Response to the MBACD

Warning: Not a game related post.

Today in the MMO blogging world a new event launched, the MMO Blog Alliance Charity Drive. I have issues with this.

But before I get to them, I do want to acknowledge that I feel like I know a few of the bloggers associated with this drive, and insofar as I do know them, I fervently believe that they’re people with good hearts who are trying to Do The Right Thing.

I just think this ‘drive’ is a mistake. Maybe my life is different from yours… but in the past I’ve donated to quite a few organizations, none of which want to let me go. It has gotten to the point where now, at this time of year, I start to drown under a deluge of requests for further support. The phone rings (in MA the “do not call” law doesn’t apply to non-profits) and the mail box fills up. Those are the personal requests. Outside every grocery store is someone (sometimes several someones) propositioning me with sad tales of people living a hard life who need my help. Soon Santa will be ringing his bell at the mall. Donation coin cups will be passed around the theater. Coin cups will be next to the register at the coffee shop. TV ads showing starving children, puppies, or children with puppies will pop up 4 times during every TV show. The Giving Tree will go up at work. Kids will knock on the door looking to raise money for some cause… in some cases these causes may even be legit.

In short, without being deaf, dumb and blind it is *impossible* not to know that there are needy people and good causes in the world, and I’m all for contributing to these causes if doing so feels right to you.

But the *last* thing I need is another vector for outstretched hands being shoved at me. Particularly a gaming blog. (And yes, I appreciate the irony of me writing this post on a gaming blog.)

Now I’ve been called “Scrooge” (in a kidding way) and ‘mean’ (in an apparently serious way) for this attitude already today. But y’know what? You don’t know me. You don’t know my past, or my habits. You’ll have to take on faith that fact that I contributed often in the past. Not as much these days, both due to my personal financial situation, and more so because of all the spam and the harassing phone calls that charities use. Calling me 3 times in a given week asking me for even more money is not a way to get me to continue contributing to a cause.

And when I have something spare to offer, I don’t need a random blogger (no matter how much I enjoy their insight into gaming) suggesting who I should donate to. Really, are there people out there saying “I’ve got $500 I want to donate but I have no idea who needs it.”? I can’t believe there are. Personally, my Q4 donations tend to go to fire departments (because my father was a volunteer fireman) and a charity that brings toys to kids in the hospital, because when I think Christmas I think kids and toys.

Now, you might suggest I’m over-reacting and to be perfectly honest I’d have a hard time arguing against that. What irked me most about the MBACD media blitz is that it was a media blitz. A bunch of MMO blogs I read all posted at the same time encouraging me to donate to those less fortunate. I likened it to getting 6 phone calls the same evening asking for donations… even if I was in favor of the cause, that’d be pretty irritating. Ferrel pointed out that not everyone is going to see multiple postings and he’s right.

But some of us will and, having no advance knowledge of this organization, it felt like a trap. We’ll lure you in with good talk about MMOs then suddenly hit you up for money!

Again, I absolutely understand that these people are well-meaning and trying to do some good (and of course won’t profit from this campaign in any way). I just don’t think most of us need another group of people urging us to donate, and when you push something on a person hard enough, the response will be pushing back. I suggest that people are getting so sick of being ‘urged to donate’ that they’ll stop donating out of spite. I’m personally getting close to that point myself.

Those of us who wish to donate will, no matter what we read in our RSS feeds. There’re plenty of big budget media campaigns making us aware of the need. Those of us who don’t, or can’t, donate, aren’t going to be swayed by a post on a friend’s blog, no matter how sincere the plea is.

Urging donations is getting close to talking politics (or religon) and I don’t think a gaming blog is the right place for any of these topics.

If you disagree…if you really do want to help and somehow have gotten this far in life without gaining awareness of the many good causes out there, then by all means please do read Ferrel’s post about the MBACD. He, and the blogs he link to, can offer you many suggestions for charities that could use your donation.

[Edit: Clipped a few rantie tangential paragraphs off the head of this post, as advised by my new BFF Brian (see comment #1) since they were really unrelated to the topic and in consideration of the rather solid conversation that has emerged in the comments. The removed ‘graphs were just me grumping about the “Holiday Season” starting too early and the current political incorrectness of referring to “Christmas” rather than “The Holidays.”]

