Monday, February 27, 2017

Comments

"You cannot make change someone who doesn't want to change."

Familiar words.  Words that would seem to imply that change is difficult to obtain, that we should surrender the effort and recognize that it is up to ourselves to change.  We must leave others to change themselves.

My contention with this is that most everyone I've met in my life wants to change.  Most everyone is unhappy with their choices, most everyone would like to make different choices.  They just don't know how.

This doesn't mean they'll listen to me, or the reader, or any specific person.  It does mean that the option is there, that is it possible, even likely, that with the right message, the right set of plans, the right delivery, that we can not only make one person change, we can make hundreds, thousands, even millions of people change.  We have evidence of others who have done exactly that.

This is a very alluring prospect.  As such, there are many who aspire to it.

I have also found in my experience that most of those who do not want to change, ever, are precisely the same people who greatly aspire to change others.  Some of this is so that they can tailor their universe to themselves, some of this is because they are terrifically deluded into believing they really have all the right answers and that it is their duty to show others.  Mostly, however, it is because these people lack self-awareness.

Self-awareness is the ability to look at oneself from a perspective outside one self.  When I write, it is not enough to write what pleases me.  I must look at every word from the perspective of someone who is reading this, who is made interested by it or incensed by it.  I have to make decisions about what sort of reaction I want.  I must couch my phrases and words with the awareness that I am speaking to persons other than myself, who have experiences I do not have, who are knowledgeable about things I do not know, who have the power and the will to stand up and correct me.

If I don't want to spend all my time being corrected, I have to BE correct.  I don't mean I have to sound correct or delude myself into believing that I am correct.  I mean that I need to speak in terms that ring true.  I may speak opinion, but it must be an opinion that others are prepared to adopt.  This is a difficult thing.  It is an impossible thing for anyone who are, themselves, unable to change.

Such persons cannot comprehend the adoption of someone else's principles, of someone else's beliefs.  They must have, once, but those days are past.  They are far too immersed in their present world view . . . and being immersed, they must challenge everything that threatens to compromise that world view.

Now, this certainly sounds like me.  Very often, I seem to lash out at those who appear to disagree with me, or who present a point that is at odds to statements I defend.  And I am often accused of immobility, of "always having to be right," of browbeating others when they dare to raise a voice against me.

Except that I don't.  I am disagreed with all the time and I welcome it.  Often, as some will defend, I change my point of view completely, often on a dime.  Often, I embrace the Greek practice of debate, as I feel that Western civilization is founded upon the principal of attack and defend, until the truth is known.  It does not matter if this goes on for eternity; where opinion is the only evidence for a thing (and it often is), then the dialectic is the only weapon we have in which to acquire knowledge.

More precisely, I find myself angered by insignificance.  Pedantry.  Personal bias.  The need to pick apart semantics or to fail to look past a single word to see the whole picture.  The assumption that a first impression is ever accurate.  Or that it needs commenting upon.

I identify this habit with trolls.

Lately, I have been fooling with moderating comments.  I took off the moderation about two months ago, without fanfare.  Last week, having acquired a troll, I said I was returning to it.  In fact, I never put it in place.  I wanted to see what would happen.

I do not want to put the moderation back in place.  This leaves me with two options:

One

I can delete troll posts as I have for the last five years; but it means that you, the gentle reader, will see me doing it.  And some of you will disagree with my decisions.  This will mean that I am subject to your criticism for it, as I have no intention to ask anyone to "trust me."  The dialectic must apply here, too.

Two

I can let the troll posts stand.  I truly do not like this option.  Trolls prefer to derail conversations into their own bias, meaning that the value of the comments sections of my posts will ultimately prove valueless to the reader.  As well, it will discourage many readers from answering, if they feel they are subject to the abuse of others.  It is hard enough for readers to overcome their fear of my abuse.

As well, it is the broken window problem.  One troll is annoying, but it encourages others trolls to believe that they are welcome.  As such, they proliferate.  I have had no serious trolls on this blog in years.  Eventually, knowing they would not be allowed to speak, they stopped trying.  They just went away.

Therefore, I intend to continue to delete any comment that I think derails, compromises or resists a post's theme due to purely personal bias.

Commenting on my removal is acceptable (though keep in mind the comment that is commented upon will not be there to see) so long as it, too, does not seek to derail the comments section away from the post.

