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Author Topic: My comments regarding the Indie Design forum  (Read 4744 times)
Ron Edwards
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« on: April 16, 2003, 08:57:27 AM »

I thought people might be interested.

I'll start with the Forge Moderator Principle #1: when people speak up with great passion about an issue, and when the actual recommendations are numerous, diverse, and contradictory, the proper course of action in terms of policy changes is to do nothing. This is a pretty hard thing for people to swallow sometimes, especially if they assume that policy changes are fueled by passion - "If enough of us care, then something will get done!" That's not a valid assumption, even if you've identified a few people who agree with your particular position.

So, at present, nothing much is changing at the forum. I like the idea of clarifying its mission, because I like the idea of clarifying all the forums' missions. I especially like the idea of seeing those missions realized through effective and courteous social mechanisms as Jack described. Whether this is accomplished through stickies or whatever remains to be seen. Another Forge Moderator Principle, perhaps #2, is: Nothing is really urgent, as the Forge does not operate on a deadline.

But I still haven't told you what I think about all the concerns that have been raised. Here goes.

1. From the first day of the forum's existence, its content has consistently waxed and waned and waxed again in terms of critical effort. It seems to be driven as follows:

a) a few people post some stuff that really receives major critique and baking;

b) a bunch of people post a ton of stuff (much of which is not substantive) in hopes of receiving that sort of attention;

c) the critical input falls off partly due to volume and partly due to the reduced substance of the material;

d) the rate of posting new material dies down, and the (a) continues, some of which is due to working on older stuff, and some of which is due to new posts.

e) rinse, repeat.

That's what I see. I'm seeing it now. I consider the astounding and powerful 24-hour RPG challenge to be a (d) to (e) transition. And you know what? We'll see the cycle again, and every time (b) hits, there'll be yet another outcry that Indie Design is "going bad." These outcries really don't have much impact on me, no matter how heartfelt.

The main reason why I'm so insensitive is that I think that substantive material does get its due, when it's not swamped by a (c) phase. As far as I can tell, even when that happens, that material tends to live through the "noise" phase and to get some work done on it later, in the (d) phase.

2. That leads me to a very crucial point: no one owes anyone a thorough inspection at Indie Design. If you post your stuff, it might receive very little attention. There are lots of reasons: the time and effort of the respondants, the relative noise factor of the current cycle stage, and the quality of what you've presented in strict Forge terms. Let me clarify each of these.

a) The time and effort of the respondants - this is far less a factor than I think people perceive. A number of us sacrifice all manner of things in order to respond to proposals that interest us. I have all the 24-hour games on my desk, and already Mike is posting quickie reviews of each. Looking over the history of the forum, I don't think there's any particular drop in how much critique something receives ... if it captures interest. If you want to contribute to the general quality of the critique, then provide some.

b) The noise factor, especially during the Boom time - sure, your brilliant and fascinating idea might simply get swamped. Fine. Did you care enough about it to keep going? No one can control the environment into which they have introduced a "working on my game" post at the forum. So ultimately it comes down to designer grit. No matter how much critique you do or do not receive at the forum, it always comes back to you and your own efforts, especially in terms of writing down usable rules-set (as opposed to endless notes or color elaboration) and in terms of organizing some actual play. Don't expect either of these to happen because you posted at Indie Design - again, no matter how much response you did or didn't get. It's up to you to interpret the source of a minimal or absent response, and to use your own vision and judgment about that. No one can take that responsibility.

c) The quality of what's presented - it's a grim possibility that what you've presented doesn't receive much critique because, well, it's not very good. I'm more than happy to assume that the above two constraints might be more to blame, but don't forget this possibility either.

3. And now for some moderator standards. For those of you who might be puzzled about how I'm handling all of this, remember that the Forge isn't a democratic community. Clinton and I reserve final decision-making power; between us, he has executive disagreement-breaking power regarding site design and management, and I have the same regarding content and focus. You're free, of course, to consider any of this to be unacceptable power-tripping, inappropriate for an internet board, or whatever you'd like.

So my moderator judgment regarding game design at or using the Forge goes like this.

a) I am unsympathetic to general questions or what people are calling "idea discussion" threads.

Similarly, polls aren't appropriate ("I'm trying to get a sense for whether people would like a game about ..."). That's because the entire point of the forum presupposes that you, the designer are passionate about a given game-topic, and are willing to communicate that passion to others.

b) Using "attention" in a general sense as the currency at the forum cuts no ice with me whatsoever. I think people post a lot in Indie Design primarily to get attention - it seems less challenging than the sand-blasting at GNS or Theory forums, and unlike Actual Play or Publishing, you don't actually have to do anything first. Putting out a "game idea" is a covert way to initiate socializing at the forum. I'm not surprised that half of the posts I'm reading about this forum are calling for less use of that sort, and half are calling for more use of that sort, perhaps in a new forum.

