Sometimes I Love WoW Jerks

Posted: by Frostheim


I write to you today with feelings of warmth and appreciation for the elitist jerks of WoW. I’m not necessarily talking about the site, but about the people for whom the site was named: the people who endlessly debate the smallest minutia of optimization and then rail against anyone who disagrees with them, no matter to how small of a degree. These are the bullies who just don’t know how to communicate anything other than their smug superiority.

Don’t get me wrong, these people can be huge asshats. But the delightful thing about them is that they debate using data: raid logs or simcraft or Female Dwarf or even just raw math. They aren’t always right and there’s always room for more debate and name calling about the veracity of various models and corrections for real-WoW environments but darnit, they’re still using data to argue.

I’m feeling extra fond of these people because of my day job. Here is a long example of what I mean:

Once Upon a Time, in the Day Job

Frost: Hey boss, I have an idea called Plan A that will make us at least 30 million dollars! Here it is.

Boss: What? Really? How did you get your numbers?

Frost: Here was my method. As you can see it’s incredibly conservative and realistically I think it will be more like 70 million, but we can’t support any solid estimate for that extra — the 30 mil I can basically prove we can get though.

Boss: And you’ll also get some extra money from this other thing you ignored.

Frost: Yeah, but I suspect that will be a rounding error compared to the rest.

Boss: You are uncommonly good-looking! Let’s make this happen.

Boss: So Frost, bad news. Ops says that they can’t do this?

Frost: Why not?

Boss: They say it just can’t be done.

Frost: That’s ridiculous. Here is a list of sites that are capable of doing this, including every one of our competitors and including my WoW blog!

Boss: Good arguments, I shall assault them with it.

Boss: Bad news, they say they can’t do it because it will slow the load time of pages by 0.01 seconds.

Frost: Um… that sounds worth 30+ million dollars to me. How much do they say slowing the site will cost us?

Boss: They don’t. They’re measured on site uptime and speed. So making money doesn’t matter to their reviews.

Frost: Fair enough. I talked to some developer friends and here is their solution to do this and literally not slow load time of the site at all!

Boss: Awesome! I shall deliver the techno speak to them.

Boss: They say no, because they’re too busy.

Frost: I can’t help but notice that their reason for saying no keeps changing.

Boss: Yes. I hate them with every part of my body, including my wee wee.

… months pass and after schedules have cleared a bit we start making progress on forcing them do implement Plan A, which everyone we talk to continues to resist forcefully….

Boss: So, some other guys have another idea, Plan B, that they want to do.

Frost: I see how that will work well with Plan A in synergy.

Boss: No, they want to do Plan B only, and not use Plan A at all.

Frost: Damn them. How much money will Plan B make?

Boss: They have no idea.

Frost: Let’s test them!

At this point we meet with the Analytics department (and how cool is it to have an Analytics department?) about setting up a test of the two plans. Testing is fairly complicated, but the analytics people come up with a clever way to test it in phases — because if the first phase comes up one way then we don’t have to do the complicated stuff.

There is some obstacles as the Plan B people don’t want us to test Plan A the way we want because, as they say, “We can’t deploy what you describe — we’d have to build it first” so we agree to test it in a way that can be just deployed.

We ask for the test to happen asap, but then the Plan B people tell us they’ll need a couple months to build their solution. 

Boss: Bad news Frost, the big wigs decided to use Plan B and not Plan A at all.

Frost: Wha…. what? Are they at least going to test them?

Boss: No, they don’t want to take the time to test them.

Frost: Have they come up with an estimate for how much their clearly inferior plan will make?

Boss: No. But they said we can revisit considering Plan A in a year.

Day Jobs Suck

… So that was a condensed and cutified version of what happened over the course of six months. I was in a lot of the meetings (which usually drove me crazy) and others only my boss was in.

The thing is, Plan B wasn’t a bad plan — it was way better than no plan at all — but it was also clearly worse than Plan A. All of the money Plan B would make was the rounding error that Plan A would also have made, in addition to the 30-70 mil.

And it’s far too common at just about any job I’ve worked at (not just the current day job) this is how decisions are made. By what appears to be randomness. It’s not just a matter of making decisions in the absence of data (bad) but in this case deliberately deciding not to collect any data at all and ignoring what data we did have. It’s baffling — I see it over and over and over again but I’ll never understand it.

Why not just get the data? Why not just make decisions based on the data you have? Why the hell just pull decisions out of the air???

Not in WoW

And this leads us back to the elitist jerks of the WoW world. For all their asshattery and poor communication, at least all their bickering is about data. Whether data is good or better or worse or how to interpret it — these are arguments I can get behind.

And you know what — most of the elitist jerks conversations out there are about the minutia because they agree on all the major points. Whichever rotation/gearing/glyphing you go with will probably very close to optimal, because their analysis is based on real data.

And that’s what separates WoW from the real world. And they wonder why we spend so much time in WoW…

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  1. Arth says:

    Not nearly as intricate a story, BUT…

    Just today I was driving with a coworker. A train was passing in front of us at a high speed. I stopped a good 50-60 yards before it (empty, country road).

    “Are you afraid of being hit by the train?”
    “No, not really.”
    “Then why are we all the way back here?”

