[MUD-Dev] RP, MMORPGs, and their Evolution

J C Lawrence claw at kanga.nu
Fri May 23 12:13:28 New Zealand Standard Time 2003

On Fri, 23 May 2003 09:59:55 -0400 
Paul Schwanz <pschwanz at comcast.net> wrote:

> For some reason, large, well-written posts that make sense often get
> few responses on this list.  For some reason, it seems that strong
> disagreement is the biggest motivator in spawning the larger
> threads. Go figure.

This message explicitly NOT written as the list owner.

This is really a meta-thread, and thus should be on Meta, but as its
been raised several times I'll comment hear briefly (please see the Meta
and MUD-Dev archives for other commentary) and further discussion.

Email users are effectively trained to not send simple acknowledgment
messages, ala, "Me too," "I agree," and similar.  They are most
especially trained to not do this in lists like this one, which munge
Reply-To: (which I wish this list didn't).

People tend to respond most vociferously in one of three modes:
  a) disagreement -- "No, you're wrong, its like this!"

  b) extension -- "Yeah, but that would mean X, which would mean Y, and
  then Z!"

  c) explanation -- "What you're saying is XYZ right?"

As a result compleat posts, posts which phrase a compleat thought, which
explore, describe, and inspect their topic area thoroughly tend to be
thread killers.  People don't actually have that much to say in response
because of its very compleatness.  They don't disagree, the post covered
all the obvious/interesting implications, and they don't misunderstand.
As such they are followed by a silent echo of "Yes!" posts which are
never actually sent.  

Or, to turn this around, the posts which are great thread founders and
encouragers can be characterised as fragmentary, partially thought out
and incompleatly stated.  (ObNote: troll messages share the same
qualities, suggesting that the difference is one of degree) As
professionals and intelligent disciplined individuals we would like to
think that we want well thought out, insightful, compleat posts which
express large unified pieces of thought and establish and define new
beachheads in the field, and that discussion can be forwarded by a
steady progression of such works.

Sadly, IRL it seems people aren't actually like that.  What gets
discussed is the fragments, the almosts, the is-it-really-like-thises,
the I-haven't-quite-figured-this-outs, the bucking of conventional
wisdom and trend -- the messages that can be and are attractively
responded to in disagreement, extension and explanation -- that's what
gets talked about.

> Incidentally, lest I offend those sticklers for a high signal to noise
> ratio, I'd like to point out that a post prompting general nods
> accross the list is a pretty strong signal that the current format
> seems incapable of capturing unless we occasionally respond
> individually with written nods to those things with which we agree.

Only the following paragraph written as list owner:

  As list owner I would have no problem with messages which simply
  expressed agreement with prior posts, and have approved many such
  messages over the years.  My only caveat is that an excess of such
  messages becomes noise, and in itself becomes a norming
  join-the-sheep-herd factor which is something I expressly want to

J C Lawrence                
---------(*)                Satan, oscillate my metallic sonatas. 
claw at kanga.nu               He lived as a devil, eh?		  
http://www.kanga.nu/~claw/  Evil is a name of a foeman, as I live.

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