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Author Topic: In My Opinion is Bad?  (Read 4308 times)
Mark D. Eddy
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Posts: 157


« on: January 15, 2005, 03:38:51 PM »

I just read Ron's post in RPG Theory here, and I'd like some clarification. Why is "In My Opinion" posting considered bad?

My understanding is that opinion is argument to sway someone to a particular point of view or particular action, as contrasted with exposition, which is a description or educational argument.

I would argue that an opinion piece is essential to RPG theory work, because there is no rigor to base exposition upon outside of Actual Play reports. In fact, I'd argue that "System Does Matter" is an opinion piece, as is the "Turku Manifesto". And I'd also argue that intellectual honesty should call for labeling posts accordingly.

It may very well be that I'm missing what Ron is getting at, and I'm willing to be taught.
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Mark Eddy
Chemist, Monotheist, History buff

"The valiant man may survive
if wyrd is not against him."
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #1 on: January 15, 2005, 05:15:53 PM »

Hello,

Viewpoint, position, and even agenda are acceptable, as features of discussion. Arguably, without them there is no discussion, nor any chance of conclusions. Your use of "opinion" refers to these things, which are perfectly welcome here; typically, I use the term in another, very commonly employed sense.

Opinions in this other sense are those conclusions which have been reached without argument (in the technical sense of the word), thought, or discourse. They are often accompanied by elaborate justifications or rhetoric, but might not be. Opinions are always reactions, and in many cases, an attempt to establish place or identity, to oneself or to others.

"It is my personal opinion and therefore not subject to critique" is the rallying cry of internet culture. It is the culture of the kewl webhandle, the emoticon, and the "go ahead and ban me" defense.

No opinion of this sort has any place here at the Forge. By contrast, stated viewpoints, positions, and agendas (when consistent with the site purposes) are presented for critique, adoption by others, and constructive modification.

"System Does Matter" is therefore a position piece, not an opinion piece. It has received critique (boy has it), and the ideas in it have been modified, better articulated, elaborated, and employed by many people, beyond any imagined extent I had when writing it. One of my points in writing it, actually, was (and is) please respond, as I am willing to learn more. If it had instead been an opinon piece, it would be ... just sitting there, with me protecting it, forever.

I'm pretty sure that you see the distinction, Mark. Seems like it's an as I employ the term issue.

Best,
Ron
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daMoose_Neo
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« Reply #2 on: January 15, 2005, 07:29:10 PM »

Noticing a fair commentation on "opinion" posting.
Personally, I have a tendency to throw the term around I suppose- my Opinion is my Viewpoint, and my viewpoint is based on an accimilation of details, thoughts and experiances. It isn't concrete or precise, but open to its own critisisms. Myself, using my opinion (or 'IMO') is a disclaimer that it isn't fact or widely accepted, just a personal thought/observation.
If this is indeed poor posting, I apologize as I seem to have missed this portion of Forge ettiqute. Aside from 'viewpoint' is there a preferred way or term to say "This isn't hard cold fact but flexable, solitary observation held by myself" ?
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Nate Petersen / daMoose
Neo Productions Unlimited! Publisher of Final Twilight card game, Imp Game RPG, and more titles to come!
Mark D. Eddy
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Posts: 157


« Reply #3 on: January 15, 2005, 08:30:26 PM »

The combination of hard sciences and forensic speech in my background has apparently led me astray, then. The only difference in my experience between a position paper and an opinion paper is that the position paper calls for specific public policy to be enacted. Thus, I would have never called System Does Matter a position paper.

On the other hand, I would agree that opinion, in the sense that you are using it, Ron, is a bad thing. It's not good for theory, it's not good rhetoric, and it's not very polite either. Especially pernicious, to my mind, is the "this is an opinion, thus not subject to critique" attitude, but the time I spent in Lincoln-Douglas style debate makes that a very sore point.

