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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 75 - most online ever: 565 (October 17, 2020, 02:08:06 PM)
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Author Topic: Forge Hubris, Part II  (Read 20149 times)
xiombarg
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« on: May 10, 2004, 07:19:13 AM »

Jason might get mad at me for calling attention to this, but as it's a public post "on the record", I'd like to point it out:

http://www.livejournal.com/users/jasonlblair/98591.html

Regardless of what you think of Jason's particular point, I'd like to call attention to the discussion going on in the comments section of that post. I think it says a lot about how the Forge is percieved from "the outside", and not just by members of the RPG industry.

I certainly think that there's been a lot more anger and negativity from long-time posters recently (myself included, I'm not singling anyone out) than is normal for the Forge, and it's enhancing an already-negative reputation. I'm less concerned about the reputation than the actual negativity...
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love * Eris * RPGs  * Anime * Magick * Carroll * techno * hats * cats * Dada
Kirt "Loki" Dankmyer -- Dance, damn you, dance! -- UNSUNG IS OUT
DevP
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« Reply #1 on: May 10, 2004, 09:03:39 AM »

Ouch. Really, really disheartening.

I'm concerned with "how we look", because (a) that's not objectively wrong, it's just fact based on what people say, so we can't argue it away. and (b) it impacts the effectiveness of projects known to be Forge-influenced. And we can actually create social rules to approach those problems.

As for longer-term folks: from whence does your negativity come? What do we do?
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DevP
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« Reply #2 on: May 10, 2004, 09:04:37 AM »

As a point of courtesy, I'd say that if you're LJ enabled, but "you wouldn't have picked up on this normally" (you haven't friended Jason Blair), you probably shouldn't pile onto the discussion there. I'm just sayin'.
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xiombarg
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« Reply #3 on: May 10, 2004, 09:20:31 AM »

Quote from: Dev
As a point of courtesy, I'd say that if you're LJ enabled, but "you wouldn't have picked up on this normally" (you haven't friended Jason Blair), you probably shouldn't pile onto the discussion there. I'm just sayin'.

I'd agree with that, as a point of etiquette. Although if Jason didn't want outside commentary, he could have made the post friends-only. But that's why I said "look" and not "go there and comment". If you want to comment, that's what this thread is for. ;-D
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love * Eris * RPGs  * Anime * Magick * Carroll * techno * hats * cats * Dada
Kirt "Loki" Dankmyer -- Dance, damn you, dance! -- UNSUNG IS OUT
chadu
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« Reply #4 on: May 10, 2004, 09:24:28 AM »

Quote from: Dev
Ouch. Really, really disheartening.

I'm concerned with "how we look", because (a) that's not objectively wrong, it's just fact based on what people say, so we can't argue it away. and (b) it impacts the effectiveness of projects known to be Forge-influenced. And we can actually create social rules to approach those problems.

As for longer-term folks: from whence does your negativity come? What do we do?


I'll bite. As I said in the thread in question:
* Forge jargon/terminology is extremely dense to the unintitated.
* Reliance on previous posts to build foundations for discussion (while good in principle, I think this leads to an ever-increasing overhead of effort to say anything, as well as the enshrining of previous threads as "writ" -- that which must be read rather than should or may be read).
* Somewhat exclusionary or arch language, in various stripes ("we here," etc., referring to posters here to another poster here; "the 'industry'" when referring to the game industry, and so forth).
* Frankly, I often disagree with some of the theories and principles espoused here, once I can disentangle meaning from the terminology. And I get the feeling that once these theories and principles have been enshrined as writ, it's difficult to offer a different perspective or even say "it just doesn't apply." After that, some people take offense at the repudiation of theory, or attempt to fit the subject into extant theory anyway. (There's a better way to say this point, but I'm pressed at the moment.)

All together, these points do give me a negative feeling about the Forge: I very much feel like an outsider, and also feel that if I posted more about my takes on various theories and opinions accepted as writ, that even if I became an insider, I'd still be a heretic, if not an infidel. That impression (even if I'm holding it wrongly) is not conducive for me to want to spend more time here.

