Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Wondering Why Dominions Don't Suck?

By: Ma'at's Disciple, Fer Ynuph

Well, cats and kittens, this article will not answer that question in any definitive sense. Sorry, but TAG's got length limits! (Or should. Or something. Insert your most readily-believed reason for why I am not offering a comprehensive answer to the question of Why Dominions Don't Suck here.) No, the whole answer is beyond the knowing of this humble contributor. What I can do, oh tolerant reader, is give you an example you might not have considered which illustrates a benefit of belonging to a Dominion. Sound good? Read on...

In perusing the bastion of scintillation that are our Heralds, I noticed that Elder Demigod was doing rather a lot of Tutoring good old Silhouette. A quick Scry (or six) informed me that she was not using this blessing to attain lofty heights. Nay. She was keeping it real below level forty. "Hmmmm," says I to me, "Something is afoot."

I wasn't fussed about the massive Favour storm, but I was curious. It was easy to assume that Silhouette was Tithing the Favour to her Dominion, easy to understand why it would benefit all involved if she remained below level 40, but difficult to surmise why Shadows needed the Favour. Anyone who uses the Annals Ability knows that Shadows is not exactly running low on the juicy stuff.

Digging deeper, I noticed that Mikolaj and Sniggy seemed to be participants in the Shadows love-in, as well, though none shone so bright as the facile and erudite Elder Demigod. And while my continued analysist of the Heralds had delivered unto my mind an idea of what was happening, I thought I'd go straight to the jet engine Demigod and see what he might be willing to share. What follows is reprinted (with permission) from his Telepathed response.

So you are curious about my tutoring activity over the course of a couple days recently. It seems you are not the only one. The simple answer is that it was a project that Shadows was working on, but I have been informed that particular response is not nearly as informative as it could be.

It also occurs to me that recently Silhouette commented on the value of communicating when a disciple makes use of their abilities, and there is some merit in that so I am willing to go into a bit more detail.

Basically, it was a restoration project. Back during the last Burning Season, Bill Door made the attempt to lay low the Menthu Avatar found within the Profane Shrine. If he had been successful, it would have been glorious. Unfortunately for him and Shadows dominion, he was not successful.

Part of the consequences for the dominion was it was killed, and lost 4+ levels as part of the dying. Several members tithed favour back to help regain the lost levels, but there still was a deficit from where the dominion had been prior to the incident. So, I switched to Ahmose, and set to work with Silhouette and Sniggy to get the rest of the favour that had been lost back into the dominion, and then make sure that these disciples were at a comparable level to where they were before we started.

I suppose that seeing a million and a half favour tutored over the course of a couple of days, would tend to raise a few eyebrows, but for the disciples involved, even though a million and a half seems like a large number, but it really is not. Just using myself as an example, I have been here now for a little over 8 weeks. In that time, I have generated for myself over 30 million favour. So, you can see that the favour which I tutored is but 5 percent of what I have earned in my existence. To put it in another fashion, I stayed on Ahmose for about 24 hours, and really was only playing for a couple of those, and I made for myself half a million favour just while answering Sphinx questions.

Now, I do not think this makes a case for simply tutoring any disciple any amount of favour, but Sniggy and Silhouette have both been around far longer than I have, and thus have probably earned for themselves amounts of favour which would boggle my mind, but I suppose that could serve as a question for another day.

Esteemed disciples, pause with me to consider that breadth and depth of this reply! Within its paragraphs is a veritable treasure trove of information for the new and the experienced, alike. As I read it, questions rose and fell like fireworks against the dark backdrop of my mindfield.

One Lurky-Loo that keeps poking my mental backside has to do with how we, as a community view issues of death, stat loss, Ennui/return, etc., when it is evident that anyone with a specific plan can recover pretty well. Focus, companionship, and (probably) a mighty database created by compatriots makes it much more do-able than I'd assumed. So much easier that I wonder at the idea of starting from scratch myself, armed with what I understand about the game now, in order to see what I might accomplish in what timeframe. It adds a new dimension of challenge and fun!

