Ban-hammers and other facts of life

There’s a call for action going on – see TJ’s site for the details.  And many respected and well-known bloggers are jumping on the bandwagon.  I joined – heck, helped start – one some time ago.  This one… I cannot, in good conscience, join the call to action.  In fact, I think it’s cause regrettable, but have to speak against the call.

We the community constantly complain of bots and hacks.  Yes, we do, I hear it frequently.  We don’t like cheaters who snag all the nodes before we can get there.  We despise the hacks who get a little faster or hit a little harder or go places we’re unable to go.  We hate the flood of a server with false gold or counterfeit blues in mass that shatter our economy.  All this makes the game less fun.  And a less fun game is one we don’t play as much – maybe even quitting.  And that means Blizzard doesn’t make money.  So when we complain of something on a consistent basis, Blizzard listens.

But catching these folk is not easy.  Nobody – well, most folk – don’t openly announce, “I’m turning on my farmbot now.”  Nobody openly admits to setting their log-and-move bot to farm AV rep.  Instead, it takes monitoring and detective work.

And any such work, regardless of how well done, gets false positives.  And those inevitable events are where all the friction develops.  In the case of WoW and things like it, the friction is worse because it’s not law but policy.  And I need to digress…

In law (at least in the US for US citizens – a separate rant that does not belong here), a false positive leads to an arrest, and (hopefully) a dismissal or verdict of innocent.  Or successful appeal.  Notice that there are multiple chances to identify and reverse a false positive in this situation.  The reason is that the penalty is loss of freedom, with several other restrictions commensurate.  But a WoW account ban isn’t an arrest.

It’s a denial of service.  It’s the company saying, “you can’t play here any more.”  It’s hurtful and potentially shameful, but it’s not restrictive in any legal sense.

And Blizzard, listening to our complaints, wants to ban the abusers.  But they’ll inevitably pick up a few strays – some false positives.  It’s time for the pondering question:

Which is better.  Should Blizzard warn the accounts identified, then wait to see who says, “not me”, then evaluate those, and remove those not found “innocent”?  Or should they block everyone, listen to the appeals, and then allow back those who are found innocent?  Consider this in light of both the penalty to the innocent AND the effect the guilty pending justice can have upon the game.

Returning to outside the game, this is the reason people arrested go to jail.  Some can be released for a while, but basically they’re all constrained till the evaluation can be completed.

If you are going to protest – to join the call for action – I highly recommend you move further than, “this is wrong.”  I recommend you suggest fixes – things that allow the main issue to continue being resolved, while reducing the pain for false positives.  Remember that Blizzard does not want to lose most of its customers – and it’ll sacrifice a dozen to keep a million.  (There is an old but relevant cliche in the philosophy of law.  How many guilty will you allow to go free to avoid convicting one innocent?  What ratio of guilty to innocent banned from the game is acceptable?)

Personally, I think Blizzard could do some PR work – not changing the system, but changing the wording of the ban – to improve the situation.  They could call it a freeze, saying that if there is no appeal in 30 days the account will be banned, and then acting based upon the appeal.  They’d get more appeals than they do under the current system, which in turn would probably need more staff to process, but they’d irritate and frustrate a much smaller number of innocents.

That said, I need to move a bit further, because what I’ve written above would imply I could support the call for action.  And I said instead I lean to opposing it.  See, there are some details that we cannot know.

For example, one of the big groups of this ban was purchasers of Glider.  Blizzard apparently got (through court order) the list of people who’ve purchased it over a period of time — to include their credit card numbers.  I know people who purchase things like this, look it over, and delete it — never use it in the game itself, just curious as to what all the fuss is about.  They want to speak knowledgeably of the issue when they speak against it, or maybe it’s just simple curiousity.  Whatever the cause, they’ve left a credit card number.   And Blizzard has it.  And Blizzard now has a reason to ban.

We have, in my library, a number of petty rules.  Rules such as “you can only have these videos for a week.”  Almost all our rules are here because while MOST people would return things in a timely fashion so others can use it, some won’t.  Some won’t because they’re forgetful.  Some won’t because they’d really like that item in their own personal library.  Regardless of the reason, we have some rules that exist because there are a FEW who HAVE TO BE TOLD.  And we enforce the rule – if the video is late, you get charged a fine.  Late enough, and you’re banned.  You cannot check out anything else until the situation is cleared.

We inevitably get people who tell us they turned the item in already.  Sometimes they’re right.  We inevitably get people who tell us something happened – they were robbed, or they had a fire, or they had to be out of town for a month or two, or…  Sometimes they’re right.  And sometimes…

We have – had – a patron who kept telling us her car was broken into.  As in, once a month (give or take).  We started requiring she bring a police report for us to accept such a claim.  Her car quit being the target of burglars.

I used to work in a prison.  I am really, really aware that there are a number of people who can convincingly state that they did not do… whatever.  Despite the witnesses, fingerprints, DNA, and videotape, it WAS NOT THEM.  And if it weren’t for the rest, it’d be convincing.  It has made me somewhat cynical.

The banhammer is doing what we the community want it to do.  And there will be collected, along with the guilty and those who are truly innocent, those who are unknowingly guilty and those who are smooth talkers.  There is no perfect system.  And I accept this problem.

Oh, one more point.  There will also be those who simply didn’t pay attention.  Say, for example, you downloaded and started using the absolutely gorgeous druid forms Andrige created, you’re violating the user agreement.  Heck, he even warns you about it in the opening discussion.  Yet I’ve seen the forms posted on several of the blogs now involved in the call to action with a ‘wink wink’ comment about using maybe subjecting you to a ban, (but nobody ever gets banned, really, over this.)  (Yes, I saw that on one blog.  I’ll refrain from posting which not least because it’s a paraphrase.  Those that did, who read this, will recognize the remark.)

If you violate the contract, the other party to the contract is allowed to end its contribution.  In other words, banhammer.  And the real, honest answer is that we don’t know if the people we’re defending are truly innocent, innocent of intent, or just sweet talkers.  And I’m afraid I have to oppose a call to action that may be wrong itself.  An appeals process exists, which doesn’t HAVE to exist.  So, sorry, but no.  Good luck, and if you’re innocent I hope you prevail.

~ by Kirk on May 22, 2008.

