Managed Discussion

The best part of those conversations was how educational they were — because ideas were held up to the light and examined carefully, then they were beaten with clubs until they gave up their secrets, and finally they were tempered in the forges of evidence to see if they were Valyrian steel or just dross.

It was a great place to learn a lot about whatever subject was the primary concern of the forum — whether it was aviation or politics or consumer electronics or computer programming or even science fiction.

We don’t have that same environment anymore because we don’t have managed discussions anymore.

We have gained enormous freedom to spout, but we have lost the demands of responsibility as the cost.

David Gerrold

Which is the long way to say there is too much stupid in the world and no way to fix it.

I was on CompuServe myself back in the day. I participated in several forums. I learned things because I was honestly seeking to learn things, not silence the dissent, like a troll.

Many of today’s trolls were hardened in the same forge. They didn’t learn anything from the managed experience other than that they like being in charge, as the current vast BBS wasteland can attest.

Facebook makes all of us moderators of our own Facebook reality; but that just reinforces the stupid, making it worse not better.

I don’t know that there is a solution to the problem, or even that there really is a problem that unplugging and getting an analog beer wouldn’t do world’s of good for.

Facebook reply and post.

Why Are You So Angry?

This is the most common question I’ve been asked for as long as I can remember. From high school through to the last argument I had “Why are you so angry?” pops up again and again. Everyone I talk to on almost any given subject is convinced that there is some one thing in my life that is bugging me, and that if they can just fix that one thing I’ll be happy.

I’m not angry, I’m intense. This would be my explanation. I’m focused on whatever it is that I’m talking about, writing about, thinking about. It comes across in nearly every conversation, in nearly any documentation, in almost any interaction. I’m pretty sure it freaks most people out and I have no idea how to turn it off.

The quickest way to get me to feel actual anger is to ask me why are you so angry? when I’m simply responding with emphasis. This tendency to fly off the handle has gotten me sent to many headshrinkers over the years. Thoughtful types who purse their lips and want to dig through all the detritus in my head to find out what makes me tick. They would press me to get past the anger masking the real emotion so that they could help me.

Let’s say I’m angry, just to admit a point for debate. Why would I be angry?

I have always been a smartass. My father made sure that I knew this at a very young age, informing me “you really are a smartass, aren’t you?” throughout most of my youth. The internet age has given me a synonym for smartass. Troll. I apparently trolled my parents and teachers pretty frequently. I was sent on mysterious errands in Sunday school for asking things like “who made god?” or “where did the extra loaves and fishes come from?” I had no idea I was being a smartass. The questions occurred, and questions need answers. There were always more questions than there ever were answers, and I’d bet one of my limbs that the first time I was labeled a smartass was when I observed this fact to an adult. Why couldn’t they answer my questions? I thought adults knew everything.

Standing apart and observing others with a clinical eye when most people are too busy, too caught up in the rough and tumble to notice the larger picture. Disturbing the peace with my questions, my unwelcome observations. Daring to call down the wrath of adults and spending more hours sitting in a corner than I probably ever did on the playground, just to gain an insight into behaviors that puzzled me, patterns and habits that baffled me.

Stuck in the middle of Kansas surrounded by people that I could just barely relate to, forced to participate in rituals that I had no interest in. Church? Football? Rodeo? That last one is the kicker I will never understand. What purpose is served by rodeo? In the medieval guilds you would call what rodeo does a demonstration of skill. A demonstration that a journeyman attempts in order to be hired on somewhere as a master. I guess if I had a need for horse riders or cattlemen, I’d go to a rodeo to find them. Luckily for me, I don’t need any of those so don’t need to go to the rodeo. The inscrutability of rodeo is tangential, though. It is a speed bump in the middle of nowhere that makes you ask, why? The speed bump is irrelevant, the question is important.

Why am I so angry? Well, there is a start right there. If I’m angry at all. Am I really angry?

I was first clued in on the synonym for smartass while in a Compuserve chat group way back at the dawn of the internet. They called me a troll. In hindsight this label was indeed accurate. I was trolling then. Internet trolls do seem angry about something, although what they are angry about is open to question. The wife insists I’m not a troll because in her eye trolls are evil creatures. Trolls are not evil, trolls are misanthropes; and all of us are misanthropes outside of our comfort zone. I was called a troll because I didn’t understand and wanted to know. Wanted to know about being other kinds of people than I appeared to be. I appeared to be, still appear to be, a white guy who appreciates his guns, cars and the company of women. I understand that. That is life for the average male in the midwest. It’s not enough for me, but it appears to be enough for most men.