However, in the specific thread mentioned, "IMO" was used to indicate something along the lines of "I've thought about this, and it seems to me that ...{content}... but I don't have the resources to prove it." Which is a oddball middle ground. There has been reflection, and a coherent point is being made, but it's unclear if the opinion is open or closed to further information. Nate, your response indicates that it was an opinion that was open, and so not the dogmatic response that Ron specifically refers to.

I know that the humanities and soft sciences are much more agressive in their positions than the hard sciences -- in fact, I once nearly flunked an art history class for being too tentative in my arguments. Is there some sort of a dichotomy like that going on?
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Mark Eddy
Chemist, Monotheist, History buff

"The valiant man may survive
if wyrd is not against him."
TonyLB
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« Reply #4 on: January 16, 2005, 04:31:56 AM »

"In my opinion" is a defense mechanism, meant to shield against people grabbing an argument and unfairly brutalizing it and it's proponent.

In the greater pool of the internet such polite defenses (when they stay polite) are a very good thing.  I wouldn't wade into most discussion groups without thoroughly shielding myself from people taking things to a ridiculous extreme.  There are people out there who are just spoiling for an argument.  I don't know why.

But the Forge really isn't most discussion groups.  People here are consistently more reasonable, and more dedicated to charitable reading than the mean.  In this context tagging things with "IMO" is a little like telling a group of friends "Yeah, if we go out for pizza I'll pay my share, offer void where prohibited, some restrictions may apply."

At best it's meaningless noise, at worst it's an attempt to avoid the obligation to accept and respect critique.  It's a hard habit to break though... I had to rewrite this several times in my brain because I wanted to start with " 'IMO' strikes me as..." or "I believe 'IMO' is..."  But you guys know this is my opinion, because I'm the one posting it.

[ Edited to correct brain-dead copy-paste that reversed the meaning of a sentence ]
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Marco
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« Reply #5 on: January 16, 2005, 08:19:30 AM »

Well, I see things stated as fact that I don't agree with (here as well as elsewhere). We just had a whole thread about over that exact dispute in the GNS Forum. Saying "IMO" means to me that although the speaker may hold a considered opinion, he or she is aware that others could legitimately exist.

So I think it's a very good thing to include in expression. Especially here where people usually do hold very strong opinions on matters.

-Marco
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« Reply #6 on: January 16, 2005, 10:22:30 AM »

Hi folks,

Try looking at the original thread to check the context in which Ron puts out that response.  You have a post that begins with "All IMO", and then goes on.  As people have noted, declaring a statement as opinion can mean either that it hasn't been fully thought out or proven or it can be an excuse to negate it from discussion.

In the reasonable usage, someone posts with well thought out material that has arguments to support it, with a side note of opinion, usually presented as further thought to be discussed either later or in another thread.  "This is X, and I think Y(may be possible)"  In unreasonable usage, "I think X and it's not open to discussion!".

I don't think this is too hard to grasp for anyone capable of holding a reasonably polite conversation based on anything other than ego domination and attention mongering.

Chris
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joshua neff
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« Reply #7 on: January 16, 2005, 12:10:18 PM »

When I was in middle school and high school, my teachers always told me never to put "in my opinion" or "I think" in a paper, because it goes without saying. Of course it is your opinion, as it is you writing the paper.

So, let me ask you this, Moose: did you put "IMO" as a "disclaimer" because there is a horrible tendency in internet culture to attack anything anyone posts that doesn't contain some variation on the phrase "in my opinion"? There's this idea that anything not labelled as "opinion" is the author having the audacity to present his/her views as fact, and if you do label it as "opinion" it cannot be critiqued, as Ron said, because, "Well, it's just my opinion, it's what I believe, y'know?" I'm sad to say that while typing this I've realized that I've attacked people in the past for presenting something as "fact"; I've given in to this tendency, too. Thank goodness Ron and Clinton and the rest of us have strived to make the Forge rise above that sort of immature discourse.

