User:Luciano/Bliki/2016/12/01 - Daily

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This "bliki" (wiki-based blog) is an ongoing experiment by Luciano. I encourage other users on OGF to try their own experiments in using the wiki to find new ways to communicate with other members of the OGF community.
Disclaimer: Views expressed in this bliki represent my personal views. I am speaking primarily in my role as a user of OGF, NOT as a member of the admin team. Nothing I say here should be taken as an indication of admin policy.

The Daily Blik

Introduction

I have posted to this "bliki" (blog on a wiki) now and then, but it has been hard for me to do it regularly. I have decided to start this new month of December with a commitment to post to my bliki every day.

This should not be too difficult, if I work to make it a habit - in fact, I already maintain two other daily blogs, one personal and one related to my work. It's just a matter of deciding to do it. Some users have mentioned a wish for more "forums" and other types of social-media functionality. I suppose making a blog on this wiki is one approach to this. The wiki platform is quite able to do this, but it's not very user-friendly for blog or forum type uses, so I thought I'd do this bliki experiment in a effort to figure out what works best.

This blog will focus on OGF issues that cross my mind. I may use daily entries to discuss what I'm working on, what I'm thinking about, or to react to other users' work. In fact, I think about OGF a lot, so it shouldn't be hard to come up with something to write about every day.

On Verisimilitude

I think I will start with a follow-up (or continuation) of the conversation I started on the user diaries (here). I can't quite figure out if what I did there was welcome, or if it was perceived as being simply self-indulgent or somewhat inappropriate. My philosophy about my role as a member of the admin team is that I would like to always be trying to find new ways to engage the community in conversations, and encourage users to reflect on what this site is about and for and what can be possible here.

So I guess although on the one hand I'm quite serious about wanting community feedback about the Mahhal climate situation, I was also conducting a kind of experiment. I was happy to see so many users giving feedback, but I was unable to resist getting involved in a philosophical discussion about how to decide questions of verisimilitude. I suspect most users find it either boring or annoying.

I stated in a comment to the diary entry that I would like to see verisimilitude questions decided by community consensus rather than by the administrative team.

I have several reasons why I think that way.

Firstly, in fact I don't think we have a clear idea of what verisimilitude even means. We say "no orcs or elves," but somehow building vast quantities of motorways or bridges to nowhere is fine. Personally, I'd rather see more orcs and elves and fewer motorways in OGF, but that's just a personal bias, of course. And that's the point: we all have personal biases. So what's to ensure the administrative team is unbiased? Absolutely nothing.

I distrust authority, including my own. I'd rather seek some kind of community consensus. The first step to finding consensus is to have some conversations about it. So let's take that diary entry as a first attempt at such a conversation. And let's take this here blog entry as a second attempt. I think this bliki is a better venue for such a conversation, because I feel it's my "personal" channel.

What do you think verisimilitude is? I know we have an "official" definition, which I was involved in helping create (with BelpheniaProject's substantial initiative and help, among others). Personally, I think it's quite limited - it utterly fails to address concerns about things like climate, plate tectonics, barrier reefs, excessive motorways, etc.

Happy mapping - Luciano (talk) 16:04, 1 December 2016 (CET)

Comments are welcome, below the line

Please "sign and timestamp" your comments.

Wow, a big issue to start with...

My imperfect working definition would be 'anything that would be likely to exist in the real world on more than a one-off basis'. Important to note that this doesn't preclude things that are totally unique, just things that would be only ever constructed once out of folly and then discovered not to work.

'Getting people to do the correct thing of their own volition' is a thorny question that, if an answer could be found, would solve almost all the world's problems. We tend to resort to the compromising, unwieldy mechanisms of rules and laws in real life, but in creative work it's impossible to do this. How you get people who are not professional geographers to create features that are interesting but not unrealistic? How to channel imagination into pragmatism? To be frank, OGF's verisimilitude issues tend to be very much caused by giving a completely blank canvas to people who don't really know what they are doing, and in some cases lack the time or discipline to study real-world models. Call this elitist but it's not unreasonable: the current anti-expert movement largely stems from a mixture of laziness and resistance to correction by the wisdom of the more knowledgable. Of course this is to be distinguished from beginners learning their craft - in that case there is usually a critical mass of 'rightness' and a few mistakes which can be corrected. There is plenty of advice here and in the FAQ about not slapping unshapely motorways and grid cities all over the map, but a percentage of new users ignore this and dive straight in. A comparable situation occurred on a composition forum I used to be active on: a small core of regular members humbly and openly sought advice to improve their craft, whilst the majority of posts were from ignorant kids who would slap together banal, unplayable cliches and then get stroppy when the more knowledgable users pointed out the weaknesses instead of hailing them as the next Mozart. Invariably the defence would be 'I have the right to do it my way, I don't want to get held back by studying and rules, you're all elitist, gatekeeping etc.' In other words 'my uninformed guesswork has no right to be corrected by your many years of study'. Not a popular view, I fear, but it needs saying.

