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Translations in Community Management

Sanya Weathers Posted:
Columns Developer Perspectives 0

Some companies are good about communicating with customers. Some feel uncertain about the idea of communication.

Some are very casual, and take a “we’re all just players together” approach. Others are very formal, with a top down approach. That’s not the same as bad communication, mind you. It’s really an issue of tone. I tell clients and employers that they can choose whatever tone they want, and that there are pros and cons to both. The only bad choice is to try and blend the two.

Some treat social media channels as they were intended – a place to exchange information and talk with people about anything that seems relevant that day. That includes the challenges.

Some really, really do not like to talk about bad things. These companies believe that Twitter and Facebook should be an unremittingly positive stream of happy juice. They believe that one single admission of guilt or acknowledgment of a problem will send potential investors and partners into a tailspin of fear. If you never admit to a problem, the people with money will never know there was a problem. (As if the forum of a post-launch MMO wasn’t a place where kittens are regularly killed by infant deities.)

At any rate, no matter what the style or tone is, you’ll see the designated spokesperson using shortcuts when time is short. Old MMO hands have figured these out. For the benefit of the newbies among us, may I present a few translations?

We are bringing the servers down for scheduled maintenance. We have been bringing the server down on Tuesday since the dawn of time. Must someone start a new complaint thread about the downtime every single Tuesday? Really?

We are bringing the servers down for emergency maintenance. As best as we can tell, we have one of those problems that will go away if we just reboot these suckers.

We are bringing the servers down for extended maintenance. Someone is driving at 90 MPH to the colo.

As you can see, the servers are down for maintenance. We didn’t see it coming either.

The servers will be down for six hours. The engineers told me two, but seriously, I don’t believe them anymore. Even the good ones are only counting the time THEY need to do that voodoo they do so well, not the time QA needs to test the changes, and not the time necessary to get this ball of baling wire rolling again. I’ll start telling you how many hours they actually said when they get three of their own estimates right in a row, and let me tell you, THAT hasn’t happened in a decade of writing these announcements. You think you’re horrified by that? How do you think I feel when they tell me two, I tell you six, and it ends up being twelve?

We apologize for the inconvenience. We apologize for the inconvenience.

We are having technical issues. I am not allowed to explain any further.

We are having technical problems with the X. I would explain further, but I’m a writer for crying out loud, I barely understood the hurried explanation I got over a half-assed cell phone connection, and if I try and repeat it, I am going to screw it up. 40% of you will not understand a word I said and repeat it in increasingly more inaccurate ways. The 60% of you that are technically savvy will observe that I don’t know what I’m talking about. A small overlap of the two groups will invent a conspiracy theory on the spot that will dog me until the end of my career. Look, the thingy has a broken whatsit, okay, and it’ll be fixed as soon as possible.

We are having issues with the X, and I will update you as soon as I have more information. The only person with the chops to explain the problem to me is the one up to his elbows in fixing it. If I make him stop fixing it to explain it to me, you will be that much farther away from getting to play again. Or worse, if it’s late in the day, his stopping to explain it to me will mean that the person he needs to call for help will have gone home. There is no bribe on this earth big enough to make me joggle his elbow right now. Also, I wouldn’t say I’d update you if I wasn’t reasonably certain I was going to get an explanation eventually.

We have no ETA on a fix. We have no ETA on a fix.

We are aware of the problem. Oh, man, how we’re aware of it. Everything we’ve tried in terms of a fix has been a complete bag of fail, and in one memorable case the attempt required us to restore the test server from a backup, but we’re no closer to a fix than we were a week ago.

We are investigating the problem. We’ve got a fix on the test server right now. Knock wood.

If you have been able to duplicate this problem, please send us the following information, etc etc. We can’t duplicate this in house. Either we literally cannot, because the problem requires a few thousand people to be on the live server when the moon is full, or we cannot in the sense that we don’t have enough staff to put this on the priority list of things to do. Either way, if you can duplicate it and send us the data, a solution has a great chance of making it into the next patch.

We appreciate your patience. We appreciate those of you with patience more than you will ever, ever know, because we’re doing the best we can back here and it’s you guys that keep us going. Thank you, from the bottom of our hearts, or what passes for hearts after years of game design. We’ll buy you a beer at the next gathering.


Sanya Weathers