ADHD in a nutshell


2010-09-22 17:48

Realized I was hungry, went down to the kitchen to cook.

An hour later, I’d done a ton of dishes, washed off the stove including taking the little burner things out to clean them, and otherwise cleaned things up substantially such that in the future they could be used to cook. Then I went back to what I’d been doing previously, because the kitchen was now done.

… Note that at no point did any food enter this process.

Peter Seebach



Prescriptive and descriptive language, and what it means...

(Personal, GeekStuff)

2010-09-21 20:39
Comment [4]

There’s two basic schools of thought about grammar and language usage, although very few people adhere rigorously to either.

Prescriptive grammarians attempt to define rules for correct use of language, and view a rule as defining usage which is correct; failure to follow the rules is incorrect. Descriptive grammarians attempt to describe language correctly, and view a rule as an attempt to describe usage; if someone uses language in a way inconsistent with the rule, that means the rule is wrong.

The same thing applies to dictionaries. Dictionaries tend to list all the meanings a word has. However, not every usage listed is one you should expect other people to understand or accept. The purpose of the dictionary is to help you guess what someone meant when they said something, by telling you what they might have meant. It is a category error to then treat this as evidence that they were “correct”. Insofar as a dictionary is merely reporting on existing usage, it isn’t offering an opinion as to whether that usage is “correct”.

Here’s the thing. Both views are useful. They may be helpfully understood in terms of Postel’s Law:

Be conservative in what you send; be liberal in what you accept.

In general, if you are speaking or writing, you will be much more effective in communicating if you stick to primary, well-established, meanings of words. If a word has conflicting or contradictory meanings, you may be best off avoiding it entirely, or at the very least indicating clearly the sense in which you mean it. It also helps to know your audience; you may find it useful to adopt local usages when communicating with specific people, even if those usages would make your message less clear to other audiences.

By contrast, if you are reading or listening, you will usually be more effective if you allow for “nonstandard” or uncommon usages, and keep an eye out for them. It helps a lot to know the usages of the people who are communicating to you — you want to understand what they mean, not what someone else would mean.

When people get up in arms about a usage being “incorrect”, it may be because a secondary meaning or popular misunderstanding imposes the risk of losing any communicative value from a word. Consider the now moderately commonplace of “literally” as an intensifier for hyperbole. That is to say, consider the use of the word “literally” to mean “figuratively”. Once you have that usage in mind, how exactly do you communicate that something is “not figurative”? Well, you don’t. There’s no longer a word for “not figurative” in that dialect of English, because the word which used to mean that now means “either not figurative or figurative”, which tells you very little.

Ultimately, it’s up to you how you want to communicate, or whether you care. However, it’s worth remembering that a general description of how people appear to talk is not an assertion of correctness, and a set of guidelines for how to write is not an assertion that no one will write in any other way.

Peter Seebach


Comment [4]


I think I'm turning into a grumpy old man


2010-09-19 22:19
Comment [1]

I’ve noticed something. I am a lot faster to plonk people than I used to be. (For those who aren’t old Usenet sorts: *plonk* is the sound made when someone is dropped into a killfile.) I used to be pretty much inclined to plonk people only for being outright spammers or way, way, over-the-top hostile. Now, I plonk people for annoying me. And it’s a lot easier to annoy me than it used to be.

I think the big shift is this. I am now more inclined to think about any conversation in terms of what it will or won’t accomplish. It’s not fun to me anymore to trade gigantic email dialogues with people when it’s obvious that I can’t communicate with them. Or, maybe I’m just better at spotting when communication ain’t gonna happen. The net result is that I seem to have much more aggressive heuristics for “and now I will no longer read anything this particular person has to say”.

I’ve been poking at this a bit, because it’s a pretty big departure. I’m a bit of an infovore at heart, and it’s not as though I don’t enjoy reading crazy stuff; I love I think it’s that, if I’m going to be trading words with someone, I want to feel like something more than just light entertaining reading will result. And I think that’s the thing; I want to feel like at least one party has a reasonable expectation of learning something from the exchange. It’s not that I expect people to agree with me; it’s that, if we’re going to be disagreeing, I’d like there to be some substance to the conversation. What that means is one of two things:

#1. The person appears to be processing and responding to my arguments. I don’t expect them to agree, but I want to at least know that they are capable of perceiving the reasons I’m offering for my position, and that if they’re offering rebuttals, the rebuttals are at least basically responsive to my points.

