Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Living at the Threshold

Matticus recently writes about the internal threshold of performance that each of us has, below which you push to improve, and above which, you've got little motivation to change things. Good enough, satisficing, perfection vs slacking, Pareto Principle, 80/20 rule, diminishing returns, whatever you choose to call it.

We all have an internal feeling for that threshold. It drives us when we're below the limit, it often leaves us feeling "why bother?" when we're above the line. And its unique for each of us.

There's three concepts intermingled in the original WoM post...

1) Human Performance

The post opens with human performance (dying on frogger, eating a flame wall, clearing the ledge), if Matticus is indeed human, which is the topic of endless debate on our Guild forum :-P

Each person is in control of his/her own performance. We all mess up sometime, the value is in how you recover and what you learn from mistakes. Are you interested in reliably surviving frogger? Then you can examine why you died and make changes. Did that fire wall taste good? No? Then you can try to review things like your positioning before the wall appeared (were you too far away from a safe spot? where would be better to stand next time?), or what distraction caused you to not react fast enough (was somebody babbling on vent, was House jibbering and jabbering about Lupus, or was your focus too narrow on your healing assignment at the sacrifice of situational awareness and personal survivability).

Although the specific threshold of performance is unique to each individual player, people tend to be highly critical of their own performance. I'd wager that most WoW blog readers/writers have a high threshold that they want to keep their performance above. Sure, some of us are in the blog world for pure entertainment purposes, but when it comes down to it, we're also looking for things that can improve our own performance.

Readers of my blog know I obsess on this aspect of the game. The experience of improving my own personal performance alongside my teammates who are doing the same thing is what keeps me playing WoW.

2) Toon Performance

The original post then moves to toon performance. Professions to eek out more heals, running a heroic every day until you win that one perfect trinket just incase you ever find yourself grossly under the hit cap, maintaining multiple sets of gear perfectly tailored for certain situations, and so on with the toon enhancers.

I think that we all vary greatly in our threshold for this aspect of the game. Personally, I'll grind the hell out of just about anything Blizzard can throw at us to get a gear item or a shoulder inscription (curse you, spear thrusting quest), but as long as I'm having fun with my profs, I have no intention of dropping herb/mining for a DPS enhancing profession, even if that means I'm leaving 20 or 30 DPS on the table. I tried the min/maxing LW drummer boy routine back in TBC, and learned that for me its just not worth it.

This will vary much more from player to player than our threshold for our own personal performances, and will even change over time as our mood or gear situation changes.

If I look back through my performance improvement plans at the beginning of WotLK raiding, it started out almost exclusively focused on gear items and enhancements, and then as I reached my internal level of satisfaction with my gear, my thoughts migrated deeper into the softer side of personal skill improvement.

3) Dim Sum

The article then moves on to food. Delicious food.

I discovered my love for dim sum on a business trip to Vancover. When I'm in town, my work team knows its all serious during the work hours, but once we leave the building, its all dumplings, all the time.

Inspired by my chopstick agility, the natives (well, technically Hong Kong natives, so I suppose Vanc "locals"?) started ordering some things that were clearly out of Fear Factor like duck tongues and chicken's feet. Once you get past the cultural gag-factor, both were outstanding, although I'd rather stick to the basics that Matticus will be forced to buy me next time I'm out that way and I stalk him down. Cue scary-laughter-and-eerie-staring-eyes.

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