goldkin: ~ >^k (goldkin mysterious)
While streaming art for friends today, I spent a good deal discussing why, after leaving DOTA2 for a long hiatus, I have no interest in returning. I've heard this sentiment echoed by several people close to me -- including relatives (!) -- so I figured I'd write a small thinkpiece about it on my most personal blog.

DOTA, along with its companion in crime League of Legends, is tremendously popular. Its gameplay is immediately familiar to anyone that has ever played an RTS, since they evolved from earlier examples such as Starcraft or Warcraft 3.

The problem with these MOBAs, compared even to their RTS forebears, is their communities are toxic. Extremely toxic. In some cases, nightmarish to the point where even a single 45-minute game becomes a highly stressful ordeal. Part of this reason is the availability of global chat within a game, which creates an incentive for players to be as evil to the opposing team in chat as possible. But let's not get too far off-topic here.

For this reputation alone, I initially steered very clear of these games. Not because they were challenging or failed to be interesting to watch, but because I would rather do without the tension of dealing with assholes in every consecutive match.

However, out of curiosity and the likelihood of a better experience, I was drawn in when my roommates started playing DOTA2. I was even rather decent at the game (by the standards of newer players), even though I never quite got some of the rhythms down for last hitting.

But, I noticed that for nearly every match I played, and regardless of whether we won, the game was emotionally exhausting.

Initially, I attributed this to not being especially good at the game. After all, many friends in social circles that played the game were quick to remind me that "it gets better". So I got curious and started watching pro games and popular Twitch streamers, observing how they played and what they said to one another. And while I found some improvements in quality (they were more respectful to the pause feature of the game, for example), matches were routinely filled with trash talk by all participants.

Now, this may be an experience some people enjoy: being emotionally bombarded in a zero-sum environment in which success relies on precise play by multiple allied parties. But while trying to emulate the behavior of better players, I found myself being repeatedly yelled at, including by people close to me. And even (and especially) in games in which I won, I found the process to be emotional junk food: leaving me craving more, yet consistently failing to satisfy the hunger of a better experience.

I find this qualia -- emotional junk food -- to be a very good parable to another problem I've been dealing with lately: materialism. While not materialistic myself -- I get along just fine on very little, as repeated uses of my small bug-out bag have proven -- I am finding it increasingly difficult to deal with people whose materialism is a considerable part of their personality.

This is because materialism always leaves you craving more. There is no solace or peace in one's intrinsic value or skills if it cannot be productized, and anything that falls out of that rubric is immediately called into question. By the valuation of observable wealth, this is seen as rational. Yet the materialists I have come to know, both at a distance via social media and in rare cases personally, have proven to be some of the most anxiety-ridden individuals I have ever known when not discussing a new toy.

My purpose in this discussion, then, isn't a scathing rant against DOTA or materialism. Rather, it's to point out the subtle danger of conditioning in situations that have a very small upside.

My reasons for not enjoying DOTA are the same reasons I am not a materialistic dragon: both habits have a woefully small return on my personal investment. Buying new toys and then forgetting about them is not dissimilar to the short dopamine-infused high of finally having a pleasant match of DOTA. And both experiences are geared towards holding a reward just barely out of reach, goading you to continue onward in an increasingly desperate frenzy for relief.

But the desperate habitual behavior to obtain these highs just isn't worth the cost of being made sad, angry, or emotionally listless on a regular basis. This is especially true when I can obtain happiness and a sense of accomplishment elsewhere: by the joy of creating, by the eustress of sharing my work on a nightly basis, and from the intrigue of learning new skills on a regular basis instead of seeking cheap thrills. And unlike a situation that promises value and never delivers, these deliver constantly, and make me feel good about having them in my life.

Much of our adult society seems geared towards producing cheap thrills as a means of building dependency. This is something that I have done very well to avoid over the years, and despite some missteps in recent years, I will be returning to a better pattern once I obtain my new home.

I suppose this all means that I try to make conditioning work best for me. And as I re-evaluate several decisions I have made over the past years and very pointedly separate myself from the emotionally manipulative people in my life (in multiple contexts, please don't stir drama by trying to guess who), I'm taking this opportunity to build better habits and reduce my dependency on this emotional junk food.

Edit: Due to an editing mishap, I'd lumped Heroes of the Storm in with games that support global chat and have toxic communities. From what I can tell, this is not the case with HotS, precisely because allchat is disabled and other substantive design improvements on the genre. As such, I've taken it out of the article's consideration of MOBAs with these characteristics.
goldkin: sketch avatar (sketch avatar)
I've learned to handle most of life's bumps and scrapes pretty effectively, so prior to Monday, I hadn't needed this space to vent for some time. I try pretty hard to not make habits of negativity and need for sympathy, because I have a pretty good life and much prefer using it to make things that people enjoy. Over the past couple years, the artistic hobbies of mine that you've seen on my other blogs have been really effective for me, and I'm going to keep doing those.

But, by gods, I've had a really awful week, and I need to get it out of my head. So please pardon while I use this space to do so again, and please only keep reading if you want to know the morbid details.

Last Sunday, I was shaken to my core when a friend of a friend tried to intervene in my home situation. They tried to broker a truce after some tension broke out over the weekend, and did so in a way that did not get the results they wanted. Specifically, they put themselves in the position of telling me that I'd not be able to continue my housing situation past the end of the year, and did so in a way that injected them into a complex situation that I don't believe they were prepared to handle. This conversation ended with me barely holding back tears -- after all, I care for the people I'm with very much and have been here for five years -- and I lost basically the entire remainder of the weekend to feeling unwell.

On Monday, my manager of four years announced his departure. This was, as you might expect, awkward for me -- I had just successfully wrapped up a major project and was hoping it would reflect well on my performance for the year. I can't talk about any of the details of it, but I can say that I'm very proud of how well this went... and having that success lost in the noise of transition-to-new-manager was a blow on my already low morale.

Compounding this, I communicated myself legendarily poorly to my friend-of-a-friend, upsetting them enough that it scared me very deeply. And so, on Monday evening, I checked into a hotel across the street from my home, and spent a great deal of time trying to emotionally care for myself and convince myself that everything would be okay.

Around this time, I picked up a Talkspace subscription for myself. While I have a therapist that I see once a month, I desperately needed out-of-band care at this point to keep myself emotionally together. This service deserves a very high rating -- the therapist I've been paired with has done a phenomenal job of helping me work through this. And at the time, being able to get immediate care on the "he said she said"*, allowed me to insulate everyone in the situation for long enough to allow things to cool off.

For the remainder of that work week, I spent my time at my ex's home, working out of their bedroom.** My work is portable such that I was able to do this on a moment's notice, with a few awkward rough edges that I hadn't immediately considered (ie, having to use my phone to load a specific VPN, because Chromebooks are lacking in that department). For meetings, I worked out of a conference room at our local business center, which also happened to be useful because of fire alarm testing in our apartment complex that week.

Over the course of the week, I tried to make peace with my roommates over IM. Some very good progress happened on Wednesday, in which we determined that we had mostly been talking past one another, due to a difference in cultural expectations and strategies of phrasing and de-escalating an argument. For those who read here, I generally construct emotionally persuasive arguments that are redundant in nature, which tends to cross wires when I should be operating in a more technical mode. I typically freely toggle between these, but when I'm stressed and can't remove myself from a situation, I tend to operate in the emotional mode -- which had been causing communication to break down and become worse without my being aware of it.

On Friday, I attempted to make peace with my roommates in person. That was, at least partially, effective. But for a home in which I felt to some degree loved and cared for, it was an emotional slap in the face to discover just how deeply the resentment had run over my own miscommunication.

