On Poor Communication

I have difficulty communicating.

People say "Your blog is challenging to read".

I agree with this. I feel it is superior to provide material that is challenging.

Not because it is inherently more virtuous to be challenging. But because of agency. Human Agency.

On the First Problem

The problem of subjective definition:

So one of the tools in the Quantum Ogre series, given to maintain agency is "Yes, but. . ." where you describe the consequences of an action before the action is taken.

You don't do this to make the game easy. You do this because it is very very super difficult hard to communicate a complete setting and scene in your head to another human being using words.

So a non-challenging blog will say something like "A widget is bad". Only they don't define widget. And wiget is a term that could mean one thing to one person, and another to a different person. Both go away from the article thinking entirely different things from the same text.

On the Second Problem

On the problem of intent:

But the difficulties don't stop there. Some people type "The new movie has many logical flaws." Some people interpret this as a literal statement that means nothing else besides this. Perhaps they liked the film, perhaps they didn't. Other people reading this see the person saying also, [the new movie is bad and I didn't like it] in addition to the actual literal text written.

Everyone is looking at those two options and saying "Well everyone knows that's the right one to do." about different options.

On the Third Problem 

On the problem of coherence:

This is the most difficult to talk about.

This is a blog - not a scientific journal, research paper, journalism article, biography, or other formal work. The primary goal is to communicate, entertain, and engage an audience.

People read it for fun.

This means, personally, I strive not to be pedantic. I do not itemize every bit of text out into clear statements of "This is my opinion." "This is fact." I work from the belief that A) My readership is erudite and can reasonably parse what I am saying. B) Any questions can be asked to me in multiple channels and I will respond to any clear questions or claims. I am never intentionally obfuscatory. I write what I mean and will always clarify upon request.
There is too much, let me sum up

I believe, that because of this, I often run into two specific situations repeatedly:
  • Someone tries to apply a specific piece of advice globally that should just apply to the situation it resolves
  • Someone reads one sentence out of context with the rest of the article. 
I am writing this because all too often, these communication problems are getting in the way of actual discussion. It is my responsibility to communicate clearly. This is the first step in a larger clarification and reorganization of some long standing points.


  1. From a fan,
    All of your stuff is way awesome.
    Your Table For Avoiding Death has seen much more Death, Relief, and Heartache than any other table in my folder.

    But nothing is a challenge to read and assimilate.

    Also what movie?

    1. Any movie being reviewed.

      Oh, this isn't heartache, just a comment on the same types of e-mails I seem to be getting.

      Like, I might say "Mechanic X is terrible." And someone would reply, "Why do you hate game Y?". See, because since I'm choosing to say something negative, they infer that I must not like game Y. Really, I mean only what I wrote. In fact, it is more likely that I actually like game Y because I'm taking the time to talk about it.

      I should point out that only meaning what is literally said or written seems to be something a minority of people do (or so my wife would have me believe).

      I don't think there is a wrong or a right. I think it is more like, different kinds of people expect different kinds of things from different kinds of sources.

  2. This is a universal problem, exacerbated by the way text-only communication cuts out a significant part of the language. I don't think there's all that much you can do about it from your end. I tend to assume that everyone on the internet is being honest and friendly and take their statements at face value, and it seems to work out pretty well for me, but there's no way to make other people do the same.

    1. Actually, much of scientific discussion happens via writing and reading; they manage to communicate effectively by having clearly defined terminology AND only read the text as is written, without inferring anything else.

    2. Re: scientific discussion, "yes, but...". For example: http://sss.sagepub.com/content/31/1/71.abstract

    3. @Ynas: Yes, but my point is it needs both sides to work. If the person you're talking to doesn't share your terminology and doesn't interpret your statements literally, misunderstandings will still arise. And because day-to-day conversation actually partly relies on non-literal interpretations and subtext, that'll happen a lot.

  3. Love your articles, and the complexity of them. Keep on doing what you're doing.

    My only critique would be to drop the all the "On"'s.

    1. This is the post on poor communication.

      I think that's just the way it's going to be!

  4. You write it for fun. I read it for fun. Job well done. If someone wants to winge about it being too much, too hard, not enough, jabber jabber jabber....f*ck'em :)

  5. I can't play anymore because of personal issues (i.e, marriage, work, the usual things that get in the way...), but I still read your blog, because reading it is the closest thing to the fun I had in my days of playing.

    Your writing is great and very fluid. I wish I had this blog in the old days. And in fact I wished you could write MORE.

    Keep on the great work.

    1. I write plenty. :-)

      Thanks for the compliment.


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