#2. I am able to learn more about what the person thinks by asking questions. I don’t expect to agree with their position, but if I ask for clarification on what something means, or how two things interact, I want to at least occasionally get an answer that has some kind of logical connectivity going on in it.

Without at least one of these, the whole exercise seems pointless. That includes broad categories of other annoyances. People who can’t be bothered to use words reasonably well. (I blame Webster’s. It’s all very well to publish a complete lexicon of ways in which words have occasionally been used, but if you don’t warn people that some of them are confusing or likely to be misunderstood, you create a monster.) People who respond to a large hunk of argumentation with “lol”. Etcetera.

But whatever it is, the fact is that ten years ago, I was a lot more likely to keep talking to people, and now I plonk them a lot faster. I’m not sure this is a bad thing; I occasionally see ongoing quoted discussions with some of the people I’ve plonked, and it appears to me that they’re staying useless. But on the other hand… There was, once, a time when I’d have put more time and effort into trying to draw them out, lead them through articulating their thoughts enough that I could make sense of them. Now, it just seems like too much work.

I think it’s the Internet. I now have an arbitrarily large supply of people whose writing is lucid to draw on, so I am no longer running out of coherent stuff to read. The desire to lead borderline cases to lucidity has been replaced by the desire to just go read people who are already lucid.

BTW, useful tip for all the militant descriptivists out there: Nine times out of ten, when someone claims that you “misused” a word, what they are trying to communicate to you is that they thought they knew what you meant, then they realized you couldn’t mean that, and they had to swap that word’s meaning out to make sense of what you said. Before you respond angrily with “but if you knew what I meant, then it was okay”, consider the possibility that if they knew what you meant the first time, they wouldn’t have started trying to diagnose the source of the problem in the first place, and thus, would never have noticed the alleged “misuse”.

Peter Seebach

Comment [1]


Initial thoughts on Python


2010-09-18 16:43
Comment [5]

Well, for one reason and another, I have to learn Python. Like many people, I started out disliking the whitespace sensitivity. I’ve already been pretty badly burned by it at least once — to be fair, that’s partially because my editor likes to use tabs.

… And that’s where we run into my fundamental gripe about Python. It’s smug. The designers and developers have decided that they have found The Right Way To Do Things. If your editor likes to convert spaces to tabs, you’ll get screwed pretty badly sometimes, but it’s your fault for having a “misconfigured” editor. Never mind that the editor still needs to be set that way for everything else you work on; it’s misconfigured because it hasn’t been changed to adapt to the Python Way.

There’s a lot of preening in stuff about Python about how “readable” it is. I’m not convinced. Yes, it has less punctuation than C. Does less punctuation make things more readable? If so, someone should let all the people who are writing books about grammar know that punctuation is a bad idea and they should change English away from using it, because punctuation is unreadable and therefore bad.

I don’t wanna come across as being overly hostile to this. I mean, heck, at least it’s not PHP. And getting away from the damning with faint praise territory, it really is a pretty simple, clean, language to work in thus far. I can see people liking that, and there are tasks for which I might like such a language.

However, all this stuff about the whitespace sensitivity and how wonderful it is and you’ll grow to love it comes across as Stockholm Syndrome. Wait until the first time you have a hunk of Python in which something unknown went wrong with the indentation, and then see how clear and legible it is. You are by definition given no cues as to where the blocks end. You aren’t even allowed to have cues as to where the blocks end unless you want to add tons of extra comment lines.

One of the reasons I’m writing this is that the book I was reading smugly told me that if I don’t like the whitespace thing, to come back six months later and see if I still dislike it. Okay, yeah, I get it, you’re older and smarter and more experienced and just plain better than us plebes who write in C and Ruby and other languages that are not designed about looking pretty to people who don’t know them.

(EDIT: A bit over two years later, I still hate it, and it still causes me trouble regularly.)

The language itself isn’t too bad, but the smugness of the developer community is pretty offputting. I get along better with C and Ruby programmers, who are quite willing to acknowledge that their favorite languages have quirks and flaws.

Peter Seebach

Comment [5]


It just occurred to me...