Add to all of this the fact I had already been looking to buy a house, and the metaphorical floor has fallen out from under me. I'm still healthy and financially solvent, so that's good -- but pretty much everything I had hoped to accomplish this year was crushed in one week. I have been sort of reeling semi-competently ever since as I tried to handle it, taking each day at a time to make it through, while ensuring I had enough emotional and cognitive energy left to do a competent job at work.

The tl;dr of this is: I'm probably not going to be cognitively well again for at least another few days, maybe as far as a week or three. I'm also unsure if I can make good art in this state. Astute viewers have probably recognized that the quality and definition of what I put out has been erratic in recent months, and that is directly attributable to the amount of tension I'd been experiencing inside of my own home. I'm not sure to what degree I can or should communicate this better, but things will, as I see them, recover.

I guess I'm not entirely appealing for sympathy here; I'm just rather freaked out by all of this and trying to gain traction on it by writing my own thoughts. I just wish that things were not so socially treacherous for me right now, and I feel that getting the hell out of Dodge, so to speak, will do me a lot of good.

Until that happens, please understand when I seem quiet or distant on my personal blogs. I do that to stay positive, and to buffer actionless negativity from all of you, because no one needs that in their timelines. I like all of you very much, and the conversation I'd rather have is a positive one that, as things get better, I'd like to make more candid as I go.

I'll be okay. Just... fuck this past week.


* This idiom wants for a gender-neutral alternative. Does one exist?

** My ex lives in the same complex that I do (I actually share their lease on top of my own, because they needed a place to stay after their own bad situation), so this was something of a surprising windfall.
goldkin: umm... what I mean to say is... *CRASH* (umm... what I mean to say is... *CRASH*)

I am writing this from the luxury of a hotel room, booked on short notice. Tomorrow, I will be staying with a friend for as long as I need to. Don’t worry too much about me; there is no risk to physical life and limb, though nerves have definitely been jostled.

This post will refer to real people and real events, but the names will be withheld to protect the innocent. If you know the people in question, I strongly advise that you talk to them instead of me; they are upstanding and lovely people in their own right and in aggregate. Any facts that I articulate poorly are not meant to slur them or their name. Indeed, I see what follows as a disagreement of ideologies, not one of interpersonal strife, worth telling as a cautionary tale of how different personalities intermix together.

To my coworkers, the few of you that know of this account and read here: please respect that I’m handling this at home and home only. I am still functional for work. If I do need to take personal time, I will take it.

I will open with the most cited images from the concluded Gunshow Comic, well known in software engineering:

In engineering, this image is used for a multitude of handling failures. The most common of these is a scenario in which alerting has failed, such that operations thinks: “everything is fine,” as servers slowly melt into their component elements.

This is an apt analogy, then, for how I have lived for the past five years. For those five years, I was told that everything was fine. Everything was fine... as my emotional abilities, resolve, and hope for a bright future burned to a crisp before my eyes.

And at the same time, I am also not the dog in the comic. Instead, I am also fixed as the viewer of the image, fruitlessly calling the dog to pay attention, to acknowledge that their house is desperately on fire. The dog, then, represents my situation and my place within it, separate from me. I scrabbled fruitlessly to handle a situation in which I, as observer, only had vicarious agency.

This brings me to the situation: socially, my house is on fire. The blaze was kindled in the heat of a difference of personalities, and it was stoked by burnout, fear, anger, tension, and a heavy dose of stress and shame. And I have chosen to remove myself from the situation, peeling myself out of the pane of the comic as the blaze continues to burn.

So what started the fire?

To fully understand the situation, consider the following analogy*: two cultural heritages represented as lead gears in a cogworks. On the one side, a culture of Mid-Western and European collectivism, in which the greater good is upheld by mutually supportive behavior. On the other, a culture of Southern individualism, in which personal and inter-personal growth and selectivity are valued over managing the greater whole. Imagine this cogworks trying to turn in tandem, as certain gears fit improperly or inversely at the teeth. The sparks from this grinding, often kept at cinders, have finally become the forewarned blaze as gears shifted within the system.

I am the Southerner. I resent the ways of my upbringing: the rhetoric taught to me was one of isolationism and ableism, and it took me years to reprogram. I am not proud of who I was taught to be then, and it was only through the help of compassionate friends and family (both online and off) that I was able to become the person that I am today.

During this reprogramming, there was always the potential -- yes, this was only a few years ago -- that these gears might one day fit. Indeed, at the outset, there certainly appeared as if that might be a possibility: as pieces locked briefly into alignment, starting to turn, frictionlessly. But this page is from the universe in which a flywheel fell out of balance, causing the entire system to, irrevocably, melt major sections and all of the hard work that went into them in a resulting blaze.

And in the heat of this blaze, I am told “this is fine”. This is not, in fact, because things are fine. It is a very firm and insistent plea that things be made fine, by turning only one of the gears rapidly and ignoring the fire. By ignoring the blaze, and killing the power to half the system, and cranking just fast enough, things might just be fine for what remains after the fire.

I am the portion of the system shut down by this plan. And it wasn’t fine for me, because it leaves me with the blaze created by the clash, and leaves me in the fire, and leaves my system to burn. In the past, I would sit absent, allowing the sparks and cinders and minor blaze to burn my hardware. "This is fine." This time, I elected to go elsewhere, suffocating the fire for lack of additional fuel.

The point of this is that for the past five years, we have been trying to run a household with two incompatible strategies. As people were added and removed, and as information and situations changed, things looked like they might work. When they did not, being the more isolated system, I bore the burden of deactivation and excess heat damage to keep things running. But by pressing one of the gears, as I did today, repeatedly, to try to finally make things fit, I am the one that sparked the resultant blaze that followed.

And in its aftermath, I feel treated as if I am the dysfunctional segment. Post hoc, ergo propter hoc. Surely I am the cause of the fire, because it occurred as the result of my tweaking, as I desperately kept many of the gears in alignment. Surely I am the cause of the fire, because I am the one that tried the hardest to make the gears fit, even when all I had were substitutes at odd angles and ratios. Surely I am the cause of the fire, when the inevitable blaze sparked from a situation with too many interlinked moving parts to begin with.

Such a conclusion would be a bad postmortem, because engineers know that these problems do not happen in isolation. There are many contributors to the eventual fire. And while no contributor is themself blameless, the most valued result is to learn something about the whole so it may be better addressed next time.

And so I have learned that this is precisely why social interactions are designed to have few moving parts, and why relationships work that way too. The cogs that don’t work are simply left free to spin, while the ones that do work remain to power the rest of the system.

It is unlikely for me to return to my almost-working presence in my own home, and for me to re-engage with the system of cogs that, while still in need of oil and repair, turns more freely now from my own removal. I can no longer be the person vigilantly trying to make repairs, grinding the gears when I should not be, all in pursuit of a system that finally turns clean with all connected working parts. I have been removed from the system, and I do admit to feeling better for finally turning clean myself.

Much better except, I cry now, for not being part of something larger than myself. I cry now, because I wanted that system to turn clean with me a part of it. I cry now, more so than usual, because all I ever wanted was to belong.

But belonging, perhaps, is another story for another day than this one.

* This is borrowed from an analogy stated to me by one person in the situation, which fit especially well. I would normally cite them here. Instead, please recognize that this analogy is borrowed, and that for reason of not invoking them, the contribution is anonymous.
goldkin: i has book (Default)
I recently revived one of my old Tumblr accounts to start sharing thoughts and triviata on a more regularly-scheduled basis. Please feel free to follow me at, should this medium please you.

