Relmstein has a post from a couple of days ago where he talks about the Blizzard forums, player QQ and trolling and the effect of this on Blizzard. He raises some points which I frankly disagree with. As background, I visit the forums almost ever day, including the class forums for all 4 of my classes, so I'm well aware of the content of posts there and of the occasional Blue feedback.
The number of hot-fixes and patch revamps caused by out of controlled forum posting is almost too high to count... Blizzard has mistakenly changed nerfs and buffs too many times based on fabricated forum feedbackActually, the number is probably close to 0.
Blizzard patches and hot-fixes which affect class balance or other such "hot" issues have never followed a pattern of following the latest forum shouting match. In fact direct calls for nerfing are forbidden and usually such threads are locked. What usually happens is that Blizzard release a change, wait a while, realize based on game data that a fix or change is required, and implement it. Sometimes, this fix aligns with player requests. Sometimes it doesn't.
The most you can say is that players sometimes manage to bring to attention a topic that would otherwise take time to surface via testing and bug reports.
There are possibly exceptions, but they are rare and we have no way of knowing if player QQ really had any effect. For example, the recent outcry over Blizzard's decision to reset all honor points going into LK, citing "fairness to players at 80" was eventually reversed and the honor points were not wiped. How much effect did player arguments have on this decision is hard to say, since there were actually many forum posts which argued against the outcry from PvP-ers and was pro the initial decision.
That's not to say that players can't have any effect. Blizzard blue posters routinly request balanced and thought-out class feedback and we can hope that some of the issues raised by players actually make it to the devs. But again, it looks from long experience that little of the mountains of player opinion which gathers in such threads is used and certainly trollish posts have never solicited blue response (except the negative kind :)).
This is probably why they are talking about getting rid of the class forumsActually, this decision was changed fairly quickly and the new forums were added to the Blizzard forums, instead of replacing the class forums. While weakening Relmstein's case this ironically seems to be a case of Blizzard listening to player QQ, since the stupidity of the idea of removing the class forums was almost universally hated by forum posters.
All I know is that a change in WoW's forum structure might be called for at the moment.I think a more meaningful and helpful change would be to completly scrap (or at least retire) the current forums and build new ones based on better software, able to handle tens-of-thousands of readers and hundreds of comments per post and able to scale with increased load.
In order to help with the issue of "blue attrition" mentioned by Relmstein, It should also allow better moderation of posts, either through a select group of volunteers (which would perhaps get forum or even game perks for their work) or through a system of randmly assigning mod points to any registered user (so that at any time you would have say ~10% of users being able to mod posts up or down) and letting (in a manner of speaking) the community police itself (up to any arbitrary limit at which point a blue could step in).
I'm of course modeling my suggetion on the well knows slashcode software which runs slashdot, but there are probably similiar offerings out there which could also serve Blizzard's needs.
Existing forums could be retired and kept as a searchable archive so that information is not lost, while the content of selected stickies and guides is moved.
If it doesn't work then maybe we would just have to use fan sites like Elitist Jerks and MMO-Champions.Just about everybody who plays WAR agrees that lack of official forums is a major mistake of the part of Mythic. So I would very much hope that Blizzard continue with running official forums. Personally I have found a lot of good advice, guides and helpful players in the forums (and I try to add my own). They may not be perfect but to dump them would be to dump the baby out with the water.