Posts Tagged ‘Administrata’

Well, that was interesting

Monday, October 2nd, 2006

Last month I did a little experiment.  I posted shorter articles more frequently instead of large articles twice a week.  It was an interesting experience, and I think I’ve identified some of the changed dynamics that result from doing it this way.

First, it does make me more nimble (which I was hoping it would).  I am able to respond more quickly to comments by putting together entirely new posts.  This is definitely a good thing for discussion purposes.

Second, it has lowered the barrier to entry for commenting.  With each post having one or two points, it’s easier for people to read and comment specifically.  This is definitely a good thing since it will (hopefully) allow more people to participate in discussisons.  The downside is that I can’t really get detailed academic-style feedback on long pieces, but the truth is that I wasn’t getting that anyway, so there’s no real loss.

Third, it’s harder to reference.  Since I no longer have a single post dedicated to a single idea, it is difficult to point to a single link and say ‘read this and you’ll be on the same page’.  There might be as many as four or five (admittedly short) posts that are necessary to read if you want to get the full idea.  This would be good if I wanted to make it hard for people who don’t read me regularly to get involved, but since that sounds like a terrible idea, it’s a bad thing.

These three things leave me in a somewhat odd position.  I’m really liking one and two quite a bit, but that third one’s a big problem.  It may be that people can just drop into things mid-stream and just sort of figure out what’s going on, but I’m a bit hesitant to make in nearly impossible to easily reference old discussions.

So, I’m opening the question up to you, my readers.  If you read this blog, even if you’ve never commented on it and even if you don’t really find it interesting, I want to hear from you.  This little experiment: was it better this way?  Worse?  How would you tweak things to make them even better?  Feel free to comment here, or to toss me an email.

Changing things up

Monday, September 4th, 2006

I’ve decided to spend this month trying something different with the blog.  There are a number of reasons behind this, but a lot of the impetus for actually doing this came out of a discussion I had with Mo Turkington back in July.

So, for the rest of the month I’m going to try an experiment.  If it works as well as I hope, it will likely result in a permanent format change.  What I’ll be doing is posting about a different topic each week (or two).  Every day I’ll write 150 to 300 words on that topic.  Each post will be short and focused.

There are a number of reasons for this:

  1. I’m finding that it’s much easier to digest things in more, smaller chunks than in large posts.
  2. I’m hoping that this will produce more discussion.  Rather than picking out a point or two from a large post, each post will be small enough that it only has a single point.  That way people can talk about very specific things.
  3. It also provides more separate threads of discussion.  With more separate posts, there are more places to talk about things.
  4. It makes me more nimble.  I can address a question about a topic more quickly.  As it stands I usually don’t come back to a topic that needs clarification for months.  This way, I’m hoping that if a question is posed on Tuesday, I can address it on Wednesday or Thursday.

So, that’s the plan.  Feel free to chime in here with support or opposition.  I’m curious to hear what you think.  Of course, you’re welcome to wait a few weeks before commenting, if you want to see this thing in action.


Wrapping up immersion month

Monday, July 31st, 2006

Well, it’s been a wild ride. And whether anyone else found it fruitful or not, I know that I did.

That said, I do believe it’s a good thing that I set a one-month schedule up front. There are a lot of things I think need more discussion. I think that a lot of the discussions I got started in this month have barely gotten through the ‘getting on the same page’ stage and into the serious development stage.

Still, I definitely want to thank everyone who chimed in this month. Everyone who commented gave me something to think about, and a lot of it is stuff that I’m thinking about still.

But I think that, overall, this was an interesting experiment that didn’t work out as well as I had hoped. I was hoping that by spending an entire month on a single topic we could build some month-long conversations with major posts in the middle to provide some direction.

Unfortunately, I was unable to deliver on my end of that bargain. The way I usually operate this blog is to plan articles out months in advance, which is what I did here. But of course doing that is directly opposed to nimble responses. My articles weren’t able to build upon the discussions taking place in the comments of previous entries, and thus the articles were unable to take advantage of the expertise of other people. Which sort of defeated the purpose of the month-long discussion.

To everyone who participated, thank you. To everyone who participated expecting a nimble discussion, I apologize. I realize that it may appear that your comments fell upon deaf ears, seeing as how I didn’t modify any of my rhetoric based on them. But I did listen, and I am thinking about what you’ve said.

