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Alex Schroeder
Worked at BSI Business System Integration AG
Attended International School Bangkok
Lives in Zürich, Switzerland


Alex Schroeder

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This post is pinned to show at the top of my profile – it is the about me post. I'm on Google+ to talk about role-playing games, most of the time. I'm also interested in history, coding, and a few other things. I use collections to categorize my public posts and almost all of my posts are public.

My Blocking Strategy
I'll block people who circle me if nothing in their profile or posts tells me that we have stuff to talk about. This takes care of spam and I don't feel too much like I'm being watched by bots.
I'll block people who send me notifications of posts that annoy me. Almost all of them annoy me, but I'm more forgiving when these posts look like mistakes. Mistakes happen and the user interface isn't all that obvious.
I'll block people who's comments elsewhere I find offensive. I'm hoping that this doesn't create a political filter bubble—but if I'm creating a filter bubble of politeness and reasonableness, then I'm OK with it.
Everything else can be handled by uncircling.

My Blog
I also keep a blog/wiki: – that's where I post stuff that I expect to keep around for longer. Who knows how long Google+ will last. I don't cross-post a lot. I might often link to a post on my blog when commenting on somebody else's post, but I'll only link to my blog on my own posts when I think there's something worth discussing for a bigger audience. I know, many people have moved their online presence to G+ and don't keep blogs anymore. I guess I still like the idea of running my own site.
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philippe tromeur's profile photoAlex Schroeder's profile photo
+philippe tromeur The coast is beautiful in summer. My eyes did miss the mountains, though. :)
It was a beautiful week we spent there. Slept like young gods, ate wonderful French cuisine, walked long hours along the coast. 
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Yay, 4 month summer break!
Ian Borchardt (Reverance Pavane)'s profile photoMiles Bader's profile photoAlex Schroeder's profile photo
No, I've been working part time for many years. Every Friday off and 17 weeks of summer break is the equivalent of 6 weeks of paid holidays and a 60% job. 
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Alex Schroeder

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How to use Text Mapper with Dropbox:

1. Visit
2. Click the Random button
3. Click the Submit button
4. Use the Back button to make changes

When you're happy, save the text in a public Dropbox file.

Example from my campaign:

Visit the following link:

Change the URL at the end to the URL pointing to your public text file, of course. :)

Now you can edit the map in your Dropbox and anybody who has the link can look at your map.
Here's how to get started with a random map: Visit; Click the Random button; Click the Submit button; Use the Back button to make changes. (If you click the Random link then you won't be able to get back to the text that generated it all – you'll have to look ...
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Alex Schroeder

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Reading about the scope of this campaign is humbling. Amazing!

Starting in 1956 (noted above) up until 1971 we had played about 1400 games. Then in early April 1971, a cousin of one of my friends sent him a copy of the Fantasy section of Chainmail. We got hooked on it quickly and played it right up until the same cousin sent a copy of D&D in February 1974 and we immediately converted our Chainmail campaign over to OD&D.

Starting with Chainmail Fantasy and continuing with OD&D we played our 1000th games in January of 1982, our 2000th in December 1995 and our 3000th game in September 2008 and this past weekend April 4th and 5th we played our 3687th and 3688th games. Our current goal is to reach 4000 OD&D games and 400 years of game time.

We have played through about 371 years of game time in the main campaign and have four OD&D side campaigns in the same world.
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Yeah, I was feeling pretty inadequate until I realized that retirement might have that effect.
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Oh no! I've started playing Skyrim again. Oh yes! Oh yes!
Marc Schnau's profile photoAlex Schroeder's profile photoAlexander the Gamer's profile photoMiles Bader's profile photo
+Marc Schnau One reason people have given for getting the remaster even on PC (where it's gonna be free for existing owners) is that it will remove the need for a lot of visual mods (which can be some of the most demanding) and achieve similar results more efficiently and with fewer bugs.
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Alex Schroeder