And it makes me less disinclined toward my right cartouche. How about you?

Musings on the Use of Profanity


Quoting The Terms of Service: The content of this site is user-created and not pre-screened. Read/enter at your own risk.

With those words, the Oracles grant every Disciple in Ankhet free license to say virtually anything. The only restrictions are legality (the Terms of Service also caution that, if it's illegal outside the game, it's illegal inside as well) and the prospect of retaliation if one's words offend someone else. I'm not planning to discuss "poking the lion" today, however; instead, I'd like to talk about a certain type of communication that crops up occasionally.

I tend not to swear much when I'm writing. Maybe I'm just repressed, but I generally feel that I ought to be able to get a point across without using profanity. It's certainly not the only way to write, and there are plenty of Disciples who curse with some regularity, and a particular Disciple might use profanity when writing or speaking for a broad variety of reasons.

The Nature of Profanity

Some people -- typically younger people -- may think that it's "cool" to swear. I don't hold that opinion myself, but I suppose it depends upon one's upbringing. It is not uncommon for adults to try not to curse in front of children, lending profanity an air of mystery. Children are often disciplined for swearing, further contributing to the impression that profanity is something only for adults. Thus, younger folk may swear a lot in an attempt to prove that they are (or should be treated as) adults.

Many people commonly use profanity to add emphasis. There is a significant difference between "Why did you just Doom me?" and "Why the fucking hell did you just Doom me, shithead?" Profanity in such cases need not always signify disdain for the target, but it often does. (Of course, it may be unwise to signify disdain in the hypothetical example I just used. It rarely accomplishes anything, and can easily exacerbate the situation.)

Sometimes profanity can be cathartic. Who hasn't been moved to curse when stubbing one's toe or dropping a pile of papers? I'm not sure why a stream of invective makes anyone feel better when that happens, but a degree of mental satisfaction does seem to result. The same principle can apply here in Ankhet: Disciples have confessed to feeling better after blowing off some steam by cursing at someone else.

Finally, there are those who indulge in profanity purely for the sake of shocking or offending others. Even these fall into two categories: those who shock with the intent to amuse, and those who shock with the intent to generate negative attention and cause grief. The latter are sometimes called Trolls.

Individual and Communal Responsibility

As noted above, the Oracles have given the citizens of Ankhet significant freedom of speech. But, in the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, with freedom comes responsibility. Each of us has the freedom to choose what to write. Each of us also has the freedom to choose how to respond to what others write. And with each choice we make comes the responsibility for the outcome of that choice.

It is ultimately up to each of us to decide, as individuals, what sort of Ankhet we wish to tolerate. As everyone probably knows by now, there has been a recent torrent of vulgarity in the Commune. This is not the first time. There has also been a recent rash of Disciples Silencing each other's posts for using profanity. Again, this is not the first time. Some Disciples have even attacked others for excessive profanity. You guessed it: not the first time.

Yet there are probably hundreds of profanity-laden posts throughout the Commune that have not been Silenced. Clearly profanity has its place in the Ankhet community. Just as clearly, profanity is not immune from censorship. A few personal opinions, then, on the subject of profanity in Ankhet:

* First and foremost, I believe that giving Disciples freedom to express themselves is more important than ensuring a family-friendly Ankhet. This is, I think, why the Terms of Service say what they do: if a Disciple crosses the line, it is up to the community to take action. It is my personal choice to take such action only sparingly.

* I believe that an unpopular Disciple's use of profanity may provide a pretext for Silencing that Disciple's posts, or even for attacking that Disciple. I also believe, however, that more respected Disciples could probably get away with posts containing identical profanity with no repercussions.

* Notwithstanding the foregoing -- the right of individual Disciples to curse all they like -- I believe that the overuse of profanity detracts from whatever point the writer may be trying to make. I mentioned earlier that I generally think I ought to be able to get a point across without using profanity. In fact, I think that anyone ought to be able to do it.

