Monday, April 16, 2012

Week One

Now that I have defeated the evil death flu that has sapped my most of my energy and willpower the last couple of weeks, It's time to get back to writing and sharing with you all. Thanks to those that have been patient with my recent unusual quietness.

It's hard to believe that we've really only been on the job for a single week. CCP went on Easter break the day we were "sworn in", and were largely unavailable until the following Monday. And when I say "sworn in", I basically mean a paper was signed, scanned, and emailed, and we were in. No pomp, no circumstance.

Our first order of business was to select officers, and we decided that the right thing to do for transparency's sake would be to publicly release the vote results. For this, we were promptly rewarded by outcries that the CSM7 was a fraud, that CCP was somehow in cahoots with all of us because they have an ex-developer as the new Chair, and essentially accused of being functionally dead on arrival. 
Double facepalm time. 

It sure didn't take us very long to get to this point.

The fact is, much of the misplaced hysteria stemmed from ignorance about the CSM in its current form, and some overblown ideas about the real power of the Chairmanship and about just how the CSM functions at a fundamental level. The council has changed dramatically over the last couple of years, evolving as an entity much faster than the supporting documentation. I'm beginning to learn just how much of a challenge navigating this process is going to be until we're able to finaly codify all the changes into a new CSM White Paper, a major goal that all of us in CSM7 share for the coming year.

Until the nature of the "new CSM" is fully documented and accessible to every player in a clear, concise form, its going to fall on us as council members to explain why we do what we do, and how things function internally.

Mike Azariah, one of the candidates competing in this year's election, emailed me and asked me a few questions, and I told him I'd respond as soon as I was back to full health. I decided to share my answers with the rest of you as well, Mike's certainly not the only player wondering what its like to be on the Council during these first few days. 

1.)  Aside from the drama of the initial shuffling of the chair is the csm what you expected it to be? How is it different?

The CSM for the most part has proceeded as I'd expect it would, but I think a lot of that has to do with my prior involvement with the council in the months leading up to the election. I had made a point of studying the council in its current form, so I didn't go into the race with a lot of preconceived notions shaped by outdated information about the way the CSM operates.
The council has a primary responsibility outlined in the CSM white paper: to represent the player base, as an entity. For all of CSM6's successes, one of the unfortunate side effects of having The Mittani as Chairman was the fact that "mandate", "constituent", and "my people" became language so embedded into CSM discussion, that players actually started to believe that we are only elected to only serve the set of people that voted for us.
Many players are also still hung up on the idea that vote counts play some significant role in CSM work, or the power of individuals on the council, post-election. Nothing could be further from the truth. The reality is, once election is over, we quickly establish a first name basis, and begin to develop friendships on a personal level, even amongst those we were previously competing against. Once elected, we're no longer "Hans the Faction Warfare dude", "Alekseyev the Mercenary", or "Seleene the Titan-lover". In Skype-world, we're just Noah, Greg, and Mark. 13 people sitting down to talk about internet spaceships. Plain and simple.
Treating the council as an elected government, as supposed to its true function as a player advocacy group, directly led to the drama surrounding our choice for Chair. The job of the Chair is actually one of the things that hasn't changed about the council over the years. The Chair calls the meetings, takes roll, and keeps the conversation on track. The Chair doesnt get any special power, special authority, or special influence. The Mittani wanted you to believe otherwise, chasing a 10,000 vote "mandate" that wouldn't have actually meant much in today's CSM structure.

"Power" in the CSM of today is wielded by those that both participate intensely, and who also demonstrate credibility. It doesnt matter what Alliance we belong to, what Faction, how long we've been playing, or how many votes we got. What matters is that we don't make fools of ourselves, and that we have a lot of good stuff to say and share it at the appropriate times. I have seen this already first-hand,and can vouch for the fact that in the CSM today what matters is that you get elected, and you make the most of the time you're in office.

I hate to disappoint all the angry pundits in the twitterverse and blogosphere, but it's really just that simple. The CSM is just 13 men and women talking about how to make the game better. YOU may think that final vote count matters in terms of influence, but it doesn't.

2.)  How much of an information dump has there been in the first week to bring you up to speed?

There really hasn't been any sort of "information dump". The closest thing we have is access to the CSM / CCP forums, which are far less active in terms of posting frequency, but far more substantive and productive in nature than the bulk of the main EVE forums, as one might expect.

What we have is the opportunity to see what has already been discussed in months prior, and really most of that is now public given that Fan Fest has come and gone. Really I've seen very little that isn't already being talked about and debated publicly, the secrets we are privy to are really few and far between.
The CSM still has to work to pull this information from CCP, very little is given freely. There isn't any place where design documents are posted for us to look at, we aren't automatically emailed updates on any projects, and we're still fighting just to be shown each Dev Blog before it is released to the public. What we have, are communication channels, but the work still falls on us to identify who knows what we want to know, and ask for it, and to persist until we see (or don't see) what we want to provide feedback on. Granted, the CSM would LOVE to be involved at that level, but I think its important for players to know that .

"Transparency" means different things to different people.

Some of CCP's staff are very upfront, and I've been approached directly and shown some things and asked for my opinion. This is all very exciting when it happens, of course, but the developers are not obligated to work alongside us this way, and many are much more introverted and cautious with sharing their work in progress.

With the case of Faction Warfare, I was able to obtain a detailed status update as to which features are proceeding on schedule and which needed more work, which has been very useful in terms of being able provide targeted feedback.

3.)  Have you set any personal goals for yourself in this term and have any of them run into the brick wall of reality already?

My personal goals for this term are really just the same ones I campaigned on, not much has changed. We need to see iteration not only on long-overdue game features, but we need to continue iterating on the council structure and functionality itself. The CSM desperately needs a new White Paper, not only to document the major changes to the council's make up (no more alternates) and to the election process, but also to redefine some of the lingering questions about what it means to be a stakeholder at CCP, and to define any responsibilities that CCP staff might have as far as transparency with the CSM.

All in all, It's been really encouraging to find out just how many of us elected to CSM7 share the same personal goals for the coming year, I don't see any "brick walls" on the horizon. The ones we'll face will likely have more to do with the evolving relationship we have with CCP, than from any juicy internal tension or strife.

Yesterday we had a major meeting with the CSM7 members, and went over the work we have ahead of us leading up to the summit, which will be at the end of May. We've set up our Titanpad documents for organizing the information we want to discuss at the summit, as well as documents for organizing the pertinent information from the CCP / CSM Skype channels, so that we have a record of topics discussed and progress made. 

The 13 remaining CSM7 members form up
It was pretty awesome to see all the pieces coming together, and for us all to start working as a team. I absolutely stand by my vote for Seleene as Chair, despite having fallen sick himself he did a great job of kicking people's asses when the discussion got off track, and kept everything organized, focused, and timely. To be fair, the other council members contemplating the Chair position would have been great choices as well, it's not like I didn't vote Two Step for Chair cause he couldn't do the job. He and Seleene took it all in stride, and everyone was able to get down to business without the slightest bit of hand-wringing over the issue.

I chose to take the Vice Secretary job so that I could be directly involved in the documentation process, and personal blogging like this will be a big part of that work. Two Step and I are both natural communicators, and I think we'll make a great team. It'll be our job to get you guys the summit minutes in a timely fashion, and we're already talking about better ways to record and collate the exchanges that go on in Iceland. Personally I think Secretary is going to be one of the most important positions this year, possibly moreso than the Chair itself.  Player expectations regarding CSM communications are higher than ever.