ASIDE:
I also have some purely self-interested concerns re: attempting to start discussion of my own game (and my lack of success in doing so), but xiombarg pointed out some points that helped me understand some reasons why folks might not be talking about it, despite it being an indie game:
1. The Forge is geared towards game development and academic analysis rather than simply being a community site.
2. I did no development of my game here.
3. While I've been registered for over a year, I don't participate much.

But I don't hold anything against the Forge for these self-interested aspects.

CU
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Chad Underkoffler [chadu@yahoo.com]

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ethan_greer
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« Reply #5 on: May 10, 2004, 09:41:59 AM »

It's interesting to note that this sort of topic comes up every so often.  The tone is usually the same: "Oh, the Forge just isn't what it used to be; whatever can we do to fix it?" Looking back on this whole "Hubris" hoopla that's been happening, I'm pretty embarrassed that I actually facilitated it (not for the first time). To answer the original question I posted in the other hubris thread: No, it's not desirable. I made a mistake in starting that thread.

Bottom line: People participate or not on the Forge for myriad reasons. Beyond stating that blindingly obvious point, what more is there to say?
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clehrich
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« Reply #6 on: May 10, 2004, 09:46:05 AM »

While I sympathize with the various posters on that LJ thread, I am still (obviously) a Forge fan.  The thing is, there are a large number of things going on simultaneously in those criticisms, and they're not very well distinguished.  I'm not slamming anyone -- that was an exchange of views, not a careful set of analyses -- but I do think that if we're going to debate its relevance to the Forge, here on the Forge, we need to split things up a bit.  What follows is a very quick-and-dirty breakdown of a very complicated set of problems.

1. The "cult of Ron" effect
I think there is some truth to this.  There are those who see the Forge as very much a "Ron's Board" sort of thing, and they behave on or toward the Forge accordingly.  For this group of people, there are thus only two ways to go: either you're for the Forge (and Ron) or you're against it.  

I don't know that there's anything to be done about this.  Ron isn't going to give up his moderator's position, nor is he going to stop having opinions, and thus some will probably always see the Forge as a Ron cult.  About all that can be done, I think, is for those of us who post a lot and do not always agree with Ron to be explicit about that, without simply trashing him.  Maybe, over time, this will filter out: people will recognize that while Ron does have a powerful voice here, one of the most powerful, there are other voices that are not entirely in agreement with his.

2. GNS
Some seem to perceive the Forge as a GNS-promoting place.  I don't know why this is the case, really, given that GNS has its own forum.  I have said before, and will probably say again, that we should all be a little more scrupulous not to use GNS/Big Model terminology very much outside that forum.  But some of those terms are so useful it's hard to know how to avoid them.  Somebody suggested a Wiki based on the forthcoming glossary, and with cross-references from postings you could certainly make the whole thing more usable.  But that's a lot to ask of posters.

3. Jargon
One very common complaint seems to be that Forge writers use a lot of jargon that is incomprehensible.  When called upon to explain, we refer to previous posts rather than explaining anew.  This makes the site extremely newbie-unfriendly.

I think there is truth to this.  I am not convinced that all of the terminology that gets coined here is really that useful; there is some degree to which jargon breeds jargon, and there is a satisfaction in being one of the in-crowd who "get" the jargon.  I see the recent discussion of splitting Social Contract as an exercise tending in this direction (just a recent example, not a particularly egregious one).

At the same time, I think that one of the advantages of decent jargon is that it tends toward precision.  There is a good deal of value in questioning whether specific terms do indeed support precision, but to dismiss all jargon can only lead to people going around and around in circles.

4. Elitism
I think this claim is basically crap.  It's not clear to me what is supposed to make Forgers elite, or rather, what it is that the Forgers in question are supposed to think makes them elite.

5. Academic
This is the notion that the Forge is very academic, in style and purpose.  One does indeed see a great deal of this notion stated explicitly at the Forge, and it's getting picked up in this sort of discussion.