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Wow, that was a good read. I'm all in favor of treating people like people, not like objects of hate, in favor of some humility, recognizing the achievements of others and the failings of oneself. And I have often scratched my head, wondering what the hell I just read in a thread on G+.
And the one time when I felt I had done a good thing and somebody else wrote a blog post calling it a dick move, it hurt. [1] And it kept on hurting because the written words did not disappear. The spoken word will disappear, but the blog post will stay. Somebody is forever insulting me. That's why I totally agree with people like Zak: there needs to be more accountability online. Posting online is not like talking to friends. Posting online is like writing for the press if more than a handful of people can read it. Accountability is key. Politeness is key.

Over the past few years, I've watched a particularly nasty strain of abuse against members of the OSR grow in our community, harassment and harm that both betrays our values and keeps us from doing the work we need to do to diversify our industry.

Today, I'm taking a stand against that kind of abuse in the hopes that we can do more to be our best selves. Please read when you get a chance and think through what you can do to help mend fences and build bridges in the pursuit of justice.
It’s 2002. My hair is purple. I’ve got a tongue ring. My band practices outside the dorms every night, lousy Pearl Jam covers echoing off nearby buildings. Each morning, I awake with just enough ti…
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As someone who was once the subject of this kind of unreasoning hatred from a well known member of the D&D community, dare I say a creator, and his friends, I can thoroughly say I agree with this. They weren't interested in truth, just in internet bullying and for a week I was the subject of their vitriol. For better or worse, I now view all of them, a group that included creators, writers, and podcasters, as some of the worst souls one could ever run afoul of. I was and am willing to talk civilly to them, but I doubt such would be a willingness that was returned. I don't mention their names here because it isn't germaine, other than as an example of the horrible attitudes that exist at the core of the community.
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Alex Schroeder

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I recently spent a few days in the canton of Wallis, in the south of Switzerland. In the local museum of Saas Fee I found the following map on the wall. Download a high resolution image from their site and marvel at the descriptions. In the north, towards Berne, it says: "BERNER GEBIET: Hier sind lauter Schnee und Eisberge." In the south west, it says: "SAVOYEN: Hier sind abscheuliche Eisberge Gletscher Glaciers Montes Glaciales genant."
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Wunderbar! A lot of space for some dangerous campains,
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In 2014 I wrote a German post about the responsibilities of a referee and today I translated it to English because I wanted to link to in a comment on a different thread.
Anyway, a long list of things that I find to be part of my responsibilities and which are only partially mitigated by switching to lighter rules. I think these responsibilities are inherent to all social endeavors.

(This is a repost of a post I wrote a few minutes ago, which I lost, and then when I managed to recover the text using a browser plugin – yay! – it turns out that G+ wouldn't display it and wouldn't allow me to edit the post to add it back… very confusing!)
This post is a translation of an old post I wrote back in 2014 about the responsibilities of a GM—or referee, as I like to call myself in English. As I translate from German to English, I'll note that sentences are longer and more convoluted than usual. Welcome to the German Way. :).
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Alex Schroeder

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My Face Generator still brings me joy every time I see it's crummy result. And since I'm using the faces for my character sheet generator, I get to see it often enough. Hehehe. Click the face below to see more.

Also, talk to me if you would like to add a series of your own faces. It isn't hard. Look at what some other people did:
Random Face. Reload the page to get a different face. Or take a look at the Gallery. Or switch type: dwarf elf man orc squid woman. Images by Alex Schroeder. For demonstration purposes, you can also use this link to a random face. You'll get a new random face every time you reload.
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Added to random campaign generator folder along side:
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Alex Schroeder

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A long and interesting discussion of Internet Relay Chat (IRC) and its descendants, including Google Wave.
Let's have a chat - a taxonomy and some context

(This is a text I wrote for work, but it contains nothing work specific and I might as well drop it here. Again, this is a raw brain dump and requires imagery, more contextualization and more examples to be really polished)

The first chat network I have been using was IRC - Internet Relay Chat. This has been in the late 80ies or early 90ies, so I now have had an interactive online presence on the upside of 25 years or so.

