seen The Pet In 8 Years: “Why do you need to see my pet yearly to prescribe medication????

The list goes on and on and on, and people use more colorful ways to piss us off, make us feel like shit at the end of the day, or leave an image of their beet-red face in our head for the rest of the week.

Despite all this, I still love what I do. Everyday I have a new client to complain about, someone who was idiotic or stupid. But I still love what I do.

We have a print-out hanging up in the back, where clients can’t see it. It’s this image:

This is the inside joke of practically every veterinary office. I can’t count how many times I’ve had to deal with some pissed off customer, because they want to know why their cat is vomiting. They don’t want to be charged for anything, they don’t want any tests run, they don’t want me (the technician…a nurse for animals if you will) to restrain their animal while the doctor examines them. Oh, and the cat is extremely aggressive! It’s almost like they expect us to wave a magic wand and determine what the problem is, fix it (9 out of 10 times, without medication), and then not charge them for our services.

Seem a little skewed to you? Yep, I thought so.

What in the hell does this have to do with my original point, you ask? I’m getting there.

Do we get mad at our clients? Ok, we get mad, but not to their faces. Do we tell them how we secretly wish they never were our clients? Well, not to their faces. Do we sit them down and bluntly tell them “Because you couldn’t be bothered to clean out your cat’s litter box in a month, you failed to notice the signs of a urinary obstruction which caused the death of Fluffy. GREAT JOB ASSWIPE!” No, we don’t. (At least, not to their faces.)

In plain English: We don’t treat our customers like shit, and we don’t publicly proclaim that their ranting, raving, and nonsensical logic isn’t our concern. In fact, we LIE. We tell them we care, even if we don’t. We look interested, even if we aren’t. If we let them rant and rave, and keep a straight face, they are more likely to give us business in the future. If we fight fire with fire, they will turn around and find someone else to abuse…and give their money to. In the famous words of Dr. Gregory House: “Everybody lies.”

But Jeff Vogel, in his post titled “Three Reasons Why Creators Should NEVER Read Their Forums” does exactly that.

This is why you should always word your posts thoughtfully, especially if you’re the face of something like a game. The word “never” is a very strong word. It evokes something strong. If the blog was titled “Three Reasons Why Creators Shouldn’t Obsessively Hit F5 On Their Own Forums” I wouldn’t have an issue. But it specifically stated “NEVER Read.”

So, as a gamer myself, I am in that realm of possibilities called “a potential customer.” Would I honestly want to pay money to a developer who writes such a condescending, arrogant, and disrespectful blog stating why developers should never read their own forums?

The answer is, obviously, no. I wouldn’t expect someone to come to my business after I told them, basically, I don’t give a fuck about what they have to say.

I’m going to use Square-Enix as an example here. Now before you start saying things like “Comparing SE to an indie developer is like comparing the local hamburger joint to McDonalds” I’m going to stop you.

When SE developed Final Fantasy XI, there were no official forums. There was no way to interact with the development team. None. Zero. Nada. Zilch.

Now this could be taken one of two ways. The glass-half-empty says “SE doesn’t give a shit what we have to say, so why bother playing their game?” The glass-half-full says “SE doesn’t give a shit what we have to say, but at least they aren’t deceptive assholes about it by giving us forums they don’t even bother to read.”

I’m in the glass-half-full camp. While there weren’t official channels to communicate with the development team, I at least admired the honesty exhibited by SE by NOT giving us forums. FFXI players knew for years SE didn’t care what we had to say. It played out with every update, every expansion pack. But they didn’t hand us a forum under the premise that they did care. They simply didn’t have one.

So while Mr. Vogel here is complaining about trolls (hi, welcome to the internet. I’m trolling you right now, sir.) he is leaving up his forums for people to whine, moan, piss, and bitch about his games but not even reading them. It’s damaging to his “psyche” or whatever. He’s essentially ignoring the problem, which is NEVER good in business, especially with the internet where people can complain about you under the guise of anonymity. But even if 1 in 10 posts are good ideas, or even 1 in 100, Mr. Vogel will completely skip over that one post because he doesn’t believe he should read his own forum. He will leave that to “community managers,” because they obviously have the best track record with that sort of thing. (Should I even bother bringing up Kiara and EQ2? I thought not.)

That’s another thing: Community Managers. While they are a good idea (in theory), Mr. Vogel seems to think that a community manager is some fool-proof idea. Basically, they are a PR agent, and nothing more. They’re known to say things like “I’ll forward that to the developer” but never do. Basically, they’re hired (in some cases, volunteered) bullshitters. He thinks because HE isn’t thick skinned enough (despite the fact he says he is, we know he isn’t based on his cry-fest of a post) to deal with the masses, it should be someone else’s job. He also seems to have this grandiose idea that him and his community manager will think exactly alike 100% of the time. If a fantastic idea makes its way to the forums, he believes the community manager will report it to him, guaranteed 100%. He seems to forget the margin of error here: No two humans think exactly alike. So while the idea might seem awesome to Mr. Vogel, the community manager might think it’s absolute garbage, and skip over the post, even though this could be a major breakthrough in development, or become a key part of the game itself.

I’ll bring up SE again: They had a forum for FFXIV beta. Bugs were reported. They ignored it. Now look at the state of that game. (If you’ve been living under a rock, it’s free-to-play until further notice, the original development team was fired for poor performance, and the PS3 version is delayed indefinitely.)

Mr. Vogel seems very jaded in his post. It almost seems as if he wants his dissatisfied customers to praise him and his game, despite the fact they aren’t satisfied. I mean, the whole reason why he is stating he doesn’t read his own forums is because there are trolls.

I’m positive that the average 4chan, lolcat retard troll makes it onto the forum. Those are easily ignored, like World of Warcraft’s Trade chat channel, Everquest 2’s Level 1-9 chat channel, or Final Fantasy XI’s Whitegate chat channel. If you can’t ignore that, then you DON’T have a thick skin. But sometimes, there are just people who aren’t satisfied. If they paid you for a product, you owe them the decency of listening to them, even if they are telling you to fuck your mother. Then again, I’m old school like that. Despite the mantra that repeats in my head “The customer is always an asshole” the customer thinks I’m thinking “The customer is always right.”

If average people can do it every single day with a customer face-to-face, WHILE keeping a straight face, then you, sir, can do it from the comfort of your computer chair.

tl;dr version: Quit whining. Grow a pair. If someone is dissatisfied with you and/or your product, suck it up then walk away. If the troll persists, refuse their business then ban them from the forums. This is how real business works. If you’re making money off a product, it’s best you learn that now.

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