Thursday, September 11, 2014

As the Ban Hammer Swings

Yesterday started off fairly well for me with a trip to the local indoor playground filled with gigantic bouncy houses. My mission was to run my two young kids completely ragged in a day of intense activity, and as an added bonus, these bouncy houses are actually built strong enough for several adults to be banging around in them as well. I hate to say it, but it's more fun than Eve.

During a quick break in the action I had the ill sense to check my phone for a moment, and found several pings across multiple mediums regarding a ban wave. At first it looked like CCP had got around to banning the various agents involved with the Bonus Room incident a few months ago. Obviously, I didn't have time to look into much at that moment, so I shot off some quick messages to James315 and others promising further review upon my return, then I went back to playing with my kids.

Definitely more fun than Eve.

Upon my return home, the kids barely made it in the door before passing out on the floor Sims style. With OP success on that front, I managed to get them in their beds, kissed the wife goodbye, and then retired to the dungeon where the Eve happens. Here's what I've got so far:

Firstly, the CSM is not part of the GM team and are not consulted on bans. People are banned every day, it's not our business, nor part of our function to second guess any specific ban. There has been one recent instance of a GM allegedly referring someone to go talk to the CSM when they were unable to make a reimbursement for a bug that happened, but aside from that, we really don't have much to do with these guys.

After pouring through communications from over a dozen people, reading accounts of people claiming to be involved on various sites, and checking a couple of blogs, I've managed to piece together what seems to be a reasonable approximation of what went down yesterday.
  1. A number of people were banned for what appears to be RL harassment. Actual numbers are not known and are unlikely to be released.
  2. Some of those banned were involved in Erotica 1's bonus room.
  3. Some of those banned had nothing to do with Erotica 1's bonus room, and had never been heard of by known participants within that subset of the community.
  4. Some of those involved neck deep in Erotica 1's bonus room were not banned.
Based on the accounts I've read thus far, it would appear unlikely that all the people banned for harassment yesterday were involved in any singular incident together. With that reasonable assumption, this ban wave has more of a sting feel to it, and likely one that was cooking for a bit before the trigger was pulled. The only words from CCP on the matter thus far have come from CCP Falcon, first around the time that the bans actually hit:

Hello everyone,

We would like to remind the EVE community of our stance regarding the usage of EVE Online and assets, characters and items from within the game environment as leverage for the purpose of real life harassment.

As outlined in our previous announcement, this type of behavior lies in clear breach of our End User License Agreement, and as such we have a zero tolerance approach when dealing with these cases.

Our stance regarding this type of behavior has not changed since the last announcement, and any individuals who are found to be engaging in such behavior will be met with disciplinary action against their game accounts in accordance with our Terms of Service.

- F (source)
Before I go any further here, I need to make one thing very plain. I'm looking on the claims of innocence/ignorance of the people hit in this ban wave as dubious at best. A statement such as "I'm not sure what I did wrong" can easily be translated to mean "I've probably done 5 or 6 things that would fall under this in the last 6 months, and I'm not sure which one this is for." Each and every one of these people has done something at this point to get banned, though the manner in which they were caught may be in question. That CCP will not give any examples in this case of what constitutes bannable harassment behavior is also unfortunate, however.

A reply from CCP Falcon came in response to requests for a clear line to be drawn:

It isn't our job to dictate to people how to maintain a base standard of human decency toward one another, and we're not going to do so.

The bottom line is that it's down to members of the community to know where the line crosses from common decency to harassment. We will not draw a line in the sand so that people can skirt on the edge of it and bend the rules as much as possible.

This isn't a debate about what constitutes "harassment". If you're not familiar with the word, find the definition in a dictionary and that will satisfy your question.

What we will do, is continue to use best judgement on a case by case basis to ensure that real life harassment is kept out of the game, and ensure that those who choose to involve themselves in such activities are no longer permitted to be part of our community.

Cut and dried, that's all we have to say on the matter.

