Through my many storied and celebrated years on this site, I have noticed that there is a definite lack of a comprehensive guide to posting. There are rules and faqs scattered here and there, the occasional introduction thread, and a newbie dojo. But no one place to really go over the principles of posting. “Now, why would I need to learn how to post? Its easy” you say. Not so. Writing is a skill, like any other skill, there is both a theoretical and mechanical aspect to it. And, like all skills in life, it takes time and practice to become proficient in it. The following was created to give newbies, and seasoned lurkers alike some tips and advice to becoming better posters. You may believe the internet is trivial and you have an unlimited right to posting crap (and to a degree,it is and you do), but we should, in all aspects of life, strive for excellence.
First off, the basics:
What is it you want to say? You likely have an idea or opinion, you want to share it. That’s great. Whether you are creating a new thread, or replying to one, ask yourself: “What I want to tell you that…” when you have answered that question, you can begin to formulate your ideas. The challenge is conveying it in a compelling way. Do not think this is an easy task. Communicating effectively is both a challenging and rewarding process. Here is a basic list of things to consider:
-Am I personally saying anything at all? A link, picture or video is not an opinion. It turns discussions into an aggregate of information. Its lazy and it makes it look like you have nothing to say.
-Have I given sufficient context for my post? If somebody off the street were to read my post, without knowing the thread title or the forum, be able to understand what it is I am trying to tell them? Nobody wants to, or should have to decipher your post.
-Have I considered my audience? What are their thoughts and experiences? How are they likely to interpret this? Writing with an audience focus is one of the most important tools in becoming a good writer. *
-Have I read what I wrote? How does it sound when I say it out loud? You don’t have to say it so loud the people around you think you’re crazy, but speaking words out often reveals gaps in logic, missing words and punctuation.
-How is my spelling and grammar? I am repeatedly using an uncommon acronym that somebody may not know? If your post takes more than one read through, or somebody has to Google something, or ask you for clarification, you are doing it wrong.
-Is this a wall of text? Where can I have line and paragraph breaks? Do I have multiple ideas in one sentence? If your sentence has more than one idea, it is likely a run on sentence. Bold, italics, bullet points and numbers, when used sparingly, can add emphasis and structure to your ideas. White space (line and paragraph breaks) also gives us a chance to rest and soak in information, a wall of text begs to be skimmed or skipped entirely.
-Have I anticipated any reactions to my post? * If you think a statement is likely to be misinterpreted, or people will react poorly to it, re-write it. By addressing criticisms and rebuttals in your post itself, you can get straight to the “meat” of your argument and avoid fruitless back and forth. Just be sure you are not setting up “straw man” arguments, or arguments that over simplify the criticism.
Writing well increases the readability of your post, and it will likely receive much more positive attention and foster discussion. This is good as it encourages a healthy community. Nobody wants forums full of people just shouting at each other and missing the point entirely.
Now, you may be thinking “Well, It’s not like I’m writing out some 10 page dissertation, that stuff is for people with big complicated ideas”. I would counter with “If your ideas aren’t big or complicated, why are you bothering to post?” Not to say, every single post has to be 12 lines long, but, if you are just chiming in to say “that’s cool” you aren’t saying much. You’re just taking up space. I think everybody has the potential to have deep and enlightening thoughts. You are an individual aren’t you?Bring something worthwhile to the table. Again, this doesn’t have to be super long or anything, brevity is the soul of wit, as the bard said. Whether its a clever one liner, a curt rebuttal of a bad argument or 14 page dissertation, people can enrich each others lives with unique perspectives.
Practical advice on forums, and forum culture:
SRK being one of, if not the biggest fighting game websites has many vibrant personalities inhabiting it, often segregated by the different forums. The tone and personality of General Discussion quite different than that of Fighting Game discussion which is different then Tech Talk. Give each of these forums a glance over, skim through some threads, look at how often things are posted to get a feel for the pace and culture of the place. Keying into the mood and knowing the audience is vital to being a successful poster. If nobody reads your Street Writer thread its probably because its in Street Writer.
-Be sure you are posting in the right forums. Arcade Stick, hardware and technical questions belong in tech talk. Anything fighting game related belongs in fighting game discussion, and specific game questions, particularly strategic and tactical questions belong in their respective forums. Posting in the wrong forum will get you ridiculed, your question won’t get answered and you’ll just get frustrated. General discussion is not for things generally about fighting games.
-Get an avatar. It’s hard to take some question mark seriously. It sounds weird, but people will interpret your personality based on the image you present. Without an image to base you on, people are less likely to engage with you. There is an image mishmash forum, ask nicely and somebody may just make you one.
