Beware the Mops and Sociopaths.

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Re: Beware the Mops and Sociopaths.

Postby Odigan » Mon Dec 24, 2018 2:34 pm

Thank you, Taurinor, for your thoughtful and well-reasoned reply. We all seem pretty happy with our little corner of the world here, and see no reason to go crazy changing the way we do things for/because of others, but contentment breeds complacency, and as Rangers we must be ever vigilant! Keeping the points raised in this thread in mind is action enough perhaps, but I definitely approve of the notion of an account creation question - common practice on FB groups these days.

Elleth wrote:That said, in a perfect world I'd love to see our community evolve a tier that could match the "American Mountain Men" - a gentleman I once knew who came up in their ranks in the buckskinner movement of the 1970's told me about their standards: http://americanmountainmen.org/membership/requirements/
It goes against my own personal nature I admit: I've finally made peace with the reality I'm more homesteader / crafter than adventurer, at least in this season of my life. But I think if I had a preference for the general direction our hobby moved, it'd be this one. It's also frankly harder, so... "barrier to entry" and all that.


So, personally I tend to avoid any kind of "ranking system," as in my view they regularly lead to corruption and gaming the system. Anything more than say three basic tiers, along the lines of Novice/Apprentice/Master tends towards the distasteful in my mind, and even then, who gets to award such titles? Who gets to be a "Master," and why? Master of what? And as Elleth rightly points out, many of us don't portray Rangers specifically or necessarily adventuring types. This has long been a complaint of mine in MMOs/RPGs and the like - there is rarely an effective path forward that doesn't involve repeatedly killing things.

So when I look at that list of Mountain Man standards, what I see isn't a complete set of requirements required to achieve a job title, but a series of skills that could earn, well... merit badges. I've honestly never even thought of the idea before seeing this list, in terms of our group, but it could be pretty cool! We could all fairly easily (I think) propose and define certain skills requirements that would earn a badge, and the making/awarding of badges could support its own craftiness; different materials, makers, etc. We all do seem to like trinkets...
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Re: Beware the Mops and Sociopaths.

Postby Elleth » Mon Dec 24, 2018 3:57 pm

I confess, I get really itchy hearing about codes of conduct because of how they've been weaponized in the software world recently. The ability to read people out of a community is just a great big honeypot for sociopaths, and a recurring pattern has been relative newcomers showing up and giving the boot to long-standing creators.

I don't think anyone wants a culture where blatant rudeness to one's compatriots is given a wink and a nod, but writing up a CoC is "forging a ring of power" as it were, and I'm wary of where that might go in the future.

I do understand if we're ever more like hundreds and less like dozens, there might be a need for such a thing, and I do trust Jack's judgement.

However, I'd caution that no one be allowed anywhere near either the writing or the enforcement of a CoC unless they've *already* demonstrated a years-long commitment to "The New Fun Thing," and have already shown dedication to and hard-won expertise in the subject matter at hand.

Kings who set the example from the front, not HR directors writing rules in the rear, as it were.
Aragorn did his decades in the mud with a blade before he ever wielded a sceptre.


edit:
Odigan, I see your point about a "ranking system" being a danger, and I do agree.
It wasn't my intention to present those as any kind of *rank*, but that my words could be read that way at all indicates there is a hazard there. Hrmm.
edit 2: I see I greatly erred in using the terms "inner/outer bailey" and "tier" - my thoughts were more along the lines of "onramp" and less "senior master ranger second class" ranking, but I totally get how that came across. Derp!

I think there's two different things going on, and we need to disambiguate a bit.

One: What is the direction / meaning of MERS/MERF generally? This is more a "mission statement" kind of thing. I think we're all generally in agreement that it's something along the lines of "to discover, preserve, and promote the skills and lifeways common to Middle earth generally, and the Dunedain rangers specifically" - but there's a great deal of nebulousness there, and I think we're still of a mind that we don't want to be unwelcoming or intimidating to newcomers.