So, saying "in my opinion" in a post is not harmful as such, but it's unnecessary--and it's understandable how Ron or others could misinterpret it as saying "what I've said is not up for argument, because I've said it's my opinion and therefore unassailable."
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--josh

"You can't ignore a rain of toads!"--Mike Holmes
M. J. Young
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« Reply #8 on: January 16, 2005, 01:44:58 PM »

The ban against "opinions" is in the same category as the ban against "polling" here.

The poll essentially is the sort of thread that asks, for example,
    Do you prefer character creation methods based on randomized distribution curves, point purchases, life paths, or menu options?[/list:u]The resulting data is nothing more than the selection of one or the other from that list--and that is what the poster requested. It's really worthless; it has about the same value as asking what everyone's favorite pizza topping is. Too much depends on the sample group for it to be useful as market data, and such information doesn't really tell you anything about the strengths or weaknesses of various approaches.

    I'm reminded of a recent poll on a Yahoo!Group I frequent. The poll was in essence whether the members of the group would prefer to have their children involved in D&D, M:tG, or sports. Not surprisingly, the overwhelming response was D&D--it was the first edition AD&D group, after all.

    A thread which begins as "What do you see as the features and problems of various character creation approaches including (those already mentioned) and how can these be exploited or mitigated?" obviously also asks for opinions of a sort; but it asks for them in the context of information that might promote better game design.

    Does that help?

    --M. J. Young
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daMoose_Neo
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« Reply #9 on: January 16, 2005, 08:33:49 PM »

Josh -

I commented here because there was a Theroy post in which Ron had 'moderated'(/commented on) an "opinion" post of mine. The post was a response to one asking for a definition on something I felt comfortable with but was unaware of any actual authority. So, I posted what I understood to be the definition/distinction and for the sake of keeping things open (I thought) I added it was my opinion, indicating I didn't consider myself an authority and it was a personal thought/observation.
Part of its use is force of habit (though my own teachers have kept me from ever using it in a paper. Thought or speech however...), the other part is to say "Hey, I'm no authority", not because of fear of attack, but because we do have so many well versed folks about the board here, quite a bit of what is posted (from my impression) is taken as some form of authorative response. If I'm wrong, I don't want someone else totally lost. If you know its opinion straight up, you can take it with a grain of salt.
Thats why I posted the message above: if my 'IMO' posts ARE wrong, then I'd like to know, but do I know my IMO posts aren't the "You can't attack that because I ALREADY SAID its my opinion so nyah!" immaturity. I can't see where my post held that snarkiness, however, so I guess I also feel a little of that "ouch, that may not have been needed" in regards to the comment/moderation.
Clear it up though, I'll know where I stand and what footing (wording?) to watch in the future.
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Nate Petersen / daMoose
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #10 on: January 16, 2005, 08:36:54 PM »

Hello,

Actually, my moderation in that particular thread was too heavy-handed. When you get that "ouch" sensation, Nate, here's what I suggest: (1) say, oh well, even the best cops make bad calls once in a while; or (2) private-message me to see where I'm coming from.

Best,
Ron
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joshua neff
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« Reply #11 on: January 16, 2005, 08:55:17 PM »

Nate--

Sorry, I wasn't implying that you were being immature, but that you, like a lot of us, have dealt with that immaturity and have, perhaps, developed a use of "in my opinion" as an automatic attempt to avoid accusations of "how dare you make a blanket statement about what is!" I see that you weren't doing that, but I think a lot of us--well, I do, anyway--do our best to avoid those attacks by prefacing everything with "in my opinion."

But since Ron has said that he thinks he was being too heavy-handed, and since it was really a "no blood, no foul" situation anyway, the point is probably moot.
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--josh

"You can't ignore a rain of toads!"--Mike Holmes
Mark D. Eddy
Member

Posts: 157


« Reply #12 on: January 17, 2005, 08:50:30 PM »

Well, considering that it was my ouch that started this thread, I'll keep the "PM Ron" meme in my head. It's just that I so rarely PM anyone about anything I forget that that is an option.
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Mark Eddy
Chemist, Monotheist, History buff

"The valiant man may survive
if wyrd is not against him."
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