Wednesday, April 4, 2012

A Better Way To Communicate About Miniature Wargaming?

by CaulynDarr

If you are reading this, I'll assume you know how we communicate within the the 40K community and the miniature gaming community at large.

There are some advantages and disadvantages to how things are done.  The forums can cover broad topics and you can hear from multiple voices.  Unfortunately, everyone is of equal status and good information can get drowned out in all the noise.  Blogs provide a way to get information in nice concentrated voices, but tends to lead to mono-cultures dominated by the authoritarian voice of the authors.

Do you think that there might be a better way to build the community?  To help out people with questions about rules and the hobby?

If you are a software developer like me, you may be familiar with a website called Stack Overflow. This is a question and answer formatted site used by many software developers.  If you need to know why your code is throwing a weird exception, or how to index a column in an Oracle  DB, it's a good first stop.

What makes stackoverflow different from a forum is that questions and answers get voted on.  The more votes you get, the better rep you get, and the more privileges you get on the site.  The rep also lets users know how much credibility you should give to others.  Higher rep user get to close down or protect question that are bad or troublesome.

Stackoverflow also favors facts over opinions.  They provide good guidelines for evaluating subjectivity versus objectivity.

Stackoverflow has branched out into a whole network of topics.  I've been on for about a month, and it's a blast to be involved in.  You get to help people out, and get some help yourself when you need it.  Plus gaining rep and badges gives you nice warm fuzzies.  The kind of nice warm fuzzies that gets people working towards the betterment of the community instead of always trying to tear it down.  Currently you win in a 40K forum or comment thread by beating the original poster up and yelling the loudest.  You win on a stackexchange site by asking good questions and providing useful answers.

The miniature gaming community could use something like this.  A place to help answer people's questions without the normal FAAC versus WAAC BS that erupts.  Where we can down-vote whoever comes along and adds nonconstructive drivel to a conversation.

Well, guess what?  Someone else thought the same thing, and has already made the proposal to the stackexchange network.

I think it would be really cool if we could get this going.  It needs 48 supporters and 40 up voted question proposals to move on to the next stage.  If you get in now, you can help shape what this website will eventually be.

Please pass this along, and lets try to make this happen!


  1. I like it, looks like it's worth a shot.

  2. Interesting idea, but I think there's a fundamental difference between coding and wargaming that may be the deal-breaker. When you're writing code, there is an objective result of what you do: your solution will either work or not work, and it is possible to analyze how efficiently you have solved the problem. Answering rules questions in 40K isn't like that- many questions have no objective answer within the rules because of the way GW writes.

    1. You're thinking too much like a jaded 40K blogger. If you started a new game tomorrow like FoW or Infinity, I'm sure you would have lots of objective questions to ask.

      There are even plenty of answerable general knowledge questions that can be asked about 40K. You are experienced player, so they might not be immediately obvious to you.

      I have seen simple questions turn into 30 page cluster f---s on Dakka. The format of a stack exchange site tends to prevent that from happening. It's a democratic system and you voice your opinion by voting. It's less personal and you don't have to start sharpening the knives over every difference of opinion.

      I know that SandWyrm gets plenty of emails about color theory questions. That's a perfect example of the types of questions that could be posted to the site. There are lots of people hungry for that type of help, and they have no good place to go for it.

  3. I share AbusePuppy's concerns. They are valid and well articulated. There are lot of different kinds of gamers out there with different views on the hobby. Those views do not always mesh.

    I'd love to see this concept get off the ground if only to find out what kind of gamers are in the majority.

    1. That's generally where the subjectivity versus objectivity guidelines come into play. The sites favor questions that can be answered. A little subjectivity can be involved, but it has to be backed with experience or evidence.

      I'm going to use color theory as an example again. Color choice is pretty subjective, but you can break out a color wheel and make a good case for why color x works well with color y.

      Another example is, "What's a better heavy support options, a predator or a whirlwind." You can't just say, "predator". You have to provide some reasoning, like probability of killing models in cover or whatever. If people agree with your reasoning the question gets up voted and accepted. It's it's a bad and unsupported answer it gets down voted.

