Friends and Raiders: Becoming a Leader

Friends and Raiders: Becoming a Leader

leadership_phixr

Where do all the officers and leaders come from? I mean, they all started somewhere right? As people become leaders the workload shifts and changes for them. The community over at PlusHeal has an entire section devoted to leadership. Tools of the trade, tips and tricks, and most importantly in my opinion how to make the transition from raider to officer or healing lead. Today I’ll talk a bit about making the transition and some of the obstacles you will face as well as share some of my personal experiences with you.

A little background, I spent most of my time in Vanilla WoW and in Burning Crusade as a raider switching from DPS to Healing when Burning Crusade came out. Partway through Burning Crusade our Heal Lead and Raid Officer left the game. In his absence I was asked to take over Heal Lead and shortly thereafter was awarded the rank of officer in his place. It wasn’t expected and I had to make the transition quickly. We finished out Burning Crusade and then headed off to Northrend to go say hi to Arthas. Here’s some things that changed.

Addons

One of the first things most people tackle is the list of addons they run. After being put in charge of healers or a raid you’ll find yourself having to monitor a lot more things. It’s imperative you sit down and decide what information you need readily available to you at all times. Here’s some addons I found useful when I first started out

  • BigBrother – Like Orwell’s 1984, this see’s all and then reports it to you or the raid. This mod lets you check for buffs like flasks and other consumables as well as lets you know when CC like Shackle or sheep has been broken and by who. This is a great tool to make sure you’re raiders are using their consumables.
  • RaidCooldowns – This addon allows for you to track all the abilities with cooldowns in a raid. This will display battle rezes, innervates, Divine Hymn, Lay on Hands etc. For a complete list click the link and visit the site. Some trackable abilities like a Shaman’s Reincarnation require members of the raid to be running oRA2, CTRA, or RaidCooldowns itself  in order to display properly, however if you’re in a raiding guild, chances are your team will already have one of those.
  • CastMonitor – This lets you place a movable list of players that you can then monitor their target, as well what spell they are casting. This is great when you want to double check your healers are on the right targets or doing what they are supposed to.
  • Cellular – In your new position you’re going to be getting a lot of tells, no two ways about it. People will be confirming assigments or just checking to make sure they did ok. Cellular (or any similar mod) lets you keep them like AIM message windows and they stay nice and tidy. Helps make sure you don’t miss any important tells.

My UI is constantly changing. I’m removing and adding items frequently to find a mix that will give me all the information I need in a pretty package. Find what works for you to give you what you need.

Knowledge

I’m going to focus more on the healing aspect of it here, but the ideas stay the same for all of a raid. You are now responsible for the instruction and care of a team.You’re not going to have eight of the same class with the same spec (if you do please let me know I’d be curious at that one). Take time to familiarize yourself with the various healer classes and specs in your raid. Learn the strengths and weaknesses of each of the Specs present in your heal team and take the time to learn the encounters your team will be facing. Learn the mindset of your healers and don’t be afraid to ask them questions., after all they should have a commanding knowledge of their class. You’re in a position where you need to know whats going on and need to tell people to do. Knowing your healers mindset and asking for their input goes a long way. I make it a point to encourage my heal team to offer constructive ideas when things go wrong or are not working as well as they could be.

There are several threads over at PlusHeal that deal with how to assign people, who is better suited for what and more of the ins and outs of the various specs. My suggestion, spend time on forums like PlusHeal and see what you can learn. There is a plethora of information available to help you fill in your knowledge gaps from various strategy sites and different forums all over the internet.

Communication

This is something that I thought was the easiest part of the transition. You are a central point of communication for your raid. If you are Heal Lead, all of those healers report to you and you in turn report to the raid leader. It’s important to have ways to get information to everyone that needs to have it quickly and efficiently. For healers having a dedicated healing chat channel helps. In the same vein, class or role specific chat channels are a good idea. My guild has one channel for every class as well as one dedicated to healers and one for tanks. This allows us to easily hand out information and gives collective spots to have questions asked and answered. As a heal lead you’ll want to sit in the tank channel too. This lets you know who is going to be eating what hits and allows you to quickly and effectively assign healers for maximum effect. You are the communications hub, keep that in mind.