I'll admit it: I have a knee-jerk negative reaction to excessive vulgarity. Anything that demeans, belittles, lessens, or puts down someone else seems inherently wrong and unacceptable to me. It is possible for a post to overcome that predisposition, of course, but it makes the writer's job harder than it needs to be.

Regardless of whether the writer actually has a valid point, the addition of excessive profanity to that point makes it unnecessarily difficult for the reader to see the point's validity. It also gives any would-be detractors something on which to focus their attention, rather than whatever point the writer was trying to make. All of this contributes to my belief that excessive profanity does more harm than good.

* For those who use profanity for emphasis: profanity loses its emphasis when it becomes commonplace. Imagine listening to a quiet piece of music, and suddenly hearing a blaring loud chord. Now imagine listening to another piece of music that is uniformly loud. In which piece is the increased volume more likely to have an effect?

* Finally, what of the true Troll, who not only uses profanity to shock or offend but also delights in getting attention from others by making them unhappy? There has always been one way and only one way to deal effectively with such people: DO NOT FEED THE TROLLS. They want attention, of any kind. Even getting a post Silenced is a victory to them, because they have prompted a reaction. I truly believe that the best approach -- the one most likely to result in the Trolls becoming bored and going to Troll somewhere else -- is not to respond in any way.

We are, ultimately, a community of adults, or of those who wish to be treated as adults. It is therefore up to us to decide what sort of Ankhet we want. Do we want a heavily-moderated community in which any post containing the slightest off-color remark is promptly censored and harshly punished? Do we want to see Disciples constantly spewing deliberately offensive filth in every Forum, free from any repercussions no matter how much harm they cause?

I think that the ideal solution, as always, lies somewhere in the middle.

the total tattler 2

by: gabbie gossip girl
she hears all and tells more.

so, i guess they gave the sports writer a week or twelve off. after that poll like forever ago, they totally ignore ME until they need something written about the contest flavor of the week, and everyone else does that too busy button, and here i am to like report on what’s happening with the contests.

old news: light contest – won by sniggy

new news: the grinder 3: the revival (also run by sniggy-kins)

* round 1 – take two of those toys we get to play with and make a better one
winners: Dijital and sockstealer with the amazing radiant sphere aka the rest time hook up
losers: em and mullhotep

*round 2 – sniggytube.com: find it, post it, win it
winners: Milamber and Ozymoron with a totally heinous shot
loser: allispaul

*round 3: the ankhet world tour
the rest: totally to be decided by the beloved sniggy-kins so, ya know, it’s all still like totally up in the air.

Smooth Egyptian Delight


Among our lively forums, please don't miss a long-running thread that can help spice up your kitchen! In smooth_pappa's Gastrodome not only will you find my original recipes, but also others that I have run across from time to time and recipes added by other players. Below is an unpublished recipe. It is just a sample of the treats that await you in the Gastrodome! The following dish is a homage to the style of cuisine you will find in Egypt.

You will need enough chicken breasts to feed the people you are cooking for, grapeseed or olive oil, lemon juice, soy sauce, salt, pepper, kalamata olives, garlic, onions, cooking sherry, cayenne (optional), mint (optional), seasame seeds (optional), cous-cous (preferably a garlic flavored one) and garam masala. You can make your own by making a mix of cardamom, cloves, coriander, and cumin in whatever levels suits your taste. Rub the chicken breasts with salt, pepper, and garam masala, and place them in a baking dish with oil, dash of lemon juice, and dash of soy sauce in the bottom of the pan. Cover it with aluminum foil, and roast at 275 degrees until the chicken is cooked through. When the chicken is cooked, chop kalamata olives, 2 cloves of garlic, and 1/2 onion. Sautee the mix in grapeseed oil and cooking sherry. Chop the chicken into chunks and add to the pan to sear. Add more sherry if necessary. Prepare the garlic cous-cous with lemon juice and a dash of cayenne. Top the cous-cous with chicken/olive/onion mix. Garnish with mint and sesame seeds.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Interview with Mafdet

