Monday, March 4, 2013

400 - Bad Request

So, as I sit on my porch and yell at the goddamn bards to get off my lawn, in my usual cantankerous way, I find myself grinding my way through the TED talks and getting inspiration.  And as someone who has been writing a blog for a long time, I can tell you that the heart and soul of what will keep the thing running is a series.  I have the Civilization technology series.  I had the RPG cliche series (which I haven't added to in a long time).  I have the series where I elaborate on the How to DM post.  I have the series where I read whatever stupid thing Mike Mearls has said lately and comment on that.  One can never have too many series.

The latest comes from this talk, which I didn't think was clever enough to bother embedding.  Nor did I think the speaker realized the opportunity he himself created - as he went totally the wrong way with something he hit on.  He looked at the 4xx Error Codes for HTTP status and thought it was a checklist for a sex therapist.  And then he dropped that line of inquiry and went on to talk about emotional interactive crap.

Well, this isn't a sex blog, so ... no sex therapy.  But he's right that its a breakdown of communications that applies to more than computer programming.  Look at this list:

That just cries out for a series of posts, so let's start one.

The 400 Bad Request result is a request that cannot be fulfilled due to bad syntax.  The sentence just is not understood.  The words bad don't good equal english.

Half the time, writing this blog, talking about my world, making my various little points and so on, upon reading some of the comments I get I must assume that almost all of what I write must fit into the Bad Request category.  It just isn't getting through.  I use words like work, effort, try, struggle, difficult, broken, useless, impractical and stupid and these words simply don't sound like words someone would use to describe D&D.  D&D is great.  D&D is amazing.  D&D is fun!  D&D is the best thing that's ever been made ... ever!

How could that have anything to do with work?

I write a post that clearly details the problems of choice, including a 20-minute insert by one of the premier psychologists in America describing why choice is destroying happiness, and I receive a lengthy comment from a reader preponderating upon the learning curve of various fictional and non-fictional entities.  Clearly, 400 Bad Request.  Syntax not comprehended.

There's no question that much of this is because I tend to write very long posts.  These posts tend to be filled with metaphors, not to mention the occasional side alley that I roam down for a passage or two.  Each of these moments create, in the reader's mind, excuses for talking about things that are wildly off topic ... that is, off the point of anything I tried to say.  The more I talk, the longer I write, the more there is the opportunity for vaguely related material to creep into the so-called context of the subject matter.  As my father was fond of saying,

"Big whirls have little whirls that feed on their velocity,
and little whirls have lesser whirls and so on to viscosity."

Which is to say, while I am tackling a particular issue - say, the complete lack of comprehension regarding anything I might say - there spins off a dozen other subjects, which feeds other posts, which feed other comments, which ends in producing absolutely not a goddamn thing.  Status quo, all around.  Throw enough shit at something and it drowns.

Oh, I understand.  I've written a blog post that appears to have included in it a degree of thought.  And the anxiousness of others with thought processes to ADD to that thought is overwhelming.  "Mon dieu, a person has thought something on the internet!  I must use my brain to say more!"  And I am faced with walls of sometimes incomprehensible text which - on the whole - has added nothing.  But I let it through the gate because, well, at least it is close to a discussion on, say, bards.  It hasn't anything to do with what I said about bards, but I can't really say it isn't "on topic."  It sort of is.  And I know it is of interest to someone.  Clearly, there isn't enough written about bards.  I'm just not certain how the fact that - for instance, from a post I did not let past - bards were deeply involved in keeping history alive has jack shit to do with whether or not a bard would know something about a town, having just come through the gate.

People suggested bards might know something that an associate told them, people suggested bards might make friends in some manner related to performing, people talked about the social affability of bards and so forth.  And still, Bad Request.  Anyone performing any action might have someone come up and converse with me.  If I'm a rancher, and I birth a horse in front of you, I'm pretty damn sure you're going to feel a need to ask me a question.  The thing I have to wonder is, how exactly being a BARD makes you any better or any worse at knowing something about a thing from looking at it.  Cause all that shit about performing and impressing people and so on?  That sort of depends on the bard actually performing, which depends upon the bard's charisma, which is in fact the active element in whether or not people approach you and strike up a conversation.  If Angelina Jolie showed up at your local bar playing a guitar, the guitar would be a great excuse for talking to her.  But you know what?  I'm pretty sure if she just showed up, you'd think of another excuse.

The reason bards have a 15 charisma minimum is to make sure people like the way they are.

Still, I don't fault the reader.  It is too pervasive an issue to fault the reader.  There's too much opportunity for ME to be just way off the freaking mark.  I am so not honing the shit out of these posts.  This is a blog, this is my relaxed writing time, I'm not stressing the placement of every damn word.  I write 'that' instead of 'than' or 'it' instead of 'is' cause I'm writing this at 70 wpm and my fingers slip and type the wrong letter.  I get pissed and wax scatalogical for a paragraph, then drag my ass back to the subject matter for two sentences before turning to tell the freaking brats to get the fuck off the grass.