Sometimes raiders need to call in sick so to speak, or they’ll need information that isn’t readily available on the forums and needs an immediate reply. For this reason I have my contact information posted on the guild website. This includes my email address, AIM (msn, icq and yahoo as well),  and phone number. I’ve had several instances where I’ve been thanked by raiders for being so accessible. As another rule of thumb I have an open door policy. Anyone can come to me at anytime for anything and I’ll do what I can to help, and if I can’t I’ll do my best to find what they need or point them in the right direction.

Finding a Balance

This to me is the hardest thing a new heal lead or officer needs to do. You have to keep in mind that this is a social game. You have been dealing with at least two dozen other people for a long time and have more then likely made a few friends. When you get elevated to a position of authority sometimes it’s hard to find the line between what a friend would do and what an officer would do. In the same vein it’s often hard for people to distinguish that when looking at you. They have to understand your dual roles. Keep in mind that you are in a position of authority. You have a responsibility now to keep things moving and working at a good pace. Sometimes you will have to put friendship aside and tell a person no, but at the same time you don’t want to be so much of a jerk that no one likes you. You have two distinct roles, a friend and a leader. Let me give you an example of what I mean by finding a balance.

In BC when we were still clearing Mt. Hyjal, I was new to being a heal lead and officer. I was fairly quiet in vent aside from the friendly jibes and conversation, and I had a little less authority in my assigning of healers. Plainly put I was too nice. This came to a head when we were wiping on Archimonde. I kept seeing the same 4 people standing in the fire. After a night of wipes that had followed a week of wipes, I finally dropped a set so to speak and piped up on vent. I was assertive and authoritative in my tone. I thought I edged past normal limits and into jerk territory when everyone on vent was deathly silent. The statement was something like this

“Really? Seriously? You’re still standing in the fire? Come one people! Turn! Move! Stop whatever you are doing and move. Don’t finish your cast, don’t try to get one more instant off just turn on your heels and run. It’s not rocket science just do it. That’s all this fight is. Move. Out. Of. The. Damn. Fire.”

Next attempt saw a 25% improvement in dps on the boss (from 49% to 24% boss health) then we called it for the night. We came back and stomped him into the ground the following attempts. I received a lot of thank you tells that night. I still thought I stepped out of line. More recently I had a raiding healer whose spec was brought to our attention as not being ideal. It was missing key features we needed from that class. I was real life friends with this person for many years. The guild leader and the Class leader approached him about it before I was out of work, and he was quite upset. He turned to me on AIM and I told him I’d talk to them and see what’s up. After a lengthy discussion I agreed something needed to change. I informed the raider that yes, it would be appreciated if he respeced as the raid needed the particular talents he was missing. As a friend he expected me to back his position fully, but as a healing lead and officer I had to agree with what was better for the raid and for progression. Notice the word “was” I used when referring to my friend? He was unable to see that I had two roles and has decided that speaking to me in a non official capacity isn’t to his liking any longer. He still gets the job done and responds well to assignments, but holds a bit of a grudge. It’s very difficult to find that balance of being someone’s friend while still being an authority, its something we all constantly have to recalibrate.

How about you? Any tips for new leaders you’d like to share? Any stories about your own rise to being a leader?

That’s it for now. Until next time, happy healing!

sig

Image Courtesy of su.wustl.edu

Penance Glyph Reversed and 1st Trip to the States

Looks like Penance glyph is going to stay the same after all. At least, that’s what Kalgan says. I’ve noticed I can’t mass shield as much anymore without having to chug more pots. Oof.

Went to the States for the first time yesterday (and probably last). I’m not exactly much of an outlet shopper but my cousins insisted. So I went! What did I learn?

