Off-topic: anonymous commenting, Facebook, and the future of online discussion*

*Almost definitely an overly ambitious title.

As a fan of hard rock and metal, one of the sites I visit on a daily basis is Blabbermouth.net. For more than 12 years, they have been an aggregator of news, reviews, and happenings in the rock and metal universe, and for me they’ve been the go-to site for that kind of content.

Since the beginning, Blabbermouth has had a typical comment system, where a user registers with the site, creates a user name and password, and is essentially anonymous – and, therefore, is free to be unrestrained with his or her speech on the site.

Blabbermouth has always had a policy against abusive language, racism, and so on, but it never seemed to be enforced. And with the previously mentioned commenter anonymity, there probably wasn’t much that could be done in such cases if abuse was reported, other than banning an account or even an IP address, but over the years it seemed to me that no comment was ever addressed by the admin. I came to accept that this was just the way the site was: it continued to post content, commenters did their thing, and if you didn’t want to read the comments, you didn’t read the comments.

On Monday night, I visited the site to find that at some point in the previous 24 hours, it had been relaunched in a new format. Gone are the full-length front page articles, the archaic post menu, and the long-standing, claustrophobic-dark look. In its place is a bright, clean, professional, modern looking website, with truncated posts and “Read More” buttons. In general, it is a much easier site to navigate from a “what’s happening right now” standpoint.

Also gone, however, is the old commenting system. If you want to comment at Blabbermouth.net now, you have to be signed in to Facebook. Which opens up an interesting can of worms for the site’s users…

There has been a lot of talk around the world lately about anonymous commenting and online discourse: I’ve heard a few stories about it on NPR and its affiliates (here and here. for instance) in the past six months. Unsurprisingly, it’s been a subject of discussion within the WoW community. Furthermore, with a couple of Google searches, you can find many articles about websites, such as online newspapers, getting rid of anonymous comments.

What’s interesting is that many sites that don’t allow anonymous commenting have integrated with Facebook. One of the benefits of doing so is that the site’s Facebook page can then highlight comments that it gets on its website, giving both the site and the comments/commenters more exposure (and, presumably, can lead to more discourse). As far as I can tell, it also takes a huge chunk of responsibility for the content of the discussion out of the hands of the website and places it squarely, in the end, on the user.

This is fairly simple to explain. On Facebook, the user is the person. The user isn’t “Neil Young’s Cocaine Booger” or “RiotAct666″ (real user names from Blabbermouth – I didn’t make them up myself). It’s you, the Facebook user with – potentially – real life friends and family, who are “friended” on the site and can presumably see every comment you make.

To my knowledge, Blabbermouth.net hasn’t made any announcement about the revamp of the site and the discussion system overhaul. When I saw how it had changed, my first thought was “they must have changed it to cut down on trolling.” That may or may not have played a part in their decision, but I’m inclined to think that, in addition to adopting a comment system that is in place on thousands of other websites (and is probably simple to implement), improving the quality of the discussion was a factor.

Additionally, Facebook is the closest thing there is to a universal sign-in system in the world, particularly when requiring that commenters use their real names is a desired feature. Facebook is used by hundreds of millions of people around the world, and nothing else that uses real names to commonly sign in to anything on the internet comes anywhere close to that magnitude. It’s a built-in sign-in system, with no site-specific registry required – unless, of course, you don’t use Facebook at all. Or, unless you don’t want to use your Facebook login to make comments on other websites…

While anonymous posting/commenting is as alive as it has ever been, there seems to be something of a growing movement toward requiring real names in order to comment on websites.

I’m curious to see how this plays out over the next several years. As more sites stop allowing anonymous commenting, will there be more ways to require that users log in as real persons, other than using Facebook? Or will this be something that becomes the lifeblood of Facebook, as more and more young people enter the online sphere looking to use the new “it” social media format – not FB – but are forced to use Facebook in order to be a part of a growing piece of the online discourse pie?

Or, will there be sections of that pie that begin to skew less toward the opinions of young users simply because such sites’ comment requirements will restrict them to Facebook, while these users would rather use Tumbler / Twitter / whatever the next big thing(s) is(are)?

Personally, I sit in the camp with those who don’t want to use their Facebook logins to comment on other sites. This is not because I am young and hip (…), but rather because I just don’t like Facebook. I barely ever comment on Facebook itself. I don’t trust Facebook. There are many reasons for this, and I won’t get into them here, because I’ve never written a 5000 word post before, and I don’t feel like having my first one be about Facebook. But there are privacy issues, data-collection and -sharing issues, and others that make me extremely uncomfortable with the idea of just going ahead and giving in to it, and posting my life and opinions and whatnot there… and, therefore, having my account linked with various other websites doesn’t make me feel easy.

