Judges, ever have a rules question that you couldn’t get your head around? One way to help is the Rules Question & Answers Forum on JudgeApps. This week, we’re talking with Callum Milne, who is the NetRep for that forum. (He’s also a previous honoree with Judge of the Week!)
Tell us about your project.
The NetRep system isn’t actually a judge project; it’s a program run by the Magic Rules Manager (currently Matt Tabak) in order to spread official rules information as needed, and not everyone involved with it is a judge.
What is your role within the project?
As the NetRep for the JudgeApps forum, it’s my job to provide accurate answers for judges in need of them and disseminate any important rules information that needs spreading. Since JudgeApps has such a wide reach among judges, this tends to translate to rules education on a grand scale; when I give an answer, I have to consider not just the one judge who asked the question, but the broader audience of all the other judges the exchange is being sent to, as well.
Why did you decide to join the NetReps project?
I already had a long history of answering questions and diving into rules theory on other forums, most recently as an author for Cranial Insertion, so when my NetRep predecessor, Daniel Kitachewsky, started looking for a replacement, I saw it as a simple extension of what I was already doing and volunteered, officially taking over in September 2014.
If you could change one thing about the project, what would it be?
I should really post the Release Notes for each set, or at least a link to them, when they go up. I’m going to start doing that.
How has this project helped your judging?
I’ve always seen rules discussion as an educational tool, and it is, but this project has given me a much better understanding of where to stop. After a certain point, knowledge of the rules generally comes with diminishing returns–the more details you learn, the less and less what you learn has any significant practical application. Ultimately, there comes a point where “knowledge” leaves off and “trivia” begins, and trivia isn’t something most people should concern themselves with.
Have you met other judges in your project in real life? What was that meeting like?
I’ve met and worked with several of them at GPs several times over the course of my judging career, but that started happening well before I became a NetRep myself. The first was Nathan Long, who I already knew as NateDogg through the Wizards boards. Meeting people you know primarily through online screen names in real life is always kind of weird–I usually have to fight the urge to keep calling them by their screen names–but Nathan was easy, since I could just call him “Nate”.
What do you like best about the project?
I have a lot of appreciation for well-structured rules systems, and I really enjoy helping teach others about them. Not only does it improve my own understanding and ability to articulate my knowledge, but hopefully it helps others get a glimpse of the beauty and elegance that I see when I look at the rules.
What do you want people to know about this project, and what’s important for other judges, in your opinion?
JudgeApps Rules Q&A is a useful source of answers for rules questions, but it’s far from the only one available, and the fact that everything posted to it gets sent out to a ton of other judges means it has some pretty severe limitations. It’s sometimes not the best place to go, especially if you’re going to want a speedy response, followup discussion, or further clarification.
Before posting in the RQ&A board, ask yourself if your question and its answer, or at least the underlying principles behind it, is something that would realistically be useful or important for other judges to know when judging actual tournaments. If it’s not, it might be better to take it to a channel that doesn’t effectively shout everything you say into a megaphone, such as the #mtgrules channel on IRC or the Rules Q&A board of one of the major Magic websites.
What is your process for coming up with an answer for the questions posed on JudgeApps?
Usually, I know the answer offhand and can answer directly, although sometimes after a quick sanity check with Nathan or whichever other rules guru happens to be available. In trickier cases, I’ll thoroughly research, double-check, and confirm my answers first. On very rare occasions, a question won’t have an answer in the current rules, or some other problem will arise–in such cases the question is sent up to Matt Tabak, who will issue a ruling covering the situation, which I’ll then pass back.
What are some of the most memorable questions you have had to answer?
The recent question about Theros Gods and devotion in mid-combat was definitely memorable, mostly because of its origin. I was asked the original question by some local players who had it come up in an actual tournament game. The answer was interesting enough that I added it to my next Cranial Insertion article, where it was then picked up, modified, and re-asked for me to re-answer again in JudgeApps Rules Q&A.
How many other people are involved in your project? What sorts of things do they do?
I’m…honestly not sure. I’ve never seen an official or up-to-date list of NetReps, let alone a list of the people who are involved in some capacity without being NetReps themselves.
How much time do you spend on your project on a given week?
It depends entirely on how many questions are asked and what those questions are. Some questions are very simple and can be answered in a line or two, but whenever possible I want to provide answers that explain the underlying concepts at work and hopefully help readers answer similar questions on their own in future. Writing those kinds of answers can take much longer, and that’s without considering any time spent sending emails back and forth or discussing questions on IRC.
Thank you very much for your contributions to the judge program Callum!
Judges! We would love to hear more about some awesome stories and awesome judges! If you believe one of your local colleagues is doing Exemplar-y work, this might be your chance to make them an upcoming Judge of the Week, so nominate a Judge TODAY!