A couple of final notes: comments on any of the articles is welcome indefinitely. The end of immersion month doesn’t mean the end of discussion of immersion for me. It just means I’m going to talk about something else for a while. If you want to discuss anything in any of the articles feel free to comment or email me.

Finally, I’ve been frustrated with myself this month due in part to what I see as a mis-execution of the discussion, but mostly because I feel like I haven’t communicated myself well. It’s possible that this is pure personal bias, but I haven’t felt that any of the objections raised against my definition of immersion have been objections against what I’m actually thinking. My inability to either A) figure out what’s different about what I’m thinking, or B) explain what I’m thinking in such a way that people see that it’s not different from what they’re thinking. The fact that I’m not sure whether I need A or B only adds to the frustration.

All the negativity aside, I do feel like it was a productive month. I thought some cool thoughts, I feel I understand immersion better, and I like to think I’ve contributed at least a little something back to the community.

This coming Thursday we’ll be heading back to our usual semi-random topic selection method.  I’ll be talking about why having too much information might be a good thing.


Immersion month

Monday, July 3rd, 2006

In a flurry of hubris and ambition, I have decided to devote the entire month of July to discussions of immersion.

I do this more because the topic fascinates me than because I think I’ve got something profound to say about it.  I mean, I do think I have some minor insights, but I don’t by any stretch consider myself an expert.  What I really want to do is start a dialog.  I want people to point out where my ideas are wrong and where I’m operating from faulty preconceptions.  In fact, it’s likely that I’ll be starting each and every post with a big, fat disclaimer.

I almost backed out and didn’t do this thing because ‘immersion’ is probably the single most ambiguous word in the roleplaying world.  It seems to mean two or three dozen different things to different groups, and as a result has incredibly high flame-war potential.  I’m coming into this discussion with that foremost in mind.

The reason I do this at all is that I suspect that the many things that immersion discussions refer to are all actually different faces of one big thing.  If I can, I’m going to try to get at that big thing.  If we can understand what lies at the root of the desire for immersion, maybe we can understand how to make our design and play more conducive to it.  I think it would be awesome to find new ways of satisfying the desire for immersion by some completely new and unexpected means.

But I’m not going to be able to do it alone.  I’ve only got a couple of the many views on immersion myself, and I’m going to need help getting to the others.  If you have the time and interest I’d really love to have feedback and input from you.

So, it is with some misgivings that I continue forward with this mad plan.  Hopefully we can manage to derive something cool and useful from it in the end.


Mondays are for musings

Monday, May 15th, 2006

I have been considering for a couple of weeks now, and have finally decided to follow through with, a fairly significant shift in the structure of this blog.  I hate to dash any hopes, but the change will not involve writing any less.  In fact, I will now be writing even more.  For those who feel I already write far more than anyone is actually interested in reading, I apologize.

The basic change is that in addition to my theory posts on Thursdays, I will now also be posting on Mondays.  However, Monday is for musings, not theory.  I plan to use Monday posts to do any of a number of things:

  • Look back at a previous theory article and discuss actual design/play/analysis uses.
  • Talk about my own actual designs, and how I arrive at specific design decisions.
  • Discuss theory in general, and possibly theory from other fields such as discourse analysis, linguistics, communications theory, sociology, and narratology.
  • Review and discuss non-fiction works in any field I feel is related to game design, or my thoughts on game design.
  • Review and discuss any piece of fiction I feel like writing about.
  • Talk about marketting topics such as picking an audience, selling to niches, and back-list based business models.
  • Discuss theory stuff that is being discussed around the ‘net now, rather than later.
  • Do all my administrata posts.

I have three hopes for this reorganization.  First, I am hoping that by keeping post types separated by days, people who have interest in one type, but not the other, can avoid reading my ridiculously long posts when they are not going to find them interesting.  Second, I will be a bit more nimble in my ideas.  Right now I schedule articles for weeks or months after the discussion of the topic dies down (the surge in push/pull talk last week was purely coincidental).  By having a non-scheduled post slot, I can contribute to those discussions as they are happening (which may, ultimately, be a bad idea).  Finally, by posting things that are a bit more personal, I hope that those who are interested will be able to get a better idea for my personal assumptions in theory work.