I will likely continue to keep more focused, personal accounts here, especially when I desire the friend lock. I'm experimenting with different forms of social media again to see if they fit my thoughts. We'll see how that goes.
goldkin: sketch avatar (sketch avatar)
This is sort of a last social purgation to finish my series on fear and identity. My previous postings hinted at, but did not fully discuss, how I understand relationships and belonging. This abstract sense of being intrinsically linked to other people is something I at least believe I understand, but it is not something I am fully comfortable with experiencing.

As before, this is because I'm a quietly introverted social mirror. I certainly know what I would like to experience, and I certainly gravitate towards like-minded people and people I care for as a result. But when it comes to actual socialization, I am deeply, deeply fretful that my mannerisms, apparent attitude, cognitive preconditions, and pre-existing social baggage will all get in the way. So, I try mirroring the actions of others. This process often fails. To say this makes me ineffectual would be the pinnacle of understatement: it makes me socially awkward in a caricatured, almost sitcom-meets-cartoonish kind of way.

This leads to a sort of paralyzing, self-reinforcing prison of paranoia and negativity. I am not an especially bad person, but by reinforcing these negatives through trying to resolve them, I emphasize them to others. This leads to a pattern of the people I care about and those I prospectively would like to get to know better largely socially ignoring me and starving me for interest and affection. This isn't because they especially dislike me; rather, it's because they've become apathetic towards my message and how they think I will receive theirs.

This translates into my love life, as well. I have been in two serious relationships over the span of my entire life. The first sort of imploded in a vicious fireball of negativity, while the other sort of quietly burned out into a passive, medium-distance friendship amidst personal hardships. The second is still ongoing. This is why I frequently call my current, better half "my significant other". I'd like to say "mate", but our relationship has dimmed to the point where applying that term is simply linguistically inaccurate.

In contrast, many of the people that surround me are in stable relationships or, in some cases, have the luxury of polyamory. I approach love from sort of the opposite end of the spectrum: it is something I mostly experience vicariously, as a function of not being successful in maintaining my own relationships. I am happiest when other people are happy, as both a function of my personality (I really am that genuinely supportive and warm-hearted) and as a means of quelling my inner desires for love, affection, community, and a sense of social belonging that are so very elusive for me.

I think I need to shed my masks and let people experience who I am, without regrets, on a relaxed, peaceful schedule that isn't quite so immediate and socially-oriented. I would like to believe that I may even be accepted, and love, and be treated with love, if I allow for this to happen.

Why, then, do I feel so uneasy about doing so? I hope it's simply fear of change.
goldkin: paradice avatar (paradice avatar)
I have a chronic fear of visible failure. This is especially true in the context of potential passive-aggressive and resentful behavior.

I attribute much of this to my heritage: among other social values, my family raised me to only present my best successes to the world and secretly hide all of my failures. Meanwhile, I grew up in an extremely extroverted and charisma-based society that was heavily obsessed with cataloging and preserving gossip.

This ill-equipped me to build an identity for myself, as identity construction took more of a back seat to manipulating my social image to prevent exposure. It made me paranoid: I simply couldn't let my non-Christian spirituality, my bizarre kinks, or my personal desire to be with other like-minded people, out of my head. I was quizzed for compliance regularly, and in middle and high school, openly attacked if I failed this compliance check on a semi-daily basis.

This acquired fear and manipulative tendency quickly made me a highly competent social chameleon in my then-home state. However, this failed utterly around people whom knew me better, spent longer amounts of time around me, and generally anyone with whom I tried to maintain a long-lasting and ongoing social relationship with or wanted to get to know better. They got to see someone that is extremely evasive, persnickety, and uncomfortable about people getting close to him, for the simple fear that they'll see through the facade and not like what they see. This even applies self-referentially: I'm not convinced I'm an especially good person, for the simple reason that I do not actually know the sort of person that I am.

Which is bizarre, in a way. Based upon my prior actions and early life, I am a primarily loving and caring individual. I am highly tactile; I love elegance, and I love bringing light and joy into this world. Yet this is all buried under a dour, faux-stoic veneer that makes me completely unapproachable by the people I'd like to do so.

I am trying to conquer this fear, because it's costing me dearly. I would also like the luxury of camaraderie, and of being able to develop my identity without seeming false. I certainly have some form of a current identity: I evaluate strongly between asexual and male, as otherkin, and certainly as a dragon on a very regular and healthy basis (among other recreational forms). But, there is this entire spectrum of matters I am too fearful, too evasive, or just plain too uneasy to talk about, for the simple reason it risks me exposure.

Perhaps as a result, I am deeply jealous of those I know whom have a public identity that works for them. I am more opaque; not by choice, but because I have yet to experience better.
goldkin: i has book (goldkin bookly)
Lately, I've been mulling over the idea of making Internet discussion topic-oriented again.

My interest in this is primarily self-serving: my quality of writing, abilities to articulate myself, and interests in participating in online discussion have noticeably dipped since the rise of social media. Like any trained skill, this dwindling is the product of atrophy: most of my current time is spent on more immediate and people-focused forms of social media. Twitter in particular discourages long-form, longly-thought prose, and I've been feeling the strain of constraining my thoughts into 140 characters more and more as I try desperately to be less terse post-personal-depression.

The trouble is we now have a blogosphere that is, for the most part, very diffuse, disorganized, and disconnected. Writing posts on a personal blog, like I am doing here, simultaneously feels like I'm yelling into the void hoping desperately to be noticed and, when I am noticed, distracting people from other, more meaningful pursuits of their time. It's lossy, precisely because until you read the words that I'm typing here, it's difficult to determine what I'm about to go on about.

This is the inherent problem with people-oriented social media. While it connects us with a wider and richer audience of people, it also carries the expectation that everything those people say, or at least a reasonable subset chosen at random, will be read by all participants that follow them. This puts the burden of topic discovery with the reader, as they try to determine, for each post in their social stream, whether the content is meaningful for them.

This is a bad paradigm. People are very bad at being spontaneously consistent, or failing that, spontaneously supportive of the expectations of their audience. Indeed, it is a rare blogger on social media who focuses solely on the content of their work or interests of their audience, instead of cathartic spontaneity or the topical profusion and profundity of a Twitter shitter. And when you do find a focused author, chances are they'd really like to sell you something.*

This seems wrong to me. While it gives us a wide array of topics, discussion, voices, and interests, each conversation is sorely lacking for organization, structure, and any form of coherency. The purveying social expectation is also that these discussions are immediate, transitory, and prone to loss if they aren't picked up on near the time of posting. This leads to sort of an echo chamber effect, as people constantly rehash and rearticulate the same basic concepts and immediate structure for a relatively small number of interested participants, instead of moving forward and relying on the support of a topic, idea, or other nexus of research to support their ideas and opinions.**

In short, these posts don't tell an especially good story. They tell an immediate, transient one, indistinguishable from a sound bite in quality and effective longevity. On the posting side, it feels pithy, immediate, and meaningful to capture these ideas close to their original inception point. But, the structure to make these bites form part of a broader social tapestry just isn't there, leaving the burden on the reader to figure out what the hell is going on.

So, as an exercise in intellectual curiosity, I've decided to explore this a bit to see if I could do better. My thoughts soon settled on topic-orientation, precisely because it provides a focus and an implied, shared context for each piece of media. This provides a good story: it elevates the visibility of topics within their space, provides room for them to grow, and ceases to shackle them to each individual storyteller. This allows for a broader, pre-existing, shared context in discussion that is once again larger than a single individual.

The closest technical area of research I can find to re-topicizing discussion is tag search and term extraction. In which I ask an open question: are there any good, multi-social-platform clients that perform tag search and, as a bonus, a simplified form of term extraction? If not, I have half a mind to write one myself using existing APIs and tools, if only to have access to such a tool myself.***

In the meantime, I am experimenting with this using Tumblr. They already support tag search and content extraction (but not summarization) using their API, which is as good a start as any.

