Comments on Graham's development progress for Inform 7

This thread has piqued my interest as I’m a big open source kinda guy.

I’m listening to NarraScope 2020: Inform 7 Update as I type this.

I think one of the main reasons that Graham hasn’t made it available yet is given at 39mins 39secs in the talk. In short he feels that to open it up now would reveal a large messy engine that would confuse the bejesus out of people and put them off, therefore having the exact opposite effect to what is desired ie a community of people working together on the code.

Just thought I’d throw in my 10p.

Adam

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I disagree. Lots of creators don’t engage with community at large and still have successful projects. Linus with Linux and Git, Larry Wall with Perl, Guido with Python, Wolfram with Mathematica, etc. Mike Roberts with Tads.

Then there’s Chris with Adventuron, Mike Taylor with Scottkit, etc. There are many creators who are actively engaging the community whose project received lukewarm response. Dialog, Zilf, PunyInform, etc.

This also doesn’t take account of abandonware being resurrected by fans, and then have a new lease of life. There are many, many projects like that. ScottAdams and ZIL are the obvious ones. There are many others if you look.

No one here is forcing you to use Inform. You can use anything you want. As I said, this community will support you in any platform of your choosing, regardless whether it’s Inform or Twine or whatever.
In fact, I believe that the community is very welcoming to new platforms. It’s just that very, very few is willing to take up the task of building a whole new language for it. However, you’re welcome to do so. :grinning:

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Slightly off topic but I’ll take the opportunity to share my thoughts.

Firstly, thanks for mentioning ZIL/ZILF. Secondly, I don’t believe I6 is easier to learn versus ZIL in and of itself but rather because of the vast amount of learning resources available. Code vs Code (leaving resources aside for the moment) and they’re about the same in my humble opinion. Inform 7 however is much easier, for sure.

Adam

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:grin: Well yes I guess I’d rather explore uncharted territory forsworn of everyone; crash, burn, and leave behind the open code.

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I can’t answer that because I’m not Graham.

No matter how hypothetically you ask, it comes off like you think he owes you an explanation.

Hi Zarf,

It’s not a hypothetical question. It doesn’t come off like anything.

Emily has made it very clear that she doesn’t want to answer questions for Graham, or be the person who carries messages to Graham. https://emshort.blog/2017/04/07/mailbag-sort-of-inform-status/

I announced several years ago that I was stepping back from the position of Inform community liaison that I once occupied. This means, among other things, that I now do not speak for Graham to the IF community, nor for the IF community to Graham, except under extraordinary and limited circumstances.

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Deffo comes off as a hypothetical question from here.

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Ah, OK. I stand corrected. Thank you for letting me know. Post edited accordingly.

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I think it’s more rhetorical than hypothetical, but I believe it’s being asked as a genuine question so in fact was not meant as either.

There’s obviously no written rule that a creator needs to actively engage with the community that has formed around their creation. However it is more common now and I would say is the modern approach.

Taking an indie game developer as an example, Scott Cawthon is a great example of how to engage with your community base. Rather than issue copyright notices and takedown requests to fans who have made fan games he actively encourages them (the best ones even get made official and recieve financial and technical support).

So when you have someone more private and less engaging it may come across negatively. Again, there’s actually no requirement, but where possible (various reasons including personality) engagement is the way to go.

Adam

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I can’t speak for anyone but myself, but I do have to note Graham Nelson isn’t selling a product and doesn’t have customers, let alone fans, let alone fanfiction.

Of course. I just used Scott C as an example of where engagement can really work.

Adam

@dfabulich Dan, what’s your view on engagement (creator with the community around the creation)?

Adam

There’s a cultural norm in the Inform community that “Graham doesn’t owe anyone anything.” Graham has no responsibility to do another day’s work on Inform, has no responsibility to answer any questions, no responsibility to explain any of his decisions, no matter how inscrutable. The community norm is a counter reaction to the idea that if you create a tool that a community of creators depend on, you owe it to them to provide them some support, or at least make it possible for the community to support themselves.

In the most extreme version of this view, any criticism of Graham’s decisions implies that he “owes it to us” to make better decisions, and so, criticizing Graham is a violation of community norms.

Zarf said that you implied that Graham “owes you an explanation;” I don’t think you did, but if you criticize Graham at all, you imply that he might owe us anything at all, that he ought to do better, which is the same thing.

But that’s not all.