The Forge isn't for that kind of socializing. Yes, it's a community, and a unique one on the internet. Those of you who haven't read the threads now collectively referred to as the Infamous Five* really ought to, in order to see how much effort and agreement has gone into its identity. For now, I'll put it this way: this site is not here to be your social life. It is expected to be socially functional in face-to-face human terms, rather than internet terms, but that social function serves a specific purpose. When that purpose is clearly being used as a mask for social interactions per se, that's right out.

On a related note, it is patently clear that ego-posting goes on at the Forge, and that jealousy runs rampant among some people regarding whose game "got attention" and how many posts the threads about it built up. I'm totally unsympathetic to this entire philosophy of forum usage. If it were up to me, I'd cancel the post-counting feature entirely, such that no one could see how many posts a given person has, in any way.

So - those three points are what I'm currently working with as the content moderator at the Forge. Lettin' you know where I stand, and where any policy change, if any, is coming from.

Best,
Ron

* The Infamous Five

#1: PUBLISHING
Mainstream: a revision
Production value
Promotion
Active vs. passive entertainment
The Store
What would make a non-role-player buy your game?
The game that would sell to non-role-players
The importance of play
Accessible? To whom?

#2: ACTUAL PLAY
Actual play in the stores
Mainstream media

#3: RPG THEORY
Social Context
Gay culture / Gamer culture
Self-image
Christian gamers and self-esteem
What does role-playing gaming accomplish?
Sexism and gaming

#4: GNS MODEL DISCUSSION
Vanilla and Pervy
Pervy in my head
Combat systems
Cannot stand cutsiepoo terms
Pervy Sim, points of contact, accessibility

#5: SITE DISCUSSION
The Forge as a community
The five percent
The Forge and cultural bias
Off-the-cuff Forge cultural analysis
Relationships at the Forge
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greyorm
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« Reply #1 on: April 16, 2003, 10:30:15 AM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards
So ultimately it comes down to designer grit. No matter how much critique you do or do not receive at the forum, it always comes back to you and your own efforts

Alright then, given this, and given the cycle you've referenced above, what is the etiquette for reposting material you feel did not receieve appropriate response for?

How long do you wait?
Do you start a new thread or ressurect the old one?

I ask because alot of the obvious answers to these are seen as breaking on-line etiquette, and Forge etiquette, even; thus to what lengths designer grit in the pursuit of a project will be forgiven is rather important and not clearly developed.
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #2 on: April 16, 2003, 11:42:17 AM »

Hi Raven,

I'll start with another issue, then answer your question directly.

The first thing to recognize is that there are no "stripes" to be earned. People keep talking about newbies vs. oldies, or first-game vs. veteran-game designers. All this is crap. There are people who showed up, presented stuff in Indie Design first thing, and did the deed from the get-go. Rafael Chandler is an excellent example; so is Shreyas Sampat. It has nothing to do with being "recognized" before you "get" the critique.

Therefore I am not talking about demonstrating grit in order to gain respect. That is entirely the wrong interpretation of my post - and Raven, I'm not accusing you of that interpretation, I'm taking the opportunity from your post to highlight it as strongly as possible. I am saying, instead, that you will not be producing an actual role-playing game except by using that grit.

So with that in mind, now to your question. The answer is, a new post is a new post. It should have its own content. It should ask its own question. It should be about something that you've considered since the last time you posted.

This means - and I can't stress this enough - that it doesn't matter if you received no response or 100-post response to your original post. All that matters is that if you're posting again about a game design, a while later (maybe you were demoralized by lack of response, or maybe you gave birth to triplets in the iterim, doesn't matter), then the same principle applies.

No response? 100 post response? Same thing applies. Either you'll have the time and inclination to work some more on the game, and possibly start a new thread later on a new or modified issue, or you won't, for whatever reason.

What is not acceptable is to say, "Hey, it's me again. Remember, that post that none of you replied to? When you all marginalized me? Well, here's my post back at the top of Indie Design, and I'm not going away. Here's the text of my old post. Give me feedback this time, please." There's nothing in that post. It's still just about getting attention, and as such, it should receive none.

Best,
Ron
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Valamir
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Posts: 5574


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« Reply #3 on: April 16, 2003, 12:37:22 PM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards

The first thing to recognize is that there are no "stripes" to be earned. People keep talking about newbies vs. oldies, or first-game vs. veteran-game designers. All this is crap.


May I suggest an alternative turn of phrase.  Instead of "all this is crap" perhaps "none of that has any bearing on how I Ron Edwards (and whoever else also feels this way) respond to posts on Indie Design.