I wanted to know, so I went outside my comfort zone which is the only way to learn anything and started asking questions, making observations. As I have always done. As I will probably always do. I asked, I read, I listened and I learned. Because I learned I became sensitive to the misuse of various words, which I have even wrote about in the hopes of educating others.

If you don’t listen to the answers to your questions, if you don’t learn anything from asking questions, you are worse than a troll. You are wasting everyone’s time asking questions that you have no intention of internalizing the answers for. You are tormenting others just to hear yourself talk. You are engaging in casual conversation, conversation without feeling. Conversation without meaning.

I loathe casual conversation.

If I am angry, a point which I do not concede, then the demand to engage in meaningless banter on a near constant basis is probably the biggest reason why. I do not speak to hear myself talk. I’m not quick on the uptake and most wit goes right over my head on first pass. It is only later that I will piece together the joke and then facepalm over the stupidity of not getting the point while the conversation is occurring, when it would have done me some good.

It takes mental energy to engage in small talk effectively. To be witty in a casual fashion. Far more energy than I care to devote to a brief conversation with a stranger whom I will probably never meet again. I have always had goals that were far more important to me than witty banter. Goals which consumed most of my mental energy. When the adults around me failed to produce answers to my questions, I turned to the only source available in 1970’s Kansas. I went to the local library. For most of my life I have wandered around with my nose stuck in books. Books were the only place where answers could be found, where stories that interested me were being told.

What was real? Where are we going? Where did we come from? Every question answered produced at least two new questions that needed answers. A never-ending task of education which now extends out beyond my mortal existence. Another good excuse to be angry. Frustrated by the limitations of life itself. I will die still needing answers to questions that will never be answered. If that doesn’t piss you off, you aren’t thinking about the problem.

Thinking. Thinking about thinking. Thinking about thinking about thinking. The philosopher’s dilemma. Is this me thinking or is this an outside influence causing me to come to a particular conclusion? Am I angry or does my thinking make you angry which you then reflect on me? I’m thinking the latter. Of course I would think that. You would think that in my place.

I’m thinking that most people hate thinking so much they’ll pay to undergo pain in order to stop themselves from thinking. I’m thinking I’m not angry but that you wish I’d stop troubling you with my thinking, my desire to make you think. You are angry because I’m thinking and thinking makes you angry. I apologize for not having electric probes for you to blank those thoughts with. Is it sadism to make people think knowing that they would rather endure pain than think? Am I the jackass whisperer? If I’m not, am I the jackass? It’s probably best to leave the jackasses to their electric shocks and not taint myself with their pain.

“Casual conversations, how they bore me. Yeah, they go on and on endlessly. No matter what I say you’ll ignore me anyway. I might as well talk in my sleep, I could weep.”

Why go on, just hoping that we’ll get along.


Editor’s note. This narrative was originally interwoven with the narrative contained in The Unappreciated Art of the Troll when I first wrote it. I set it aside and then left it out of the second draft. Still, enough of my own experience is in this narrative that I thought I ought to at least publish it on the date it was written. So here it is.

It’s Not that Dungeons are Hard…

It looks like Blizzard’s World of Warcraft developers are on the defensive. Apparently I’m not the only player that has problems with the new expansion of the game. Here’s a few quotes from the latest blog entries over at the WoW forums.

On the subject of Tol Barad;

[W]e want winning Tol Barad to be a challenge for the attacking faction… but we don’t want it to be impossible. Taking Tol Barad should be tough — but right now it’s a little bit too tough, and it’s something we’re actively working to balance. Earlier, we attempted to temporarily address the issue by offering a far better reward to the winning attackers: Honor Points awarded for successfully attacking were increased tenfold, but that was such a great incentive that it ultimately undermined the spirit of competition. Since then, the reward for winning as an attacker has been brought back down to a more reasonable amount.

I’ve played Tol Barad. More than once. Unless the defenders are AWOL, winning Tol Barad is a virtual impossibility. I don’t care how much they minimize the difficulty, this battleground is not fun. It’s a mental grind. I”m not even sure how it can be made to be fun. Perhaps some temporary defenses that could be erected to slow down the opposing faction, before they just run right in and take one of the three assets that you must possess simultaneously in order to win…? At least with Lake Wintergrasp there was a clear goal, a task that took some skill to achieve. This battleground is won or lost on attrition alone. When Alterac Valley battleground goes this way (when both teams fail to kill the opposition’s leader, and instead must whittle down the 600 reinforcements) it is a grind as well.

