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January 2011

What Does it Take to be a Great Raid Leader?

the fact that this shadow priest is sitting in the big chair doesn't mean she's the raid leader

Leading raids is not my favorite task. I like to focus on playing and having a good time, while when in the role of raid leader I have to focus on what everyone else is doing. But somebody has to lead the raids to keep us all marching in the right direction. Which got me to thinking about what it takes to be a great raid leader.

It's easiest to start with a list of the qualities that do not make for a great leader:

  • Unwilling to listen to feedback from others
  • Unable to objectively evaluate if the issue at hand is the strategy or the execution of the strategy
  • Not a team player in groups where they are not a leader
  • Desire to be raid leader driven by wanting to be in charge
  • Use of bullying and shouting down others to banish opposing view points
  • Prone to yelling over Vent/TeamSpeak/Mumble
  • Impatient; unclear that learning new fights takes time
  • Uncomfortable with giving constructive criticism or assigning necessary but not glamorous tasks to friends/relatives/significant others

 7 Habits of Bad Raid Leaders

  1. Yell "WIPE IT" whenever a strategy is not absolutely perfectly executed.
  2. Kick out raiders for making even tiny mistakes.
  3. Kick out the lowest DPS every half hour if you are not making progress.
  4. Force the entire raid to compensate for any areas of weakness your BFF or significant other has.
  5. Come to raids without knowing the strategy backwards and forwards (or without having it printed out and in hand to read to the team.)
  6. Change loot rules after seeing what loot has dropped or who has won it.
  7. Arbitrarily add new raid nights and change what content people are raiding and when, based upon what you feel like doing.

Raid Leaders Need to be Someone the Team Wants to Follow

The success of any team, be it in World of Warcraft or in real life, hinges upon the leader of that team earning the respect of the team, and being someone the team chooses to follow. People do not choose to follow people who rule the raid with an iron fist, belittling others and shouting down anyone who dares question -- even privately-- their proposed strategies or decisions. Those people are called tyrants or dictators, not chosen leaders.

So what does it take to be the kind of raid leader whose members will happily follow them to the ends of Azeroth? For starters, a good leader will:

  • Communicate clearly with the team. This includes coming to raids prepared, and with a strategy in mind. Ideally you will have shared that strategy with the team for input a few days prior to the raid. This allows folks to read it, and to ask questions or make suggestions based upon their experience and your group's makeup. Be sure to assign specific people to specific tasks that need to be done, and ensure they are clear on what they are being asked to do.
  • Be ready to adjust strategies if they are not working as expected. That Tank Spot video you cribbed your strategy from probably doesn't have the same class make-up or skill sets as your actual raid team; be ready to adapt as needed. This can include having to ask your friends or SO to step out if they are not fulfilling their role. This is a delicate area, for sure, but your team expects you to apply the same standards across the board.
  • Listen to team members and try to understand their POV. The fact that it is sometimes not your POV does not make it wrong. Try to understand where others are coming from. And if you don't understand, ask questions that show you have been listening that will also help you better understand that person's perspective.
  • Be approachable. Your team needs to feel it is OK to come to you with an issue or concern or an idea, without fear of retribution or receiving a dressing down. 
  • Understand it's not all about them. Raiding is a team effort. Yes, the raid leader herded those cats, but the glory is not all upon the raid leader's shoulders -- and likewise, neither are the disappointing defeats. Also, don't take requests or comments personally. It's not all about you. As an example, if someone asks you to please give them an equal dose of progression raids and farm nights, respect their request. Not everyone wants to go full tilt at progression targets every night of the week after coming home from a demanding job. This doesn't make them a slacker. It is not a slap in your face. It is just someone else's POV. 
  • Discuss raid related issues and concerns, or strategy changes, in a professional, mature manner. On the Internet, all too often people take offense to -- and wage war against-- any opinion that is not in line with theirs. All I can say here is: GROW UP! In the course of your life, you are likely to meet many people who have different perspectives and opinions. They are entitled to them as you are entitled to yours. If you are incapable of being civil in discussions when you disagree with others, you are not cut out to be a leader.

