*
*
Home
Help
Login
Register
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
August 11, 2022, 06:41:39 AM

Login with username, password and session length
Forum changes: Editing of posts has been turned off until further notice.
Search:     Advanced search
275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 66 - most online ever: 565 (October 17, 2020, 02:08:06 PM)
Pages: [1] 2 3
Print
Author Topic: Perceptions of Civility at the Forge  (Read 20939 times)
Emily Care
Member

Posts: 1126


WWW
« on: May 11, 2004, 06:59:10 AM »

Hey everyone,

Lots of sparks are flying 'round here. Ethan, I think, rightly called for the end of the second Hubris thread.  Can we take a moment and instead of continuing to be defensive, maybe reflect the information that is being presented to us and perhaps allow us to see if there is anything we might want to do differently?

For example, the hurdle of jargon is a pain in the butt.  Thanks for putting up your glossary, John!  Having one won't fix all the problems folks may have, but it goes a long way towards making the site more inclusive of newcomers.

The fact that people get barraged with threads about a given topic which they  may not realize has been brought up many times before, is being perceived as dismissive, even though that is actually how we incorporate people and their ideas into the discourse here.  

And we could be more polite at times.  

But there are things we can help, and other things that we cannot.  Chad felt rebuffed a bit by his perception of a cold welcome to discussion of his game. Someone offered him the advice to go talk about it in Actual Play, and that seemed to clear up the issue.  Ron and Chris Pramas disagree about "the industry" and that's simply between them.  However, in the recent thread where they discussed it, it was Chris' perceptions (or so it seemed to me) that he was "unwanted". Actually, he posted those words or something to that effect.  That was never the case. Ron in fact posted that, but that is what was communicated to Chris.  I think that was a big misunderstanding.

We can't affect everyone's experience of this place but, with no suggestion of molly-coddling, I think the Forge could be a bit more accessible.  

Yrs,
Emily Care
Logged

Koti ei ole koti ilman saunaa.

Black & Green Games
Emily Care
Member

Posts: 1126


WWW
« Reply #1 on: May 11, 2004, 07:21:19 AM »

You know, looking at fruitbatinshades' thread.  I don't think there's much wrong here at all.
Logged

Koti ei ole koti ilman saunaa.

Black & Green Games
Adam Dray
Member

Posts: 676


WWW
« Reply #2 on: May 11, 2004, 09:58:49 AM »

I've been around a while, but I'm not an active poster. I have been very aware of the use of jargon by the Forge and rgfa since I began reading these forums. Today I did a little web research to find some salient thoughts on the use of jargon.

Quote

(From http://owlet.letu.edu/grammarlinks/diction/diction2d.html)
Jargon is the specialized language of a discipline or profession. Imagine a soccer team at a team meeting, a conversation between computer programmers working on a project, or a group of medical specialists at a conference. Each group uses words and phrases that are meaningful to a specific audience but fail to communicate to the general public. Jargon isn't necessarily bad; instead, it's limited. A computer specialist is expected to use the language of his profession, as is a doctor, an athlete, or any other specialist. However, when jargon is used in text addressed to a general audience, the writer sounds snobby or pretentious.


Note that jargon seems to be a necessary specialization of language to accommodate discussion of complex problems. Also realize that jargon alienates a general audience.

I think where things get sticky on the Forge is when new people join our midst. To the uninitiated, the Forge is quite overwhelming. Imagine a non-scientist plopping herself down at a table at a quantum physics conference. The analogy fails a bit though. The people plopping themselves down at our table are often other game designers who are very knowledgeable about their field.

On one hand, a new Forge poster needs to do his homework. On the other, if we want new blood here, the members of the forum should do whatever they can to make its core of ideas more accessible. John's glossary will go a long way towards this.

Quote

(From http://www.humboldt.edu/~act/language/review.html)
jargon: a questionable use of language that uses language that can only be understood by experts in the field or members of a particular group to hide meaning or intimidate others.


That's from an online tutorial focusing on "the Classical Logical Stucture of Arguments and Informal Argumentative Fallacies" at Humboldt State University in California. Of course, one can argue that the Forge's terms are simply definitional terms and not jargon in that sense.

Do we need jargon? I think yes. We're discussing concepts that haven't been given names before. We need to put labels on them to discuss them. We use terms that other people have never heard and we rebrand old terms to mean new things. Like it or not, that's jargon.

Do we intend to hide meaning or intimidate others? I don't think the group as a whole does, though certain individuals may.

Take a moment to put yourself in the shoes of a visitor. Let's say the visitor is a knowledgeable, experienced, professional game designer who's designed games that people respect. If that visitor hasn't been exposed to more than the barest outline of the Forge's jargon, how much must he or she read before engaging in meaningful conversation here?