Then there’s this on the subject of dungeons, from the post Wow, Dungeons are Hard!;

The bottom line is that we want Heroics and raids to be challenging, and that is particularly true now while the content is new and characters are still collecting gear. They’re only going to get easier from here on out. We want players to approach an encounter, especially a Heroic encounter, as a puzzle to be solved. We want groups to communicate and strategize. And by extension, we want you to celebrate when you win instead of it being a foregone conclusion.

On the other hand, we don’t want you to stumble your way to victory. We don’t want you to be able to overwhelm bosses without noticing or caring what they’re doing. We don’t want healers to be able to make up for all of the mistakes on the part of the other players. While at the end of the day, dungeons may just be gussied up loot vending machines, we want you to do more than push a button to get the loot.

Ultimately, we don’t want to give undergeared or unorganized groups a near guaranteed chance of success, because then the content will feel absolutely trivial for players in appropriate gear who communicate, cooperate, and strategize.

We didn’t like that the Heroic dungeons in Lich King and early Naxxramas had become zerg-fests. It made the rewards feel like they weren’t earned. It made all rewards except the best-in-slot items feel transitory — why enchant or gem an item when you don’t need the performance boost and you’ll quickly replace it anyway? Furthermore, it set the expectation that everyone would eventually earn all best-in-slot items rather than those being rare and treasured goals. It made class abilities feel less useful and interesting. Who needs that crowd-control or survivability talent when nothing is hurting you? Who needs a mana-conservation talent if you’re never going to run out of mana? Who needs a crit talent if your heals often overheal anyway?

Finally, the encounters, even the bosses, ended up having a sameness to them because you could ignore their mechanics. It didn’t matter — in fact, you didn’t even notice — if the dragon breathes or silences or drops a void zone. The fights all felt the same.

First off, it’s not that the dungeons are hard, it’s that they are too long. It’s not that the dungeons are hard, it’s that the rewards aren’t great enough to make it worthwhile to run them, especially if you are healing.

There’s a new philosophy afoot in the healing sphere of WoW called triage healing. While this isn’t explicitly mentioned in the first few pages of the post, what triage means is that you let the DPS that does the least damage and takes the most healing…. die. That’s it in a nutshell. There isn’t enough mana to keep everyone alive so some DPS will die in almost any encounter. This is how it always has been in raid encounters. Most raiders understand the vagaries of healing priorities. But. Combine this with a PUG (pick up group) and DPS that never does anything but DPS dungeons, and you’ve got a potential of being kicked at every encounter that results in player deaths. Considering how much pressure there is on healers to start with (it is the most difficult job in a dungeon, you always have 5 potential targets to work on) combined with having to hear Healer fail! repeatedly, right before being kicked from a group, you might be able to understand why dungeon queues are nearly an hour long. So much for the Dungeon Finder and PUGs.

The reason the WotLK (Wrath of the Lich King) dungeons are boring and blend together is not so much that they were easy when we first started doing them; it’s that Blizzard has set the standard for endgame play as a daily random heroic dungeon run and a daily random battleground victory. That’s it. If you are gearing and interested in raiding, that is what you do. This is 2/3rd’s of the WotLK endgame, which included the Argent Tournament dailies in addition to the two randoms. The Tol Barad dailies (probably intended to replace the Tournament dailies) are functionally not available for the faction that doesn’t own Tol Barad, so can’t be counted on.

After you’ve run the same 16 dungeons for two years, as an overgeared 80, things seem to be a bit bland in hindsight. Cataclysm though, is worse. Nine dungeons instead of 16, dungeons which must be run 2o time for each piece of gear (100 points per run /22oo points per piece) thats two runs for each dungeon per piece of gear, 17 potential slots, the possibility of no drops in any given dungeon being an upgrade for any armor currently equipped…

…Dungeons which are generally longer and significantly harder than the previous dungeons, with rewards that are not scaled up to meet the extra time/effort invested. 680 hours invested to gain enough points to get fully geared for raiding, and that’s if the dungeons aren’t complete failures, in which case you get nothing for your two hours.

I would mention professions as a gearing option, but that would just be silly. The professions are clearly included simply to give the professional some kind of buff to apply to point gained gear, because the gearing choices are laughable at best, and insulting at worst. There really aren’t any other methods to acquire gear outside of random battleground and dungeon runs. Is it any wonder that the battleground queues are all quite short these days? Battlegrounds give points, even when you loose.