Why did you leave the Riven?
I still consider myself Riven in a metaphorical sense. Leaving the
physical Dominion was a matter of growth. Euplicitous Aerophram did not
leave us with any indication that he was to return, and as many disciples
pointed out, it would have been incredibly hard to keep the Dominion
going properly without its Nomarch. Also, by joining other Dominions, the
last few Riven members can hopefully impart some of the wisdom gained

Why choose the Black Pearl?
Captain Jack Sparrow was terribly charming! It was fresh and new, with
a fun theme that might have been hard to find elsewhere. I had also
been watching his Invitees. He somehow managed to gain members from a
broad range of backrounds, and seemed to have a firm plan regarding
Dominion structure. A little bit of mystery also helped, I do like a bit of
intrigue, and at the time no one knew who Captain Jack was.

What do you think is the philosophy of the Black Pearl, if any?
I'm not sure that the Pearl has a specific philosophy. Probably
something to do with rum. I know that it is eager to help teach its newbies and help them to
become well-rounded disciples. Also to participate in the community,
battening down the hatches and sailing through stormy waters if needs be.
Anything further than that and you'll need to talk to the Captain.

Why did you leave the Black Pearl?
The role I held within the Pearl was something akin to 'Kitten Herder.'
Sometimes people just don't listen, no matter what you tell them, how
you tell them, or how many times you tell them. I don't have the
patience for that, and it was starting to show. I decided my departure would
be better than forcing other people out - it was my problem, and would
have been unfair to them. They can still learn a lot from the Pearl,
I'm just not sure that I'm the one to teach them.
Leaving has given me the chance to clear my head, and also to try out a
couple of paths that I had previously not completed.

Will you rejoin the Riven or the Black Pearl?
If Euplicitous Aerophram were to return I would hope to rejoin the
Riven, although this would depend on the circumstances of his return. At
this point it does not seem likely to happen. I do hope to rejoin the
Pearl at some point soon, even though I may have alienated some of the
members a little. I hope that they can see past that and would be willing
to have me back one day. :)

Thank You

The Right to Speak or the Responsibility?


Once more, the right of speech has come into question by the disciples of Ankhet. However, this time, it is not a freedom of speech issue. What has come into question is whether a disciple has simply the right to speak or the more complex responsibility to speak. eminem (The Black Pearl), perhaps, sparked this debate when he stated that "it's not your job to make a topic when you do something that they community may deem wrong[;] it's other people's responsibility." Mikolaj (Shadows) was quick to step in and give eminem a chance to think about his words by killing him and negging him and demonstrating how wrong he could be. Baltar (Shadows) quickly commented that while he did not agree with Mikolaj's actions, he "certainly disapprove[d] at least as strongly to your original suggestion that those who violate established community standards…have no obligation to offer an explanation."

This beginning of this thread (eminem – Underworld) sparked off a controversy in Ankhet. Should disciples have the choice of justifying their actions before or after they are asked about them? Or should disciples have the responsibility to explain themselves every time that they take an action against community standards, such as using abilities or killing off community resources? neminem (Nekhen) argued that "If you do something, and the community doesn't like what you've done, it is not, in fact, your job to preemptively apologize…in general, it's the responsibility of the people who feel offended by an action, to take up with the offender as to why the offensive action occurred." This seems to be the prevailing opinion of those who joined the argument. Regardless of whether a disciple has the right or the responsibility to speak, flaunting community standards will have the same results; the wrath of the community will fall heavily on his or her head.

Limited 'default'. What Do You Think?

Ma'at's Disciple, Fer Ynuph

For this issue, your dedicated editorialist has been asked to tackle a complex issue, and folks, it's got my head swimming! It's a story of loyalty and intrigue, perception and deception, responsibility and consequences. Central to it is this jewel of a data point: our splendiferous Ankhet setting does not reflect real world structures in the key areas of crime, justice, proof, and enforcement. The limits of what we know and what we can bring to bear are different from those outside the boundaries of our common world.