With respect to Blabbermouth.net, I don’t really care. I didn’t ever bother commenting there before, and I don’t think that will change. But I also never comment on a site that requires Facebook. If FB is an option, but you can also use an alternative, I’ll comment if there is an alternative that I like.

I do like the fact that, intended or not, Blabbermouth has stopped so much of the terrible commentary on its site with one fell swoop. There is value in that. But I go to that site for news and videos and so on, not for the comments. The comments there have historically been mainly garbage, although there has been good discussion on rarer occasions.

I just wish that there were non-Facebook alternatives for sites like that, where the burden of moderating could be kept to a minimum without requiring FB. Right now, I don’t know that there is any other solution on the horizon.

Thanks for reading this post by Mushan at Mushan, Etc. Comments are welcome!


I Won’t Miss You – a tribute to Frostheim

Frostheim, co-creator of Warcraft Hunters Union (and all that that site has done for us hunters), progenitor of WoW Hunters Hall, long-time Scattered Shots (WoW Insider) columnist, long-time member (and poet laureate) of the Hunting Party Podcast, writer of several amazing odes to hunters, staunch defender of facts and math and balance, advocate for cool new stuff for hunters, recoverer of his own cloak, and generally fun and awesome guy, announced last Saturday on the Hunting Party Podcast – and later that day on WHU – that he is retiring.

Given his recent stretches of absence from the WHU and the HPP, to say that I didn’t see this coming would be incorrect. And he is not quitting the game, but is shutting down his personal commitments to his blogging / podcasting activities in order to devote his time to other ventures. He’s also apparently going to put away his white-quality weapons and lessen the amount of time he spends shooting at target dummies as if they’re trying to invade his city, and actually devote more of his WoW time to playing the game! This is a good thing.

Personally, though – and I know I speak for untold numbers of players out there – I Will Miss You, Frost.

I’m A Hunter

I wasn’t always a hunter. But one of my earliest toons was a hunter back when I started playing shortly after the release of Burning Crusade, although since I was a terrible player (and that’s all the info anyone needs) back then, I failed to get him to level 70.

During the spring of 2010, when the Lich King was dead and we were in the midst of the longest stretch of meaningful-content-less boredom in the history of the game, I started listening to the Hunting Party Podcast. I forget how it happened; the best I can remember is that, as a reader of WoW Insider, I liked Frostheim’s Scattered Shots posts more than just about anything else on the site.

(I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was probably ready for a change at that point… but anyway, to continue…)

Of course, the header on each of his posts mentioned that he was from Warcraft Hunters Union and the Hunting Party Podcast, and so I checked them out. And let me say, when someone charismatic like Frostheim is available to be both read and listened to, it can be a powerful combination. I wasn’t much of a podcast-listener in those days – my only constant at the time was the WoW Insider Show, which I haven’t listened to in almost a year now, and I had tried out several others that either didn’t grab me or didn’t stick around. So when I found Darkbrew, Euripides, and Frostheim, I was hooked. I downloaded and listened to every single episode that was available on iTunes, and they were my companions that summer and fall as we inched our way toward the launch of Cataclysm.

Meanwhile, I started a few hunters. Mushan stuck, and the rest is history (which I’ve laid out in previous posts). Playing the hunter that summer and fall, leveling the hunter, doing dungeons on the hunter, was every bit as fun as I had imagined it would be while listening to the HPP. As a player who now had some general skill, I didn’t have any of the problems I had had in 2008 with my long-deleted original. I was topping meters, learning to use my utility abilities, enjoying playing the movement/Auto Shot game, and seriously thinking about making Mushan my main. Which eventually happened.

I was “Ana” back in the day, but now I’m “Mushan,” and that is indescribably largely due to the influence of one Frostheim.

Things lately have been quieter on the Mushan/HPP front. I often work on Saturdays, so I don’t get to listen in live when the show is recorded anymore. And the shows have often taken weeks to come out on iTunes, and so over the past several months I’ve only listened a handful of times, and I expect that to continue.

But I’ve always enjoyed listening to Frostheim, and I’m going to miss that. He has given so much to the hunter community at this point that it’s almost a cliche to say so, but I don’t care. Why?

