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Thread: A question of feedback and comments

  1. #1
    Field Marshal loki100's Avatar
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    A question of feedback and comments

    I've been tempted to put this post together as a means of work evasion ... no, as a way to restart a debate that has rumbled around AARland many times in the past (for a link to some previous discussions, see here).

    Now, to me, AArland is clearly a product of two different inputs - the AAR posts and the commentary that follows - and quite often commentators are writers in their own right. We recognise the importance to this community of feedback by one of the weekly awards - Fan of the Week.

    I'm pretty sure that most writers like comments, so I'd like to revive two related debates. How to acquire comments and the nature of the commenting process.

    I still think the best way to acquire comments is to leave comments elsewhere. Its not perfectly reciprocal, nor should it be, but if you enter the spirit of this place (you get to read stuff for free and comments are really the only currency in use), then, on balance it will happen. The second key thing is to respond. I'll be honest, if I leave comments and there is no feedback from the writer, I tend not to bother leaving any more (I may carry on following the AAR if it interests me, but I am very unlikely to carry on actively commenting).

    If you are new, then this takes time. One good thing of the now quite regular release of new games or new variations (such as AHD) is that it brings in a group of new writers and commentators. This in turn lessens the feeling of joining a long established group and indeed brings in a group who will tend to leave comments in each others AARs (I've seen a lof of this in particular with the CK2 forum).

    Being new though has a second problem. One frustration of actively following an AAR is when it just ... stops. Now this happens for lots of good (& bad) reasons, but it tends to make me unwilling to properly read a new AAR till it is clear it has some durability. If someone does this more than once, I become very wary of following any future AARs by them. And that is not to say that all AARs have to span the entire notional game period, just that ideally it ends in a manner that wraps it up and concludes the original project. However there are good reasons - attacks of real life, save games do become corrupted or new patches make carrying on a bit pointless.

    Equally, I think certain types of AAR tend to attract both more comments and more readers in general. For the most part, a gameplay AAR will invite more comments than a detailed narrative approach. I think partly as a lot of users of the forum are looking for information on how to play a game and partly its easier to leave a comment such as 'how did that happen/why did you take that option?'.

    That slips over into a question of how to comment. There are a lot of ways to do this, some can be as simple as expressing your appreciation. Some can be quite detailed analysis of a period of gameplay or dissection of plot or character. As long as you avoid spam, there is no need to ensure that every comment is deep and meaningful (&, as above, writers tend to like comments in any case).

    One particular challenge is to work out how to comment on a long standing AAR. Not only is the prospect of starting to read something that is already 50+ pages long rather daunting, it raises the question of how to comment. Some suggest, keep any comments till you've caught up. I tend to the view of comment as if you were reading real time. Again, people like comments, and there is no harm asking a question about a post on p.20 when all will be revealed on p.78. Matter of taste, but post, ask, and see.

    Sorry, a bit rambling, and provoked by a post I encountered earlier today. But its an enduring problem for AARland, which is that comments are the main source of reward to writers and it can be daunting when you post, see the view count move up, and see no active response.

  2. #2
    Historically plausible Dewirix's Avatar
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    Despite my wish to leave this uncommented upon and so revel in the delicious irony of it all, I feel that such a well-reasoned post deserves a response.

    From a writer's point of view, I enjoy comments for two reasons. Firstly, they're direct evidence that someone is reading your work and engaging with it. Seeing the viewcount click up is a poor substitute as it doesn't tell you if the visitor read anything, or whether they liked what they saw.

    Secondly, they keep you honest. They make you think about the game you're playing or the narrative you're constructing from a fresh perspective. This can make for better gameplay, better charactisation, better narrative, etc.

    From the other side of the coin, I tend to find commenting difficult at times. To engage critically with someone else's work isn't always easy, and there are only so many times you can post "Great update" without feeling that you have to offer something more substantial the next time.