(the other side to that coin though is that high standards is itself a draw - kids dream of being SEALS, not supply clerks. Hence I think having different "landing zones" is a positive good. Some people want to *be* as close to Aragorn in deed and capacity as possible. Others just want a fun time in the woods and are sick of the stitch counting. I think we've room for both, and judging either by the standards of the other makes for disappointment and friction)

Two: What social organization is there to MERS/MERF? ie - ranks, badges, CoC, organizational rules, etc.
That's where I get considerably more worried that there's a potential for Ruining Everyone's Fun. But handled with great care, might in time become a necessary evil.
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Re: Beware the Mops and Sociopaths.

Postby Taurinor » Mon Dec 24, 2018 5:19 pm

Elleth wrote:I confess, I get really itchy hearing about codes of conduct because of how they've been weaponized in the software world recently. The ability to read people out of a community is just a great big honeypot for sociopaths, and a recurring pattern has been relative newcomers showing up and giving the boot to long-standing creators.

I don't think anyone wants a culture where blatant rudeness to one's compatriots is given a wink and a nod, but writing up a CoC is "forging a ring of power" as it were, and I'm wary of where that might go in the future.

I do understand if we're ever more like hundreds and less like dozens, there might be a need for such a thing, and I do trust Jack's judgement.

However, I'd caution that no one be allowed anywhere near either the writing or the enforcement of a CoC unless they've *already* demonstrated a years-long commitment to "The New Fun Thing," and have already shown dedication to and hard-won expertise in the subject matter at hand.


I completely agree that codes of conduct can be weaponized, and I like the "ring of power" analogy. I think making some sort of mission statement, even a somewhat nebulous one, is probably a more important thing for us to be doing than creating any sort of CoC. Letting folks know who we are and what we do will hopefully help newcomers know if this is the place for them, and will, I think, do a fair amount to stop problems before they start.

My concern is that, while rules can certainly be manipulated and used against folks, a lack of rules can provide manipulative folks with a source of power, as well. I've seen folks who have misbehaved and been corrected turn that into a persecution narrative, because they "didn't break any rules" and are "being singled out unfairly because [X, Y, and Z]". Not that those same folks won't try to do that if there ARE clear guidelines, but it makes it a bit easier to shut them down.

Another thought I have about rings of power, as it were, is that it feels to me like a ring has already been forged, in a way. We have forum members who already have the power to edit or delete other members' posts, and I know at least Jack has the capability to remove members. These are all folks that I completely trust to use those tools responsibly, and they use them extremely sparingly - I think I've only seen Greg edit someone else's post once, and that was because the individual had written something distasteful that had no real bearing on the subject at hand. Again, I want to be very clear that I am not criticizing our moderators; I greatly appreciate what they do and think that they definitely should be considered "kings who set the example from the front". I can pretty easily imagine a situation, though, where a manipulative someone might make a stink about being "censored" by moderators with "no oversight". Once more, I do NOT feel that way about our current leadership AT ALL!

Re: badges - they aren't really my jam, but different folks are motivated by different things. If they are handled carefully and kept as a fun trinket-type exercise (rarther than a rank to be lorded over folks), they might be alright.
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Re: Beware the Mops and Sociopaths.

Postby Ursus » Mon Dec 24, 2018 5:41 pm

I’m honestly on the fence with this one.

On the one hand I see the forum as I’ve always seen it from my own view. A small nicely hidden nook of the internet for an equally small niche of people to share their love of a hobby. No strict rules, all are welcome, no super strict snobbery just wholesome and healthy encouragement to do this thing to it’s fullest and most “accurate”. All this backed up by good staff and members always willing to come together as a community

To our credit though I think some farsightedness such as a mission statement here could go a long way should we ever grow beyond our current more humble means and find us prepared to greet such growth adequately. To that end I think we can avoid to much temptation from such a “Ring” and any nasty fallouts that could result. Otherwise that’s how you get an internal fracturing and members leaving to start their own similar websites and groups that align with specific agendas. You see it everywhere from HEMA to churches. Its rampant popularity that signals the death of a movement. To our end I think it better to seek a more steady rhythm based around crafting, educating, and cultivating the very essence of this thing.
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Re: Beware the Mops and Sociopaths.

