A perfect sea urchin

The Cyberculture Corner

Welcome to where I air my wrong headed views on cyberculture and the internet. I always have a lot to say and no one tells me to shut up. To return to the regular blog page, just click here.

On the Way to the Dead Pool

I stand corrected. Haldis' team is not the first at the Webleagues to collapse. She will be getting one more fighter come the beginning of November so she and her team are hanging in there but barely so. The first team to go down the drain was the MHS Armed Forces. Their manager quietly merged them with the MHS Riderless Horses to make a viable team. This does not make either Haldis or I feel any better.

What is ultimately killing teams at the Webleagues and probably throughout site fighting land is a lack of new blood combined with a weird sort of demographics. Quite simply, there are no new fighters which you all ready know but that is only one side of the grim equation. The other is that fighters age out. In the days before COPPA, the youngest fighters went to high school. Suddenly there were decent extracurriculars, and the prospect of paid work. Put another way, young fighters outgrew site fighting and the fact that middle aged ladies controlled everything did not make it a pleasant place for them.

Now demographics at the other end of the lifespan sidelines fighters. I watched a few years ago, as one of Haldis' best fighters left to care for a husband with cancer. Despite a few melodramatic exceptions, cancer is largely a disease of older people Our fighters age. Our fighters develop illness in their families. Site fighters have never been among the healthiest people. There were many disabled and homebound women in the game. It is hard to run a classic, vote exchanging campaign and have a full time job. Trust me on that one. Also working class people are not as healthy as upper middle class people, and site fighting is primarily a working class sport. Sorry, that's just the way it is. As a result, as site fighters age, their own health sidelines them. By the way, if we were recruiting new fighters, losing old ones to illness and family health crises would not be a problem. Without new fighters though, we are left with empty places in the ranks. Demographics is destroying Haldis' team.

Facebook Blues

There is no reason for this. Yes, I have the typical love-hate relationship with Facebook, but I am not uncomfortable there. I have a role. Rather, I am bored. This is nobody's fault but my own. I need to do more with RAOK and try to get us on to a Wiki or if not a Wiki at least something else. I am thinking of trying Multiply. Yes, I am that desparate. I know the wiki allows maximum freedom, but it's never caught on and has a steep learning curve. Also as my friend over in another group is fast learning, you can't really compell people to participate and our participation rate is terrible. I participate and I used to tell myself that this was all that mattered.

Right now I am thinking of a visit I paid to the New Cafe, formerly the Utne Cafe, but now an entity that stands on its own. It's Web 1.0 at its best. That means it is an awful lot like Brainstorms (Spit on the ground and no link for those bastards!). They were in the middle of advertising an Emergency Meeting of the Board of Directors. With all my talk about transparency of governance in RAOK and ZOID, most problems we encounter are either foisted on us or executive decisions. I announce them. I may ask for discussion. I may explain myself, but in the end we don't have to schedule meetings, let alone emergency meetings. Usually my groups solve whatever problems they have in the space of less than twenty-four hours. People who have emergency meetings like to spend time fighting. It's more fun to drag it out. There is pleasure in drama and jerking people around. I stood there at the New Cafe, hypnotized by blood on the tracks. From what I could read, the emergency meeting was about someone turning off Topic Creation for a short while, and then turning it on again. Did someone make a mistake? Was there a threat? Hey, it was all ready over and done, so why have a meeting about it? I suppose I could go look at the transcript.

Meanwhile, I ought to go over to Cafe Utne or its replacement forums. The Utne Reader has started a web board. That's also Web 1.0, but somehow web boards run with a bit more sanity if they look a bit more traditional. Oh well, I swore not to get involved in stuff like this, but sometimes I get stuck with nostalgia. Right now I am missing the Open Mic Cafe. I ought to check that place out if it still exists. I have a userId and password. All I have to do is peek inside.

Eileen H. Kramer -- October 26, 2010

Really Too Late for Shadenfreude

There are still no signs of life at The Site Fights. That is more sad than anything else, especially when considering that Haldis' team at the Web Leagues is down to three fighters. One is busy and burnt out. One is sick and slowly recovering and probably has other issues, and the third is...well she had family and health issues last spring, lost interest over the summer (most likely), and her site is now gone. That's it. That's how you go from six to three. Most weeks, the Web Leagues is no longer viable.

That the collapse hit The Artleagues first is understandable. We had a lot of fighters whom Haldis quite literally propped up. That kept the ranks filled until real life took its toll and the problem became to glaring to be ignored. I'm not sure what is happening to the other teams. I guess it is time to take a look. Well the other teams appear to be in better shape. I guess this was just a matter of bad luck.

Neither Haldis nor I expected Lola's site to disappear. It's just gone. I don't know when it vanished. Dmoz stopped crawling sites like that back in 2008. Lola's last communication to Haldis was in May. Her email does not bounce. I guess that is a good sign.

As for RAOK on Facebook, I still have no idea what to do besides transcribe recipes. Maybe I need to, forgive the expression, brainstorm for some ideas. I also need to check out the Diaspora web site. I'm in no shape to set up a seed. Everything like that is always behind schedule. I have to live with that. I will cry when Haldis' team disappears.

