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From pirate dwarves to ninja elves…

I have always considered the profound distinction between ninjas and pirates to be an absolute one. One was either ninja or pirate – there were no inbetweens. One personality type was skilled and proficient, elegant and silent, contained and constrained, honourable and spiritual. The other type loud and flamboyant, gregarious and unrestrained, life-loving and vigorous, passionate and strong. I thought all people must pledge their allegiance, or be categorised accordingly.

The other day at work, another binary pair was presented to me – a co-worker who doesn’t declare people pirate or ninja, but instead elf or dwarf. For him, humanity falls into doers and thinkers – elves being elegant and timeless, conceptual and refined, abstract and beautiful while dwarves are practical and structural, hard-working and no-nonsense, down-to-earth smiths and makers. It’s a view of the world that’s expounded a bit in Cryptonomicon.

The wonderful thing about both of these classifications systems is how unladen they are with value-judgements. It is possible to consider an elven person to be intellectual and high-concept, or pretentious and useless. It’s possible to view a pirate as boorish and crass or as vivacious and life-loving. It is not better to be ninja or pirate – the world needs both. And the creativity generated by the collision of elf and dwarf is far greater than could be achieved by elf or dwarven kind alone. Not only are there no categories that come prejudged inferior or superior, but also people have no problem self-categorising themselves – there’s no shame to be felt in any of their self-classifications.

Both systems have these qualities – but still we’re left with a conundrum. Although so similar – the systems are different. So how to make them work together? Confronted with a collision between two such radically different ways of conceptualising the world, obviously our minds started working overtime. Could we find a way to map the two categorisation schemes onto one another? Could we declare all ninja’s inherently elven? Or all dwarves intrinsically piratic? The more we considered the issue, the harder it seemed to achieve some kind of detente. And then it came to us – a new view of the world, transcendent and illuminatory – a way not only to make the two systems work together but to make each infinitely more illustrative in the process! At that moment the Ninja/Pirate/Elf/Dwarf theory of human classification came into being – and with it the crowning achievement of all managerial arts, the following graph:

As you can see – the ninja/pirate polarity has become a spectrum. The elf/dwarf polarity has followed suit – it is now possible to exist directly between the extremes. But this spectrum is at right angles to the first, generating a person-space with an infinity of different potential placements. People now can be hardcore ninja dwarves, or err towards the piratic side of elfdom. Within this graph all humanity exists in all its polyphonic splendour.

Think of some of the humble bloggers on my blogroll. Where would they live? Ben Hammersley has something of the pirate about him. This is not a restrained man of quiet honour, but a proud warrior of the sea – hair flowing in the breeze. But his skills are more evenly tempered between the conceptual and the practical – as best evidenced by his work on the schema for various syndication formats. His position is clear. Matt Jones is far closer to elf than dwarf, but as swashbuckling as a man can come. Not so Dan Hill, elven once more but evidencing the self-mastery and discipline of a true ninja.

It takes little effort to spot the ultimate ninja’s quiet responsibility and attention to detail in the work of Jason Kottke and Matt Webb and both straddle the technical divide between thinkers and doers. Mark Pilgrim on the other hand has achieved a balance between ninja and pirate, while plunging into the vigorous constructive heart of dwarvish ways. And so it continues – until I can map almost my entire blogroll accordingly:

And it doesn’t end there! You could plot people’s operating systems against it – Dwarves being more Linux-focused, elves more Apple-oriented. Pure graphic designers have a tendency towards the top right, interaction designers are spread across the top. You can also deduce a lot about the people I tend to associate with online – there’s an enormous clump of people on the pirate / ninja axis who aren’t heavily elf or dwarf. In this context, this suggests a group of old-school web people who have tended toward balanced expertises across a range of disciplines. It’s interesting how those people with more clearly defined job roles tend to move towards the corners too.

Now it’s over to you – take this epic revelation and place yourself within it. If you are a life-loving pirate with dwarvish leanings, perhaps you’d like to assemble a quiz to locate people against the axes like on that rather less important and trivial Political Compass site. I would love to help, but I’m simply not capable. What can I say, I’m an elvish pirate – I have better things to do with my time…

87 replies on “From pirate dwarves to ninja elves…”

That was, simply put, one of the most informative, hilarious readings I have ever done … granted I’m 21 years old and have alot more to experience.
Myself? I throw myself more in the pirate elf extreme, both loud and boisterous but calm and calculating at the same time. Wait, that would make me … oh you’ve confused me.

What a concept you’ve devised! 🙂 At 02:52 (past midnight) it was a hilarious read and a damn good mind workout. And when thoughts of the 3rd dimension was thrown in… Congratulations with the Bloggie as well!

But this leaves one major question to be answeredñ where does this put Jon Picking’s character, “Chris the Ninja Pirate,” in the grand scale of things? And he’s neither dwarf nor elf, but a mushroom! Is there a fungal classification?

