Information vs Disinformation

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Information vs Disinformation

Postby Lukan » 03 Dec 2018, 14:28

After playing diplomacy again after a long break, I have come to the conclusion that people are notoriously incapable of identifying disinformation. To be honest, I don't know if I will use this word correctly or if it even exists for that matter, so I will define the terms for online diplomacy specifically.

Information: The parts of messages that will increase your knowledge over the game state if you choose to think about them.
Disinformation: The parts of messages that will decrease your knowledge over the game state if you choose to think about them.

CHAPTER 1: Reading between the lines
Like I said, I am convinced people are incapable of seeing what is information and what is disinformation. They therefore take in disinformation as information, thus significantly decreasing their knowledge on the game state and decreasing their control on the game. Clever diplomats will always hide their disinformation as information, much like advertising companies would. You feel like you are being informed, but your knowledge about reality is actually vastly decreased in the process, making your mind very much focused on irrelevancies or flat-out lies that you base your next decisions on.

Let's look at a simplified opening message:
Hi there,
It's been a while since I played this game, looking so much forward to starting over again, learning the board and all the moves xD
Anyway, I feel the two of us should not fight at the start of the game. I will move north, away from your border, you go south?
Seems like an idea that would make us both very happy ;)

Now, I will mark information between () and disinformation between []

(Hi there,)
(It's been a while since I played this game, looking so much forward to starting over again, learning the board and all the moves xD
Anyway, I feel the two of us should not fight at the start of the game.) [I will move north, away from your border, you go south?]
(Seems like an idea that would make us both very happy ;))

Now, you might think a player saying he hasn't played in a while is relevant information. In reality, it absolutely isn't, because even inexperienced players or bad players can make good moves if somebody else writes them or if they somehow get lucky. It gives no information.
General statements like: ''we should keep peace'' are also disinformation, because they give no information about actual moves, these words purely make an emotional connection with you, as you feel somebody on this board will be trustworthy.
The only part that is actual information in this message is him saying his moves and, more importantly, him asking you for moves to match his.

The message actually would look like this:
Hi,
I suck at this game, I don't want to fight. I will move north, I want you to move south. I like you.

Now, you might say: somebody talking about moves could be lies, therefore it is disinformation.
I would disagree. Lies would be misinformation, but lies about moves would still increase your knowledge over the game state.
Disinformation decreases your knowledge on the game state. In my opinion, anything that is said about moves being made is by definition information.
We are playing a board game, the only actual information is what moves are you making, lie or truth, that is information.

Saying you like somebody, you suck at the game, you are insecure, etc. etc. is all disinformation, because it is not connected to what is actually happening on the board in the next phase.

CHAPTER 2: dealing with (emotional) disinformation
A good diplomat will give you disinformation and gain information of his own. Since you feel you are being informed, you will share actual moves with the other player just on his general statements about not attacking you. This in itself isn't necessarily a bad thing. Giving information to your enemy can also influence them to move away from you completely, since they know you are not a threat.
However, where it gets interesting is good diplomats will make you share information that regards you stabbing them, still trading that with disinformation.

For example, they might write a very emotional message when you move in a different way than you told him:
(Hi my friend,)
(I noticed you did not move the way you said you would, which makes me a little bit worried. I feel we had a great alliance going on here and I would really like to continue this way.) [Can we agree you move your two armies back west again?]

Only the last couple of words say anything about your moves, all the rest is just banter. It doesn't mean anything, or at least; it shouldn't mean anything to you. I would always say keep your eyes on the board. The only information you are gaining is that he wants you to move your armies back, he isn't telling you anything that helps you whatsoever. The words that say he like the alliance are absolute disinformation, because they aim at influencing your decision on feelings that move outside of the board.
Keep in mind: a clever diplomat does not like you, he does not think it is fun to play with you. In the context of the game emotions are mostly irrelevant to the harshest of players. They use emotional connections to help guide your moves in a way that suits him, but when it is time for them to stab you, they will do so without any hesitation, because that is the only way to win this board game: you take centers. You don't win this game by just liking somebody.

CHAPTER 3: Inception
Once clever diplomats have established an emotional bond with you, which, mind you, is one-sided, since they are not emotionally connected to you as you are to them, they will make you move in a way that they want to. You might think your moves are your idea, when in reality, your moves will always come from them.
Every once in a while, you should step back from the board and look at the moves you are about to make. What does it gain you, what does it gain your ally?
You'll find you are not questioning yourself nearly enough, because of the previously established emotional connection the other player managed to forge with you. But emotion is disinformation in diplomacy. The only thing that should realistically influence your moves are the other players' moves, not whether they tell you they love you.
Too often people get stuck in a situation, because they are moving in one way all game long. This one way they have been moving is mostly influenced by the person who established an emotional connected with them first or best.
Be very aware of why your moves are making you happy. It is usually because the other player makes you feel smart in the game, which is a good feeling to have. Keep in mind, in every alliance one person is smarter than the other. And if you either can't or won't identify who is the smarter player of the two, that makes you the dumb one.