* Not that I discourage prospective authors, creatives, and other interests from attempting to sell their wares on social media! It just seems wrong to me that these interests form the majority of what I consider to be focused voices on social media, given the original intentions of the medium.

** One of my roommates wrote a fairly good post that articulates this better than I do here. You can read it at

*** The idea of a company like Google supporting topic-oriented social search, a Google Meta if you will, pleases me. This is more or less the current public direction of their company, so I suspect there are many similar things cooking under the hood that I've simply not heard of.


May. 31st, 2013 01:14 am
goldkin: snoooooooww! (snoooooooww!)
I have great difficulty finding my voice with others. While I take more of a measured stance online, interpersonal communication is simply too immediate for me. I am frequently caught flatfooted, feeling as if I've planted one of those flat feet firmly in my mouth for the duration of conversation, and I frequently feel remiss with much of what I've said after the fact.

This is partially because of my natural introversion: after all, I simply don't spend as much time around people. But, having observed the same patterns in others that share my heritage and have moved out here, I also believe this has to do with how Floridian culture meets the Pacific Northwest. We have completely different standards of conversational nuance, content quality, and quality control out here, and I am still struggling to attain competency.

On a related note: I'm trying to shift my tone towards something lighter, more playful, and more representative of who I actually am. I like expressing as a being of cheer and happy, which I very commonly am. I just need to learn to reign in my self-consciousness and allow myself to express it in ways that are meaningful.
goldkin: umm... what I mean to say is... *CRASH* (umm... what I mean to say is... *CRASH*)
As is common with the rubberband trip between my family home and my current one, I'm suffering from a severe case of culture shock this week. This leads me to suffering from something I call emotional whiplash, as my emotional center and personal self-image attempt to catch up with rapid changes in contextual information.

This usually leads me to feeling emotionally very small once I return home. A part of this is the fact I live with introverts that keep very much to themselves, returning from an overdose of heavily extroverted people that make me feel several sizes too large on the socialization scale. The result is this sort of ill-fitting feeling of emotional disquiet that leaves me paralyzed for days, as I try to reclaim my quiet desire for affection and positivity after having it effusively and uncomfortably thrown at me by the cartful during my vacation.

I wish I handled this better. At core, I'm a strongly emotional person, and the disquieting polarization of emotional input completely throws me off balance. This usually results in about a week of lost productivity, as I spend that time alrecover.

Is there some better way to handle this? I know that, in part, this is signaling that I'm not meeting my emotional needs... and among those are my desire for affection and for quiet reminders that what I do and who I am are both, somehow, meaningful. My current coping mechanism has simply been to latch on to what scraps I can in my daily life, and that's simply causing me to rapidly burn out.

I guess what this is really saying is that I need focused love in my life again. I have no idea how to attain that for myself, as my lack of social poise and emotional balance have basically driven off most of the people I might otherwise care for. It's difficult for me to communicate that with care, I actually do much better when the initial results so clearly speak against.

Sigh. Humanity is so utterly confusing to me.


May. 10th, 2013 11:00 pm
goldkin: snoooooooww! (snoooooooww!)
As is common for me when I visit my family home in Florida, I'm bitten by the writing bug.

All of the qualia of my first memorable home -- the same one I was raised in since I was just a little over one year old -- comes flooding back, and practically everything I observe, touch, or interact with is filled with immediate nuance and significance from previous experiences.

In a way, it's a little like being otherkin while being otherkin (yo dawg...). Much of what I can call up to memory feels like it's from another life. The feelings are similar, and the memories are warm and familiar, but they feel as though they happened to a different "me" -- one that reacted to them in very different ways than the me of today.

In part, it's experience. Before leaving Florida to live in Washington state, I had seen very little of the world beyond a small collection of other states, some of the Bahamas, and some of Europe. I was pretty naive, and that naivete figured into a rather deep local bias for the culture to which I was exposed.

Standard fare, except Miami culture is a bit... bad, for the exceedingly-nerdy introvert. It's difficult for me to articulate the precise factors responsible -- perhaps a combination of extreme heat, humidity-enhanced mold, and a culture of deeply charisma-based meritocracy -- but the local culture is very strongly anti-intellectual, and anti-creative for activities that strongly cross perceived gender norms.*

This was difficult for me, because my heritage was very polarized. On my father's side, strict gender roles dominated much of his family's history. On my mother's side, a more liberal, gender-ambiguous stance was held for social acceptability. This instilled in me what I can only describe as deep existential confusion as I struggled to make sense of diametrically-opposed social views in the home, while being a creative, in an environment strongly repressive to highly creative and artistic males.**

This ensured that, for purely social reasons, I kept my creativity confined to my bedroom. I also kept it to what meager art supplies I could squirrel away, computer included.

Now, not all of that is bad. After all, I learned to be shockingly efficient with very little in the way of traditional media, tools, and personal space, while finding newer and better ways to hide my actions, interests, and behaviors among the ordinary. Years went by. And, when I finally moved, I brought these patterns with me. It was all quite isolating.

In understanding what it means to me when I say I feel like a completely different person, I mean it in the sense of a caged bird that, once freed, regards their old home as such a small thing. It is to say that I've transcended that previous, isolating existence, and returning to it brings a re-evaluation of old motives and habits within this newer mental context. It also brings more than its fair share of simple nostalgia.

Thinking back to these experiences, I honestly believe I did the best by myself. When I'm away from my family house, I constantly find ways to fault my old patterns of behavior as well-meaning but ineffective. My return trips home, meanwhile, underscore that at the time, not only was I doing the most reasonable things for myself: I was building myself up into who I am today.

Still, it feels almost dualistic and dichotomic, this tangible feeling of being home in the physical sense, with this constant mental and emotional overlay from my previous Floridian life. Much of it is even exceedingly positive, and for that, I know precisely where to look.

It is fitting, then, that I just watched my sister graduate today.*** Watching her graduate from my own alma mater brought its own share of nostalgia. Nostalgia from a previous life that I've chosen to build upon, while the touchstones, experiences, objects, and people that I love are still here.

* In the suburbs. Miami Beach is a completely different, and unambiguously fabulous, matter.

** Perhaps I should back up a bit and explain why that last part matters.

By my very nature, I'm a creative. Naturally, this expresses in some rather flamboyant displays of color, pattern, and thought out of me. Yet, unlike some in my newer, draconic peer group, I am not gender-fluid: I identify strongly as male. I
am species-fluid in my identity, but that's a subject for another post. I'm also still trying to figure out my orientation. Again, another post, or possibly in the comments.

*** The graduation itself went very well, by the way. I don't feel comfortable posting the details on this journal, save to say that the ceremony was very similar to when I, myself, graduated and that I'm very proud of my younger sister.


May. 6th, 2013 04:45 am
goldkin: snoooooooww! (snoooooooww!)
One of the biggest constants on my mind is living up to my full potential. This is, by and large, why I journal: it keeps me honest, and it keeps my thoughts flowing instead of sitting cramped in the back of my skull.

Perhaps most importantly, this journaling brings me balance, by helping me make sense of my emotions. I am a very emotional creature, prone to moods and intuition based on emotional cues and priming. This often leads me to strong emotional biases, which I often spend hours alone trying to understand and unpack. Through writing, I am able to give those emotions better context with which to work, relieving negativity, emphasizing positivity, and sharing my thoughts to keep them grounded in reality.

