Thursday, October 30, 2014

Why Wasn't I Consulted?

Yesterday, I came across this article - admittedly late to the party, as it was published in January 2011 (why didn't people tell me?).  I rarely applaud articles.  This one was deserving.

Ford explains that people approach the internet with a question, that question being, "Why wasn't I consulted?"  I don't think the internet answers the question, but the response of the user contains the sentiment that the internet ought to answer it.  Ford writes,

"'Why wasn't I consulted,' which I abbreviate as WWIC, is the fundamental question of the web.  It is the rule from which all other rules are derived.  Humans have a fundamental need to be consulted, engaged, to exercise their knowledge (and thus power), and no other medium that came before has been able to tap into that effectively."

Ford then goes on to discuss the pattern of flame wars, anger and knee-jerk reactions.  I confess I relate strongly to that.  Much of the criticism of this blog, for example, tends to reflect Ford's premise:

  • "How dare you assign hit points to orcs without first consulting us?"
  • "How dare you have an opinion about a given module without first consulting us?"
  • "How dare you moderate your comments without first consulting us?"

And so on.

Ford then makes the cogent argument that if you want to be popular on the net, then you ought to set up some sort of system that enables people to consult.  Which, I suppose, makes a lot of sense.  By consulting (or appearing to have the power to do so), web visitors will feel engages and encouraged to continue in their engagement - thus they will return again and again.  By moderating the comments on this blog, I remove that power from many potential participants in the discussion - by disenfranchising them, I reduce the popularity of this blog.


Let me talk about consultation for a moment.

Beginning in the 1980s, there grew a strong desire on the part of business to better understand how to encourage their employees to work harder and more consistently, to call in fake sick less often, to remain loyal and to stop stealing from the company.  Much was learned.  A central discovery, however, was that if you - the employer - directly asked your employees what they felt the company should do or how the company should manage their affairs, the employees on the whole would feel much more of all the things you would want them to feel.

Understand, however - the studies done demonstrated that it wasn't necessary to actually DO any of the things your employees suggested.  In fact, there was no substantial gain to be obtained by following through.  The most important thing was to ASK.  Having asked, you had already accomplished your goal: employees being more engaged.

This is why you - the employee - are constantly asked in your job to give your opinion on things that you don't care about - and why you're frustrated at your time is being wasted when you know damn well that corporate does not give a shit about you.  It is because the other people you work with are much, much dumber than you.  They think the company really does care.  If they didn't care, why would they ask?

Because of these studies, because human beings are so incomprehensibly naive and stupid, the corporate culture as been suffused with ungawdly loads of insincere crap that pours like a thick honey over everyone's thinking.  Corporations have run with these ideas because they work.  Other companies have proliferated whose sole purpose is to teach corporations how to implement such ideas, being paid huge amounts of money - and these 'consultants' sustain their profits because people really are moronically willing to accept the premise: "People asked my opinion.  People must like me."

Ford's article is much of the same.  He really isn't saying that people should be consulted - he is saying that people should seem to be consulted, because that will drive traffic.

I must confess.  I like to hear intelligent opinions from intelligent people.  I like it because it is encourages me to change.  I found myself rethinking - and on two occasions, researching - my sage tables point system on account of the opinions people had.

I encourage consultation because I want an alternate perspective.  Not because I care about this blog's traffic.

Much of the time, I feel that the sort of consultation people are prepared to give is not very helpful. Consider, for example, my wiki.

Virtually everything that has been added to the wiki has come about from consideration, consultation and experimentation.  There may be a few things there that I'm putting up because I am proposing a rule where no rule previously existed.  Even there, that rule includes my experience with other rules that I feel never did work.

Would I appreciate consultation on the wiki?  On some level, yes.  I'd love to have someone who tested the links and remarked upon some of the confusing language, when clearly I haven't fully processed my thinking.  I'd love someone who could go in an correct spelling errors without needing to ask me first, or fix typos and other grammatical errors.

But do I want someone to come in and propose a different system for weapons' damage?  No, not really.  This, however, is what I could count upon.

Yesterday, JB - a regular reader - wrote a post about the skill set offered by the old Empire of the Petal Throne.  In the article he mentions a few of the skills, but obviously he doesn't want to just reprint a skill set from a published game.  That's quite reasonable.  It's not a bad post.  Where my interest lies, however, is in the first comment, where DungeonMastahWieg writes, ". . . makes me want to come up with a list of basic skills."

Now, I would rush in there and 'consult' by pointing out that I have skill set lists and even a character generator that Wieg should look at - only, in following the link, I discover that Wieg runs the blog, Save vs. Poison.  A blog that has been in existence since 2009.  When Wieg's name used to be Ryan.

Ryan, who entered my online campaign as Kazimir, also back in 2009.  When he rolled up a character using my basic skills system.

Now, let me make myself clear.  Wieg/Ryan wasn't that fond of my online campaign, he didn't have time for it and as far as I know, we parted without any hard feelings.  Nor am I in anyway upset that he was interested by the EPT's skill system as described by JB and not the one I actually used to create his character, which I posted in 2008.  That's perfectly fine.  I'm quite sure that Wieg/Ryan doesn't remember that post.  It's all good.

My larger point is that Wieg/Ryan's comment on JB's post is extraordinarily typical of the sort of interplay and 'consultation' going on back and forth between blogs on the internet.  Even though Save vs. Poison has been around for five or six years, the response was made as though the idea of a secondary skill system had never remotely occurred to Wieg/Ryan.  As though, in some way, this is new!  The same can be said of JB's post, which really is nothing more than a mild rehash of a few things printed what, 36 years ago?

While I am perfectly fine sharing the webspace with other bloggers, the more the merrier and all that, where it comes to 'consultation' on what I'm doing or what I'm designing, I must argue that the idea is patently ridiculous.  I'm very sorry.  Most of you are busy proposing rules invented three decades ago, while I've spent this time working.

Has this made me popular?  Of course not.  Will this post help?  Oh, it might send waves among the unctuous gossip bitches of the online blogger community, but that won't mean much.  They'll just spend a lot of time demanding to know why they weren't consulted before I wrote this post.

I would love some help, some REAL help, from people who have consciously tried to educate themselves as to why parts of the game don't work.  Now and then, it's good to hear from someone who, like Jhandar recently, will propose a solution to a problem that is already hopelessly dead in the water, because then I get to write a post about why Munchkins exist and how that works.  I crave, however, the more thoughtful insight provided by Jhandar and others when they really dig into the game's structure.

Nevermind why it doesn't work.  How are we going to make it work?  That's the bigger issue.  I'm quite tired of the 'why doesn't it work' discussions.  I've had many of them for quite some time.  I suppose I'm ready to move on now.

Sorry I didn't consult anyone about that.


Mujadaddy said...

"unctuous gossip bitches"

I'm seeing a 4HD creature which summons the rest of its tribe with ear-piercing shrieks... Save vs. Wands to not-give-a-damn.

JB said...

I wouldn't say you're reducing the popularity of your blog by removing participants from the discussion. I think one of the main points of Ford's article is that "intense moderation" can lead to a site's success, because what's being provided (with an open forum site) is a customer service experience, and moderation provides a better experience. You're keeping an elevated discourse, which attracts the "clients" who (hopefully) are going to better appreciate your work and writing.

Like you, I enjoy hearing intelligent opinions from folks. Not only can it point out flaws in my own design (or give me additional ideas), it can act as a "sounding board" to see if I'm even making sense...if I'm clearly expressing myself in my blog, getting my point across.

But I can get those benefit from the "non-intelligent" comments, too. Consequently, I don't worry too much about "moderating" except to delete spam.
: )