I also think this is crap.  I'm an academic, I spend a lot of time dealing with a range of not-usually-related academic disciplines, and there is nothing particularly academic about the Forge.  The writing style is different.  The approaches are different.  The purposes are utterly different.  The terminology is totally different.  The expectations of members, and the means of dealing with them, are totally different.

Fixing this starts at home.  Forgers have got to stop this nonsense about how academic they are.  It's just promoting the idea that Forgers think they are elites (see #4).

6. Intellectuals
On a related note, lots of folks criticize the Forge for being overly intellectual, or perhaps pseudo-intellectual.  It is also true that a number of Forge posters like to mention how intellectual they are, or how intelligent.  Points 4-5-6 thus feed into a spiraling, horrible cycle, promoting more and more jargon-use.

If you have to use jargon or announcements to prove how intellectual you are, and have to claim some sort of weird affiliation to the academy to support it, you validate the criticisms.  And too much of this does indeed go on.

7. Practicality
Lots of folks, here and elsewhere, denounce the Forge for being too focused on impractical issues, i.e. those not related closely to practical game design or play.  GNS is "abstract," for example, and thus impractical.

By my reading, the problem is that practicality and analytical abstraction are far too closely intertwined here.  The problem with GNS, for example, is that it tries to be both an analytical, abstract theory and a practical game-design theory.  This leads to endless cycles of difficulty.  The introduction of my ritual essay discusses this.

I do think this is a problem, but I think that fixing it will take some considerable rethinking on everyone's parts.

8. Ron's Opinions
Yes, Ron is opinionated.  No, Ron is not always right.  Yes, sometimes Ron goes too far.  No, I can't think of anyone better for the Forge moderator job.

I think that an awful lot of the problem here is that lots of folks do not want a moderated board.  They want a free-for-all.  Well, that's tough; there are lots of unmoderated boards out there.  How come the Forge keeps its level generally high?  Yup, that's not a coincidence.

Could Ron be a little more flexible at times?  Yes.  Is dealing with Ron usually a pain in the ass?  No.

----

In sum, we deserve some of these attacks, and not others.  But it's all wrapped up together.  Some folks get here and start to figure out GNS, so they use the terms everywhere because they think the terms (and they themselves) are really cool.  And that prompts negative responses -- "Elitist!  Jargon!"  And that in turn prompts, "Yeah, you just don't get it."

For example, why the common (now dying, fortunately) notion that Narrativism is better than other CA's?  Because Ron is into Nar, and lots of folks want to get on that wagon.  Why the resistance to any changes at all in the structure of the Big Model?  Because it's Ron's model, and it's the Forge's pet model.

This isn't Ron's fault.  This isn't anyone's fault, in particular.  But it is something we all need to work on: we must be relentlessly self-critical, and we must be really scrupulous about welcoming people without simply giving a huge list of threads to read (unless they ask for that specifically, of course).
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Chris Lehrich
xiombarg
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« Reply #7 on: May 10, 2004, 10:17:24 AM »

Quote from: clehrich
But it is something we all need to work on: we must be relentlessly self-critical, and we must be really scrupulous about welcoming people without simply giving a huge list of threads to read (unless they ask for that specifically, of course).

Certainly I think that we're reaching a point where, aside from just pointing to a thread, it might help if the person pointing to a thread mentions what they consider to be the most important parts of the that thread, sort of a "Reader's Digest" or "Back Cover Blurb," as it were.

Also, I think we all need to be more careful how we treat people we disagree with. As I said, I've been as guilty of this as anyone else. But I think there needs to be more effort -- which I've seen done in the past -- to make people understand that even if there is disagreement, that one isn't "coming down on" the poster in question.

Of course, as the community grows, it becomes harder and harder to present a consistent tone, so this might be another one of those "growing pains" issues.
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love * Eris * RPGs  * Anime * Magick * Carroll * techno * hats * cats * Dada
Kirt "Loki" Dankmyer -- Dance, damn you, dance! -- UNSUNG IS OUT
Valamir
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« Reply #8 on: May 10, 2004, 10:23:46 AM »

I read Jason's LJ and the comments to it with a decided disinterest.  