I think I need a bit more than this, though, for that last bit. Especially in the professional sphere, I'm hoping to find a mentor: someone with whom I can share my thoughts, sound off when I don't feel entirely confident in my abilities, and receive the occasional suggestion, brief lecture, or assignment from when they're more competent with a desired skill than I am.

This is possibly asking too much. But, it's a relationship I hope to cobble together with time and practice, potentially out of interactions with multiple people, sources, and media (like this journal).

It seems strange to wish to cobble together one's own mentorship. And yet, I see this as a desired state for me. I feel that I am a student of this world, and that I have much that I can learn from others. I'm simply trying to find better ways to listen.

(Author's Note: this was written while sleepy on an iPhone. As such, this may contain clerical errors or inconsistent content. In those cases, you have my most bashful apologies.)
goldkin: i has book (goldkin bookly)
Every so often, when I hit my darker moods on social media, you'll see something like this:

@Goldkin: I really wish my mind would stop feeling enshamed and self-deprecatory for my prior, years-past mistakes. It would do me lots of good.

‏@Goldkin: I fear the eternal albatross-around-the-neck. The result: I hide most information about myself, am ponderous to reply, and am less engaging.

@Goldkin: I think there's something to be said about safe harbors for promiscuous online sharing. The likes of what happens on Facebook terrifies me.

@Goldkin: ... insofar as it should be socially acceptable to share one's self without fear that it'll become a static data point. I'd like to do that.

‏@Goldkin: I see those assumptions of immutability as giving rise to resentment and bigotry, and I just feel it's too narrow a space to live within.

What this displays is a fundamental insecurity of mine that shapes many of my actions. I am extremely fretful of how my previous actions color how people see me, even if they may have no reflection on my future performance or behavior.

This is, for the most part, a product of my heritage. I grew up within a highly conservative, and for the most part judgmental, family. This same family has been known to take its facts primarily as immutable and at face value. Without wishing to do so, I internalized this view as a representation of how others would see me... and began to deeply fear resentment and bigotry as a result.

This makes me a security professional, because I've become really good at hiding and obscuring information. But this comes at a severe social cost: I don't feel comfortable sharing the details of my private life as often as I'd like to. I feel as if I am far less engaging in conversation with the people that I enjoy being around, because I fear creating poor quality, insurmountable, and immutable data. This fear actually causes me to realize exactly what I otherwise wish to avoid, because it affects my logical centers, my abilities to process information, and my abilities to speak eloquently, due to the applied, slow filter of withholding dangerous information.

This filter makes some sense to maintain, however. Almost daily, we're reminded of some "schmuck" that was too promiscuous on Facebook, Twitter, or other forms of social media. They'll have said something socially hazardous, or they'll have revealed some personal detail, that costs them a lot of credibility. And this galvanizes my fears, because I am afraid of precisely what people would think of me if I shared more of who I am.

I guess what I'm saying is, I'd like to be more open in general. This is very difficult for me, because the past few decades have taught me to be a master of protecting information. Information, I add, that I'd like people I do trust and care about to know and be able to share.

Basically, I'd like to be less envious of the people I know whom I do believe have healthy modes of communication. I'd like to transmute this into action that makes me feel supported and connected by those I care about... which is already difficult for me, given my introverted tendencies. I certainly don't aspire to be an extrovert, but for those small few I communicate with regularly, I'd like to feel as if I'm providing the best communication I can offer.

In a way, this post is sort of a form of social advertising. There's a lot that I keep trapped under the hood, and frankly, I'd like much of it to be less of a tightly-guarded secret. Because, for most of it -- my draconity and spiritual identity, my aspirations, my loves and crushes for others, my carnal desires, and my general zeal for life -- there's actually nothing to be ashamed of. It's frustrating for me to take such a Victorian stance about myself, when the specific predators I'm afraid of are no longer present. Furthermore, I find it highly cathartic to be able to get more of what makes me myself out there for inspection.

But, perhaps most importantly, being more open would alleviate the specific isolation that I've suffered from these past several decades. I certainly wouldn't like to share everything, due to the intersection of healthy secret-keeping and tl;dr. But, just being able to share more, and to establish a sort of safe clearing house for who and what I am, would do me a lot of good.

I'm not yet sure what form that will take. But, the thought of it greatly appeals to me.
goldkin: i has book (Default)
Earlier, I tweeted this at an old acquaintance of mine from Second Life, qDot:

@qDot VR in a nutshell: all this extra bandwidth by adding a dimension, and we still haven't figured out how to make it useful beyond porn.

@qDot The translation of the literal to the spacial is still a work in progress. That design problem is still surprisingly underexplored.

Let's unpack what's going on here. qDot and I are both big VR enthusiasts, for entirely different reasons. He's a hardware sort of guy, whereas I spend almost all of my time in software. What I'm saying here is that the spatial design that makes virtual reality actually work is missing from many designs, and that this design space seems, largely, underexplored.

This seems strange to me. The human mind is very good at spatial perception and spatial memory. So much so, that a common strategy of memorizing long strings of digits is to construct a memory palace that spatially organizes specific sets of digits into mnemonic objects or concepts.

It seems equally strange, then, that our common devices continue to use such a flat design. Even as I sit here typing this, I'm using a display model that's nothing more than an extension of the Xerox PARC GUI. Screen rendering is flat and fixed-axis, with the horizontal and vertical corresponding to the boundaries of my monitor. The third axis, depth, is entirely flat, constrained to compositing windows on top of one another in priority order. Depth of field is removed almost entirely.

It's a nice, clean, accessible design that misses out on much of what the brain has to offer in terms of processing power. So, what I really said to qDot above was:

"I think we (as a species) can do this VR thing much better, if we focus on the right spatial design problems."

How, then, does one make existing technologies make sense spatially? The games industry certainly solved it for themselves: look at the jump, for example, between
Super Metroid and Metroid Prime.

This is less of a doing and more of an undoing, however. In those older 2D platformers, we were trained to the 2D abstraction. All the newer 3D games needed was to undo the flatland perspective, while retaining (and in many cases, forward-porting) all of the concepts, art, and lessons learned along the way.

I believe that this is so with the state of computing UI, as well. All we need to do is undo the flatland abstraction, while porting what we've learned along the way. I openly have no idea what form that will take, but I believe, from simple analogy and many, many experiments, that it's entirely practical.

It shouldn't surprise anyone, then, that I'm extremely excited about Google Glass, and to a lesser extent, the Oculus Rift. The primary source of my excitement is in how they change the UI model: from a flatland perspective into an overlay of reality.

This imparts in me a sort of visceral zen that I experienced, to a lesser degree, in Second Life. Even with its clumsy interface, terrible lag, and laundry list of other problems, Second Life provided for me one of the most compelling environments that I could tinker within. The sole reason: it offered me a 3D world that I could constantly alter, allowing me to bring my full mental resources to bear.

I haven't experienced quite this same feeling since then, beyond rare real life operations, working in a CAD tool like Blender, or playing the occasional 3D videogame. I miss it. But, I feel the return of this model is rapidly approaching, and it fills me with joy that others might get to finally experience this.

It seems trite of me, but I believe this small change in UI may profoundly impact how we see the world and see ourselves. That is, provided developers spend the time learning how to express their user interfaces, designs, and concepts in spatially-oriented, idiomatic ways.

Which is why I'm a software sort of dragon. I like abstraction. I enjoy playing around in the virtual ether and sharing my creations. And I just think (nay, hope) that this will let me express myself in ways that I feel are more like me.
goldkin: goldkin tranquil (goldkin tranquil)
For the past several months, the concept of laziness has been heavily on my mind. I mean this both within and without, because, for the same set of months, my energy levels have been very erratic.