To get to the point of this thread: How can we make it easier?

Some suggestions:

We need to cut through the jargon. We cannot avoid creating new terms and using them to discuss ideas, but we can document them and make the glossary accessible.

We need to realize how we create barriers to entry into our group and take steps to make new people feel more welcome.

We need to recognize that -- even with the best intentions -- we may sound "snobby or pretentious" when we use jargon in discussions with people not previously exposed to our language.

In conclusion, jargon is useful to facilitate clearer communication among people who understand its meaning, but it is a significant barrier to communication with those who do not.[/quote]
Logged

Adam Dray / adam@legendary.org
Verge -- cyberpunk role-playing on the brink
FoundryMUSH - indie chat and play at foundry.legendary.org 7777
clehrich
Member

Posts: 1557


WWW
« Reply #3 on: May 11, 2004, 12:24:45 PM »

It is certainly true that the term "jargon" has increasingly had a pejorative connotation.  The best alternatives I've seen are "specialized terms" or "terms of art," but both are rather clunky.

Sticking to the term for the moment (I rarely see the point in changing a term just because), I think there are more issues at stake in the use of jargon than Adam points out in that very good post.

1. Shorthand
Jargon can be shorthand for concepts or ideas that cannot otherwise be formulated in a very small number of words.  So long as everyone can fill in the equation -- Term X = Concept Y -- this simplifies discussion.  Although this is the usual sense of the term "jargon," note that it is not exclusive: one can also construct terms that carry their own meanings, related but not identical to their conceptual referents.

2. Obfuscation
Jargon can be used to make one's work appear more complex and less assailable than it actually is.

3. Exclusion
Jargon can be used to exclude those who don't know it.

4. Mystification
Jargon can be used to conceal the fact that a given concept or idea has not been fully validated.  By granting the fuzzy concept a Term, you make it appear a proven, known fact.

5. Delusion
Jargon can delude writers into thinking that their ideas are more sophisticated than they are.  If you like mathematical analogies, it's as though you have terms which represent complex algebraic expressions, and then you stick a bunch together.  This looks great, but you may not notice that you could actually cancel almost the whole equation if you simply wrote it all out.

6. Discursive Expansion
Jargon can be borrowed from other discourses and re-applied.  This has the advantage that you don't necessarily need to import the other discourse wholesale, but can simply bring in a small constellation of ideas and keep it discrete by retaining its terminological label.

7. Conservatism
Jargon has a tendency to become set in stone.  Those who have put the time in to learn all that terminology are often disinclined to consider changes to the vocabulary.

8. Authority
Jargon often comes with a name attached, usually that of its originator.  If the originator is still participating in the discussion, it is common to accord that person authority over what "his" term means.

9. Essentialism/Reification
Jargon has a tendency to make people think of concepts or ideas as objects.  That is, as soon as a concept gets a special label, one tends to think of it as a thing.  This is particularly common when dealing with structuring categories.

10. Laziness
Jargon has a tendency to replace dynamic thought about a concept.  The best way to see this is if you imagine you were suddenly confronted head-on with a demand to define a given piece of jargon that you use often.  No glossaries, searches, or back-reading allowed -- you must define the term precisely and accurately, right now.  If you cannot do this, you have at the least become lazy about your use of jargon.

There are probably other points worth making, but that's a few off the cuff.  You will note that most, but not all, of these points are negative.  However, at least some of them can be fixed or improved on our end.

A. I think the authoritative use of jargon is extremely dangerous; around here, this comes up mainly with GNS, and is one of the factors that leads to the perception of a Cult Of Ron.  So long as GNS terminology is controlled by Ron, the theory is not a general theory -- it's Ron's personal theory.  And that does indeed support some of these criticisms.

B. We must all be extremely wary of our tendencies to slide into laziness, mystification, essentialism, and conservatism.  Everyone is guilty of this, I think.  Without being constantly and relentlessly self-critical about these tendencies, we will get a decrease in actual content and an increase in pointless obscurantism.

C. I do think, fortunately, that there is relatively little actual obfuscation around here.  When it happens, people tend to be very critical of it.  Unfortunately, perhaps, true obfuscation (in the sense of inventing and shifting terms in order to seem more interesting and complex than one actually is) seems usually to come from relatively new posters, and the sharp criticism may well be used as evidence of Forge insularity.  Oh well, you can't please everyone.