The Forge is not a social club.  It is not a sign that something is wrong when a couple of long time members reduce or stop posting.  The Forge is a place to learn from others and to share what you've learned with others in the area of RPG play and design.  That's what we're for.  If someone has learned all they want to learn to enhance their personal play and design.  And if they've contributed everything they feel they have to contribute...then there's no harm in them deciding to cut back on their presence here.

Jason and Jared were both frequent posters at one point.  Now they aren't.  I don't either of them would say that they did not benefit from their time at the Forge, and likely will continue to do so.  That's great.  in my view those are successes not failures.  Perhaps one day they'll be regular participants again, perhaps not.  Either way, the Forge has fulfilled its function.


I keep track of the number of new members and the number of members setting breaking posting thresholds every quarter.  Those numbers show no signs at all of some terrible calamity befalling the Forge.  Comments like "go the way of GO" is just so much outrageous and unsubstantiated hyberbole.  There are new names joining the Forge and joining Forge discussions every day.

As for the strong encouragement to read past discussions.  Of course that's an expectation.  A lot of people have spent alot of time and effort discussing alot of issues with a degree of intent and intellectual integrity that, while not unique, is certainly difficult to find on the internet at large.  To start a new conversation on that same topic without haveing read those old threads defeats the very purpose of the Forge as a repository of collective knowledge.

Forge members are encouraged to contribute.  But in order to contribute effectively they are also encouraged to read prior contributions so that we aren't retreading the same ground.  40 posts on a topic that is essentially the same conversation we just had 8 months ago doesn't do anyone any good.  Maybe, it makes a new poster feel more welcome to have their thoughts responded to directly rather than being referred to existing threads...but I'll repeat.  The Forge isn't a social club.  We aren't here to chat and hold conversations for the sake of holding conversations.  

Ron has never shut a thread down just because its a repeat of an earlier thread.  He has (and rightly so, IMO) requested that participants read the old threads and only continue the coversation if they are adding some new perspective that wasn't already covered before.  I'll not that he regularly reminds long term Forgites to reread those threads too as a refresher, even for those of us who participated in them.  The same standard applied to old and new members seems quite fair to me.

I certainly don't think it is at all beyond the pale to ask new posters to familiarize themselves with prior discussions first.  For them not to do so would be discourteous to the efforts of everyone who has gone before.  It is an effort to do this.  But I've been here long enough to see dozens and dozens of brand new posters to the Forge take the plunge, read through the material and then become wonderful regular contributors.  New heights are reached by standing on the shoulders of others rather than starting from scratch on every topic.  What possible logical reason could there be to NOT read the old posts, so that one can make ones own point with a head start.


In any social endeavor you are going to have a clash of ego.  Ego is a good thing.  Ego is a healthy thing.  Ego is what lets people stride forward and make contributions and achieve great things without needing constant hand holding and stroking from others.  I don't think its any great stretch to say that the average ego among GMs is higher than that of all players in general, and that the average ego among game designers is higher even then that among GMs.  I don't think its any great stretch to say further that the average ego among designers who actually take the plunge and get paid for their work and put themselves and their work up for public scrutiny and the vote of the almighty dollar is higher yet.

Which means, there are alot of egos flying around the Forge.  Recognizing many of the names of folks contributing to Blairs LJ entry I can also say with certainty that there are alot of egos flying around there as well.

And yet despite all of that, the Forge persists as being one of the most non-hostile, consistantly productive, and consistantly active RPG discussion sites on the net with a signal to noise ration second to none.  That's a hell of an accomplishment.  Are we to be surprised when from time to time egos flair?  It is a tribute to Ron's moderation that egos don't flair more frequently, and a sign of his own humanity that from time to time his ego is the one flairing.