Previously, I would have just enough time to get my tasks done for work in a given day. I would then switch over to housework (with no commute; I work from home). When it came time to take a break for the evening, I would find myself completely exhausted, unable to participate in the wholesome activities that give my life so much meaning.

Yet, despite all of my energies and efforts towards work and the home on a daily basis, not much seemed to actually be getting done. Work was going well (and I've been treated especially well by my peers, I note). Yet, I found myself increasingly embarrassed by my quality of output. It was certainly acceptable, but my past abilities and attentiveness to detail were clearly starting to slip.

Working on the house seemed literally insurmountable: I would perform quasi-heroic, full-kitchen and full-room cleans on a weekly (sometimes, daily) basis. Yet, the mess piled up again within hours of my efforts. I had not experienced this when living alone, so I surmised that there must be some disparity of labor involved. Yet, try as I might to catalog and communicate this, my energies were too scattered to make much headway, let alone reverse the trend of slipping chores and an unsanitary lifestyle.

It was all quite disheartening. And, for a while, I quietly slipped back into depression. During my more energetic periods, I built personal spaces for myself to recover energy: small, wholesome outposts of activity that I could use to make myself feel good about myself again. And this worked for awhile... until those spaces started to become disrespected or overtaken. I then began hiding in my room, only coming out for personal needs. My housework plummeted, though my work efforts (via my personal laptop) redoubled. I was still exhausted and rapidly burning out, though.

It should be glaringly apparent at this point that this wasn't healthy. And, any time I was away from the house, for business or personal reasons, my energy levels would return to their original, high levels. It thus became abundantly clear that there was an energy leak, and that something needed to be done to make amends.

I fault no one in particular. However, I do fault a very specific form of predatory laziness that all of us experience from time to time. This can have a multitude of causes, but its primary symptom is unmistakable: the taking of someone else's energies and time to maintain one's own comfortable quality of living.

This is usually abstracted away in our lives. Every good and every service inherently has a cost associated with it, and try as we might to reduce disparity, many are unfairly exploited as a result. I am personally for (and will continue to be for) the reduction of human abuses in the professional textile industry, for example. But, this specific drain is at a more personal level.

At this level, three abuses were in play:

1) A seemingly reasonable request that is targeted, primarily, at deferring the cost of an action to another.

2) The repeated assertion that one's efforts are inadequate, so as to keep them hungry and wanting after performing any given task.

3) The assertion that these observations generalize, such that in any other, reasonable scenario, the same observations will also be present.

This is a crippling combination. It is to say that, globally, one is inadequate, such that only through one's infinite effort (as no finite effort will ever be sufficient), that person will be able to progress into a state of adequacy.

This is the sort of logical fallacy that developed within me. I am not the person whom directly made these three assertions. I do not believe these assertions were ever explicitly given to me. But, through the combined statements, actions, and negative space of others as they impacted me, it seemed as if these premises were given by implication. I felt understandably upset and abused. And I wanted to find any way that I could, out.

Psychologically, it's useful to note how such a pattern gains purchase within the brain in the first place. The human mind has very strong recency and primacy biases, and it tries to limit cognitive dissonance whenever possible, usually through dreams and storytelling. Given the information presented to me, the persistent theme became my own inadequacy, through repetition, recency, and because it was the simplest and most compelling story that explained my then-position within the household. My own performance, abilities, desires to recover, and desires to improve all plummeted. I sought escape, primarily in video games, which allowed me to properly distance myself without becoming clinically dissociative. And, through plodding, directed effort, I began to unpack my circumstances and learn how to adapt them to my needs.

One takeaway here is that no one should have to experience this, yet many of us do. At the same time, this pattern isn't one of depression. It is all too common the result of circumstance, which, often unbeknownst to the instigators, causes these patterns of thought to arise. And it is much too common in the employment treadmill, and in how many artists are treated.

Before I continue, I note that I am not wholly blameless. Nor am I the victim of circumstance. It simply took me this long to unpackage and identify my needs accordingly.

What corrected it in my specific instance is a rebalancing of households and household needs. By splitting our joint efforts in two, tasks can now be adequately assessed, communication on how time is spent can open up once again, and calcified processes that had decayed into inefficiency can finally be approached and reorganized. While I once again directly fault no one, I have no qualms about stating that negatively-reinforcing feedback loops bring out the worst in people, and that I am no exception.

In other words: we had a reorg.

The net result is that we're seeing immediate improvements in all of our energy levels. My own battered emotional state, in particular, is recovering rapidly. My productivity and abilities are finally pulling out of their nosedive in quality. And, most importantly of all, I'm starting to feel cheerful and good about myself again.

It isn't perfection. In fact, my goal in writing this out is simply to define it for what it is. All too often, cognitive abuse, be it from others or from oneself, is too quickly labeled and dismissed as an aspect of depression, when other biases and stimuli are in play.

So, where do I go from here? I have a lot of energy again, primarily from ending old patterns, and I intend to devote it to those people and aspects of my life that are wholesome for me. This means that I will not have time for everyone, and in some specific and rare instances, I'll be making cuts.

This does not mean I do not love you. It means that I will be focusing on those aspects that make me feel holistically good again, and I will be directing my efforts accordingly. A cut is simply an acknowledgement that I haven't made that work, yet.

I hope that isn't too alarming. I'd very much like to open myself up again, and in the interests of doing so, this post is public. But this time, I will be more wary of specific predators and predatory behavior patterns, and I'll be tuning myself accordingly.
goldkin: umm... what I mean to say is... *CRASH* (umm... what I mean to say is... *CRASH*)
In hindsight, when I rolled my character for this lifetime, I made some pretty good decisions. Among them, starting out with high CON and DEX scores, plus several points invested into INT, did me a lot of good. The downside is, I also took a lot of character-specific disadvantages to compensate, in the hopes that the innate creativity and versatility welded into my character sheet would get me out of the more difficult binds.

Common and semi-irrelevant disadvantages aside (really, who didn't take Fear of Spiders at the first available opportunity?), I'm realizing that Social Aversion and Lack of Empathy have seriously been harming me. These were required to attain high competency in the Video Games and Game Design skill branches, but what I didn't anticipate was the additional penalty to all rolls when determining the intentions of others. Indeed, I completely missed these rolls' full ramifications.

See, I'm not especially bad at what I do. Quite the contrary: given how I've invested my skill points, I run the gamut of competent to relatively (or in rare cases, extremely) good. But, because I cannot determine the intentions of others in conversation, I'm currently the perpetual butt monkey. I read emotions and meaning just fine, but intention, not so well. Unsurprisingly, I'm also flagged as an extremely bad listener, and not for lack of trying to learn, perpetually, over the course of my entire lifetime.

As a result, I ask stupid questions. A lot of stupid questions. An insane number of stupid questions. And the net impact on my friends, my family, and my coworkers is people either don't understand me or build very low respect in my abilities over time, because this communication carries tremendous up-front costs. It also erodes my confidence and weathers the quality of how my work is presented, eventually giving me an (undeserved?) aura of well-meaning incompetence.

It nearly goes without saying that I can't interview competently, either, and that's harmed me at varying intervals for my entire career. Socially, I'm pegged somewhere between jovial-but-incoherent and an intellectual social pariah. Internally, I have anywhere from middling to extremely low self-esteem as a result, and it's only through investing heavily in will saves that I don't fall into a yawning pit of depression from whence I will never emerge.


This situation, to put it bluntly, sucks. I'd like to fix it, because hovering a scant two or three rolls above crippling depression and self-harm isn't a very nice place to be in for even a moment, much less a lifetime.