In this response, CCP and I are going to be in stark disagreement. When I look up harassment in the Oxford dictionary I get "Aggressive pressure or intimidation". gives me a bit more to work with on this: "the act or an instance of harassing, or disturbing, pestering, or troubling repeatedly; persecution:" Following the link for "harassing"then brings us to the definition of harass, which is:
  1. to disturb persistently; torment, as with troubles or cares; bother continually; pester; persecute.
  2. to trouble by repeated attacks, incursions, etc., as in war or hostilities; harry; raid. 
In short, my question is not satisfied. The problem here is that we're talking about the Eve community. Harassment as defined in multiple dictionaries is an extremely common daily occurrence in Eve, and classing the majority of it as harassment in terms of the EULA or TOS would be laughable. Local smack talk, is, by definition, harassment. Blowing up someone's ship repeatedly is harassment. Bumping AFK miners out of belts could be considered harassment. Sending angry rage letters to people who blow up your ship is certainly harassing behavior, even if the result is that it makes them happy for your tears.
If every instance of dictionary defined harassment that happened in Eve were to be petitioned, the GMs would likely have time for nothing else. Since we can all reasonably agree that the dictionary is not what defines EULA/TOS breaking harassment in Eve, a more informed definition from CCP is needed to clear up confusion in a game that advertises for potential new players to "Be the Villain," and where scamming/deception are not only common place, but encouraged. To save a couple thousand words, allow me to use my wicked paint skills to illustrate the issue as I see it in simple terms: 

The Line

Here is a simplistic illustration of the status quo as it seems to hold right now. We have a few very clear examples of unacceptable behavior that one can reasonably assume will result in a lengthy vacation from Eve. We have a line that shant be crossed, but the placement of it is somewhat in debate, and it tends to make a move to the left from time to time, meaning that something that may not be enforced today, could be enforced if it happens next week, or next month, or next year. Something one GM may let slide could be met with a very harsh response by another member of the staff. 
The annals of Eve history are littered with cases where one member of the GM staff has not seen a problem where another might. I won't bore you with a comprehensive list, but I can give at least one example of a debate going on right now where CCP seems to be a bit inconsistent on what is/is not considered to be an exploit in the game (you get banned for those too BTW).
In this sense, CCP can't tell us where the line is, because in reality, CCP doesn't seem know exactly where it is themselves.
CCP Falcon also has a point in that a super firm line cannot be drawn, otherwise (this is Eve afterall) people will absolutely step right up to that line and poke it and prod it and see how close they can come to it without crossing it. CCP Falcon is absolutely right, this would be a very bad idea.
But I think Falcon is missing the point here. What people are looking for is not a hard and fast line with a concrete definition. What would be awfully nice is a second green line with acknowledgement that if you stay reasonably within it's bounds, you're pretty safe from a banning. Obviously taking things to an extreme out of hand status would put one in the danger zone, or straight into the red.

As an example, this wave of bannings has once again brought up the question of certain aspects of the bonus room that have been a part of Eve for years. The age old tradition of pointing someone's pod and inviting them onto your voice comms to sing for the chance of not getting podded is something that has repeatedly come up. The operators of the bonus room had people sing as part of their scheme to get their stuff back, and the bonus room is not ok. Are we also saying that a practice with some similarities, though largely viewed by the community as ok, is to the right or left of the green line?

Certain corporations can have very odd, and sometimes uncomfortable conversations with potential new recruits on outside voice comms. This may also include singing, or otherwise (mostly benign) hazing. Green?

Someone told me a story once of how they wanted to join a prominent null sec alliance, and in order to be allowed in this person was required to meet with a representative while at fanfest. Part of the process included this person being asked to eat the testicles of some locally domesticated animal (apparently considered a delicacy in Iceland). Depending on one's views of sheep, this might be viewed even as sexual harassment in certain cultures. No actual assets were on the line here, but is this considered to be somewhere in the green zone? Furthermore, how the hell could CCP even verify it took place???

CCP and the META

That brings me to the next point of contention here. It is entirely unclear how far into the meta CCP is willing to dive to collect and accept evidence of out of game harassment. Without the specific incidents in question, none of us will have any idea what the answer to this question is. CCP is not likely to tell us anything, so the only people who can reasonably provide specifics are the ones who were banned, and they all seem to be feigning complete ignorance. I predict we'll be getting no help on this from either party.