  • A medium at Jack in the Box is the same as a large in Canada
  • Walmart green stores are huge
  • Stuff is ridiculously cheap compared to stores in Canada
  • I cannot accurately pronounce the name of that Tulip place (casino)
  • The only thing I found remotely appealing to purchase was the $2 garlic bread (There are two kinds of people in this world: Those who like garlic bread and those who lie about not liking garlic bread)
  • Every store I walked into had employees that were unbelievably nice (“Can I help you today?” “Did you find what you were looking for?”)
  • Using 1 dollar bills feels strange
  • It’s cheaper to drive into one of those smaller airports to fly from as opposed to flying out of Vancouver International when considering traveling around the US (IE, 1 way to LAX from VAN is $150 as opposed to Bellingham which is ~80)
  • Beer and wine in Walmart. Did a double take. Alcohol is sold in Canadian government regulated stores (BC Liquor store)

Anyway, won’t be going back for a while. My friend tells me I’m a waste of a shopper :D. I’m inclined to agree.

Speccing Your Holy Paladin

This is a guest post by heinleinfan, a raiding Holy Paladin

I’m no World of Warcraft Theory Crafting Genius, I don’t do number crunching well, and there’s pally healers out there that could out-heal me into the ground in their sleep…but, this spec is really working for me, I’m happy with it, I’m an asset to my raids, I can tank heal or safely be assigned some raid heals without being a failbot at it… and so, I’ll blather on about it as if I knew what I was talking about.

This is my Holy Pally Spec. There are many like it, but this one’s mine.

First off, you’ll notice…not a single point in prot. Maybe this is nothing new to most holy pallies, but I ran with the 5 points in Prot so I could have Kings. And with the need to reach deep into holy for Beacon of omigodsponiesilovethisspell, I was constantly frustrated by those 5 darned points in prot. But now I get them out of prot! [insert happy dance] I’m sure some folks out there are going “what about Divinity?” Eh…five percent increased healing is not insignificant…but spellpower and crit are so much more important for healadins, and I believe those five points can be used more effectively for my raid spec and play style and so forth. So it’s bye-bye prot tree for me.

You’ll notice I ignore all the extremely powerful PvP talents. Basically, if it’s not directly affecting my actual healing output or speed in some way, I pass it by, as I am a raid pally and not a PvPer.

I’m running 18 points into Ret instead of my pre-patch 15, to get 3% more crit. The “filler” points needed in Ret to get to the 3rd tier are all pretty useful; Benediction brings the cost of Beacon and Holy Shock down, thatsaverra nice, especially with the new Holy Shock glyph, and Heart of the Crusader and Imp Blessing of Might are great raid additions.

Aura Mastery, yup, I’ve still got it post-patch. I had it pre-patch for the extended aura range, and I’m keeping it to try out the buff thing. I think it will prove to be more of a PvP talent addition, but…I will say, in a recent battle against Ignis, a well timed pop of Aura Mastery caused half of the raid to fully resist the Flame Jets. That’s not bad, not bad at all. But, with a two minute cooldown and the unpredictability of the RNG, it’s not great, and might turn out to be not worth the point. I’ll give it a few more days.

I gave up a point in Enlightened Judgements for it and I can handle that. I thought it would take a horrible lot of adjustment and wind up with me roflstomped by bosses who think 25 yards is too close for a healer to stand…but it’s definitely workable and has not caused me to eat floor yet.

And speaking of Enlightened Judgements, that and Judgements of the Pure are talents I would not pass up as holy. Especially with the UBER NERF OF DOOM to Infusion of Light…I hate you so much, Blizzard…I do *not* want to give up a constant 15% haste boost in a raid. Along with the points I have in Ret, the judgement affecting talents are just too useful to ignore for this raid spec.

The decision to put only 2 points in Imp Concentration Aura is pure selfishness. I realize that filled it’s a really darned useful raid buff. But I just can’t seem to ever spare the point for it without losing a point in something that I feel makes me an overall more effective raid healer (namely, post-patch, the crit in ret tree). If I dump Aura Mastery, this is where I’ll put that point.

