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Gathering of Engineers

Ludographic considerations from the Silicon Forest

Monday, August 29, 2005

Bloggin' Bloggin' Bloggin'

Well, it looks like Chris provided the welcome message, so I can get right into it. It’s traditional for a blog’s first post to be about blogging itself, and I’ll all for tradition, so let me start out by telling you how much I loathe board game blogs. But first, I have to evoke some painful memories…

My first experience with Internet discourse (can we just call that “intercourse” for short?) was rec.games.board on Usenet. I started posting heavily in 1998 (the year I could finally afford to buy these beautiful games); in fact, it was here (more accurately, here) where the Rip City Gamers was first formed. When the Mav-Kohr wars started getting out of hand, a mailing list was formed and people quickly bailed when they found the action was gone.

Spielfrieks started out a kinder, gentler group. Unfortunately, it required a threaded mail reader with a filter defined just to reproduce the Usenet experience. Eventually, I just read it via the web interface. However, as conversation on Spielfrieks was more casual, it eventually got a bit cliquish; I would notice that a new person could post something insightful without getting a response, but if an established person posted something light or less worthy, it would get several responses. As the popularity of the hobby increased, and the volume of the mailing list with it, it got to be so much work that I eventually unsubscribed from Spielfrieks and its offshoots (e.g., Nigglybits).

I still try to read some web forums, most notably the BoardGameGeek (BGG) forums. As a forum ages, it too get a bit cliquish, especially with the presence of avatars and, on some forums, a post count. What I’ve noticed on BGG is that the majority of discussion is no longer strictly Euros. Wargamers are migrating from Consimworld, and the rabid fans of big games like Doom, Arkham Horror, and Heroscape are spilling over the publishers' own message boards onto the ‘Geek. I appreciate the egalitarian nature of the ‘Geek, but it’s getting out of hand, especially the game articles; you have to check every day for new articles or else they will roll over.

Which brings us to blogs. A blogger recently penned “Blogs are where the interesting boardgame conversations are taking place.” I vehemently disagree. The current organization of RSS feeds makes blogging the most ephemeral of all the forums; if you don’t jump in with a comment right away, you’re usually speaking to the void. For one example, look at Chris Farrell’s blog (I pick on Chris because I like his content the most, and I tend to agree with him anyways). His Euro thoughts would be at home on Spielfrieks or BGG (particularly his scathing comments on Shadows Over Camelot), but, as it is, the nature of blogs makes it a one-sided argument; the blogger is presumed to be correct until proven otherwise. On the other hand, Chris’ interests vary so much (CCGs, wargames, RPGs, etc.) that it would not make sense for him to exclusively post on any one public forum. Being condensed in one place makes it an interesting overview of one man’s tastes, but some of his views warrant discussion in a more open forum, in my opinion. The blogger I quoted above went on to write: “the good conversations are spilling over into multiple blogs.” To me, that’s just sad that folks are holding discussions so indirectly, but not surprising in a world in which I see city parks empty on the weekends.

An example of an appropriate use of blogs is The Tao of Gaming, where Brian often posts his first impressions of games. He has a sharp mind, and it is interesting to read his initial analysis; posting something like this on a broader forum is unwise, especially as it encourages more dull minds to post first impressions. When he is ready for a review, he does cross-post this on the Geek. I hope I do not sound overly curmudgeonly; while I do think that my Usenet experience has been the best so far, I have hopes that this is just part of a painful transition to an ideal end. I understand that the hobby has grown so much that a single, truly democratic forum is only a utopian’s dream, which is why I have focused primarily on the local scene.

That brings us to this blog. What motivated me to initiate it were several recent lists of folks’ favorite blogs; for some inexplicable reason, Eric Landes, Mike Deans, and Chris Brooks keep showing up on these lists. I thought to myself “What do these guys have in common? Oh yeah – I regularly hand them their asses.” That’s right – we’re all in the same gaming group, which most of us affectionately refer to as Rip City Gamers. My gaming thoughts on my own blog get buried in a mound of music posts, so I thought what better way to expose them to more people then to mooch off the established exposure of my comrades.