There’s another cultural norm that community members have a moral obligation to Graham, to refrain from speculating about Graham’s opinions, particularly in forums where he doesn’t participate, like this one. Under this view, we are only allowed to ask Graham about his opinions directly, only when he makes himself available for questions, which, in the last five(?) years, has meant only at NarraScope and at a 2017 London IF Meetup. His answers leave a lot to the imagination, but the cultural norm is not to talk about that.

Your approach, to ask what possible reason he could have for a bad decision, violates both cultural norms. You’re criticizing Graham, which implies that he owes anyone something (you, perhaps), and you’re doing it by inviting speculation as to his reasons for making a bad call.

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My approach is unusual in that I (as a partner of Choice of Games) literally do have written contracts with authors of our games; I absolutely do “owe them something.” Royalties, at the very least!

Furthermore, I have a financial incentive to keep ChoiceScript up and running on all major platforms. If CS stops working on the App Store (for example), I’d have to fix it in order to keep earning revenue there.

Our forum is pretty lively; way bigger than I can practically engage with. I see our role (my role) as guiding and shaping that community, especially by setting clear values, standards, and rules. We have a self-sustaining group of creators.

One thing I really like there is that the CS format makes it straightforward to publish “work in progress” games, where you’ve written Chapter 1 and Chapter 2, which are playable, while you work on Chapter 3. Players can play these WIP games and give suggestions for where they’d like the story to go next, in addition to giving feedback on finished material. WIP feedback threads are the vast majority of our forum traffic.

I don’t “hang out” on our forum much, but I do show up to answer questions. I’ve been thinking I should hang out there more.

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It was plain TeX (just for completeness).

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I once wrote an essay trying to explore the state of I7 and Free Software. I took it down recently because it’s a little embarrassing, but if you’re dying to know what I thought about all this over a decade ago, I guess you could read a copy here.

We’re not in any position to make decisions for I7. It appears that most of our opinions are silently ignored, and the loudest do not represent us well. Shouting louder or complaining more is unlikely to be rewarded in any way, and remaining silent feels like approval of the status quo. I get it. It can make you feel helpless and frustrated. How we deal with that frustration as an audience is the dividing line between supportive and toxic fan communities.

I think it’s important to work out how to express dismay at a situation without appearing to sound like you’re making demands. It’s hard to do on the Internet, I know. We get emotional and write a lot of “should” sentences instead of exploring our own feelings, and try to tell other people’s story for them instead of expressing our position in terms of our own story.

We can be frustrated and charitable at the same time.

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I do not know Graham personally, but from the information I’ve gleaned over the years, I7 is his lifelong project and a hobby he doesn’t get paid for creating nor maintaining. He learned early on that that the audience can be very involved and in some cases demanding, and because he does have a “day job” he has made the choice can’t also participate directly in the community and be instantly responsive to every request. This is the manner in which he has decided to manage his time and I can respect that.

Luckily, there are tons of people here with vast knowledge who are very adept with Inform and can help in the interim.

I believe the eventual move to open-source the code is Graham’s understanding that he can’t be on top of it as much as people would like. We do just need to wait for him to get it primed and organized for modern era release and in shape to be read by others.

I have seen people (not just on this thread or forum) get very upset at this and can only remind them: this is free software and there is huge community support for it. Graham is one busy person, he’s working to remedy that issue, and we can only be patient and understand that updates will be released when they are released.

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My personal experience (on a vastly smaller scale) is that I’m a lot more conservative on the code I open source under my real name than the stuff I do under a pseudonym. Maybe this is a factor here as well.

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It’s a testament to the unique value of Graham’s work that we’re having this conversation at all. A major update being deferred this long, with nothing being released and very little news in the meantime, would be enough to kill most projects as users got tired of waiting and wandered away. I7 still has a thriving user community, and that’s because it offers things no other IF creation tool does. (Conversely, of course, if Graham had operated this way when the first versions of Inform came out, it would never have caught on at all.) Having more users leads directly to more available support and help, which attracts more users, and so on.

However, the parser IF community is small enough that only one language might be able to achieve this network effect, and there might be room for concern that a stagnant Inform could take up too much room for other languages to take off. The result would be that progress can’t happen, or happens very slowly, not just in Inform, but in parser IF as a whole. There are a few exciting experiments like Dialog, but relatively few authors have benefited from it so far (and its development also seems to be suspended, temporarily I hope).

The sum total of this is that I agree we shouldn’t be impatient with Graham - he undoubtedly has a life outside Inform - but we should eventually consider whether collectively moving on from Inform would benefit us more than waiting forever.

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