Other than reading books on the subject and trying to digest several lifetimes worth of qualia and communicated experiences (which I intend to do as soon as feasibly possible), I don't know quite what else I can do to work around or fix this. I do know that it will steadily improve with skill investment (neural enmeshment of ideas in the brain, eventually converging on the desired skills, is Really Cool in general), but I'm terrified that I'll make those wrong rolls before the situation improves, obliterating my progress and leading me down a road from whence I shall not recover. Despite what people seem to think about me, I do care about them, very much in fact, and it would be a crying shame if I were forever lost to them due to the 1 side of a D20.

Compounding my problem is the fact that I'm in a situation where demands on my time are so astronomically high that I cannot easily seek the best help that I desire. I'm lucky if I get a few hours to myself anymore, much less a single day, and that time is spent recovering my energies, reconstructing my internal mental context, and avoiding people. I'm topically aware of the issues underlying my current class of disorder, and I would like to seek someone analytical and professional enough to not dismiss me out of hand or force me to withhold information for fear of bias. After all, being unable to talk about my own beliefs and draconity is actually a big confound, because it's part of the complete story. Transparency of information free of manipulation is also very important to me as a scientist, and I would implicitly distrust any information borne of even the slightest observed social manipulation on my part.

So, I guess I'm otherwise out of ideas. Do you all have any? The low cost solution, in the form of reading and self-practice, is available and something I already intend to pursue. The higher cost solutions, involving professional help that I'm not wholly convinced will help, without high searching costs or straddling the uneasy lines of cognitive biases, isn't nearly as accessible to me at this time. I'm curious if there's some middle ground, some way to get this out of my system and get myself onto the road of recovery, without watching my dreams, ambitions, and pretty much everything I care about continually shattered over critically failing on stubbing my own toes.

I'm not one to complain often about fairness. After all, every outcome has some element or set of elements that, in their composition, led to a perceived lack of fairness in one view or other, despite being part of a more complex and nuanced whole. But, this feels incongruent and so completely wrong relative to the amount of effort that I've put into it. I'm trying, sincerely and honestly trying to better myself, and to put myself in a position where I no longer feel as if my existence and well-being are perpetually endangered by lingering threats and that there's no Plan B. I'm a planner. I'm a security professional. I'm an engineer. I'm a dragon. And dammit, I'm going to build some semblance of security and some small flickering of firelight for those that I care about. That is, quite simply, the person that I am right now.

I just wish that I felt I could anymore. In weathering it all, my abilities to adapt circumstances to help people and change things for the better are what I value the most. I build because, in doing so, I feel that I might be able to keep the darkness out for just one more night. That together, it'll let us see just one more dawn. And that through patience, vigilance, and ingenuity, we might be able to span that out into infinity.

I live for that dawn. I know that, in spite of my best efforts, it won't always be me. But I take comfort that it'll be someone, so much so that it's the message that I've chosen to weave as my purpose in this life.

And, I don't want that spark to go out. So, I ask questions. Incessantly. Because it's what I know works. It's one strategy that's allowed me to see more than one new dawn. But, now I need another one that I'm uniquely incompetent at, and I suppose I'm terrified of the ramifications of failure. Help?
goldkin: i has book (goldkin bookly)
For your review, a small pen-and-paper game that congealed in the back of my mind during the various holiday festivities:

Consider an arbitrarily large, square board of Connect Four. At the start of play, players are randomly assigned, or may choose to self-assign, a color ("black" or "white") and a direction ("across" or "down"). Starting with white, players alternate placing weighted pieces into the field of play (hereafter, "well"), Connect Four style. During play or once the well is full, its pattern is recorded on a sheet of plain fax paper.

Play then proceeds to the paper representation of the board. Starting with the player that was assigned "across", players alternate filling in the board using words of a single language (with right-left mirroring for nations that require it). The only constraints are:

  • The chosen word must fill the available space in the assigned direction, starting with an edge of the board or a black space and ending with an edge of the board or a black space. Words of length one are allowed. "Words of length zero" are not.

  • When a white square in that region is already filled with a letter, that letter must be used at that location in the chosen word.

  • On a player's assigned turn, instead of filling in a word, that player may instead choose to pass. If they do, they name a set of contiguous white spaces in their direction that isn't already occupied by a word or otherwise filled by play. Each unfilled character in this region receives an asterisk (*) character, which scores no points at the conclusion of play, but works as a wildcard for any letter.

At the end of game, each word is scored using the Scrabble points for each letter. Contiguous regions that do not contain valid words in the official Scrabble dictionary are not considered. Wildcards always score zero points, and words are always scored once, regardless of the number of valid words a contiguous region may create. The player with the most points in their direction wins. If a tie occurs, the game results in a draw.

Because the board is so easy to simulate, all that's required for play is a sheet of fax paper, a pencil, a fair coin (to choose color and direction randomly), and a scoring guide.

Does such a game already exist? For example, this is similar, but not quite an exact match. I'm curious to try playing this and see any variations that arise.

Bonus errata:
  • This is not currently salable by me: it conflicts with many of the patents for Connect Four, Scrabble, and similar properties. It's a fun little thing, though.
  • This game actually scales nicely to multiple players, if you place each of them in one of two opposing teams. Play then proceeds, alternating through the participants of each team.
  • For an individual multiplayer variant, just add a dimension for each player. So, for three players, the game would be played in a cube, for four a hypercube, and so forth. Unfortunately, only professional mathematicians and computer nerds would be likely to play this variation.
  • Play is significantly more challenging if, instead of a square, different shapes are considered vis variants of chess. I leave you to consider the possibilities.
goldkin: i has book (goldkin bookly)
Lately, the loud nature of social networks has made me pine for forums again. It's not that social networks are necessarily problematic. But, when compared to the better organizational hygiene of other media, they're sort of this loud, obnoxious younger cousin more prone to kicking his metaphorical feet in the air and throwing a temper tantrum than having a nice, quiet conversation at the dinner table.

I believe this behavior is a side effect of the lower impedance to posting on networks like Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. These networks try their best to stand out of the way of the content, and while that's greatly appreciated, it comes at the expense of organization and durability.

Before I continue, a definition. In the context of this post, a social network is defined as any multi-user conversation engine where the primary organizational model is people. You follow someone, you don't follow someone, and other than reshares from your extended network and a few other knobs (ie, the "volume" slider in Google+), that defines what you see in your stream. By this definition, both LJ and DW are social networks.

This model works surprisingly well. Because specific people are more prone to certain subjects, ideas, tact, and insightfulness than others, being able to eke out a social circle instead of injecting yourself into an existing one is greatly beneficial. Instead of having to appease the prima donnas, trolls, and obnoxiously popular people that often overrun existing fora, you can instead choose to follow or not follow whomever you'd like, to your preferences. Conversation continues, but with the advantage of including only whom you'd like to, reducing noise and faction-driven-politics significantly.

The trouble is, the model still isn't quite right. When this jump was made to people instead of hierarchical organization by community or topic, a lot of useful metadata, contextual information, and definition was lost. There's now this implicit assumption that people read every post, that topic or title definition is unnecessary, and that fewer posts are skimmed or presented overall. To this end, networks like Twitter only reliably provide maybe a day or two worth of scrollback, Google+ organizes its content in a manner that ages posts off extremely quickly, and all three of the above-named primary social networks (Twitter, Facebook, and Google+) expect people to slog through the document summary or full text every time to figure out what the heck is being discussed.

This leads to a lack of idiomaticity -- messages are snapped off so quickly that the mind isn't given a convenient package for recall as in an idiom -- and this causes it to be more expensive for each reader than earlier models. Without expending a large amount of resources generating (and then reconciling) a summary for oneself and others, the information is simply and frustratingly lost, leaving one with a sense of not having done anything productive, despite the time invested having potentially been both useful and insightful for the reader.