Postby Odigan » Thu Dec 27, 2018 2:00 am

It is to our credit that there is a distinct anti-authoritarian bent to our thinking, of which I think Tolkien himself would identify, having also imbued his characters who we emulate with such. Moreso, I believe a key aspect in defining a successful subculture, is its level of "punk." Not simply tacking that on as a suffix, but actually doing something which rails against the establishment or plainly existing as a fringe element. Thus, the level of "punk" is inversely proportional to the level of popularity, and as we know, the Internet has facilitated even the most obscure activities (our own included) gaining traction and growth.

Since I started this thread, and knowing that I oft-times may seem to speak derisively of certain groups, I should like to clarify that I very much am in favour of everyone doing whatever it is they like. I am intensely opposed to any form of censorship, or telling people how they should lead their lives. Yet when people come together we should all be able to adhere to some basic "code of conduct," and I agree we've been pretty good about that. Even being few in number, that in itself is pretty admirable, given our typical solitary natures and borderline misanthropy. ;)

It may be counter-intuitive, but it has been my experience that the more specialized/smaller a community is, the more it tends to fracture. I've seen this in many groups, but never so pronounced as the world of jousting. You would think that such a specialized past-time engaged in by so few people worldwide would bring them all together, but it's quite the opposite! You end up not with simply "jousters," but those who engage in theatrical, competitive, or historical jousting, but beyond that... each often speaks unkindly of the others for not doing things the way they should be done. I'm sure you can see the pattern here, akin to something like a cosplayer/LARPer/Reenactor hierarchy, where one poo-poos the other for not being "correct," or for being too effete, or too serious - too exclusive or not exclusive enough!

I suppose what I'm getting at is that while I am a proponent of elitism, in that I believe we should strive to set ourselves apart and establish each unto their own as "elites," I do not think this should mean we consider ourselves superior to some other who pursues things differently. It is common to misunderstand this distinction, much like the lost art of debate. Simply disagreeing or discussing an issue of contention needn't mean that there is personal ill-will, yet it is often taken as such.
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Re: Beware the Mops and Sociopaths.

Postby Kortoso » Sat Jan 05, 2019 6:31 am

I agree about spelling out clearly our standards. If a new person logs in and receives praise and criticism (or cold shoulders) now, they may not understand where that came from.
On the other hand, if the rules are too strict, they may discourage well-meaning people who are just starting out. I'd go for something like "hand-made kit isn't required but it is encouraged."
Furthermore, perhaps opening a sub-forum for "LOTR Cosplay" would be a good diversion for those who think that's what we do. And in fact, many of us DO try to reproduce movie props and costumes and even show up at conventions.
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Re: Beware the Mops and Sociopaths.

Postby Iodo » Sat Jan 05, 2019 8:47 am

Kortoso wrote:I agree about spelling out clearly our standards. If a new person logs in and receives praise and criticism (or cold shoulders) now, they may not understand where that came from.
On the other hand, if the rules are too strict, they may discourage well-meaning people who are just starting out. I'd go for something like "hand-made kit isn't required but it is encouraged."
Furthermore, perhaps opening a sub-forum for "LOTR Cosplay" would be a good diversion for those who think that's what we do. And in fact, many of us DO try to reproduce movie props and costumes and even show up at conventions.

A sub-forum specifically for cosplay is an amazing idea :mrgreen:
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Re: Beware the Mops and Sociopaths.

Postby Odigan » Sun Jan 06, 2019 1:58 am

Iodo wrote:
Kortoso wrote:Furthermore, perhaps opening a sub-forum for "LOTR Cosplay" would be a good diversion for those who think that's what we do. And in fact, many of us DO try to reproduce movie props and costumes and even show up at conventions.

