Self Descriptions made Easy

I have a „Manual of Me“ in my professional e‑Mail signature for a while now. That describes when and how to reach me, and how I communicate or set tasks.

What it doesn’t do in depth or any detail is describing what I’m really good at or what I’m bad at.

And that is something that no team should ever ask from its members. Forcing people to write down or reveal what they are good and bad at is… bad. For multiple reasons:

One reason is that a lot of times, people don’t really know what their relevant weaknesses are. Or they don’t like to face them. Or they know them, face them internally, but won’t ever admit to them to their boss or coworkers. Because, let’s face it, there is a real risk that this will be used against them.

In those cases, you’ll end up with weaknesses as „too driven“, „too detail oriented“, „not taking breaks enough“, with the hopes that they’ll look good.

The other thing is that what I might perceive as a big weakness might actually be insignificant in the team dynamic. Who cares if I can’t do math in my head at the speed of thought, I have a calculator app and a spreadsheet available at all times anyway!

So instead, I recommend thinking and talking at length within a team about how one communicates, decides, and documents things. There are lots of differences on how this can happen, especially if you cross cultural borders by having a diverse multinational team. (see https://​erinmeyer​.com/​b​o​o​k​s​/​t​h​e​-​c​u​l​t​u​r​e​-​m​ap/)

Putting those differences and preferences out into the open is really useful.

Things that are good to explain about oneself

Get your folks to explain themselves in these terms:

  • what are their productive/waking hours? Are they night owls, early birds, or something in between?
  • Do they prefer face-to-face, synchronous, asynchronous or just written communication?
  • How do they like to separate documentation and decision-making?
  • What is their instinct when it comes to looking for information? Which systems do they use, who do they ask (if they ask someone at all)?
  • What are their notification etiquette? Are there times where you shouldn’t try to call them, or is that something you don’t need to worry about?
  • How do they want to get tasks assigned and reviewed, how do they do this themselves?
  • What are their preferred ways of addressing them? Honorific, nicknames, full names, pronouns, the works.

A tangent on leadership

I strongly advise that the team lead or most senior person of the group leads by example here. Don’t put the onus on the others to find out what is appropriate to share or tell, don’t let them guess what is necessary information. This is absolutely a managerial responsibility, to set the tone and expectations in a way that doesn’t discourage people, or makes them write in supplicant answers, in the hope to not look bad.

Communication can and should be trained, but it needs to start honest and open. If your team thinks they cannot be that way, you won’t get anywhere with them.

And power imbalances, even if you’re the most approachable manager of all, are still a thing. Subordinates will always have the next firing/hiring/promotion round in the back of their minds. Individual members of your team might thus not only worry about how they are perceived by you, but also by their peers, who could gleefully exploit any (perceived) weaknesses of others in order to get that promotion for themselves, or to prevent being axed when the inevitable downsizing comes.

Back to self descriptions

Self descriptions are useful. They make unspoken assumptions visible and clear, they highlight the differences between individuals in a way that makes them useful instead of a source of conflicts.

And they provide the basis on which to improve communication and collaboration within a group of people.

These self descriptions are not an end to themselves, they are a tool to figure out future collaboration and communication. Ideally, you encourage everyone to revisit their and other people manuals every now and then too.

Eine Lanze für Orks

Danger Zone und dnalorsblog schrieben vor einiger Zeit über das Für und Wider bezüglich der Orks, in Reflektion auf einen der Essays in Roll Inclusive. Und auch der Deutschlandfunk spricht über das Thema. Im Endeffekt gibt es folgendes Spannungsfeld:

  • Othering ist Mist, macht Empathie kaputt und sollte eigentlich nie eingeübt werden.
  • Monster verkloppen ist ein integraler Bestandteil des Fantasy-Rollenspiels, und sollte ohne echtwelt-moralische Bedenken möglich sein.