D. I would like to see certain blocks of theory relentlessly challenged.  If they're good, they should withstand it and be improved in the process.  But if I may be blunt, it does look to me as though an awful lot of the Big Model and GNS have become so reified that they are defended against any question or challenge by a significant group here.  If someone suggests an alternative to some established structure in the Model, a common response seems to be, "No, that's not what the Model says."  If that is a legitimate response, then there is no criticism possible of the Model: it's a solid block and must be accepted or avoided.  I think this is a great pity.  GNS is not the only such theoretical construct here, but it is certainly the most obvious.


In general, I do think that the Forge is getting somewhat conservative about its theories.  I do not, however, think that this push comes primarily from Ron.  At the same time, I do not think there is much value in wailing about how the Forge ain't what it used to be; for one thing, I wasn't here then anyway, and for another, that simply encourages greater conservatism.

Well, that's more than enough for one post!
Logged

Chris Lehrich
Jason Lee
Member

Posts: 729


« Reply #4 on: May 11, 2004, 01:24:15 PM »

After the third round of the Beeg Horseshoe I tried a little experiment - I quit using jargon.  The GNS forum got interesting again and I quit after a short time, but I considered it a successful experiment.  For example, I said 'theme' or 'importance to the character' and other things instead of saying Nar (I also didn't bother talking about Sim, but that's not the point here).

It worked fine, really, and if you can do it on The Forge...

*****

As for recommendations...

I think all the hardcore theory should be lumped into a single forum.  GNS is all hardcore theory and RPG theory is only partially so.  It'd be nice to see it all in one place with clear expectations - maybe gold foil letters that say "Here there be jargons".  Plus, the idea of a GNS forum I think is anachronistic at this point.  The official version of the Big Model is out and there are other ideas besides GNS.  GNS is mature enough at this point and such a small part of RPG theory as a whole, that I think it should share some space.  I also think two theory forums detract from the other fora.  I say this as someone who is only really interested in the theory aspect of the Forge - it's my deal, at least on this forum anyway.  I think the Forge is very strong on theory, but I think theory it is detracting from other topics.  I by no means think it should be removed, I think I'd cry, but it needs a clearer division.

I think there are big problems with the Actual Play forum.  I see a lot of dumping jargon into topics that don't need it and hence spooking people who aren't interested in theory. I also see a lot of ignored topics with most of the attention going to the currently hip on The Forge games.  Though posters asking for assistance often get a lot of replies, it's often the same scripted, dismissive advice - "Just don't play with them" being the big one.

Instead of reading the Indie Game Design forum here, I skim The Art of Game Design forum on RPGnet instead.  Sure, I've seen most of the topics dozens of times, but there is something about the diverse ecology there, high mutation rate I suppose, that spurs creative thought.  I think Indie Design here on the Forge has a little too much more of the same in both design approach and advice.  Just seems sort of stagnant from my point of view.

I used to read The Riddle of Steel forum, but I've gotten my head bitten off every time I dared post there.  Talk about insular.  I don't have any advice about this one.
Logged

- Cruciel
Dav
Member

Posts: 432


WWW
« Reply #5 on: May 11, 2004, 01:31:43 PM »

cruci... er... Jason spake:
"Though posters asking for assistance often get a lot of replies, it's often the same scripted, dismissive advice - "Just don't play with them" being the big one."

I vomit forth in reply:
"Yeah, but you gotta admit that it's advice that works."

"Besides, someone asking what to do about a disruptive player is like asking <insert something wry and witty here that denotes how silly and empty "disruptive player threads" are>"

"Dav"
Logged
Jason Lee
Member

Posts: 729


« Reply #6 on: May 11, 2004, 01:51:59 PM »

Oh sure, it works for the person asking for the advice.  Just like shooting your dog solves the problem of having to get up at 7:00 am to feed it.  People know when someone's behavior is a deal breaker for them and when it isn't.  It's empty advice.
Logged

- Cruciel
Dav
Member

Posts: 432


WWW
« Reply #7 on: May 11, 2004, 02:30:38 PM »

1) Yes, it does.  Quite effectively.  (gawd, I hate animals, so I'm biased)

2) I don't think people do know regarding behavioral deal-breakers... or else why would we have a whole field and teeming hordes of people studying psychology (which, honestly, we don't need to delve into, because I'll say it doesn't exist, you'll say I'm insane, and I'll say: "only because you believe in psychology", and nothing will be solved).  I think a lot of people stay in a dysfunctional relationship long after they should leave (my husband hit me last night, my wife cheated on me, my dog bit me and piss on my leg, my boyfriend stole my wallet, etc.).  Besides, I don't know these people on more than a "I read this blurb" text and left it there.  That is social interaction, and I have no connection, stake, or possible elation for outcome tied to that interaction.  In effect, the best I can hope for is a humorous anecdote, and that probably ain't going to happen... because the type of person that asks strangers how to deal with their friends has something a bit backwards.