All this said though, this is written from my philosophy that the best of players use emotions in a way that absolutely should not work if people would look at the board every once in a while, in stead of just acting with their emotions.

Much love,
Lukan
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Re: Information vs Disinformation

Postby Strategus » 03 Dec 2018, 15:02

This is interesting, and pretty much correct. One point I would mak is that there is an assumption here that all players play the game for the same reason. I have one opinion on this. But there are players out there who seem to use the game as a social event. The entertainment factor takes over from logic. Huge PP content. Also players who play not to lose, as opposed to trying to win. People who think a draw is a win. Etc.
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Re: Information vs Disinformation

Postby Jack007 » 03 Dec 2018, 15:32

Lukan wrote:...
Now, I will mark information between () and disinformation between []
...


Can it be that this should be the opposite way round?
Otherwise good article, thanks.
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Re: Information vs Disinformation

Postby jay65536 » 03 Dec 2018, 17:39

The concluding statement depends on your definition of "best".

It takes a completely different set of skills to do well against players who don't fall for this stuff, than it does to do well against players who do.
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Re: Information vs Disinformation

Postby Lukan » 03 Dec 2018, 20:38

You are very right, jay. That is a good point.

I think my experience with this site has always been that people seem to believe in a shared victory and other players taking advantage of that to solo, so I think I have written it with that in mind.
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Re: Information vs Disinformation

Postby jay65536 » 03 Dec 2018, 21:06

Lukan wrote:You are very right, jay. That is a good point.

I think my experience with this site has always been that people seem to believe in a shared victory and other players taking advantage of that to solo, so I think I have written it with that in mind.


Yes, and I think this is fairly accurate. One other thing I've noticed is some players complaining about "personality politics", so I'm in agreement with the general observation.

If you define "best" using the ratings on this site, then I think your point is sound.
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Re: Information vs Disinformation

Postby jay65536 » 03 Dec 2018, 21:56

Sorry for the double post, but I did notice one thing in your OP to make me think that (at least) one of your examples doesn't quite fall under your definition of "disinformation".

Lukan wrote:Let's look at a simplified opening message:
Hi there,
It's been a while since I played this game, looking so much forward to starting over again, learning the board and all the moves xD
Anyway, I feel the two of us should not fight at the start of the game. I will move north, away from your border, you go south?
Seems like an idea that would make us both very happy ;)

Now, I will mark information between () and disinformation between []

(Hi there,)
(It's been a while since I played this game, looking so much forward to starting over again, learning the board and all the moves xD
Anyway, I feel the two of us should not fight at the start of the game.) [I will move north, away from your border, you go south?]
(Seems like an idea that would make us both very happy ;))

Now, you might think a player saying he hasn't played in a while is relevant information. In reality, it absolutely isn't, because even inexperienced players or bad players can make good moves if somebody else writes them or if they somehow get lucky. It gives no information.


I would disagree with this. Knowing details like these is something that can in fact increase knowledge of the game state.

When a player claims to be inexperienced, either the player is lying or telling the truth.

What if it's a lie? Well, if I conclude that it is a lie, then I can also conclude that most likely the purpose of the lie is to make me underestimate them. Knowing that this is how the player thinks might allow me to process future communications from that player better and/or figure out when they're lying in a spot that makes more of a difference.

What if it's the truth? Well, if it's the truth, then knowing that may mean that my avenues for negotiation are limited. As just one example, if I have an idea for a play that I'm worried a beginner might not understand, then I have to ask myself if proposing it might accidentally erode that player's trust in me. And maybe I propose a different idea instead.

Also, even in your own analysis you point out that inexperienced/bad players can make good moves if "somebody else writes them". Well, if I see someone making moves that appear to be above the level that that player claims they are, then I can usually conclude that they are either lying about their skill level or someone else is feeding them moves. Either of these things can improve my knowledge of the game state.

While I still agree with your larger point about people getting too hung up on disinformation, I think "information" encompasses more than you might think.
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Re: Information vs Disinformation

Postby Zosimus » 03 Dec 2018, 23:55

Let's just start with a dictionary definition: disinformation "false information which is intended to mislead, especially propaganda issued by a government organization to a rival power or the media."

So information about moves could be information or disinformation. Similarly, other things that people say could be information or disinformation. For example, why don't you pick out what you think is the information and disinformation in the following message:

Hi, Russia.