The casual player doesn’t have a hope in hell of being able to meet the requirements for playing this game at endgame. I’m not sure why any of them should bother. Why were the heroic dungeons from the previous expansions not all updated to cataclysm levels? None of them serve any purpose anymore. With the addition of the dungeons from Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King, at least there would be some potential variety and reward for reaching endgame. Professions that actually provide gearing options would be nice too, and would give the casual player the potential for getting gear without having to invest a significant portion of their lives.

I can already hear the QQ comments bubbling up, and that brings us to the last point I want to make in this post. That is the community, or rather, the general lack of community when it comes to realm wide chat channels and cross-realm PUGs. Everywhere you go in the Warcraft world there is a general lack of civility. Having honed my teeth in CompuServe chatrooms in the 90’s, I’m not impressed with or threatened by bluster. Still, every complaint about the game on forums designed to air complaints is met with hostility. Every group encounter seems to be dominated by the emotionally crippled child that thinks that yelling about failures is going to solve some issue, or by grimfaced elitists that kick people at the slightest provocation (guilty as charged) because that’s the only way to exert any control in the group. Strategize? I’ve had groups fall apart from simply having a question about a fight be asked. There’s another wasted two hours. There is no effective tool in game to police the community, no way for the average player to flag other players for behavior that deserves demerits, no realistic method for letting Blizzard know of violations without taking the time (and generally getting kicked as AFK, Away From Keyboard, in the process) to fill out a form. Seriously, is it that hard to understand the need for basic community policing tools?

…Oh, and while your at it, how about a quest history?

I don’t see myself playing this game in two years. I looked forward to the progression of WotLK, and while I just finished Christie Golden’s book The Shattering and loved it (I also think that any player that doesn’t read it is missing out on essential game lore) what I find myself wishing for when I log on is; to play that game, in that world in the book. Instead I find myself here, with 9 dungeons I dread, a server-wide battleground I have no hope of winning, and the resounding echos of healer fail in my ears as I watch the load screen deposit me back at my hearth point. I don’t see myself putting up with that longer than the date when my current subscription expires.

Posted here on the forums.

Teaching People to Think

Hello, I’m Anthony. (Hi Anthony) …And I’m a Forum Addict.

This addiction started years ago with CompuServe forums and Usenet, not long after we got our first internet account back in ’94, through the local university. I started looking for people to talk with online in this new social experiment we had created with computer technology. At first the addiction seemed innocuous enough, just chatting with people who had shared interests. There was the occasional disagreement with the odd agitator who showed up just to argue, but all and all, a forum was a friendly place. I’m not quite sure when or how it happened, but as time progressed it seems that the forums became more about the disagreement, and less about the sharing of knowledge. Perhaps we are all looking for that emotional high that comes from being in a good argument.

The tendency toward forum addiction can be traced back much earlier than the internet, though. If you remember the charge you got the first time you knew something somebody else didn’t know, and you got to explain it to them, got to see their eyes light up with understanding, then you too are a potential forum addict. That’s where it starts. Then you discover the internet and how easy it is to share information. You join your first forum and you start posting. Before you know it you are spending days at a time trying to shove a few facts into another idiot’s brain, never realizing that you to are an idiot just for making the attempt.

Talk about a waste of effort.

At some point (if you are like me) you will probably also discover that you are in an adversarial relationship with everyone in your group and the one time that you can all pull together is when you are trying to single out some other agitator to get rid of. I tend to agree with a friend who observed that “it’s the nature of the medium.” For some reason the impersonal nature of text communication seems to make people more prone to misapprehend the meaning of a statement. There’s a multi-million dollar government funded study in there somewhere.

More and more often these days, that agitator turns out to be me. It seems I have this disgusting habit of making people think about things they’d rather not. Call me weird, but it’s kind of a point of pride with me. I figure if I don’t make someone go “Hmmm?” with each post, then I might as well watch the boob cube with the rest of the couch potatoes. Therein lies the rub. If you can’t impart a few simple facts to the unwilling, how on earth can you make them think?

Once again, can we say Waste of Effort? I knew that you could.

…This is why government schools don’t teach, they indoctrinate. No one wants to sit in neat little rows and listen to someone else lecture, and rote learning is boring to say the least. So we have schools full of the unwilling that can’t be taught even simple facts, much less be made to think for themselves. If it was understood that thinking for oneself was a blessing and that school was a place where this was facilitated, you might actually find children wanting to go to school just to learn instead of going just to escape from their parents.

…And that is why the Montessori method of teaching will always be superior to the typical attempt at teaching found in government schools. It stimulates the natural desire within the child to learn and to understand. This is also why you won’t find Montessori teaching in government school systems. Worse than getting children hooked on drugs is getting them to think.