49 Responses to “Ban-hammers and other facts of life”

  1. I’m going to probably go against popular grain, but to you, Kirk: Thank you. My account got hacked once, and I understand the feeling of anguish that banned folks must feel. The frustration and anger are palpable….yet after it got resolved, and even though during the first couple days of ‘fruitless’ calls to Blizzard support, in the end things got worked out. Yes it took longer than I wanted, yes I could not play until the temporary ban got lifted, but YES, I am glad that the system is in place to initially uphold the “contract” and then allow for redress of grievances. They don’t need to, as you stated so well. Blizzard is not a court of law. This whole matter will pass, and I hope for the innocent-banned they get justice served.
    But I agree with you on this matter. It’s unfortunate, but not something I can ‘protest’ in good faith.

  2. I don’t believe the issue is the fact that there can be false positives. The issue isn’t that Blizzard “doesn’t have the right” to do what they did. The issue, for the most part, is that in enacting a mass ban such as this, they have created a situation where there is going to be an onslaught of emails to their appeals system that they cannot possibly keep up with. Those who have gotten an erroneous ban can expect a much lower chance of getting their accounts back because of the overwhelming volume of appeals hitting the system at once. Further exacerbating the situation is that in a mass action like this, you are more likely to get a higher percentage of false positives.

    You seem to be advocating that Blizzard has the right to do what they need to do to protect their service, and if one or two innocent people get hurt in the process, so be it. So I’ll approach this from the same angle. Blizzard is providing a service, and we are the customers. We are letting the company know that we disagree with the aforementioned situation, and feel that the risk it poses to us – potentially losing our accounts, or losing our in game friends because of a false positive – is not justified by the gain in getting rid of botters.

    Frankly, most of the danger of botters is past. In this age of daily quests, where you can easily make two or three hundred gold in a couple of hours, every day, botting to farm just isn’t worth a lot of money anymore. The impact on the WoW economy is much lessened, compared to pre-BC, and especially pre-daily quests.

    So, my suggestion is that Blizzard come up with better procedure, or at least hire some help to sort through all their inevitable emails, when a situation like this occurs.

    And I’m sorry, but there’s no way on earth you can justify charging someone $45 for their next three months of gameplay, banning them the same day, and then saying “Oh, I’m sorry, that $45 is non-refundable.” That’s just bad business no matter how you look at it.

    So anyway, I think the overall point is that you’re not looking at the same issue we are. We’re not protesting bans. We’re not saying that false positives are unacceptable and should never happen. We’re just saying that someone caught in a net like that should be able to expect better than “email this address, and we’ll get back to you in a few weeks. Maybe a month. Maybe.”

  3. Aaaand I accidentally cut off my last part. To append:

    So overall, while I can say that I don’t have any expectations for you to jump in support of the issue (I don’t expect anyone to do anything like that), your “anti-call” in opposing the issue seems a bit mean spirited. Are we attempting to pull some strings, somewhere? Hell yes. But we’re doing it in the hope that maybe, just maybe, someone in Blizzard with half a chance to do something about it sees it, and says “oh, let’s make sure we really look into this guy’s account.” We just want to make sure that our friend doesn’t slip through the cracks.

  4. You wrote:

    I know people who purchase things like this, look it over, and delete it — never use it in the game itself, just curious as to what all the fuss is about. They want to speak knowledgeably of the issue when they speak against it, or maybe it’s just simple curiousity. Whatever the cause, they’ve left a credit card number. And Blizzard has it. And Blizzard now has a reason to ban.

    You know, that all sounds noble but how would you like it if someone used that as an excuse for buying child porn? “Oh I know it’s despicable to buy pictures of grown men with 3-year-old girls, but it’s for research.” Yeah, right. No judge will buy THAT, either.

    I agree, there may be cases of false positives and such. But if a person is naive enough to use their real name and same credit card to purchase software that they know is against the terms for playing WoW, then honestly, I can’t feel too bad for them.

  5. @Fiordhraoi –

    No. Look again at what you wrote, then re-read what I wrote.

    You are asking that Blizzard establish a mechanism to ensure there are no false positives. The only way to do that miracle is, well, beyond reasonable (and probably extraordinary) effort.

    Yes, they can do that – say you forfeit your money for violating the contract. They can do so because you and I and Lamaa and everyone else agreed, up front, every single time we clicked the user agreement after installation and new patches. Clause 10 includes, “In the event that you terminate or breach this Agreement, you will forfeit your right to any and all payments you may have made for pre-purchased game access to World of Warcraft.” It is an amazingly common element in contractual obligations – it’s an inset penalty for violation of contract.

    As to the rest, you speak of economically unfeasible, and then want to use a MORE expensive process.

    Here are the choices:

    1) Do reasonable effort (and yes, I’m using that in a legal sense) to identify probable contract violators. Act to deny services to those not operating in good faith. Establish an appeal process, then review the accounts of those who appeal.

    2) Do reasonable effort to identify probable contract violators. Then perform an appeal evaluation of those violators. Then establish an appeal process and review the accounts of those who appeal.

    See the problem? If you’re arguing on economic grounds, you lost.

    The strong ground you have – and I supported in the article to which we’re commenting – is that the way the ban is phrased could be done better. Call it something else to indicate it can be appealed and reviewed before it becomes permanent. “Suspended with intent to close pending appeal and review.” I’m not sure how to phrase it so a good attorney doesn’t grab more than is intended, but I’m sure it’s possible.

    But as to asking that Blizzard do an automatic appeal of every account, beyond whatever they have already, because of a possible false positive? No. The world is not perfect, and the path you are asking is that I demand it till there are NO false positives. It cannot be done, and so I will resist it.

    And let me be plain, there is more. I’m reading on the forums of someone who was banned and is complaining, who I know personally has violated the terms of service. His comment to me offline was “well, only a little bit, and it didn’t hurt anyone.” He’s right – it was the druid alternate skins. But it’s still a violation of the contract. And if we agree that some of the terms don’t agree apply some of the times, we’re all screwed.

    To paraphrase a great line, I will not cut down the trees of contract for my convenience lest in my need of shelter they are no longer there.

  6. For example, one of the big groups of this ban was purchasers of Glider. Blizzard apparently got (through court order) the list of people who’ve purchased it over a period of time — to include their credit card numbers.

    This was not the source of the Glider bans. Patch 2.4.2 updated the client (not Warden) and MDY and Lavish both missed the new detection method. Anyone using Glider or Innerspace between the 13th and 20th was banned.