I expect a lot from my raiding time. I expect to make progress against the goal of killing the boss upon whom we are working. I expect to have a good time, in a positive social atmosphere. I expect to have a sense of accomplishment and excitement when we kill a boss for the first time. I expect to feel like a valued and important member of a team. And if I don't feel this way, I eventually lose interest in raiding with that team. The raid leader sets the tone of the raid and the standard of behavior for the team. Having a positive raid leader, who strives to be the kind of leader others want to follow is key to making these expectations come true. You know how it's said that people don't quit their job, they quit their boss? That's frequently the case with raids too.

Food for thought. And this gives me a homework assignment: think through what a volunteer job description would be for an ideal raid leader.

Friday Five: Five Things I Love About my Shadow Priests

shadow priest blending in to the Lost City of the Tol'Vir Scenery

  1. We blend in with the scenery. This means we can sneak up on you in PvP.
  2. We always look well dressed. Even if we are wearing a mismatched Outands clown suit.
  3. Those shadowy apparitions scare the bejeezus out of folks running an instance with you for the first time. Especially in Vortex Pinnacle if you DoT those balls that you run past. A legion of shadowy gnomes trailing behind you is scary stuff folks!
  4. We have incredible survivability. We can shield, disperse, self-heal. This may be why in certain instances (*looks at Heroic Stonecore*) my shadow priests have tanked bosses. I can usually keep myself alive and bouncing around from 9% to dead boss, provided I have a healer who knows my determination to not wipe who tosses me some heals.
  5. Embrace the Shadow! It's one of the best calls to action ever. And it's mine. All my mine. /cackle.

Happy Friday!

P.S. The title is not a typo, I have two level 85 shadow priests, baby!

Keep it Clear!

I'm torn.

You see, I really love having a good conversation amongst the raid group between pulls, or as we wait to get started. I love that. But it seems that conversational vibe often spills over into the boss fights, which truly aggravates me.

I want to hear the raid leader call out if someone needs to take action. I want to know if a healer is down and we need to battle rez them or someone needs to drop and heal.

I don't care if our lowest DPS died. I also don't want to hear that floor hugger start chit chatting about miscellany.

NEWS FLASH: the fact that you died does not mean this is a wipe or that you are now free to monopolize the vent channel.


Because I don't want to have to be the one who hits their push to talk to shush you.

That's all. Carry on.

Friday Five: The Five Patch Changes to Which I am Most Looking Forward

shadow priests eyes magmaw, and suddenly realizes she is not sure where her shadowfiend has run off to

Have you been eagerly lapping up the revised 4.0.6 patch notes as they are released by the devs? I know I have. Here are the five that I'm most excited about so far:

  1. WHAT: The guild reward Armadillo Pup now requires revered faction instead of exalted.
    WHY I CARE: I have a pet collector with 100+ pets horde-side and Alliance-side. They both want this pet, and having to wait until I slowly and painfully leveled them each to exalted (slowed by the fact that I also have alts to play and level) would have been torture.
  2. WHAT: The night elf racial trait Shadowmeld can now be used while shapeshifted.
    WHY I CARE: It's rare that I am standing around in night elf form when I need to stop drop and roll off some aggro and hide.
  3. WHAT: Mount Up: This guild perk now applies to Flight Form and Swift Flight Form as well.
    WHY I CARE: I don't fly around on mounts on my druids b/c it's a lot prettier and more efficient for skinning to be in flight form.
  4. WHAT: Mind Sear can now be channeled on friendly targets in addition to enemy targets. In addition, Mind Sear's damage has been increased by roughly 15%.
    WHY I CARE: In its current state I rarely bother to use mind sear, my formerly most beloved spell. Its damage is too wimpy and it doesn't damage the target I am channeling it on. Thank you Blizz for realizing this spell was over-nerfed, and giving us back an AOE.
  5. WHAT: The number of herbs required to create flasks has been reduced, while the Volatile Life needed has been increased slightly.
    WHY I CARE: I like to be prepared when I go to raids. And it sucks to blow a flask that takes @250g worth of mats for 30 minutes of attempts in the final countdown of a raid. this will make it a little less painful.

What change has gotten you the most excited?

Are You Ready to Raid?

before you step through that raid portal...

More and more folks are seeing raid signups on their calendars now, as even many casual guilds are starting to get the raiding itch. Chances are, you may be feeling like you want to get back into raiding and pronto. but that doesn't necessarily mean that you -- or your fellow guildies-- are actually ready to raid.