Um „moralisch unbedenklich“ Spaß an der Monsterklopperei haben zu dürfen, müssen diese Monster leider eben doch ge-„othered“ sein. Denn wie dnalorsblog schildert, kann man nicht mehr nach Herzenslust Goblins weghauen, wenn diese eine Kultur und Daseinsberechtigung bekommen haben. Wenn eine Welt ihre eigene Monster Ecology hat, dann haben eben auch Orks und Goblins ihre Daseinsberechtigung, und sind keine gesichtslosen Monster mehr.

Jetzt schreibe ich ja gerade selbst an einem Monsterklopper-Rollenspiel, Raiders of Arismyth. Das Thema ist also für mich daher brennend interessant. Die Leute sollen Spaß mit Kämpfen in dem Spiel haben, und daher brauchen Sie Monster mit denen sie kämpfen können. Manchmal sollen sie dabei auch darüber nachdenken, mit wem sie warum kämpfen.

Aber eben auch nicht immer. Manchmal soll einfach der interessante Kampf und das Gekloppe im Vordergrund stehen, und die Moral nicht das zu beackernde Problem sein. Und damit kommen wir zu den Orks.

Die meisten Gegner in meinen Spielrunden haben eigene Motivation die mehr ist als nur „ich bin böse!“ ist. Sie sind hungrig, versuchen Geld zu verdienen, jemanden beschützen, und so weiter. Manchmal kann man so Kämpfe umgehen, und manchmal sind die Dinge, die die Gegner wollen absolut konträr zu denen der Gruppe.

Orks bei mir sind anders. Sie sind wortwörtlich nicht von dieser Welt. Kein Ork, dem man in meiner Spielwelt begegnet ist einfach nur da. Es gibt keine Orkdörfer mit Orkbabies, keine unschuldigen „ich bin nur Farmer“ Orks. Zumindest nicht in der Spielwelt. Wahrscheinlich gibt es all das auf der Herkunftswelt der Orks, aber die ist… woanders. 

Orks, denen man auf meiner Spielwelt begegnet sind die selbstgewählte Speerspitze einer Invasion, mit sinistren Zielen. Die Details dazu wollen noch im Spiel herausgefunden werden, aber eines wissen alle am Tisch: Die Orks sind Monster, und sie sind es nicht qua Geburt, sondern weil sie es so wollten.

Alle anderen Gegner sind vielschichtig, die Gruppe ist sich nie wirklich sicher, welcher Gruppe sie nun wirklich feindlich gegenüber stehen sollen. Aber Orks? Orks sind zum wegkloppen da.

My 3D printer wishlist

3D printing things is one of my hobbies. And while I am reasonably happy with the printer I currently have,there’s always a new and shinier resin 3D printer around the corner.

But they rarely manage to really excite me in the way that I actually want to swap.

So, this is the laundry list of things that I want to see in one machine:

  • A heated vat or chamber. I print with an open window, and that means the room can get cool or even cold. 3D printer resin has a certain optimal working temperature, usually between 25 and 30 degrees celsius. That means a bit of heating.
  • A bed pressure sensor. That is pretty useful for two things: It tells the printer when there is something stuck on the bottom of the resin tank, and whether the print is releasing fine from the film. I haven’t yet had a printer with such a sensor, but I hear brilliant things about them.
  • A tilting resin vat. Again, not something that I had so far, but the Prusa MSLA printer and the new Elegoo Saturn do feature this, and apparently it makes for cleaner and faster prints.
  • A decent build volume. 20×30×30 would be ideal, but 20×25×25 is fine too.
  • A decent resolution of pixels per cubic inch. Although, to be fair, all current printers have that. This is not where technology needs to advance.
  • Fill lines in the vat. Really, how hard is that?
  • A slide in locking mechanism for the vat. I have it on my GKTwo, and it is brilliant.
  • Same for the lever locking mechanism for the build plate. Again, brilliant.
  • Magnetic flexible steel sheets that attach to the build plate that aren’t after market installs. All the FFF 3D printers have these by now, why not the resin ones? It’s super useful.
  • Flip up lids, or doors. With a handle. None of this „lifting a shroud and then looking for a place to put it“ nonsense.
  • An easy way to add an external ventilation hose. Generally, good air management, to keep the resin fumes controlled.
  • A good way to filter the air coming out of the printer.
  • An easy-but-sturdy levelling system. Although again, the GKTwo one works fine for me.
  • A vat with a proper non-drip spout for emptying leftover resin.
  • A non-flimsy vat cover. Sealing the vat firmly, instead of just loosely sitting on it. I want to be able to shake the whole vat full of resin with the cover on!
  • A sensor to pause the print when resin runs out.
  • Feet on the vat, so you don’t scratch the FEP when setting it down somewhere
  • Easy to swap screens with a good screen protector by default.
  • A built-in way to cure the whole vat for capture leftover floating resin bits.
  • A built-in way for exposure testing multiple settings in one go, to speed up dialing in any given resin.
  • Any USB or memory card slots and buttons in the front of the device.
  • Surfaces with as little nooks and crannies as possible, to make cleaning the device easier.