Later I got to use ICQ, Jabber, Skype, Google Hangouts, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Slack and RocketChat among many others. I also got exposed to a number of collaborative document processing systems with chatlike properties: the now defunct Google Wave (alias Apache Wave), and its heirs Google Documents and Google Spaces.

All these applications and chat systems are different, and can be ordered along a number of dimensions to understand and classify chat systems better.

Managing presence in adverse circumstances

In IRC, being offline means not being present: people fall off the channel and what is being said with them being not there is lost to them. That is of course a nuisance, and so people have been using programs such as screen to run an IRC client even when they have disconnected from their (Desktop-) computer.

That of course creates a secondary problem, because now it cannot be seen if somebody is actually present or not. IRC has a somewhat hidden mechanism for that - /away - which let's one set a message and a status. But not only is the mechanism hidden (it is another command that needs to be learned and used), but the status is somewhat hidden as well - you can't see if somebody is /away unless you look at them with a /whois or you learn about the fact that they are /away only after the fact, when you say something to them and get an autoresponse with they /away message.

Some people do not like this, and so they use another mechanism and change their nicknames when they are not there - "Isotopp" becomes "Isotopp|AFK" or similar. This is less structured than /away, and so some people suffix their names, some prefix them and others completely change their nicknames - "Isotopp" becomes "Awaytopp". It also messes with log files, because in one-on-one conversations logs are often named after the chat partner, and if the chat partner changes the nick, this breaks the logging.

Because of that, all chat programs that came after IRC do have structured presence indication for this purpose, often as a combination of predefined states (Greenish 'I am here', Reddish 'I am here, but busy', 'Yellowish I am not at my computer and my screensaver went on' and additional freetext messages that can be defined). Presence and/or presence colors are shown as part of a roster or friends-directory, often by superimposing a colored icon on top of the users avatar.

Messages that come in while no client is online are typically being saved (even Skype has eventually learned that), and often chat-to-mail bridges exist for longer term presence interruptions. That is, users get chat messages mentioning their name in a chat room and direct messages delivered in their mail inbox if they are long term offline.

Optimizing chat programs for mobile creates specific problems for presence: presence state needs to be held in a central location and periodically refreshed by the mobile client without being too imposing on the battery life and mobile data quota. Conversely, mentions need to be converted into push notification on the phone according to the preferences specified by the user. In modern Android this is being managed efficiently by the Google Play Services, and while it is possible to write mobile chat programs on Android that do not use Play Services, this creates an additional penalty in terms of power and data usage that is often unacceptable to users.

Most chat programs log, some do this in a particularly clever way - various instances of the Google Chat merge their chat logs in simulated mail messages in a special GMail chat folder. This makes Chats searchable just like mails and in the context of mail search. In a corporate context, this turns chat into a deliverable in a similar way as mails are a corporate deliverable.


In a corporate context, communication is used as a vehicle to create and document agreement and the process how it has been reached. Mails and mail quotes are doing this, and so does chat, if it is handled that way. That is what the various Google Chats and their archival in the Gmail chat folder do.

Google had taken this one step further with structured chat. The pioneer application for that has been the short lived Google Wave: Wave allowed a group of people to create things in a kind of chat bubble, only that this bubble could not just hold a line of text, but also other media including rich documents, images, bots or other things that interfaced with the Wave API. Other users could comment on an item in a hierarchic comments-on-comment tree like in a discussion system, or directly edit the original item, incorporating their changes. Changes were recorded and were undoable and replayable. This allowed users to view the end result of a wave, or review the process of building that result after the fact.

In a way, Wave could have been an answer to the hell of corporate email: Waves produce results, documents or agreements, record the history of how that result had been reached, and they allow people joining the process late to catch up and review what has happened before on their own terms - no more full quotes, 13 levels deep, and no more dozens of copies of the same Word file, all slightly different and with diverging side remarks from people somewhere in the organisation, which never made it back into the main document.