As for suggestions that the Forge would be better off as a democracy, I can only guffaw.  That smacks way too much of "its not run the way I'd run it and therefor it would be 'better' if I had more say".  There are plenty of "democratically" run sites on the net...few if any can compare with our signal to noise ratio.  Give me a benevolent dictatorship any day.
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Judd
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« Reply #9 on: May 10, 2004, 10:30:17 AM »

Ralph,

Well said.
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chadu
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« Reply #10 on: May 10, 2004, 11:01:14 AM »

Two follow-up points on (Christopher's?) post:

Quote from: clehrich
2. GNS
(snip) GNS/Big Model terminology (snip) But some of those terms are so useful it's hard to know how to avoid them.  Somebody suggested a Wiki based on the forthcoming glossary, (snip).


I've just seen the new glossary, and it is much better wading through that than wading through a bajillion previous threads. That being said. . .
 
Quote from: clehrich
3. Jargon
One very common complaint seems to be that Forge writers use a lot of jargon that is incomprehensible.  When called upon to explain, we refer to previous posts rather than explaining anew.  This makes the site extremely newbie-unfriendly.

I think there is truth to this.  I am not convinced that all of the terminology that gets coined here is really that useful; there is some degree to which jargon breeds jargon, and there is a satisfaction in being one of the in-crowd who "get" the jargon.


These aspects of jargon are still a factor, even in the glossary. While making the jargon less opaque, it's still not quite to transparency. (Perhaps translucence.) The linkages to primary threads is an excellent start, but to make the glossary transparent to me personally, I think consensus-agreed examples (in-operation and in-discussion) for each term would be a godsend.

Because I'm -- like you -- unsure that the terminology is that useful, I also have concerns that the terminology is not value-judgement neutral/comes with baggage (though this is only a mild impression), that the terminology is more baroque than it needs to be, and that the jargon is being used inconsistently. As you say (unquoted), jargon can be quite precise, but if it's not being used correctly each time, the precision goes away.

To sum up, presented with a precise set of words that so far as I can tell is being used inconsistenly, with no common ur-example to illustrate it so that I could determine the definition myself, I as a lurker find myself in a wash of buzzwords and soundbites.

CU
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Chad Underkoffler [chadu@yahoo.com]

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chadu
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« Reply #11 on: May 10, 2004, 11:08:23 AM »

Quote from: Valamir
As for the strong encouragement to read past discussions.  Of course that's an expectation.  A lot of people have spent alot of time and effort discussing alot of issues with a degree of intent and intellectual integrity that, while not unique, is certainly difficult to find on the internet at large.  To start a new conversation on that same topic without haveing read those old threads defeats the very purpose of the Forge as a repository of collective knowledge.


I respectfully disagree. One doesn't need to have read the entire Midrash to make a comment on an insight that someone's gleaned from the Torah.  The point is to have those discussions, and yes, point newcomers back at what has been said in the past, but not to limit or shut down discussion of the topic.

After all, that's the point of interest and entree for the newcomer. To tell them: "everything you are saying/could say has been said before" isn't welcoming or particularly encouraging.

To get hyperbolic, contrast "hey, that's cool; here's what's been talked about before on this topic, you might want to check it out" with "you must read thread X, Y, and Z before anyone here will listen to your paltry latecomer thoughts which probably have already been said, you schmuck."

As a reader, I'm much more amenable to the former than the latter, which spurs a "Hey, man, don't deprotagonize me" response.

:)
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Chad Underkoffler [chadu@yahoo.com]

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Valamir
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« Reply #12 on: May 10, 2004, 11:46:06 AM »

Quote
To get hyperbolic, contrast "hey, that's cool; here's what's been talked about before on this topic, you might want to check it out" with "you must read thread X, Y, and Z before anyone here will listen to your paltry latecomer thoughts which probably have already been said, you schmuck."

As a reader, I'm much more amenable to the former than the latter, which spurs a "Hey, man, don't deprotagonize me" response.


I'll agree with you the moment you can point me to any thread which ever said the latter.

Obviously you can't which is why you called it getting hyperbolic.