Once an expansion gets to be more mature, it gets a lot easier to set minimum requirements. With this one still shiny and new, and based upon my own experience with two level 85 shadowpriests and one level 85 boomkin, here's what I am seeing as being raid-ready.

Check Your Gear

Although the trade recruiters are specifying ilvl 345 minimum, that's not necessary, or in some cases attainable pre-raiding, for some casters. Wand-users have a tough time of it as compared to the relic equippers who can have a 346 item crafted. One of my shadow priests lucked out and got the wand from Grim Batol. The other is stuck with an ilvlv 318 green wand. That green brings down her ilvl (she's 340, wearing 2 epics) and keeps her from the Cataclysmically Superior achievement. It doesn't make me a bad player or her not raid ready. She's smoked people with higher ilvl gear in heroics. This is specifically why I would discourage raid leaders from having across the board hard-and-fast requirements at this point in the game. Better gear can help you eek out a little bit more damage, but it can't play for you.

Shooting for ilvl 339 and above is probably a better target goal for your shadow priest. This is reachable through running the max level dungeons, crafting some gear, buying some badge pieces, and having a few lucky heroic drops. Next, you'll want to make sure you gem your pieces with blue quality gems, enchant them, and reforge off any extra stats (such as mastery or extra spirit/hit.) If you are about to object and say "but why would I waste time enchanting gear I am just going to replace?" you might want to reconsider starting raiding at this point. Start of an expansion raiding is not a cakewalk. It needs everyone to give 110%. You will be wiping, and repairing, and rinsing and repeating. If you think you are being put out by spending $100g on a gem for your gear, you may want to wait til you can outgear the content.

Check Your Output

I have been grouped with folks in heroics through LFD who can only eek out about 4-5k. This doesn't cut it in most heroics, unless your other 2 DPS are rock stars, and your healer's mana pool can support a protracted boss kill. In a raid, no one can afford to carry you. If you are not able to hit 9-11k consistently in heroics, you are not ready to be thinking about raiding.

If you are close to the 9k, start looking at how you can fine tune. Try pulling back on some of that hit, shooting for closer to 10% hit than 14-17%. This means having to keep an eagle-eye watch on your debuffs to ensure you cast another Vampiric Touch if the first one doesn't land, but it can make a boost in your DPS in the long run. I swapped out my glyph of dispersion, which I loved for leveling, for the SW:D glyph. I also make sure I have my personal buff food on hand (Severed Sagefish Head) in case there isn't a feast or BBQ put out. I also come armed with a flask of the draconic mind or a stack of speed elixirs. Yes, these consumables cost a ton. But a raid is a team effort.

Try and Try Again, but Know When to Quit

So you are invited to your first raid -- awesome! Get in there and modify your rotation and work on adapting your playstyle for the on-the-move style of these new raids. It can take some time to get into the groove and to understand a new encounter. But you will also want to make sure you are able to ID when you are not up to the challenge.

For instance, if your team is repeatedly coming very close to killing the boss, but not quite making it, take a look at the damage meter. Are you hitting your target DPS? What about overall damage? In the event that you see there is a wide gulf between you and the DPS right above you -- or worse yet, there is a tank above you in the raid encounter -- you may need to give yourself a time out before your raid leader has to. It is important to understand the difference between needing some fine tuning or needing to focus a little harder, versus being in denial about not coming close to the requirements for an encounter, and having the expectation that someone else will pick up the slack.

Friday Five: Five Posts You Should Read if You're About to Start Raiding

this is a good place for a shadow priest to hide

It's about that time again. Time to start thinking about putting together successful raid teams, or plotting how to get into your guild's raids. That's why this week's five are five of my favorite raiding advice posts that you can read and share with your raiding team to get things off on the right foot.

In addition to the above bits of advice from moi, there have been some pretty helpful and thoughtful posts in my feedreader that pertained to raiding, as my favorite bloggers get back into raiding. Here are a few of the highlights:

The Tyrrany of the LFD Dungeon Leader Tag

no, u stand there, not there

This past weekend, I zoned in to a Heroic Grim Batol that was already in progress, on the second boss. There was a player DC'd who was summarily kicked out. After the next wipe, I started to see what was going on.

The healer, who had the Dungeon Guide tag, immediately started laying down the blame for the wipe. Berating the tank, making fun of his gear including a green or two. The tank dropped.

