Stop The Notation Madness

    Keywords: SL description


(Note: this is not meant to be taken too seriously. But not too non-seriously, either.)

I finally had it with arbitrary, non-standard notations. I'm really taking out my frustration with computer language designers who pay zero attention to what other people have done before them, slavishly copy bad notations, or both, but hey, I'm only human.

UnusualEnclosures uses ABCD with A and C being the X axis, and B and D being negative Y axis (the origin is the UL; you could say J coordinate). Hikaru no Go, that reference standard of go, does the same, but does it BADC, or perhaps DCBA. cgoban does it with the X axis being a modified (MODIFIED!) western (nan desu ka! ayah!) alphabet for the X axis only and the Y axis being positive. SGF seems to do it column first, unmodified western alphabet for both axes, with negative Y. Outside of go: Basis vectors are 1-based, row first with Y negative. Cartesian graphs are 0-based and Y positive. Some computer languages are 0-based and others are 1-based.

I humbly propose that we StopTheNotationMadness. (As if.)

There were comments:

Charles Perhaps by chance my convention is the same as SGF uses.
Bill: Not to mention Smalltalk. ;-) Dieter: Oh, please, mention it !

Of course, UnusualEnclosures is innocent. It's the principle of the thing. Forest, not trees.

Here is where I get to give my opinion. Why? 'Cause. 'Cause why? Just 'cause. Naturally, you may mentally prefix IMHO and affix :-) to each if it helps satisfy atavistic WhoDiedAndMadeHimAlphaMale (ahem, evpsych) feelings, or you may prefix "It is a well-known fact that" and affix ! if you agree with me. Or both, if you are conflicted. It's OK, we're all conflicted at times.

  1. . If there is a perfectly good Schelling point, i.e. a standard, use it!
  2. . It is worth making an effort to find out if the above applies before undertaking creating a new notation.
  3. . Take a look at the above again.
  4. . There are some reasonable standards already.
  5. . There had better be, since we seem to have exhausted a good chunk of the possibilities what with all the notations in go, computer science, math, tic-tac-toe, and Battleship.
  6. . Alphabet shmalphabet! Use numbers!
  7. . And anyway, f you go around elmnatng letters, you wll defntely confuse the bananas out of people, computers, and those alens out there who we all know play go because go s so cool.
  8. . Cartesian graphs have up meaning more, which is nice. Then again, they are inconsistent with the Japanese system. Insert go proverb paradox here, preferably in senryu form.
  9. . (Just in case somebody decides to count from 0.) How many fingers do most people have? 10? Do you count them from 0 to 9? No! How many lines do most gobans have? 19? 1-19! Where's the first line? On the first line!
  10. . Why? 'Cause. 'Cause why? Just 'cause. Yes, it is a just cause. If only there were an obvious good standard instead of several candidates that are better than others.

So there!

Dieter: There have been other requests to make things easier for the world around us and more specifically SL. One of those requests is to refrain from imaginative phrasing and excessive use of slang and three letter acronyms, so that non native speakers are able to follow. Your page is unlikely to attract much comment because, hell, I think I get half of it.

evpsych: Sigh. You're right, of course, and quite diplomatic indeed if you only got half of it. I'm glad I didn't use any three letter acronyms. I don't have the energy to rewrite the above now. Maybe later. In the meantime, it's a rant, and rants enjoy a long tradition of being incoherent to their readers. Just kidding. The executive summary is "if there is a good existing notation, let's use it!". (And of course I want to stress again that I am not picking on whoever the author of the page was, because it wasn't his fault, just a bunch of notations that crept up.)

Concerning your complaint, Go people around the world have been calling the four komoku "3-4 point". So calling an ensuing shimari a 3453 enclosure makes perfect sense. I guess you'll have to live with that.

evpsych: Double sigh. I should have mentioned that. Yes, there are even more notations. Some of these notations do make perfect sense. If 3453 is a strong worldwide tradition then we will have to live with it. If it's a brand new SL thing maybe it can be changed -- or maybe there are good reasons to keep it. But let's think about it if it isn't a standard already. Thanks for your comments. (Which came as I was preparing the original.)

Bill: Aside: 3453 is not a tradition. The Japanese use names.

Confused: evpsych, I fail to see what you're complaining about. It seems, that the used coordiante system is perfectly consistent and logical. As with all coordiantes systems, they're all relative to the base. Once the base is clear, the rest follows.

evpsych: It is logical and self-consistent, but not consistent with the Japanese coordinates (unless Hikaru is wrong) or other notations. Again, I missed mentioning the reasons for the enclosure notation. (See above.) It _could_ be done relative to UL corner as a canonicalization. I'm not saying that is necessarily better, just pointing out that it could be that way. If the notation has good reasons to retain it, then it need not use fixed coordinates.

evpsych: Note that I do NOT have a problem with the corner enclosure notation per se. Please do not miss this point. I have a problem with many inconsistent standards. It is the principle, not the specific notation. There is a big difference.

