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Author Topic: Forge as community (continued) (split)  (Read 7699 times)
Green
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Posts: 247


« on: March 21, 2004, 12:03:44 PM »

Quote from: Emily Care

Profiling threads often get people to speak out once, but not necessarily to become active.  I'd think that when an area of someone's interest and/or expertise arises they are likely to get involved. That's a question, what brought out all of those who are active? And for those who are silent what are you looking for?


As one of those frequent-readers-rare-posters, I believe that what would cause me to make the leap from passive to active is (I guess I should be ashamed to say it like this) people being interested in what I have to say.  Perhaps this is prudish of me, but I don't like to have to push people into listening or paying attention to me, so I sit and wait until I feel I have something that needs to be said, a question I have that is particularly well-suited for the Forge, and then post.  Most of the time I don't get many, if any replies, so I don't bother for a long time.

In addition, I generally come to the Forge primarily as player, narrator/Storyteller/GM, and designer of games.  I find I tend to take interest in things that I have a practical use for.  It's not that the theory and esoterica aren't interesting, but my main question when I read Forge threads is: What am I supposed to do with this?  A lot of times when I come to the Forge, it's like looking at discussions between economists regarding tax cuts and budgeting while being the blue-collar worker who asks, "Now how is this going to help me pay my bills?"  I'm not saying there's anything wrong with things like this, nor that it is useless, but when I come to the Forge, I am mainly looking for tools as opposed to pure discussion.  I'm pretty sure that if I sat down for a few days and delved into everything, I'd find uses for almost every thread, but that requires time that I often do not have to devote only to RPG theories and such.

I hope this answers your question.
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Green
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Posts: 247


« Reply #1 on: March 21, 2004, 12:05:36 PM »

Sorry, I had forgotten the date for this thread.

*back to your regularly scheduled program*
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #2 on: March 21, 2004, 04:53:01 PM »

Hiya,

The above were split from The Forge as a community, the fifth of the Infamous Five family of threads, in this case, late 2002.

No big deal, Green; everyone, feel free to discuss.

Best,
Ron
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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Posts: 10459


« Reply #3 on: March 24, 2004, 08:38:49 AM »

First, there are some theory threads for which you aren't supposed to "use" them at all per se. That is, there are some here who propose that theorizing about matters that do not have a directly practical use is a proper use for these fora. And I think they have a point. Why have them at all then? Because, (if you'll excuse me) theoretically, very theoretical discussions spur thought on this and other subjects that may lead to benefits down the line. That is, the current discussion may not produce anything directly, but it may end up getting somebody to think about something later that is practical. Further, some would even argue that theory is it's own end, that things are worth discussing just to discuss. In any case, be aware that some threads are not meant to directly provide any benefit to your design or play. I think these are actually somewhat rare, but they do exist. Chris Lehric may want to comment further on this.

Second, there are many threads from which I believe you can get a practical benefit, but only with a lot of personal interpretation. For example, I think that one can improve their own play with a knowledge of GNS, but not in a "do this and that will happen" sort of way. You have to take the knowledge and apply it on a personal case-by-case basis.

Lastly, I think there are lots of threads here which produce, if not direct suggestions, general suggestions that are easy to apply to design or play. Yes, admittedly, this all takes considerable time to discover. I'm not sure, however, how one would "distill" the information down to make it more accessible. Nor do I think that's the goal here. For the most part, I think the community is mostly involved in developing new theory for it's own use, not to then make it more accessible to more people.

Yes, I think that does limit participation to those who are willing to put a bit more effort into things - but I have no problem with that personally. I think part of the quality of the fora here is in maing participation somewhat contingent on committment. So it becomes a question for the individual - do you want to put the effort in to get the benefits, or isn't it worthwhile enough for you?

I've never thought that we should fret over people making the decision that it's too much effort. There are other fora that probably cater better to those who have less time to spend on this, and want more directly available support. IOW, I see the lurking population as less of a problem than some do.

Mike
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clehrich
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« Reply #4 on: March 24, 2004, 07:43:28 PM »

Quote from: Mike Holmes
First, there are some theory threads for which you aren't supposed to "use" them at all per se. That is, there are some here who propose that theorizing about matters that do not have a directly practical use is a proper use for these fora. ... Chris Lehric may want to comment further on this.
Yes, I do.  Dagnabbit, you misspelled my name!

No but seriously, I happen to like pure theory, and I actually find it helpful for my practical thinking, in a strange and indirect fashion, to work in pure abstraction.  Some people find that sort of thing pointless; others find it interesting.  As an interesting "current-events" example, what seems to be happening on the Not Lectures On Theory thread, based on PM and other responses I'm getting, is that people are reading the stuff and thinking, "Hmm.  I never really thought about anything that way, actually.  And it makes weird things happen in my head.  I don't know if my new idea for a die-rolling system over here has a damn thing to do with what you said over there about semiotics, but for some reason I find reading that stuff stimulating."

