The Online Abuse Playbook.

This is an insightful blog on the patterns demonstrated by many online communities that cause them to deteriorate, become abusive, and engage in online feuds. It discusses how pile-ons develop and why community leaders do not accept responsibility when this happens, not feeling accountable for community actions.

Some advice is offered on how to prevent and break the cycle.

Worth reading, if only for awareness.

https://medium.com/humane-tech/the-online-abuse-playbook-575648c9f798#.l4qrg7sic

View at Medium.com

I have a funny story about growing up. You might find it relatable, or maybe it won’t make sense. That’s fine, move along, nothing to see here.

So it’s the late 1990s and I’m in my late 20s. I’ve been building my feature writing portfolio, building a small PR agency, trying to figure out my career. I’d quit a magazine editorship a few years ago and had kind of lost my way.

I’d also been falling in love with mountain biking. Totally new thing for me after a lifetime of being an expressly non-athletic nerd.

I see an ad in a biking magazine looking for guidebook writers. Hey I’m a writer! I apply and get the job.

Jump ahead three years. I’ve written a great trail guide and sold many thousands of copies. I’m also moderating a fast growing online forum for mountain bikers. Commercial exposure is on my mind. Community building is a natural extension to this. Let’s put on events! Let’s have scheduled rides and get togethers! Dinners, why not? House parties, maybe?

It’s exciting! I see myself at the center of this ever growing circle of love for this amazing life changing activity. It’s almost messianic.

Some funny things start happening.

We have a group ride outside Tucson and I find myself the only pot smoker among a crowd of hyper fit, hyper conservative achievement oriented riders. Weird!

We have a dinner gathering and half the people drift out early because the music sucks. Who doesn’t like indie grunge?

I host a big multiday festival and folks divide up into cliques where I want them to come together. This happens at the next festival, and the next.

It took me till my early 30s before it clicked: shared interests do not make a community.

I felt so foolish. Why on earth would I assume that everyone who rides mountain bikes likes to camp, leans left, smokes pot, listens to a certain kind of music, votes a certain way? Stupid. Stupid.

I saw this play out in the lives of my mountain biking friends. Guys constraining their dating to only women who also mountain biked, and getting so confused when their relationships fizzled out. Why wasn’t their shared activity enough to sustain the relationship?

It’s been hard but also true: our shared activities don’t create community. They don’t imply shared values. We’re individuals. Our hobbies are not a functional basis for tribes of any kind.

But this is also freeing! Go share an activity with someone who’s different than you! But don’t fool yourself into thinking other folks are anything like you, that they share something beyond the desire to do the thing you like doing. And for heaven’s sake, don’t allow yourself to be folded into someone else’s values on the basis of nothing more than your hobbies.

D&D will not bring more people to your event

An old friend of mine told me today that a gaming event in which he participates has decided to prohibit volunteer GMs from running games other than D&D 5e. The rationale being that D&D is popular and thus will encourage greater attendance.

Let me tell you: it will not.

I’ve been running Chicago Gameday for about twelve years now, and in that time I have tracked attendance and performed both formal and informal polls of our attendees. I have never seen a correlation between the popularity of any one game and overall attendance at our event. Quite the contrary, I have seen play-tests of unknown games fill up in minutes, while at the same time a Pathfinder event get canceled because no one signed up.

Think about this argument: by running something really mainstream, you’re competing with more possible avenues for players. I.e., if I can find a D&D 5e table any time I want, why would I choose your D&D event over any other?

On top of this, I have found that while some popular games may draw players, they often won’t create fans of your event. E.g., your Pathfinder event was one of many they happened to choose that day (maybe to earn network points or something), and the next time your event happens they may or may not care about showing up.

Now, I will throw in a big caveat here and say that a lot will depend on the nature of your event and your local community. And there’s no doubt that if a certain game is “hot” right around a Gameday, I will often see a bump in interest. But maybe not! Nothing is a given.

The fact is this: If you don’t know anything concrete about your community, your assumptions about it are probably wrong. Get data, and proceed based on what it reveals.

Talk to your attendees. Take polls — Google Forms lets you do this for free. Track attendance and look for trends. Take chances on new games that may be drawing in players who can’t find other avenues to play them.

Not to mention: it’s illogical to be turning away volunteer GMs if your goal is to grow your event. A game run with skill and enthusiasm by a passionate GM will net you more in the long run than a mediocre one run by someone under an obligation.

You goal should not be just to give people a place to play D&D/PF/etc. Your goal should be to create fans of your event who want to come back again and again — no mater what games are on the schedule.

Encourage diversity! Seek out passion over popularity! Don’t just cater to a community — cultivate one.

D&D will not bring more people to your event An old friend of mine told me today that a gaming event in which he participates has decided to prohibit volunteer GMs from running games other than D&D 5e. The rationale being that D&D is popular and thus will encourage greater attendance. Let me tell you: it will not. I’ve been running Chicago Gameday for about twelve years now, and in that time I have tracked attendance and performed both formal and informal polls of our attendees. I have never seen a correlation between the popularity of any one game and overall attendance at our event. Quite the contrary, I have seen play-tests of unknown games fill up in minutes, while at the same time a Pathfinder event get canceled because no one signed up. Think about this argument: by running something really mainstream, you’re competing with more possible avenues for players. I.e., if I can find a D&D 5e table any time I want, why would I choose your D&D event over any other? On top of this, I have found that while some popular games may draw players, they often won’t create fans of your event. E.g., your Pathfinder event was one of many they happened to choose that day (maybe to earn network points or something), and the next time your event happens they may or may not care about showing up. Now, I will throw in a big caveat here and say that a lot will depend on the nature of your event and your local community. And there’s no doubt that if a certain game is “hot” right around a Gameday, I will often see a bump in interest. But maybe not! Nothing is a given. The fact is this: If you don’t know anything concrete about your community, your assumptions about it are probably wrong. Get data, and proceed based on what it reveals. Talk to your attendees. Take polls — Google Forms lets you do this for free. Track attendance and look for trends. Take chances on new games that may be drawing in players who can’t find other avenues to play them. Not to mention: it’s illogical to be turning away volunteer GMs if your goal is to grow your event. A game run with skill and enthusiasm by a passionate GM will net you more in the long run than a mediocre one run by someone under an obligation. You goal should not be just to give people a place to play D&D/PF/etc. Your goal should be to create fans of your event who want to come back again and again — no mater what games are on the schedule. Encourage diversity! Seek out passion over popularity! Don’t just cater to a community — cultivate one.]]>