Wave failed, though, and for multiple reasons. One of the bigger reasons is that Wave was all mechanism and no purpose - it could to many things and offered all of them without stating what Wave itself or the various functions are there for. One could use Wave to manage a world building and game session in a role playing game as well as replace corporate email, or use it as a rather clunky and overengineered word processor. So Wave needed explaination and contextualisation, a purpose, but none was given. Wave died.

Wave's legacy lives on, though. Much of the functionality of Wave is present in Google Docs, including the side chat, collaborative editing, history recording and replay and many other functions. Another reprise of the same idea is the little known Google Spaces ('small scale sharing'), which also does structured collaboration in a chat-like context. Nobody uses Spaces, though, so it will soon die.

Another failure of Wave was the lack of a mobile interface - Google Wave lives on as Apache Wave, but is obsolete, because it can't do touch interfaces and small screens.

Anyway, we should keep the structured and collaborative thing in mind. It is a powerful thing which alone would be sufficient to completely legitimize chat in a corporate setting.

One identity, many clients: a common history

There is Jabber. Many people praise Jabber: open, XML based protocol, extensible, servers can be federated and operated in a decentral fashion, many clients exist, all of which can talk to each other using a common protocol.

Jabber is a complete failure from a 2016 perspective, though.

Basic Jabber is a simple protocol, not media rich. A ton of extensions exists, but no common profiles exist ('a baseline client must be able to handle plain text messages', 'a multimedia client most be able to handle inline images, inline animations and emoji', 'a voice/video enabled client must be able to handle incoming SIP calls/whatever'). Because no common profiles exist, various clients incorporate various extensions, some of which are interdependent - but without profiles, these interdependencies are not structured and lead to subtle incompatibilities. Interop bakeoffs between various client developers similar to the various bakeoffs of various vendors for networking equipment do not exist in a formal way, so often there is no compatibilty information or awareness, even at the Jabber chat client and server vendor level.

Even basic functionality is not available without extensions, and these extensions depend on client and server features. For example, a single user may be using multiple Jabber clients on multiple desktop and mobile devices. Having a single unified history across all devices was added as an afterthought to the Jabber protocol, and requires client and server support. Also, having such a unified history and having end-to-end encryption of the communication interact in a bad way so that you can have only one or the other - it's either a common cross-device-history or end-to-end encrypted communication.

Originally Jabber was a federated protocol: I could be using a client on one server, and you could be connecting your client to another server. I still could address you (or a chat room) on a remote server and my server would bridge a connection to the remote server and interface there for me. Unfortunately, such federation not only created server-server-interop problems (see above for the lack of bakeoffs), it has proven to be an invitation to SPAM as well. The reaction at larger server operators such as Facebook and Google was to limit or turn off federation - at Google, one-on-one Hangouts-to-Jabber federation is still possible, but advanced and group communication features are unavailable.

This not only solves the SPAM problem, but also removes a lot of interop problems with rich and structured chat functionality coming from client divergence.

Many-to-Many conversations: Groups versus Places

When talking not to a single person, but to multiple, two fundamental differently outlooks exist: Speaking to groups and speaking in places.

When speaking to a group, the chat initiator invites a number of people into a group conversation and all of the invited persons then can talk to each other - a message to the group will be visible to all members of the group. Groups can often be expanded by invitation, but they are usually not discoverable by third parties.

When a group exists and and is discoverable by third parties which then can try to join of their own volition we are typically using a place metaphor - the group becomes a chat room, channel or other spatial metaphor. The two main differentiators are discoverability and user-initiated join, though.

Rooms often can be persistent - they exist even when empty. They usually have access controls - the room exists and is discoverable, but permission or invitation is required to join. As a public space a room often has policing functions - moderators can silence members, or temporarily or permanently expel and ban them from a place.

In a corporate setting discoverability is crucial for cooperative work, and places are a mandatory concept. Chats that have only groups but no places are quite anti-communicative and toxic in a corporate environment.

