[MUD-Dev] Re: META: list "peerage"

Koster Koster
Wed Jan 20 18:01:41 New Zealand Daylight Time 1999

Please forgive the extra layer of attribution, it arose from Caliban having
to repost. Also please forgive the extremely "meta" nature of the post.

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Caliban Tiresias Darklock [mailto:caliban at darklock.com]
> Sent: Wednesday, January 20, 1999 3:02 PM
> To: mud-dev at kanga.nu
> Subject: [MUD-Dev] Re: Levels versus Skills, who uses them and when. 

> Reposting...
> >-----Original Message-----
> >From: J C Lawrence <claw at under.engr.sgi.com>
> >To: mud-dev at kanga.nu <mud-dev at kanga.nu>
> >Date: Thursday, January 14, 1999 10:47 PM
> >Subject: [MUD-Dev] Re: Levels versus Skills, who uses them and when.
> >
> >>At the danger of treading into meta territory, considering MUD-Dev
> >>as a MUD, what of the same danger and problem with the more
> >>established (well known, reputations, etc) posters in MUD-Dev, or
> >>even of myself here?  There is a definate peerage (nod to Lambert)
> >>in the older posters in MUD-Dev.  I find it worrisome.  It also acts
> >>as a significant barrier to entry for new posters.
> >
> >I would think the *biggest* barrier is the need to ask 
> >permission to post.

Yet at the same time, this is what keeps the signal high... 

> >I would have been reluctant to do so, because many of the people here are
> >Names if you pay attention to the industry. (I feel reasonably unworthy
> >membership every time Dr. Cat posts.) When the list was invitation only,
> >got a nod from someone else first; someone would encourage you and say
> >it's okay, you'll fit in here, your ideas are good enough for us.

This is an excellent point. It had the feeling of being invited to join the
elite--actually, given how little publicized the list, a feeling of being
invited to join a secret society. Perhaps that minimized the gradual
realization that there was an elite within the elite. Which I think is
fairly apparent, though it took a while for me to realize that many
listmembers considered me to be in said group! (I was somewhat horrified,
albeit gratified, by your "goal of getting into Koster's Laws" remark, you

> >When you have to ask, it immediately puts the list in an exclusionary
> >you must petition the great and powerful Oz for the right to post. When
> >great and powerful Oz has people out roaming the world and inviting
> >"compatible" people in, then it's more of a community-building thing.

See now, this peerage, these deputy Ozzes... (Hey JCL, I didn't realize you
were so short, and that you liked green so much...!) it'd be worth analyzing
why they are peers in the first place. Posting volume (a very powerful
factor in this case, IMHO)? Insight? And if insight, insight judged by who?
Number of concepts/approaches/solutions/opinions that evolve into orthodoxy?
Number of times they get cited by others as knowing their shit? Number of
muds they have in the FAQ as "touchstones"?

Little things like saying, "I was trading offlist emails with soNso last
night &..." reinforce the sense of elite (particularly if the soNso is JCL).
Working for a commercial endeavor seems to. If I had to build a peerage
list, I'd pretty quickly dump in names like Chris Gray, Dr Cat, Nathan
Yospe, Jon Lambert, you, Marian Griffith, Ola--and more, but I will stop
now--and I imagine that anyone else building such a list would probably
arrive at a similar list. It's worth asking, how much of the nature of the
list is said people sitting in a room and a lot of people eavesdropping? And
is that the list we want it to be?

> >Can you imagine the agony you'd go through if you were a reasonably young
> >and inexperienced MUD developer with some new ideas who had to compose a
> >post "worthy" of this list?

No, when JCL invited me I was already arrogant and a know-it-all. :) I
suffered no agony. Then again--saying that I was invited (and thus date from
back then) is in itself a marker of elitedom, I bet. I bet that who invited
you is also probably such a marker.

> >People resist change, and familiarity breeds
> >contempt: so the ideas must be fresh enough to interest, yet not so
> >different that they become uncomfortably radical. I could spend weeks
> >composing mail like that.

More frightening: how many list members never post, because they feel that
they cannot compose a mail such as that? It also gets as the issue of what
the nature of the list is. If the list is a research institution (which it
is currently heavily biased towards) then that is fine. You want the
contributors to be those who actively advance or elucidate the state of the
art every time they open their mouth. The danger is that said state of the
art never materializes because we're all too busy talking about it to
actually make it happen. (I seem to recall one poster--was it John
Bertoglio?--who stopped posting last time I made a similar comment, with the
remark, "You're right, I am going to stop talking and start coding now.").
There is also the danger, in a research institution, of getting too far
divorced from reality, and ceasing to be relevant. And of course, there's
all the lovely academic politics that probably ensue, the ossification of
thought processes, the acceptance of assumed orthodoxies, etc.

On the other hand, much of the charm of the list is that it isn't a teaching
institution. I daresay many of the posters would be chased away by countless
inquiries on how to add ANSI color to their mud. (Then again, I bet that a
good thread could probably be generated from, "coolest way to add ANSI color
to a mud, with the most elegant implementation, and the slickest
interface-wise and usability-wise". Is it possible we're too snooty a
research institution to delve into that just because we see ANSI color as a
topic beneath us?)

The problem with NOT being a teaching institution is that the list is
devoted to advancing the state of the art. And it's not going to advance
unless the general caliber of endeavor improves as a result of the
discussions here. At some point, somebody has to turn around and say to the
general mud community, "Hey, you know what? We like, completely LICKED the
problem of <insert topic here--uh, say, proper database backends for muds>
and here's a detailed spec and what's more, you can use it in ANY mud
codebase, check it out!" or else the general mud community will continue to
develop at the current (slow) pace.

> >I don't really have a solution to this, because allowing everyone to read
> >this list is the Right Thing. Allowing everyone to post to it without
> >qualification is the Wrong Thing. 

And arriving at what "qualification" is moved from the hands of the extant
list membership to the hands of the single (highly esteemed) list moderator.
Thereby making a move to open the list to a wider readership actually
resulting in reinforcement of the sense of the elite. Delightfully
paradoxical. :)

> >We can still encourage others to join up,
> >but it's intimidating as hell when you first get here. I felt very much
> >of my depth. (Still do, a lot of the time.)

If it is any consolation, I have repeatedly heard from "peerage" people that
they feel the same way. I feel that way regularly (the database discussion
went miles over my head in many places). Then again, here's a separate
dilemma: the peerage right now also seems to be the most active posters. I'd
count YOU as one of said peers, in fact. So even this discussion about how
the peerage dominates the list via intimidation & posting volume is
happening only among the peerage. Maybe the rest of the list doesn't think
it's a problem at all. Lurkers, what do you think?

> >Perhaps the best thing to do is to encourage people reading the archives
> >to be afraid of the list. I think most of us were scared of it at some
> >point, but then we realised that everyone else is still sort of lost too.

One problem about reading the archives is that they seem to be a) infallible
b) totally comprehensive and c) easily traced back to the peerage. How many
times have we seen threads die with a "The answer to is in the archives at
this link: http://...."? Now, this is an illusion, because the archives are
not any of those things except (c), usually. Plenty of topics could easily
be taken in new directions, if the stone tablets of the archives weren't
presented as a definitive answer quite so readily.


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