The title of the blog is a tongue-in-cheek title I gave to our semi-annual gaming retreat at Doug’s vacation home. Not everyone here appreciates the joke, so if you have a better idea for our blog (ideally with some reference to the Pacific Northwest), we’re all ears. Just propose something in the comments. It’s to be expected that the denizens here will be poking fun at each other. Also, to give our communal blog a unique spin, in the first full week of each month, our blog will feature a Question of the Month that each of us will respond to. Eric is working on the initial one, so I will see you next Monday with my answer to his query.

Until then, don’t get me started on podcasts…

16 Comments:

  • At 8:51 AM, Blogger Kimbo said…

    Sounds like a challenge to me! What's your beef with podcasts? I think the argument could be made that the recent popularity of boardgame podcasts has led to the resurgence of boardgame related blogs, including this one.

     
  • At 9:59 AM, Blogger dave said…

    I'm a "more power to ya" guy, so I'm glad folks are getting a kick out of it. I much prefer reading so I can ingest the info more quickly, skip over the boring parts, reread the parts that require sinking in, etc. Having a slight listening disability makes it further aggravating.

    Most importantly, I am a music lover, so I'd rather spend my valuable listening time with tunes rather than even more boardgaming content. I can appreciate that, if folks do not have the time that I do to read content, listening to podcasts on their commutes bridges the gap.

    On the other hand, you REALLY do not want me to get started on long commutes. :-)

     
  • At 10:08 AM, Blogger Joe Gola said…

    You say "a single, truly democratic forum is only a utopian's dream," but also grumble about how the number of posts on Boardgamegeek is making things unwieldy. You dislike the cliques at spielfrieks and BGG, but then say something like "He has a sharp mind, and it is interesting to read his initial analysis, [but] posting something like this on a broader forum is unwise, especially as it encourages more dull minds to post first impressions."

    You're a complex man! God forbid you should ever get what you want, because it might tear a hole in the fabric of time and space.

     
  • At 11:32 AM, Blogger dave said…

    Joe,

    My original post qualified that first statement - within the same sentence - with the clause that the hobby has grown.

    I don't think my other comments are inconsistent at all; my point is that the quality of the post should be the cause of discussion, not the poster's avatar or history. I restrain myself if I don't think my inputs are of high value, and would expect the same of others, but understand that not everyone has these goals.

    My "ideal" would probably require heavy moderation, but that is infeasible given the growth of the hobby and our desire for quick turnaround. My union of individual qualities may in fact be paradoxical, but I think that it is fair to contemplate them in isolation.

    For the most part, BGG is pretty good except for the volume, which is aggravated somewhat by the growth in scope.

    - d

     
  • At 11:51 AM, Blogger Coldfoot said…

    Sounds to me like we agree more than we disagree. :-)

    Maybe "discussion" was a bad word on my part. Maybe I should have said "thoughtful comments". But the fact of the matter is that we are now having a "discussion" on the topic.

    One other thing, I can't take credit for this idea, but I thought it was a good idea, especially for a group blog. By moving the "posted by -----" line to the top of the entry it makes it easier to keep track of who is speaking.

     
  • At 12:12 PM, Blogger dave said…

    "But the fact of the matter is that we are now having a "discussion" on the topic."

    With further discussion inhibited by the lack of threading. g:-P

    Thanks for the posting tip - I'll let Chris handle that one. Also, a tip of the hat to your gang. We had been thinking of doing a group site for a while now, but your group blog gave us the final burst of inspiration to follow through.

     
  • At 2:24 PM, Blogger Yehuda said…

    Good luck guys. You're on my RSS.

    Link exchange possible?

    Yehuda

     
  • At 3:37 PM, Blogger Aldie said…

    Dave,

    Isn't this blog the ultimate in cliquishness? Especially one with a set group of members?

    Also, If you ever want to be syndicated on BGG let me know. Perhaps I can integrate it into BGG somehow, so if Blogger ever goes away we can still have the GoE's insightfulness into the hobby ;-)

     
  • At 4:03 PM, Blogger Chris Farrell said…

    In fairness, when I write something like the Shadows over Camelot review, it gets cross-posted; it was both posted on BGG as a review and linked from BGG on the game page. In general I cross-link on BGG when I think I have something interesting to say. However, I got a lot more interesting feedback and discussion on my blog than I did on BGG, where things degenerated into a SoC whinefest pretty fast.