Another discovery mechanism is the roster, a public and a private directory which allows discovery of participants, often with advertised metadata ('Isotopp, infrastructure person, photograph, databases') or other attributes that facilitates serendipity and directed search. A private roster can associate bookmarks, private notes and privileges with identities ('show presence to x', 'allow direct messages from y', 'allow file transfer from/from z').


IRC is more or less completely metadata free - messages are byte-strings, and contains not even a proper chatset label. These days, utf8 or utf8mb4 are often being used, but there is no way to indicate or require that.

Modern chat have the concept of multimedia in text messages: text with charsets and RTL options, inline images, inline animations, inline videos, URLs with inline preview, inline general file distribution. Helper functions exist that allow browsing of a chats media history: clients have tabs for an image gallery, an URL gallery and afile gallery.

Bots and API

An old, but recently hip concept: bots in places or in a direct conversation, can be invited or invoked, spoken to with formal commands or in natural language, trigger lookup, media injection or external functions.

What do we want from a chat

What we want from a chat varies wildly with the clientele, dependent on the level of reflection and experience with synchronous communication, cultural and work context and many other things.

Some cultures and age groups use inline media to nuance or qualify their written text: channels are rich with emoji, giphy and meme references or other imagery. Some work styles use chat as a file distribution mechanism.

Some work styles use structured chat to produce deliverables, such as collaborative document editing, review and criticism of media artifacts or other things that result in a group-created deliverable or input for such a deliverable.

Different use-profiles are a problem, because chat programs are communication tools and hence subject to Metcalfe's Law, so using a solution such as slack for one group and Jabber for another, larger groups creates media breaks and disrupts unified communication flows in an organisation. It can even split organisations or deform deployed technology (Conway's Law).
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Alex Schroeder

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Yesterday, an innkeeper asked all the player characters about their love life. It was an interesting moment at the table.
Yesterday I was running my game and we're once again going off into unprepared territory. We're approaching a small town called Corkbridge in the Outlands (Planescape), halfling apple farmers, the party is looking for a healer and so there's this hedge wizard halfling, they knock at her door, ...
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100% grade A, choice game moment!
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Alex's Collections
Emacs, Lisp, Perl, Wiki, D&D
Most of the time I'm using collections to categorize my public posts. I sometimes post to specific communities when the topic warrants it. If you haven't joined the same communities, you can check my profile to see those posts and the communities they went to. They're all public. That's how I hope to find new people: I often check the profiles of new people that comment on my posts.

As for role-playing games: I run two old school campaign using Labyrinth Lord. I'm also in a biweekly indie game group. All in all I've played various Fate variants, including mini campaigns using Diaspora, Burning Wheel and Mouse Guard, as well as various one-shots using Lady Blackbird, Mountain Witch, In A Wicked Age, Western City, Apocalypse World, Isotope and many more.

As for politics and religion, I don't post much. I think these topics are important and that we need to have a conversation about them if we're going to share this world, but I get most of that from newspapers. Thus, I might plus a lot of left-leaning posts, but I hardly ever post any. I do post links to political things I care about on Twitter (also in German), though. I usually uncircle people that post too much about their favorite religion, gun activism, hate speech (islamophobia, homophobia, transphobia, misogyny) and other things that make me sad, or people that post too much about the food they eat or the drinks they drink…
I live in Switzerland. I write code for a living (Java). I have a 60% job. I try to keep fit using Aikido, 10km running and some callisthenics. I have no faith and no kids.
Bragging rights
In Switzerland, bragging leads to loss of face.
  • International School Bangkok
  • Deutsche Schule Lissabon
  • Universität Zürich
  • Kantonsschule Baden
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Code monkey
  • BSI Business System Integration AG
Map of the places this user has livedMap of the places this user has livedMap of the places this user has lived
Zürich, Switzerland
Lisboa, Portugal - Bangkok, Thailand - Windhoek, Namibia
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