Quarter Century

This is the twenty fifth newsletter. Hooray for arbitrarily round-ish numbers! In my youth, issue number twenty five of a comic book series was a big deal. In (Adjectiveless) X-Men issue #25 Magneto rips Wolverines adamantium off his skeleton, and he still has claws made of bone! SPOILERS. I will try to make this newsletter just as special. Sadly, I can't stick a hologram on it.

PAX Prime 2014 - WIN TICKETS!

PAX Prime is upon us. PAX keeps getting bigger, and GeekNights doesn't. We weren't sure our panel would be accepted. Just to make sure we could go, I bought four full weekend tickets. Well, our panel was accepted. Emily needs one of the tickets, but the other three are extras. I'm going to sell one of them to make up for expenses. The other two are going to be given away to one lucky GeekNights fan.

Here's how it will work. Sometime between right now and when I receive the tickets in the mail, you must tweet. The tweet must contain the #PAX hashtag. It must contain a link to some GeekNights content, such as a podcast episode or YouTube video. It must also contain the #geeknights hashtag or @geeknights. @geeknights can not be the beginning of the tweet, because then very few people will see it. If you make such a tweet, then you have a chance to be randomly selected to win two full weekend tickets to PAX Prime 2014. We will not help you with any other expenses like hotel or transportation. You just get tickets. If you win and you just sell the tickets, I will be very upset.

Mail Bag

After getting almost no response, the last newsletter got the largest response ever. I guess I was right. Discuss something people can relate to, and they will respond. Remember, just reply to this newsletter directly via e-mail, and I will receive the message.

Most of you wrote in just to talk about how you also lose things. I don't really have a response beyond "yes, everyone loses things." Still, thanks for writing in and confirming that this is worth doing. Since there were so many replies, I will pick out just a few that are reply-able, so I don't make the newsletter too long. Sorry I can't reply to everybody.
Well, I could tell you almost the same story about losing things, except for the end, I didn't lost anything recently. So I'm thinking: Why would we have developed the same exact system?

Maybe it's not a system we develop, maybe it's one of the last things our brain develops when we reach "adulthood". Or the habit just takes like 10 years to really sink in. Or yet, it's just an obvious system that many people reinvent every year?

What do you think? Anyone else sent a reply saying he or she has the exact same system?


A few people did write in who have the same system. I do not think it's an obvious system, or something the brain automatically develops when reaching adulthood. I know a lot of adults who lose things constantly. It's definitely a habit that requires some effort to develop. Even those who put effort in will not necessarily succeed. I do not think it comes naturally to many people at all.
Great newsletter! I'm really looking forward to the next one and this coming Month of Geeknights.
It seems our experience with losing things, and ceasing to lose things, has been very similar up to the present. My exception is with some books and movies. I would immediately replace any lost Culture novels or Yotsuba volumes, of course, but if I were to lose a copy of, say, Snow Crash I likely wouldn't replace it. I keep such things around so that I can lend them to people (until they become lost). It's been my experience that if I suggest a media to a person they'll never consume it, but if I shove a copy of that media in their face it's hard for them to refuse. I've already done all this work getting it to them, after all. The result is that I have a lot of media that I don't particularly want to experience again, but feel is significantly valuable for someone else to experience.
Is this also something you consider when choosing what to keep or do you operate more strictly and pity those that do not follow your recommendations?


I definitely do keep media around solely for the purpose of sharing it. Sharing something is one way of using it. Anything that I will use is worth having. I have multiple copies of Watchmen for this reason. My co-worker currently has one of them. I don't pity people who do not follow my recommendations, I'm just puzzled by them. I never lie, and I've never steered them wrong in the past. Why won't they listen to my recommendation now? It's the same reason they vote for Rym in the vote who wins game even when I point it out to them.

Source of Drama

I said we were going to discuss something big for this arbitrarily numbered newsletter, so I am. I think we've discussed this partially in the past on panels and/or podcasts, but it will be good to collect all the thoughts in one place. I am pretty sure I have identified the primary source of drama in geek communities, and also have a solution for it.

Imagine a fictional geek community of Harry Potter fans. They all find each other because they searched for Harry Potter, and ended up in the same forum online. Harry is quite popular, so there are quite a few people in the community. One would think all these nerds would get along and have magical times together, but drama quickly takes hold. Some people are big into Quidditch while others think it's stupid to actually try to play a fictional sport in real life. A rift forms. Even among the Quidditch players, some of them enjoy it because they like to role play and imagine themselves as being in wizard school playing for real. Others are taking the game seriously and trying to win. Yet another rift forms. Their brooms can't even fly high enough to escape the flood of drama.

The fundamental problem is that a group of people who all enjoy the same thing enjoy that same thing in different ways and for different reasons. The reason someone likes something is a much greater indicator of what kind of person they are than what particular thing it is they happen to like.

Think about all the times in the history of the world where completely separate peoples were stuck together in the same country. It almost always leads to conflict. Now, we don't have colonists forcing geeks who don't like each other to join the same communities, but they are doing it to themselves. 

It's mostly the fault of our technology. It's very easy to search for something like Yowapedal. It's hard to search for "people who like Yowapedal for the bicycling, not the boys." Even if it was, nobody would ever think to search for that. 

Why wouldn't someone search for that? Because the vast majority of people don't know themselves at all. They know what they like, but they don't know why. They never even ask why. I've asked plenty of people why they like something, and most can't muster an answer better than "it's fun" or "I just do." It's impossible for someone who doesn't understand themselves to be able to identify another person who is similar.

I don't know if I know myself, but I like to think I do. I'll give an example. I like bicycling. Why do I like bicycling? I definitely do not enjoy strenuous physical activity, especially if it is painful or uncomfortable. What I do enjoy is exploration. A bicycle allows me to cover a lot of territory in a very short time. It allows me to go places that other forms of transportation can not reach. It's the same enjoyment I get playing a Metroidvania game. I explore many many new areas in a very short time, but can still get a feel for what the world is like up close. If I went on a ride with people who were primarily interested in exercise, we would not get along.

A person who doesn't know themselves can still occasionally find the right community. Just about anyone who is a fan of Advanced Squad Leader likes it for the same reason. Only grognards like such a crunchy old war game. They aren't going to have too much drama outside of the context of the game. A game with a wider audience like Settlers of Catan has players of all shapes and sizes, not all of whom should be playing together. At the end of the day a Dr. Who fan who writes fanfiction likely has more in common with someone who writes Sailor Moon fanfiction than with a Dr. Who fan that builds realistic Dalek replicas. 

The solution to this is simple to see, but very difficult to actually implement. All that's required is leadership. Modern communities, especially those formed on the net, typically have flat structures. Leadership is rarely present, even though it is sorely needed.

A geek might not ever understand themselves, but a leader can see them and understand them. I can talk to a cosplayer and discover that they are someone who cares about the craftsmanship aspect more than the role-playing aspect. I can play a game with someone and tell if they play to win, or just want an activity to accompany the consumption of alcohol. These geeks are very unlikely to end up where they belong on their own, but they can be shown the way. 

Granted, this isn't the source of all drama ever. There are some people who just embody drama. No matter where they go or who they are with, there will be conflict. One could almost say that turmoil is their primary geekery. Simply sorting them into the appropriate community is not going to solve their problems. Despite that, leadership is still the solution. Strong leadership can easily defend any community against negative influences by setting the example and maintaining behavioral expectations.

If you are reading this now, and wondering what you should do, just do one thing. Examine yourself. Think about your geekeries. Ask yourself seriously. Why do you like the things you like? When you can give a real answer, and you know the answer you are giving is for real, you should be able to take care of the rest.