Narrow and Broad

Narrow arguments are more likely to have substance. Broad arguments are more likely to be messes of emotions and status games with murky support.

Again stemming from last week’s discussion, the broader the claim being made, the more likely that it is just howling into the void. People seek varying reactions to those but often do not want to be treated as if they were making a verifiable, factual claim. Narrower claims are more likely to be factual claims about which one can have meaningful discussion.

People often do want discussion on the broader claims, but unless they have plugged in just right, it is probably going to descend into emotive howling very quickly. There will be people making broad claims that are in opposition and orthogonal. Now that I think about it, this sort of angry, team-based hating is probably the main reason many people go to forums. As a Kill Ten Rats reader, you know that I mostly engage in bloodless logical analysis, so of course I consider that useless; if it’s your thing, hey, go to.

Narrower claims are usually more substantive. You can do a lot more with “damage ramps up too quickly in fight X” than “this game is too hard.” Even if the latter is intending to make a factual claim rather than shout, “argh!” the writer may not know how to specify what claim they really want to make.

This is normal, and not necessarily bad! Players or system users are often very good and pointing out that there is a problem, but they lack the training or specialized knowledge to recognize what the problem is or how to fix it. Pain points are legitimately pain points. This is also unfortunate, in that players or system users often do not realize that they lack that knowledge. People often ask for something and then get angry that it is not what they wanted, whether that is ordering the wrong dish at a restaurant or mis-specifying a bug.

I think of patch notes for League of Legends. Grabbing the latest example, you can imagine a scale of complaints from “balance is horrible” to “Anivia is gimped” to “we are changing the cooldown on Anivia’s Q from 12/11/10/9/8 seconds to 10/9.5/9/8.5/8 seconds.” You can scroll through the archive to see lots of 5% or smaller tweaks to lots of abilities. I think many people would struggle to engage thinking at that level of precision.

Shouting and emotional appeals are more popular than bloodless analysis. That makes sense in a species of social primates. They are also more difficult to engage productively. Again back to the first post stemming from this discussion, the sought response is neither an explanation or a solution. “Argh!” seeks more “argh!” and sometimes gets “not argh!” Which is more or less the level of political debate, it seems, with the immediate jump from “this is bad” to “and you are bad for not thinking this is bad” (with the obvious contradictions to both).

Note that this bloodless analysis ends with snarky complaints rather than a productive solution. See, I’m learning. Growth mindset!

: Zubon

3 thoughts on “Narrow and Broad”

  1. I do want to step back a bit, as I feel I was probably a major contributor to this discussion and ask: How much of this did you see in those comments? I thought you started this as a bit of an analysis on those comments, but now I feel you may have been offended by those posts on a more personal level. That was not in any way an intent, and I really am sorry if it did cascade to that level.

    I’ve always seen this as a rather safe space, and though I don’t comment much, I feel comfortable here. I think you and most of the posters feel the same, and I’d bet quite a bit read and don’t comment, just as I often do. I had intended to post a comment along the lines of “I feel very simile to this, and would like to add more.” as a way of supporting the original poster. I did not have any anger or resentment in that post, but if anything, was overly excited that someone made a point simile before me: I was not alone in my analysis. I had thought it was only fair to share that support, to let the poster also know that someone agreed with his post. No one likes to feel alone. I absolutely understand if that wasn’t warranted, and the last thing I wanted was for it to feel like I was trying to add to a “Yeah, you’re wrong!” pile. I’ve always read the comments here as a civil discussion.

    Honestly, I may in fact be way off base with this comment as well. This might be something you had planned on writing regardless, and this was just a reminder, and/or maybe I’m reading to much into what you are saying. (A downside of written communication is we tend to read everything in a negative light, even when it isn’t intended.) If I’m way off base here, I’d certainly like to know, but I’d also like to know if I’m in any way accurate so I can work on avoiding the situation in the future.

    1. Don’t feel targeted. Do feel responded to and keep commenting. :) The first response post and the coming last one are fairly direct responses to the comments. These other two are related side thoughts that could otherwise have ended up being thousand-word digressions in the middle of other posts. Or maybe they’re scaffolding; I picked up the habit of breaking thoughts into several posts a while ago, but I don’t know yet whether Monday’s end to this line of thinking will draw upon this much. And sometimes one thought inspires a cascade of thoughts, so I gradually poke at a topic across a month or two.

      The snark at the end is not a response to anyone in particular. It is shouting into the void. It that was responding to anything directly, it was this, which is about as oblique as it gets.

      1. Okay, yay. Thanks for the response. :) I’m really enjoying Conflict Vs. Mistake, but it’s leading to quite the tabstorm as I’m pulling up the relevant linked articles, haha. I love when I’m exposed to a point of view, or school of thought that makes sense, and feels familiar, but that I’ve never heard articulated.

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