    I wrote a little history lesson about the last major banwave on my blog yesterday and a follow-up post about the botters being back in action again today.

    I’m a little on the fence about how many strikes you get before you are out. I lean more towards one strike and your perma-banned. Namely because these detections are easily discovered and circumvented once it is known that they exist. It’s very difficult to catch a repeat offender once they are alerted. You might scare a few straight, but most will just breathe a sigh of relief and wait until the exposure isn’t as great. Secondly, Blizzard very very rarely issues a ban without being virtually certain that the account is botting. Player reports, for example, are escalated to specialists and are not investigated by the standard issue GM.

    In fact, from Blizzard’s track record, they are NOT likely to ban an account even for having a credit card match the account:
    1) Blizzard has shown that they will allow someone to get banned, then repurchase a new account with the same credit card and user information. It’s very possible (if not likely) that some people purchased Glider and stopped using it after they were banned once.
    2) There is no evidence showing that Blizzard bans accounts linked by credit card. There are plenty of reported bans where the person banned has other accounts that were not botted with identical information.
    3) Blizzard has always acted against the botted account, not all accounts by that individual. The exception is when bot software is loaded into memory to bot on one account while another account is played legitimately.
    4) Having a Glider key and account does not mean that the person ever botted themselves. It’s probable (but rare) that someone would get an account to read their private forums.

  7. Kirk, I really think you’re putting words in our mouths here. No one has said ANYTHING against mass bans. We understand why they’re there! And YOU understand that mistakes happen in these bans. Our friend was a mistake. And we, as Aetherial Circle, well, we have blogs. A lot of us do. And we’re using them to make a ruckus. Are we protesting the mass ban? No. Are we protesting that Lamaa got banned? Yes, but not as much as we are protesting that AT THIS POINT it seems that he has no recourse. THAT is unacceptable to us and we are using our position as bloggers, with influence, to call attention to this fact.

    As Fio said, your anti-call does seem mean spirited. And you seem to be missing our point. OUR point, not THE point. Our friend got banned and we want him back. We can’t do much, and I don’t think ANY of us, as honest players, want to change the “mass ban” system because it of course catches more guilty parties than innocent. But we are indeed flexing our e-muscles in the hope that a little attention called to the subject will save our friend and get him back to us as soon as possible. I feel you are painting us all with an extremely unflattering brush – I am a WoW playing blogger who wants to help out her friend. The rest of those people who posted are people who are friends of mine, or who at least respect me, or at least respect what we’re trying to do. It’s not a “bandwagon,” it’s not people asking for a revolution or huge change. We just, as Fio said, don’t want OUR friend to slip through the cracks. All those other innocent players caught, well, I’m sorry for them, too. But Lamaa is our friend and we are using the resources at our disposal to do what we can for him.

  8. Kirk,

    You seem to be missing my point. Lamaa didn’t violate the ToS. Unless you consider a programmable keyboard to be a cheat – unlikely considering Blizzard endorses one in particular. He didn’t breach contract, not even “a little bit.” Now, you can make your cynic argument all you want, but I’d ask how many heart to heart chats you had with the lady who’s car kept getting “broken into.” How many late nights did you spend chatting amiably and unguardedly with the prisoners who “didn’t do it?” The fact is that the two situations are hardly analogous.

    Now, to quote you:

    “But as to asking that Blizzard do an automatic appeal of every account, beyond whatever they have already, because of a possible false positive? No. The world is not perfect, and the path you are asking is that I demand it till there are NO false positives. It cannot be done, and so I will resist it.”

    Where did I EVER suggest that Blizzard do that? Frankly, you’re putting words into my mouth. The only thing I said was that either Blizzard find a better way to handle things than their current system, or to make sure that they have enough manpower to handle the stress on their EXISTING appeals system if they decide to keep up with the mass bans.

    And finally, as TJ said, you’re missing the point. We’re not arguing against mass bans. We’re trying to draw attention to the fact that this particular case is, we believe, unjustified. And we don’t want it slipping through the cracks. Frankly, you can make all the legalese arguments you want, and I don’t give a crap. You’re not refuting our point, because you’re not even addressing it.

  9. TJ, yep, you’re unhappy that one of the family was banned. But look again at your own post. I’m going to paraphrase part – feel free to correct me here:

    My friend was banned. I can’t believe he’s guilty of it. He’s started the process but it seems hopeless. I want Blizzard to overturn his banning and apologize for banning him.

    That alone is reasonable. It is also the normal process. Based on comments to your post alone (as well as other experiences) Blizzard does check out the appeals, and if a false positive is identified they repair and apologize.

    Which means to me you’re either demanding they do what they already do, or you’re demanding they ignore the process and let Lamaa stay regardless.

    And since Fio and a few others have “admitted to flexing their e-muscle”, it’s the latter. If innocent, jump the queue. If guilty, absolve and ignore.

    No. The rules apply to us all. Favoritism destroys guilds, and so it should be obvious that it would do so to larger organizations. And I will not stand aside and allow the corruption – and make no mistake, regardless of how well-meaning it IS corruption – proceed unremarked.

    You are attempting to strongarm Blizzard based on personal relationship, not knowledge of the facts. Yes the facts. Have you checked his computer to see if he truly hasn’t downloaded (ever) and used (ever) a mod that violates the contract? By your statements on your blog, no. And so I will resist this strongarming, lest the next time you apply it – NOT in well meant fashion – against me or mine.

    Gads, that sounds pompous. Yes, you have muscle, and you should use it on behalf of those who need it. Sympathy for and support of your friend – yes. Assistance within the bounds? certainly. Demands that the process be ignored? No.

  10. Just a brief refutation:

    “Gads, that sounds pompous. Yes, you have muscle, and you should use it on behalf of those who need it. Sympathy for and support of your friend – yes. Assistance within the bounds? certainly. Demands that the process be ignored? No.”

    We’re not demanding that the process be ignored. We’re demanding that the process be FOLLOWED. He’s appealing. What we want to be sure of, as much as we reasonably can with our bit of ‘muscle,’ is that his appeal actually gets looked at and considered, and not just rubber stamped “No.”

    If that’s abusing the system, then we have a different definition of that concept, and probably will not agree in any way, no matter what.

  11. BTW – I just read the TJ reference and umm… Laama was botting. Sorry you got caught, but you were almost assuredly botting. Since I have been following this topic (and the botting community in general), there have only been two real cases of “false positives.” It’s remotely possible that Laama was a false positive, but in the other two cases when this occurred – there was FAR FAR more outcry on the subject by a LOT more people. The likelhood of one lone guy getting a false positive are so remote as to be impossible.

