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The Queue: Behind the curtain

Alex Ziebart

Welcome back to The Queue, the daily Q&A column in which the WoW Insider team answers your questions about the World of Warcraft. Alex Ziebart will be your host today.

In today's special edition of The Queue, I answer a ton of questions about WoW Insider's inner workings. Your regular World of Warcraft questions will return tomorrow!

kristen asked:

How does Wow Insider select writers and editors? Do they look for people with prominent blogs that can bring their own audience, or do they look for unique writing voice/style? Does WoW Insider go public with its need for new writers or editors, or is it an inside thing (no pun intended)?

We do both of those things. Sometimes when a position opens up, there's one person we think will be just perfect for the position, and we'll contact them privately and extend an offer. It's rare for us to do that, though. Most of the time we'll announce openings and accept applications, like we did most recently with our PvP columnist position.

Some of the emails we receive from readers after we've filled a new position are funny. Readers will write in, angry that we didn't hire their favorite blogger. Most of the time when we receive emails like that, we didn't hire that person because they never applied to begin with ... or we did extend an offer to that blogger, and they wouldn't or couldn't take the position. You're going to get mad because we didn't hire someone who didn't want the job? What do you want us to do, make them write at gunpoint?

loop_not_defined asked:

Does WoW Insider feature a system similar to transmogrification? So like, if it's cold out, you can put on the dirty old hoody buried in the back of the closet, but then transmog it with your favorite denim jacket without getting too cold.

Yes, but we implemented it for our staff for very different reasons than Blizzard did. World of Warcraft has transmogrification so players can customize their outward appearance. The WoW Insider's internal transmogrification system is so that our staff can adhere to our strict dress code while still remaining comfortable. It's important to maintain our image, but we also understand that it's important to be comfortable at your desk. I don't care if Matt Rossi is wearing fluffy bunny slippers around the office as long as he appears to be wearing proper business attire.

RG's two-part question:

When's the new site supposed to arrive? Persistent logins and an instant commenting system would surely bring this site into the current century.

The answer I always get when I follow up on this question is soon. Seriously.

That being said, how exactly is the best way to use this comment system as it is today? I write a comment, get an email and press the link and nothing shows up. Sometimes I push the link again and then the comment shows up but sometimes it doesn't. I have a theory that one has click the link really fast but its just a theory. Any tips? Also the "Remember Me" doesn't really work, does it?

Well, one hitch is that our comment system uses some sort of brief caching. I don't know the details because we didn't design it, but new comments are not going to show up until the cache refreshes, which it does often. If you leave a comment and it doesn't show up immediately (and you're sure it has been activated), wait a few minutes before having an aneurism about its absence. Speed of clicking the activation link shouldn't make any difference at all.

The Remember Me option should work fine. The system provides you with a password after your first comment, and as long as you continue to use that password, you won't need to manually activate future comments.

I know I've said this before, but we do have a new comment system coming ... eventually. The big hurdle is that we work for a pretty big company, and each individual site can't just do whatever it wants in terms of back-end systems. If every site in our network had its own completely unique systems, everything would get messy to the point of unsustainability very quickly. To implement a new comment system, it's a matter of making sure it's something that's going to work network-wide.

That being said, technologies tend to trickle down to us from Engadget, the flagship of our piece of the company. Engadget gets the cool new stuff, and as it works for them, it starts being rolled out for everybody else. Right now, Engadget is using Disqus for its comment system. If that continues to work for them, maybe that's what we'll get. Or maybe not.

We want a new comment system just as bad as you guys do, though. New image galleries, too.

Revnah asked:

I read before that your writers have a lot of liberty to write about what they choose. But I also heard that there are some requirements, like at the beginning of Cata when every class columnist was asked to write a "101" style post. How often do you set such requirements? I ask because I notice that some subjects tend to wander through the class columns, like "The best trinkets in patch x.x" - or are the columnists just "stealing" each other's ideas?

It's rare for us to make our columnists tackle specific topics. You can count the number of times per year that we do it on one hand. We think most of our writers are at their best when we give them that freedom. However, we do need to make sure that we cover the basics, so our senior editorial team does intervene from time to time. We get a number of complaints from high-end players whenever we update our leveling guides, but we also get countless brand new players (or players leveling new alts) requesting those updates. We need to make sure that we're providing content that's useful for everybody. If a column has gone too far in one direction for too long, we'll stick our nose in and push it the other way for awhile.

