October 30th, 2012


Let's Talk about Wording

[This is SCA politics; folks not in the SCA aren't likely to care about it.]

So it sounds like last weekend's BoD meeting was mostly uneventful -- nothing I've heard so far is head-exploding. That said, it does seem to have had its bits of Special.

The one interesting problem is the new change to the wording of the Same-Gender Crown Proposal. Specifically, the addition of a sentence, "No one may take part in the list as both competitor and also consort." This is a *huge* policy change, and a surprisingly bad idea -- it would have far more effect on traditional opposite-gender couples in Crown. I'm a bit surprised that the Board is even entertaining it.

So I'm contemplating a letter to the Board. Here's a draft, for commentary.
To the members of the Society's Board of Directors, from Mark Waks, known in the Society as Justin du Coeur: greetings.

I've read the informal reports of the Board meeting on October 27th, and most of it seems uncontroversial. However, I must express my concerns about the proposed change to law, in response to the Same-Gender Crown Proposal, to add the sentence, "No one may take part in the list as both competitor and also consort."

This seems like an extremely bad idea -- deeply at odds with established practice in many Kingdoms, and harmful in a number of ways. In particular, it is likely to lessen the number of women in the Crown List, since many of them are fighting for the man who is fighting for them. And indeed, given how many female fighters cite Duchess Rowen (who would have been excluded by this rule) as a primary inspiration to them, this rule change seems to have the potential to be quite damaging to the Society.

My understanding is that the proposed change is in response to concerns about "Ducal Daisy Chains" -- collections of Royal Peers who choose to collaborate in a massive rules-hack to improve their chances of winning. I'll be frank: I think this is unwarranted catastrophizing, the typical sort of rationalization people come up with to argue against the Same-Gender proposal to begin with. The prime rule of the SCA is "Don't Be a Jerk", and trying to legislate against the ten thousand ways one *can* be a jerk is just a recipe for tying ourselves in knots. I honestly don't think we should be spending so much attention on something that should instead be handled by social censure.

But let's take the concern at face value. If we really are concerned about this happening, a much more correct rule change would be, "Couples may compete for each other in the Crown List, but neither may compete for a third party". That is, it should absolutely be allowed for two Dukes to compete for each other, just as Rowen and Hector did and just as many opposite-gender couples do today. (I suspect that the social hassles given to the first pair to do so will help discourage subsequent rules-hackers.) We should call a spade a spade, and forbid only the sorts of unlikely grand conspiracies that seem to be the basis of the catastrophizing, without harming those couples who sincerely wish to fight for each other and are following decades of tradition in doing so.

You will also note that this wording has little to do with the Same-Gender proposal, intentionally. These "daisy chains" are already possible -- if people aren't worrying about that case, it is only because they are not taking the female fighters sufficiently seriously. The fact that this issue is only coming up in the context of the Same-Gender proposal is, honestly, quietly insulting to the many talented female fighters of the Society.

I hope you take this suggestion into consideration.

Mark Waks
(Wow, it goes against my grain to use my mundane name in SCA correspondence, but as I've remarked before, the Board appears to be deeply embarassed by the notion of the game intruding into their sphere of operations at all.)


Say what you will about Twitter as a product...

... the company continues to be one of the better members of the tech community.

I came across Bootstrap yesterday, and it is just delightful. One of the key problems for a small startup like Querki is that, while I have a reasonable amount of programming talent, I can't design my way out of a paper bag. Bootstrap is for people like me -- it's a lot of common design principles, best practices and widgets, all wrapped up in an easy-to-integrate package. The look-and-feel is a bit bare-bones, but it's not *ugly*, and that's good enough to get me started, until I can afford a proper graphic designer.

So don't be surprised if Querki initially looks a fair amount like the Bootstrap site. We'll probably iterate that gradually, but it's a nice starting point...