I’m sure that the followers both Plato and Aristotle appreciate being resolved into Tolkien’s elf-dwarf polarity, Tom 😉
(And really, Webb is so elvish, it’s unbelievable. He out-Platonises me most of the time. Even rhizomatically.)

I’ve always used the distinction of observer and participant. Though I like very much your elf,dwarf,ninja and pirate world view.
btw I consider myself a lazy elf.

Oh, common, everyone knows these are false dichotomies! Well, actually, I’m saying this because I’m having trouble working out where I stand. I’m probably a wombat.

I’ve seen major college papers written with less intelligent premise. You should turn this into a full length treatise… We could use the 3rd axis (depth within a 2D image in this case, represented by name size as perspective) to determine morality. I’m thinking monkeys (fat names) vs. hamsters (small names). So you can have elven ninja hamsters, and dwarven pirate monkeys. Just to give it that further overcomplicated feel. Oh, and lets try to include a 4 page representation of the chart via an allusion to a bicycle.

I must say I totally love this way of personality classification!
I would have to say I’m a piratish elf myself, other than an elvish pirate simply because my pirate side is somewhat more dominant than my elf side.

Excellent! There is a similar concept in the old “Dungeons and Dragons” game. They have an “alignment chart” of character morals with one axis being “Good-Evil” and the other being “Law-Chaos”.
There is a political axis at http://www.baen.com/chapters/axes.htm which is very much like the political compass.

Cryptonomicon Classifications and a Discussion on the Creative Commons
Ever since reading Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon, I’ve been enamored with his description of Randy Waterhouse’s classification system, where he describes people in terms of being dwarves, wizards, elves, etc. based upon the archetypes presented in To…

It’s alright, Mr President, the dancing fruit says it’s all going to be fine.
It’s the Terror Alert Banana! As detailed here, our curvy dancing fruity friend will change colour immediately any evildoers are detected. The joy of XML data feeds, right there. I am a Pirate, it’s official. Also via Tom comes…

Pirate/Ninja, Elf/Dwarf Compass
There’s no test for this – you have to rate yourself. It’s like the Political Compass, but more amusing. Are you: 1) More Elf or Dwarf? 2) More Pirate or Ninja? For descriptions, visit From pirate dwarves to ninja elves……

I am a pirate elf, and I wave my sword in a menacing manner at the scurvy ninjas. Excellent classification system indeed, though a third axis might eventually be added. Then we shall stray into hypertime.

I am a pirate elf, and I wave my sword in a menacing manner at the scurvy ninjas. Excellent classification system indeed, though a third axis might eventually be added. Then we shall stray into hypertime.

I have long held that the “Pirate/Ninja” classification was one of the utmost significance. Although our local vertical axis would have been “Cowboy/Spaceman”. Still, I think the author has contributed greatly to this important field of study.

Not much to say…
Don’t really have too much to say tonight, a bit too mentally exhausted to post anything worthwhile, but I will at least warn you guys that there will likely be many more Second Life themed posts showing up than there…

“Arrrrr, Elron!”
Margaret and I had a dinner date last night, wherein one of the topics of discussion was “Where do we fit on the Tom Coates typology?” Margaret decided that she is probably a ninja dwarf of a somewhat elven sort; I, on the other hand, felt …

I think some got his movies mixed up — substitute “Samurai” for “Ninja” and you’d be closer, I think.

taxonomographology
I have always considered the profound distinction between ninjas and pirates to be an absolute one. (“ology”, BTW, is for science)…

How the other side see it
I was very impressed by Tom Coates’ recent post on Ninjas v Pirates and Elves v Dwarves. As I’m also a pirate elf, though possibly more pirate and less elf than Tom, I resented the implication that I could be…

Ninja dwarf here. I was assigned ninja by none other than Mr. Coates himself, and I have come to agree, but the dwarf is self-assessment.
Are ninja dwarfs rare, or am I just reading the wrong blogs?
Also, please note that for goofy uses like this, the correct plural is the Pratchett “dwarfs” and not the Tolkein “dwarves.”

Ever seen/read Naruto. He’s a ninja with a pirate personality type. How does that fit into your classification

Tuesday, March 23, 2004 10:40 PM
Tom Coates invents a new people classification system, the 2D Elf-Dwarf Pirate-Ninja scheme. One axis measures style: “Ninja are skilled and proficient, elegant and silent, contained and constrained, honourable and spiritual. Pirates are loud and…

Multiple dimensions
Might you be a libertarian? Rate yourself on social and personal liberty Maybe you sit better on a multiple-axis personality set: Myers-Briggs from Extroversion-Introversion; Sensing-Intuition; Thinking-Feeling; and Judging-Percieving. Maybe the axes y…

Ninja Dwarf
Lowell pointed me to Tom Coates on pirates and ninjas, elves and dwarves: I have always considered the profound distinction between ninjas and pirates to be an absolute one. One was either ninja or pirate – there were no inbetweens….

