Wednesday, June 19, 2013
CPM Activity Report #2 - June 18, 2013
As promised, I'm back again for another weekly update on the CPM and our activities working with CCP. When we last spoke, I mentioned that we'd received our first Community Management Report from CCP and would be reviewing it to provide feedback, which I'm happy to share with readers here as well. Thankfully, since this document was also shown to Fanfest attendees - much of its content structure is publicly released information, even if I can't go into detail about this week's particular contents.
Without further ado, let's jump into the document and break it down section by section. The CMR begins with a general overview of forum activity, including percentages of "positive, negative, and neutral" posts as generated by the procedural software used to scan the entirety of the forums. Also included are word clouds of various terms and how they're connected to each other (via correlation and proximity to one another, I can only assume), with custom human-added annotation to explain what topic or issue is generating the highest frequency words in the cloud. These annotations are great in that they demonstrate that the community team is really going through the software-generated report and making sure it accurately highlights the issues generating key high-frequency terms. Last but not least, the overview includes some metrics on unique author counts, average posts per user, and average length of post.
While this overview is impressive in terms of how thorough the data is at measuring the activity, I can't say I found it particularly useful. The word clouds certainly don't indicate issues that are most important, only those that are the most popular. And given our current forum culture, where entertainment level trumps practical value in terms of attracting more posters, all this is really doing at the moment is highlighting a lot of the issues causing the most drama, or highlighting events hosted by CCP that we already knew were underway.
I still maintain that the best way to turn this cultural tide in the forum community is for CCP to take a pro-active approach and contain conversations using stickied threads posted by developers that ask for feedback. These directly reward and encourage those that know how to behave themselves and contribute constructively with the knowledge that the devs are actually following along and listening carefully. As these continue, I think you'll see the community start to police itself and actually turn on the few trolls that want to come along and ruin an otherwise decent conversation with the devs. This continues to be a message I raise with the community team every chance I get, and I won't stop until I see an actual lasting trend on the forums where developers bring their works-in-progress to you early in the process where feedback matters the most.
After the overview is a brief "Themes" component with a few paragraphs of subjective reflection on the state of the community in the past week, and the initiatives that the community team is working on to support them. Included here was discussion of some of the information they were working on obtaining for the CPM, as well as highlighting player reactions from the recent Templar event. Notably, this is a human-generated piece that doesn't involve forum-scanning or metric analysis, this is purely from the eyes and ears of the community team themselves.
The real meat of the document, landing at over half of its 23 pages, is the "Feedback" section that begins with a summary of both positive and negative talking points. After briefly covering the items the community was giving praise for, the report jumps deep into the top list of new issues and bugs reported by players, with detailed accounting of both the issues raised and including links to various goodposts on each topic. This is where it pays not to troll, and to just straight up post feedback without whining, bitching, or finger-pointing. The QQ/rage posts don't make the reports, but ones that are constructively critical do - so clean up your posting and stay professional and your words could end up in the report on a dev's desk in their unadulterated form.
These threads also end up in the regular updates that CCP Commander Wang has been posting to keep track of the community team's meetings with the designers/programmers and the items they've presented, so you can also follow along and see what type of content is ending up in the weekly CMR. While only the topics are listed in Wang's public thread, each item gets essentially a full page dedicated to breaking down the issue, any root cause/pain point, and listing the most practically useful posts explaining the problem and possible solutions. Again, the key word here is useful. Telling CCP how mad you are and how awful a feature is doesn't make for something a designer or programmer can utilize - but step by step bug reproductions? Or specific gameplay elements that are frustrating, and why? This is the meat of what makes the report, and it's important for everyone to understand this and post accordingly.
The final section was just plain fun. Some player-generated screenshots found on the web, and other humor posted in the forums and elsewhere on the internet. It's nice to see that the community team isn't all serious bizness and appreciates the fun people are having celebrating the game and the community - and also to know that they look far beyond the forums when taking into account how the community is developing and documenting what they've been up to.
The CPM's overall feedback of the CMR? Plain and simple - "This is great, you're clearly listening - but how exactly does this document get used by the designers? When in the process does this information hit them? How much time is there for them to act on it? How useful do the designers themselves consider the report to be?" The bottom line is that for all of us on the CPM, who are waist deep in forums, Skype chats, IRC - most of the content in the weekly CMR's aren't really news to us. We've heard this from you before, and know that these are indeed the top issues, but what we really care about is knowing how its being utilized. This is not only what I posted in our internal thread on the CMR, but these will no doubt be questions I raise again during our meetings with CCP this coming week, as many times as it takes till I have the answers.
Other than the chance to review the CMR, provide feedback, and comment on preliminary patch notes and a few other topics that the devs are working on and asking advice from in our internal forums, it's been a fairly uneventful week. This isn'tall that unusual, however - when you factor in that half of CCP (both Shanghai and Reykjavik staff) were visiting and presenting at E3, and the Dragon Boat festival in Shanghai which shut down the office for several days of holiday. We did successfully poke CCP Dolan about follow-up on several CPM structural items he's working to set up on our behalf, and despite the fact that he, too, was waiting on staff to return from holiday and E3 the plan is for us to meet again this week to check up on his progress. Last but not least, we have one other meeting already set up with one of the most important staff members in CCP Shanghai - which I'm hoping will include some much-needed information about the direction of Dust's development and any possible road map the teams may be following these days. I'll be sure to ask about what I can and can't report, and will see you again next week with the latest news!