Empty advice for and empty mind.  I don't like to runneth their cups over or something pithy and cute.

Dav
Logged
Ron Edwards
Global Moderator
Member
*
Posts: 16490


WWW
« Reply #8 on: May 11, 2004, 02:34:54 PM »

Hiya,

I was under the impression that the thread was about civility, but now I'm confused. Jargon? Appropriate answers to a specific question?

Emily, on reading your initial post, I'm still confused. Are you asking for suggestions about being more civil? Or ...? The more I look at it, the more it seems like a personal statement and not really a call for discussion, which is maybe why all the posts since then are essentially free-association.

Best,
Ron
Logged
Dav
Member

Posts: 432


WWW
« Reply #9 on: May 11, 2004, 02:43:12 PM »

Ron, you may have a point... and dammit.

I think that Emily was kindly saying that the Bitchfest II thread seemed a bit much and people should let the thread cool a few moments before continuing, if at all, and maybe even asked the "what have we learned through this venting?" question that is really the only thing keeping a bitchfest from devolving into "Congress-style" debate, which is infinitely worse and more snipe-y.  

BUT, I think most of us took it as a request for less meannessityness (which is not a word), and therefore created this thread: Bitchfest Lite, for the Low-Carb Dieter!  Which should probably die fast and quiet... being nice is hard work.  Very hard work.  It makes my tummy hurt.

Dav
Logged
Emily Care
Member

Posts: 1126


WWW
« Reply #10 on: May 11, 2004, 02:52:44 PM »

Yup, Dav nailed it.   Nice Dav, good Dav.

Now we know that jargon and dismissive answers can be a problem.  Does anyone else have a "what I have learned from this mess" post, or can we close this thread?

--Em
Logged

Koti ei ole koti ilman saunaa.

Black & Green Games
Ron Edwards
Global Moderator
Member
*
Posts: 16490


WWW
« Reply #11 on: May 11, 2004, 08:08:31 PM »

This is one vote for a close (not a moderator post) - Em, drop the hammer if you wanna. Or someone else chime in constructively, which is OK too.

Best,
Ron
Logged
Walt Freitag
Member

Posts: 1039


« Reply #12 on: May 11, 2004, 08:18:24 PM »

Re Jargon:

Most of Chris's ten points about jargon appear to apply just as well if one subtitutes "words" for "jargon." In other words, most of the negatives are drawbacks of language in general, so unless we want to go back to grunts and birdcalls (and perhaps even then), we're stuck with them.

The only, and necessary, justification for jargon is right there in #1: shorhand for concepts or ideas that cannot otherwise be formulated in a very small number of words.

The barrier for new correspondents isn't learning the words, or even learning the definitions; it's learning the concepts. That's inherently hard becaue the concepts are novel, complex, and usually counterintuitive to readers accustomed to standard rpg text. We could "give up the jargon" (e.g. substutute the glossary definition for each glossary word used in each post), and it would do no good at all for understandability unless we also gave up the concepts.

Consider, if you will, the jargon term "megabyte." This was a term of specialized jargon for about a 16-year period, from 1984 (when it began to replace "kilobyte") to about 2000. During that time practically every article about "becoming a savvy computer user" in general-interest publications included a sidebar about "that wacky hard-to-understand lingo that computer-users speak." "Megabyte" was always included on such lists.

Would people trying to learn about computers have been better off if instead of that obscure jargon term "megabyte," articles had referred to "millions of data elements each consisting of eight binary digits?" No. Because that's the definition of megabyte, not the meaning. Even if you know the definition and understand every word in it (such as, knowing the binary number system), you don't really understand what a megabyte is (for instance, what the import is if someone mentions to you that they "have to send 100 megabytes of revised ad images to the home office today"), unless you know a lot of related stuff including the following:

- Each of the million eight-binary-digit units in a megabyte can represent about one character of text, or one third of a pixel in a full-color image.

- Megabytes describe both the size of data files and the storage capacity of data storage devices.

- A writer might take a year to generate a megabyte of data; a digital photographer needs about a megabyte to store one picture.

- A floppy disk holds about a megabyte or two. A CD-ROM holds about 700 megabytes. At present, most new computers come with hard drives that hold about 60,000 megabytes.

- Using a DSL or cable modem connection, downloading a megabyte of data takes from about 10 seconds to about a minute. Using a modem connection over a phone line, it takes 5 to 50 minutes.