The above are basically things I see as must haves in order to make me want to switch. The following are nice to have features:

  • Make the vat high enough to hold a whole litre of resin.
  • Wifi connectivity is nice, but not really that vital for me. IF there is some, I’ll mostly use it to monitor the print status and being able to cancel the print in case something went wrong. Starting a print is.. eh, not really a thing I’d do remotely.
  • But managing the sliced files on the printer over wifi, adding and removing them would be nifty.

I see printers that have some of these features, but not one yet that has all of them. Any takers? :)

I’m not a Warhammer player, but…

…I unironically like the old Warhammer 40K universe depictions and canon. You know, the Rick Priestley, John Blanche era. Where everything was bad, grimy, gloomy and evil.

This is peak Leman Russ, as he should be:

A black and white pencil portrait of "Marine Commander Leman Russ", taken from the first edition Rogue Trader book - his face is warped from scars and cybernetic implants, everything looks distorted and gloomy

Not this:

A colour illustration of a very heroic looking Leman Russ with flowing blonde hair, taken from https://warhammer40k.fandom.com/wiki/Leman_Russ

Warhammer 40,000, as depicted and conceived in the 80ies absolutely was a satire and reaction to Thatcherism in the UK, quite in line with comics like Judge Dredd and other things from the 2000 AD magazine. Space Marines were fucked up purposefully mutated humans that were fighting fucked up accidentally mutated humans.

And in that take of the universe, I think it is fine to have uber-macho all-male Space Marines, to have a devoted cult of the emperor, to have the humans shout „death to all xenos“. Because it is clear from the artwork alone that this is a fucked up world, full of fucked up decisions. No one in there looks or stands in for anyone in our real world, which is a neat thing to have when the game is about wholesale slaughter. (Of course, a lot of the „human factions“ take on decorations and themes from armies from our real-world past. But they are so exaggerated, that I don’t really think a matching and identification is possible.)

So, yes, I actually like this take. It brings me back to the 80ies, to crusty Punks and Hair Metal, to counterculture and rebellion.

But today, as the artwork starts to become squeaky clean and actually heroic. Games Workshop is clearly trying to focus on about how cool the Space Marines are. Nothing on the surface tells you that they would be fucked up, and the lore keeps telling you that they have to be the way they are, that the xenos threat is real.

And with that, the satire looses its teeth. Games Workshop of course knows this, so they end up having to make the good guys, you know, actually good. These toy soldiers cannot be doing warcrimes left and right anymore, they become more good-looking, and (and that is where the sad puppies start howling at the moon) you start making figures that your whole audience can identify with.

And that means including people of colour, a variety of gender being represented outside of Slaaneesh cults, and so on. Because the factions aren’t all villains anymore.

This change is the natural consequence of the slow-but-sure transition of the Space Marines from „crazed fanatics willing to die for the cult of a dead Emperor rotting on his golden throne“ to „somehow heroic, noble and virtuous. As good guys.“ (quotes from freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngul)

So, if you want the Space Marines and the Empire of Man to be „the good guys“, you have to embrace the good sides of humanity too. And that means including ALL of humanity, in all its multi-gendered, multi-skin-hues, multi-anything glory.Sorry to the sad puppies, I don’t make the rules, I’m just telling you how it is.