2010-09-16 20:00
Comment [2]


Any piece of parenting advice which starts with the phrase “Without loss of generality” will turn out to be bad parenting advice.

I welcome naturally-occurring counterexamples.

Peter Seebach

Comment [2]


My cat. Is afraid. Of the dark.


2010-09-14 18:16

So, I have a really snuggly kitty, but for reasons heretofore unknown, she is almost never a kitty who cuddles up to me while I sleep. But she does sometimes. Especially when I’m napping.

Well. We’ve done some tests, and I am now prepared to offer an explanation: She is afraid of the dark.

If, when I go to bed, it’s light in my room (comfortable reading light for humans), within a few minutes the cat is sitting on me purring loudly. If it’s dark in my room, she does not approach, and indeed, if she’s on the bed when the lights go out, she runs away. The same holds true for other rooms; she will sleep in Jesse’s room all day, but at night, she won’t go there unless the lights are on.

The only conclusion I can justify is that my cat is afraid of the dark. Oh, well. She also comes when called and likes to be carried around. I’m assuming that she is, in fact, not a cat.

Peter Seebach



An open letter to Blizzard

(Personal, GeekStuff)

2010-09-08 23:29

Yeah, still thinking about this. Decided that, just because I liked the company so much for so long, I ought to give them a summary which isn’t bounded by what you can post on the forums or surrounded by trash-talking teenagers. This is a copy (edited for blog) of something I sent to their PR department, after customer support told me those were the right people to send it to.

Hello, Blizzard PR folks! I’m writing you because, in theory, you’re the people who care how Blizzard looks. If you’re the wrong people to look at this, please don’t just toss it out — forward it to someone who can read it and think about it. This is about the only thing I’ve asked of you after five years of play. Hear me out.

Hi. I’m someone who was, for a long time, a pretty big fan of World of Warcraft. I cancelled my accounts (plural) over the Real ID thing, and your response since then has not changed my mind. I’m writing you because it’s hard to tell how much of what happened is Blizzard being out of touch, how much of it is Blizzard not caring, and how much of it is Bobby Kotick being a psychopath.

Let me start by explaining what I mean by a “pretty big fan”. I’m not gonna pretend to be the biggest WoW fan out there, but I think that I can argue convincingly that I was a very active fan, and that it took a lot to drive me away.

I maintained three accounts (you’re welcome to verify this, this email is being sent under my ID), and paid for accounts for other people, such as sending time cards to friends. I bought four copies of WotLK collector’s edition. I upgraded machines to play WoW. Heck, I built a couple of machines which were completely purpose-built for WoW and never did anything else.

I maintained a couple of addons, and spent many hours writing up bug reports for other addons, and submitting patches. I’m a professional programmer; my time spent debugging and contributing code is something I normally get to charge money for.

All of this comes down to one simple thing: I was a really big fan of WoW. In five years of playing it, I never so much as got a trial account for any other MMO. I don’t know how many hours I spent playing WoW, but it was a lot.

And I left. I think you should care why.

Issue #1: Real names for forums was obviously, fatally flawed.

Heck, it was stupid. When that announcement came out, I told a lot of my friends about it. Without exceptions, and I do mean without even one exception, every single one of them reacted with incredulous shock that Blizzard could seriously propose this.

I won’t pretend that every one of them immediately thought of all the many objections that were raised in the forums. But every single person saw at least one obvious objection which would be a guaranteed showstopper.

I’ll come back to a couple of the specifics later. The key point here is this: It is pretty weird that this idea ever got as far as being announced to the general public. The range of immediately obvious fatal flaws is astounding.

Worse yet, there is no way in which this would have reduced the problems that have made your forums such a cesspit. Bullies don’t care whether their victims know who they are. For that matter, when your bullies are mostly kids who have no personal liability or risk, what would be the smartest thing to do? It wouldn’t be to let them find out the real names of the people they want to harass. Kids can and will take internet drama to the real world given the information they need to do so. (And the use of their real names isn’t a deterrent, especially because they don’t have to post under their real names to do searches on someone else’s real name.)

Either everyone involved is spectacularly, incandescently, naive, or you were all lying. But come to think of it, we know some Blizzard reps were lying. That’s issue #2…

Issue #2: Blizzard reps were lying.

