Monday, February 20, 2017

Don't Jog My Elbow

I think those who read this blog three years ago can agree that, on the whole, I've been a much kinder, more patient person than I used to be.  I've tried to resist the sort of ranting posts I used to write, I've gotten much better in handling trolls and I haven't had a flame war on this blog in a long, long time.

I do have my triggers, however.  We all do.  One of mine is what I'll call the new reader assumption, or NRA.  (what, that's an acronym for something else?)

The blog wants new readers, no doubt.  New readers are the bread and butter of every writer.  And it is a necessity that new readers should be welcomed, encouraged and coddled . . . as it is certain that most new readers will not have read the back-log before jumping in to comment.  All the worse when that backlog is really, really long.  A long back-log is bound to increase NRA.

It is even harder with my blog, as I tend to refer to myself with reckless abandon.  I try, rather lazily, to link to a concept I've introduced on another post, but I fail for the most part because it doesn't occur to me that the reader doesn't know exactly what I'm talking about.  That can be off-putting.

Still, every now and then an NRA pops up and I . . . well, I have to clamp down on my first response.

Let me explain what an NRA is.

It is a visitor to the Sistine Chapel having a look around while Michaelangelo is part way through and muttering, "You know what would be great here?  Something about God giving life to Man.  I bet you could get great ideas about that from my cousin Guiseppe."

It is a theatre manager looking over the first three pages of Shakespeare's as yet untitled Romeo and Juliet and saying, "Wow, this is great stuff ~ I can't wait for when Romeo gets it on with Bianca.  What a great set up you've written here!"

It is an architect showing up at the offices of Washington Roebling seven months into the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge to explain how important it is that the bridge be built four blocks to the north.  It HAS to be.

It is a kid showing up for his first day at work and taking it upon himself to spontaneously reorganize the store room, to make it better.

It is a reader who thinks they have the problems of my world solved because once they played a trade-based game in the 1980s.

It is giving an opinion without asking questions.  It is formulating without investigating.  It is a kind of arrogance, one that supposes that now that I am here, everything will be easy.

I struggle with this.  When I started on the internet, I used to do this.  Let's face it, the internet encourages this sort of behavior.  I'm glad that I've left it behind.  It is a terrible habit to fall into, particularly as it is almost impossible to correct from the designer's point of view.

Robert Heinlein had a great phrase for this.  It's the title of this post.  Sometimes, it's all we can say without screaming the fellow out of our presence.

They mean well, after all.


Tim said...

The tragic irony is that, in a few months' time, this post will also become part of the many caverns and tunnels (not to say that your writing is dim, but that it is extensive and requires exploration) that the new reader will assume do not exist.
I've spent a fair bit of time exploring the tags in your sidebar, being a relatively new reader myself, to catch up on interesting ideas or find an old post I had missed (now I bookmark the gold). But perhaps, to simplify the coddling process, you could put another menu on the sidebar with a list of your posts that you feel new readers should see first. The popular posts menu obviously helps in this regard; this could be an "editor's choice" version of that. Maybe it would be an opportunity to reexamine some old thinking too?

I'd be happy to comment here with a list of some of my personal favourites too.

Keith S said...

I suppose it's the nature of the internet that people drop in and comment. I think it's also OK to ignore them when their comments miss the bigger picture, or don't accurately assess the post. If they're interested in the content, they'll come back. I've gotten into comment spats with you before. I've not been coddled. I don't always agree with you, but you write well, and thoughtfully. That's what creates regular readers. What keeps me coming back is wanting to be a better game master and figuring your blog is a good source to learn new perspectives and techniques.

Alexis Smolensk said...

Well, I know I have to see it that way, Keith. Doesn't change the emotional response that I feel.

Joey Bennett said...

I guess I don't understand the mentality that drives this behavior. Just this last week I finally finished reading through the entire backlog of posts on this site, as well as campaigns Senex and Juvenis. When I first found this site last year I was excited to discover someone else who is interested in playing a deeper game. I couldn't stand the thought of not reading everything written here, and have been lurking ever since while trying to catch up. This is now the site I direct people to when I am trying to explain the type of campaign I am interested in. Thank you for all of your profound work.

Alexis Smolensk said...

Thank you Joey,

But as it happens, many don't have the time or the inclination. You're a rare fellow. Moreover, there is a tendency to think that a "game world" is a done deal ~ at least, it seems to be for most people. While they can imagine things being created to better those worlds, they can't imagine that they've just walked into the middle of the process.

They always assume they're at the beginning of the process and that no meaningful work has been done yet. This is a description of their own situation. They are never themselves at a point where they've committed to a work that will take years, so they presume no one else can be, either.

It takes a lot of resolve to decide you're going to sit down and read this much. You must have some memories of my stuff that I've forgotten. Sorry about those early, angry years. I was channeling 30 years of being on the fringe.

Alexis Smolensk said...

Ant Wu,

If I get the tiniest, infinitesimal whiff of an insult, either to me or anyone else, then you're gone.

You're not welcome. And that has been explained to you already. You know that perfectly well.

Archon said...

I agree with Joey I think - I read it all. I have a bit of trouble with that, actually. When it comes to larger communities, with a few thousand people, I have trouble participating, for fear of causing such troubles. But I suppose fewer people have that issue, and when they do, it is far less noisy and disruptive. You don't notice the guy who never enters the building for fear of jogging you elbow.

Alexis Smolensk said...

I respect that Archon,

Truth be told, working in a public space can be made enjoyable by those who pass and wish a good morning or express a positive, curious interest in what's happening. I've worked in those environments, and someone can come up and ask, "Oh, that looks like wonderful ham. Is this going to be a regular thing on Sundays?" while I'm standing there with a knife and fork in hand. This isn't noisy or disruptive at all ~ in fact, it can be an opportunity for a jolly conversation. ~"Sadly, just today, it's our 25th anniversary." ~"Oh, that's wonderful. I better take two pieces, then. You don't mind if I take advantage of you, do you?" ~"Please, steal away." And so on.

It's the onlooker that feels the need to say, "I feel that you're cutting the pieces too thick" or "that light over the ham is too warm" or some other fool thing. It is the naive critic, who doesn't understand that I've been told to cut the ham to a certain thickness or that this is the only light we have for this job, and that none of it is up to the cook with the knife ~ that's the kicker. And the world is full of these people, people who think they know best when in fact they are completely and utterly uninformed. It's a form of terrible negativity and there's nothing jolly about it at all.