In the past, CCP has generally stayed out of the meta. In the case of Erotica 1, he posted links to his handiwork on the official Eve Forums. There was an actual CCP log showing his involvement in the matter, penned by his own hand so to speak. With that in mind, we can also assume that any form of communication within Eve is also part of CCP's logs. Eve-Mails and chat channels in game for example, regardless of how private you think they are, I guarantee can be read and monitored by CCP if they have a mind to. If these people shared links to their work in game, or talked about it in game with their fellows in this manner, it is possible CCP never had to go digging in the meta, and were just handed evidence of ill behavior by the people involved themselves.

At this time, CCP has been extremely silent on methods used, and exact ways and means of how these people were caught would be an unreasonable request to make. However, I think what people want to be sure of here is that actual CCP generated logs were used to determine guilt or innocence, and yes, someone saying in game or on official forums "Hey guys look what I did! *link*" absolutely counts. CCP does not need to disclose how people were caught, merely that the logs showed something.

An Inconsistent Conclusion

In short, the issue I'm having at the present time has little to do with bad people who did bad things getting banned from a game. It is doubtful that the contributions these people made to the community that drew CCP's attentions to them will be missed by the vast majority of the players, especially where RL harassment is concerned. What I do have an issue with is a very ambiguous line in the sand that seems to continually move based on who happens to be on shift at the time something goes down, or who in the community is pissed enough to start a threadnaught over it.

Either intentionally bumping a titan that is inside a POS shield out of a POS shield is an exploit, or it's not. The methods of doing it shouldn't matter, and lines of communication should be in place to ensure a consistent message on this back to the community rather than enforcement be at the whims of whatever GM happens to get their hands on it.

The same can be said for harassment. Either something is harassment, or it's not, or it COULD be if taken out of hand. We have (sort of) some clear examples of things that are not ok to do. We do not have clear examples of things that are generally considered ok to do, and this leaves huge question marks in the air. Are singing ransoms ok? We know they used to be, but going forward we don't know. If I invite someone in game to join me on team speak and they come back later and say I harassed them, how far is CCP willing to go to get to the bottom of it if in game logs show nothing but my link to the voice comms server? We don't know.

What we don't have is a reasonably clear definition of what actually constitutes harassment in terms of Eve. Things that are entirely unacceptable in a game like World of Warcraft for example, happen inside Eve with impunity, and are an accepted part of the norm. There is nothing "decent" about a bad guy, and if being a bad guy is to be an acceptable profession within Eve, rules and boundaries need to be made clear to give people a gauge on what is acceptable, and what is clearly over the line. These lines are important not only for those people living the life of a villain, but also for those tasked with enforcing the rule of law, such as it exists within our game.

While CCP Falcon is right to not want to draw that fine line in the sand for people to dance around, when something is determined to be over that line, consistency in enforcement and clarity of communication is equally important.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Eve Radio Drama Llama

Bacon's Note: This is a long one. If you were not previously aware of the happenings the other night on Eve Radio, don't care about such things, and generally hate drama, it's best to pass this one by. If, on the other hand, you were there, or heard about it, and really want to know what happened before, during, and after the "incident", sit back and enjoy the story.

It's never been my desire in life to be a hero or a martyr. My time at Eve Radio these past 8 years has been a labor of love, something I've put thousands of hours into free of charge because I enjoy entertaining people, and sharing knowledge about my favorite internet space ship game, Eve Online. What I have tried to avoid as much as possible is the drama that comes with being a well known person in an organization with the scope and history of Eve Radio. This past Friday night/Saturday morning, my drama avoidance protocols fail cascaded, and the whole village nearly got burned down in the process.

The History

To fully understand what happened, I'm first going to have to explain how the stage was set. Eve Radio is not really unlike any other corporation or alliance in Eve. There are politics, happy people, disgruntled people, people that scheme, and people that dream.

You've got the station owner, Diaego (aka Ross) without whom the station would have ceased to exist years ago. He's the guy that pays the bills. Eve Radio subsists on donations, premium memberships, and recently through being an official GTC reseller for CCP. When those funds fall short, Ross covers the difference out of his personal funds. I don't have an exact number for you (such a thing is not really my business) but I can confidently assure you that he's into this project in the tens of thousands of GBP of his own personal money, if not more. The man himself is an enigma. Not many people still at the station outside MrBlades really know too much about him, and if this was a movie, he'd fit the role of shadowy benefactor/mastermind quite well.

