[r-t] Philip's new Decisions, including Wiki page

Don Morrison dfm at ringing.org
Tue Aug 5 04:44:30 UTC 2008

On Sun, Aug 3, 2008 at 10:29 PM,  <ted.steele at tesco.net> wrote:
> What we see is a wonderful demonstration of the difficulty
> of writing a set of rules to cover a variety of complex
> inter-related issues with numerous special cases in a way that will
> be at once acceptable and understandable to everyone while avoiding
> ambiguity and omission. It simply cannot be done simply!

I think your pessimistic extrapolation is not at all justified.

Creating standards and protocols is not trivial, and requires a
certain amount of iteration and communication between people. The
conversation that is going on right now is modest compared to, say,
discussions of even small technical standards. Many of us are very
close to one another on the basic ideas, and we're just working to
converge on the details.

It is worth noting that we have put very little work into this. We
have so far put in only a fraction of the effort that goes into, say,
composing a peal of spliced surprise major. If it looks like more, it
is only because this is a collaborative effort involving multiple
people, and composing a peal is normally a solitary effort. With a
collaborative effort there is necessarily a lot of communication, that
in a solitary effort is contained within one head. Perhaps that makes
it look like this is harder than it really is.

The issues discussed so far have largely, I think, been

1) Points that are probably mostly a reflection of this being an early
   draft that I think Philip put together quickly.

2) Or points all revolving around one, really quite small point. And
   one which I believe is simply a case of Philip falling into the
   same trap that the current Keepers of the Rules They Try to Make Us
   Ring By fall into, which is becoming attached to a formalism that
   met some of the needs they've seen, and having difficulty
   relinquishing it when folks discuss ringing things that formalism
   doesn't describe well. Philip and others likely disagree with my
   diagnosis. But whatever you think is the root cause of this part of
   the discussion, the volume of mail about Philip's idea of extending
   place notation to cover covering bells does not reflect the
   importance or difficulty of this--this is not the root of what's
   under discussion, it's a side detail, and not something to become
   despondent over.

It is also worth noting that we are most assuredly not trying to write
"a set of rules to cover a variety of complex inter-related issues
with numerous special cases". That is an accurate description of what
we're trying to replace. Our goal is to avoid special cases, by
avoiding rules of what is allowed to be rung. Since we don't want to
restrict what people are allowed to ring, we should be able to make
our descriptive apparatus sufficiently broad that there will be no
need for complex special cases.

I do think your pessimism is misplaced. I see no evidence yet that
Philip's basic goal of a smaller, simpler, less prescriptive
description of what change ringers do cannot be met easily and
quickly. Where "easily and quickly" in this sort of endeavor means
"with a few months effort of people actively discussing it in their
spare time."

Whether others can be convinced to support the result of such an
effort is, of course, a different matter. I hope many can be so
persuaded, but we really won't know until we get there.

Don Morrison <dfm at ringing.org>
"What is essential to human life and to its continuance remains a
love of nature and enthusiasm for justice, a readiness of good
humor, a spontaneous susceptibility to beauty and joy, an interest
in our past, a hope for our future, and, above all, a desire that
others should have the opportunity and encouragement to share these
qualities."                 -- Timothy Steel, _Missing Measures_

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