    In terms of commenting on a long-running AAR (and Director's A Special Providence comes to mind here), I'd be minded to wait until I'd caught up before commenting. That said, if someone commented on an AAR I was writing before they'd read the whole thing I'd have no problem with it.
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  3. #3
    Rocker moth Wave's Avatar
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    I think what is said in the comments carries a lot more weight than how many comments you have. Of course it's great to see your AAR having many pages but when you look at some EUIII AAR (I'd say that must be the most active AARland here) there may be 10 pages with 8 updates, that's less than one update per 20 comments and the comments may just be "Following!" or "That was a really nice war!".

    Anyway I have to admit that my comments as well are too often only those mentioned above but I try to ask questions to keep the author talking to the readers.

    Personally I'd be very pleased if people actually talked in the AARs, maybe even discuss the AAR between readers (when the author isn't saying anything or updating the AAR) and gave comments that have something more than just things related to the AAR so there could be some easy chatting and joking going on (in case the AAR isn't über serious) which could create a lot better atmosphere.

    A great example and probably the funniest AAR to read overall (especially due the great comments between the authors) I've encountered was We Three Kings, Rome multiplayer AAR.
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  4. #4
    the Conqueror Peter Ebbesen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wave View Post
    A great example and probably the funniest AAR to read overall (especially due the great comments between the authors) I've encountered was We Three Kings, Rome multiplayer AAR.
    Which, coincidentally, I never did write the final post for. Just to reward you for remembering it, I'll write a post in the thread now to tell you what happened in the last session that Wyvern and Jarkko conveniently forgot to mention, but the alert reader should have spotted.

    -----

    When I read somebody elses AAR, which is vanishingly rare, I tend to try to drop a line or two of encouragement or helpful criticism as the situation warrants and, if it is an AAR that in any way invites to it, I try to do it in character.

    When I write an AAR, I love readers who enter into the spirit of the piece and ask questions or make comments in a way that fits the overall mood of the AAR. I'm not enthralled by "subscribed!" or "I'll be following this" posts and would rather have no replies at all than only receiving such, as the only thing they do is feed my ego, not my mind, and my ego is already big enough, thank you very much.

    On the other hand, any piece of banter that shows that the reader actually read the stuff and wants to play along (guessing what happens next, commenting on just what the hell happened in the entry he read) as well as any serious question about gameplay or historical knowledge I've used is worth its weight in gold. The first entertains me and the second makes me feel helpful, when I answer.

    There are unfortunately only few readers with the fortitude to criticize AARs rather than merely applaud them, and that is a crying shame, as well thought out criticism actually helps the author develop as a writer. Too often AAR readers end up as a group of worn cheerleaders, when they could be so much more if they engaged the writer in a bit of criticism or (milder) commentary. It is understandable enough, I guess - knowing how easily an ill-chosen word can harm a potentially fragile writer, sticking with cheerleading is the safe choice. But it is a shame nevertheless.

    I have a long tradition of killing my readers off in various silly ways in my AARs, or at least moderately wounding them or putting them in precarious situations, and can warmly recommend this as a way of engaging the readers in a larger framework tale. Then again, this is obviously a case of "works for me". I wonder how the AAR forums would be if all authors engaged in killing sprees of the readership in their AARs.

    (The key to doing this is of course to keep it silly enough that it is unlikely anybody takes it in anything but the jest it is meant.)
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  5. #5
    Major dragonizer's Avatar
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    When I read an AAR. I feel an obligation to make a comment.
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  6. #6
    Maestro Director's Avatar
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    Some years ago, when I was writing for the AARland Gazette, I said this and I think there is still some truth in it:

    "All this is to say in a roundabout way what I will sum up here: any meaningful award we can give is attention and praise; whether it is a comment in an AAR or a more public OscAAR. In the end it is all attention and praise, but it takes hard work and dedication from us as readers to give this award.

    Through reading and commenting on the work of others we pay back the debt we owe to the people who read our work, who commented and encouraged our little sparks to believe they could be a flame. We are all alike in this; newbies need your encouragement, and crusty old veterans do, too. Trust me on this - no matter how many responses a post received, adding your own comment is an award that will be treasured.

    This is the way we pay the debt, this is the best way we honor those who came before us and befriended us. You must – I must – we all must make the time to read the work and to encourage the workers."