If I post about monks, I expect the comments section to be about monks.  I expect the reader to expect that; in fact, I feel the reader wants to expect it, as they've enjoyed the post and now they'd like a little bit more.  So let's keep the comments on topic.  Let's keep them relevant.  Let's be scholars and not trolls.

11 comments:

Scott Stringer said...

Alexis, you are too quick to jump down peoples throats. You are acerbic and curt far too often. People have feelings y'know?

I too have received the sharp edge of your keyboard. It's an unpleasant experience. One I don't wish to repeat. I felt at the time your reaction was unnecessarily blunt. I feel the same about this latest incident.

Ant Wu composed a comment to add to the discussion. You shot him/her down in flames. That wasn't necessary, or nice.

If you don't want to hear what the person posting has to say, just say so: "Irrelevant" or "Not adding this this discussion" would suffice. Threatening banning for simply taking part is over the top.


Alexis Smolensk said...

Yes, you have felt that edge. And I am acerbic and I am curt. And people have feelings.

Why do you still read my blog, Scott?

His comment added nothing to the discussion. It derailed it.

When you and I went around, Scott, you were a regular commenter on Your Dungeon Is Suck. Remember? You ran with trolls, you found trolls funny, and then you came here and made several trollish remarks. Was Your Dungeon Is Suck concerned with the feelings of people?

In any case, I return to the Broken windows theory. And I send you to this link to emphasize my take on it.

Scott Stringer said...

You have mistaken me for someone else Alexis. I don't frequent other blogs. I'm certainly not the person you are refering to when you write "You ran with trolls, you found trolls funny, and then you came here and made several trollish remarks."

I Googled "Your Dungeon Is Suck" because I've not heard of it. I can say, with my hand on my heart, that I have never seen it before, or visited it. Ever.

I'll finish with this (because you asked):

I came here to read what you have written because I value what you have to say. You're a large voice in the DnD world and I enjoy reading your blog. You're inventive, thoughtful and a great writer and pretty cool DM.

Alexis Smolensk said...

Then you have my sincerest apologies for that mistake. I am certain it was a Scott S. He was a fellow I fell out with many a time, but we ended up as friends online, sorting out our past and speaking often for about a year.

I can't remember, then, when YOU and I had issues. I have no idea when I gave you the sharp edge of my blog, as you put it. I don't doubt that I did it. I'm like that. I've never pretended not to be like that.

I trust that you understand that I have feelings also; and that none of that matters where it comes to this place and this discussion. If you and I were across a table from each other, playing, you would find that I cared about your feelings a great deal, that I'd want you to feel comfortable and encouraged to express yourself.

But this is a blog. I can't really threaten anyone ~ not really. I can't make anyone play in a particular way or have a particular philosophy. But I can keep that philosophy out of this space. When I hear a whiff of that philosophy, I jump and jump hard.

I know that can hurt ~ but it is really just a splash of cold water. It is a reminder that I really believe what I'm saying. I'm not just making a blog. I'm trying to change the game the way I think it should be changed.

Ozymandias said...

When I read the earlier comment, I thought, "Dude, get your head out of your ass." It's painfully clear that a semantucs discussion/argument added nothing to the topic at hand. Personally, I wouldn't respond as harshly, but I don't have a decade-old blog with a history of fielding trollish commentary.

Part of me can't help but wonder: how do you draw the line? How do you make the distinction? In the comment in question, it's clear the commenter was derailing the conversation. But what about those instances where it's less clear?

Of course, as a long-time reader, I know you've addressed this issue to your readers before. I'll have to take a look through the archives to see if I can find it...

Alexis Smolensk said...

Ozymandias,

In this case, it wasn't clear at all, not for months. His first comment, back around Oct-Nov, just seemed naive. Then there was a little debacle where I and a few others had a go-around with him on a point around my game agenda as it applied to DMing and the online campaign. That sprawled on for a week before he suddenly seemed to "get it," making apologies.

So I thought, okay, fine, probably a young kid. He won't make assumptions in the future and everything will be fine.

Then, nothing for a long time. Next I heard from him, it's some completely out of left field question. I decided to ignore it, because I'm gaining a history with this guy. But this is followed by other very suspicious comments that seem to be trying to get my goat.