Before this announcement, Blizzard reps repeatedly told us that the reason Real ID used real names was that it was only intended for use with people you know in real life. After the forum announcement, Blizzard reps said that the change to require real names to be used on all the forums, where everyone could see them, had been known to everyone at Blizzard for a long time.

That means that the line about it being used only with people you know in real life was a lie. Not a misunderstanding, not a nuanced statement which people might misinterpret. A lie. You flat-out told us that Real ID was only for people you know in real life, at a time when you knew for sure that your plan was to force anyone who wanted to use the forums to post there under their real name, even though they might not know everyone who reads the forums in real life.

Now, with most companies, I wouldn’t even bother to point this out; the assumption that corporate representatives are lying is pretty much a foregone conclusion in most of the world. But this is Blizzard, and while I’ve seen Blizzard reps announce changes of plans before, this was the first time I ever saw a Blizzard rep say something that was later revealed to be a lie.

Of course, the lying may not have been the worst. There were also responses which were dismissive and insulting; that’s issue #3…

Issue #3: Initial response was insulting, dismissive, and stupid

I call your attention, in particular, to a post made in the EU forums (sorry, I can’t get you an exact link). One of the Blizzard representatives said that, yes, Blizzard knew a lot of people would leave over this, but thought it was a good thing; it would improve the forums.

Think about what that sounds like to the people who were leaving. It sounds, very much, like “we don’t want you and your kind”. There’s just one problem. By the time that post was made, nearly all of your community MVPs had come out as saying they would no longer use the forums if this change went live. So had dozens of people who had such undesirable traits as “female”, or “has a job in an industry other than video games”. And you thought the forum would be improved if they left.

There wasn’t a single complaint from the regular trolls and bullies. They weren’t planning to leave, and weren’t bothered by the proposed change. So it wasn’t that Blizzard thought the forums would be better off without both the MVPs and the trolls; it was that, having seen that the MVPs were leaving and the trolls were staying, Blizzard came out and said that would improve the forums. Probably a mistake, but a mistake you’ve never corrected. Not even when you backed down from the plan.

The backing down was actually pretty decent, except that it was not really presented in terms of the substance of any complaints; that’s issue #4…

Issue #4: Blizzard never acknowledged the substance of any complaints.

I really liked Mike Morhaine’s response at first, but then I noticed something.

Blizzard acknowledged the complaints as a mass noun. However, there is no acknowledgement, not in any post I’ve seen from any Blizzard representative, of the merit of any of the complaints. For all I know, if 10% fewer people had cancelled their accounts, Blizzard would still be happily moving forward with a plan which would have endangered some of their customers.

I’d like to digress for a moment into a couple of specific complaints that mattered a lot to me, because while many of the others are doubtless significant (and I’m sure the people who raised those complaints are feeling just as ignored as I am), these were the ones that mattered the most to me.

Issue #4a: LGBT? Die in a fire.

WoW’s community is, by and large, astounding in its variety and depth of hostility to gays, transsexuals, and other people who aren’t obviously heterosexual. It’s certainly not the worst out there — Xbox Live is essentially unchallenged, there. But it’s bad. Really, really, bad.

Two of my closest friends who play WoW are transgendered. Both of them have legal names which would instantly “out” them to anyone who has ever talked to them in game. What this means is that anything that relies on a legal name is instantly ruled out. A lot of gay people might be outed if you could see the real names of both members of a couple. And in WoW, being outed means being harassed.

The Real ID system, as a whole, is in effect actively and directly hostile to gay and transgendered people. Worse, since the harm it does is specific, and doesn’t affect many players, refusal to use it can raise suspicions that otherwise might not be raised.

This is the kind of thing which you should have fully thought through before even considering going live with Real ID, and ultimately, it can’t be resolved without allowing people to choose a handle other than their real name.

Issue #4b: “No one cares about privacy.”

It seems that there’s a bit of a disconnect between the very accurate observation that many people are not very concerned with privacy, and the conclusion that no one is very concerned with privacy. You’ve gotten smacked down on this one a fair bit, but I just thought I should point something out:

One of the people I know who argued that Real ID was no big deal does, in fact, have a facebook account. Under a fake name. She’s not dumb enough to be out on the Internet under her legal name.