I also grant that lots of folks don't think that way, and find such abstractions mindbogglingly dull.  Fine with me!  I think that most RPG Theory threads lean toward the practical, and one of my reasons for championing pure abstraction lately is that I thought it was getting kind of a bad rap.  But I sure as hell wouldn't push it down anyone's throat.

At base, one of the really nice things about the Forge is that, for the most part, people read and respond to what interests them, and they don't make a fuss about threads they find dull and pointless.  If you find practical benefit in a few places here and there on the board, I say it's working for you.  It might be that sometime when you have a lot of time to devote to it, you will read through some of the posts you currently think of as, "Hmm, maybe later," and you'll get some new ideas.  But if you get practical benefit out of reading a few things here and there, I think that's cool.

As to responses, I have no real comment, except to say that some people think better while expressing themselves, while others think better while reading.  

You can guess which I am.  Nobody has ever accused me of being tight-lipped on the Forge!

Chris Lehrich
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Chris Lehrich
M. J. Young
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« Reply #5 on: March 24, 2004, 09:01:15 PM »

Chris, you're too tight-lipped.

Kidding, of course.

I take a different view of the theory matter. As I say in the opening of my Applied Theory article, I'm of a mind that there is no such thing as theory without practical use. It may take a long time to work out what the practical use is, but it's there.

I recently read a text on Aristotle's Poetics. Poetics is theory, and a text about it is rather removed from the practical--but in reading the theory, I suddenly realized what I had been doing in the novels I've been writing. I understood why this character had to do this, and why I had no reason to continue that character in the next book. In a very strange way, although I had written three books and started two more, I suddenly knew what they were about in a way I'd never understood before.

Reading Chris' stuff on ritual (sorry, I have not gotten to the article yet--but I'm getting closer, and I am guessing that the current thread will improve my understanding of the article when I do get there), it has not yet helped me with my writing or my game design. However, I remembered all the structured church services I've attended. The organ plays quietly as people enter, and then the pastor rises and in a loud voice gives what Presbyterians and Baptists call the Call to Worship. There's a lot more after that, but it always starts that way. Then at the end, there's a prayer, a bit of quiet organ music, and the pastor speaks the Benediction--almost always the same one, week after week, and in most of the churches I've attended, he has walked down the aisle and does it from the rear. The organ then starts playing the postlude, loud, rousing music, and everyone rises and leaves. I've understood the place of those things in terms of their function in the service, and to some degree in the practical way they define things--but now I see how these familiar pieces clearly define for everyone involved when the service begins and ends, creating that "ritual space", as it were, in which the service occurs.

In my own games, I remember with one group, week after week, I would say, "I note that it is just after one A. M., and this game will be over before two, so start thinking about what needs to be done before we call it a night." We never had any trouble finishing the game by two (even with thirty players in the room), and feeling like it was at a good place to hold it for the week. That may well have been in part a piece of the ritual, the formula that let everyone change their mode of thought into the wind-down phase.

Now, I've never had trouble starting a game, and I've never really fixed on one way to do it, but lately things have been a bit confused around here, and maybe I need to think about how to define the beginning of game time a bit more clearly--not in terms of declaring it or scheduling it, but in terms of demarcating it. So that theory is not wasted; it does have practical applications. All theory does. It just takes effort at times to work out what they are.

--M. J. Young
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Emily Care
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« Reply #6 on: March 25, 2004, 03:01:13 PM »

Quote from: Green
I hope this answers your question.


Indeed. Thanks very much for your reply, Green.  I think you're not alone in wanting to speak when you'll be heard, and the deafening silence--that quite often actually signifies agreement--can make posting a bit more intimidating.  Though, for any one person who replies to a post, there are many, many more who simply read it.  Those who post more may be less tight-lipped, as they say, because they have either received the reinforcement they required, or did not require much of any.

I also don't see "lurkers" as a problem, we all (well, almost all of us-- some of us just can't help ourselves) lurk at times. Good thing too or the bandwidth would be lurching and sodden with the mindsplat we could possibly foist off on one another. Our self-restraint, and the moderation of this site, makes it possible for actual conversations to occur.  All good things in my mind.

And, of course, I've said this before somewhere, but all groups are fluxing and changing pseudo-entities.  All those who only read regularly have the potential to become regular posters, and vice-versa. It simply takes the right stimulis (internal or external) to push one into either category.  Well, and perhaps one must have the propensities to start with for it to be possible at all.  Readers are a pool of potential posters. Ya need 'em.

