Laughing on the bus...
Many players - especially newer ones - will have been either baffled or persuaded by the mentions of something called "the train". This is a metaphor of course - Harry has explained how that started - but what it stands for, is an allegation that 'group(s) of long time players' have fixed the voting so that certain players win, unfairly.
Much has been said, for and against, on this matter. But nothing has ever been said on how the allegation arose in the first place. There is one incident which I believe triggered the whole "train allegation" avalanche, and I feel it is time to make it known here, with the personal hope that seeing the truth may persuade those who give this whole thing any credence, the realisation that the reality behind it is somewhat different.
Whether this is the whole truth, I don't know. But it's certainly something that actually happened, provoked strong reactions, and has not - to my knowledge - ever happened since.
Playing games with the faces...
Let me take you back to 19th March 2010. The Word Of The Day was 'flibbertigibbet'. Among the many light-hearted tweets coined, Harry came up with this one : "I think every flibbertigibbet deserves to be swept off her feet by a prince on a swift white steed. That would be soooooo cool!" This was a rather un-Harry-like tweet, a fact swiftly seized on by another long-time player, and gently mocked. This other player then had a further idea : "if everyone was to vote for this tweet, it would become Harry's "Best Tweet Ever" on his profile; wouldn't that be both embarrassing [for him] and funny?" (no mention of making it win, you note - just to make it Harry's best tweet). As a plan, this actually came to pass and you can still - many months later - see it on Harry's profile as his Best Tweet Ever.
She said the man in the gabardine suit was a spy...
How was this achieved? This is where the controversy begins. It was discussed among players who were online at the time; this was done quite openly, in the Twitter Timeline (I saw some of the conversation). However it was ALSO advocated via DMs to players who weren't online at the time, to rope in more players to the "wheeze".
...seems like a dream to me now...
I personally had a slightly queasy feeling about this. I didn't think then (nor even now) that Artwiculate is a game where the efforts of players to create a winning tweet should be frustrated by organised voting even a light-hearted, one-off, "joke" way. So I didn't vote for that tweet, I dug my heels in, but was not in the least surprised to see it had won when I logged in the next day.
I looked at the scenery...
On that following day, there was quite a "buzz" about what had happened. Several players - most of whom it appeared had not been online and therefore not privy to the original conversation - were quite angry about a "fixed vote". It was, of course, and I felt at that time that my sympathies lay with those angry players. But after a day or two, it had all blown over and most of us just got on with the game, and chalked that one result up as a "maverick". The prevailing judgement, in the immediate aftermath, was "It's just a game - no-one died!"
Counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike...
However, as we all know, one person did not let it blow over. He seized upon it. When the Train theme emerged a short time after, he decided to use it as a metaphor for regular, underhanded, fixing of the Artwiculate vote, and he has tirelessly promoted this conspiracy theory - on apparently no evidence apart from this one occasion - ever since.
And the moon rose over an open field...
Are there any "trains"? One player has admitted to being part of one such, a short-lived affair in the summer, long since abandoned, and only set up to counter the effect of what were thought to be other "trains" (which didn't exist!). For me, as a player who is #4 in the all time rankings, I would have thought I would have become aware of any such phenomenon. But no. No-one has ever sought my vote, openly or via DM or email or any other way. Nor have I sought votes from any other players or followers. As far as I know, "trains" (i.e. organised voting) do not exist.
...we boarded a Greyhound in Pittsburgh...
I'm aware that this doesn't explain why certain players always seem to do well in the rankings. That's a separate issue, and one I cannot shed any light on. I'm as baffled as the next person as to why some tweets win. But I hope that most people - who still have their faculties of logic and reason intact - will see this little history of one event, and come to understand the origins of a far-fetched conspiracy theory.
