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/r/pathofexile's current direction and how we want to change it

Hello everyone, we’re back with another post to gauge your thoughts on r/pathofexile and so you can help steer the future of the subreddit. Specifically, we wanted to have a discussion about negativity and toxicity within the sub and how it impacts new users, old users, GGG employees, and the way our sub is viewed by anyone else. We’re not here to necessarily introduce more rules or to make your life here more difficult. However, we do want to push the sub into the healthiest direction possible and would like your help to do so.

To make things perfectly clear about how serious this discussion should be, the toxicity of the subreddit has gotten bad enough that we get modmails on a near-weekly basis about it, we have had GGG employees message us about the fatigue they feel any time they visit, and we have even had prominent community members post videos on it. We have been told by multiple sources, be it content creators or redditors or GGG employees, that they outright do not visit the subreddit anymore due to its growing and constant negativity. It has to stop.

With that in mind, we are going to have two separate posts about this topic, this one and another one perhaps a week from now. This post will focus on what we see and what we’d like to do about it. Next week’s post will be a recap of what the community has said along with what our future actions will look like. Additionally, next week’s post will include a number of ideas we have focused on subreddit participation and improvement beyond the usual item posts, bug posts, and so on.

To get right into it, r/pathofexile has a problem with negativity, something not particularly uncommon with larger gaming subs but something we cannot let fester before it’s too late. As I’m sure many of you would find relatable, Path of Exile is a game we’re extremely passionate about and we want to see it at its absolute best. It’s not fun when developers make mistakes, however egregious they may be, so we’re often pretty damn vocal about the problems we have with the game. This is not an issue at its core, nor do we want to censor those who have a problem with parts of the game or its development.

Rather, the problem we are currently facing is that over the past year or so, the subreddit has gotten worse about escalating how issues are talked about and taking it past a civil discussion and into a vitriolic pissing contest between anyone who comments, no matter their viewpoint. This is what we cannot let happen anymore. And to be completely open and frank with everyone, our team is certainly not an innocent party in this matter and we should’ve taken steps to curtail this long ago. But we cannot be the sole driving force here, we need to act as a community to turn this around.

So what exactly is meant by escalating issues?

To keep examples recent, let’s look at the debacle with the Blight, Metamorph, and Delirium stash tabs. GGG released these tabs and the community pushed back hard, saying that these tabs are silly purchases and should’ve been integrated into our current ones. There is nothing wrong with pushing back here and the initial threads on the matter were kept fairly civil (relatively speaking). Take a look at this thread’s comment section in particular:

The discussion in this thread is exactly what we’d like to see when these events happen. This thread was an extremely active set of discussions which included laments, suggestions for the future, a few memes, and everything in between.

Duplicate / Similar Threads

The first step to this being taken too far was our allowing far too many of these posts to rise to the front page. We’re not in the business of censoring users. The problem at hand is not that there are complaints but that there are twenty threads of complaints beating the same topic to death. So in events like this, would the subreddit have any problem with our being much stricter with the duplicate thread rule?

Our difficulty in using this rule as it currently stands is that identifying similar threads is subjective, as is deciding which to remove. Do we remove the one with the least amount of comments? The one posted last? The one with the least comprehensive body and title? For example, here are some threads of this nature we have seen over the past couple days:

As you can see, all of these threads are heavily upvoted, have a good amount of comments, but are saying essentially the same thing. We understand and appreciate that everyone has a unique voice but there were easily ~100-120 threads removed during the first 24 hours of the stash tab debacle which were all some variation of being disappointed in GGG and wanting tabs to be consolidated, whether it be via pouches, league tabs, or something else. The point being that occurrences of duplicate threads are not uncommon and often result in their drowning out everything else.

