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Points of Articulation

yo go re
This town ain't big enough for the both of us!

I don't understand feuds.

Really, not at all. The incessant fighting, sniping and backbiting is an unyielding mystery.

The internet is, in theory, a big place. There's plenty of room for everybody, and everyone should be able to get along, particularly when their hobbies are the same. Why is it, then, that people gets so territorial, so defensive, and so downright mean to one another about the dumbest things?

That's not to say that I exist in some Sunday School Utopia and think that you should love everyone equally - far from it. Sometimes you have to deal in life with real jerkasses, flaming incompetents or unlikeable sycophantic halfwits. The type of people who would be best served by dying, unloved and alone, in a ditch beside the road. I completely understand and fully endorse hating those people.

What throws me is the institutional hatred that develops online. Why do fans of one site despise fans of another? The type of rivalry that springs up between schools and universities at least makes some sense - in that case, you usually have a personal investment (usually money) in the object of your allegience. But online? Nothing.

Take, for example, two toy fan sites run by two different guys - we'll call them MaskMan and BZBody. Both sites started at about the same time (MaskMan first, BZBody a few days after) and are dedicated to the same line, but that's where the similarities end. MaskMan's site is bred from straightforward simplicity: news, reports, photos and instructions arranged and presented in a simple manner; it's easy to navigate and a fine source of reliable information. BZBody's page is much flashier, with a complex design and more features; more information is available there, and it's certainly a larger community with more diverse input.

MaskMan's page is very careful about what information it posts, but they often err too far on the side of caution: by going mainly with what the company wants revealed or not, MaskMan can lag behind in the news cycle. The new product revamp for 2003 was hinted at and refered to, but never actually announced or discussed; MaskMan seemed to assume that readers already knew about it, and that he was just adding information.

BZBody throws news up as soon as it comes in, which means it often ends up posting more rumors than facts. While the types of material offered are more varied, the organization is weak, so you'd have to do a lot of digging to find what you want. Basically, the two sites are vastly different, though they cover the same subject. This, for whatever reason, seems to have led to some bad blood.

The main problem seems to have been a series of mistakes, misinterpretations and bull-headed grumpiness from both MaskMan and BZBody. But while MaskMan has tried, on several occasions, to clear the air, it seems BZBody is obsessed with being, well, a busybody. Declaring himself king of the fan community may make him feel like a rich man, but it's just sad.

Not a day goes by that someone on MaskMan.com fails to point out that some topic, bit of news or other info "was already posted on BZBody's page." It's generally in a very snide tone, meant to imply that MaskMan is just copying BZBody. Because, you know, the toy company certainly wouldn't send the same info to more than one news source. Meanwhile, no one is allowed to mention MaskMan or anything related to his site over at BZBody.com: filters and intimidation keep the posters in line.

Though his site has grown faster, BZBody seems to feel threatened by MaskMan. He and his put out a scent of desperation with every move, which just serves to hurt them further. MaskMan, meanwhile, continues to run his site with a sense of professionalism, welcoming all comers and not trying to sweep others under the rug. Yes, he's got the smaller site, but that doesn't really matter; fewer users mean fewer jerks, less spam, less flaming and gererally a nicer atmosphere. However, MaskMan seems reluctant to post any news that originated from BZBody, waiting to draw from different sources and leaving his readers missing out on info. Whether by ignoring or attacking, both guys are carrying on their war.

Newspapers fued because they have to worry about circulation and advertising revenue. That's why they hoarde their information, why they're so worried about breaking the big story. And while real businesses are starting to gain momentum here on the net, it's still a digital medium and the only real outlay is hosting costs. When you get to the point where news is breaking on multiple sites within a matter of minutes, it doesn't matter who has it first - people will see it wherever it is when they they next make their rounds.

And that, really, is why I'm glad to be associated with OAFEnet. No enemies, no fighting, and no competition. In our unique niche, we aren't pressured to be the first to tell you anything - this is entertainment, not news, and being entertained never gets old. We also don't have to fight with Mike or any of the other reviewers out there. This is a fun hobby - it's all about toys, fer cryin' out loud!

Who makes better toys, McFarlane or NECA? It doesn't matter.

Who got you your news first? It doesn't matter.

Articulation or sculpt? It doesn't matter.

Do you like Site A or Site B? It doesn't matter.

Really, we're all in this together. We all dig the same thing - cool toys. Petty in-fighting doesn't make the hobby better. It doesn't make one side right and one wrong. Sure, friendly competition can be fun, but this is, ultimately, just a superficial bit of fluff. When it becomes serious, we miss the point.

It's January - a new year dawning. How about making a resolution this year to let things slide? Don't look for new ways to fight with your fellow fans; band together to enjoy your hobby. 2003 gave us some of the best toys ever, and 2004 is likely to be even better; but if we overlook what's cool and focus on imaginary differences, we miss out. Don't be a dick, like BZBody; feel the love, have some fun. We command it.

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