There are a few other reasons why you would see the same topics crop up across multiple classes at the same time. One of them is yes, the writers "steal" from each other. That sort of stealing isn't a bad thing. Looking to the rest of the team for inspiration is a great idea. Sometimes topics are cyclical, too. Right after a new tier of raiding launches is a good time to update a list of trinkets, so you'll see a bunch of them at one time. Other times, the senior editorial staff will point out class columns that have gone over particularly well so the rest of the team can look at it, see what they did right, and maybe learn from example. We don't force the team to reproduce those things, but it is a source of inspiration.

ravyncat asked two questions:

Is there a physical WowInsider office somewhere or do you all work from home and internet commute?

I really wish we did have a physical office, but our office is strictly virtual. Part of the reason I'm sad about no BlizzCon 2012 is because that convention is the only time out of the entire year that a bunch of us get to jam on things together in a physical space. I love it. I wish we could do it more. If I could sucker a few other WoW Insider people into relocating closer to me, I'd rent out office space for us myself, but we're way too spread out right now for that to work.

With the lack of physical interaction, we use quite a few web tools to make sure everything is running smoothly. We use the basic stuff like email and IMs, but we also make heavy use of Google Docs, Campfire, Skype, and a number of internal systems.

Do regular columnists submit a resume like for a traditional job or just excerpts of their written work to get hired? Is there an in person interview?

It needs a few updates, but we explain the application process on our Contribute to WoW Insider page. The short version is we ask for who you are, some information about your background in WoW, an armory link for class columnists, a list of sample topics, and some writing samples. There is no physical interview, but we may contact promising applicants before we've made a decision to talk to them and get a better idea of who they are -- a virtual interview of sorts.

techno-warrior6 asked:

How do the artiles work do the writers write the articles ahead of time as in do they have a general backlog of them or for something more specific do they write on the fly?

As Killik said in the comments yesterday, we do both. All of our regular features have deadlines that need to be met a few days before their publication date. Some posts, like our editorials, have no pressing need to be published immediately, and so we use those whenever we need them or when we think they'll work best. Other things, such as news pieces, are written on the spot. We have people around and available 24/7 to work on those things when they arise.

lazymangaka asked:

How does Fox Van Allen take his coffee?

Topped with whipped cream and sprinkles.

Shinae asked:

Especially in light of the lack of Blizzcon, when we'll we be seeing regional WoW Insider meetups?

This is something we talk about internally all of the time but we need to be careful with it. We don't have the budget to just dump buckets of money into renting out huge spaces around the world. We do have the option of small-scale local meetups wherein we don't rent anything, we just announce a meetup somewhere public ... but that has the potential to be massively problematic. We have no guarantee of how many people will or will not attend. If 15 to 20 people show up at a local bar to hang out, awesome! If 200 to 300 people show up, a public venue could not host that.

Every single one of our BlizzCon parties has far exceeded our expectations in terms of attendance. Every year, we think we've made improvements to handle the previous year's attendance and a reasonable level of growth, and every year, far more people than we anticipated show up. If that same sort of thing happens at a local venue, we've made trouble for someone.

Those regional meetups may still happen, but that's why they haven't yet. We're a pretty big site. Anything we do has the potential to spiral completely out of control. We'd rather do nothing at all than orchestrate a catastrophe.

RuzGofDI asked:

With no Blizzcon this year, what are the odds of a WoWinsider raid on the nearby Magic Kingdom. If I remember some of the podcasts, I think at least one of the two heads of Matt Matt the ogre hasn't ever been before.

With no BlizzCon, I'd still like to send some WoW Insider staffers somewhere this year, but it won't be Anaheim. Some other gaming convention, but I don't know which or if we'll even do it at all. Blizzard's lack of activity at other conventions makes the chances of it slim.

Robert asked:

Can you describe some of the people that work at WoWInsider? What are they like outside of their columns? Not people like Fox Van Allen, we all know what he's like, but maybe some of the more behind the scenes type people.

We have 30 staffers, so I would be here all day if I told you something about every single one of them. I'll just use this as an opportunity to say that Scott Andrews doesn't get nearly enough mention around here. The dude never misses a deadline. Officers' Quarters is turned in every single week without fail. If he's going on vacation, he writes and submits every single one of his columns in advance. Not only does he make those deadlines, but every single thing he writes is rock solid.

If Scott ended up stranded on a deserted island, he would scrawl his column onto a palm frond with his own blood as ink, train a sea bird to carry messages, and get his article to my door well in advance of his deadline to make sure we had enough time to proof and copyedit the piece. You would think he would use that bird to send for help, but no, Officers' Quarters comes first.

Y'all should shower him with love.

And I've been doing this for nearly 2,000 words, so I'll stop for now. If you have other behind-the-scenes questions for me, feel free to hit my Formspring. I'll continue answering questions there throughout the day.

Have questions about the World of Warcraft? The WoW Insider crew is here with The Queue, our daily Q&A column. Leave your questions in the comments, and we'll do our best to answer 'em!

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