Improved Lay on Hands just got more improved, thanks to the new minor glyph that reduces cooldown by 5 minutes. With these two LoH glyphs, and points here…when cast on myself that returns 3900 mana. That’s practically an extra mana pot for each boss fight!! *boggle* And even if I do need to use it as an “oh shit, heal” instead of “show me the mana” I still get mana back. And I can use it either way in every boss encounter without worrying about it; it’s only an 11 minute cooldown! *double boggle* No, for real though, remember the days when LoH was an absolute, last-ditch effort, only for emergencies kinda thing? I remember those days. And now I’m all nonchalant-like about it, knowing it’s not going to be AN HOUR until I can use it again. Let’s just keep this one real quiet-like, so maybe Blizz will not think about it too much, and decide to nerf it.

I gave up the Flash of Light glyph for the Holy Shock glyph. In all honesty, my play style and usual raid makeup with my guild had me not really using FoL all that much, so the crit chance from the glyph wasn’t doing much for me. And while the HS glyph means I’ll have the option for an instant FoL more frequently, I wouldn’t want to give up my other major glyphs for a 5% crit increase on my teeny tiny heal, even if I do find myself using it more often. That may change if I really find myself constantly using FoL, but I don’t yet see that happening.

I had chosen glyph of Seal of Wisdom over Seal of Light pre-patch for the mana efficiency. I switched them back and forth over and over (some inscriptionist on my server made a fortune off me in a 3 week period there) and I found Wisdom worked better for me with my play style, spec and raid makeup. Even though the light glyph gave me a slightly higher heal output, it wasn’t enough to really reduce the number of heals I had to cast significantly. So with that same thinking in mind…I’m switching over to the Divinity glyph, since I believe it’s even *more* mana efficient than the wisdom glyph, by giving me that almost-as-much-as-a-mana-pot return on mana so frequently.

Revisiting Shaman Tier 8 Gear

Revisiting Shaman Tier 8 Gear

gears_phixr

I took a look at the bonuses for Restoration Shaman’s tier 8 sets in this post HERE before the patch. Now that Ulduar is out and we’ve begun trudging through, we are beginning to see these items drop and get ready for use. To recap here are the set bonuses

Personally I like the 4 piece bonus but with the addition of the Riptide Glyph I’m very meh about the 2 piece. The 4 piece bonus is equatable to the 4 piece bonus of the Tier 7.5 set. Lets take a look at the set bonuses for 7.5

As far as those are concerned I still think that 7.5 got the better allotment for set bonuses, at the very least on the 2 piece. The 4 piece bonus comparison boils down to either a 5% boost in your healing, or what essentially  turns out to be 8% haste. Seems pretty even to me. Now that you know the set bonuses, lets take a look at the stats on the gear.

Stats Valorous Earth Shatter Regalia Conqueror’s Worldbreaker Regalia
iLevel 213 226
Required Level 80 80
Intellect 338 386
Stamina 369 381
Mana Regeneration 93 79
Armor 5224 5337
Critical Strike Rating 95 228
Haste Rating 176 173
Spell power 449 525
Sockets 1Meta 5red 1yellow 1blue 1Meta 2red 2yellow 3blue

This is assuming you’re using all 5 pieces for each which isn’t always the case but will be good for highlighting the differences between the sets. Lets look at what you gain moving from 7.5 up to 8.5

  • Int: +48
  • Stam: +12
  • MP5:  -14
  • Crit: +133 (~4%)
  • Haste: -3
  • Spell Power: +76

I am confused a bit at the lack of regeneration, I mean we actually lose 14MP5. While that might not seem like a lot, it’s a good chunk. I imagine that the idea is to use Improved Water Shield more often to compensate. My guess at this is based on the large amount of crit the set gains. It just seems odd after bringing MP5 amounts down in patch 3.1. All the other stat gains seem normal enough, a slight loss in haste (3 rating really is a drop in the bucket) and it does have a healthy increase in spell power. The choice in colors for the sockets also seems odd to me. Moving away from 5 red slots and spreading the love. Perhaps to make room for +in/+crit gems ? Haven’t quite figured that out yet, but that’s my best guess.

When Should You Switch to Tier 8?