    The coinage that pays our writers is a comment, folks! Well-thought-out ones are the solid gold and the short, 'Good job!' ones are debased with less precious metals, but they all help pay the writer for his time. On this forum there are awards and showcases and comments - that is our financial system, and if we doubled the number of comments tomorrow then we would see more, better and longer-lasting works.

    That's my 2 cents.
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  7. #7
    Inspite of lacking the long experience most commentors in this thread have, I would like to add to two thoughts and one suggestion:

    1. Comments are indeed invaluable. When I started writing my first AAR here, it was the comments that kept me going. I might not have finished it if not for loki100 and Stuyvesant - who were the first two commentors that found it and kept coming back virtually after every update.

    2. Commenting is a way to thank readers. But to me that is a secondary consideration. I comment because I genuinely like an AAR. That said, my own appreciation for comments has made me comment a lot more frequently in other AARs.

    3. Open up all parts of AARland for all commentors regardless whether they own the game. This is the case for almost every subforum but there is at least one notable suggestion - Sengoku. There are a few AARs, I would love to comment on, alas I don't own the game. It may be one reason why this particular subforum is a bit deserted (and that is really not a good thing: lively AAR forum = free advertisement). Or is there a particular reason why it's restricted to game owners?

  8. #8
    custom luser title gela1212's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by loki100 View Post
    One particular challenge is to work out how to comment on a long standing AAR. Not only is the prospect of starting to read something that is already 50+ pages long rather daunting, it raises the question of how to comment.
    As someone who feels like the only person in the EU3 AAR community to have not read Timelines (it's just too daunting, I'm sorry!), I can completely agree with this. I have found countless times that commenting as a work goes along increases my ability to catch up. Specifically when getting into a new AAR, I often talk to myself about this or that problem or some inconsistency, then proceed to argue with myself when it seems like said problem/inconsistency has been resolved but it may not be. I'm weird, I know, but that's how I do it. Many times I've gotten comments from someone saying "How do you plan on keeping Michael (or whoever) alive through all four hundred years of the game? It seems the entire plot is built around him as a character (on chapter 6)".

    Does that bother me? No. I simply chuckle a little and just respond with a read and find out response. I think if you want, you should comment at any time.

    However, I would also like to mention that we can sometimes feel like a stuffy lot around here. This was sort of previously mentioned, but when's the last time you saw someone actively discussing the AAR in the comments? Part of why I'm such a huge Sci-Fi/Fantasy fan is because it offers so many opportunities for speculation among fans, as most works are series and thus there is dead time between releases. But I feel uncomfortable speculating on a work, saying something like "Hey, does anyone else see a bit of foreshadowing in what Chaos did that chapter? I think he may not be there for the full length of the tale."

    I don't think that feeling is at all conducive to the atmosphere we're trying to promote as writers and readers alike. I don't know, maybe everyone else does want threads to be dedicated shrines solely for the writer and their work, and for mere peasant readers to only be able to offer encouragement and appreciation directed specifically towards the writer.

    I think that's all I have to say.. but as some of you know I have a tendency to rant so I might edit this later. Oh, and sorry for the necro, though I guess it's only by like two weeks or whatever.



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  9. #9
    Field Marshal Stuyvesant's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bornego View Post
    3. Open up all parts of AARland for all commentors regardless whether they own the game. This is the case for almost every subforum but there is at least one notable suggestion - Sengoku. There are a few AARs, I would love to comment on, alas I don't own the game. It may be one reason why this particular subforum is a bit deserted (and that is really not a good thing: lively AAR forum = free advertisement). Or is there a particular reason why it's restricted to game owners?
    I know that they restricted the AAR forum for Diplomacy in this way initially, and it really killed that AAR subforum. However, I don't think it applies to Sengoku - I don't own the game and have commented on a few AARs without any problems. If you're unable to comment, you might want to check (PM) with a moderator or maybe tech support?

    I'll come back to this post later to give my own thoughts on commenting (though they're really a repeat of Director's points - just not as rhetorically pleasing ), but wanted to address this issue first - it seems fair, considering it's related to commenting, after all.
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  10. #10
    In the lands of Calradia Wyvern's Avatar
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    Got to agree with the comments above, about the need to open up all AAR forums if you want them to flourish. I remember when I first started my Mount and Blade AAR, many people couldn't comment because they didn't have the game. It was definately a disincentive for me as a writer. Fortunately the policy was changed whilst my AAR was in progress and the Mount & Blade AAR forum was opened up.