We went again, with the new tank, and another wipe. This time, the healer started heckling the lowest DPS, who also dropped. 10 min into the instance and I had already seen this person make nasty comments to and bully out the entire group other than myself.

His behavior continued. As the healer, no wipe (and there were several) was ever his fault. It was all the fault of the bad DPS. Or someone standing in something. His tirades went on and on. After one especially nasty run of his mouth, I put forth a vote kick, which did not pass. Apparently, the abuse he was heaping on everyone was OK by the rest of the group.

As we got towards the end of the instance and his name calling and blaming escalated I asked him to chill out. "This is actually a team effort. You have cycled through more than a full group of players so far today; you need to hold up some responsibility on your end as well for the success of the group."

I detailed for him how if he was running out of mana mid fight, he should consider using his mana replenishment tool at half mana, not waiting until he was out (which was his M.O., and when we would lose a player.) I also pointed out he could ask for an innervate from the druid and a hymn of hope from me -- we have a number of mana replenishment tricks, but all need to be managed and planned for -- not done at the last minute.

After that discussion, things went more smoothly. Until the final boss. Our little LFD tyrant sprouted an extra head. He changed positioning of players multiple times, and when I tried to confirm which side he wanted me on, I was blasted with 15-rows of "Priest shut up and move." I'd really about had it with this brat.

We had several tries, and saw his placements were not working-- one side was not getting down their add. Somewhere in there, I died early, during a shadow gale (where it looked on my screen and others as though we were all stacked in the middle) and thus started to get a rain of abuse heaped upon me. I was a moron. I should stop playing. Am I blind? And worse. The litany of insults was shocking and left me stunned. I had honestly never encountered this level of nastiness in my five years of playing this game.

Pages of this abuse from some foul mouthed LFD healer who had bullied out almost two full LFD groups worth of players. Who then complained he could not vote kick me because we were on the final boss.I asked him to calm down and stop being a bully, to which he retorted I must be 5-years old. I held my tongue. And I did what any rational player would do when confronted with an extreme case of jerkiness: I put that person on ignore.

I took to whispers to organize strat with the good players. They finally started telling the nasty healer to shut it. And we defeated the boss.

And I avoided the LFD queue for the rest of the weekend. I don't have the stomach for another run-in of that kind.

What is interesting to me, is that player was the dungeon guide, and clearly felt that he was the most qualified person in the group to lead us through the dungeon. But he was not, despite knowing the fights in a general manner (everything was a tank and spank plus something everyone other than him needed to watch for.) His primary deficit? A total lack of leadership skills and subpar communication abilities.

Shouting down other peopls or bullying them into leaving is not productive in any scenario. Name calling doesn't help anyone identify how a pull went wrong. Yet in this guy's mind, he was in the right and we were all a bunch of morons who couldn't have gotten through it without him.

People like this bully are why I am not a fan of the new crop of player rating tools that are cropping up, both in action and in discussion. From his POV, everyone he grouped with, including myself (and I was doing 11k DPS and kicking ass other than my one death for whatever reason) was a total moron whom should never be allowed in a heroic.

And from my POV, someone who behaves the way he does, with such a negative attitude and a taste for doling out abuse on strangers, should never be subjected on anyone else.

I love the idea of the LFD tool, and its ability to help folks find a group when there isn't enough interest in their own guild, but incidents like this, make me wish we were grouped only with folks on our own servers, whereby we could have a little bit of recourse if hit up by the crazy rants and insults.

I love to do instances, and my 85s are all at the heroic level from gear and performance standpoints, but I've lost my taste for randoming without buddies. Because waiting in a 45 minute queue to have a truly awful hour with some horrible person is just not my idea of fun.

