Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Ripples in a Pond of Words

Following: The Game Ranch: Blogs vs. BGG, Naturelich: Who needs board game blogs?, and The Game Shelf: The Geek.

One of the truisms of life is that someone, somewhere is always moaning about

- things just aren't like they used to be,
- people grow up and move away,
- nobody respects the elder's traditions.

You would think this pattern would be obvious after recurring again and again over the last ten thousand years.

I work hard at building a synagogue knowing full well that my children will NOT be part of it, because they are going to grow up and move away. Nevertheless, sometime after attendance in my synagogue declines, new people will move into the neighborhood. They may rejuvenate the synagogue I built, they may transform it into something new, or they may make their own.

You don't notice when a new best friend comes into your life; you only notice when they leave. You don't notice when a great leader is born, only when he or she dies. Just because we notice when things die and change, doesn't mean that new things just as good aren't being born or started. It's just the nature of something new: it isn't old and established, yet.

What is happening with BGG is so natural that it deserves no comment; the only difference is that this change is happening in Internet time, ten times as fast as it used to happen in the real world.

BGG was new, once. When people started moving to BGG, people on and Spielfrieks complained that all of the activity on their forums were being stolen by BGG. A few years later, after so much growth, people leave BGG and create board game blogs, and people on BGG complain that activity on BGG is being stolen into the blogs.

With the explosion of blogs, people set up RSS readers, such as bloglines. Then along comes Best of Boardgames which takes (not pejoratively) one group's opinion of the best articles from these blogs and presents then in one index.

Guess what? Five years from now it will change all over again. It may look the same as something we had in the past or something entirely different. That's how it goes.

BGG serves several purposes: board game information, board game articles, board game community, board game rankings, board game marketplace, and so on. It is entirely natural that all of this was lumped into one site when the barrier for creating web sites was high and the amount of people with information was low.

Now we have a low barrier for website creation and a lot of people who have something to say. Some of BGG's functions are now duplicated by other means; in some cases better. As time goes on, maybe BGG's database of game information will be available via SOAP. Maybe better forums will exist; these blogs are like a forum. Just look at the links on top of this post.

Maybe Aldie and Derk will pack it up one day. Or maybe they will reinvent themselves and make something new and better, more focussed or maybe more general. What they have is still amazing. But even BGG has to roll with changes.

I won't say anything in particular about the complainants; they, too, are a tradition. Where would we be without people complaining about the new and waxing nostalgic about the old? Just remember: the only time things really stop moving is when they die.



Jeff Coon said...

After watching numerous communities over the years, BGG isn't going anywhere. Forums still remain one of the most popular places for the vast majority of consumers to get their information. Blogs will not take that over, because blogs do not lend themselves to asking questions very well. One (or a handful) individual at a blog is controlling what information gets discussed (for the most part). With forums, any Joe off the street can pop in, ask a question, and get it answered. As long as BGG continues to be the most popular forum, they'll continue to be the top destination for boardgamers.

That doesn't even take into account their searchable database of games, which is completely unmatched, and is likely to remain so. Sure, someone might come up with a better content delivery method, but BGG has the data. They can easily adapt to provide that data in the latest format, be that a SOAP webservice, or anything else that comes out.

I'd say the game blogs are more likely to change than BGG will be. However, there is enough content to spread around. I don't quite see why people complain about either. They're not forced to read any content they don't want to.

Yehuda Berlinger said...

You're thinking too narrowly. I am not referring to one particular blog. The blog world, or blogosphere, is as much of a community as a forum. It's just that right now, creating a topic in a forum is still easier than creating a topic by posting on a blog.

If all the bloggers were hanging out on BGG forums, we would be posting our own topics. Instead, we start the topics on our blogs and comment or cross-link to each other, just like on a forum.

Imagine that it was just as easy for someone to create an entry on some personal site as is it is to visit BGG and start a thread on a forum.

Maybe this year there is a high entry to creating and maintaining blogs. But maybe next year there won't be. Maybe one day very soon everyone will naturally interact with a home page the way they interact with email (and their own email address) and with IM (and their own IM address).

When you want to say something, you won't have to "go out to BGG" to say it. You will just open up your home page and create the topic. Everyone interested in the topic will pick it up via RSS or tags or something simpler, just like a forum posting is picked up by people who go out of there way to view the forums.

That is what the Web 2.0 is all about, and that is where we are headed. This concept of having to go to some centralized location that someone else controls in order to discuss something is on the way out.

And yet, after Web 2.0 will come Web 3.0. Likely it will involve everyone going to some centralized location to post things, again.

The Internet is dynamic the way that cultural trends are dynamic. That's my point.

As far as the searchable database of games, undoubtedly that is a valuable commodity and will continue. I'm just saying that they may have to adapt how it is presented over time, just as you say.


Jeff Coon said...

I see what you're saying, but I still see blogs as too decentralized for most people. If I post on my blog, it will only show up on the radar of other people who have linked to me, or have subscribed to my RSS feed. Even if RSS & blogs continue to encroach on the average user, it still won't begin to equal the percentage of the total readers of a forum. People like centralization and gravitate towards it. The decentralized nature of blogs, RSS and hyperlinks are always going to be an obstacle. Maybe there's a mystery web 2.0 technology that pulls it all together and serves it up to average Joe reader, but I'm still inclined to think forums will continue to dominate the everyday general conversation for the teeming masses.