    Interestingly, one of those false positives was linux related and Laama points out that he used linux as part of his defense. I know if I were accussed of botting, I would latch onto one of these known false positives in an effort to create some sympathy to my cause. Of course, if that were REALLY the case, then you would see a similar outcry with more evidence that a “I don’t know what happened” as the supporting argument.

    As I think my last comment points out, Blizzard goes to extremely great lengths to give everyone the benefit of the doubt. If anything, there are not strict enough more often than not. I guarantee that they found SOMETHING they felt warrant the ban and that they wouldn’t have acted if they hadn’t thought that something was significant.

    Laama’s response is typical of one that I have seen hundreds of times as someone who botted on an unknown alt got their main banned and now they are trying to paint a picture about how they aren’t the bad guy. I find the whole “we know him” defense ludicrous (and one I have also heard a hundred times). No you don’t. No one knows anyone that well over the internet. Hell, I found out a couple of years ago that my best friends Dad was molesting young girls. There is NO WAY that I would have thought him capable of doing something like that and I knew him very closely for 20 years.

  12. Kirk, honestly, this is what it comes down to – if I can use my blog to find someone who knows a guy who knows a guy who has a cousin who once dated some guy at Blizzard’s dog, who can bump Lamaa to the top of the list for appeals, then why shouldn’t I? If a friend of yours got into a bad situation and you had the means to help out a bit, wouldn’t you? I posted in support of my friend. And everyone who has jumped on this “bandwagon” isn’t bashing Blizzard, they’re calling attention to the fact that this situation happens, that it’s frustrating and uncertain, and they’re doing it because they’re MY friends. Or Fio’s friends. Or BRK’s friends.

    You are insistent on interpreting our words any way you want to, and I guess it’s clear now that we can’t stop you from inferring whatever you please. No one is making any demands. You are determined to find some kind of sense of entitlement or system-flaunting attitude in my post where there isn’t one. Everything you are saying that I said was not said. It’s all your own inferrence.

    We want our friend back. We don’t like that he’s not getting any response from Blizzard at all. You can’t TELL ME that if you lost your account, all your hard work, that you wouldn’t be distressed. We’re distressed and unhappy. This isn’t a fighting the system thing, this is a basic, human nature, we miss our friend and we’re scared we won’t get him back thing.

    We’re upset. We’re sad. For us, and for Lamaa. We’re not trying to break rules. We’re just human with normal human reactions. It all comes down to friendship here, and you can’t find fault with that.

  13. […] Edit: An interesting post about the why of the ban series can be found at priestly endeavors here. […]

  14. sid67 – at least one part of your argument is moot – I KNOW him. Sure, no one really knows anyone over the internet. But he kicked my ass at mini-golf. I was watching. He totally didn’t cheat.

    I KNOW the guy.

  15. Fio,

    How do you know he hasn’t? His word? That’s good for you – and I say so honestly. But unless you see him in person… allow me to direct you to the experience of BigBearButt (see ) and his “friend” who he defended for quite some time against not-quite-so severe allegations.

    As to putting words in your mouth – yes, somewhat. But only to degree. On the other hand, you too are making an assumption that may not be correct. That’s the assumption that Blizzard does not have the staff (full or temp) to handle the appeals. Blizzard has dropped this type of hammer before, and there have been yells aplenty before. It’s not a new thing for them.

    You are unhappy your friend was banned. OK. You wish to advocate on his behalf. OK. You want Blizzard to change the process… how? They make it plain the closure can be appealed (Lamaa quoted the block, even.) You want the appeals processed faster? How fast. And are you willing to raise the price of what you pay to cover that cost? If not, what action do you suggest be done that will not require the price be raised? Extra review is more expensive, adding people for faster review is more expensive, so as far as I can see that leaves only… not mass banning.

    But you – and more importantly (she has a bigger soapbox) TJ – are demanding Something Be Done.

    From my point of view, it looks like what I said. Screw the process, you want your friend back. And if flexing your muscle will make that happen, good.

    No. If that is NOT what you mean, then you really should reconsider what’s been written. Because based on what you’ve written, the IMPLICATION is ugly. “Me and mine, and screw everyone else.” I don’t really think that’s what you mean. I think you’re upset and lashing out unthinkingly. I’ve done it myself. But recognizing it, I oppose it.

  16. Sid:

    I actually pointed that article out to Lamaa.

    And about 4 weeks ago, Lamaa was cheering in guild chat because he finally got WoW working with WINE. Do you believe he was preemptively setting up his defense in case he got banned?

    Some of us have met Lamaa in person. Quite a bit of the guild has met up at this point. So all I have to say to your assertion is that if we don’t “really know him,” you have even LESS to base your opinion on, not knowing him at all.

  17. Kirk,

    I’m basing my thoughts on similar stories that I have found while investigating this, where the appeals process takes weeks if not months. Given that, I think it is reasonable to assume that Blizzard does not have the staff to handle this, or at least does not put a high priority upon it.

    But regardless, it seems that you’ve decided that you can say what we mean better than we can. I’m not going to continue rehashing this any more here. Its obvious that you’ve made up your mind and aren’t even reading what we’re saying. So, I’m done here. I only hope for your sake that this never happens to you or someone you are friends with.

  18. Kirk, what this seems to be coming down to is that you’re offended that I’ve used my blog to express my feelings on the situation.

  19. I have not asked anyone to do anything to bend the rules in this matter. The quoted post was from our guild forums where I was just simply letting my guildmates know what was going on and why I haven’t been online. I enjoy the game (though the game would be nothing without my friends), but I am glad I haven’t gotten so serious about it that I make comparisons between potential contract infringers and child molestors/criminals. You guys are hardcore ❤

  20. @Fio, it has happened to friends. I defended two. And one turned out to be guilty of exactly what he was charged with doing in full ugliness, while the second turned out to be… hapless, but not innocent. I suffered a major hit to my honor in both cases, and my wallet in one. It does bias my view.

    @TJ, no, not that you expressed your feelings. But that you tried to raise the intertubes to intercede, yes, that bothers me. It gets into a grey zone for me. Consider it a compliment – it is – that I’m more bothered at your raising it the hue and cry that Something Be Done than I am Fio doing so. Yeah, it’s a cliche, but you have a crapload of power (a LOT of people reading your site), and with that comes responsibility.

    hmm. I may need to do a separate post on why this is such a hard line for me. It might help with understanding.

