Friday, 23 January 2009

DBMM – Continuous Improvement?

A health warning: this post is about the various processes involved in improving DBMM and not like most of my previous posts where I have posted playing aids etc.  It’s a bit of an essay.  Feel free to skip it.

“Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it”. George Santayana (1863-1952).

As far as I can see there are many ways that DBMM players can get help with the rules, raise issues and ask for clarifications:

My point is about the high volume and low quality of the many of the discussions and the lack of any mechanism (or process) by which issues can be formally raised, answered and the rules rectified if necessary. 

For simple issues both the Yahoo! list and the DBMM.org forum work well whilst for more detailed, complex or fundamental issues they tend not to work so well, if at all.  This is partly because:

  • There is no accepted method of resolving issues other than consensus, accepted practice and the occasional informal list comment from Phil Barker (DBMM’s author).
  • There’s an absence of authoritative statements from Phil Barker (clarifications etc).
  • In the above environment, there’s a tendency to rely on the “wisdom of crowds”.  However, the open nature of the medium gives equal weight to all opinions leading to a failure of crowd intelligence.
  • Entrenched positions evolve, often based on local (or national) practice.
  • With really contentious issues, argument is often replaced by assertion backed up by appeals to simplicity and common sense rather than the rules.

I’ve learnt to instantly disregard list replies that are really only thinly veiled justifications of personal choice supported, if at all, by a partial interpretation of an ambiguous section in the rules.

Recently, I’ve spotted a particularly corrosive behaviour on the lists; those substituting volume for argument and authority.  They’ve decided what the rules actually mean (to them) and how the rules should be played (by others) and then they choose to promulgate this interpretation ad nauseum .

Why does this happen?  From what I can see there are a number of different questions involved with a rule query which are being mixed together:

  • What is the correct application of the rules as written?
  • Is that what the Author meant?
  • What is the accepted understanding(s) amongst players?
  • Is there a fundamental problem with either the text or mechanism?
  • Is there a definition missing or in need of further clarification?
  • Does the text of the rules need to be changed?

In professional environments, such a business process management and IT, these would considered in sequence to identify all the issues and produce solutions but hobby list discussions aren’t like that.  They go on forever because people lump them all (and others) together in a tangled mess and shoot off at tangents very quickly.  I’m sure you’ve seen this for yourself. 

My concern is that, in the absence of an formal process to resolve issues, the heated discussions generate little light or certainty for the Befuddled, real issues are smothered and the rules fail to develop.

2 comments :

  1. They should use your sequential approach as a template for problem solving Martin. But sadly it would never happen for all the reasons you aired. I think your dissection of the situation is spot on.
    Wargamers...sigh

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  2. Hi Martin

    Well said and I agree! Unfortunately I think too many areas are open to interpretation and without authoritative statements from the author, the players are left dangling and disagreeing. It is unacceptable for the long term health of the game. The process needs to be resolved, before any issues can be resolved!

    Andrew

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