Now 90% of the data that comes in is semi-structured, which means that it's harder for us to plug it in to our software. Why is that?
Because computers only know how to work with structured data, while people can just as easily work with semi-structured data. Not only that, but keeping your data fully structured takes a good deal of effort, so most people don't take the trouble until they are forced to.
RPG Management Software
So what does this have to do with Roleplaying Games? Because there are all these Virtual Tabletop and Campaign Manager computer programs out there. They can help you manage your game, but on the other hand, they often force you to move your game material from semi-structured to structured. When they do that, they are incurring a cost on you in order to get the benefit the software provides. And sometimes the cost exceeds the benefit.
Just look at your character sheet. In most cases, you don't even need a printed character sheet. You can just write down your character on a cocktail napkin and play just fine. But then, when you need to put your character into the Virtual Tabletop, suddenly it complains that you didn't fill in your saving throws or some other field. Or you are playing a homebrew class that isn't supported. Or you have an item that doesn't appear in the master list of items.
I'm not saying that you can't write the software in a way to allow semi-structured data. But it's not the most natural choice and anyway many of the features you will want to implement may require you to impose structure.
So, next time you're writing or considering using RPG software, keep this trade-off in mind. One of the great things about Pen & Paper Roleplaying Games is that they can be run quickly and easily with semi-structured data. So when your software imposes structure, you need to ask yourself "Is it worth it?"
Well? Is it, punk?
Well? Is it, punk?