32 thoughts on “Response to the MBACD

  1. Sorry you found it hurtful, but I don’t know why you did. I didn’t say anything against you and in fact took pains to point out that I believe you’re trying to do a good thing. I just honestly think its a mistake and could possibly do more harm than good. I believe people are badgered enough as it is. Over-exposure isn’t a good thing.

    My reaction this morning of “Oh crap, what’s all this spam.” was an honest, immediate reaction. That’s how these posts felt *to me*.

    Maybe I’m wrong and you’re right. I hope that’s the case. I do know I’m not alone in thinking this way, but as Brian’s comment illustrates, going against a topic like this isn’t a popular stance.

    And this isn’t a game, this is an important topic.

  2. I don’t think it’s a game either. I don’t believe I gave that impression. I also didn’t think I was badgering. Finally, I’m not trying to do a wrong/right thing here at all, but I do think you meant to be scathing and I did feel targeted by it.

    I’ll get over myself I’m sure. In the meantime, you can always remove the offenders from your feeds.

  3. Hey Pete,
    I’m not one to compartmentalize politics, religion, or gaming, but I can see your point. “Those of us who wish to donate will, no matter what we read in our RSS feeds” (I would like to add), “or who is standing in front of Walmart ringing a bell”. Nothing wrong with donating per se, like you said, but sometimes a point of over saturation is reached. Happy Holidays. 🙂

    Wait, it isn’t even Thanksgiving yet…

  4. Let me reiterate before I type anything else: I am Switzerland. :p

    That being said, at different times I can see — and agree with — both sides. Truth be told, I usually feel really put-upon by requests for money, no matter where those requests come from, but I understand that everyone’s “comfort bubble” is different. To each his own, and all that. 🙂

  5. @Ysharros – Yes, it was scathing against the concept. I don’t know why you felt targeted… I didn’t even mention your blog. I certainly didn’t target you. Never referred to you. Your blog was one of the 6 (? you, Spinks, Arb, Syp, Ferrel… ok maybe it was just 5) that hit me up to give away my money first thing this morning, but I never singled you out in any way.

    And I didn’t mean to imply you thought it was a game. My point was, if you’re going to discuss serious issues like urging people to open their wallets and give money to charity, you should be prepared for strong feedback, pro & con.

  6. And Ysh, you (by yourself) weren’t badgering. But the impact of having 5 posts coming up at the same time with “donate to charity” messages felt a lot like badgering (as well as being very spammy). Which is why I suggested to Ferrel that maybe a staggered approach would’ve been less off-putting.

    Again, I’m NOT against the idea of donating to causes you feel are important. I AM against an organized push of that agenda on an audience that didn’t sign up for it.

    If a bunch of the generally-gaming oriented blogs you follow suddenly one day posted on abortion (either pro or against, but in a unified voice) [edit: or to be a less controversial topic, on why a particular political candidate should be re-elected] I suggest you’d find that off-putting. You’re one of the most spam-sensitive people I know! (OK, I should say, given what you’ve said on twitter and in blog posts, you *seem* to be one of the most spam-sensitive people I know.)

  7. You know, you’re right. Getting called by marketing five or six times in the space of a minute pisses people off. Hell when I worked in a market research call center I pissed plenty of people off.

    Sure seeing a bunch of your RSS feeds light up with “Here, give money to X” could be a little irksome and it was a media blitz.
    However that’s really rather the point isn’t it? If it’s to be a joint effort with people all getting together and saying “if you happen to be able to this Christmas season…” it really does require a launch, which you witnessed, rather than a piecemeal “well I suppose I’m with this idea”.

    Ad campaigns don’t just throw together a few boards here and get around to the tv ad when Bob is off the can and back from vacation. They plan and they launch and they try to generate buzz from the first go. If you felt as though your walet was demanded, perhaps our tone was wrong. It’s simply another way to promote causes that people think should be promoted, at a time of year that perhaps is now too associated with giving, rather than us threathening to fill your feeds with constant demands for help.