… Enough with the specifics. The problem here is that many of the complaints people raised were serious complaints — as in, you simply can’t ever expect these people to use Real ID. And yet, in all the responses Blizzard has offered, I have never once seen Blizzard admit that, in fact, there are genuine and sound reasons for people not to want to play video games under their legal name.

And when you don’t admit that, in fact, there was an element of justice to the complaints, you end up coming across as not caring about those complaints in terms of their merits, only in terms of their number. So small groups (say, transgendered people) are pretty justified in assuming that, if Blizzard can find a way to make the real name requirement acceptable to “most” players, Blizzard will go right ahead and do that, because the substance of the complaints doesn’t matter, only the number of complaints.

But of course, Blizzard wouldn’t go right ahead and do that, would they? Well, maybe they would. That’s issue #5:

Issue #5: At this time, for the time being…

In the original message from Mike Morhaine, posted July 9th, Mike said:

“As a result of those discussions, we’ve decided at this time that real names will not be required for posting on official Blizzard forums.”

A lot of people pointed out that “at this time” sounds an awful lot like “but as soon as you’ve all bought Cataclysm we’ll do it anyway.” I personally didn’t think so. But let’s look at what Michael Ryder says to Eurogamer a couple of weeks later:

“Ultimately we decided we would not go in that direction for the time being, […]”

Now, maybe this is just poor phrasing, but the phrase “for the time being” is a qualifier that usually means you plan to change something later. Maybe that connotation isn’t intentional, but it’s there, and so far as I can tell, it’s the last official statement from Blizzard on the topic. We got a temporary reprieve because there were so many of us, but no one at Blizzard thinks we had a real point.

Ultimately, the entire process seems like it’s been undertaken without any thought, not just to what people don’t want, but to what they do want. That’s Issue #6:

Issue #6: Real ID is not what the vast majority of players want

By forcibly tying highly desirable features (cross-game chat, cross-faction chat, ability to friend all of a person’s characters at once) to an undesirable feature, you have created the illusion that people want the real name thing. Not many people seem to actually want the real name thing in its own right. Some don’t want it, for many reasons (it breaks immersion, for instance).

Other services, like Steam and Xbox Live and PSN (and in fact, pretty much every service out there) allow people to pick handles. So does City of Heroes, where “globals” are unique handles people can use to keep in touch without having to share real names.

Okay, that’s about long enough. Lemme summarize a bit.

Let’s bring this all together and see the picture it draws us. It draws us a picture of Blizzard deciding to do something that will be harmful to a substantial minority of their player base. The response is, among other things, a post about every four seconds for three straight days, mostly criticizing the scheme.

In response, Blizzard makes it clear that most of their prior statements about Real ID were dishonest, and that they’ve been thinking about this for a long time — so presumably they’re aware of all the problems and decided that they just didn’t care. This is amplified by a blue poster openly dismissing the people who complain. Not just the complaints, but the people. We are told that the forums will be better without us.

When this inexplicably fails to mollify the customers, Blizzard backs down — but does so without in any way acknowledging the substance of even one complaint. We never hear a single response to the effect of “That’s something we hadn’t considered, and you’re right that it would be a big problem”. And then Michael Ryder goes on to hint that it may happen anyway, just not “for the time being”.

Real ID, even the optional parts, still sucks. It’s regarded by many SC2 players as the single bad thing in an otherwise awesome game. It selectively denies access to some pretty awesome features to the set of “anyone who has reason not to be known by their legal name in an online game”, which is a set dominated by various groups which would, in most contexts, be protected minorities.

Months have passed. Still not a single acknowledgement of the substance of even one complaint. Stalking victims, gays, women, whoever; no one’s had a single specific complaint acknowledged.

Some people are just hoping it doesn’t happen; others have left.

On July 5th, if you’d asked me about upcoming plans for Cataclysm, they would have included at least three, probably four or five, collector’s edition copies, and talk of seeing if I could shake loose a few thousand dollars to get a faster machine to play it. I was actively discussing Cataclysm, enthusiastic about all the amazing new content and the improved game mechanics, and so on. I was telling people that they should try WoW, and helping them have a good experience if they started, by getting them set up with starting money and helpful tips.

By the evening of July 6th, I was an ex-customer. I logged in enough to collect my stuff from the auction house and send my loot on to guildies. Haven’t been back since.