  21. Not to get caught in any blog crossfire here, but what exactly is Blizzard’s review/appeal policy for banned and suspended accounts? Many people have mentioned a review process (and how it seems to be ignoring Lamaa), but I don’t have any details and I wasn’t able to find anything on Blizzard’s sites. Just curious.

  22. You’re making me sound like a crooked politician, man.

  23. TJ, as a reader of most of the blogs of “the gang,” I find this all very interesting. And initially, I thought, hell yeah, let’s make ourselves heard! But now, I’ve changed my mind. I think Kirk has some really good points that are being ignored, either deliberately or due to being too emotionally close.

    Your comment above says, “you’re offended that I’ve used my blog to express my feelings.” But that isn’t entirely true – in fact, it isn’t even mostly true. To quote your blog post:
    “I know this is a long shot, but someone on our guild forums pointed out that a lot of us have blogs, and drawing as much attention to this issue as possible could maybe speed along the process of getting this rectified.”

    That to me doesn’t sound like “expressing feelings.” That to me says, “I want to leverage our semi-fame in order to get special treatment.” Special treatment, in this case, being to, “maybe speed along the process.”

    How is that fair? Why should “celebrities” or their friends get special treatment? What if my account gets banned – who will stand up for me to “maybe speed along the process”?

    Which brings me to Kirk’s point – how is this right? You’re demanding that the process be ignored or that your friend get special treatment. Leaving aside whether Lamaa is guilty or not, I can also take exception with the efforts of a “cult of personality” trying to give privilege to some and not all. As Kirk says, if you want to propose a real solution that would apply to all victims, and isn’t a massive cost burden, feel free. But all you’ve done is say that he deserves to have his case more closely scrutinized merely because he’s lucky enough to have highly visible and vocal public advocates – not because of any real facts about his guilt or innocence (other than, “I’ll vouch for him”).

    So I have to go along with Kirk – special treatment for some does not benefit everyone, and in fact, hurts the rest who don’t get it, by subjecting them to separate and less favorable rules. The appeals process might suck (I pray I never experience it), but it is there.

  24. If we weren’t being so serious I’d do a snappy comeback to that, TJ. As it is… no, you’re not.

    Potentially, of course… You are aware you could probably make a good running for queen – or at least representative – of a significantly sized slice of the intertubes, aren’t you?

  25. Black, basically you have to contact Blizzard’s account management. It’s only open “days” (their local time), Monday through Friday. This is a legitimate point of frustration, and I buried it in my other objections. (I’ve raised the specific objection numerous times to the company. It’s serving a global customer base, it should SERVE a global customer base.)

  26. Talisker,

    One thing to note is that there is legit cause of grievance against Blizzard – which I mentioned in my response to Black. And I think that it’s PART of what Fio and TJ were asking to have done.

    Due to personal experience, I’m very, VERY much against bending rules for people. Yet to some extent we always give friends a slightly better break. The question is where helping friends becomes cronyism or other ills. In my view – and ONLY in my view – TJ came close to crossing it. Not by her action but because of how powerful she is. (The more you’re known and respected, the more weight you swing whether you realize it or not. There’ve been some hard lessons in that for anyone that bothers to read history.)

    Thing is, I reacted to that – and stand by my stance. And the part where it’s for “my friend” and anyone else is incidental (not literal phrasing, but implication) is what bothers me the most. Yes, the system needs changed, but it can’t be done immediately or probably even swiftly. I have been pushing for 24/7 account service since… there’s a post in the archives about account hacking, back when that flurry went nuts. (I think I was supporting Breanna of Gun Lovin Dwarf Chick in this.) But that’s not what was proposed. Well, not really – I think that’s part of what Fio meant by the increased staffing element.

    I reacted to what I thought I was reading – still do, when re-reading the posts of Fio and TJ. They may have MEANT “fix the system for everyone”, but that’s not how it reads.

  27. Not to get caught in any blog crossfire here, but what exactly is Blizzard’s review/appeal policy for banned and suspended accounts?

    It’s nothing more sophisticated than someone reads your email, looks up why you got banned, and then decides how they want to respond. The customer service rep rarely take the time to write a personalized email because your “case” fits into the same mold as hundreds of other similar “cases”. You get the canned response. In other situations, the offense is so obvious that they don’t even feel compelled to explain themselves beyond the initial ban email. LOTS of offenders don’t even get the courtesy THAT initial ban email at all and only find out when they attempt to log in.

    Of course, the REASON that they have so many similar cases is because they take extremely great pains to make sure they know with near certainty that they won’t get false positives. Now – in the cases where they have reversed false positives it’s because they are getting lots of emails complaining about the same thing and they can reproduce the effect. It’s never the “lone wolf” whose unique situation got them banned.

    I can’t emphasize enough how thorough and certain Blizzard is that the account is in TOS violation before they ban. In their mind, they have ALREADY done all the due diligence in making the determination and no new evidence that you provide through the appeal process is going to sway the outcome. I can tell you that they 100% believe they had just cause for the ban before they took any action against an account. That’s how they operate and many people (myself included) are critical that they are not aggressive enough.

    This entire subject is a bit of a particular interest of mine and I have read and participated in countless threads (official forums, Glider forums, ISX forums) on the subject. Outside of a Blizzard employee, I can tell you that I am about as well versed on “what happens” as it gets.

    My earlier comment about Laama specifically is that the response sounds, smells and feels like a botter. More importantly however, nothing said gives me any indication that Blizzard will overturn the decision. If they DO overturn it, then it’s because they want to avoid a PR controversy in the blogosphere. In this regard, I 100% agree with Kirk’s stance on favoritism.

    This is worth repeating because it’s the most important part. If you got banned, then Blizzard feels they already did the due diligence. Your odds of changing their minds on that fact are so slim as to be nearly nonexistent. The whole “appeal” process is really almost irrelevant because it’s nearly impossible for you to contribute new evidence supporting the appeal.

    I will say that VERY VERY rarely, the “my account was stolen” tactic or “my brother did it” approach seems to have the highest success in the “appeal” process and can warrant the more personalized email response. It’s laughable, but for whatever reason, the customer service reps seem to have a little more difficultly disregarding the “I was hacked by botters while I was on vacation” excuse.