-There is a search function: Use it. This is incredibly important before making a new thread. If you don’t see anything. Skim through the last 4 pages of the forums to see if anything remotely similar matches. Nobody likes duplicate threads. In my experience, thread necromancy (posting in a very old thread) is not particularly frowned upon, as long as it is substantiated. If you have something new to add, like a development that has taken place, please, by all means, try to resuscitate the discussion. If you have nothing to add except you find something funny, or are not confident you can sustain a conversation about it. Just leave it.
-Lounges are useful. If you are not sure about something, or are on the fence if something is thread worthy: post in in a lounge or general thread, or “off topic thread”. You are much less likely to garner any hostility for doing so.
-A link, a video or a picture, on its own, most of the time, does not merit its own thread. We have a video forum and an image forum. If you feel like they are really special, post them there. If you have some interesting talking points regarding them, or they are something that deserves community feedback. Go for it.
-Read a thread before you post in it. Do this as a courtesy to the people who have taken the time to post, and to avoid re-iterating the same point.
On Hate and Hating:
SRK, or at least parts of it, prides itself in being “hard”. The nature of fighting games is highly competitive, and the one on one play style makes them highly adversarial. Being a site full of young men, it was inevitable that this jived well with internet tough guy personas.
The niche market of fighting games ensured a relatively small group of players, which led to a tightly knit community. While fighting games are still considerably less popular than other genres, they have grown substantially and radically over the last 5 or so years. Prior to Street Fighter 4, there was pretty much 3S, ST, MVC2 and CVS2. Yes, people played games like Garou, Melty Blood and Dark Stalkers. But those 4 games were the bread and butter of the community. Being well established, long past “new” and having quite developed metagames, there was a definite sense of “order”. Everybody knew the tiers and the memes. There was almost, rebellious and defiant nature to a community that believed that they were the last bastion of a dying age. Arcade were becoming a thing of the past, online was not up to snuff and it seemed there was no hope for new games. People quite literally believed there would be no Street Fighter 4 because of how poorly 3S sold, there would never be a MVC3 because of license agreements. The idea of Street Fighter vs Tekken was laughable.
With Street Fighter 4 came a huge influx of new players and a change in the community many are still dealing with. Arcades most likely will not be coming back, and they have been replaced by the ever so fickle online play. A lot of people did not(and still don’t) like the changes that have been brought. A formerly tightly knit community is full of a lot of randoms, as well as a new work ethic brought on by changes in the technology. There was no “disconnecting” in the arcade, if you were bad, you lost. Maybe you’d threaten to stab someone, but you were there, stuck with whoever you were playing with. There were no patches, maybe if you were lucky Capcom would eventually release a new version. This meant learning the metagame and maining a character meant learning all the bad matchups and playing them regardless. Personally, I believe that the frequency of how often games are updating will prevent a solid metagame from ever being developed. But that is a tangent. The real issue is there are different cultures and value systems at work. This creates tension and “elitism” as older members blame newer members for unpleasant changes. Of course, it didn’t help that the forums, for the first time ever, were bombarded with people who did quite literally, not know how to play the game, even at basic levels. Many, dealing with ignorance the only way they knew how to, were not kind. This eventually led to a crack down on flaming, and a lingering resentment remains.
So all of this is a long way of saying: We like to make fun of people, and we enjoy it when dumb people get made fun of. This is not advocacy of racism, sexism, join date discrimination or plain old bullying, but an ability to be straightforward and blunt. Not having to mince words and letting people know what you think of them is nice. There are many forums out there, which are rather strict with what you can and cannot say and I’m glad SRK is not one of them. The truth is, most of it is not personal, they don’t know who you are, they don’t care. A lot of it is either some guy letting off steam, or maybe some good natured ribbing. Its a way of macho bonding really. Now, this is no license to be an ass. I’d like to think that you have to earn it, both the flaming you get and your right to flame others. Show some discretion, if they probably are just a clueless newbie, be gentle, use lube, stroke their ears tenderly afterwards. If it is an obvious and blatant idiot, hammer them as hard as possible…or just ignore them if you are the merciful type. Just try to avoid the “me too” mentality and kick them when they are down.
We have all made stupid threads and taken our licks. We learn and post better. That is the theory at least. Here are some examples of threads that are sure to end poorly:
-Introduction threads. (Especially in GD). I’m pretty sure the rules say you can make an introduction thread, but really…don’t do it. Nobody cares. Earn attention by doing something worthwhile. Learn what people are like by lurking.
- Religious threads. Again, these are allowed, but they pretty much always end in tears. This includes wacky things Muslims did to Christians picketing whatever.
- Gun Control Threads: There are some very vocal people on these forums. Discussion about this often pops up in “shooting” threads.
-Gender threads. Anti feminism has been trending pretty hard lately. Things about rape, child support and genital mutilation will eventually involve some dudes talking about how they are a repressed minority.