So what then?  What are we to do, when we refer new comers to other threads entirely in the spirit of the former, and yet through the limitations of the electronic medium, a defensive nature, or just plum thin skinnedness they take it as the latter?

Is the source of your disatisfaction that we don't molly coddle enough?  Are we really talking about people's feelings being hurt because we don't gush and rave over a post that they had thought was more inciteful than it really was?  

Call me mean spirited, I guess, but I have no desire to spend much time worrying about whether or not people's feelings are being hurt.  People will choose to be offended or they will choose to take the comments in the spirit they were offered.  And if they aren't sure of the spirit they were offered in, they will choose to jump to conclusions, or they will choose to contact the commentator and ask for clarification.

The Forge demands that posters (new and old) take comments in a constructive spirit and if they feel they've been offended that they take it up with the other party, preferably by PM, to sort it out.  In my book that's basic adult behavior.  

Beyond that, exactly what specific solutions do you have in mind, and exactly what specific responsibilities are you prepared to concede new posters have be willing to shoulder?
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chadu
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« Reply #13 on: May 10, 2004, 12:04:06 PM »

Quote from: Valamir
Quote
To get hyperbolic, contrast "hey, that's cool; here's what's been talked about before on this topic, you might want to check it out" with "you must read thread X, Y, and Z before anyone here will listen to your paltry latecomer thoughts which probably have already been said, you schmuck."

As a reader, I'm much more amenable to the former than the latter, which spurs a "Hey, man, don't deprotagonize me" response.


I'll agree with you the moment you can point me to any thread which ever said the latter.

Obviously you can't which is why you called it getting hyperbolic.


Well, to to that extreme extent, no. But I can point you to this:

Quote from: Mike Holmes
F. Like I've said, this has all been worked out before. Not using the search engine to discover the previous information, and then posting to a thread like this when you've been told that it exists only makes you look assinine.

To whit, here are some typical examples for those who claim that they don't have the mental facilities or time to learn how to use the search engine:


from this thread, which is a bit more strongly worded than I think is appropriate.

In the interests of full disclosure, Mike and I have had a decent conversation, I feel, even after that exchange.

Quote from: Valamir
So what then?  What are we to do, when we refer new comers to other threads entirely in the spirit of the former, and yet through the limitations of the electronic medium, a defensive nature, or just plum thin skinnedness they take it as the latter?


I'd say all one can do is moderate one's language to match the spirit of the former -- if someone takes, "hey, man, you might like to check this out" as a diss, well, that's their issue. I'm just saying don't be brutal.

Quote from: Valamir
Is the source of your disatisfaction that we don't molly coddle enough?


Well, I'd call it polite manners and an aesthetic  of openness rather than mollycoddling.

Quote from: Valamir
Are we really talking about people's feelings being hurt because we don't gush and rave over a post that they had thought was more inciteful than it really was?


I'm not sure at this point how insightful my post was, personally. If others felt it wasn't, I think the appropriate course would be to simply ignore the thread rather than inform the poster how un-insightful it was.  

Quote from: Valamir
Beyond that, exactly what specific solutions do you have in mind, and exactly what specific responsibilities are you prepared to concede new posters have be willing to shoulder?
http://Wel, I think that suggestions for previous thread reading should be targeted. That is, not "look through the search engine," but rather "maybe you should look at thread X, thread Y, and thread Z." That's more constructive, I think -- the oldtimer is pointing out to the newcomer further,  [i]specific[/i] information, serving as a guide -- and dare we say "educator" -- for the unintitated.New posters should be receptive to comments, and should follow-up on those suggested targeted threads offered in good faith that seem relevant. All posters should be polite.That's about all I got.CU
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Chad Underkoffler [chadu@yahoo.com]

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ethan_greer
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« Reply #14 on: May 10, 2004, 12:32:20 PM »

Quote from: chadu
All posters should be polite.


Okay, that's something more that needed said.  Every so often, it's a good reminder. Thanks!

No, I'm not being sarcastic.
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