A local flavor of this same concept is found in my own circles, with the use of robots and cowboys taking presidence over elves and dwarves. Pirates and cowboys tend to be less serioues, while ninjas and robots tend to be more serious, ect. Great job mapping it all out.

Differing Ninjas, Pirates, Elves and Dwarves
I couldn’t have said this better myself. From Plasticbag. I have always considered the profound distinction between ninjas and pirates

Don’t dream it, be it.
I don’t know how Kazu pulled it off: somehow, he got hold of Scott McCloud’s comics retrospective from 2054. I’ve seen preview pages—he’s only being slightly hyperbolic. Flight (vol. 1; vol. 2 is in the works) is a 208-pag…

dammit! what about sheer mindlessneess, like zombies or robots? and since both are frowned upon by their respective societies, what about heroic characteristics, like taht of a silver-screeen cowboy.
the only possiblw way to group people is, to have a 47 dimensional graph, encompassing all of the things that have popped up.
whichever way is more fun, i say!

hey tom,
my girlfriend and i just tried to apply the scheme in writing evals for her work group and let me tell you it proved utterly worthless. amusing, though, no doubt.
max

I *would* add a third axis, which I would call the Watchtower-Red Sandals axis. I would use this to characterise the way in which people approach issues and problems. Do they stand in the watchtower, look at the big picture and direct, or do they wade in up to their knees in gore and lead from the front.

I stumbled across this by searching “ninja pirate dwarf elf.”
Why was i searching for that string? The answer is quite simple. My friend and I, a few months ago, realized our differences were becoming less distinct. We had spent enough time together that our styles of combat and roleplay (we’re LARPers) were slowly blending. Traditionally, I’m known as the dwarf, and he the elf. This is simply the way it’s always been. However, both of us have always been known for various ninja AND pirate-like qualities. We always found it humorous that together, we added up to one perfect ninja and one perfect pirate.
But, as I said, over time our differences faded. We picked up each others’ talents, and one day realized that we had both become something new, something different, something terrifying.
We created a name for this race, and that name is Dwelf.
We decided upon a dominant class for this race, and that class is Ninja Pirate.
And just now I have discovered your chart.
Sir, I submit that my friend and I are the perfection of your theory.

A friend of mine told me of the pirate vs ninja question and i in turn told a friend at work named Mr. Trill. Since then we have searched for the ultimate answer wo wich is better pirate or ninja. Then today i did the most sensible thing of typin the question into yahoo and i have come here.
I bow humbly at the wisdome this page has offered us.
also i can’t spell and think i’m a ninja dwarf.

One World, Two Maps (thoughts on the Wikipedia debate)
When thinking about technological change, there are two kinds of people, or rather, people with two kinds of maps of the world — radial, and Cartesian. Radial maps are circular, and express position in relative coordinates — angle and dista…

let’s classify some humans
After reading this entry on Metafilter (yes, 99% of you can stop reading now) I started thinking about ways of classifying human beings. And as about four seconds of research will tell you (much as it did me), the methods…

I happen to be a real elf, and I find it highly offensive that you have used my kind as a joke in catagorizing yourselves. My name is Skippy Zornob the third and I come from a well respected elf family that does not appreciate being made into a mockery for the pure enjoyment of you humans.

you are crazy argh! you bunch of mosgrims! you think you can say that all Dwarves are pirates, you are wrong I have four friends that are dwarf ningas and you bunch of mosgrims come in and start making graphs and things! argh! you know that i am a dwarf to the bone with a dash of human blood! then you bunch of A-holes come in and say that this graph fixes everything! argh it pains me to say this but you are right argh!

Interesting onlook! Yet simply put There are two kinds of people Independant & Co-Dependant. Nothing inbetween or without. Interesting twist!

question, what about a Elmo and others less important people axis? I think that that defines people far better than this whole elf dwalf (word meaning human left overs)

It was kind of touch and go for me until I saw the chart, which is amazing. Although I am disappointed that there isn’t an axis for pimps and hookers, because you have to account for all the pirate hooker dwarves and ninja pimp elves, they cannot be ignored any longer. This third dimension must be explored; I think I might have my graduate thesis now. Some how I think that my short sighted graduate advisor will have a different view of the concept, he‚Äôs kind of a ninja hooker dwarf if you know what I mean.

That was Pretty Good.., I also Group poeple By using the “Elf/Dwarf” or “Ninja/Pirate” Method. But.., U can also use this 3rd Grouping – Vulcans/Klingons. Try and work THAT into Ur little Theorum (Or wutever U wanna call it). Cya.

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