The numbering adopted for corner patterns follows a few easy rules:

  • As a name, the first few stones to uniquely identifiying the pattern are used.
  • All numbers are relative to the closest corner, which is used as the origin 1 1. This is imposed by the common understanding in Go, where the 3rd and 4th line should be. (cf San San).
  • The first coordinate is always the line on the side closest to the border of the first stone not on the diagonal. Usually this is the first stone, but in symetric patterns this could be the second or third one.
  • If two stones are interchangeable, the first stone is the stone closest to the corner.
  • Once the base is defined, all other coordinates are realtive to it.

In all this, you have no absolute X, Y, J or other axes, because the patterns are supposed to work in all corners by rotating or mirroring them as necessary.

So where's the problem?

evpsych: If I understand your explanation correctly, it is logical for corner enclosures, although arguments could be made for alternates, such as canonicalizing one particular corner. I like your approach. But that's not the problem. It's a matter of consistency with other standards. Maybe this one is so logical and so useful because of the desire to have no fixed coordinates that we do not need to use a fixed coordinate standard.

If so, especially if it is standard to do it that way, then my rant is to be understood as not applying to corner enclosures but to fixed coordinates, which have inconsistent standards, and the corner enclosure notation was merely a launching point for that. We still have inconsistent standards even if the corner enclosure notation is a good standard worth maintaining.

If so, the corner enclosure page should probably explain the rationale so that somebody else doesn't go off on a rant also (OK, maybe it's just me having dealt with too many bogus computer notations :-)). Your explanation would work fine. Thanks for your comments. (Which came in the middle of my finishing editing the original.)

But if not so, it's yet another standard.

Jan: While I find the 3453Enclosure notation easy enough what <rant> really bugs me is the SGF convention of starting at the top. Increasing the X coordinate should move you to the right (it does) and increasing the Y coordinate should move you upward (it doesn't!). But that's what you get for having some computer scientist move the origin of the screen to the top left instead of bottom left.

The 'polite' first hoshi should be at 16-16 (or maybe q16) but not at pd (Aaargh, that d!!). Somehow, in my Go programs I always end up reversing the board twice :-) </rant>

John Fairbairn Standards good, rules good, rants OK if therapeutic. But a plea not to make logic the sole criterion. There are other people in the go world apart from computer buffs and mathematicians. There are other useful criteria, such as user friendliness, convenience, aesthetics, tradition...

As to the 3453 stuff, I find it totally incomprehensible and visually offputting enough not even to try to make an effort to understand it. Could the same idea not be made more appealing by using letters instead of numbers? The initial letters of the Japanese names that everyone seems to use are distinctive. So 3-4 can be referred to as K(omoku), 3-3 as S(an-san), etc. including H(oshi), T(engen), F(ive-five). I'm not saying it's ideal but, rather than 3453, KM (or K-M) looks friendlier and seems more intuitive and more quickly assimilable, and is shorter and is linked with tradition and is (effectively) language independent... My turn for a rant.

  • uxs: What does the M stand for ? In other words, I think this is a bad idea. Requiring people to study arcane names for specific points on the board isn't really what I'd call making the game more accessible. That said, I'm going to do just that.

Bill: The M stands for mokuhazushi. OC, there's the question of which mokuhazushi, the 5-3 or the 3-5. Those in the know know, but it's still ambiguous. Small knight's enclosure or small knight's approach both seem better to me. And better than numerical coordinates.

Jan: I don't agree. The less you depend on context, the better. Does K stand for a ogeima Kakari or a Kogeima kakari? Surely the former is used more often in an H-context... As a benefit of the 3453 (actually - that should be the 3 4 - 5 3) notation I see that it leaves the row/column question unspecified enough to let the column/row question BE underspecified - as it should be! It's easier on the beginning Go players to state 'rows and columns are indicated by numbers, and are used interchangeably' than to have them memorize "A is for atari, one liberty left, B is for boshi, you can't go ahead, C is for cutting, your group's split in two, D is for deiri, double the count, 'cause that's what Bill'd do..." IMVHO Go already uses way too much terms derived from Japanese, to the detriment of weaker players.

Charles I used letter notations at side patterns, just as John suggests; the number notations at unusual enclosures are natural enough with so many types to keep track of, but I'd agree with anyone who said they were less suitable than the common names for everyday use. Both of those systems, I might add, were evolved for my own use, long before I got a broadband connection and put my life in hock to SL. Yet more about notations is at Whither joseki ..., by the way. No conclusion was ever reached about systematic joseki notation. What I thought after that was that notations were going to follow whoever was interested enough to post material. (Read opening systematic classification - you ain't seen nothing yet.)

Kochi: How about just pictures? That's what we're really talking about anyway. Instead of a link to 3453 or whatever, how about an inline image of a corner with those stones that's a link? It's better than trying to put go into language. It wouldn't take any more work for the writer, either - any link to say keima could be replaced with an image of a keima above the word. Doing this for the top 9 corner enclosures, keima, oogeima, snapback etc would make this site much more readable.

netrin Kochi, that's brilliant. As a semi-newb go player and uber-newb SL user, picture links would be wonderfully useful. As it is, I find myself pleasantly lost in serendipitous term search tangents. How did I get to this page, I wonder?

tapir: While we still need page names, Sensei's Library has now (2011, but since some time) both links from diagrams and picture links.

Stop The Notation Madness last edited by tapir on July 30, 2015 - 11:21
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