Because without Frostheim, it’s almost certain that there would be no Mushan. And that’s of some importance, at least to me. He literally rejuvenated my WoW experience by unknowingly reintroducing me to the hunter class. He changed the game for me. Without Frostheim, I might not have switched over to a hunter. Without Frostheim, I might not even be playing the game anymore. At the very least, without Frostheim, this blog would certainly not exist in this form.

The first paragraph of this post probably makes me sound like a bit of a fan-boy. Am I a fan-boy of Frostheim? Hell yes! I think my previous paragraph does a pretty good job explaining why.

And so, to Frostheim, Thank You for all you’ve done for hunters. You’ve been a gift to us these past several years, and I’ll never forget it. I’ll be following whatever you do in the future – stay in touch!

Thanks for reading this post by Mushan at Mushan, Etc. Comments are welcome!


Music for raiding: Dethklok – The Cyborg Slayers

For my second installment of “Music for raiding,” I can’t help but turn to something that’s a little unconventional, at least when it comes to WoW.

Dethklok, the animated death metal juggernaut – and also a real band – is the creation of musician/writer/producer/(etc.) Brendan Small (aided by drum god Gene Hoglan for recordings and shows), and the centerpiece of the hit Adult Swim show Metalocalypse.  And while they aren’t entirely a traditional band, they do combine humorous death metal themes with super-catchy, super-heavy, exquisitely written music.

I could have chosen one of several other Dethklok tunes, with themes like waking sleeping trolls, thunderhorses, Vikings, and so on.  However, the song I’ve chosen is more because of the awesomeness of the music than the appropriateness of the lyrics.

“The Cyborg Slayers” by Dethklok

Starting with the title and throughout the song, the lyrics spark images of very modern combat.

Here are some of the lyrics:

Conflagrate, seal the bridge, take the supports away
Tear it down, leave no trace, we’ll move like ghosts this day
Sensors heat
Infrared fleet
Mechanized opponents, there is no retreat

Crush! Seize! Burn! Kill!
Leave no one alive!
Let no one survive!
Mortification, we annihilate
Electro-degration, we’re gonna mutilate
Leave no one alive, let no one survive

Ultimately, while the music brings to mind helicopters, elite special ops forces, precision missiles, drone strikes, cyborgs, and modern technology in war, the song just kicks my ass!  I find it to be very energizing.  Hope you enjoy it!

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Thanks for reading this post by Mushan at Mushan, Etc.  Comments are welcome!


Music for raiding: Týr – Hail To The Hammer

Tonight starts a three-night string of raids for me.  As of this raid lockout, I’ll be joining my guild’s regular Sunday raid team, which is currently 2/8 Heroic, on Mushan.  I’m currently 1/8 (Morchok, of course) Heroic on him, and we’ll be working on H Zon’ozz and H Yor’sahj as well as likely downing H Ultraxion.  In addition, tonight I’ll be running the regular Saturday alt run on Anacrusa (balance), and I’ll probably be breaking in my other max-level hunter, Ghilleadh, in the guild’s Monday alt run.

I don’t always do this, but I often like to listen to – or at least think about – music that gets me hepped up for kicking some ass before a raid.  It’s almost always of the metal variety (naturally), and as there are several songs that I like to choose from for this purpose, I thought I would start sharing them here on the blog.

For this first post, I’d like to share one of the most epic Viking-esque songs I know.  It’s called…

“Hail To The Hammer” by Faroese band Týr

For a game like WoW, this song just about has it all.  It sounds amazing.  It’s heavy.  It’s got the elements.  Folklore.  Gods.  Swords.  Hammers.  Hailing to hammers.  Hunters.  Tales of times of old.  Seasons.

Here are some of the lyrics:

Longing eyes turn into the sun, low in the winter.

Grey as a wolf, now the wind has come, cold as a hunter.

Ride across the sky; thunder roll and lightning fly.

Gone is the summer.  What will keep us warm in the winter?

Tales of those who died, sword-in-hand in times gone by.

Hail to the hammer!

Narrow eyes turn against the wind; out from the ocean,

Until the day when we sail again.  Life is a long pain.

Hail to the hammer!

To the god of thunder, the god that’s protecting us all,

All hail to the giant hunter, and hail to the forces of nature!  All!

As I said, this song has it all.  Hammers, swords, hunters, mythological figures, forces of nature, and tales of past battles and bygone heroes.  It makes me want to pump my fist, bang my head, and go in and kill stuff with my team even more than usual!

This song gets me hepped up to raid, and I thought I’d share it with you.  Hope you enjoy it!

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Thanks for reading this post by Mushan at Mushan, Etc.  Comments are welcome!


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