  4. The stackexchange has a variety of themes - apart from those about computers and programming there are: careers, gaming, cooking, math, photography, stats, english, physics, home improvement, electronics, android, bicycles, scifi & fantasy, skeptics. Area 51 is a place where at the moment there are almost 500 proposals of other topics. I'd love to see the one about wargames go strong. To make it stronger though I'd connect it with other games - like card and board ones - it's easy to filter questions and many gamers don't play only figurine games.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. I think that miniature gaming represents a unique problem space that covers gaming, hobby, strategy, and a little probability math. It does overlap with other SE sights, but not enough where a lot of valid miniature gaming question would be considered off topic.

      There is a board gaming site, and it's pretty weak currently. Most board gamers favor board game geek for their web 2.0 needs.

      That's the beauty of the proposal system though. If enough people think it deserves its own site, it will get one.

  5. I'm following it. I think it's a great idea!

  6. I love this idea! This seems so much better then always seeing doomsday blogs about whats going to kill this or that and what gaming company is better then this one etc etc etc. So I think im going to follow this thanks a lot.

  7. Isn't this just what a forum is for - a subjective topic?
    Colour is an interesting example, its extremely subjective and while there are of course colours that go well together that doesn't account for fluff, personal preferences and themes.

    Take a look at many of the forums, they are run by 'mods' who allow much of the stupid nonsense while being tough on voices that don't follow the forum 'norm'. The off topic, subjective fight causing stuff is supported from entrenched members, but newer or less known people with valid points get drowned/removed.

    In other words the 'highly rated' users (mods) take control. They are normally put into a position of power due to input and matching the aims or views of the forum creator. They then support the next tier down and you end up with a close minded community of very little value to anyone.

    As has been pointed out in programming there is right and wrong. In wargaming this simply isn't normally the case.
    Reasoned arguments are good, but that doesn't mean they are right either. A large amount of reasoned arguments are based on biased personal experiences based on meta, local groups, and local armies.

    Certain forums have highly respected members, they are usually the people to maintain the status quo - generally at the expense of creativity, new ideas and new members.

    Communities are generally based on people with common goals, interests and thoughts.
    You either have fights in which everything gets put on the table, or you have communities where 'the other stuff' never gets spoken about because it's taboo and new members get the idea or they leave.

    Generally speaking post count and sign up dates are a good value to use. How active is the person and when did they sign up? Was it 10 minutes after the release of the army they are apparently now an expert on, or 10 years and 3 iterations of the codex ago?
    You have to get through some of the rubbish to the gems, but you can't expect to just have gems.
    Generally things grow best in manure.

    Stickies are the good way of putting all those gems into one spot.

    1. If you use a stack exchange site or understood the rep system, you wouldn't have these concerns. They work in an entirely different way than a forum. Forums are about discussion, and turn out to be a pretty bad place to ask a question in you want a strait answer. If you want to fight over the merits of being a competitive gamer versus a hobby gamer, a forum or a blog is a good place to do that. But if you have rules questions or need factual or evidence based help, you probably won't get a clear or concise answer there.

      Stack exchange sites are all about giving clear and concise answers. Answers can even be opinion based, but they must be backed with logical reasoning and evidence.

      I want you to take a look at this answer from gaming.stackexcahnge: The question was what was a good solider setup in Mass Effect 3. This is defiantly a question that will include a bit of subjective opinion; much like asking for competitive 40K list advice. Notice how the guy who explained the answer in great detail had his upvoted and accepted. People who gave terse unsupported answers where down voted.

      Rep is fundamentally different from a post count. You have to earn your rep by giving answers like the one above. You also have to spend your rep to do things like down vote and close questions. You don't get rep by posting inane "Me too's" in a 1000 threads. You have to earn it and use it wisely.

      You sound a little cynical of online communities, and I can understand that given how forums and blogs are run in the miniature gaming community. I'm a programmer, and I was initially skeptical of the format until I got involved in a stack exchange site. You should really consider giving this a try. It might turn out to not be something useful to you, but you shouldn't discount a potential resource without giving it a try.


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