To be honest, I think you should continue to use your Tier 7 until you have a 4 piece bonus from the Tier 8. The Tier 7 bonus being a straight +5% more healing on CH and HW is just plain good until you can don a 4 piece Tier 8. It should be noted that on a pure Heal Per Second value, Tier 8.5 pulls ahead. It does however consume a lot of mana. Even if you switch to 8.5 it might be worth keeping your 7 and 7.5 around for longevity fights. As I gather more numbers I’ll be able to provide a move definitive answer as to when one set is better then another.

The good news is not much has changed. Aside from a slight increase in our crit raiting, and the removal of a little MP5 (still scratching my head at that one) the rest of the set seems on par for upgrading. It feels very much like the increase from Tier 4 to Tier 5 back in Burning Crusade.

On a final but purely aesthetic note, I do love the way the new set looks. =D

Next post we’ll take a look at what I think our current best in slot gear is now that Ulduar is up and active.

What do you think about the Tier 8 set?

Until next time, happy healing,

sig1

Paladin Healing in 10 man Ulduar

This is a guest post by Adgamorix, who’s launched his own blog: Divine Plea.

So last week I wrote a post talking about Paladin healing in Heroic Ulduar, and voicing my opinion that I thought Paladin healing was spot on. I was open about my lack of 10 man Ulduar experience, and was told to come back when I’d experienced that pain – with the expectation that my opinion would change.

Taking that to heart, the next day I rounded up nine of my fellow guild mates and began my assault. This week has been an absolute blood-bath of raiding, seeing me log six days of straight raiding (no less than three hours a day) when I normally log two or three. Why did I throw my schedule to the side and perform this atrocious attack on my sanity you ask? Simple. I thought maybe I was missing something.

So 9 hours of 10 man raiding later and we’re staring at General Vezax and laughing at how the trash was essentially mini-bosses. We’re now one boss away from Yarg himself, and of course a whole slew of bosses on hard mode to go. I believe that I’ve tasted the cool-aid, and I have a response for those who still say Paladin healing is broken.

What’s the fuss?

Yeah, it’s not a real adult reaction, but it fits in my opinion. Our raid makeup was fairly balanced, with a Resto shaman, and the Holy/Disc priest from my 25 man group. We used a Druid/DK tanking combo, two rogues (our hunter is suffering from severe wife agro), ret paladin, a shadow priest, and a balance druid. Yes, we could have had a better raid makeup for buff purposes, but this group is a solid core of players and we did our 10 man Naxx together.

We had our share of wipes and pain (Mimiron alone took 2 or 3 hours), but the overall experience was enjoyable. We learned new bosses, we got to hear the “I thought the button started the encounter!” cry from a curious rogue, and we learned some things to help with our 25 man raid. I learned that more than ever, I have to trust my fellow healers, and trust my raid mates to know when to use cool-downs and consumables. I felt the agony of no mana return with Illumination on Vezax, and I may have actually shed a tear the first time I tried casting a Holy Light while under the effects of Thorim’s Defaning Thunder (75% increased cast time). Overall though I felt like the raid was tuned beautifully, and it was a lot of fun actually being challenged.

So what’s different between me and those that think we’re broken?

I will concede that our group is the x factor in this equation. Are the healing problems coming from Paladins in unbalanced groups? Are they trying to two heal, or heal content beyond their gear/experience level? Maybe it’s the synergy between the healers, in that we know the role we play, and can accurately predict the actions of our fellow healers. For example, I know that on Mimiron while I’m healing the MT through the Plasma Blast, if someone gets Napalm Shelled I can toss them a quick Holy Shock to absorb the base damage while the tree HoTs them up and the Disc priest keeps the MT alive. We don’t have to talk about it, it just happens. Would it be awesome if I could still throw a Sacred Shield on them to help with the damage absorption? Of course it would, but we seem to be making it through ok as it is.

Canceling out the X factor

So after healing a lot of 10 man (and more 25 man), I decided to take the x factor out of the equation. I couldn’t down rank my gear (short of taking a piece off) to simulate healing in blues , but I could put myself in the LFG channel and heal any PUG that came along. I tossed aside any gear/instance standards I had, and went willy-nilly into the groups. After getting through Gun’Drak, VH, UK, and UP – I decided Paladin healing still isn’t broken. Yes it’s slightly tougher, the lack of multiple SS and Glyph crits huts some, but it’s still doable (and fun).

