Saturday, April 14, 2012

Lowering the stakes in asking for help

All of us, sometimes, need help. We need help getting things from tall shelves, which is why I like having a boyfriend that's seven inches taller than I am. We need help doing our homework. We need help doing our work-work. We need help understanding the games we play.

There are a variety of people and organizations that help with a variety of problems. Some examples are:
  • World of Warcraft GMs
  • World of Warcraft Customer Service representatives
  • Police
  • Forum moderators
  • Poison control
  • Human Resources
  • Social Workers
And of course many others.

Sometimes we need help with really serious, scary things. This post was inspired by someone in a WoW-related community who had been cornered at a convention in a way that terrified her so badly that she can't remember what the man who cornered her said. She made her post because she was worried that she might have overreacted, and she wasn't sure if she should or should not have contacted con security.

Reading her post made me really sad.

It also reminded me of posts I've read regarding much less serious issues, such as posters on a forum reluctant to use a feature that flagged a comment for moderator attention. Many persons felt that their concerns were, perhaps, too minor to make use of this feature.

What I want to do here today is to lower the stakes as much as I can.

I think that probably the most important thing to remember is that alerting someone to a potential problem does not force them to respond in a certain way. All we're doing, when we ask for help, is saying "hey, there's something here you should be aware of."

You can see this really well if you ever report someone to Blizzard for their behavior. You'll eventually get a message back that will say the following:
  1. Thank you for the report.
  2. We'll do an investigation.
  3. We will not discuss our findings or any action taken with you.
This is a great system, and I really think that it helps remind us of just how small of a step we're taking when we report someone to the GMs. Blizzard does the investigation. Blizzard reaches its own conclusions. Blizzard takes action as it sees fit, and it neither consults with us nor notifies us of what actions it took.

All we're doing when we put in a ticket is bringing something to their attention. Nothing more than a "hey, you should take a look at this."

Of course, it is in some ways more serious to take this step with a body like con security or the police. I would urge people to think of it in very similar terms, though. If you notify the police of an issue or ask for their help, they may or may not do an investigation. They may or may not take action as a result of those investigations. Those are all steps they take on their own, though. Just like GMs depend on players to alert them to problems, police rely on citizens to alert them.

All of that being said, many people have many reasons for not reporting any given thing. It's not as if I've ticketed everything that's ever bothered me or called the police for everything I see. I'm not trying to pressure anyone into doing things they don't really want to or that they don't think will help. If, however, you want to ask for help or put up a flag on something but you're worried it's "too minor," I would really encourage you to go ahead with your plan.

Whether something is too minor or not doesn't have to be solely your decision and solely your responsibility. There are people whose function it is to make that decision, and ideally they'll have a wider experience to pull from when they're doing that investigation and making that determination. If you're in doubt, why not at least give the experts a crack at it?

Sorry this post has wandered pretty far afield from hunters! It's just been knocking around my head a little bit, and hey, it doesn't really do any harm to post it, right?

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