I hate playing Austria. I've never really had much success with the country other than reaching uninspiring draws. The problem seems to be that it's hard to get an alliance going. Now, I'd like to trust you, but I suppose that I can't so maybe we should go for a bounce in Galicia. That doesn't mean I don't want to work with you — I definitely do. Pairing up with Italy is too problematic because it's far too easy for him to put a knife in my back while I think we're going after Turkey. I could pair up with Turkey too, but once Turkey gets going I'll never be able to take him out. I need someone with fleets, and you have one sitting conveniently in Sevastopol. So if you're interested, maybe we could agree to a bounce in Galicia, you could also bounce with Turkey in Sevastopol and then take Rumania with a fleet in the fall. From there, it should be pretty simple for you to build another fleet and we can take Turkey apart. From there, we could work together. It's pretty straight forward for Russia and Austria to get a two-way draw. In fact, my last game ended in a two-way draw and it was a good point pick-up for me.

I hope you'll give it some thought.

P.S. Italy proposed a central triple alliance, and Germany seemed somewhat interested in the idea. I'm all for encouraging Italy to look west to France as far as that goes. If we try to split Turkey three ways, there won't be enough to go around.
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Re: Information vs Disinformation

Postby condude1 » 04 Dec 2018, 00:47

One message in and of itself is hard to read. I get my tells on people from consistency of messaging and leaks from other powers. One of my favourite things to do is set up an information sharing pact with someone on the other side of the globe. That way I get a relatively independent confirmation of information. In addition, if someone's putting in the effort to send me 20-25+ messages in Spring '01, they're, on balance and probability, not going to stab me. You don't put that much effort into a one season deception unless you're a really strong player. Plus, knowing whether you've made a faux pas that could make them stab you is another factor.

Everything's contextual, and any given message is nearly useless without a lot of other information.
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Re: Information vs Disinformation

Postby Lukan » 04 Dec 2018, 10:41

@jay
So, I'll explain the reason for my very narrow definition of information.
Basically, if somebody says he is inexperienced he tells you his moves will be mediocre, dumb, bad, etc. etc.

I personally would not want to base my decision on that, because I am confident that I can outplay any moveset and that I can predict the general direction of his pieces no matter what. So I don't care if he will make me believe his moves will be perfect or worthless, I am confident I can outplay them.

However, there is one aspect I completely left out of my argumentation and that would be inexperienced players being completely unpredictable. My post is written with the assumption that every player on the board would at least make logical moves.

@Zosimus
Let's take a look, I'll use the same brackets (disinformation) [information]

Hi, Russia.

(I hate playing Austria. I've never really had much success with the country other than reaching uninspiring draws. The problem seems to be that it's hard to get an alliance going. Now, I'd like to trust you, but I suppose that I can't so maybe we should go for a) [bounce in Galicia.] (That doesn't mean I don't want to work with you — I definitely do. Pairing up with Italy is too problematic because it's far too easy for him to put a knife in my back while I think we're going after Turkey. I could pair up with Turkey too, but once Turkey gets going I'll never be able to take him out. I need someone with fleets, and you have one sitting conveniently in Sevastopol. So if you're interested, maybe we could agree to a) [bounce in Galicia,] (you could also bounce with Turkey in Sevastopol and then) [take Rumania with a fleet in the fall.] (From there, it should be pretty simple for you to) [build another fleet] (and we can take Turkey apart. From there, we could work together. It's pretty straight forward for Russia and Austria to get a two-way draw. In fact, my last game ended in a two-way draw and it was a good point pick-up for me.)

(I hope you'll give it some thought.)

(P.S. Italy proposed a central triple alliance, and Germany seemed somewhat interested in the idea. I'm all for encouraging Italy to look west to France as far as that goes. If we try to split Turkey three ways, there won't be enough to go around.)

For me, in this message Austria asks Russia for specific orders 3 seperate times. A bounce in Galicia, a fleet in Rumania and building a second fleet. To me, that is what you can base your next moveset on. All the rest is pretty pointless, Austria trying to make you feel sorry for him, whilst threatening with a central alliance. Who cares? I am not going to base my next orders on vague ideas of others maybe working together in the first turn.
But what I can do is follow up on a very simple question: bounce in Galicia. That is the only info I need. From there I can decide to take Rumania with a fleet, which would make Austria trust me a bit more and encourage him to do moves I tell him to do.
But broad statements like ''taking down Turkey'' and the dreaded ''two-way draw'' which worked out well for him is completely useless information for my moves and only aimed at making an emotional connection with me that has no reason to exist.

That is the way I read the message anyway.
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