So it's me.  I'm the one writing the posts here.  I'm making the request.  I'm saying, here's some crap I just thought up.  What do you think?  And if I don't get back a clear, concise answer, that HAS to be my error.  I wasn't clear enough about the subject material of the post.  I didn't say in clear English, a bard walking into a strange town don't know shit.  I'm making too many assumptions.  I'm thinking that because I wrote a post about thieves knowing stuff from observation, and assassins knowing stuff from observation, people would just think I was writing a post about what bards would know from observation.  Completely stupid of me.  Right out to fucking lunch.  Bad Request.

I'll try to do better next time.


Anonymous said...

I hope you tagged your Mike Mearls rebuttals, because I'd love to go read them if you made a series of that!

I wrote a piece of "brief fiction" (mostly just a writing exercise -- part of my blog's existence is to assist me in "finding my fantasy-fiction narrative voice") about the Assassins in my world based on my reading of your posts on the Rogue Trinity (Thief-Assassin-Bard). So, there's something!

Arduin said...

I'd tentatively put out the notion that the bard post caused it's kerfuffle because it talked a lot about what a bard was not, and mentioned comparatively little about what a bard was.

This was taken, I'd imagine, as an invitation to supply just what a bard might be, with the framing device of how shitty artists are at managing responsibility.

I still quite like the post as a member of the guilty here; just hoping to posit a reasonable theory how the least-loved class got such a long comment string of gush.

YagamiFire said...

Part of the issue is that when you hope to provoke thought, the thoughts may meander as much or more than the initial post itself. So if you wander in the post, the responses will wander even farther afield.

As for people flocking to a bard...ugh. Don't like it at all. It makes the character class WAY too passive where they become a sounding board for NPCs. Yuck.

Alexis Smolensk said...

At no time and in no way was the last post ever supposed to be a description of what a bard "is." I wrote that post already. It can be read here.

Keith S said...

Alexis, when you say readers miss the point, or wander off topic in their responses, I wonder if it might not be natural for them to do so.

Conversation is a two way street. Your posts provoke thoughts which lead to responses. Not all will be framed within the logical bounds of the original post.

Ozzie Pippenger said...

I thought the bard conversation was very interesting. It prompted Yagami to share some thoughts and historical knowledge about bards, and even start a blog for his response, which looks like it could be really good if he keeps it up.

Scarbrow's comment about learning curves was really good, I thought. Now, I understand your position was that character creation choice in general is bad and should be kept to a minimum, but I don't think it hurts to look at it in a more nuanced way. The problem isn't purely, I think, that choice is always bad. Specifically to tabletop games, asking players to make a lot of complicated, long term decisions and stick with them severely impacts the quality of the game. If there is more pressure to spread out and get a lot of skills rather than focus on a few, the system might be more fun.

I should really stop talking about an unrelated post from a week ago. I'm kind of proving your point. What I'm trying to say here is that a lot of interesting stuff pops up in tangential comment conversations, even if it isn't closely related to your central point. I don't want it to disappear.

Dave said...

"I may make you feel, but I can't make you think." Except you can... and you do. But we bring our own minds to the table when we read your words, and other associations are made, thus sending us off-topic!

Some of MY favorite bards sang a traditional song with this line:
"Well little bugs have littler bugs
Up on their backs to bite 'em
And the littler bugs have still littler bugs
And so ad infinitum!"

Whirls to bugs. Connections unexpected. Whether I agree with you or not, I always enjoy the journey!

Scarbrow said...

Hey, look, I (partially) helped Alexis start a new series! I'm honored (and I say this without the slightest bit of sarcasm)

Short answer, Alexis: You're completely right. I went far off topic.

Long answer: I wasn't, in fact, commenting on the post, but on one of the comments. If I may stress, they are labeled as comments. Which is clearly different from "Answers", "Rebuttals" or even "Discuss the point of the post". They're a disjointed, asynchronous conversation, among whatever happened to stumble onto the post and read it in full. I think that is a positive aspect, but as always, you can cull some comments if they stray too far. We all agree to that when we write/post this. You give us ample forewarning about it.

I'll try to stick closer to the topic of the post in the future. But sometimes it's so hard to do it when your comments section gets those oh-so-well-thought-I-completely-agree contributions...

Alexis Smolensk said...

My comments thread gets the smart answers because I am a stern taskmaster, Scarbrow.

If I may not speak specifically of you, we are well aware of the propensity of commenters on the internet who take advantage of an audience to jump on and cry, "look at me, look at me!" This is hijacking, and I look at it as something as unpleasant as trolling. I encourage people to take said distantly related comments here and apply them to their own blogs, where those bloggers are responsible for creating their own audiences. If you jump up on the stage here, it's going to be taken as inappropriate if you do so and ignore the presenter at the same time.

Comment. A remark expressing an opinion or reaction; a written note intended as an explanation, illustration or criticism of a passage in a book or other writing; an annotation.

Sounds like it ought to be on topic to me.