ZOID had another viable cycle, but the bar is set low and I'm willing to push and plead. I guess people there know how much I have invested in the net's oldest continuously operated web site competition.

Eileen H. Kramer with help from Haldis K. Guerrin -- October 19, 2010

Too Late for Shadenfreude

The Site Fights did not open last week and is not open this week. There are no signs to tell what happened or explain the delay. Could they be gone? Has ZOID outlived them? I don't have to say that while I wanted it to end in a way similar to this, I wanted us to beat them at the top of their game. This slipping away like a thief in the night is not how in invisioned things. The wounded fighter of ten years ago feels robbed.

There are no fighters rostered anywhere at The Site Fights. The rounds are absolutely empty. Is a redesign in progress? They had all summer, but I know from Haldis' team at the Webleagues that these things can drag, but they had an extra month. I suppose I can ask around. I all ready know why. I all ready know, I did not bring them down. I remember when I felt them to be huge and invincible. I had need of a Goliath against whom I could play the role of David. Now just a paper air plane would take down the giant or maybe he's all ready passed out from exhaustion. It's no fun being the last fighting admin standing, but there is more to life than having fun.

If the Site Fights is truely gone, then I run the oldest continually operated web site competition out there. That is really not much of an honor, but that is how it will end. I created a design that was distinctly nonmagical. The pencil is mightier than the magic wand and now we know that is true. Pencils are also a lot easier to find. I preserved some of our history. That feels good as well.

As Haldis, I redesigned my team five times and experimented with themes that would otherwise have never seen the light of day: Antarctic penguins, Polynesian/Micronesian head hunters, kinetic art, African art, and African bead making. I instituted a more transparent means of scoring and helped push for more transparent and better treatment of fighters, though the real giant in that field was Cari Cota. I was part of the reform movement that made site fighting fairer and more pleasant for fighters, though again credit goes to D'Bad Wolf (I wish I knew his real name of The Web Brawls), Sara (The Rumbles), to some extent those who ran Fantasy Fights and Cari Cota at the Golden Elite as well.

There are several hundred of us out there who kept site fighting alive for thirteen or so years. That's an eternity on the internet. There are several hundred of us who share memories. We cared in the way that people care about small things and try to make them better, at least some of us did. We did not get paid a dime, and in fact lost money on it. We got burnt out. We had a hobby that obsessed us and that we could not explain to outsiders. Some of us believed we could buy love one vote at a time. We bought a finite number of votes worth of love, and I can still remember that love.

I wonder if Little Dragon Castle is still in business. Now there would be some real shaedenfreude there.

Eileen H. Kramer with help from Haldis K. Guerrin and Thadea G. Myers -- October 12, 2010

Really Circling the Drain

I have no idea what this week's fighting cycle at ZOID will bring. The last one was good, so one can only hope. If I have to do a bit of cajoling, I'll do it and we'll have a real competition with a few voters and a few fighters. This was the original spirit of site fighting back in 1996. No, no one ever trademarked the term. I'm glad of that now.

The Webleagues is sinking faster than I expected. There are two fighters in in Explore the Valleys who are beating the pants off of Haldis and offering one another competition. I am glad to see fighters with real campaigns. That these fighters are only bringing in between ten and twenty votes per day (Really half that much since the Webleagues allows two votes per fighter which inflates results.) says a mouthful, but it is a pleasure to see active fighters. It just is.

Haldis' round, however, is the exception not the rule, and what is plaguing Haldis' team is not lack of willing fighters, but lack of fighters on the nonvote exchange side, period. Due to the Webleagues' rather complex structure, at four active fighters the Art Leagues are not viable and when other teams around them shrink similarly, the whole competition becomes nonviable.

The way this works is quite simple. At both the team level and the quarter finals, the top two fighters move to the next level. If there are fewer than three fighters in a round, everyone wins. If everyone wins, there is no competition. If there is no competition, then why bother. This week, only one of Haldis' fighters is in a round with more than two fighters.

He is losing badly and will return to the team where he fights unopposed next cycle. Yes, we let fighters on the nonvote exchange site, fight unopposed. This creates a dual problem. Haldis will have only one fighter to send to the quarter finals. That means that other fighters may be facing only two fighters in their round at that level. Again, why bother?

With lack of competition and lack of a campaign, these unmotivated fighters hit the semi final level and then, meet someone who is still campaigning and...crash bang, it is like hitting a brick wall. This too is demoralizing. It happened to me during the first campaign I ever ran at the Site Fights. I sailed through three levels against less motivated fighters and then hit the semi finals and smacked a brick wall. This was on a site that was receiving between ten and twenty votes per day. What did I know. It took several rounds to build up a campaign.

The brick wall effect, which we softened long ago with the advent of nonelimination fighting, is worse for vote exchanging fighters. Haldis sitting there as what I used to call a "flacid fairy" (a fighting staff member who under the old system was immune from elimination, but under the current system sometimes leads by example.) is really not a good influence. Fighters who offer no serious competition, do not make a campaign interesting for those who might be motivated. In fact, fighters like Haldis sap other fighters' motivation.

