Blunt but honest mahjong discussion

It is not unusual that people ignorant to certain aspects of a topic will speak about them anyway. This is usually what an opinion is, and people feel a need to expose their opinions in public for different reasons. By extension, it is only natural they they will communicate such views online as well, on blogs or forums. However, sometimes, if what they are exposing doesn’t fulfill certain standards of “correctness”, they will get called on it by someone. At that point, a number of things may occur:

1. The person accused of being wrong will feel (personally) attacked. At times, he will “fight back.” In the worst of cases, the accuser himself will in turn fight back again starting an argument.
2. The person accused of being wrong will feel they are right, and that the other person is wrong. (It is funny, do you know how being wrong feels? It feels a lot like being right)
3. The person accused of being wrong will not try to prove they are right, but won’t admit they are wrong either, show no disposition whatsoever towards fixing their mistake, or will just disregard the other person’s claims altogether (“it doesn’t matter, this thing isn’t even serious, everyone is entitled to their opinion”).

and,

4. Very rarely, one of the two will admit to being wrong and learn something.

The ideal thing would be, reaching point number 4. That is the only point where in the end, both parties are pleased, and there is mutual agreement. The experience ends up as being positive, and useful, as there was also learning. This takes us a step further towards the truth. And that is what we are all exposing our opinions and theorizing for: getting to the truth, perfecting our knowledge.

I won’t refer to any specific incidents, as most of them go a while back, but such situations used to be fairly common in a What Would You Discard discussion board.

Blunt honesty isn’t a bad thing, and disregarding the point being made just because of the way it is presented isn’t very productive. Being “civil” doesn’t mean being careful as to not alter your perception of things with blunt but punctual and honest statements that hold the purpose of having a more objective discussion. I find it uncivil and irresponsible to present possibly faulty information (even if it is in the form of an opinion) if you lack the will to sustain an honest and open argument without asking the other person to sugar-coat his statements for you. Especially if such statements are made with the intention of slapping people back to reality for the sake of their learning. Some people do need to wake up, and the nicer and harder thing to do is face them with cold facts, and honesty.

There is a reason why “there are no rights and wrong here” is a terribly lousy argument. I recommend you head to this post, “The Many Forms of I don’t know”

So, if you are thinking of posting something that might be bullshit somewhere online, consider the fact that the person calling you on your bullshit might not be lenient on it! I know that I am ready to take any hits when I post something, and looking back in the archive of this blog, I found lots of bullshit, mostly mine, but that we can correct in time. Finally, since we mentioned Bullshit, I want to leave you with some extracts from Penn Jillette explaining Why Tolerance is Condescending. (If you are not going to read this whole post and the two links I posted, don’t bother replying with more bullshit!)

Extract of the parts of the video that are appropriate for this post:

“[…] My difference of opinion is with objective and subjective reality. Einstein said the big question is: when you turn away is the tree still there? […] I believe very strongly that there is a (physical) reality that my perception does not change. […] The problem I have […] is that once you’ve said that you believe something that you can’t prove to someone else, you have completely walled yourself off from the world, and you’ve essentially said no one can talk to you and you can talk to no one. You’ve also given license to everyone else who feels that. […] I would rather be busted on everything I say, and I am! When you put yourself out on television and on radio as someone who really does believe in objective truth there is not a sentence that I will say in this interview that won’t get three or four tweets of somebody with information busting me on it. And they’re right! Very rarely am I busted on something where I’m right. If someone’s taken the trouble to let me know I’ve said something wrong, chances are I’m wrong. But that’s the world I wanna live in. I wanna live in a world of a marketplace of ideas where everybody is busted on their bullshit all the time because I think that’s the way we get to the truth, that is also what respect is. What we call tolerance nowadays […] is often just condescending, it’s often just saying ‘okay, you believe what you wanna believe, that’s fine with me.’ [That’s] the way you talk to a child.”

15 thoughts on “Blunt but honest mahjong discussion

  1. What does this have to do with Mahjong?

    Also, it sounds like a justification for xkime to be an asshole to people. I do not say this with the intention to flame but with the “intention of slapping people back to reality for the sake of their learning” because I also believe that “some people do need to wake up, and the nicer and harder thing to do is face them with cold facts, and honesty.”

    Well, I am not often in the channel, but I saw him making an ad hominem against me after I stated my opinion once without provocation, and other people have also observed this tendency multiple times. Therefore, I am not sure that he is the right person to speak on this topic. I do agree with the post however.

    1. Oh, it is totally a license for ALL of us to be honest assholes instead of hypocritical nice guys.

      I don’t even remember you, why would I be provoked by you. “I was ad hominem’d without provocation” translates to “I took something personally and I am butthurt.” Don’t be! I don’t even know you. I’m sorry if I hurt you.

      I am glad you agree with the post, though.

      1. Also, this has much to do with mahjong. Have you never been around a WWYD thread? This is incredibly appropriate:

        > The problem I have […] is that once you’ve said that you believe something that you can’t prove to someone else, you have completely walled yourself off from the world, and you’ve essentially said no one can talk to you and you can talk to no one.

    1. Don’t worry, I will update the link when we get the forum back up and running, so I don’t have to link Google Cache. :)

  2. Just bumped into this thread, and I know it’s over, but I am fascinated by it. As a not-new-but-still-stumbling player, I always appreciate it when people are clear about whether or not they KNOW the answer. I’m happy as hell to read how people are working out their speculations, but when I’m trying to learn, I need to know who are the most credible, most authoritative sources. it’s also nice to know when someone has had a break-through.

