Whiteside said that the addition of ascended gear was not meant to add a necessary grind to Guild Wars 2, but to fill in a necessary gap in gear that the team identified early on. "It's an exciting problem," he wrote, "but one that has been poorly communicated and handled. And for this I take responsibility and apologize."
O'Brien chimed in to address the many comments levied about the design manifesto: "We're left with a balancing act. Some progression is OK, but pushing players onto a gear treadmill isn't OK and isn't what the game is about. I don't think [the ascended gear] invalidates the fundamental concept that GW2 can have gradual stat progression without being a gear treadmill game."
The AMA didn't merely dwell on the ascended gear issue; Whiteside fielded questions about the game's approach to future events, a desire to reduce grind across the board, the potential fracturing of the community, and ArenaNet's definition of grind ("Repetitive game play that is not fun," is the official answer, in case you were wondering).