    I'm with you in general on how things disappear off the radar, but this is why I left BGG in the first place ... I'd labor over my "best of Reiner" geeklist for some time, and then it would be overwhelmed by a spate of "help my decide what to buy" geeklists in like 30 seconds and traffic would drop to zero. Spielfrieks or some other discussion group would arguably be worse. I look at Spielfrieks occasionally; how often does a review posted there really generate a lot of interesting discussion?

    So my blog is not perfect, but it's OK. Content ages, the discussion moves on ... but people who like what I write can at least find it, and I make an effort to answer criticism, engage my readers, and the comments are uncensored. I'd like to keep up with all the discussion on the many forums, but I absolutely flat-out can't. I can, however, keep up with a small number of blogs.

    In sum, I guess, I'm sympathetic to the ideal, but I feel that in the reality we actually live in, blogs are an excellent solution.

     
  • At 4:03 PM, Blogger dave said…

    Aldie,

    Sure, you can think of it as cliquish. But comparing a group blog with an open forum is apples & oranges, which is really my point.

    I'll let Chris handle the technical stuff; I'm in charge of curmudgeonry.

     
  • At 6:24 PM, Blogger Joe Gola said…

    OK, I see your point now; the ideal is a meritocracy, not a democracy.

    Maybe the proactive thing to do would be to put together some kind of digest? Each week you could cobble together a bunch of links to the worthwhile content on all the various blogs and fora, with introductions and/or commentary. You could even organize a group of postspotters who monitor assigned parts of the web and then pass up their tid bits for editorial evaluation.

     
  • At 6:51 PM, Blogger Mike Sugarbaker said…

    "The current organization of RSS feeds makes blogging the most ephemeral of all the forums; if you don’t jump in with a comment right away, you’re usually speaking to the void."

    Never underestimate the power of Google. That and a separate new-comments RSS feed can keep things going for a long time... possibly too long.

     
  • At 5:23 AM, Blogger Steadman said…

    Just what we need another blog!!!!!

    Joe

     
  • At 9:15 AM, Blogger Aldie said…

    Chris, we've acknowledged that problem a while back and instituted ratings on geeklists, and recently refined it to be recommendation based.

    If you look at the HOT tab on the front page you'll see the best GeekLists of the past 2 days. Click on History and you'll see the best GeekLists of all time.

    I guess what I'm trying to get at is that while I don't mind blogs for daily news and journals, I find them really inefficient for long term storage and retrieval. Once it falls off my RSS reader it's pretty much gone to me.

    A cross link from BGG is great... if you tag it to the game page, but most people these days are posting a bare hyperlink to our general front page forum and that's all.

     
  • At 10:38 AM, Blogger Chris Farrell said…

    Aldie,

    I liked the geeklist ratings as they have finally settled down, and I think they are now working and doing their job. So no complaints there anymore.

    When I do add links, it's always from the games page itself.

    I should say, I don't mean to denigrate BGG in any way. I think BGG is a fine discussion forum, just one that I can't really keep up with anymore, in the general forums at least (I use bloglines to subscribe to a few individual games, but the traffic on those pages tends not to be high enough to support much more than rules questions).

    I put a fair amount of effort into what I write, and so I want it to be a more durable and visible. My blog provides that.

    Thinking of which, I should say that blogging has one additional highly saultory effect: it makes you think about your image (at least, if you care at all about your readership). It's easy to make off-the-cuff comments in a forum without thinking about it too much, but if it's on your blog, I think it encourages you to be at least a little more thoughtful.

     
  • At 12:46 PM, Blogger Coldfoot said…

    By my calculations this is the 16th comment on this entry. Furthermore, I'm willing to bet that this topic pops up again on another blog in the near future.

    Right now, on the front page of BGG there are 3 forum entries that have that many comments. Very few of those responses have as much thought put into them as there is in this forum.

    I'll stand by my earlier comments.

     

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