This is only half true these days since Haldis self votes and I have multiple ISP addresses, but the point of this whole long post is that without something resembling adequate competition, you can't really have a site fight. Going through the motions doesn't cut it.

The Web Leagues could last another nine months if we downsized and changed the rules. Quite simply every fighter, vote exchanging or not, deserves a race.

I don't realistically think the Webleagues will downsize though. BoomBoom, the founder, is disengaged. George is overextended, burnt out, and ill. Haldis gave up understanding Amaranthine and Alice a long time ago. Let's leave it at that.

There is not much that Haldis or I can do in this situation. Voting for other fighters out of charity to increase scores might work much like dummying up stock in a depleted store. Writing cheers and posting them can be fun and intellectually engaging. Cajoling works though if Haldis is an admin, why should she bother? Why should anyone bother any more? I know why, but I'm not sure those reasons hold in a depleted environment. Maybe they do. Site fighting is very much an act of faith. Site fighters are believers. Haldis and I are both site fighters.

PS -- Haldis' fighter in the quarter final round with only one opponent will be returning to her team. The Webleagues quietly changed the rules. Thankfully, she gave her opponent a race, and next week, Haldis will have two fighters in the Glass Furnace. Art Leagues fighters blow glass!

Eileen H. Kramer and Haldis K. Guerrin -- October 8, 2010

Paralysis on Facebook

I know from site fighting administration that there are times when all you have time to do is care for and feed the site and move on. That is the way Facebook is these days. I can handle the birthdays and new members at RAOK and LOTH but not much else. I know that RAOK needs to diversify. Who knows what inconvenience or disruption Facebook's next redesign might bring. Facebook is a monopoly that behaves like one which means expletive deleted the customer. It's that simple. The best way to vote is with one's dollars, but Facebook is free. The second best way to vote is with one's feet.

I know Wikia is a terrible choice for RAOK. It has a steep learning curve. In some ways it is a great choice. There is unlimited room to expand and almost no structure. I'm not sure I can get RAOKsters to move more of the Facebook group's action to a wiki. Seedwiki (who is not getting a link.) is another choice. It has a WYSIWIG editor and I am going to restyle it. That takes work but it would be fun to have an utterly skinned site.

I'm not really sure what to do. Ideally running something like Caucus or Motet is the answer. Moodle is a nonstarter. Sorry no links folks. I'm too lazy. Caucus requires root access and Motet is commercial and expensive.

If I sound like I don't know where to go or what to do, you are so right. I guess I can just leave it there. This really needs some work. I could try getting the membership's input, but they really don't feel empowered and they prefer playing Farmville, or some other game. The idea of making a real committment to a shared community online is just not at the top of their list. Joining a group like becoming a page fan makes a statement, and I don't think that many of them feel they have to do anything else. This makes governance less than easy. I wish it weren't that way. I think I need to put some serious work into RAOK if I can find the time.

Not Quite Circling the Drain

I need to put out a CALL FOR FIGHTERS today for ZOID. We had a good cycle last time with thirteen balllots in the box. That's not a lot of votes in a five day period but they weren't all mine. I think there were three of us voting. That makes us still viable, but I am not sure we can have two good cycles in a row.

Haldis' Webleagues team is down to four active members. One is recovering from gallbladder surgery though sidelined. Another has stopped self-voting, but is still fighting, and yet one more team member has asked for a leave until the end of the month because his wife's mother is "seriously ill." The top brass forces Haldis to take all of this at face value. The member is Indian (as in the subcontinent not Native American), so culturally there are differences. The member is also in his twenties which makes his parents my age. They are not senior citizens. They can take care of themselves. It is not a twenty-something's responsibility to look after a middle aged parent should he/she get sick. That is what spouses and friends do, especially if the child lives across the country. I suspect that despite cultural differences, even in India this holds true as well, and that the "sick parent" is just an excuse not to participate. This team member who is also a competition co-owner has outgrown what he created and wants to move on. I say let him, but at least let him be honest. Also someone ought to call him on the twenty something with middle aged parent routine. No one is going to do it.

As for the member with the gall bladder surgery, yes it was emergency surgery, but I know someone older than him who had his gallbladder removed. Two weeks after the operation, he was well enough to be up and about which means that the member with the gall bladder surgery should be well enough to be back in the roster. I wish people would be honest about being burnt out.

As for Haldis and me, we'll be the last site fighting admins standing whether we like it or not. We're not going to like it. Persistence on the net is a myth. Everything you say in cyberspace does not survive and come back to haunt you. The good you want preserved vanishes. I found out the reason that the Webleauges pages aren't archived is because there is no human editor at DMOZ for web site competitions. I guess I'm going to have to step up to the plate. I'm not sure I have the time. There are other ways to archive Haldis' team and even ZOID. I intend to archive both of them even if the rest of the Webleagues dies. I wish it didn't have to be that way, but it does. I'm going to have to live with it.

Eileen H. Kramer with help from Haldis K. Guerrin -- October 6, 2010