I’m going to stick by original statement that Holy Paladins are in great shape right now, and while we could use another tool in our kit, or maybe some kind of decent raid heal, we’re still really strong.

Syd’s Guide to Blogging Part I: How to Read

Syd’s Guide to Blogging Part I: How to Read

reading-cat

With the recent release of Ulduar, most raiding WoW players have upped their reading and research. At this point in the progression curve, the ability to extract and process information from different resources on the web is what gives some players a critical edge in strategy or play. I have been blogging since October 2008, but I’ve been reading WoW blogs for a lot longer. However, in the interest of full disclosure, the thing that has inspired me to write a series of meta-blogging posts is my experience teaching college-level literature classes. Since I work in a foreign language, my daily task is teaching students not only how to write well, but how to read. My firm belief is that in order to be a good writer, you first have to be a good reader. If you follow these simple tips, your blog reading will become a more informative and rewarding experience, and your blog writing will probably improve as well.

Tip #1: Know Your Medium

The biggest thing I learned from Matticus when I started working for the site is that blogs differ from traditional writing. Blogs have their own set of rules and conventions, and a thoughtful reader should be aware of them. The following are what I consider the primary blog conventions.

A. Blogs are designed to be skimmable. Writers tend to bold their most important information.
B. Blogs use personal experience as their evidence. Even when facts and numbers are cited, the personal is always paramount.
C. Third, blogs are constrained by design. Bloggers have to develop a shorthand both to combat space restrictions and to keep from revealing too much personal information about the writer and his or her acquaintances.

How does knowing how blogs work make me a better reader? First, because I know that blogs are meant to be skimmable, I read the bolded or highlighted text first in order to find the post’s thesis. At this point you may prioritize and choose to read or not to read. I always choose to read, even if the post has no clear argument, but that’s just me. Identifying the thesis statement might sound trivial, but if you don’t know what you’re reading about, how can you react?

Secondly, because I know that blogs as a genre extract their primary evidence from personal experience, I read any narrative with a critical eye. I don’t take it as absolute “truth,” because I know that autobiography, as a subjective genre, is a prime spot for literary manipulation. When I read someone’s personal experience, I take it as a metaphor for something greater. Sometimes a less skilled blog writer will not provide a thin red thread of meaning that readers can follow through the labyrinth of narrative, but usually a personal account has a “point.” Personal accounts have become my favorite aspect of reading blogs. Because I am attentive to their details, I can sometimes extract more from them than the original writer intended. If you are one of those types who can learn from the experience of others, the personal account of people’s successes, and even more particularly, failures, can enrich your game experience.

Third, I recognize that blog writers are bound by the constraints of their medium. I don’t expect the fullest possible exploration of any topic. I try to read between the lines–many things must be left unsaid to protect the innocent or the guilty, and I depend on the writer’s tone to pick up some of the implications of their argument, especially if I’m dealing with a personal narrative. The public nature of blogs means that writers feel the need to “protect” their real-life and in-game acquaintances, sometimes to the point of obscuring the events that prompted them to write. Regarding the “shorthand” of different blogs, my best advice is to read the same blog over the course of several weeks. The best writers have a strong personal style that allows them to present concepts in an abbreviated form. Familiarity breeds comfort in this case.

Tip #2: Read for Detail

Just because blogs can be skimmed, it doesn’t mean they should be. If you’ve read through the bolded sections, and the post topic interests you, it’s time to go deeper. If you’re reading a guide, and you intend to use that information, take notes. Nothing is more inconvenient than having to go back to a webpage you read earlier in the day 30 seconds before you pull a new boss in order to get the exact name of his abilities. If you have to do that, you didn’t “forget” the information–you never memorized it in the first place. I always tell my students that writing things down–particularly with pen or pencil–makes it easier to create the long-term memory. However, guide-type posts are not the only ones you want to read carefully. Posts on class mechanics or class changes, best-in-slot lists, and opinion pieces on controversial topics actually draw more comments than guides. Many of the people who comment, however, are sloppy readers, and nothing annoys a blogger more. Here’s a little test that, in my mind, you must pass in order to comment on your favorite blogs.