    In the end you’ve already said it, no matter where you go for the next two months people are going to have their causes, their sob stories and their requests. It’s the season that makes sense for such a drive and so it happened. Anyone who doesn’t want to is free to mark it as read in their reader and move on as though nothing of note occured. Truth be told you’ve done exactly what we wanted/needed. You may not give to any of the listed charities and perhaps tomorrow you wont remember this at all, but you’ve spread the word. That’s why people have launches.

    Also you, Switzerland. Pony up the chocolate.

  8. Pete, I respect the fact that you disagreed cordially and, in your own way, supported what we’re trying to do. On the other hand, nobody targeted you nor anybody else specifically.

    I think we all understand that it’s spammy but I look at it like this: we spend the vast majority of our time talking about things that really don’t matter. Video gaming is fun but, in the long run, it and our blogs don’t really account for very much more than hobbiest writing. This is a chance for us to try to do a little good with the modest readership we have. Some people will find it annoying, sure, but maybe someone else will make their first, or fiftieth, charitable donation. If they’re in a position and of a heart to do that, it’s a good thing and makes our posts worth the time it took to craft them.

    I’d also like to point out that anyone we might drive away with our efforts would almost certainly be driven away by someone else anyways. The Salvation Army bell-ringers do far more to annoy than these posts did. More than that, however, we’re not following up repeatedly in phone calls and letters, nor will the vast majority of the organizations we’re supporting. Many are smaller organizations, like Tabby’s Place which helps abandoned and mistreated cats. It’s not quite the same.

    Believe me, I empathize with you on the annoying factor when it comes to some of these groups. They bother me too but when a group of your blogging peers tries to do something quantitatively good, which is inherently something people have to elect into finding out about, I don’t think that’s the time to get bitter at the system. Get bitter when you actually get that spam phone call.

    That being said, this is your blog and you’re entitled your opinion. I respectfully disagree but I appreciate that you expressed yourself in the way you did.

    – Chris

  9. @Ardua — Yeah, I get that the ‘blitz’ was the point. I appreciate your being honest that this *is* a media campaign you’re putting together. I see the Ferrel is potentially being interviewed about it. Good work on your part.

    But these are your personal gaming blogs, not fund-raising blogs. This is why I was so turned off. If you’re going to turn your blogs into a marketing platform, you have to expect some people are going to be turned off. I was. A few other people who’ve spoken to me directly were.

    I just don’t know that we need yet another gamer/blogger charity drive going on. I kinda feel like Penny Arcade covers that pretty well. I’d like to have one place in my life where I’m not being marketed to. Prior to today, I thought that the MMO blogosphere was such a place. I guess I was wrong.

    Maybe I’m the only one who is naturally contrary, but the more I have this “Give to a good cause” line shoved down my throat, the less likely I am to actually do it.

    And it wasn’t random that I did, after all my ranting, provide a link to interested parties. I acknowledge that other people feel differently and I am *happy* to direct people to your cause as long as it is an “opt in” situation. Anyone who clicks that link will know what they’re going to see on the other side.

    Anyway, thanks very much for the thoughts. Very much appreciated.

  10. @Pete

    The issue is that these actually are our personal gaming blogs. The whole purpose of having one is to write about what you want to write about. There is no obligation for me to only write about MMOs. There was no contract between me and my readers that I will not occasionally sway from time to time off my main topic. I rarely do that but when I do it is because I consider it important. This is one of those times. I never expect a single reader to unsubscribe based on one story but if that happens, that happens. That could be any story I write.

    We didn’t do it for publicity though. That of course was going to be a by-product but I do believe there is room for “another drive.” Not everyone reads Penny Arcade. Sure, ALMOST everyone does! Probably everyone that reads Epic Slant. There might be one person though. You never know.

    The only point I really do disagree with you on is that people know what to do with their money. There are a lot of charities out there and some folks give to something that they feel is close. What if they’ve never heard of one of the ones we bring up? I’d never heard of Tabby’s Place. Now I have and that is a chance for me to donate to something closer to what I believe in. You never know.

    Obviously you aren’t a fan of the blitz and I think next year I’ll take your advice and set a schedule so maybe we only have a post every four hours or so over the course of a week.