A further question is: should we be more restrictive? Should we force new users to build poor countries, prohibit motorways and cities, force the climate to be accurately represented? My feeling is no, because OGF is an anarchy in the good sense, there is no forceful administration and minutiae of rules. OGF represents a world which can escape the problems and constraints of the real world. I propose a strategy based upon classical models of education, heavily encouraging new users to study the work of establish masters and real maps. Sarepava (talk) 01:21, 2 December 2016 (CET)

I agree completely with Sarepava. I may be relatively new myself, having only been around four months now, but I have spent quite a bit of time trying to do the legwork first before diving in. I came here looking to espouse a bit of creativity that was different than my routine. It has been a joy to do the mapping and to gradually become more active in the community. I've also enjoyed the challenges, like learning more about tug boats and the dimensions of cargo ships for port creation. Is it perfect? No, but I'm making the effort and making changes as needed. The problem is, there is no way to force someone to have this perspective. Then again, I'm an academic and teach many students with the same attitude Sarepava describes. It doesn't surprise me in the slightest. I just think there is no real way to police it. I'd like to second Sarepava's suggestion of a classical model. I think some type of staged entrance might be useful. It has been suggested before, but maybe have new users build a town, then do some mid-scale landuse/terrain editing like a river and some farms/forests/etc. Looking back, I created a town of about 10,000 in Mecyna, but it seemed to have gone largely un-policed. (Perhaps an admin looked at my work and saw promise—I am just not aware that it was monitored.) Once my week was up, my territory selection was approved, and I happily moved in. I think that a two or three-stage mentorship would also eliminate the flash-in-the-pan user that does something, gets overwhelmed, and walks away. Might it scare a few potential users away? Perhaps, but it might also build a much stronger and more collegial userbase. I know that it would have helped me, and I would have appreciated it. This of course leads to another potential problem: who would do the mentoring? I think there are enough of us that would be willing to step up for the good of the community. We just need to remember that mentorship is something that requires care, patience, and a willingness to move in small steps as needed; it isn't for everyone. Cheers, everyone! Alessa (talk) 02:47, 2 December 2016 (CET)

@Alessa - I really like the mentoring idea, but I think with the limitations of the admin team, having an obligatory mentoring system would be completely impossible - it would simply demand too much work of more experienced users, solely from their goodwill. It's a great idea, but discouragingly unlikely. I have sometimes thought that having a stronger gatekeeping system to become a mapper in the first place might be a compromise in this direction - i.e. where instead of it being possible to simply sign up and start mapping immediately, new users had to "apply" in a back-and-forth set of emails with admin. There would be no ongoing mentoring, but by having an application process where potential users had to at least show some interest in and awareness of rules (including concepts like verisimilitude) would filter out a lot of the problems we see. Even that is unlikely given we can go for a week or more sometimes with no one on the admin team even checking the email queue. @Sarepava - in general I think you're right. If we accept there is some anarchy, true verisimilitude may be an unreasonable expectation. That being the case, however, I begin to feel uncomfortable trying to enforce it at all - it starts to feel arbitrary. But abrogating any enforcement of verisimilitude, we'll be seeing villages of "orcs and elves" (not to mention an infinite proliferation of alternate Redstonias) soon enough. Personally, if we're going to have unrealistic networks of motorways, orcs and elves don't bother me either, but I know others feel differently. Happy mapping - Luciano (talk) 04:02, 2 December 2016 (CET)