Just below Diaego, we find MrBlades. If the station exists because of the funding shortfalls covered by Diaego, it equally exists because of the time and effort put into holding it all together by MrBlades.

After Blades, things are a bit muddier. There are several middle management types, night ops bosses, people who volunteer to run specific stuff, etc.. Then you have some senior DJs, along with the rest.

I've been asked before why I'm not a manager at ER. Fact of the matter is three fold. 1: I do this because it's fun, and I don't find management positions fun. 2: I have no interest in the politics of it. 3: I don't have the free time for it.

Over the years, I've progressively distanced myself from the inner political workings of ER. As my primary function and interest in ER is the weekly show my team puts together with me, I spend extremely little time in insider staff channels or forums these days except to catch up on whatever programs or promotions are running at present. I pop into IRC 20-40 minutes prior to broadcast, say little beyond the minimum, try to keep my head down, and get on with the show. When the show is over, I tend to leave as quietly as I came. If one were to ask me about the political issues and nature within ER's staff and management, I honestly couldn't tell them anything because I simply don't know, and until now it really hasn't been my problem.

My political avoidance practices have at times been interpreted as an "I'm better than all of you" attitude among certain staffers at ER. That's not the case of course, but my response to this is generally that I don't give enough fucks to try and convince these people otherwise, and to just move on with whatever I'm working on. This has lead to issues with 2 members of ER's middle management in particular in recent months.

For nearly the entire 8 years of our show, the majority of our behind the scenes and preshow work has been handled within our team. Over the last 6 months, one of the two middle managers at ER had decided this was no longer good enough, and that certain things needed to be done by other members of ER staff. This along with several other little things was quickly snowballing and becoming an annoyance, culminating in one night where I told this person outright that if things were going to continue to ramp up and become more difficult, I had very little interest in continuing with ER. This manager backed down some, we spoke at length, and as a sign of good faith, some concessions were made on our part including giving this manager access to our showtime skype channel as an easier way to ping us in the middle of live broadcasts if necessary.

In the case of the first manager, I can at least say that her interests were in line with what she thought were best for the station more than "new manager attempting to show who's boss," so I worked with her until we were able to come to an arrangement that was agreeable to all parties.

In the case of the 2nd middle manager, we can say that his particular style of management tends to be a bit heavy handed with a good dose of "do what I say or else". I'm not the sort of person who demands respect from people, but I certainly have no care for disrespect, and found this particular individual to be entirely disrespectful. I won't go into details on specific incidents, but at one point I did send a letter up to senior management informing them of the situation and suggesting that this guy should really calm his shit. After some time, Manager 2 had some RL stuff come up and took a break from the station, but then returned a short time ago.

The Incident

Now we come to the meat of the issue.

Fast forward to this past Friday night or Saturday morning, depending on what part of the world you live in. At midnight GMT we got on with our regular broadcast. The team and I, having been together on the show for a number of years, are also all members of the same alliance, Monkeys with Guns.. This was the eve before us getting face planted by Agony Empire, and we were doing a fund raiser to secure some ISK so we could get some of the ships we needed. The listeners were coming up huge, and we were taking requests to do some silly stuff on the twitch stream from the biggest donors.

One of these requests was for Elijah Ghost and myself to draw Caldari logos on ourselves: his cheek, and my rather shiny head. While I was in the process of marking up myself, my arm nudged something on my desk, which in turn jiggled the USB cable on my mixer and caused a cut in audio. Due to the way our broadcasting software works, a loss of connection to the mixer results in the software spazzing out and needing to be reset. All told, our audio stream was dead air for about a minute. We were able to get things back up and running, informed those watching and listening what happened, and got on with the show.

Within a couple of minutes my attention was drawn to an ER staff IRC channel where Manager 2 had delivered an ultimatum: Respond to Manager 1's inquiry within 2 minutes or be pulled off air (this was part of some sort of established protocol at ER I was unaware of, though was delivered in what can be diplomatically termed a heavy handed way). During live portions of our broadcasts, I spend very little time looking at IRC channels due to all the things we have going on. We were live at that point, and I was frantically skimming up in that channel looking for Manager 1's inquiry, but couldn't find it.  There was a bit of "WTF is this shit?" while we attempted to figure out what the issue was, and finally came to the conclusion that Manager 2 wanted to know what had happened. Had he been tuned into the stream, he'd have known this of course, because we had just explained it, so for his benefit, I typed it out for him in plain words, and again attempted to move on with the show. A few seconds later he responded that he was pulling us off air for "talking shit" and at that moment, my tolerance for bullshit had been expended, and I lost my cool.