But, perhaps most egregiously, context is explicitly discouraged. Because of the low-impedance model for posting and high costs of searching for topics of interest, any attempts to share more than a short summary of a topic or a single link seems unnecessary and wasteful. Because of this rapid-fire expectation, ideas are less enmeshed, content is less durable, and high levels of duplication make discussion feel fractured and disjoint when it should feel smooth, natural, and interconnected.

There are a few good ways to fix this situation. They are:

  1. Where applicable, bring back and encourage idiomatic topic or subject lines.

    Not only will it make posts easier to read, it'll provide a useful data pointer for people trying to discuss or find posts outside of the system (ie, when searching in Google). "Did you read X's latest post" or "did you read that post on Y" is insufficient, because these descriptions aren't uniquely identifiable in time. Likewise, "did you see post 5ab3rf9xbky on Google+" doesn't exactly work.

    As a bonus, put these topics in the URL, like WordPress does it, so people know what they're looking at before the jump through the link. I cannot voice my frustration enough at Twitter's use of, or of link shorteners that fail to let people use a description as a link.

  2. Encourage inclusion of context, by adding a sidebar to similar discussions and related topics.

    StackOverflow does this by providing collated links and potentially related articles to the right of every question, and it significantly improves conversation durability and reduces repetition. It also makes posters feel better about the uniqueness of what they're about to send to all of their peers, because the search for similar topics or entries to reshare has already been done for them.

  3. Promote terseness in reading.

    Don't make me read my entire stream to pick out that one dinner date a friend of mine is running on Friday. Instead, let me collapse everything by subject line or by the type of post and go from there.

    Google+ has the closest to what I want here, with its included calendaring feature. Honing this down to sorting or flagging topics of interest, similar to Google Reader's "Sort by Magic" and Gmail's importance flagging, is where I'd like things to go, here.

I know all of this sounds snobbish, but with the increased expectation that people pay attention to social media, a better organizational model would do well to make these systems less lossy and more durable for all involved. These suggestions are by no means the complete picture of how social networks should look one, five, or ten years out, but they're features that would significantly improve the current experience.

Administrative note: I had this post in the queue for about a day before a discussion on Twitter and a new feature to Google+ forced me to rethink things a bit. These were fortuitous -- both jived well with my thoughts on this topic -- but this may reflect some slightly outdated information.
goldkin: Another Goldkin squishie? Also by Jirlae? And it's *sleeping*? Bonus! (goldkin squishie sleeping)
While writing on another topic, I came up with an idea that I feel deserves a post of its own. I call it: the Internet Cat Test.

The formula is, for any given collection of elements:
[Information Content] = 1 - ( [Elements with Cat Photos] / [Size of Collection] )

Yielding: decimal percentages between 0 and 1, where 0 indicates minimal information, 1 indicates maximum information.

While this measure is just applied silliness, what it offers is a heuristic for how information rich a feed is, as an inverse proportion of information to cats. If the majority of content is images that create small, endorphin-rich feedback loops in the brain (ie, pictures of cats), that's far less exciting, mentally stimulating, and rewarding for long-term growth than content that's about just about anything else. Including Advice Animals.

Of course, we can teach computers to identify cats with at least 74.8% accuracy, so relying on meta information to identify cat images isn't strictly necessary. This is nothing more than a simplification of concepts like entropy theory and information density as they apply to the human brain, distilled into a small test you can try at home. Plenty of extension can be made, as we attain a better grasp of how information is encoded within the realms of human psychology and neuroscience.

I'm surely not the first person to observe this, but I figured I'd write it up for humor's sake, because I couldn't find it anywhere else. Happy catting!

Extra Credit: get this accepted as a topic in a major scientific journal.
goldkin: goldkin tranquil (goldkin tranquil)
[Trigger Warning: rape.]

A friend of mine is in sincere financial trouble after a client attempted to rape her, temporarily preventing her from being able to work to pay her first month's rent on a new home. She's opening emergency commissions and donations to help cover the gap. Do you think you can help?
goldkin: i has book (goldkin bookly)
As an infovore, one of my biggest difficulties is prioritizing the information that I need for daily decision making. I receive and digest about 150 new articles a day from 154 separate news feeds (after several pruning passes). When I balance that against the social overhead of IRC, Email, Twitter, Google Plus, LiveJournal, and Dreamwidth, plus my reading and study buffers, that's a massive undertaking.

It probably comes as no surprise, then, that I simply don't read it all. Instead, I employ several heuristics to help me prioritize, in the form of rules that make reading less choreful and more pleasant to read and respond to.

From a high level, the system is very simple. I deploy two components: one to notify immediately when someone contacts me over any medium (pushing all notifications to my iPhone), and a second that packages up only the important parts and sends them to me each morning. It works quite well, and it deliberately skips the memetic trivia of he-said-she-said-cat-video that bogs down so much of social media.

The best part of the second category is running my own personal newspaper. I make liberal use of Calibre Periodicals and Yahoo Pipes to automatically send things to my Kindle every morning at 8AM, and then carry that around with me and to read over the rest of the day. It's gloriously simple, and it pars things down to just my interests, which I supplement with The News (I use the Seattle Times) in a separate periodical.

For the nosy, here's a selection of what I download daily, ordered by section number:

  • Sythyry's Journal
    Really, can you argue with the musings of a little blue lizard wizard? I certainly can't, and I'm sure xir translator, [ profile] bard_bloom, would agree. Oh, but this will be switching protagonists soon.

  • LiveJournal Friends Feed
    Public posts from my friends on LJ. Note this version doesn't actually include my account name, but it's obvious if you're reading here!

  • Coding Horror
    Jeff Atwood is simply inspiring and wonderful. If you're even vaguely interested in how computer programming works, read him.

  • Everything2 Cool Archive
    A wonderful little feed from a proto-Wikipedia. E2 continues to provide random inspiration, because its noders are literate, insightful, and surprisingly comprehensive.

  • Fark
    For when I just need to laugh at the world.

    Bad summaries for tech news start here. Slashdot remains useful for figuring out what the rumor mill is talking about, though is better if you like the nuts and bolts instead. I keep both.

  • The Consumerist
    Retail and service provider PSAs, with the occasional (and blessedly skippable) cat thread.

  • GrokLaw
    Once dedicated almost exclusively to SCO v. Novell, GrokLaw is still one of the best sources for interesting tech legal news. (Good luck, Samsung. Sincerely.)

  • The Volokh Conspiracy
    And for all other interesting legal happenings in the US, I read here.

  • Daily MTG
    Article feed for the latest happenings with Magic: The Gathering. This is basically a puzzle feed for me, because the metagame is just so combinatorially interesting.

  • Nintendo Life
    I'm also a Nintendo fanboy. My first game console was an NES, so I suppose my experience has been tinted slightly.

  • Futility Closet
    A daily selection of historical curiosities and word or chess puzzles. It's much higher quality than newsprint publications of the same, too.

  • Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal
    It's something like XKCD meets Calvin and Hobbes in a mad toboggan race against killer snowmen. I read XKCD, too, because I'm exposed to it everywhere else.

  • The Old New Thing
    Microsoft's own Raymond Chen ranting about Windows. This is always a special treat, because it illustrates why and how Windows is so Byzantinian. It's just plain interesting.

(Notable bits that are missing: Reddit (I use an official client instead), private entries for LiveJournal (ditto), and Dreamwidth reading (I use the web interface occasionally).

It all ends up nicely syndicated into a Kindle newspaper that I can download from my bedside and start reading in the morning. And I enjoy that; it gives me a start to what's going on in the world, without making me feel overwhelmed.

What do you read daily, and how do you make it work for you? I'm curious.

October 2015

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