Playing Nice

How to be a force for good in Transformers fandom.

People suck. Well, okay, only some people. But there are enough people on the Net who suck that every once in a while somebody gets fed up and writes a little essay or rant in which they describe their take on some aspect of netiquette or fandom. Sometimes they're really good. I've been sort of collecting the ones I've liked for some time now, and I decided to stick them all together on a web page for reference. Most of these passages come from the Transformers newsgroups, but most of them are not specifically about Transformers issues. I think they'd probably make good reading for people in any fandom. I'm sure there are just as many good essays posted to other newsgroups, too, but since I read very few other groups, I'm not aware of them. If you see a post (in any forum) you think would be good for this page, point me to it, and maybe I'll put it up. And please, don't be frightened by the message headers. I've left them there to preserve the posts as they were made, and to make it easier for people to track down the original threads if they wish using the Usenet archive at [Google Groups].

(Yes, I have several of my own posts here -- I don't think I'm cooler than everyone else, it's just that I have a much better memory for things I've posted than for things others have posted, so I can find more of my own stuff.)


Nice Posts

Being a good fan.

The "True Fan" rant by M Sipher is one of Transfandom's shining moments. It is a harsh denouncement of those who would portray themselves as being "better" or more "true" fans than others based on such trivialities as which cartoon they prefer. Here is presented the full rant as it was originally posted. The middle section is what most people mean when they refer to the True Fan essay, and is what normally gets reposted, but the entire rant is of some worth, even for those who are not familiar with the situation that precipitated the post.

Transformer fan Matt "Thylacine 2000" Greenbaum posted this gem where he explains that the only really important quality in a fan is to be open-minded about new material and to evaluate it for what it is only when you've taken the time to examine it and give it a chance.

Knowing in advance about new TV shows, video games, and toys is often taken for granted. In fact, in fandom's obsessive need to know everything it can as soon as possible has some negative consequences. At the Transformers convention one year, a camera flash went off during a Hasbro panel where cameras had been strictly forbidden. This is somewhat sickening to me, because smuggling out secret information can only hurt the franchise you love.


Informed and non-inflammatory criticism.

In early 2002, the Transformer fandom had seen some tantalizing glimpses of the upcoming TF line, "Armada". Understandably, the pictures looked good to some fans and bad to others. As with the announcement of every new Transformers line since the 90s, these pictures were greeted by some with declarations that the new line was so obviously horrible that it would be the end of Transformers forever. As always, rational, calm discussion of the merits and shortcomings is fine and welcome, but all-out pre-judging of the toyline (for good or for ill) doesn't make much sense, as Suspsy explains.

When the "Beast Wars" line of Transformers was released, most fans felt an initial cringe. After giving the series a chance, however, many active Transfans changed their minds and came to like Beast Wars as much as, or even more than, the original series. Other fans who also gave it chance never really got anything out of it. Both of those reactions are fine. There are fans, however, who continue to berate Beast Wars based solely on the fact that the characters turn into animals instead of machines. Most of these fans know essentially nothing about Beast Wars and are not in a position to make an educated judgement about it. Here M Sipher counters some typical claims made by those who prefer trucks to monkeys.

Fans can be very, very critical of the corporations who produce the material that they so obsessively consume. There's nothing wrong with being disappointed, but comments about the companies being stupid, greedy, etc., are pretty common, and usually unjustified as well as uneducated. Even worse, fans sometimes make the same sorts of comments about projects being undertaken by other fans. Talk about biting your own head off. Zobovor asked why it seems like people are more protective of the guys who run the Transformers convention than we are of Hasbro itself, and I had this to say.

In another plea for civil criticisms I address someone who felt the need to say that the BotCon organizers suck because they decided to commision and make available to fans a large, beautifully sculpted statue of one of the most popular Transformers characters of all time.


Positivity

Brendan Carson hits two good points in this post to rec.arts.comics.marvel.universe. First, he reminds us that stating your opinions about a story should be about sharing ideas, not about "convincing" people that your opinion is better or more correct. Also, he addresses the potential of positivity to spread enjoyment around, as opposed to the potential of negativity to, well, pretty much do nothing but start arguments.