    As for commenting in general, you can't force them, but they really do mean a lot to the writer, or at least to this writer.

  11. #11
    Lord of Slower-than-real-time El Pip's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gela1212 View Post
    However, I would also like to mention that we can sometimes feel like a stuffy lot around here. This was sort of previously mentioned, but when's the last time you saw someone actively discussing the AAR in the comments? Part of why I'm such a huge Sci-Fi/Fantasy fan is because it offers so many opportunities for speculation among fans, as most works are series and thus there is dead time between releases. But I feel uncomfortable speculating on a work, saying something like "Hey, does anyone else see a bit of foreshadowing in what Chaos did that chapter? I think he may not be there for the full length of the tale."

    I don't think that feeling is at all conducive to the atmosphere we're trying to promote as writers and readers alike. I don't know, maybe everyone else does want threads to be dedicated shrines solely for the writer and their work, and for mere peasant readers to only be able to offer encouragement and appreciation directed specifically towards the writer.
    There did use to be a great deal of discussion and speculation in AAR comments, then there was a change of mod policy/implementation/something and anything that wasn't encouragement or appreciation was liable to be declared off topic in quite emphatic terms. Once a few threads had their sprinkling of red mod text and the 'ghost pages' that are the sign of heavy post deletion the community adapted and here we are now.

    Maybe I just posted in the wrong sort of threads and misunderstood what was going on, but I got the impression that the stuffiness and narrow range of acceptable comments was something that was being aimed at and was a deliberate feature. ,
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  12. #12
    Field Marshal Malurous's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by El Pip View Post
    There did use to be a great deal of discussion and speculation in AAR comments, then there was a change of mod policy/implementation/something and anything that wasn't encouragement or appreciation was liable to be declared off topic in quite emphatic terms. Once a few threads had their sprinkling of red mod text and the 'ghost pages' that are the sign of heavy post deletion the community adapted and here we are now.

    Maybe I just posted in the wrong sort of threads and misunderstood what was going on, but I got the impression that the stuffiness and narrow range of acceptable comments was something that was being aimed at and was a deliberate feature. ,
    I can of course only speak for the last nine months or so, but it's not a deliberate feature. I couldn't know what you're referring to exactly, but I really can't think of a situation where the sort of narrative speculation gela1212 speaks about has been deleted. I myself would encourage that sort of discussion, provided that its roots are firmly in the AAR.

    And frankly, OT deletion in general of anything this side of lolcats is typically very rare and requires more than just going on some tangent.
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  13. #13
    Lord of Slower-than-real-time El Pip's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Malurous View Post
    I can of course only speak for the last nine months or so, but it's not a deliberate feature. I couldn't know what you're referring to exactly, but I really can't think of a situation where the sort of narrative speculation gela1212 speaks about has been deleted. I myself would encourage that sort of discussion, provided that its roots are firmly in the AAR.

    And frankly, OT deletion in general of anything this side of lolcats is typically very rare and requires more than just going on some tangent.
    I must admit I've been far less active for the last year or so, partly because of real life but partly because of this issue, so perhaps things have changed.

    Now if something has changed and if post deletion has become rare and people are allowed to speculate more that is marvellous, but certainly in the HoI2 forum that wasn't the case. I remember I was replying to comments on my own AAR but by the time I'd finished typing the reply a mod had turned up, deleted half a dozen posts as they were about aircraft but the last update had been about tanks (previous and future updates were about aircraft though) and warned everyone to stay on topic.

    So I guess the question is has that changed? Are people now allowed to discuss any part of the AAR, even if it wasn't in the last update?
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  14. #14
    Field Marshal loki100's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by El Pip View Post
    I must admit I've been far less active for the last year or so, partly because of real life but partly because of this issue, so perhaps things have changed.

    So I guess the question is has that changed? Are people now allowed to discuss any part of the AAR, even if it wasn't in the last update?
    I really don't want to continue this too much longer but the definition of Off Topic (OT) is so often in the eye of the reader.