  11. Oh I know where you’re coming from and if we got spammy, well then it’s shotgun to the face time. What was needed was word of mouth and you’ve provided a part of that.

    Victory for all \o/

    Except Switzerland who has yet to release the chocolate.

  12. @Chris (sorry, getting tripped up between approving and replying);

    Thank you, first of all, for appreciating the fact that I’m not on any of the involved blogs ranting my rants. That, I feel, would’ve been disrespectful.

    I think I pretty much said everything I’d say to you in my reply to Ardua, actually. I just feel like we’re already so over-saturated with these requests… trust me, I’m bitter towards the telemarketers, too.

    I will say here: “which is inherently something people have to elect into finding out about,” – I didn’t feel like I elected to find out about this issue, it was pushed to me from many different points all at once. As Ardua said, it’s an effective marketing technique but if you’re going to market to people outside your content area, you’re going to have to expect some push-back from some people.

    It is nice that you’re highlighting smaller charities. I remember when Child’s Play was still small and I felt like I was doing a lot of good supporting them. My last contribution, a few months ago, was to a guinea pig rescue organization. 🙂

    Y’know, now that I *know* about the MBACD I’ll know to just skip those posts in my reader.

  13. @Ferrel –

    “The only point I really do disagree with you on is that people know what to do with their money. There are a lot of charities out there and some folks give to something that they feel is close. What if they’ve never heard of one of the ones we bring up? I’d never heard of Tabby’s Place. Now I have and that is a chance for me to donate to something closer to what I believe in. You never know.”

    You’re right about that. I concede the point. I suppose there are always places that no one has heard of that need help. I have my ‘circle’ of causes but I shouldn’t project/expect that everyone does.

    I realize no one signs a contract on what content we’ll provide on our personal blogs, but we do establish a pattern, and when a chunk of blogs break pattern together, that is disruptive. Which I guess is the point. But disruption isn’t always going to be met with smiles and approval.

    I’ve been wrong before; maybe you’ll prompt readers who weren’t planning on giving this year into doing so. As I said, I just hope you do no harm. And I honestly feel (I’ve said this like a dozen times, I know) that there are too many of these drives around and at some point adding new ones is going to do more harm the good. Hopefully you have a better measure on the pulse of society and your’s isn’t that camel’s back-breaking straw. 🙂

  14. I’m kind of ambivalent to the whole thing. I think it’s a good thing for people to be doing (raising awareness in a way that is not taking it away from someone else), but my personal feeling toward a charity drive like this fall in line with yours, Pete. I read the blogs, mark them as read in my reader, and feel good inside that at least *someone* is doing a little something to make a difference somewhere–even if it’s not me–and go about my daily routine as normal, no worse for wear.

  15. I noticed an oversight with this post: you forgot to tag it with “whining”. 😉

    Know why people like the bell ringers are out there (and, in the Midwest, freezing their asses off)? Not to annoy you, but because many people need a reminder to give to others. It’d be great if everyone were always generous, but people need do prompting during this time of year for a reason. Yeah, maybe it annoys you that a bunch of us disrupted our usual discussion of games to talk about charities (like you disrupted your blog to complain about our disruptions), but for many other people a subtle prompting might get them to do the generous thing. If you already donate, then carry on. Not everyone is as giving as you are~

  16. @Bryan (Way up in the comments) – My apologies for the delay in approving your comment. For some reason I didn’t get a notification that your comment was in the queue.

    @Brian Green – I generally cover ‘whining’ under the category Pointless Rambling and the tag Rants but will consider sub-categorizing. Thanks.

    “many other people a subtle prompting might get them to do the generous thing.”

    And that gets back to one of my points, there was nothing even slightly subtle about this. Honestly if any one of the blogs I read had had their post up, I would’ve maybe ranted about holidays starting too early but wouldn’t have given it another thought beyond “Oh, that’s a nice idea, good for them.” It’s this “We’re going to form a MOVEMENT.” that I found off-putting. But I’ve gone on about that ad nauseum at this point.