A sub-forum specifically for cosplay is an amazing idea :mrgreen:


Are there any other places that actually have a dedicated sub-forum for this topic? I looked around the usual suspects and saw none, which is surprising.
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Re: Beware the Mops and Sociopaths.

Postby Elleth » Sun Jan 06, 2019 2:09 am

I'm a bit cautious of a dedicated cosplay forum, only because the size of our little hobby is a tiny puddle to the comparative ocean of cosplay enthusiasts.

With a cosplay "landing pad" to the world at large, I can too easily see our emphasis on functional kit being drowned out by paint-weathering and foam armor threads once the Amazon series kicks in. Or maybe I'm borrowing trouble, dreading something unlikely to ever be.
.. that's been known to happen. :)


Related.. something's been turning in my mind recently on something Greg wroteonce upon a time: not the standards conversation, but the compare-and-contrast he did in the first post, with pictures from what looks like a fan film next to Andy's original photos.

I know once upon a time when I was but an egg learning graphic design, one of my biggest struggles was in developing a "yardstick" as it were. I could tell that my work was terrible compared to the slick stuff I saw being done by the pros, but I couldn't tell why. I simply didn't have the mental models to see why my stuff wasn't working. All I knew was that it wasn't, and it was frustrating as heck trying to tease out reasons on my own.

I think new folks coming here in the future from a more costume background might be in a similar boat. It's one thing to say "use wool and linen."
It's something slightly different to say "look at this picture: do you see how their tunics are hanging thin and lifeless on their bodies? That's because they're thin cotton. A real wool tunic will drape completely differently - look at this one on Andy, see the difference? Do you see how it fills out his body more? That's not just 'cause he's a muscular guy, look at this draping here.... okay, good - Now look at these little puckers here - that's from hand-felling a seam, which means the pieces hang like..."

etc.
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Re: Beware the Mops and Sociopaths.

Postby Greg » Sun Jan 06, 2019 2:49 am

You would bring up THAT thread!

*chuckle*

My opinions differ significantly from a lot of what I wrote there. I possess much knowledge I didn't at the time about historical clothing and kit construction as well as its use, so please note the dates in that thread. I also regret that it actually began one of the few arguments that have ever been present here on the forum...but I like your idea that instead of standards (since the forum really can't have any, being not a single entity but rather a platform for many), instead giving some helpful resources as a yardstick to see what functional and historical looks like...that wouldn't be half bad. Perhaps some line drawings rather than photos that help show how patterns affect drape, etc, (visible gores and what-have-you).

I'm with Elleth on the cosplay subform...this forum exists because we're after functional Garb and gear, not just costuming, and so we aren't a resource for that topic. There are other places that are, and do an excellent job. That's just not this forum's cup of tea, from well before many of us came around.
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Re: Beware the Mops and Sociopaths.

Postby theowl » Wed Jan 09, 2019 3:36 am

10 years ago I was pretty involved in what eventually became the hema alliance, but life and family happened, so my active participation was drastically reduced. I still trained, but I didn't make it to events or tournaments for a few years. When I finally went to a tournament last year I was met with a completely different atmosphere. It went from a community of people learning historical martial arts and their application, to a bunch of tournament fighters learning how to win tournaments. I did some sparring, fought in a longsword tournament, and never went back.

The tournament aspect wasn't the biggest issue I had, it was the "gatekeepers" I encountered who needed to critique me because they didn't know who I was. I fought with a blunted longsword, which was completely insane to them; I primarily use Italian longsword techniques, so most of my strikes weren't counted as they didn't helicopter around my head in the proper german fashion, etc.

My point is that a person's dedication to something shouldn't be contingent upon the personal preference of the "elders" or whomever is keeping the gate.