WoW isn’t fun anymore, because Blizzard has made it clear that my transgendered friends are not a welcome or valued part of the community. Blizzard has made it clear that, even after having this kind of issue pointed out, they are not planning to consider it, take it into account, or make allowances for it. Similarly, people whose names identify them as Arabic, Chinese, Mexican, or Jewish might not feel safe using Real ID; in-game channels are full of blatant and open racism, complete with threats of physical violence.

Every voice counts, but only if it’s the voice of a white male teenager with nothing to lose.

You can still fix this, you know. All you have to do is something that most people regard as one of the essential skills that distinguishes adults from children: Admit you were wrong.

Acknowledge at least a few of the many complaints about this proposed scheme, and give us a real, honest, explanation of how they could possibly have gotten overlooked in your internal planning. Did you think about them and just not care? Did you just not think of any of them? What happened?

Without that, all we have is an official statement that you’re glad to see us going, because it’ll make for better forums when all the the people who don’t want to be identified by their legal names leave. Either you think that the only reason people wouldn’t want to be known by their legal name, to everyone, is that they’re bullies or trolls, or you just don’t care about the exceptions.

If you want people to think you are neither stupid or callous, you must fix Real ID so that it can be reasonably used by the many people who have really good reasons to avoid using their legal name to identify them in gameplay, and explain how on earth you could have thought that option wasn’t necessary to begin with.

Peter Seebach




I love inventing FTL drives.


2010-09-08 15:27

So, one of the recurring needs for science fiction stories is some way to travel faster than light, without which interstellar travel is impossible, and this tends to gravely undermine many awesome story ideas.

I have invented a couple of FTL drive mechanisms which I believe to be genuinely novel, in that I have never seen either used in an existing science fiction story. I hereby contribute them to the community at large in case anyone ever needs one.

The narrative necessity drive.

The narrative necessity drive depends on the fact that, in practice, what happens is usually what people expect, or what makes for a godo story. Narrative necessity drives can travel from one star to another about as fast as you expect they can. This provides a sound technical justification for many common tropes. For instance, it explains why a maverick who has trouble following orders but loves his ship and knows every bit of it from maintaining it himself can nearly always beat anyone else on a given journey. Similarly, any ship that is called a “generation ship” will, of course, take precisely long enough to have developed interesting cultural norms and diverged from the originating culture in interesting ways, usually about two generations. Large, unwieldy ships take longer to travel than sleek ones which look like they’d be aerodynamic in the unlikely event that they were ever put in an atmosphere.

Oddly, this drive is actually precisely the one used in many settings, only they always have some other cover story as an explanation for “how it works”.

The Detroit Drive

The Detroit drive runs under the discussion that, no matter where you are going, if the entity running the trip is named Delta, you will end up about two hours late due to a longer layover than you expected in Detroit. The key is that the layover seems to be at most about a day; while this is painful when you’re flying from San Francisco to Los Angeles, it’s not bad at all when you’re being flown from Alpha Centauri to Betelgeuse. Thus, Delta Space Lines is able to get you from pretty much anywhere to anywhere in about two days, with a one day layover in Detroit. Anywhere. Including other star systems. The only real limitation is that this doesn’t work unless Detroit is obviously out of the way; thus, it’s not very efficient for travel to and from Earth. (Travel to and from Earth is accomplished by taking a trip that goes from one distant star to another, and missing your connection.)

Peter Seebach



More thoughts about Real ID

(GeekStuff, Personal)

2010-09-06 14:29

A while back, I quit World of Warcraft over Real ID. A few days after this, Blizzard announced that they were not, at least for the moment, going to go ahead with the announced plan to move all their forums over to posting exclusively under peoples’ “real names” (by which they mean “the name registered to the account, whether or not it is your legal name”).

A number of my friends have asked why I have not returned to WoW, given this announcement. There’s a few reasons.

The first is that Blizzard has since backed down from backing down, saying they are not going to “move in that direction for the time being". Which is to say, they probably will go ahead with it later.

The second is a bit more complicated, and harder to provide links for, as Blizzard reps have gone around deleting the threads discussing this as things have changed.