  17. I posted some comments when Larisa voiced a similar view on charity drives a week or so ago. In short, I think that charity is a highly personal, quiet way of life, not a check you send to some Organization once a year to check off your good deed for the holidays. Everybody needs help sometimes. Also, charity means far more when it’s given voluntarily (and requires a sacrifice); when the check in the mail is the result of solicitation or guilt trips, I’m hard pressed to really consider it charity. It still Does Good In The World in a legit organization, but for me, charity is more about the act of giving and what it does to the giver, not championing a Cause.

    But that’s just me. I’m not really bothered by this wave of charity posts since I assume Good Intentions. It is a wee bit spammy, but then, I tend to also ignore all of the recent posts on Dragon Age, too, since I’ll never play it. Having been around the internet for a little while, I’ve picked up a few filters. 😉

  18. Pete wrote:
    Honestly if any one of the blogs I read had had their post up, I would’ve maybe ranted about holidays starting too early but wouldn’t have given it another thought beyond “Oh, that’s a nice idea, good for them.”

    So, what you’re saying is we should have been deceptive and let someone like Ferrel post first, then we should have pretended that we were just “reblogging with our own comment”? The horrible part is that Ferrel decided to get a few others involved beforehand and we posted on the same day? There’s a reason why marketing has a reputation for being underhanded, because if people like you go off on a tear when people are honest about their intentions.

    I guess I’m just confused why this deserved a lengthy (and I guess hurtful yet hastily edited) rant. As Tesh points out, there’s been a lot more posts about Dragon Age: Origins, a single-player game, on the MMO blogs lately. Judging from the extended nerdgasm of posts on your site, I guess you don’t have a problem with that. Personally, I read MMO blogs for MMO commentary, not to hear (yet again) about the already heavily hyped Bioware game.

    Not worth a QQing post on my own blog, though. I wanted to try to help make the world a better place instead.

  19. @Brian The “hastily edited” bits that you seem to think were hurtful were, as indicated at the bottom of the original post, just me bitching about people starting the “Holiday Season” so early, and the political incorrectness about using the word “Christmas” rather than “Holidays”. So y’know, don’t start manufacturing drama; there’s enough going around as is.

    The only thing “hurtful” here is that some people write a blog and only want to hear when people agree with them. If you’re going to put your thoughts out there, particularly when you’re asking people to open their wallets, you have to accept that some people are going to disagree. I have made ZERO personal attacks in this post or this thread, I have singled no one out and only pointed to Ferrel’s original post for people WHO ARE INTERESTED IN GETTING INVOLVED and in fact have made a point of acknowledging the noble intent behind this program. If someone finds this hurtful, they have to own that; I can’t.

    And no, I don’t *personally* have an issue with the Dragon Age posts. I did *personally* have an issue with reading 5 pleas for money in the space of 10 minutes. Key term: “personally”.

    If you personally have an issue with Dragon Age posts, I invite you to write a post on your blog complaining about them or pointing out how they annoy you. I’m not going to charge over there and get in your face about voicing your opinion.

    I point out again, I haven’t left a single comment on any of blogs in this “MMO Blogger Alliance.” I was personally annoyed by something that happened and since it was a personal reaction, the ‘right’ thing to do seemed to me, to be to write about it on my own blog. As someone else said recently: “It’s my damn blog and I’ll say whatever I please here, whenever I please, and however I damn well please.”

    Or perhaps that sentiment doesn’t apply to both sides of the argument?

  20. @Tesh – Sorry, skipped right over you. I really hope I made clear that I assumed Good Intentions too. I devoted a whole paragraph to that fact. Granted it was a short paragraph, but still…

    * * *
    @All:
    Y’know, I have to admit, Brian Green finally managed to get past my thick skin. As to why I felt the need to write the post in the first place, it sprang out of a Twitter conversation that morning. I mentioned being spammed by donation requests from blogs that morning, someone agreed with me, and someone else took offense to what I said. Hard to elaborate on my thoughts in 140 characters, so I wrote a blog post.

    I don’t know why people who’ve never commented here, and I suspect have never been here before, come here to fuss at me, because at the end of the day, as Aruda said:

    “Truth be told you’ve done exactly what we wanted/needed. You may not give to any of the listed charities and perhaps tomorrow you wont remember this at all, but you’ve spread the word. That’s why people have launches.”