The idiot that I am, I got kicked off another forum the other day (you might notice that it disappeared from my sidebar) I miscued on a post by another, who miscued on a (poor) attempt at humor on my part. The peanut gallery pounced at that point. One can rack up a lot of negative feelings when he’s trying to pound a little sense into the opposition. They offered to let me stay on if I would agree to be moderated, but I’m not interested in letting someone else second guess what I should post. So I’m outta there.

I’ve alienated friends and family members with this stupid forum addiction, this blind belief that I can somehow impart a little understanding to the (as someone else called them) “unwashed masses” by “getting the information out there.” Silly, really. Or is it?

Over time I’ve progressed (?) from knowing everything, but understanding very little (typical teenager) to knowing nothing, but understanding a great deal (hello mid-life) more than I can express in a blog entry. I wonder when I’ll learn to think…? And will it be before I hit ‘send’ the next time?


Coded language. How quaint. I used the phrase government schools because that was the phrase that libertarians use to describe America’s public schools system. They aren’t really government schools, not in the way that the word indoctrination means when I apply it to public schools.

The scientific method is a valid lens through which to understand the world around us. It might well be the the only way to accurately understand the world around us. Science simply is in much the same way that existence simply is. You aren’t indoctrinated into it, you are introduced to it. If it sticks then you become an agnostic about things that you don’t know yet and then learn how to test for what is knowable about a thing. The development of the critical thinking faculty that science engages is a problem for people who want to tell you how to think and not help you discover what thinking is.

Government schools are not bad, per se. Government schools aren’t bad when they don’t indoctrinate. They aren’t bad when they impart real life skills. As long as government schools get the job done that needs to be done (teaching children to think critically) government schools are just fine.

It’s when the job they are doing is not serving the greater good, that’s when government schools, and all schools, fail. Montessori fails to educate those students with special needs, and it fails because a good portion of Montessori instruction is based on belief/ideology and not on tried and true best methods. Finding a school that teaches critical thinking based on best methods. That is the really hard part.

Blogspot archive for the month of January 2006

Righteous Indignation

I’ve been meaning to write this one for awhile. I dragged myself out to vote November Eighth. I do this every time an election rolls around, not because I think my vote will be counted properly (another rant in the making) and not because I think it will change anything (most of the issues go the other direction by hefty majorities. I blame it on education) I do it because it gives me a license to bitch when the will of the majority goes awry. As it has in the past. As it will this time around too.

With the passage of Prop. 2 here in Texas, the majority has officially endorsed the end of “equality before the law”. What do I mean by that? Quite simply, they have stated that certain individuals have more rights than others, according to law. That if you cohabitate with ‘A’ member of the opposite sex, you can declare what you have a ‘marriage’, and claim the privilege that come along with it. Things like tax exemptions, health insurance coverage for ‘family members’, etc. Things not available to people who happen to cohabitate with any number of other people (no matter what sex they are) for whatever reason. Prop. 2 writes into the Texas Constitution that a household formed of one man and one woman has rights that others in the state don’t have, setting up preferential treatment for a specific portion of the population. Some of us (and since I’m one of the special people who happens to cohabitate with a woman, I’m one of ‘us’. Go figure) have more rights than others, and it’s written right into the ‘law of the land’. Equal before the law? Not any more.

How dare they put their faith above everything else? “Marriage is Sacred” they say. Then why can it be performed by a judge? It’s just another contractual arrangement now, no matter what it was in ancient times. If they wanted to retain the ‘sacred’ rites of marriage, then they should never have allowed the government to take part in the rites at all. It should only be performed in a church.

Back at the dawn of the internet, I used to spend time arguing on various forums on CompuServe (back when I was simply known as 71613,, before AOL bought the company and gutted it of its hardware) on the Gay and Lesbian forum I had several arguments with well intentioned people who were convinced that they needed special laws to protect them. I only ceased arguing with them when they provided proof that they were still persecuted in modern day America. I ceased to argue with them, but my views have not changed. There should not be ‘special’ laws for any group in America. Not for Gays, not for Women, not for Minorities; and most definitely not for ‘Marriage’.

I was and still am outraged at this, especially in light of the ‘straight’ majority in Texas having now added one more misbegotten and meaningless amendment to the Texas constitution (a document that with each passing election shouts its need for complete replacement. Just try reading it sometime) that will most likely backfire as have most of the ones before it. And I really hope it does. Just waiting for that case that opens the can of worms. “What do you mean, no marriages are ‘legal’ in the state of Texas? How could that be?”