    I would say that I am sorry to you for losing your online friend. I’m not sorry they got banned for cheating.

  28. I understand being frustrated and emotional about a friend. I think it stepped over the line when TJ’s post asked for people to raise a hue and cry to “maybe speed things along.” That is exerting one’s influence in order to achieve treatment not available to everyone.

    As far as Blizzard’s lack of response, hoo boy, absolutely, this pisses me off, too; this objection is right on the money, and really goes to the heart of the issue. As someone who has a blog category devoted to what I call “customer DISservice,” I can completely sympathize with the lack of Blizzard’s response.

    In fact, had TJ’s post been to the effect that it’s high time we demand they devoted some of those record-breaking revenues to some real and responsive customer service, I would have wholeheartedly agreed.

    However, again, my fault with this (and it’s not with caring about friends), is the seeming attempt to employ influence to gain special treatment for someone. And a system that allows special treatment for some is inherently unfair – and a system that should be suspect.

    TJ may be willing to “bump her friend’s resume to the top of the pile,” and as her friend, that would certainly be a perk to be envied – but that doesn’t make it right. In fact, that’s uncomfortably close to nepotism, favoritism, cronyism, and some other fancy isms I can’t even contemplate. In short, it wouldn’t be fair.

    Does that mean you can’t drop off the resume in person to an HR representative, and offer to answer any questions? Not at all – but tampering with the actual process… that makes me uncomfortable.

    Processes that are created to make things fair are usually inherently burdensome. We acknowledge this when we say Blizzard should “fully investigate” in order to make sure they ban the right person, even as we admit this would be costly and time consuming. How ironic that we want them to do everything in their power to be fair, but we then hold them to a different standard and we’re willing to bend the rules when it comes to us?

    Perhaps the lack of response is due to this burdensome process in an attempt to be fair. They must read all the emails, they must check their facts, they must be willing to hear your side. Agreed, all. And perhaps a simple, “your email has been received, and we will review your petition” would go a long way to making us at least feel like we haven’t been arbitrarily zapped by Zeus from on high. I cannot argue with this at all; I think it’s necessary.

    But I object to lobbying the public toward the cause of getting someone special treatment not afforded to all – that isn’t right.

  29. I should say I sympathize with *the frustration over* the lack of Blizzard’s response.

  30. Talisker, I’ve a request not directly related to what you said (much of which I agree with, in fact).

    Quit double posting here and on TJ’s site. In fact, since the debate is here, and I specifically requested we give her and hers space to grieve, I’d appreciate it a great deal if you’d keep this discussion here. She can join – and has joined – here if she desires to comment. By doubleposting you (unintentionally, I hope) inflame and confuse the discussion.

    Thank you.

  31. Kirk, sorry for (unintentionally) going against your very clearly worded attempts to separate discussions. I felt that I was responding to points over there and here which essentially covered the same ideas; not wanting to engender carpal tunnel, I was being lazy and copying over. I will respect your wishes and confine further comments to here; that said, I think I’ve contributed what little I can offer, being generally of very small brain.

  32. My two cents and possibly a quarter(need to get my joke in before this gets serious):

    Yes TJ holds a lot of sway over a lot of us and the post may come off as being biased to only helping Lamaa. However, the idea behind it is that Blizzard seems to want to cut these people off entirely without a chance to say or explain anything. I have no problem with them initially banning people but they need to allow leeway for people who didn’t do anything wrong to get their accounts unbanned at least. From reading what Lamaa got I never get this impression from Blizzard.

    Is there a chance that Lamaa did use this bot or signed up for one at some point? It is entirely possible. But if someone is your friend you should be able to give them the benefit of the doubt.

    Along with being someone’s friend is that if you need help you have connections. In TJ’s case she has a lot of people who respect her opinion. And because of that Lamaa will get the spotlight from this. Does this mean I don’t care for anyone else? Not at all but I don’t know anybody else directly affected by this at the moment. If my friend, in my view, got the shaft like Lamaa did and my blog could help rectify it I guarantee you I wouldn’t hesitate to do the same as TJ.

  33. Perhaps the lack of response is due to this burdensome process in an attempt to be fair.

    The assumption as a “customer service” issue is that Blizzard is ignoring them or not looking at the problem. Umm.. well, they did that already and thought you were cheating. So what you are REALLY asking is for them to look at it again because you don’t agree.

    The point is that Blizzard has already done their due diligence on the issue. They did so prior to issuing the ban and they take great pains to ensure there are no false positives. As far as they are concerned, they already investigated the issue and responding by banning the account.

    Now, would you rather have Blizzard customer service reps focus their attention on legitimate and valid customer service issues that have NOT been investigated or have them focus on issues that have already been resolved where the outcome is not likely to change. The reality is that ban reversals very rarely happen and I (personally) would prefer they devote resources to more legitimate complaints.

    That poor guy who got his account hacked shouldn’t have to suffer any longer than necessary because a customer service rep has to write a personalized email to someone who got banned for botting.

  34. Talisker, with regards to the job thing, that’s just simple networking. If a job opened at my company, that fit Fio’s qualifications, you can bet I would march my butt over to HR and vouch for him. I can’t make them hire him, but I can ask them to take a close look.

    Similarly, I can’t make Blizzard do anything for Lamaa, but I can attempt to make them take a look.

    I went to bat for a friend. I used the resources at my disposal. I just can’t apologize for that.

    If, when Blizzard gets to Lamaa’s appeal, they find him, for whatever reason, to be truly bannable, well, we’re SOL. AC does NOT support that kind of behavior, and we ARE firmly behind our friend.

    I’m really bothered by being told what I can and cannot correctly say on my blog – that I’ve worded something wrong, that I’ve taken the wrong tack, that I’m being offensive to tons of nameless people I don’t know.

    I DO know Lamaa. I write about my life, the things that I’m involved in, and Lamaa is part of that. I can’t censor myself because some people have the [honestly, what I believe to be misguided] view that I have some sort of real power. What I have is friends. I went to bat for my friend, and in response, people who I like and respect went to bat with me.

    I can’t, I just can’t see that as wrong. It’s my blog. I’m sorry that other people don’t have the same access to me and my blog that Lamaa does. I’m sorry that other people who got banned don’t have blogs. But creating and maintaining a blog isn’t some great lofty position that only a few can achieve, and it doesn’t grant me any kind of special power or pull, other than to connect me with people of a similar mind.