Star Saber deftly puts into words why "sux" posts suck in this post to ATT.

This is my own take on how the tone of a message is as important as the content, and why a brain-dead but happy post is better than a brain-dead but bitter post.

For some reason, it seems as if a lot of people on Usenet are very, very jaded, and pretty much hate everything. They devote hours a week to participating in discussions centered on things about which they never seem to have anything good to say. I commented on how sometimes it seems like it's cool to hate stuff and uncool to like stuff. This, of course, results in the forum having an atmosphere of negativity that leads to people arguing and getting angry when they could just post about stuff they like instead and be a lot happier.


Healthy and non-healthy fanhood.

This poster to alt.fan.buffy-v-s demonstrates what I like to call taking things too personally and seems to honestly think the creators of "Buffy: The Vampire Slayer" are maliciously trying to hurt their fans' feelings. I've removed most of the headers and the signature from this post in a mild attempt to protect the identity of the insane.

Transformer fan Kendrick once posted this passage which urges fans to keep things in perspective and not let their life be overrun by their fanhood. Ironically, after the well-written and reasonable opening, this post degenerated into a severe and ad hominem attack at another fan which I most definitely don't approve of, and have snipped out of the post.


Getting along.

If you want people to like you, don't be a jerk says Transformer fan Quag Prime.

On a similar note, Paul Segal tells ATT that the best way to ensure the smooth operation of the newsgroup is this: don't make people mad. If you're about to do something, and you know it'll make a lot of people mad, then don't do it.

Fans sometimes behave as if those who disagree with them about what material is good or bad must be idiots. Clipped from rec.arts.sf.fandom, here Joe Slater exaggerates that attitude and jokes that people that disparage his favorite authors are clearly not merely immoral, but evil robots sent from the future.

What could have been a flame war turns into camaraderie when Zobovor and Kate Christoffel are big enough to say "whoops, I'm sorry".


Spoilers and off-topic posting.

Why would somebody that doesn't want to read spoilers come to a newsgroup? Why should the people who post spoilers be expected to take measures to protect those who don't want to see them? When a big debate over the requirement of spoiler space erupted on ATT, I made this post explaining my view on many spoiler issues.

Off-topic posts are a bane of many newsgroups. Here, ATT'er Brian Kilby describes the effect of OT posts on the newsgroup.

In an attempt to make a point, Zobovor posts an off-topic question to alt.toys.transformers in response to the old "yeah, it's not on topic, but I figured somebody here might care" defense.


Misc. newsgroup issues.

How to win friends and influence ATT is a lovely little etiquette guide written for alt.toys.transformers by Jameel, the Mighty MegaBee.

I never posted this to a newsgroup, but in late 1996 I was inspired to write a little allegory about Usenet with hanging out at Denny's restaurant as the model. In preparing this page, I revisited that essay and rewrote/expanded it, resulting in the piece presented here.

Avias of alt.toys.transformers says only you can save this newsgroup and all it takes is setting a good example.

In this ATT post, Marco van Leeuwen makes two points. First, we sometimes give regular posters too much leaway and let them behave badly without objection simply because they're popular. Second, many flamewars grow out of clashes of interest -- somebody who finds a discussion uninteresting steps in, says something obnoxious, and things degenerate from there. As long as the thread is on-topic, just leave it be.

A FAQ for cmi.general written by one James R Peal gives sarcastic answers to questions like "I'm bitter and caustic. Should I post flames?"

Another sarcastic FAQ was found in freeserve.discuss.

New readers of a newsgroup are generally expected to observe the group silently (called "lurking") for a little while before starting to make posts. The idea is that they should learn what the climate of the group is like before stepping in and making an ass of themselves. Someone in alt.folklore.urban apparently didn't get it, so Andy Walton set him straight.

I composed this post about trolls for alt.anime.tenchi-muyo but decided not to bother posting it because I figured the guy I was responding to was, himself, a troll anyway. He was basically saying that nobody should ever netcop a troll, which I took issue with.


Nice Links

I'd like to thank Zobovor, Rik Bakke, Brian Kilby, and Anthony Brucale for their input in the creation of this page.



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Content last changed on 2004-April-30.