Flotsam And Jetsam

It seems that the Internet Writers Collective is being taken to task. The topic is how we all suck.

It seems that the Internet Writers Collective is being taken to task. We’re being rudely snatched out from under our warm, dark rocks and examined out in the cold light of day – and the topic du jour is how much we all suck. The Reverend Toby Wachter had this to say on Neutralground.net:

“During dinner, the Sideboard staff had some interesting discussions regarding the current state of Magic articles on the web. While I can’t accurately go over exactly what was said, I will repeat what my main point was through the course of the discussion. Articles are starting to suck because people are being paid for it. Back in 1997, people wrote for The Dojo for free and expected nothing in return except to maybe make a name for themselves.”

Toby has an interesting opinion here. Does getting paid to write inevitably produce that great sucking sound that causes readers’ eyes to glaze over? He seems to look back on The Dojo circa 1997 as the Mecca of Good Magic Writing. I think there might be some rose-colored glasses at work here. Time has a way of polishing the past. At the time, the Dojo was the only game in town. If you wanted to write about Magic, the Dojo was where you went. Naturally, the best writers floated to the top there, but make no mistake – there was plenty of bad writing that made it on the Dojo, and even more that mercifully did not.

Something to keep in mind is how much smaller the internet Magic community was back then as compared to now. A smaller volume of writers made it easier for the good ones to really stand out from the mediocre, and having them all on one site made them a lot easier to find. Internet Magic 2001 is a whole different animal. There’s a dozen different sites with people writing for them. The fact that some writers are getting paid doesn’t have anything to do with this so-called problem; it’s just simply harder to find your favorites now.

What money does bring to the table is accountability. If you pay for a product or service, you expect it to be worthwhile. I think there a perception that Magic writers get paid for quantity, not quality; that the sites want to see that weekly column, regardless of the content. Maybe I’m being a little naive here, but I would hope that if I wrote something that was absolute garbage, my editor The Ferrett and bossman Pete would come down on me to shape up or ship out. They’re my customers, and they have every right to expect the maximum bang for their buck.

Zvi’s eight-part”My Fires” series on the Sideboard comes to mind as something that might have catalyzed this”quantity vs. quality” sentiment. I’ll have to admit I rolled my eyes when I saw there was a Part 4, then a Part 5… would the saga never end? However, I can see why Omeed published it – Zvi is a successful Pro Tour player, and Fires is a Tier 1 deck – he’s offering a peek into the process of putting it together and the strategies in playing it. While most competent Magic players might have found the exercise tedious after a while, there are probably plenty of new players who really appreciated the insight and thoroughness. Some of them are probably better players because of it.

Just because you and I were annoyed with the series, does that mean it shouldn’t have been published? I think that’s what really bothers me about this recent trend of slamming the current state of internet writing. Who are you and I to decide that something is of no value? There might be people out there who enjoy the piece that you find juvenile, shallow, redundant or worthless.

Lighten up, guys. Show a little consideration. If you find that a particular writer grates your nerves, stop reading him. If you find a site has nothing of value to you, stop going to it. Focus on your favorite sites and favorite writers and enjoy what they have to offer. Stop wasting your time grousing about the articles you don’t like and maybe you’ll have more time to find the articles you appreciate.

Our very own Sheldon Menery had this to say in a recent article:

“…Let’s talk about something that I loathe: the endless postings of Johnny Topdeck’s”Planeshift Picks” that currently infest the ‘net. It happens every… set. I couldn’t care less what random.pro.wannabe thinks about the Battlemages. Rarely have I seen an insightful or completely correct assessment of a new set, anyway… Such articles/postings/rants are just indicative of the flotsam and jetsam clogging the mighty river of internet Magic writing.”

I’m not meaning to pick on Sheldon, because he’s not the only one who feels this way. Alex Shvartsman from Meridian Magic”agrees wholeheartedly.” Lighten up, guys! If the”Planeshift Picks” bother you that much, stop reading them. Everyone knows that it’s practically impossible to accurately forecast all the nuances of a new set. When I read the Planeshift Picks, it’s for fun – I’m not looking for guidance and insight; I’m looking to compare and contrast Johnny Topdeck’s opinions with my own. I’m willing to bet there are plenty of others who do the same thing. Maybe you need to look at these articles in a different light… Or not look at them at all.

My point is (yes, I guess there is a point, folks), I’d rather have too much information out there to wade through than to not have the information I want at all. The editors of the Magic sites out there have a lot of responsibility on their shoulders; they’re the gatekeepers of a tremendous amount of information. And when they weigh things on the scale that has totally free speech on one extreme and censorship on the other, can you blame them for tilting more towards the free speech? If I have to work a little harder to find the information that I crave, that’s a small price to pay.

Luckily, CCGPrime.com is working to make it a little easier to find”the good stuff” on the net, with their poll of internet writers. They’ve taken 96 writers (holy cow! are there that many of us?) and broken them down into 16 pools of six, and you get to vote for your favorite of each pool. The top 2 advance to the next round, until eventually the best of the best is picked. So make sure you head over there and vote for your favorite Star City writers! I’m in the 13th pool, in case you’re wondering… 😉