    I think what I am having trouble grasping here is the fact that I am being told, basically, what I can and cannot say on my personal website, that I pay for, maintain, and write about ridiculous crap on. Blizzard doesn’t know who I am, they don’t give two shits about me. But I know who Lamaa is, and I give a whole heck of a pile of shit about him. Ok, that came out wrong, but I hope you’re getting my point. I just can’t, not at all, see anything wrong with me posting what I want, and what I feel. I see it as the same as asking readers to donate to my pet charity (the TJ Needs a Pony Fund, if anyone is interested), or asking readers to vote in some contest that you or a friend are a contestant in… It’s just me, one person, and my views, and what I hope will happen.

    Lamaa will go through the appeals process like anyone else. There’s nothing that can be done to change that, and frankly it’s laughable for me to even think I hold any kind of sway at all. But I feel like I’ve drawn attention to the situation, positive or negative, and I feel like I’ve DONE something in circumstances where we all feel kind of helpless. It never occurred to me, even for a second, that I was abusing any kind of power, or asking for special treatment… Like I’ve said repeatedly, I am FOR the mass bannings. They catch more guilty people than innocent. They catch a lot of people who claim to be innocent and will claim that in the face of overwhelming evidence. They also caught someone who I truly, TRULY BELIEVE has committed no crime, so to speak. Being in favor of this kind of system, I think that the chances of catching someone honestly and truly innocent are extremely rare, and I think Blizzard knows that.

    I cannot express to you how absolutely and totally convinced I am that Lamaa has done no wrong. Setting aside all arguments that I can’t personally “prove” it, or that no one really “knows” anyone on the internet, please accept, for the sake of argument, that that is my position. Imagine me just completely convinced of his innocence. Also take into account that I believe that Blizzard probably does NOT catch that many TRULY innocent people. He is, in my mind, one of a very small number lost in a sea of false appeals, liars, cheaters, etc. What I am saying, on my blog is, HEY. Pay attention to THIS GUY. I believe he is the real deal.

    I 100% believe that and am committed to it and stand behind it. That’s my position, and that’s why it’s on my blog.

  35. He is, in my mind, one of a very small number lost in a sea of false appeals, liars, cheaters, etc.

    It is admirable that you are sticking by your friend. However, what are the odds that one of those “very small number lost at sea” just happens to be the one guy you know personally who got banned?

    I’m sorry for your loss. I really am. You are truly a collateral victim in this ordeal. You believe your friend. You trust your friend. To me, I think that’s what is most upsetting about this story. Because I don’t believe Laama. I sincerely think that you are being lied to by a friend. Moreover, a friend who is letting you stomp around the blogosphere defending their name.

    From an outsiders point of view, it’s always disturbing to see someone abuse someone else’s trust. I just want you to know that my remarks aren’t directed at you personally. You should stand up for your friend. That’s what friends do. Someone should remind Laama of that fact.

  36. Kirk, unless I missed it completely (and please correct me if I did), you are opposed to any sort of appeal process. Currently there is none. I have asked for one to be implemented. Nowhere have I read any argument against immediate and permanent bans for misbehavior. Yours, however, is the first and only argument I have read demanding the status quo–that is, no chance of appeal, much less success–be maintained.

    And that, my friend, simply isn’t right. Does Blizzard have that right? Of course they do (until a court says otherwise). Are they abusing that right? Currently, in the opinion of many of their more influential customers, they are.

  37. Yeah, Kestrel, you missed it. (do “find” on the article for “appeal” to see it.) There is an appeal process, and I reference it several times. No appeal? No, I’d object more than a little bit. But there is one. So what I’m arguing in that particular line is, “let it work.” My objection is to what I PERCEIVE as a desire to jump past the process – inequitably, at that. Not to improve it (though honestly, that’s in there too), but regardless of improvement, “my friend faster now regardless.” sigh – please see the next blogpost, it may help clarify my point of view.

    @TJ, yeah, I can see your annoyance – and frankly in that regard I think you’re right to some extent to be annoyed at people telling you they don’t like what you wrote. NO, that’s not fair, it’s not what you wrote or what you meant. “Correctly” is the adjective you wrote. Umm…. yes they can, but you have an even stronger right to tell them (yes, including me) to piss off? Yeah, that’s closer. Yes, I didn’t mean to kick the sore spot on your blog – as I mentioned there. But when we speak publicly, we’re going to get the people that tell us we’re wrong. And unless those posters are careful (and sometimes even if they are), it HURTS, dammit.

    I try to do such remarks in a civil fashion – not just phrasing, but avoiding flicking wounds while I’m at it. I miss, sometimes, and it shames me. We have choices about that as bloggers – the first amendment doesn’t apply. We can respond, or kick them out. I’m glad you responded instead of kicking – just selfish about that, I guess. But yeah, it hurts, and I’ll apologize again for THAT.

  38. Kestrel,

    no, Kirk is not opposed to an appeal process. And there is one, albeit not immediately obvious from the Account Suspension E-mail: “Any disputes or questions concerning this account action can only be addressed by Account Administration. To learn more about how Account Administration is able to assist you, please visit us at”

    Kirk’s reply to this: “I think Blizzard could do some PR work – not changing the system, but changing the wording of the ban – to improve the situation. They could call it a freeze, saying that if there is no appeal in 30 days the account will be banned, and then acting based upon the appeal.”

    Obviously, there should be a way to appeal, I don’t think anyone has any problems with that. Kirk has a problem with TJ’s appeal for mass action on behalf of her friend.

  39. “TJ wrote: I think what I am having trouble grasping here is the fact that I am being told, basically, what I can and cannot say on my personal website”
    I think, as I am reading all these replies, is that Kirk is not telling you what to write at all, but he is highlighting his opinion that a “call to arms” disagrees with him on moral grounds. Not that you are wrong, but that you have differing opinions.
    I am saddened if your friend is offline for a time. That totally sucks.
    However, I agree that the process in-place can not be resolved overnight. Blizzard, having done a mass-ban, will need some time to sort things out with appeals. While I too would hope my friends helped make sure my account was not ignored, I also would not want the (perceived) push to get my appeal short-listed to the top.
    So, rather than inflame the issue farther,. I’ll bow out and watch the weekend unfold as it will…..