Friday Five: Five Things to Multitask in WoW While You are on the Phone

Deepholm can be pretty

Don't you hate sitting on hold? The jaunty muzak, the boringness of it all? Just as deadly is when you get roped into a phone conversation that mostly consists of you being a recipient of someone else's non-stop monologue. These situations do not lend themselves to your joining a 5-man. However, there are a number of things you *can* easily and comeptantly do while stuck ont he phone for an undetermined amount of time:

  1. Gathering professions. Make a loop of your favorite zone and pick up herbs or mining nodes. This sort of farming does so much better while multitasking.
  2. Fishing. You can fly around searching for pools, or you can just go to the spot that provides your favorite fish, and cast+click then cast again. Heroics and raids are raraely a one-food affair these days, so it's nice to have a stack or two on hand. And if that's not enough to motivate you, you can get an achievement for maxing out fishing, and your guild can get an achievement for you fishing up every pool that crosses your path for the next few months.
  3. Profession chores. Milling herbs. Making bolts of cloth. Doing your daily transmute. Check! Check! Check!
  4. Bank maintenance. Toss all those old pieces of non-dress up gear from WotLK. You won't need them. Also toss out those quest reward greens you weren't sure about equipping along the way. You won't use them either. Are those some non-BOP stackable items I see in your bank too? Send that to your bank alt!
  5. Exploration through Archaeology. Are you a world explorer yet? If not, now's the time to go see the many landscape changes, while picking up relics from Azeroth's past. Archaeology likes to send you to there and back again, and provides a great excuse to do fly-bys of all your old haunts.

Top Thing NOT to Do While on the Phone: Queue in LFD. Those 4 other people do not look kindly upon someone who is standing at the front of the instance for 5-10 minutes, unresponsive, or who distractedly walks into another group of mobs. If you are on the phone (or at work for that matter) don't queue. Go do something solo until you can give WoW your close to full attention.

This post brought to you courtesy of my having spent way too much time on hold this past week, trying to get a firm to stop spamming me with their direct mail welcome packages (25 packages and counting so far). I feel welcomed already! Stop with the dead tree deluge! Gah!

What do you Expect from Your Guild and its Officers?

  Boomkin being harassed by Thrall for not having the massive anti-Deathwing pewpew power.

This is that point in a new expansion when beleagured officers come face to face with foaming at the mouth guildies. Already I have seen friends' guilds break up, splitting off into 10-man raid teams. I have seen friends nerd rage at being left out again from a guild heroic. I've heard people rage about the horrors of trying to complete a quest in HoO that actually requires killing all the bosses...oh wait, that last person was me.

All this excitement naturally got me thinking about the expectations we all place on our guild officers.And the expectations they have for their guilds in return.

What I Expect From My Guilds

I have to start by saying that, of course, there are more flavors of guilds with a more diverse palette of objectives than there are flavors of Ben and Jerry's ice cream. These are my opinions based upon my five years of playing WoW. From my perspective,  people join a guild in order to either be a part of a group activity (such as raiding or RP or BGs), and/or to have a supportive social environment in which to pursue their goals.

For me personally, my list of guild expectations goes something like this:

  • Good players with whom to go do stuff. That stuff may include 5-mans and raids, or BGs, or lowbie antics.
  • Raiding. Sooner or later, I know I always want to raid. I am fine with not being in a progression raiding guild, having done that in the past when my schedule allowed, but that's not a primary motivator for me now.
  • Nice people to talk to in G. Not PC people, or suck-ups, mind you, but genuinely pleasant people with whom I can talk about WoW, or in the best case, RL topics of interest.
  • Vent or some other sort of voice chat. Communication is key for raiding or BG groups,; and text only just doesn't cut it.
  • Twitter and/or forums/guild website. Some topics need to be talked through outside of game. And strategies need to be shared for raiding. Some folks like to fly by the seat of their pants and just listen to the RL tell them the fight. I am not one of them. I like to be prepared.
  • Reciprocity. I try to be helpful whenever I can, be it with my time, helping out in an area I am familiar with, or with crafting. I don't expect tit for tat, but an environment wherein I'm always helping or donating to the guild but can't obtain any help myself becomes tiresome.
  • Personal accountability. It's hard to find. And many folks tell me to get over it and deal with those looking to live in their own little bubble. But this is one of my core beliefs, so I'm not backing down on it.