To be more specific, we are normally fine with similar posts submitted within a few hours of one another if they aren’t huge threads (often just standalone questions) or if the topic hasn’t been beaten to death already. When the rule needs to be escalated, we’d like to remove any thread which:

  • Is a standalone thread which could be a comment in one of the threads already on the front page OR

  • The thread is solely a complaint or insult without a solution/suggestion/or otherwise constructive speech

Expansion of Rule 3

We would also like to get your feedback on expanding the language in Rule 3 to include threads and comments which are solely complaints or insults without substance. In this way, users would still be completely free to complain about a balance issue, show exasperation over a bug, or almost anything else so long as it was paired with constructive feedback on the topic at hand. For example:

  • Harvest is bad! - Not ok

  • Screw Harvest. I dislike the amount of seeds dropping and feel like there are too many filler crafting options and not enough exciting moments. -Absolutely ok

The idea here is to shift how we as a community give feedback to GGG through Reddit. There is little to no use in threads saying “X is bad” whereas there is immense value in threads with “I dislike X because Y and Z". We, as the mod team, would still need to be careful with the amount of these threads being posted, as per the above prior section, but as a whole this would lend itself to a more positive and constructive discussion.

EDIT: Changed the examples. What was meant here is to show the difference between solely a complaint and a complaint with constructive feedback next to it. We're not asking users to solve the problem, just explain the problem they see.

Use of Flairs & Bug Reports

We’re looking to replace the default “Fluff” flair setting to one of several possible strategies in order to enforce proper flaring. Currently, threads are submitted by default with a “Fluff” flair and users are encouraged to report threads with incorrect flairs. Outside of our manual correction of flairs when we see them and removal of item showcases without an explanation from the poster, we do not have any real requirements for flairs but this is something we could easily change, especially based on the feedback we saw here:

An option that was brought up, which we can manage, would be a strict requirement for the use of flairs. The workflow for how this would work is that when a user submits a thread, we would have a bot respond to the thread with a simple “Does this thread have the correct flair?” message (it would be a bit more comprehensive but that’s the idea) and the poster would be required to respond to it with “yes” or “flaired”. Once the poster responds to the bot, it will approve the post, making it visible to everyone else.

This process does three important things:

  • It makes previously unaware posters aware of what flairs are and how to use them. The bot message could easily include a link to a guide on how to flair their posts.

  • Makes it easier for users to filter posts they want to see/ignore

  • It keeps low effort posts down as those users will often submit something and then ignore it for half a day unless we remove/correct it.

For bug reports specifically, we wanted to entertain the idea of having a bot reply to the poster with a message directing them to the official forums and real means of reporting bugs. The subreddit is not a great place to report bugs and gets far less visibility than reporting in-game or on the official forums but that doesn’t mean these posts do not deserve some amount of discussion. Please let us know what you think of either idea here or if you have ideas of your own.

Personal Attacks

As a closer, we would like to address the use of GGG employees in memes, complaints, and other threads. The sheer volume of negativity in the subreddit has unfortunately caused posts to tip-toe their way into attacking named GGG employees such as Bex and Chris. This is completely unacceptable and should never happen in any way, shape, or form. You are free to disagree with every single one of their decisions and criticize the game but the moment it evolves into a personal attack, the line is crossed.

The use of GGG photos in memes should follow the same thought process. For example, using Chris in the famous nerfhammer gif is perfectly allowable. Using Chris in an inflammatory meme about him running away with bags of money throwing out excuses is not. This line of thought will similarly be extended to GGG teams. Replacing “Bex” with “the QA Team” does not make an inflammatory post any less of a personal insult. Simply put, take a moment to look at your meme before posting. If it is a personal attack or insult towards someone, don’t post it. Making and/or spreading images/gifs like that can have much farther reaching implications than just some Reddit karma.

If we start to see comments heading in a bad direction, we are going to start being stricter with locking threads. We do need your help with this though because we are just a small team and do not have the bandwidth to read every single comment which gets submitted. If you see something which you think breaks the rules, report it. Reporting gets it on our radar immediately, making it much more likely to be removed in a timely manner.

So with that said, these are our base level thoughts on the matter and a hopefully simple solution to help the problem. We’re a few volunteers who do this in our downtime though so we’re more than open and happy to take on suggestions or direction from the community if you think it will help make the subreddit a more positive experience.

EDIT: Changed the examples in the Rule 3 section. What was meant here is to show the difference between solely a complaint and a complaint with constructive feedback next to it. We're not asking users to solve the problem, just explain the problem they see.

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