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Thanks for this post Tidd. I had no idea about any of it. To be honest, it would have been nice knowing about this before I became engaged in debate with 'The Angry Player'. However it is irrelevant really, as that player dislikes me and refuses to reason with me on the grounds of my surname anyway, so debate with him is pointless, and something I'll never bother with again.
As a new player, however, I do feel that I have a different perspective from you guys, and would like to offer the following observations.
1) Any reasonable or logical person would accept the above incident as simply a joke gone a little far, which upset a few people & then blew over. In fact, you could go further than that to say that in a new game, on a relatively new medium, it is almost essential to explore some of these ethical parameters. In fact, sometimes it is necessary to go too far with something, before everybody learns where that boundary is. It would seem to me that this is what happened.
The problem is, not everybody is reasonable or logical (in fact, IMO quite a few people playing this game are clinically insane) but why should they have to be? I didn't see a sign on artwiculate.com saying "WARNING: social web 2.0 experiment in progress - Do not enter unless you are reasonable, logical, and willing to forgive the odd bit of vote fixing gone a bit too far."
Those players could compare it to an infidelity in a relationship. In some situations a cheating partner deserves to be forgiven, the incident forgotten, and life to go on - however, what that person does lose forever is the right to be indignant if they are suspected again. Once you prove what you are capable of, you can't take that back. I have seen a lot of indignation on twitter from artwiculate players in response to 'train' allegations. In the light of Tidd's comments above, this reaction does seem a little contrived.
2) I also think that Tidd's definition of the 'Train' as 'organized voting' is an oversimplification. From what I have understood from comments from 'The Angry Player' and others is that it doesn't need to be organized voting 'via email or DM' to be a 'train'. In fact, it seems that what these players resent is the fact that very normal organic social forces within twitter in and artwiculate have an impact on the outcome. What he refers to as the 'rose tinted glasses' and what his nemesis penguin described as a 'popularity contest' both exist within the game - players ARE more likely to vote for a friends tweet than a anonymous one. They are not cheating, they just like that tweet more, because they like their friend.
All the talk of stopping profile page voting etc is nonsense, because as long as Twitter is the core medium for this game, the tweets will never be anonymous, and while the game is not anonymous, it will always be social. Social forces are not just part of the game, but they ARE the game.
The 'Angry Player' told me on his blog that if I wanted to play socially, I should either play #lqw or to tweet the wotd and not let it index to Artwiculate. This is when I decided I would not play anymore.
"I'm aware that this doesn't explain why certain players always seem to do well in the rankings. That's a separate issue, and one I cannot shed any light on. I'm as baffled as the next person as to why some tweets win."
This is fair comment which I respect, but I think if the top players want 'the angry player' and others from making 'train' allegations, then they simply need to acknowledge the social aspect a little more - it's a genuine and honest aspect of the game. People can't have it both ways. You're either serious about something, or your not.
I find the 'angry player' to be a poisonous & negative individual that has virtually nothing pleasant to say about anything. He has upset me immeasurably, and robbed my of my interest to play artwiculate.
I'm not engaging him again because I am very close to resorting 'degenerate' language and I wouldn't want to upstage my brother - I'm pretty sure that's the one word game where I have him covered :-).
I'm sorry if my point of view is unwelcome, but thanks for letting me express it.
This reply was removed on 2011-01-16.
see the change log
I wish to make one further post before letting this matter rest FOREVER.
1. Why did I raise it at all? Answer: because it seemed some players had become persuaded that 'trains' exist. I simply wanted to point out to those players that this theory - as with most legends - had its origins in a single true incident that was simply harmless fun, and not the sinister thing it has been supposed to become.
2. Why did I raise it now? Answer: it seemed to be a loose end that wanted tying up, that I have long wanted to lay to rest. Loose ends are on my mind right now, as will become clear in the next few days.
I hope, I really hope, that I didn't unwittingly upset or offend any of the people involved in the original incident. If I have, then I'm deeply sorry for that, and I lay my neck down here to be trampled on. I didn't have any bad intentions.