  40. I just left a comment in your later post – but i realized it probably belongs here. So reposting the comment:

    I usually just lurk in the shadows when reading WoW related blogs and never comment. This time however, i felt i should post a comment in agreement with your sentiment.
    If i read the sentiment correctly (and correct me if i am mistaken) but the whole “crusade” by the “blogginest” guild in WoW does seem predicated on the absolute and unquestioning faith on the victim.
    I absolutely agree with their demand for Blizzard support to be more responsive. What i do not agree with, however, is the implication, in most of the posts, that Blizzard is/was more in the wrong than Lamaa.

    I do not know much about Glider, i have not read the TOS in its entirety and i certainly cannot comment on Blizzard’s ability to know for sure if a person “botted” or not. But what i can say is that there certainly was an attempt to download the program.

    Perhaps (and i plead partial ignorance on this subject) Blizzard doesnt really have a way of knowing whether that bot was used to not. In that scenario, equality would dictate that all such persons should be banned. Something like if there is suspicion of cheating in an exam and no way of knowing who did and who did not – there is no other equitable way other than cancelling the exam. The blogginest guild in WoW clearly refuses to give Blizzard any benefit of doubt.

    To summarize, i agree with their call for Blizzard to be more responsive. I disagree with the hamhanded (and perhaps arrogant and lopsided?)way of expressing it.


  41. I think what you are missing here is that you are not disagreeing with TJ or telling her she is wrong, but you are saying she was wrong to post it on her site. That she was wrong to use a medium that she owns and operates as she sees fit.

    It’s like marching into her bedroom and telling her that she is wrong to own a couch and place it where she wants it. You can express an opposite viewpoint to her on the position of the couch, and argue there is a better choice (say, a futon), but you are out of your mind if you think it’s appropriate to tell her what she can buy with her money and do in her own space.

    Disagree, sure. Dictate? Ha ha, you’re funny.

    It’s fine to say “I think you’re taking the wrong approach.” It is not okay to say “You should not have written this on your blog and you should not use your blog this way.”

  42. Bellwether?

    Where did I do that? More accurately, where do you SEE I said that? I phrase it that way because perceptions can be different, but I sure as crap didn’t mean that interpretation – rather, I was telling her she was wrong in part of what (I thought) she was wanting.

    Thing is, what you say about right to write on one’s own site is absolutely correct. And if I said something implying otherwise I need to fix that immediately.

    But I need you to tell me where I said it.

  43. It’s like marching into her bedroom and telling her that she is wrong to own a couch and place it where she wants it.

    Bullshit. Kirk made his thoughts in HIS bedroom, not in hers. Which he has every right to do — as she does in hers.

    I actually get a little irked when people say that you can’t disagree with someone on their blog. Having a blog entitles you to an opinion, but you better expect people to DISCUSS that opinion. And not everyone is going to agree with you. The very best blogs entries are the ones that provoke discussion.

  44. @Kirk – then I apologize, I must have read it incorrectly. As I read it, it sounded like you were saying she did not have a right to call people to arms on her blog, when she did, in fact, have this right. Or that it was an abuse of power, and therefore “should not” be there. AKA, saying what she can or cannot have on her blog. Simply disagreeing is fine. I have no problem with you disagreeing with TJ, that’s your right, I ain’t gonna deny you it.

    @sid67 – like I said above, I must have misread something. However, I did not say anything about disagreement and discussion being bad. In fact, I made a distinction between demands of saying what people can and cannot do, as well as discussion/debate/disagreement. Those are all totally cool with me. Hell, go to my blog and disagree with me all you want. I don’t care. Just don’t tell me what to write. 🙂

  45. (also, sorry about slow reply, I was watching this, just had a raid)

  46. @Bellwether,

    I did call it an abuse of power. That said, what the frek do you think the essence of a disagreement about a post is if it’s not, “I don’t think you should have said that?” I don’t follow the logic?

    Note that it wasn’t the post as a whole that I considered an abuse of power. It was what I PERCEIVED as a call to get her friend out of jail free, regardless of the system. Fix the system for everyone, great. Screw everyone else, just help my friend, not so great. The reality is that there was a bit of all of that, plus some more – and what I read isn’t quite what she meant when she wrote it, either. Which was the result of a mix of her writing emotionally and hitting some of my skewed viewpoints based on life experiences. Neither of us is doing precision work – and even the pros run into that sort of thing.

    I can tell her – from my own blog – that she should not have written a post. She can tell me from her own blog to sit on it ans spin. BY MY PERMISSION, she can also tell me that – and much more – on my own blog. If it gets to be too much, I’ll delete the comment. (More likely, I’ll edit and publicly note I’ve edited to delete lines. That’s yet another quirk of mine – honesty, however painful, pays better in the long run.)

  47. Well, Kirk, take this as my disagreement, that telling someone what they can and cannot do on their personal space is different than saying you disagree with it. Disagreeing is cool. Said it before. Telling them they can’t is out of line. That’s my only point, and of course it’s an opinion you’re free to disagree with. Otherwise, no argument here, totally cool with me of you to disagree with TJ and her points.

  48. Yeah. Good post. I feel bad for the guy, but I’m not joining the call to whatever either. I’ve been to software conferences where speakers went over what Warden is, what it does and everything inbetween. A few things to remember – Blizzard knows more about this than you do. Warden doesn’t autoban people – the case had to be flagged and manually banned.

    It seems like this lamaa guy was a nice guy and all, but I’m just going to say it would be really hard to call “false positive” for this. I don’t know him personally, or what he had/has on his machine so there’s no way I’m going to declare him an innocent bystander. imo.

  49. I have to say that I completely agree with you, perhaps it is because I spent five years working in Corrections (the three C’s) and have heard every single “but it’s not my fault” story this side of the Mississippi.

    Many of the banned, from I have seen either played on computers running cheat software or really were guilty. I also had the pleasure to work on the other side of the coin as well, serving as a Paralegal for a defense attorney. The attorney was a good man with a heart of gold, a real diamond in the rough, which is why he was going bankrupt, he asked me one day which would help me sleep at night.

    a) Knowing that ten innocent and one guilty man went free.


    b) Knowing that ten innocent and one guilty man went to prison.

    I responded with this reply.

    If you send ten innocent men to prison, then ten people will be wronged.

    If you allow one guilty man free, he can effect the lives of countless people.

    Ten wronged, or countless wronged.

    One wronged, or ten wronged.

    There is no easy answer, the guilty will always claim to be innocent and Utopia will never be achieved because of the nature of man.

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