"Megabyte" is a common word today for exactly the same reason it was a jargon term twenty years ago: because it refers to a useful concept. The only difference between a jargon term and a regular word or phrase is the fraction of the population it's useful to.

Angsting about jargon doesn't make any sense to me. I own a set of allen wrenches. They serve only one purpose I'm aware of, which is turning allen screws. I could probably think of hundreds of things I shouldn't do with allen wrenches, and enumerate a dramatic and impressive-looking list of them (sticking them in my eye, dropping them off tall buildings, heating them in the microwave...). Which would prove nothing, and certainly not convince me to throw the allen wrenches away.

- Walt
Logged

Wandering in the diasporosphere
Emily Care
Member

Posts: 1126


WWW
« Reply #13 on: May 12, 2004, 05:20:59 AM »

Let's continue, but let us put the question of jargon into context of Walt's excellent point:

Quote from: Walt Freitag
The barrier for new correspondents isn't learning the words, or even learning the definitions; it's learning the concepts. That's inherently hard becaue the concepts are novel, complex, and usually counterintuitive to readers accustomed to standard rpg text. We could "give up the jargon" (e.g. substutute the glossary definition for each glossary word used in each post), and it would do no good at all for understandability unless we also gave up the concepts.


Nicely put.  The jargon is an obstacle, but an even greater one is the fact that the concepts are so alien to many folk when they arrive here for the first time.  I don't think we should (or even could, perhaps) drop either, but I think we should spend some time and attention on figuring out better ways to communicate them to others.  

Lee's (Fruitbatinshade) response to Mike's questions (and my post too) on the thread on RedRaven in Indiegames put this in focus for me. I think this was a completely reasonable and understandable response.    Despite his intentions, Mike's questions came off as condescending and non-constructive in part because there was such a gap between Lee's experience and Mike's persective.  It has now been resolved, but given the feedback we've gotten, I think this is a perfect illustration of how the perception of elitism here arises.

The very fact that we have a large body of complex theory to impart creates an atmosphere of "learned experts" vs. "ignorant newcomers". Our theory creates a divide. This is not our intent, but it is a structural reality that may be behind a lot of the anti-Forge sentiment noted recently. The theory rocks, but if it cannot be imparted in an understandable way, then it will not reach the very folks who are coming here for help and feedback.

In this post above, Jason suggested leaving gns jargon (as much as possible) in the GNS forum.  I'd second that, especially in the Indie-games forum or at least when dealing with relative newcomers.  People should not have to become inculcated in the exploration theory in order to benefit from feedback here.  It creates that expert/newbie dynamic which turns people off.  

Jason also mentioned that there is a less stagnant feel to the Art of Game Design forum on RPG.net, even if he has to skim through a lot more that's not of interest.  The theory divide may have a chilling effect here. As an interesting side note, I went and checked that forum out to see what it was like, and in two thread about the development of fairly non-standard games, Jared Sorenson's games were cited as a reference.   People are ready willing and interested in playing & designing non-standard fare.  But if we are isolated by the theory divide, it won't be our innovations that reach people.  Also, it was his games they cited, not his theory--our word put into action may be the best argument that can be made.  I'm sure that Great Ork Gods will have that kind of effect.

A very common question/comment  I've seen in threads is "how do I talk about gns to my non-gns-oriented friends".  There are many suggestions people have, and I'm sure that's a topic that people consider talked to death, but we might want to take it on in a deeper way as a community. Realize that if we want to have dialogue with others, we need to be comprehensible.  Looking at Lee's thread as an example, Jack, Zak et al.'s feedback on the mechanics were completely comprehensible and welcome. AFAIK.      

So that is my take home lesson from recent affairs.  We would benefit greatly from finding ways to speak plain English about what has been developed, and put the theory into practice to spread the ideas.  

Yrs,
Emily Care
Logged

Koti ei ole koti ilman saunaa.

Black & Green Games
Adam Dray
Member

Posts: 676


WWW
« Reply #14 on: May 12, 2004, 05:49:41 AM »

Quote from: Walt Freitag

The barrier for new correspondents isn't learning the words, or even learning the definitions; it's learning the concepts.


I think it's impossible to separate a word's concept from its definition. Understanding one is understanding another. Words are symbols for ideas.

The barrier for new correspondents IS learning the words and what they mean.
Logged

Adam Dray / adam@legendary.org
Verge -- cyberpunk role-playing on the brink
FoundryMUSH - indie chat and play at foundry.legendary.org 7777
Pages: [1] 2 3
Print
Jump to:  

Powered by MySQL Powered by PHP Powered by SMF 1.1.11 | SMF © 2006-2009, Simple Machines LLC
Oxygen design by Bloc
Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!