    I went on to explain that the percent chance of getting hit by a train flying off the tracks at this distance was essentially 0%. And, while so small as to not invoke reasonable fear, if I were very close to it, the chance was > 0%, though likely some ridiculously small fraction of a percent. Any decrease was worth staying back, given the complete lack of secondary variables to consider (I wasn’t in traffic, blocking an intersection, etc.). And it didn’t delay us anymore than if I was 10 yards away. It was, in essence, min-maxing my own survivability. I even used the term “Maximizing my survivability” to describe it. I got disbelieving laughter, not at staying back per se, but at the amount of thought I had put into it.

    Reminded me of your story. And I’ll be honest, WoW has literally changed how I approach my life, because of 100 different things on a monthly/weekly/daily basis that I tweak for max efficiency. I’m not in a scientific or mathematical field. But it can apply to almost anything if you have the right mindset. Min-mix for life!

  2. Omogon says:

    good story and OH SO TRUE in real life :)

  3. Yeah, that’s pretty much universal. My version:

    Me: I think we should go with plan A because we already have a team of people at our business using plan A. If we go with plan B, we’ll have to support their use of plan A along with whatever we use. That’s twice as much work with no additional personnel to do that work and we need training on the implementation and maintenance of plan B.

    Them: Good point. We’ll go with plan B.

    Me: ARG!

  4. Hemingway says:

    You see the same debate in baseball, do you pick a player(s) based on their sabre metrics or are you an ‘old school get feeling’ kind of guy. Constant clash but sometimes a happy medium. Check out Nate Silver (God of the Algorithm).

  5. GoodGracious says:

    <- is in the IT industry. I sees it everyday. The bruise on my forehead doesn't go away.

  6. Jaeger says:

    I can relate…

    Me: So let me get this straight. You want to spend $90K of internal resources to “potentially” get $120K for a custom software solution that we can’t resell to anyone else. The odds of getting paid after we do the work is only 50%. And in order to do this, you want to take resources off of several projects for existing customers who pay us millions of dollars each year. Is that correct?

    Boss: Yes, that’s over a 30% profit!

    Me: We did several of these custom projects last year and none of them were profitable. Our existing customers are already pissed that we aren’t working on their requests. Do you really think this is a good idea?

    Boss: This deal is different. If we get this deal, they’ll introduce us to this other customer that we can do a lot of business with.

    Me: But that other customer needs a product we don’t have and it would take us a year to create it at the expense of dropping all our other work. How can we afford to do that?

    Boss: Don’t worry about that. I’ve got a good feeling about this.

    Me: And you wonder why we just laid off 15% of our staff and we’re all on reduced salary? (thinking to myself: Fucking moron!!! I’ve got to find a different job!!!)

  7. bahzob says:

    Hm. I agree with you regards elitist jerks.

    However this is more than offset by the uselessness of Blizzard. I’m lucky enough to be retired and my major issue is they remind me of how how things used to be when I had to work for a living.

    Not only do they seem to take random decisions without any overall plan of the direction they want the game to go in, they are just plain incompetent when it comes to actually translating them into reality. (just one of many e.g.s Powershot..)

    Truth is the game would be several hundred percent better if Blizzard sacked GC and spent more time listening to elitist jerks and similar.

    • Shannon Spencer Fox says:

      In addition to what Bahzob said…

      Patch 3.0.8. Beast Mastery spec.

      That is all.

      • Krinsta says:

        It’s true the wonderful world of warcraft and it’s equally wonderful players are often way more appealing than our real life jobs and work colleagues. I often think if this was a group of WoW players things would have gone more smoothly.

        Then someone asks me to organise a pug raid….hmmm. At least I can log out of WoW eventually after failing badly and thanking everyone for coming. Someone has to look after the noobs may as well be queen of the noobs “me”.

  8. Wätts says:

    Really enjoyed this’n, Frost. XD

  9. Euripides says:

    Decisions are made based on turf wars and power struggles in middle management. People who decide things that are worse for the whole, but better for themselves. I don’t know why, but it’s like a fundamental law of physics, up there with Planck and Heisenberg: as soon as the group gets big enough, middle management prevents sensible decisions from being made.

  10. Ned says:

    So Frost… All the time spent working & negotiating with these arses would have been better spent blogging and playing wow.
    Let that be a lesson to us all!

  11. Bonamassa says:

    the figures may be different but sadly we all tell the same story…
    which made my work day better for i am not alone anymore

  12. Tarrson says:

    dont get me started on the shenanigans i see at work…i run out of hands to /facepalm myself with.

  13. MacBurnie says:

    Well, like Twain said, we all do no end of feeling and confuse it with thinking.

  14. Jolygreen says:

    Well you guys aren’t gonna believe this, I have never personally seen that happen. Although I hear stories from time to time and they are always published in the New York Times or other conspicuous place. I have been working with cutting edge technology for well over 30 years. There are other reason why we don’t do what I think are smart things sometimes, but they have to do the way we are overseen.

    You’re not gonna believe that the place I work is the US Military, but for me it’s true.

  15. Shin says:

    Ever so recognizable. The whole corporate society of reluctance of others to actually have to do something. Managers just randomly making decisions.
    At times it all just gets me so jaded I turn into a mindless zombie. ‘yessss masterrrr’ and off I lumber to do what I am told.

    Let me peek into my Glass Ball of Divining for you though: I see a future…a future where at some point, manager x will comment that plan b wasn’t quite as profitable as expected. But he has the solution, Plan C! which looks remarkably a lot like plan a you came up with 1,5 years ago. Later that day, when managers exchange laptops for golfclubs, they will comment ‘marvelous plan C, really, why didn’t Brian come up with that before we started plan B, geesh’