    This is a problem in a lot of settings. I just finished a MOOC (massively open online course) on math, and we ran into this problem all the time.

    On the other hand, in a chat room, I guess, all bets are off. It’s more like sitting at a bar than sitting at a conference table.

    Anyway, if anyone reads this, thanks for bringing it up.

    1. I’m really glad you feel that way. That is exactly what I strive for in discussions. I mean, it’s nice and all to hear someone with an active imagination saying that they would end up throwing all tiles within their hand to aim for a yakuman, or slow down their hand to aim for one of their favorite yaku, but it renders discussions worthless for the sake of actually learning and improving from them. There’s speculation, and there is a serious strategic discussion, and I really do believe stronger players act a more important role under didactic settings. The main problem being, you can’t be strong in mahjong just because you “think you are strong.” You need to have accomplished some proof of that strength to validate you as a winning -instead of a losing- player.

      When a player who has no proof of that strength comes along, they usually end up sounding like: “You have never heard of me because I’m not particularly known for anything. I don’t play online/My online results are not that great, but when I play with my friends in my area I usually win. Online, I can’t get the same read on my opponents that I get on my friends on real life.” Well, do you at least have your game records for your games? “No.” Then how do you know you are even doing well? “I think I am.” Okay, this doesn’t mean you are good; you are just better than the people you play with every day. Analyze the possibility that they are not even that good themselves. All you are doing with this is trying to convince other people of a strength that you have no way demosntrate. “Oh, I’m strong, believe me, I have nothing to back me up, but you should believe me! We can play a game; if I win against you, I’m obviously good!” How about we play a hundred? One game is a small sample. Anyone can play online and good players can leave a good result even in relatively few games, like 300; get one or get lost with stuff you cannot demonstrate. We don’t need to deposit our faith on someone’s promises of skill and their lukewarm opinion on a WWYD problem. If no one and nothing can give faith that you are a good player, then you probably are not; no matter how long you have been playing this game.

      Confronting them with this is usually a good idea if you want them to further credit or discredit themselves. But then you create a line of separation, between people’s whose opinions are more important, and people whose opinions are less important and speculatory.

      This, however, touches people’s egos many times, and they come up with the following nonsense:
      -“It’s just a matter of opinion/style/favoritism/mood/air pressure/weather/etc”
      -“There are no wrong answers.”
      -“I’ve been under a similar situation before, and doing what you said didn’t work well for me that time.”
      -“If we play your way, mahjong gets boring.”
      -“You can’t expect everyone to play like you.”

      If you used these very same sentences at any decent chess club, the members would most likely prefer you do not join their game analyses and discussions.

      For a PRODUCTIVE mahjong discussion to take place, there’s a need for collaboration from every different stratus. If you’re a weaker player, state your opinion in the form of an opinion and ask questions; if you are a stronger player, answer those questions in the form of statements; if you are yet an even stronger player than the last one, comment on his answers in the form of corrections. Beginners making over/under-statements about certain situations and talking back to more seasoned players defending their train of thought obstinately doesn’t help anyone who tries to read the discussion while trying to learn, because the discussion is suddenly not appreciated by the didactic content or the information within it, but it is appreciated by who is more persuasive.

      Good mahjong is not about persuasion; it’s supposed to be about results.

      Good players are rarely persuasive. People who tells others to aim for kokushi every time they’ve got 9 different tiles, or to choose the yaku of their hand based on their liking instead of the situation, people making ridiculous reads about discards in ways that are just the product of bad mahjong movies and manga of the last century to support a specific discard, giving you speculation, fantasy, teaching you about values like “responsibility over your discards” or “being honorable”, or modern Freud-type players who speak about “shocking your opponents” or the psychological details of such or such moves, pattern breakers who tell you to always “play out of the box, against the current, so you’ll get an edge”, these charlatans are a lot more persuasive than almost every single winning player. Because winning players are boring! They maximize average winnings overall, and always advise you to let most of the human factor go. They speak in a way that makes you think mahjong is supposed to be boring. In order to find strong players more amusing and more fascinating and entertaining than these other quacks and charlatans is if you love mahjong enough, if you really enjoy and love the game so deeply, that you want to sacrifice any feeling of happinness over winning in a certain way, to actually understand how the game works and playing your very best at all times and under any situation. When you love mahjong strategy, you investigate, you research and overall, you don’t go overboard unless you have something to back you up. I love this game, and I love people who research this game, I also love winners, and I respect anyone who can get to the highest dan rankings in tenhou. And that is why I also detest charlatans who contradict them with a very interesting or amusing opinion, but that we know is sub-optimal (because we have, you know, actually studied it!), but that draws fog over the hard facts about the elements that make a player a winning player. And that’s what some of us are trying to do: learn how to win more and lose less. Speculative opinions should wear a warning label.

    2. tl;dr your comment made my day because I feel the effort I put in this post and that I ask people to put into discussions is going the right way. Thanks so much for it!

  3. Glad to make you happy. You made my day, too. Most people don’t appreciate in-depth discussions of theory and strategy, and, while I’m pretty weak at that stuff, I really enjoy it. I don’t infer strategy very well, but I am teachable, so I’m always glad when people are sharing the good stuff.

    1. That’s the most effective shortcut towards getting stronger. 50% is playing a shitload of games, the other 50% is discussing the game with winning players. If you ever get just as good as them, you can take part in discussions with people who are even better.

      Be sure to post your questions or doubts in the Facebook group. There is the ocassional random comment, but we have some strong players around the group such as Puyo to give their best opinion on a matter.

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