I tend to check in on this forum every few months and then drift off again because with a few noteable exceptions most of my posts are met with a pretty "meh" response. I don't know if it's because my stitches aren't straight enough or my linen isn't linen enough, but I'm still out there doing my thing, and when the young aragorn show brings people here looking for a replica of the magic rocket launcher that he uses to kill the dragon king, we should welcome them and show them what its all about.
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Re: Beware the Mops and Sociopaths.

Postby TaylorSteiner » Wed Jan 09, 2019 4:57 am

Right on!
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Re: Beware the Mops and Sociopaths.

Postby Elleth » Wed Jan 09, 2019 11:20 am

Respectfully owl, I think your story makes rather the opposite point: that by following the pull of those more interested in tourneys than the research and application of the martial art, the original community you loved was overwhelmed and destroyed. (As an aside, the Edelson presentation that made it to youTube was eye opening!! ).

Anyhow, I think anyone who wants to play should feel more than welcome in the door - but I'm also in favor of enough gatekeeping to keep the unique spark of this place alive. There's tons of cosplay / prop / general geekery watering holes out there. There's only one MERF, and it's tiny.
edit - on reflection, perhaps "gatekeeping" is not the right word. Rather... structural assumptions?)

Finally, I know the feeling you're talking about with the "meh" reception, but that's mostly just a factor of numbers I think.
It's a small crowd here, and the most enthusiastic gushing will rarely spin the page counter past "2" and often not that far.
It's a thing one gets used to, I think. :)


edit 2- sorry Greg, didn't mean to dredge up old wounds. I'm sorry if I did.
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Re: Beware the Mops and Sociopaths.

Postby Iodo » Wed Jan 09, 2019 12:59 pm

At first a cosplay sub-forum sounded like a good idea, but now I've thought about it more I agree that it probably wouldn't be. We already have the ranger gaming and LARP board which is (kind of) close to cosplay although I think LARP is a bit more relevant to what we do here, by that I mean at least a LARP kit has to be slightly functional where as cosplay is mostly props and looks.

I do quite a bit of cosplay and it's rare I decide it's appropriate to post any here, my mind is changed :P
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Re: Beware the Mops and Sociopaths.

Postby Taurinor » Wed Jan 09, 2019 3:32 pm

Gatekeeping is bad. Gatekeeping (as I understand it) is all about keeping people out of a space (physical, digital, ideological, what have you), due to some sort of bias, that those people have every right to participate in. I don't want to see that here.

I think what I am interested in is making sure that we clearly explain what our community is about so that folks can decide for themselves if this is the right space for them. It feels to me like there is a difference between gatekeeping and keeping a discussion space focused on a particular interest, but I'm having a very hard time articulating that. If I can't explain where the line is, I can only imagine how hard it is going to be to make sure we don't cross it as a community. I'm going to try with another "for example", though.

I like "Pokemon Go". I play it quite a lot while I walk the dog, and I have friends who also play it with whom I discuss it. However, I don't talk about it here, not because there is a "No Pokemon Go players are allowed on this forum!" rule, but because that is not MERF is about, and I don't have any problem with that.

I think with the cosplay issue, we're running into something similar. I don't think the message we want to put out is "No Cosplayers Allowed"; rather, I think it should be more something along the lines of "This is not the place to discuss your cosplay projects". Unless, of course, you are wearing your screen-accurate Strider cosplay out on an overnighter, in which case I think a lot of us would be interested in hearing how it went!

What I would hate to see is a situation where someone misunderstood what this community is about, and then felt like they were getting ignored or snubbed because they aren't getting the engagement they are looking for. Not because folks are trying to be mean, but because the interests of the individual and the rest of the group are not aligned. Everyone (so long as they aren't hurting anyone) deserves a community where they can share their interests with like-minded folks, but conversely, not every community will be a good fit for every individual. I think a "Newcomers" subforum with a community mission statement where folks could introduce themselves and their interests (and receive a lot of warm welcomes!) would go a long way in trying to prevent that sort of circumstance.

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