What followed was a pissing contest in the extreme. My response to getting pulled was that I didn't need this shit, peace out. I closed IRC. A few seconds after this, Manager 1 and another DJ were in game and purging my team from the in game channel. They hadn't got to me yet as I hadn't typed anything in there for a few minutes and wasn't on the side bar myself. Figuring I was done with Eve Radio anyway, I completely went off the deep end and zapped Manager 1 off the ops list for the in game channel, the other DJ as well, Manager 1's obvious alt, and after a moment of rebellious contemplation, I zapped everyone else off the ops list except Ross, MrBlades, and QGazQ (an engineer who keeps the servers and website running). I then restored access to the rest of my team.

Listeners at this point were in an uproar since the entire incident had been broadcast live and they were pretty keen on what was going down. Calls of "Free Bacon" were scrolling, and Manager 1, probably not realizing yet that she'd lost ops access, was firmly calling for people to change the topic. Feeling inspired, I changed the channel topic to something about Manager 1 and Manager 2 being supreme dicks, and another line which escapes me for what it said. By then, the stream on the ER website had been switched to jukebox, but we were still live due to the twitch stream which we could not be kicked from.

From that point forward, I told those watching that if this was was going to be our last show, we'd make a show of it and hang on until we were originally scheduled to be over, at which time I would restore access to the in game channel, and we would release the twitch stream. We informed people our plan was to go to an independent podcast and possibly expand upon the twitch streaming we were already doing in our spare time.

I had some choice words for Manager 1 and Manager 2. We reminisced on 8 great years at Eve Radio, had some nice things to say about Diaego, MrBlades, Gaz, and several others. Towards the end, I encouraged people to continue to support Eve Radio. There's a lot of good talent at the station that deserves the outlet, and one manager with Napoleon Syndrome shouldn't be the deciding factor. At a listener's request, myself, Elijah Ghost, Doc Nielsen, and Charlie Firpol recited the poem "O Captain, My Captain" saluted our audience, and shut down the stream.

Once we were off, I went back into the in-game channel, and added people back onto the list that I could remember, but then removed myself from the ops list before I hit the OK button and cocked the whole thing up. That was totally my bad, and not what I intended to do. For those of you confused when you logged in Saturday morning to still see the "dicks" MOTD in the channel, that would be why.

The Aftermath

Once the show was over, I was considerably calmer than when things had initially gone down. I said goodnight to the rest of the team and penned my official resignation letter to MrBlades. In it, I apologized for setting fire to the village on my way out. He and Ross certainly didn't deserve the fallout that would be the result of it, and though it was extremely satisfying to give Manager 2 a lesson in who the bigger dick was, there were no good guys in this, we all did wrong. My apologies for letting the situation spiral like it did, there were certainly classier ways I could have made an exit, see you around.

After that, I dropped the news of my departure from Eve Radio onto social media. The story was already spreading, and I figured better for people to see it from me than hear about it 2nd or 3rd hand. It was nearly 2am local when that was all done, and I went to bed.

The following morning, a reply was in my box from MrBlades. In a nutshell my resignation was not accepted, shit needed talking about. After getting face planted in the AT, I was able to get him on skype and we hashed things out over the course of about 3 hours.

I can't get into too many details as to what was discussed, but I will share the following:
  • The FunkyBacon Show will not be leaving Eve Radio. At my request, my team and I will be taking a 2 week break from our regular broadcast.
  • While it's not my place to discuss any specifics in this case, I've been assured that Manager 2 and I will not be in each others hair moving forward.
  • There are some exciting changes coming to ER in the not too distant future. Keep an eye out for them.
For my part, I do owe an apology to several people on the staff and within ER's community that got dragged into something they had no part in creating. As satisfying as it was to piss in Manager 2's face and moonwalk out, there was some collateral damage in the process that was undeserved, and for those adversely affected you have my apologies. I certainly could have handled the whole thing better, I didn't, and that was a failing on my part.

For the rest of you, we'll see you back on air September 19th/20th!