Let’s wind the clock back to that fateful Tuesday, when they first announced this. Pretty much every person they’ve identified as a Most Valued Poster (MVP) has come out saying this is horrible. FAQ maintainers, addon authors, basically everyone who contributes to the forum and helps other people out, all seem to be unanimously against this. The first response to it was from someone in the Witness Protection Program. In short, the response from [b]helpful contributors[/b] is 100% negative.

There are, of course, many people defending the proposed changes. Nearly all of these people are derisive, rude, and hostile. When someone opposed to the change talked about being abused as a child, someone defending the change said he was too busy loling at the whiners to write a longer post.

Now, what is Blizzard’s official response to that? It’s for a Blizzard employee, posting in his capacity as a company representative, to say “we’re aware that some people may leave over these changes, and we think that’s okay, because it’ll make a better community.” Now, maybe they were thinking about the fictional mirror universe in which trolls are afraid to post under their real names, but people with teenage daughters aren’t. But they posted it in our universe, where the people leaving were, with virtually no exceptions, the contributing, helpful, people — the ones who were providing what little good there was to be had in the community. And the people who trolled the forums, who picked fights, who responded to other people with derision? They were staying. And Blizzard said, officially, that this was what they wanted.

Fast-forward a little bit to their original announcement that they’ve changed their minds. They’re not implementing that. Why? Because so many people disliked it. There is, at no point, from any Blizzard employee, any acknowledgement that the reasons were relevant — because, to Blizzard, they weren’t. The question, to them, was never “does this expose some people to unacceptable risks”, but “how many people will quit over this”. They found that the number of people who would quit was too high. Had a smaller number of people quit, they would have been happy with it. Even if every one of the quitters was a mature, healthy, adult who wanted to make the game fun for other players, and the griefers and trolls and harassers were all staying.

The fact is, this idea was genuinely stupid. Not just a bad idea once a bunch of smart people have time to think about it. Stupid, as in, I have never seen it presented as a proposal to an adult who was not a sociopath without them realizing immediately (as in, less than ten seconds, no discussion needed) that it was a fatally flawed, deeply stupid idea, which would hurt a lot of legitimate users and have no effect at all on the trolls.

Finally, there is one more thing. Throughout the whole process, Blizzard representatives were lying. When the announcement came through, Blizzard reps said they’d been planning it for a long time. And yet, the day before the announcement, they had been telling people that the purpose of Real ID was to use it only with people you already knew and trusted. But if they’re talking about making it mandatory for the forums, that’s not true. And that means that, for the weeks prior to the announcement, they knew that they had already decided to force people to post under their real names, and yet, they also kept telling people to stop worrying about it because it was only for use with people you already know. Straight up lies. Not shading the truth, not hedging around something. They lied, straight up.

And that, ultimately, is where we end up. I no longer have any reason to trust them. They have lied to me, brazenly. They have callously dismissed concerns from people whose lives would be endangered by a proposed change, and backed down only when it turned out that a large enough number of people were quitting. They have strongly hinted that they plan to go forward with this scheme anyway.

World of Warcraft, at a purely game mechanical level, is a delightful game. However, the game community is dominated by people who not only don’t care when other people are unhappy, but who actively prefer that other people should be unhappy. These people dominate the Blizzard forums, they dominate the in-game chat, and they are the ones that Blizzard has said they want to keep around. The people who try to help other people out are simply not valuable unless there’s a lot of them. Ultimately, Blizzard’s miscalculation was that they underestimated the number of friendly and helpful players they had. And I do mean “had”, past tense — a lot of them quit, and not all of them are coming back.

I think I could see myself picking up WoW again, but it would be in a strange future where Activision has fired Bobby Kotick (read that link, it’s… interesting), and the people at Blizzard who used to try to make their customers happy have gotten back in control. Otherwise, there’s no point; the company has told people like me straight up that we’re unwelcome, and that they would be happier if we left because they think it would improve their community.

Peter Seebach




How to use OS X Server's built-in spamd


2010-09-02 13:02

So, I’m now using OS X Server for a machine which does some email processing, but for Various Diverse Reasons, it is beneficial to me to be able to use the spamc client directly, which means I need to have spamd running. Luckily, someone else cleverly already solved this problem, producing a launchd .plist file for spamd.

Convenient, and it works nicely. Should be applicable on any reasonably recent OS X Server; I’m using it on 10.6.something.

Peter Seebach



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