Feedback on Group Work

A Vicious Rant

Back in college, I took an improvisational acting class. It was a lot of fun. Since it was irrelevant to my graduating and I expected to be busy my last semester working on my undergraduate honors thesis, I took the class pass-fail (even though I wound up getting an A in it, oh well). At the end of the class, we had to do a group project, which did not go well. Afterwards, the instructor asked us to provide some feedback. The following bile-soaked screed was my reply.

This project reminded why I hate, loathe, despise, abhor, revile, detest, and just plain don't like group projects. The amount of time required for a group to finish an activity is equal to the time that it would take a single person times the number of persons in the group, and the quality of the finished product is divided by the number of people in the group. Quite frankly, for almost any sort of project in a class where the goal is to create a finished product, it's less work to do the whole damn thing myself.

We started out with a reasonable idea, to produce a seminar that provided some sort of advice for those having problems of a romantic nature. During the refining process, this got narrowed down to help for single males looking to have a successful first date. As it was developed, it wound up a completely over-the-top collection of utterly wrong and blatantly misogynistic advice. I attempted to steer it towards something more subtle and less offensive, but failed. Then again, the other group members seemed to want this, and, quite frankly, I don't really care, since I could not do this final project and still get my pass for the class, so I let them have their way. (If the above paragraph didn't tip you off, in those cases where I'm forced to work in a group, I pick people I can work with and whom I trust to have goals roughly consistent with my own. When forced to work with random groups, I generally take command by being a fairly uncompromising hardass and do two-thirds of all the work myself, because I deem everyone else too incompetent to handle anything my grade depends on even in the slightest. (Hey, you wanted honest. (Yes, I do use nested parenthesis. (It's a CS thing.)))) Anyway, the end product is one that requires us to play total assholes that treat women like inhuman sex objects, which I frankly don't think is very funny at all. I try to keep my humor deadpan until it bursts into a manic explosion of snowballing creation. I find that trying to play things seriously comes out a lot funnier most of the time. Maybe that's just because I appreciate life's little ironies. (It's just part of my personality to find the funny side to everything. In general, unless there's an actual dead body in the immediate presence, I'm at least injecting the occasional humorous aside or bad pun into my sentences. I'm also of the opinion that if you don't find the universe funny, you'll get really, really depressed really quickly. It's like the cosmos is a giant joke, and we're the punchline; we can either laugh at the joke or be the butt of it. In many ways, it's as if Kobal, the Demon Prince of Dark Humor, managed to get his version of reality passed.) In any case, returning to the project at hand, I don't really like playing the role I have to. Now, I don't mind playing someone vicious and mean, or even callous and downright medieval, but I drawn the line at what I consider being an asshole. I'm just the sort of person who can see plenty of justification for literally setting someone's pants on fire, but not for being habitually rude and insulting to people who don't deserve it (key clause there, telemarketers do deserve it).

Anyway, as to the actual group meetings, it required significant cajoling on my behalf to actually get around to doing such trivial things as deciding on the format we're going to use and what exactly we will doing at each point in the presentation. Everyone did show up to the group meetings, and we communicated reasonably well by email (though people don't seem to know the difference between a plain text file and a #%&@%! Microsoft Word file). Actual meetings in person did tend to suffer from something of a "we'll figure that out next time" effect. (Then again, four people is just too many to ever make a decision on anything. Three people can do so fairly often, and two almost as well as one, but more than that and it gets impossible. (Heinlein agreed with me on this one.) At that point, decisions occur because someone is too tired of trying to come to a decision as a group and makes one individually, and everyone else is too tired to resist. (Yes, I'm a cynic, but at least I'm a cynic that makes you laugh frequently.))

Well, I can't really think of anything else to add, and, even I could, it would probably just degenerate into another rant.

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