Anyway, did I say mindsplat? I'll stop now.

Be well,
Emily Care
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Black & Green Games
Jason Lee
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Posts: 729


« Reply #7 on: March 25, 2004, 04:30:23 PM »

Quote from: Green
As one of those frequent-readers-rare-posters, I believe that what would cause me to make the leap from passive to active is (I guess I should be ashamed to say it like this) people being interested in what I have to say.  Perhaps this is prudish of me, but I don't like to have to push people into listening or paying attention to me, so I sit and wait until I feel I have something that needs to be said, a question I have that is particularly well-suited for the Forge, and then post.  Most of the time I don't get many, if any replies, so I don't bother for a long time.


I suffer from the same feelings about dialog on the Forge.  There is very little social reward for engaging in dialog here.  Then I think about it.  When I don't have anything to add, I don't respond - that could be agreement, or not answering questions I don't have an answer to.  Not much that can be done about that other than cluttering threads with yes/no/dunno posts.  It's just the nature of forum communication, I'd try not to take it personally.  Of course, if someone wants to fill me in and tell me I'm wrong, you can go ahead and take it personally ;).  (This is me agreeing with Emily, BTW).

(For a frame of reference, I'm the kind of person who will go into work and walk to a different building than the one I work in just to talk to someone, rather than just call them from home.  Talking to people in person is much more comfortable for me, you can tell when then are listening/understanding/angry/BS-ing/etc.  Forum communication really lacks in that arena.)
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Steve Samson
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« Reply #8 on: March 25, 2004, 06:13:11 PM »

I'll chime in my two cents here, since I find myself a reluctant lurker. I WANT to be an active poster--to enthusiastically support my fellow Forgers (Forgites? Forgians?), to bounce ideas back and forth, and to stir the cauldron and see what interesting bits bubble to the top. But after a few initial posts (which did get read and responded to, thanks everyone!) I dropped back into lurker mode. Why?

I think part of it is that the high quality of most of the posts can be very intimidating to a new poster. I've never lacked for self-confidence, especially in the arena of intellectual discourse, but several times since joining the Forge I've started writing a response and then cancelled out of it when my thoughts bogged down. My mindset turned from "I've got something useful to add!" to "Boy, do I sound like an idiot." :)

(I'm not sure if others have had this same experience or if I'm just sharing a little too much of my own burgeoning psychoses.)

I also think that we need to be aware of the fine line between high standards and elitism. I think high standards are an absolute necessity for the kind of community that Ron and Clinton and all the Forge veterans seem to be committed to. I LOVE it when a moderator steps in to keep a thread on track. It reassures me that I won't waste my time following a thread to a pointless conclusion. But there is also a sense sometimes that there is one "true" Forge mindset (for example, the huge emphasis on narrativism and the hallowing of GNS terminology). I don't have any answers on this one, but if we are sharing our honest perceptions, I definitely get a whiff of unintentional elitism from time to time. It makes me wonder what kind of reaction I would get to a game or game idea that ran counter to the popular mindset here.

Having said that, let me add that the unintentional elitism is a VERY minor piece of my Forge experience. So far, everyone is INCREDIBLY nice here. I can't recall EVER reading a post on the Forge where I thought "what a jerk" (a response I have to quite a large percentage of posts on most discussion boards). That is why I very deliberately refer to the trace of elitism as unintentional. But if we're looking at barriers to new member posts, that may very well be one of them.

Finally, I think the biggest problem for most new Forge members might just be brain overload. There are SO many new and radically different ideas and approaches to game design here that it takes a LONG time to sort through them all and carve out a clear understanding of what works for you. Did any of the veterans out there go through a long period of lurking before becoming a regular poster? I hope that that will be my experience. In the meantime, I'll continue to absorb and chew on everything I can find here and pop in from time to time to test my posting wings. :)

Steve
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clehrich
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« Reply #9 on: March 25, 2004, 08:52:30 PM »

Steve makes a good point about terminology, and how it can potentially be read as elitist or just plain difficult.  I guess I do think it might be nice to push for postings in RPG Theory to use less GNS terminology for this reason; the problem is that, like any good jargon, it makes such a nice shorthand.  The best thing about the division of theory forums -- GNS Model and RPG Theory -- is that the RPG Theory stuff isn't cluttered with arguments about the Model, and vice-versa, but perhaps if the separation were a bit stronger it would be beneficial.

Something to consider, maybe?

Chris Lehrich
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Chris Lehrich
Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #10 on: March 26, 2004, 07:14:35 AM »

Quote
My mindset turned from "I've got something useful to add!" to "Boy, do I sound like an idiot." :)

(I'm not sure if others have had this same experience or if I'm just sharing a little too much of my own burgeoning psychoses.)


