Friday, September 15, 2006

"The Vocal Minority"

This phrase is heard pretty often when talking about community management, particularly when discussing forums. It's not untrue - statistically, active posters on forums are generally a small subset of the playerbase. They also tend to represent the powergamers and the social butterflies - not necessarily your average player. So calling them a "vocal minority" is fairly accurate.

It's also toxic as hell.

The phrase is generally used by producers and execs who don't want to take seriously the feedback the CM is presenting. It's condescending, dismissive, and ultimately potentially disastrous. It's one thing to look realistically at forum feedback as compared to login polls, in-game metrics, and other forms of feedback, but it's quite another when forums are the only form of feedback you have - which is, sadly, often the case.

As m'lord Calandryll put it at a recent AGC panel, your "vocal minority" is your canary in the coal mine - if you ignore it when something goes wrong, instead of that one bird dropping dead, it will be everyone.


At 7:49 AM, Blogger Ieranii said...

Oh I'm one of those social butterflies. I couldn't agree more with this post though. Being a social butterfly I, of course, talk to a lot of people. (that's how I found your blog too btw)Since I do talk to a lot of people I have a chance to discuss lot's of opinions about games. If I am concerned enough to go post on a games forums you can bet I'm probably not the only one with that opinion. If it's only my opinion I don't usually make an issue of a "thing". But if it's a concern of a large number of the people I talk to I'm going to think to myself.."hey self... someone ought to tell these guys X thing!" So off I trundle to the boards and spout off my little canary tune and become a vocal minority. Now I'm not saying that just because I talk to a few people that makes me a doesn't...but in most cases, when I complain, it's not just one opinion. It's my original opinion plus whatever additions I've taken from others know that "hey...I hadn't thought of that...that's a good point" kind of thing. ends up on the forums too. Your analogy of the canary in the coal mine was very accurate for that reason, at least when it comes to us butterflies. Anyway, I have to take a breath now...good post!


At 9:36 AM, Blogger BugHunter said...

I don't think you can actually draw any absolute conclusions regarding the forum posters. They don't even agree with each other on many issues, so how do you determine which subset of the player subset is representing the majority. What if the majority on some issues has a 3rd opinion on specific issues, and thus no one on the forum is representing the majority.
Like everything thing else in life each issue has to be handled individually, with common sense and good insight for the greater good.

At 4:00 PM, Blogger jo said...

Bughunter does have a point about players disagreeing with each other. What's the saying? You could tell the players you are going to mail them all a gold brick for being good customers and there are players that would complain that they had to carry something that heavy in from the mailbox.

You can't please all of the community. Ever.

However, if you focus on the fact no one ever agrees, you miss the value in the forums as a whole.

No one will let you know your servers are down faster than the players on the boards. No one will tell you about a highly abuseable exploit faster than your community. And no one QA team can possibly replicate the millions of different ways a player base can break, exploit, and powerlevel your game.

You can also take the temperature of the community via boards. While not everyone will agree on anything, you will see trends and averages. This is one of the things that seperates an average community manager from a good community manager.


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