I had another go-around with him, I did not let it go on long. I had to delete a few of his posts; he asked why, I pointed to the four rules, he let it drop.

Then, last week, I wrote the post about jogging my elbow and he writes, "What sort of questions are okay to ask?"

That's a total troll question. No way to miss it. It's the sort of question that expects a four hundred word answer, which of course is then totally misunderstood, leading to another four hundred word answer while the troll enjoys all the work I'm doing. I've been down this road before.

So I deleted his comment. And the next one, and the next one. Then I left one up three days ago which was benign. And then yesterday, he starts crying victim. And that's where we are.

Thing is, I've seen this pattern over and over in 8 years. There's something about the way the troll asks their first questions ~ specifically, the words they use.

For example, you asked, "How do you draw the line?" And then followed it up with clarifications, working to explain what you expected in an answer.

A troll will ask, "How am I to know where the line is?" And then no clarifications. The tone is different. It refers specifically to the troll himself, as though the issue is how he, specifically, is to know what he is allowed to do. It is the question of someone testing boundaries, not the question of someone looking for advice.

Alexis Smolensk said...

Someone in the military recognizes at once when they've got a Joker ~ Full Metal Jacket ~ in their company. It's the way they address things, how they stand and move, the various little signifiers that have been gathered from a lifetime of disregarding authority. It can't really be hidden. Sooner or later, they're going to return to type and show themselves for what they really are.

With the comments moderation on, I was cleaning these fellows up fairly steadily for the first year. Then, hardly anything. Every four to six months, one guy would turn up, make a pain of himself for a month or so, until I was SURE, and then I'd just clean it all up. No muss.

Deciding not to use the moderation is more tricky. Now the reader sees what I'm doing. I have a motivation to be more careful, to give more rope ~ but that really plays into the troll's hands, because the more air you give them, the more pollutant they breathe into it.

Virtually every artist I meet or share notes with has found themselves having to manage trolls (or haters, which is more the common term). It is a common topic at the comic cons I've worked. Most of the people who have risen to internet fame (CGP Grey, Kurzgesagt, that approximate level) have had to impose some restriction on the communication they receive, because although the trolls are nowhere near as abundant as ordinary people, they are tremendously toxic and they cast a big shadow. Like those people who feel it is important to them to throw rocks into windows, they cause tremendous damage because there is so little chance of a negative consequence.

It means that on some level, anyone wishing to develop a good space on the internet has to do it on the bodies of potentially innocent people. This is made worse as trolls are the first to claim innocence. Actual innocent people usually just get mad and sign off, swearing they'll never go back to that page again. Trolls will always argue, however, as they try to justify their right to co-opt someone else's space.

With 20 years of mainstream internet behind us, we have all had to deal with trolls now. Any rational, decent person is well aware of what bad behaviour on the internet is. Rational, decent people take pains to avoid giving the impression that they are like this in any way.

That is why I say that if it sounds like a troll and responds like a troll, it is a troll. It just isn't possible for a good, decent, rational person to be unaware of sounding like this. Not after 20 years.

Scott Stringer said...

"Then you have my sincerest apologies for that mistake."

Thank you Alexis. Accepted.

"I am certain it was a Scott S"

We are legion, but not all the same :)

"I have no idea when I gave you the sharp edge of my blog,"

http://tao-dnd.blogspot.co.nz/2016/12/lurkers-corner-tpks.html

It looks benign in retrospect, but I was stung into silence for a while. As you have said - a splash of cold water. I'll live.

Alexis Smolensk said...

I remember now. Well, it was just a disagreement. Personalities should not have entered into it.

Joey Bennett said...

I would like to make two points

1) In reading through the blog, I feel I have gained more insight when I have been able to see what comments are derailing/insignificant followed by you stating such and allowing no more discussion on the topic. Insults, whining, and contradiction (as opposed to thoughtful, substantive argument) however, add no value.

2) If my comments on "Monks Can Be Evil" derailed the conversation you wished to be having, I apologise. My intent was to discuss what I felt was the larger topic of character codes vs. player choice. I fully support your right and responsibility to keep conversation on topic and would have no objection to you deleting my post if you do not feel it added value.

Alexis Smolensk said...

Joey,

I didn't feel that you had derailed the conversation at all.