Because it IS very much how *I* respond to posts on indie-design.  Far from being crap, it is one of my filters that allows me to get to comment at all on a forum that frequently has more projects on it that I can keep up with.  Not all of the time...sometimes when its slow I can go down them one by one.  But when its busy, or I am...the names I know who have been quality contributors on other threads are the posts I'm going to read.  Names I've not seen before who have started 2 threads on their design and who have 2 posts next to their name get skipped with the "mark all threads as read" button.

Sorry...but I am very much a "prove to me you're worth my time first" kind of guy.  At least I am when I'm too busy to be otherwise.

Does that make it official Forge policy.
No.
But it is something for new posters to the design forum to keep in mind.  Not having "earned ones stripes" IMO does increase the likely hood of getting less response.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #4 on: April 16, 2003, 12:58:53 PM »

H'm,

OK, I could amend the crap-statement to "possible individual policy, neither encouraged nor discouraged as a general Forge outlook." Or something like that.

You, uh, did see that my post above is explicitly my position, right? As foisted upon the rest of you as the basis for any policy change, or lack of change? 'Cause that's what it is.

And from the basis (a) of my outlook and (b) the impact of that outlook on forum content, the approach you're describing isn't policy. You're free to do it, as an individual. But I say again, that's an individual choice and not some kind of Forge principle.

Best,
Ron
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Valamir
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« Reply #5 on: April 16, 2003, 01:10:25 PM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards
And from the basis (a) of my outlook and (b) the impact of that outlook on forum content, the approach you're describing isn't policy. You're free to do it, as an individual. But I say again, that's an individual choice and not some kind of Forge principle.


Of course...and I said as much.
I just took umbrage at it being called crap...  :-)
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Jack Spencer Jr
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« Reply #6 on: April 16, 2003, 06:20:34 PM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards
I especially like the idea of seeing those missions realized through effective and courteous social mechanisms as Jack described.

I am glad.
Quote
b) The noise factor, especially during the Boom time - sure, your brilliant and fascinating idea might simply get swamped. Fine. Did you care enough about it to keep going? No one can control the environment into which they have introduced a "working on my game" post at the forum. So ultimately it comes down to designer grit. No matter how much critique you do or do not receive at the forum, it always comes back to you and your own efforts, especially in terms of writing down usable rules-set (as opposed to endless notes or color elaboration) and in terms of organizing some actual play. Don't expect either of these to happen because you posted at Indie Design - again, no matter how much response you did or didn't get. It's up to you to interpret the source of a minimal or absent response, and to use your own vision and judgment about that. No one can take that responsibility.

I agree with this heartily. Since I've been posting stuff to the internet, not just the Forge, I have gotten lots of responses and I've gotten zero posts. This does not change the fact that I have yet to actually do anything with any of those ideas past of present. This is why I said what I did about postiung ideas. I am the poster boy of, pretty much what Ron said.
Quote
If it were up to me, I'd cancel the post-counting feature entirely, such that no one could see how many posts a given person has, in any way.

I would prefer this feature stay so we can give the nice "Welcome to the Forge" replies when we see it's a new member based on the low post count.
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Andy Kitkowski
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I LIKE GAMES


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« Reply #7 on: April 22, 2003, 08:57:32 AM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards
If it were up to me, I'd cancel the post-counting feature entirely, such that no one could see how many posts a given person has, in any way.


Just as an afterthought (I've set up a lot of phpBB BBSes for other sites), I went through to see if there was such an option. There isn't. I can't find any word of it on the phpBB boards, and their "search" function is broke.

Interesting thought, though.  I'll keep my eye open.
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The Story Games Community - It's like RPGNet for small press games and new play styles.
Clinton R. Nixon
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« Reply #8 on: April 22, 2003, 09:19:25 AM »

Quote from: Andy Kitkowski
Quote from: Ron Edwards
If it were up to me, I'd cancel the post-counting feature entirely, such that no one could see how many posts a given person has, in any way.


Just as an afterthought (I've set up a lot of phpBB BBSes for other sites), I went through to see if there was such an option. There isn't. I can't find any word of it on the phpBB boards, and their "search" function is broke.

Interesting thought, though.  I'll keep my eye open.


Thanks, Admin Andy!

That was sarcasm. Anyway, don't worry about whether there's an option or not. There's not an option out there for our auto-collapsing forum groups, either, but I made one. I think I can eliminate a few post counters.
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Clinton R. Nixon
CRN Games
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #9 on: April 22, 2003, 10:13:07 AM »

Looks like I drifted the thread topic by accident.

No plans are under way to eliminate the post-counting feature. Clinton and I remain ambiguous (actually, agreed in our mutual ambiguity) about it, which, as I said before, means "do nothing."

Best,
Ron
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