What I Expect From My Officers

 As someone who has both been an officer and not been an officer in a variety of guilds across both factions and several servers, I've seen many different guild management styles. And let's just say I've seen some pretty cringe-worthy officer behavior. But I've also seen some rock stars. Hence, my list:

  • Acknowledgement. I kick butt. I show up to raids on time and prepared. I help out. Like anyone, I do want some acknowledgment for what I bring to the table. No one wants to feel taken for granted, or worse yet, invisible.
  • Open communication. I was in a serious raiding guild run by officers that several of us referred to as "the shadow council." Not only did they not share information out to the guild, they didn't share it amongst themselves. I want to be able to talk to my officers about issues that arise and have them listen. This doesn't mean I expect everything to be changed to how I'd like it, but I do want to be heard.
  • Organization and Management of the Guild. I like my officers to be thinking about guild activities and getting them going. I like a moderated forum if it's a big active guild. I like an Officer presence in G chat to quell uprisings and dramas before they boil over. And I like a guild bank that's somewhat organized and not full of junk no one could sell in the AH.
  • Consistency. I am not a fan of guild policies that fluctuate. Or decisions based on whom a GL likes best that day. I expect consistency in policies and procedures.

What I Expect, as an Officer, from my Guildies

That's right -- your officers have some expectations of you too. They're volunteers, after all, putting in extra time and effort to make the game more fun for themselves and for you. Here are some of my expectations of my guildies:

  •  Patience. Yes, I know you really want that shiny item from the gbank. But it is not, in fact, an emergency. I am happy to help you when I am free, but if I am in the middle of doing something else, you will need to wait, and not to have a hissy fit.
  • Acknowledgement. You do realize that officers spend a bunch of time behind the scenes keeping things running smoothly, right? You do know those raid strats didn't magically find their way into the raid's ears, yes? When all you hear is complaints, it becomes a lot less rewarding to be an officer.
  • Assistance. If you know of drama brewing, tell an officer sooner rather than later. That goes double if you are the person with an issue -- talk to an officer. And if you want some rare item crafted for which I don't yet have the pattern, rather than complaining about my not having it yet, offer to help me attain it. An officer is not your personal dungeon slave or crafting bee; you want some assistance, offer us some as well.
  • Maturity. Please understand that I am not your mommy. And that your guildmates do not owe you anything. A guild is not just a captive audience for you to talk at and to harangue about doing runs with you. Please do not behave like a two-year-old. Becuase it does not please me to have to treat you like a naughty child who needs a scolding. Really, it doesn't.

What about you? What are some of your key expectations from your guild and its officers?

My Warcraft Year in Review

1) What did you do in the World of Warcraft in 2009 that you'd never done before?

I moved my Alliance druid and favorite Alliance alts off my original WoW server to go play with Psynister and Cynwise over on Durotan. I figured that if I liked chatting with these folks in blog comments and on twitter I'd probably also like being guilded with them. I was correct.

2) What was your favorite new place that you visited?

Hanging in Uldum with my crew

New Azeroth. There are too many fabulous new sights to mention, so I won't even start. Here's a picture instead.

3) What would you like to have in 2011 that you lacked in 2010?

 Better balance. And less drama. Our raiding was very successful in 2010. However, the interpersonal drama in our horde guild, much of it played out on forums, was a lot to stomach. I almost left the guild last Spring over the nasty behavior of several guildies. In 2011 I hope for a chill yet still progressing raid slate without all the BS, and to have time to raid. As of right now, having time to raid is honestly up in the air, pending how crazy work is.

4) What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Starcaller. Hands down. But I am still tickled that my Alliance druid got her Kingslayer title. Never would've seen that coming. From the feel-good POV, saving Bolvar that first time was unmatched in its awesomeness.

5) What was your biggest failure?

Working my butt off on the recruitment and raid readiness fronts, to a deafening lack of appreciation other than from my fellow officers. It was a significant time sink, the results of which I was very proud, but in retrospect it didn't seem that most folks cared at all, which means it was time wasted that could have been better spent elsewhere.

6) What did you get really, really, really excited about?

My many awesome new vanity pets and mounts.

7) What do you wish you'd done less of?

Reading/writing in guild forums during the dramas.

8) What was your favorite WoW blog or podcast?

I absolutely loved all the Oddcraft Warchief Elections coverage. I was totally Team Basic Campfire right up until Sylvanas threw her helm into the ring...nice creative posts that were a lot of fun to read.

9) Tell us a valuable WoW lesson you learned in 2009.

I learned that on the whole, guild forums can be more hassle than they are worth. And that you may think you know people you've been playing with for a year, but if you truly only know them online, you best be prepared for the crazy. And it will strike in the least expected ways/most inopportune times. I'm not closing myself off to new online friends, but I am definitely a lot more cautious.