I didn't weight in on this issue in your diary entry; I felt like I didn't need to add a 10th "no" to the comment section ;) To me, versilimitude comes down to believability. Massive networks of motorways in the dessert or a 10km + bridge to an unpopulated island are not realistic, unless there is a good in-world explanation such as an authoritarian regime that decided to build that bridge against all economic reason as a part of a propaganda campaign. Of course explanations like these shouldn't be made up afterwards to explain bad mapping, but can, in isolate circumstances, explain derivations from what we would deem "realistic" in our real world. That's why I can completely get behind Luciano's concept of Mahal as a quite densely populated country based on the cultivation of "blue rice". We might not have that species in the real world, but it's not physically impossible for plants to be bred in such a way over a long time (coming from a total non-biologist). To me it actually adds to the believeability of the world by introducing something new and unknown; after all our real world is full of surprising things as well.
I think the current system of ckeck and balances works rather well, to be fair. If someone maps a feature that some users deem out-of-proportion, or that would have needed further consultation with neighbouring territories etc., so far we've been pretty effective in addressing the individual user (including me) in a constructive and respectful manner. Also, we should not forget that nearly all areas on OGF are work-in-progress; examples like Tarasses or Khaiwoon are the exception. I, for example, are completely aware that the mountains in Kojo are far from what geological processes on an earth-like planet can generate. However I simply don't know better at this point in time, and I might come back to them in a year or two again and to make them more realistic. Especially when we create the first version of a country on OGF as opposed to already have it sketched out on paper for years, versilimitude must always be a goal to strive for, but it's unrealistic to have the ambition that the map must look completely believeable at all times. In short, I would second our current community-led approach of having intense and open dialog in the community about all individual cases of concern, instead of having a police(wo)man that goes around and enforces a law-like set of rules. I also find these kind of discussions very educating about things such as geology, social sciences, traffic engineering etc ;)...
And one last thing; Despite being hypocritical at this point, I too would advocate for a slightly higher entry barrier for becoming a mapper. Perhaps we could grant new users only the right to write in the diaries, and have each new user introduce themselves to the community? Not like a casting, but just to have them interact with the rest of the community in a casual way before starting to map. Some users might already have a very developed concept that they are eager to present to the community, and we could give feedback before the first highway is built, others might only be very new to world building and don't have any idea yet. They could be inspired by others, especially their expected neighbours, which would lead to a better coordination between countries. In any case, I think that "rule" would enforce the idea of OGF being a community project, and not only a big piece of white paper where everyone sketches their imaginative universes right next to each other. Leowezy (talk) 11:46, 2 December 2016 (CET)

Unfortunately, I disagree with most of what has been said so far; it would apply if OGF was set up as a community, with a common aim, but I don't think it is so. It is a minority of the mapping and the mappers that contributes to the community element. There isn't a common aim (except to map something using OSM tools).
It is not true that rules and restrictions are incompatible with creative work: all creativity takes place within set limits. As I see it, there is an issue (that is, for those who do want to create something together, rather than individually) in that these limits for OGF are not defined clearly - or are defined in a way that is open to interpretation and changes over time.
In essence, we don't know what we're working towards, we don't even know if we're working together towards something. Except to enhance what we map in our own places (and out of our own feelings of friendship), why collaborate? I think this is the feeling of the majority of users.
So there are many good ideas mentioned above. Mentoring, yes. I have tried to do this before (in some informal ways, which I hope were positive). They will not lead to a more 'realistic' world; if there is no collaborative aim, this is not a 'project'. There are places in this world that are totally unrealistic, on many levels, and there have been no checks on them, because there was no requirement even for checks. Verisimilitude, except on a very small scale, is not achievable like this.
--Udilugbuldigu (talk) 15:14, 2 December 2016 (CET)

@Leowezy - that is all very well thought out. I really appreciate your definition: "believability." In general, I am quite pleased with the thoughtfulness of so many users who have responded here and on the diaries. I do still think a standard of "believeability" leaves issues at boundary situations, such as my concern about climate, since one user might find Mahhal's proposed climate believable, while another might not.Happy mapping - Luciano (talk) 14:44, 2 December 2016 (CET)

It might be good to share how this rule is currently interpreted and applied, to see if there's any consensus that it actually needs "fixing":
Admins try to strike a balance between maximizing realism and maximizing freedom. So we generally take action only in more extreme cases, such as highly visible content that's deliberately unrealistic and/or obviously unbelievable to most people. A few too many motorways — that's neither deliberate nor widely obvious as being unrealistic. Motorways covering every square meter of a country — definitely deliberate and obvious to all. So a slightly-off climate would not be subject to enforcement, but a wildly-off climate would. Yes, there are gray areas in between, but I think that's fine. Many cases can be resolved by users just giving friendly advice. I think it's much better to have a simpler set of rules that includes some gray areas and produces some inconsistencies, rather than trying to negotiate, debate, navigate, remember, enforce and obey a comprehensive list full of details. Because we're here to have fun. And for me, that wouldn't be fun. And I think admin action is much better than having the community debate and argue and vote on possible realism violations... consuming our limited time and attention, distracting us from our mapping, increasing the possibility of divisiveness and divisions, and potentially even shifting what's permissible in radical ways that could seriously impinge on user freedom, or open the door to elves and orcs, either way upending the entire nature of this site. --Isleño (talk) 20:52, 2 December 2016 (CET)