1. Who wrote the article? Go ahead and laugh, but the comments for many of my past posts (I’d say at least 25 in total) identified the author of the post as Matticus, not me. Nothing gets on my left nerve quicker a lack of recognition for my efforts. My right nerve, in case you’re wondering, is reserved for my annoyances with students who don’t come to class. Even if you’re reading on RSS, you need to be able to identify the author. In order to test your reading skills, think of your ten favorite blogs or authors. If you were to receive a stack of papers with the blog posts on them, without any images, formatting, or bylines, you should be able to identify the author. If you can’t, you’re not reading well enough to catch an author’s style or tone. Style refers to the mechanics, rhetorical figures, and structure that an author uses, while tone refers to their word choice, overall attitude, and “sound.” If you can’t understand the style and tone, your comment runs the risk of misunderstanding the post altogether. You might have missed the humor or irony if you’re not reading for it.

2. What is the date of the article? My second pet peeve about blog commenters arises from reading negative comments on outdated posts. For example, one commenter noted that my observations about Ulduar mana regen were completely wrong. Of course they were! The post in question was written on February 7, before the PTR or concrete numbers were available. If you’re going to criticize someone’s argument, make sure you understand the context in which their article was written.

3. What is the article about? Certain blogs have certain preoccupations, and articles run in series. In addition, multiple blog authors enter into dialogue with each other. If you’re just reading one thing, you might be reading in a vaccuum. Before you press that comment button, try to make sure you know what the actual topic is.

4. What argument does the writer make? The classic, and in my mind the best, way to construct an argument is to have a thesis and an antithesis–or in other words, a point and a counterpoint. I see some commenters read so quickly that they mistake someone’s antithesis for their thesis. The commenter thinks they’re arguing against the blog poster when in fact they’re reinforcing the original author’s claim. These comments usually have me shaking my head.

5. What are the author’s strong points? I learned in my grad school classes that while anyone can identify a literary critic’s flaws, it’s much more difficult to pinpoint their strengths. Before you comment, especially if you’re going to argue with the writer, make sure you’re able to understand them well enough to identify the potential merit of the post. It’s rare that a seasoned blogger creates an entirely off-the-wall argument–well, except for those who do it on purpose. As for those guys, you should be able to identify them by their tone and style.

Tip #3: Read Both Deeply and Widely

Some blog readers follow one or two blogs exclusively. In particular, I know of many readers who consult only WoWInsider and occasionally the outside posts that it links to. Learn to be critical of your media. One blog, even a great one like World of Matticus, is only one perspective. All blogs have a certain ideological slant, and if you’re not aware of that, it will influence you. However, if you just read random posts here and there, you’ll never understand any of the particular writers. The ideal blog reader will choose 10 or so writers or sites and consult them fairly regularly. How much reading you do depends on your time, but think about it this way. If you read just one guide or watch just one video of a boss fight, what is your chance of success? There’s only a slim chance that one specific strategy will work for your guild. However, if you read/watch 10 different guides, you have 10 potential paths to boss death. Even the most careless reader’s chance of success would go up.

Conclusions: The Benefits of Reading Critically

Reading isn’t easy, folks. We learn to do it in elementary school, but many of us grow up blind to all but the most obvious meaning of the things we read. Critical reading takes time and care, but the effort is well-spent. There is a certain delight in understanding a skilled writer’s metaphors or wry sense of humor. The process of careful reading, particularly when your reading material comes from writers who are worthy of imitation, can enhance your own writing. I urge you to beg, borrow, and steal style and inspiration from other writers. If I were giving advice on writing fiction, I would tell you to go read your favorite genre voraciously for a year, take notes on what you like and don’t like, and only then start your own novel. My advice to aspiring or current bloggers is much the same. Read authors you admire and let them teach you.

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