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How do blues choose what to respond to?


"Why do the blues only seem to comment on silly threads and never in a thread that has substance, provides meaningful insight, or merits actual discussion? This seems a complete waste of time and valuable resources."

This was part of the opening post on a thread in the US forums, discussing the Community Management team's choice of posts to respond to. And it's a reasonable question, a cursory glance at a blue tracker will reveal that many blue responses are indeed on light-hearted threads rather than on the ones demanding feedback on heavy issues. That, or they're commenting on quickly locked posts that violate the forum guidelines, elucidating the reasons for the thread's closure.

Why don't the blues respond more quickly to the weighty, substantial threads? Consider the amount of work required in the background to respond to a question about PvP balancing, for example, compared to the amount of work required to wish a forum a happy Winter Veil. While the latter simply requires a lively wit and a good knowledge of the forum code of conduct, the latter requires a good deal more input, from the developers and designers and more.

Rygarius comments on this contrast on the same thread, saying the following:

We answer what we can, and some of the more open ended questions require more coordination than others.

Take a bug for example. You can report and post feedback on it freely without having to do any verification. But, when we respond the issue needs to have been verified, and preferably with a plan of action behind it beyond 'we know'. That isn't something that can be posted at will.

Other issues such as subjective opinions without a clear answer could be derailed by our involvement. There are implications to responding to those topics. As a(simple) example, a topic like "Which is better, Horde or Alliance?" would generally be left alone. Imagine the field day you all would have if I were to attempt to provide an answer to that one!

The important thing to remember is that blue posts have a lot of weight attached to them. The Community Management team are a big part of Blizzard's public voice, they're key to communication with Blizzard's audience. So, if they post on the important issues, their opinion is taken as gospel. Therefore, their responses to questions which are important to players have to be accurate.

In order for their responses to be accurate, they have to carry out various internal checks. While they doubtless have a say in the game, representing the community as they do, the Community Management team don't, as a rule, also develop the game's intricacies. People like Ghostcrawler are exceptions to this, of course, and have more freedom.

As Rygarius comments above, the issues need to be verified, and there needs to be a plan of action to provide a better response than "we are aware of the issue". For major gameplay issues, blues can comment to discuss, but not provide additional, new input on future steps without more information from the development and design team. And it's possible that requests for information could cause an internal ripple effect, where the people they have access to need to check and recheck with others, and so on.

It doesn't mean they're not listening

Rygarius also comments that a lack of response doesn't mean the team isn't listening.

Feedback is read, but may not receive a reply for a number of reasons. Repeatedly posting "We read the thread but have nothing to contribute at this time." would not be helpful and not what you're looking for. All posts reporting changes or fixes needs to be checked and verified; that takes time.

This seems like a double-edged sword, and one has to sympathize with the community team. The options open to them are essentially to either maintain a stony silence until the have firm information to proceed with, or to repeatedly respond with "we read this, but have nothing to tell you". While it could be argued that the latter is better, it's not a very productive use of people's limited time. It seems to me, at least, that the team's time would be better spent searching for answers for the community, than posting "yes, read this" on every thread that requests a relevant response. But, of course, that is a matter of opinion.

If you want even more blue in your day, you can check out WoW Insider's guide to Blizzard employees to follow on twitter!

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