Everyone has personal assumptions, and I think that the stuff I talk about makes a lot more sense in the context of “inside Thomas’ crazy head-space” than without that context.  If this works out as I hope, then reading Monday posts will give people a better idea of how I think, and thus make my Thursday posts a bit more comprehensible.

More than comprehension though, I would love for people to see why I consider various topics important.  I have made a couple of posts that I thought were massively important that no one responded to.  My assumption, since I am a bit (ha!) arrogant and think that I am something of a genius, is that people just do not realize why those posts were important.  It is a bit easier on the ego than considering the possibility that what I have to say is… less than relevant.

So, that is the plan.  At the end of the month (or maybe at the end of June) I will review things and see if it has been an overall benefit, or if the extra verbiage is distracting to all involved.  We shall see.

A belated mission statement

Tuesday, April 25th, 2006

This probably should have been long ago (well, if you consider 4 months “long”), but I have decided to commit to text a sort of mission statement for this blog. In the end, I think the delay will turn out to have been a good thing. When I started this off, I was not really sure what I wanted to do with this thing, but over the last couple of weeks things have really cleared up for me.

Let’s get down to business: the purpose of this blog is to provide regular, thoughtful essays for discussion by the community. These essays will be focused upon doing two things: 1) They will discuss new ideas, ideas I have not seen seriously considered elsewhere in the discussion of roleplaying (I like to think my plot twist post from last week is of this sort); 2) They will discuss ideas that were new “a while back” and that have not been recently discussed.
The first is pretty easy to facilitate, I just find a topic that intrigues me that I have yet to see anyone cover in-depth, and then cover that. The second is also easy even if doing it occassionally feels odd.

Simply put, when I run into an intriguing idea, I add it to the queue of stuff to write on. Since I only post one item per week, this generates a significant back-log of entries. At the moment I have this Thursday’s post completed, and I have outlines for posts through May, and topics to cover through June. So my thoughts on Push/Pull are coming up in mid-May, and my thoughts on freeform play sometime in early-June.

I like to think that this will provide a slower-paced discussion of these ideas. At the moment theory discussion is rapid with ideas flying fast and furious for a couple of weeks around the ‘net, and then fading. I would like to provide people with a place to discuss things again after a month or two in order to think about them.

All that is the public purpose of this little blog, but I have a slightly more selfish one as well, and it is one that I sometimes question: I want to use my readers as sounding boards. I could just email my little articles to smart people from whom I want input and leave it at that, but then I would miss out on some great feedback. I mean, I never would have thought to ask for Mendel Schmiedekamp feedback on my plot twist entry, but he had some great stuff to say about it.

To restate all that: the purpose of this blog is to provide the public with some fairly well thought out entries on various things (I spend weeks or months thinking about most stuff before I post it) and a place to discuss ideas after a month or two in which to consider their implications a bit more.  I hope this turns out to be something that people can use, and I hope that it is clear that this is not really my little private playground.  I like to think I am providing a useful service, but I suppose time will tell us whether or not this is the case.


Stroking my ego for your benefit!

Saturday, February 11th, 2006
The Preamble

Feel free to skip to The Point if you are in a hurry, this is all going to be an explanation of why this post exists. You do not actually need to read it unless you are curious.

I find myself somewhat surprised that I have been able to maintain something approaching a weekly posting schedule recently. I mean, if I am honest I must admit that I am far too busy with school to do such an irresponsible thing. I suppose that if something is important enough to you…

With that mostly irrelevant pre-amble: I have a blog for a number of reasons. These include, but are not limited to:

  1. To provide me with an outlet for sharpening my writing skills.
  2. To provide me with an incentive to commit my ideas regarding roleplaying to “paper”.
  3. To provide me with feedback on those ideas in hopes of generating better, stronger, faster ideas.
  4. Honestly, because I, in my towering arrogance, think I am a clever fellow with clever things to say, and that other people can learn important, or at least useful, things from me.

(1) Is sort of silly here. No one is critiquing my prose here, my ideas maybe, but not my prose. Since I get huge amounts of commentary on my writing for school, my blog is not really a great place for me to learn to write well.

(2) This is actually surprisingly effective. Since I perceive myself to have an audience who will benefit from my ideas I write a lot more about my thoughts on roleplaying. This writing sharpens my thinking, and in some cases changes it. I am the only one who can read the back end of this blog, but I have a pretty good number of posts in draft stage. One of those is a 2500 word monster essay that I quit writing half-way through when I realized that I was flat-out wrong regarding the point I was trying to make. So this is surprisingly helpful.