-Racial threads… surprisingly ok. Most of SRK claims to be black anyway. Just don’t make fun of latina buttocks’es.
-Politics threads. Since a huge part of SRK is American, they tend to be very left vs right. Depending on the time of day, you will get either side claiming to be a repressed minority.
Now, I’m not saying, you can’t make one of these threads, its just…expect a lot of trolling and stupidity. I would like to think the majority of SRK members are capable of having an intelligent discussion…but sometimes I wonder. If you are going make one, please substantiate it. Take a stance. Don’t just leave a video link and wait for the sparks to fly. Participate in it…take some responsibility for the monster you created. Often these types of threads end with a couple of people going way off topic. People just can get passionate about these types of things.
Remember: You don’t have to take shit from anybody (well…except the mods). If you think somebody is being unfair or unjustified in their criticism. Let them know. That is the joyous double edged sword of freedom of speech. Don’t go cry to the mods about it. They don’t want to deal with that petty shit. If it is purely abusive, repeated and unwarranted, then go get some arbitration. Just make sure you take a good, hard look at what you said. Maybe it was stupid, or poorly explained. Having thick skin will go a long way…just don’t have a thick skull…
If all else fails, you have an ignore function: use it.
Being a considerate poster:
-DON’T quote images or long paragraphs of text. Its messy. When you reply, just erase it from the response and but “snip” or “picture” or something.
-Please double check you are posting in the right forum, and the thread is not a duplicate. I’m re-iterating this because its important.
-Use spoiler tags (spoiler=spoiler for stuff)text here (/spoiler). Use brackets instead of parentheses. It doesn’t have to be pure spoilers. If you have a long post you want to break up, or pictures that may not be safe for work (NSFW), go ahead use spoilers. If you aren’t sure if something is actually a spoiler, just put it in a spoiler and avoid the whining.
-Your signature: nobody cares about what teams or characters you use. Unless you are some great expert with some character, or you are desperate to meet people who also play Ryu…it really isn’t necessary. It you must. Please keep it brief. A main is a character who you’ve learned all the ins and outs and matchups. Even really, really good players don’t have like, 6 mains and 12 subs. Put your gamertag or alternate screen names or whatever in there. Just try to keep it to 1 or 2 lines. Anything more is obnoxious.
-If you want to have a conversation with somebody use the Private Message system. Don’t go derailing a thread if you have some business with somebody.
-Extend a modicum of politeness to your fellow posters, if you are asking for something, try please and thank you. Seriously. Not hard to do at all.
-When making threads, put some effort in coming up with a good title. Now, not everything has to be super clever or punny, but it should at least be clear what the thread is about.
-ALL CAPS: Don’t do it. Don’t make your text obnoxiously large or use some weird font either. Gain attention by saying something interesting. Not filling up my screen with crap.
-A good thread encourages discussion. This means open ended questions. Try to have more than 1 line. If is warrants it, have a poll for kicks and giggles. Just…don’t expect everybody to do the work for you. A thread like “Should I play Ryu or Vega?” may SEEM open ended, but its just lazy. The reality is nobody can make that choice for you. You may feel that you are inciting debate between which character is stronger, but all it is a popularity contest.
-The edit button is you best friend. We all like to dash off quick replies. Take a second to look at what you just wrote and fix it if necessary. Use the preview button too.
-If you think a thread is stupid, try to make it better. An image macro doesn’t make you clever or any better than the topic.
Being a good poster is hard. Writing is hard. Fighting games are hard. So naturally, writing a good post on a fighting game forum is very difficult. It is very easy to get swept up in the casual, carefree attitude of the forums. And that’s fine, nobody comes here to do tedious work. But we need to be careful to not foster laziness, or tolerate a low standard of posting. Without quality, a community can’t thrive. And that is why I wrote this, this self righteous diatribe against mediocrity. So please, please, just put a LITTLE effort into your posts. That’s all I’m asking for really. I don’t expect anyone to suddenly start posting brilliant novels each post. But if I can get one person to make a decent thread, or to put some line breaks in their post I will be happy enough.
Comments, criticisms are welcome. I’m sure I forgot something.
PS: Yes, I know, I don’t always follow the things written here (keep an eye out for: The art of trolling).
Edit: Thanks to Dake360 for ever so graciously (and ironically) pointing out some errors. Upon reviewing it again, I found an additional dozen or so spelling mistakes (and there is probably more out there). And this after I had already re-read it. It goes to show that editing is the most difficult step in writing. If you ever have the opportunity, an extra set of eyes will almost always pick up the errors you didn’t.
A suitable substitute is returning to your post some time after you have posted it,IE, once it has “cleared” your mind. You will be then able to look at it more objectively, rather than what you think it says.