    I've done a quick check on 4 of the most popular HOI2 AARs that are currently on the front page of that subforum. Against all odd has 316 pages and 32 deletions (it started in May 08), Presidents - 12 deletions/67 pages, Manitoba - 19 deletions/65 pages; Rebirth Japanese Empire - 13 deletions/96 pages. Now life is too short to go through and check all those, but a fair number will be adbots & I'm sure everyone would rather these forums weren't cluttered with adverts for ******** and prada handbags (to name but 2 popular themes). But its not indicative of "heavy post deletion".

    So since this thead is about commenting and posts do get the chop for being OT, I'll offer a personal view as to what is OT. In some of the interactive AARs a problem is that people start pushing their own (usually political, sometimes social) views that have no basis in the game or the AAR. In a recent HOI3 AAR a number were deleted as they had become a debate about the (flaws in) basic game mechanics ad-infinitum, not about the usage of those mechanics (& any resulting problems) in the AAR. If you need an idea what is fine, check out the last couple of pages in Prawnstar's current AAR which is a long erudite debate on the strategy being adopted and options and consequences of some choices.

    Its also worth restating that if you don't agree with a moderator decision, then pm one of us. I've certainly put back in stuff I originally took out after a discussion with the OP.

  15. #15
    Maestro Director's Avatar
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    As a former mod with service during some of the period you describe, I can say this:

    1) Adbots get deleted - no questions asked. People who respond to adbots may see their comments deleted.
    2) Most times when AAR conversations 'drift' into discussion of vacation trips or the like, mods comment with a 'Hey, guys - let's don't use Paradox resources on this in this place, OK?' Usually that's enough, because most forumites are good people.
    3) Malicious comments, comments that cross lines that Paradox policy does not permit (or which break the law in some jurisdictions) and comments that directly confront moderator decisions - these can be deleted.

    During that period we did have several outbreaks of flamers and idiots. Stuff got deleted, including whole AARs. The moral is NOT that 'people got their stuff deleted' but that people (or adbots) who deliberately and flagrantly broke the law or violated Paradox rules had corrective action taken. We are on Paradox property here and we do not have the right to behave any way we like.


    These forums are generally polite, interested, helpful and mature. Paradox policy and moderator action helps keep it that way. And that's a good thing!
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  16. #16
    Off Again Alfred Packer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Director View Post
    3) Malicious comments, comments that cross lines that Paradox policy does not permit (or which break the law in some jurisdictions) and comments that directly confront moderator decisions - these can be deleted.

    During that period we did have several outbreaks of flamers and idiots. Stuff got deleted, including whole AARs. The moral is NOT that 'people got their stuff deleted' but that people (or adbots) who deliberately and flagrantly broke the law or violated Paradox rules had corrective action taken. We are on Paradox property here and we do not have the right to behave any way we like.
    I remember that period. There was this one poor guy who had two AARs collapse around him (Vicky II ones, I think) because he used cheats in his game and was totally upfront about using them and for some reason he would get savaged in his own AARs over it by some really abusive readers! The mods were all over those threads. I think he wound up scared off AARing in spite of you guys' best efforts.

    I think the mods here do a really good job of policing these forums and it shows in way people behave here. Because jerks aren't tolerated, they don't stay long. Because people aren't being savaged by jerks all the time, they take some risks, put themselves out there, and write some really fantastic stuff on this board.

  17. #17
    Compulsive CommentatAAR stnylan's Avatar
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    I stop by the old place and see a thread about comments, and well, red rags and bulls

    Quote Originally Posted by loki100 View Post
    That slips over into a question of how to comment. There are a lot of ways to do this, some can be as simple as expressing your appreciation. Some can be quite detailed analysis of a period of gameplay or dissection of plot or character. As long as you avoid spam, there is no need to ensure that every comment is deep and meaningful (&, as above, writers tend to like comments in any case).
    I once wrote a fairly lengthy article about commenting, in the fAARq (here).

    I think most of what I wrote there would still have relevance today.

    To read is human, to comment is divine.
    To view is human, to comment is divine.
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