Monday, May 19, 2014

Stolen - Greyscale's Guide to Good Forum Posts...

...or "This is How CCP Greyscale Likes to be Rubbed on the Forums".

CCP Explorer (@erlendur) highlighted on Twitter this exchange on an Eve-O forum thread about the R&D changes coming to Eve industry. I have posted it here in case:-

1. You are not on Twitter, and/or,
2. In case you haven't read through 50 pages of the thread on the R&D changes. 

I think this needs highlighting outside that threadnought.

Basically someone made a detailed post and CCP Greyscale replied to it saying "This is a good post". This then got this reply from an outraged player that was not happy that CPP Greyscale had said that the other guys post was "good":- which CCP Greyscale responded. I've stolen (Copied & Pasted) his response from the forum below as this is a good (excellent) guide on writing a forum post in response to a Dev Blog/planned changes and you want to make your point to an actual developer. 

"YOU HAZ RUINDZ MY GAMZ! I HATE YOU!!!! DIAF!!!!11!!!!1!!" doesn't work as well apparently!

Yeah ok, this is a reasonable question.

Preface: I am British (as evinced by the fact that I spell my name the way the Queen intended when she invented the English language), so all my expressions of emotion are compressed around the midpoint. To translate into eg American, exchange "good" for "excellent".

1. Here's the general guide, in approximate order of importance from my personal perspective

- Be calm and reasonable. Angry posts are harder to process, both because the actually worthwhile bits tend to be broken up by the angry bits, and just because it takes additional effort to filter out the negative vibes while you're trying to extract the useful information.

- "Show your working". The single most useful thing you can do in a post is to explain, in as much detail as possible, why. Simply stating things you believe to be true is somewhat unhelpful, as it's incumbent upon us as developers to be able to explain why we are making changes, and also to filter out things that players are saying because they are true from things that players are saying that they mistakenly believe to be true from things that players are saying that they know are false but hope will sway development decisions anyway. For both of these reasons, an explanation of why you are saying what you are saying is the biggest thing you can do (in combination with the previous point) to get a developer to make changes based on what you're saying. A lot of people seem to be under the misapprehension that simply stating their opinion should be enough for developers to change their mind; this isn't viable for a number of reasons, but the most obvious one is that any given thread will generally have multiple players stating mutually contradictory opinions. We have to be able to pick between them somehow, right?

- Be specific. I love players who actually present numbers rather than just saying "that is too big", because it makes it very clear what they're actually hoping to see, and gives context for what they find reasonable.

- Consider the whole picture. It's very easy to express an opinion about things that affect you directly. It's much rarer for people to consider how the changes they're suggesting affect other players, particularly those of different playstyles or levels of experience. As developers, we have to consider everyone, and that often involves tradeoffs. Your common-or-garden post says "this is what *I* want", and we have to then synthesize all those different points and figure out how to balance competing interests. Showing at least an awareness of this, and better still actually accounting for it in your working, is a good way to make a post more useful to a developer.

- Have a good, short opening paragraph. If your post starts off badly, I will jump through it quickly looking for anything that sticks out, because I have lots of posts to read and other work to do. If you catch my attention with your opening, I will read it carefully. Note here that I'm not saying it has to make an effort to be catching or provocative, just that a clear, well-written paragraph which meets all the other points in this list suggests that it's a post that's probably worth reading slowly.

- Be novel. Posts bringing up things that haven't previously been mentioned in the thread are generally more useful than posts repeating the same thing that's been mentioned twenty times. I want to properly clarify this: I'm *not* saying not to repeat points, or even that doing so isn't useful. Seeing the same thing brought up multiple times is a good indicator that there is a broad concern about a particular thing. It's not as powerful as a single post laying out succinctly and convincingly why a particular thing is problematic, but it's still useful information!

- Be nice to read. If you can be gently witty, or format and punctuate your post so it's easy to read, that will always score bonus points.

2. Nothing in this thread has been outright ignored. With fifty pages I'm happy to hold up my hand and say that some posts I skim-read because, as above, I have other work to do too, but I have read every post for some definition of "read". I have not replied to every post raising an important point, for a variety of reasons:

- In many cases a reply doesn't really add anything to the discussion

- In some cases that you are considering important posts, I probably simply didn't find the points they were making particularly compelling. YMMV, obviously :)

- I can't reply to everything, both because it would take forever and because it would destroy the rhythm of the thread.

- What a developer does and doesn't reply to tends to, over time, influence the character of the forum. I am less likely to respond to a post which makes good points in a bad way, because while good points are good, bad presentation is bad. Conversely, people making really good posts I will go out of my way to reply to, because I would like to see more posts like that.

3. This is kind of repeating the first question, at least in the case where I take it seriously rather than snarkily. I'm going to use this opportunity then to say why I replied to Shoogie's post:

- He starts off by giving a suggested rank for Titans. I am immediately reading this post carefully. There have been a lot of posts saying "caps take too long to research". Here is somebody actually proposing a solution. Excellent. (Yes, I note that he said the same thing earlier, I guess I didn't catch it the first time round? Sloppy reading on my part, sorry.)

- Good paragraph length, well written, clear, not angry. Good.

- Shows his working for what factors he's taking into account, and covers some edge cases (Hyasyoda lab). Lovely.

- Considers that his suggested number might be too low. I love posts which consider the possibility that they might be wrong, it shows great awareness of how balance actually works and suggests that the author is carefully considering their suggestion.

- Frames things in terms of typical player reactions, this is both a sign that the author is thinking about things from a good perspective, and also allows us to figure out where they're coming from and what other assumptions are being made.

- Thinks about new players in a way that's not transparently just about advancing their own interests. Rare as hens' teeth.

- Writes out a goddamn table, I love this, saves me doing math :)

- Thinking about interesting decisions, which suggests a decent understanding of game design principles.

- Considers the impact of other changes happening at the same time, which has been surprisingly uncommon in in the discussion of industry changes as a whole. (Also doubles down on this in the post about job costs a few posts further down.)

- Wraps up with some other suggestions for changes, and also mentions things he thinks seem reasonable as-is.

You'll note in my response that I don't agree with everything suggested, specifically with regard to T1 ammo. But the post as a whole is an excellent post that hits a whole lot of "good post" checkboxes at once, and as a result is really damn useful to me as a developer. In the absence of anyone else's input, and given that such things are within certain bounds largely arbitrary anyway (ie, there's no obvious compelling reason to home in on any specific number from a balance perspective), I may just end up kicking Titan rank to 600 simply because Shoogie suggested it and his reasoning looks sane.

Hopefully that answers your questions? Is there anything else you want to know about this stuff? I'm always happy to put in the effort to explain things if I think it'll result in better posting in future :)


  1. LOL... Yea, I read that before and it actually brought tears of laughter...

    Grayscale's Guide to Good Forum Posts,
    the Readers Digest Condensed version:

    "Please be so good as to be someone other than an EVE player."

  2. When I went to fanfest I immediately changed my mind about Greyscale. He actually seems to care about the game and how it is as a whole.

    The only problem is occassionally he forgets that people may have been living in that scorched earth...