    If I’m so off the rails, why are you so worried about what I think, Brian? The worst thing that can happen is someone will read my rant, think “Wow, he’s an ass” and then click the link to wind up at Ferrel’s blog where they can then find a place to donate their money.

    If *1* person did that, then aren’t you ahead of the game?

    Or do you think I have such a powerful force of personality that I’m somehow going to convince people not to donate? Trust me, I don’t have that kind of influence. Have you *ever* read this blog before? No, I didn’t think so. Nor will you again. And in any event, I never suggested that anyone should *not* donate.

    I simply stated that people are already drowning in requests for donations and I don’t think yet another source of these requests is a good thing. I stand by that opinion. It’s my opinion. I’m not a social scientist. I didn’t poll a random demographic. I just know its how I, and a few friends, felt about the blitz.

    I do think having essentially the same post on 5 blogs, all cross-linking, is spam (I suggest Google would agree with me…you lot must’ve smelled like a link farm that morning). Note the word “think”. You may feel differently. I don’t see how Ferrel announcing the MMO Blog Alliance Charity Fund drive (with a request to join in), followed over the next few days or even weeks by posts at various blogs, would’ve been the least bit “deceptive” (your word). I think in fact it would’ve been better received that way and possibly more effective. I *know* it would’ve been better received by me.

    I can picture it now: “It’s time for the Annual MMO Blogging Alliance Charity Drive! You can find a list of participating blogs below. Over the next few weeks each of these bloggers will share a few favorite charities and we hope if you have a bit extra to share, you can find a cause that speaks to you personally. If you’d like to participate in the drive this year, please drop me an email and we’ll add you to the list.” etc etc. How is the deceitful? Instead of everyone putting the same 5-10 links in their posts and overwhelming readers with repeated content, they caould all link back to one central page with all the ‘common’ information about the drive and the alliance.

    That wouldn’t be spammy, it’d be more respectful of your reader’s time, and I believe it would ultimately be more effective.

  21. Pete, I was agreeing with your assessment that the good folk involved have good intentions. I like to assume that of the people that I’ve come to enjoy reading. I just didn’t go from there to being grumpy about the spam. 😉

  22. @Tesh – My apologies. I was letting myself get defensive last night, and from there seeing shadows where there were none. I should’ve just walked away from the blog for a while.

  23. *chuckle*
    No offense taken. It’s often all too easy to get uptight about things that really don’t merit it. Witness the WoW “PetGate” kerfluffle. 😉

  24. I was going to leave this alone, but Pete asked:

    If I’m so off the rails, why are you so worried about what I think, Brian?

    Because of the negativity. The posts were spammy. We’re begging for money. We’re harassing people who are already harassed enough. You didn’t offer any constructive criticism until 27 comments in.

    If you were upset about us being spammy, a short email to one of us (like Ferrel) would have been the polite thing to do. “Hey, all those posts seem a bit spammy to me. Perhaps in the future you could spread them out a bit.” That person could have spread it around to the rest of us. Actually, I think you’re right and that’s a better way to go about it. But, a simple email could have addressed the problem without a, “I suggest that people are getting so sick of being ‘urged to donate’ that they’ll stop donating out of spite,” negative rant post on your site and the comments that followed.

  25. With all due respect, politeness, and all that jazz… 😉

    This is Peter’s blog. He has every right to post whatever he likes, in whatever tone he deems appropriate. He obviously felt strongly enough about the issue to write about it publicly, but he made it clear from the very start that the entire post was his opinion and that other people’s mileage may vary.

    We all have topics that just rub us the wrong way, no matter how they’re presented, and we all have different reasons or experiences behind those feelings. It takes a varying amount of time before we’re able to process those emotions and reflexive reactions in order to come up with more constructive alternatives. …And this goes for both sides of the issue here.

    I think Peter’s post was a knee-jerk reaction — which is part of being human. I also feel as though many of the initial responses were knee-jerk in return. Again, understandable. I think the fact that reasonably intelligent discussion was borne of such impulsive banter sends a much clearer — and all-around better — message.

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