Just to reassure you (and hopefully people won't find this scary), I delete a good 10% of my posts before posting because I feel the same way. I'd guess that most everyone here has experienced this to some extent. Noting that the post they're putting together isn't really worthwhile.

One of the advantages to this medium is that you can look at what you're writing and ask if it's adding anything. The fact that the standards of this community cause people to second guess themselves and to only post things that they're relatively certain are adding to the discussion is very reassuring to me. And one of the reasons that the quality is as high as it is. If we had to deal with both the densness of the material and a lower sig-to-noise ratio, it would be untennable.

Mike
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Jack Aidley
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« Reply #11 on: March 26, 2004, 07:22:42 AM »

I concur with Mike on this. I reckon on a typical internet board to delete around 5-10%, here it's closer to a 25%. I think this is a good thing.
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joshua neff
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« Reply #12 on: March 26, 2004, 07:24:08 AM »

Quote from: Steve Samson
I WANT to be an active poster--to enthusiastically support my fellow Forgers (Forgites? Forgians?)


I vote for "Forgeroos."

Quote from: Steve Samson
, to bounce ideas back and forth, and to stir the cauldron and see what interesting bits bubble to the top. But after a few initial posts (which did get read and responded to, thanks everyone!) I dropped back into lurker mode. Why?

I think part of it is that the high quality of most of the posts can be very intimidating to a new poster. I've never lacked for self-confidence, especially in the arena of intellectual discourse, but several times since joining the Forge I've started writing a response and then cancelled out of it when my thoughts bogged down. My mindset turned from "I've got something useful to add!" to "Boy, do I sound like an idiot." :)

(I'm not sure if others have had this same experience or if I'm just sharing a little too much of my own burgeoning psychoses.)


I do the same thing. A lot. (And not just at the Forge, but the other internet fora I participate in.) Something will stir me up, I'll type up a reply in a blind spurt of emotion, & then think, "You know, this really adds nothing to the discussion. Forget it." And I won't post. I sometimes think more people should do that. I often think I should do it more than I do.

Quote from: Steve Samson
I also think that we need to be aware of the fine line between high standards and elitism. I think high standards are an absolute necessity for the kind of community that Ron and Clinton and all the Forge veterans seem to be committed to.


I wish more people would keep that in mind. I get really tired of the word "elitist" getting thrown around without people thinking about what the word really means. I agree, the Forge is not elitist, but it does have high standards. Like you, I love that. I try to bring those standards to my own posts & discussions on other internet fora.

Hey, Steve. For a self-professed minimal poster, you sure have contributed a great post. Thanks.
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ethan_greer
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« Reply #13 on: March 26, 2004, 09:11:10 AM »

No one has mentioned views yet - For each thread, there's a view counter which roughly reflects the number of individual user sessions that have clicked into the thread.  To me, the view count for a particular thread is a better indicator of a thread's impact than the number of responses. It captures the "lurker factor."

On a related note about views, I've noticed that certain names attract more clout and attention on average than others. The threads that get the most views are often ones in which a, shall we say, "high profile" member has participated. Ron, and Mike Holmes, and, gosh, a few dozen other members, tend to attract more thread views than the lower profile members. I think this is due primarilly to reputation - as one becomes familiar with a board, certain names will stick out as the reader recognizes quantity of quality in the posts. I recognize this behavior in myself both here at the Forge and on other forums - I'll tend to pay more attention to the people who've said things I like enough that I remember their names. I think that's probably the case with most regular readers of any forum.

Bringing all this back around to the topic at hand, namely, "What makes people post?" I suggest that an almost as important question is, "What makes people read?" Signal-to-noise ratio, the friendly atmosphere, and the general quality of discourse are all big factors at the Forge, but there are certainly others.
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Steve Samson
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« Reply #14 on: March 26, 2004, 02:17:59 PM »

How ironic... I had just finished a response which I had every intention of posting when my PC bumped me out and I lost it all. :(

Okay, here's a much briefer (and therefor, probably better) version of what I had originally typed:

Any community inevitably creates a language/vocabulary of its own. This helps the members of that community communicate with each other about the things that are important to the community. But it also (whether intentionally or not) creates a barrier for visitors or new members. This may have a lot to do with my earlier comment on our "unintentional elitism". We love our jargon here at the Forge.  :)

[EDIT: From here I went on to talk about the need for a glossary of terms and that I was volunteering to create one, but after posting it I realized that all of that should really be in a separate post. So check out the Forge Glossary Project post and send me some terms!]
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