Enough with the preambling, eh? Here's the skinny:

default, a disciple of few solicited (and fewer unsolicited) public words, had a bad day. To work off unhappiness regarding the Outland holiday of hearts, chocolates, and nookie he took Kauket out ... but not on a date. No, he iced the black sphinxalicious Favour honey about six hours ahead of the clock time that the community has determined ok to commit that particular act of murdery indulgence.

It wasn't his first violent foray of the day, friends, far from it. Earlier, he visited his special brand of foreplay on Kalm, a new denizen of our fair land. True to the homophonic twin of her name, Kalm responded with poise and Decreed a Topic asking, in short, "Wha' Happen?" No public answer came from the lovelorn default over the course of the day, though Kalm later reported that a brief Telepath exchange provided her with no more information than that which she did not receive in public.

Enter Nefertiti. (No, that's not a command.)

She saw the early demise of Kauket, saw that no public statement had been made about it, saw that default was sphinxing away with Shai, who must've been impervious to his "charms" and was very much alive. Lacking the power pack of Abilities to enact the typical Dude You Killed Kauket Early result, Nefertiti chose to inflict the antisocial default with Paradoxes. She figured that this would keep him on ice until someone with a beefier right cartouche arrived to provide the aforementioned consequences. Then she popped into the chat room to let any available Pearlenes know what she'd done and why.

em and Captain Yossarian received the news and were displeased. They thought it unfair to remove default's ability to enter the realm for two hours, especially because it prevented him from defending or explaining himself in the Commune. So, they removed from him the affliction.

No one knows how he found out that he was free to re-enter Ankhet. It's a loose end in this tapestry tale because his fellow Pearlites say that they have no way to communicate with him outside of the game. We'll never know whether or not spectral passenger pigeons were involved, but somehow he found out and returned to action scant moments after Nefertiti placed him in time out.

Carnage ensued. Nefertiti was Dueled into an unlovely state. However the most dramatic hit was taken by Mikolaj, who was in the process of providing default with his Kauket-slaying reward. Rather than accept the punishment in the dignified tradition of his predecessors, he took more than nine million Favour from Mikolaj via Condemn. Can you dig it, girlfriends?

Needless to say, civic-minded Mikolaj did not receive this attack as a blessing. He took it upon himself to Exorcise default and set short term conditions for release.

default did not stick around. He chose Ennui as a way to avoid dealing with the fallout from his outburst. In his wake endures a lengthy Topic, bearing his name, regarding various issues raised by this string of events. It stands as no surprise that the first post is Kalm's original request for information.

em, the Captain and the Pearlinators were called on the carpet to answer questions. The sub-conversations ranged from civil to bitchy and roundabout again. There were obvious efforts to communicate in a civil manner and moments of less lovely behavior. Accusations and challenges and feints and ripostes abounded. All of you lovely sandle stars are free to trot trot trot to the Underworld for the details. Mama's hands are getting tired.

But why does all of this matter? Well, I don't really know for sure, except that the culturally obsessive can have a field day with such tasty morsels as:

- Who is responsible to respond when a community standard has been violated?

- What happens when someone refuses to explain their actions?

- If one of your allies gets punished and you undo it, what responsibility do you bear for what happens afterwards?

- What happens when a player keeps creating and Ennui-ing disciples who behave in anti-social ways?

- Is it ok to be sarcastic or snarky in a serious discussion?

- What the hell is up with the whole 'bot' story? Do the Oracles need to do something more? Is there something more to be done?

- What are the limits of loyalty?

- Is there ever an excuse for spandex apparel outside of athletic or performance settings?

- Does apologizing for a mistake make a disciple look weak or strong?

There are lots more questions, but this seems like a good starter kit. Fly, be free, contemplate, discuss.