(3) On this issue I am failing fairly miserably. I am averaging less than one comment per substantive post. Since my posts are almost all over 1000 words, that strikes me as rather low. Further, only one of those comments got me thinking in a direction to improve my ideas. The others, while appreciated (and they were!), did not really accomplish my number three goal.

(4) My towering arrogance can only withstand so much evidence against it. Admittedly that threshold is relatively high, but it does exist. I know that at least some people are reading what I write. The site statistics show a number of hits to the primary feed (though very few to the comment feed, which I find interesting), and I would bet that at least a couple of the people who have this blog aggregated read it. But I never hear from any of you! My poor ego is taking a terrible beating. More than that, I am beginning to doubt that my ideas, or at least the ideas I am choosing to share, are indeed helpful to anyone at all.

The Point

Which brings me to the point of all this: This blog is, at least in my mind, a public service. I want to offer my thoughts on roleplaying games to people who will find those thoughts interesting and benefitial. The underwhelming level of discussion could indicate a number of things from people’s: lack of time, prioritizing other discussions, or simply a general disinterest in the things I find fascinating.

Since the lack of discussion fails to meet a number of my goals, the most important of which is that the blog is actually useful, I call on you. What can I do to provide a better blog for you, gentle reader? Longer articles? Shorter articles? A less rigid posting schedule? Should I present my thoughts on the most discussed roleplaying theory idea of the week? Is it as simple as changing my writing style here so that I come across as less sure of myself?

I hate feeling like what I am doing is not doing anyone any good. Especially since my aforementioned towering arrogance insists that I can do people very much good. What can I do that would be good for you?

If you read this blog, I want to hear from you. Even if it ends up being a “keep doing what you’re doing, I just don’t have anything to say” I will feel better about myself. Though I must admit that the fact that you do not have anything to say about it makes its utility suspect to me…

So, talk to me!

ADDENDUM (Feb 12, 2006, 05:14CST): I got an email from Frank Filz indicating that attempting to comment is generating an error. I, myself, have been unable to duplicate the error, but the question arises: how many other people are having it? If you have tried to comment, and have not been able to, I would appreciate an email at thomas.robertson at this domain ( Include what details you can (as in, what stage of commenting you got an error). Thanks bunches.


An intermittent hiatus

Thursday, January 19th, 2006

It’s been four weeks since my last post in what was supposed to be a weekly blog. I’m claiming as a semi-valid excuse that school is kicking my butt this semester. I’m so busy with my studies and my job that I just don’t have the time for a considered, well-written piece each month. Since that’s the kind of stuff I want to put up around here, I generally don’t put anything up at all. So, until the semester ends (at the beginning of May) I’m calling a break from my already broken schedule.

This is not me calling for no more posts. Every so often I am sure to either have some free time or an all-consuming idea that I drop my required work to do. When that happens you are sure to find a post. Hopefully, once the semester ends and I return to a fairly human life schedule I will be able to get back into a weekly posting schedule. I still owe you guys the rest of the Props article, plus I’m working on roleplaying boundary conditions, captive audience, and uniform game design notation. Be good and Santa may come early…


The grand opening

Sunday, December 4th, 2005

It was bound to happen eventually. With all the other dedicated theory and design blogs out there, I was bound to put one together myself. I’ve been thinking about doing this for a while, and I think it’s finally happened due partially to the closing of the Theory and GNS fora on The Forge and my renewed drive to actually use some of my bandwidth.

This is, hopefully, going to be distinctly different from my more personal Live Journal in that it’s pure roleplaying and it has a fixed update schedule.

At the moment I’m committed to doing Theory Thursdays. I’ll say something about theory every Thursday, and while it may be ambitious, I’m aiming for 1000+ words. If it works out that I have more time than I think I will (and I’m hoping that this is the case) I would love to add Applied Monday. A weekly update on actual game design would be really dang cool.

I guess I should note that this won’t be pure discussion of roleplaying, though there will probably be a significant bias toward such discussion. I’ll be tossing out talk about state-tracking widgets and hidden information and whatever else is on my design mind.

So, all that said: lets keep things clean. I assume this won’t be difficult since there’s just me around here at the moment.