Sunday, February 1, 2015

CSM9 Review Blog

And since it fell unto my lot that I should rise and you should not, I'll gently rise and softly call: good night and joy be to you all! - The Parting Glass
 A few concerned members of Eve's community have pointed out to me that only 7 of CSM9's 14 members wrote anything for the official CSM 9 Year in Review blog. Where, it was wondered, were the other 7? I can't speak for the other 6, but for myself, I've been so disillusioned with the entire process this year that I didn't bother. It's simply not worth it, and the amount of fucks I have left aren't enough to go through the effort to write something to hand to CCP so they can "clean it up" and drop it on an official dev blog that might get as much traffic as my blog when I don't write anything new for 3 months.

When I decided to run for the CSM last year, I didn't have any grand delusions about changing the world of Eve or making huge waves in the development process like some of the fresh faced people running for CSMX seem to have. I've worked with CCP and the CSM enough in the past as a member of the Eve media community to have a basic understanding of how the process works, however even my muted expectations were dashed by the end of the summer summit.

I originally wrote this blog entry a couple weeks back. I attempted to skirt around the NDA and give as many examples of the futility the CSM faces on a regular basis as I could, but going back over it and looking back on those members of the past who have both publicly and privately decried this storied institution, it seems ill advised to test the waters with specifics. As a result, I've scrapped the old entry entirely, and made a new one from scratch.

Allow me to sum this up as plainly as possible without pointing fingers at anyone specific or dropping anything that might be clasified as proprietary or confidential information. For 2 weeks per year, during the summits, the CSM matters. If you're a fan of reading the minutes, you can see that many teams sit down to meet with the CSM and give progress on what's being worked on, discussions are had and there is some semblance that the CSM has value.

The people who get flown out to Iceland (and it's not a free vacation despite what anyone on the outside may claim) get a day to shake off the jet lag, and are then immersed in meetings every day with some cool off time at night. For those of us who can't make the trip, we're invited to attend remotely. Though getting a word in edgewise is considerably more difficult than it is for those actually in the meeting room, effort is made to relay our typed messages to the speakers in the room, and you'll usually see something from us in the minutes as a result.

Outside of the 2 summits, communication from the vast majority of CCP to the CSM is practically non existent unless there's some sort of crisis (SOMERblink 2 for example). The CSM IS a stake holder on one team, so communication there is pretty decent at least.

During the 6 week release cycle, as much as half the patch notes (if not more) are seen by the CSM at the same time as the rest of the Eve community. Many changes that are put in front of the CSM for "feedback" are shown mere hours before being released on the F&I forums or in dev blogs giving no time for meaningful feedback, or to make any changes to the initial offering based on that feedback. Outside of maybe fixing a typo or the wording of a sentence, changes are often dropped to the community almost untouched from what was shown to the CSM.

Some people might think of this as a scathing attack on CCP, but I don't think the majority of the CSM's misuse has been due to a negative attitude at CCP. I honestly believe that for many devs, they might feel intimidated presenting something to the CSM, like their work is being put on trial to be judged. I have to put a disclaimer on that statement that no one at CCP has said as much to me about feeling intimidated, but it's certainly one of the vibes I've gotten over the course of the term.

Unfortunately, when the CSM is bypassed entirely, or feedback is unable to be acted upon because of the short amount of time between when the CSM gets the info and when it goes public, many of the changes to proposed developments (take Freighter changes earlier in the year, or the Nullsec jump nerf for example) are a result of angry mobs on the forums, bloggers, and writers for the various eve related news sites lashing back at CCP. Many of the changes made may have been suggested by the CSM before the original post went public, and had the CSM been listened to or utilized properly, much of the trolling and negative backlashes would have been avoided entirely.

Instead what we have here is something that TheMittani learned long ago and holds true to this day: The people who are able to shape and direct the discussion of Eve on the outside have far more influence on the development process than the CSM does.

Love or hate him, this man's blog probably changed Eve
more than his efforts as CSM8's Vice Chair.
Looking back at the Erotica1 situation last year, Ripard Teg the CSM member was incapable of convincing CCP to act against the Bonus Room's shenanigans, but Ripard Teg the blogger was able to whip up a community backlash so severe that CCP had little choice but to cave E1's skull in with the ban hammer in what turned into a public spectacle.

Before I even thought of running for the CSM myself, I was one of the voices able to influence the balancing of T1 haulers, and had more effect on that balance pass than I've had on any balance pass since I've been on the CSM.

Between the summer summit and the release of the minutes, I bashed my face into a proverbial brick wall to get a compromise on the highsec awox nerf and got nowhere. Minutes were released, myself and others wrote some blogs about the issue, and a bit of backlash hit. A couple weeks later I joined CCP Fozzie on DJ Big Country's show on Eve Radio where it was FINALLY revealed that CCP was considering making intra corp aggression a toggle. I wanted to scream in frustration because I'd been advocating that for months at that point, and to think I could have skipped 2 months of frustration and just jumped on the issue when the minutes went public was the last straw. The fact is, CCP might hear what the CSM has to say, but they heed the community mob.

So for those who have asked, the reason you won't be seeing my name on a CSM ballot anytime in the foreseeable future is because if you have a blog, podcast, or write for a news site, there's really no reason to be on the CSM. If CCP continues to bypass the CSM or give hardly any time for them to react to changes, I can be a far more effective voice for the community without the restraints put in place by the NDA and an unspoken rule to "play nice". Goodness knows I'll be getting my info either at the same time or within hours of it being presented to CSMX, and won't have to deal with any internal blow back because I went off message.

It's true that my bittervet level this year has increased by a factor of at least 10, and the tone of this blog has gone increasingly negative as time has gone on. I had a rant on Eve Radio a few weeks ago about being out of fucks, and considered aloud giving up on this game entirely, that's how much this CSM term has dragged me down. When it comes right down to it, by itself Eve would be a pretty shit game, however the community that has attached itself to it makes it something greater than the sum of its coded parts.

If this was just about a game, I'd have probably peaced out a long time ago, but the game is merely a tool that we all use to interact with one another. That's why you see so many people give Eve a try and then quit days or weeks later. You'll be reading some news article about the largest internet space battle in history, and see them lamenting in the comments section telling us how they were never able to get into the game.

They don't get it. Many of you reading these words today do.

What makes Eve amazing, and what has kept me around for 11 1/2 years isn't new art or spaceships, or a balance pass. Those things, if done well, help to keep things a bit fresh, but what keeps me subbed and playing this game are the people I play it with. Most of the people I play Eve with have never been in the same room as me. We live all over the world, speak different languages in our daily lives, have a multitude of cultural backgrounds, and yet I consider these space bros and sisters as much my friends as anyone I've ever hung out with in person. I have played many games over the years, and in no other game have I made that connection with the other people I've played with.

In the sandbox, you have to be able to make your own fun, and it helps immensely to have other people to make that fun with... and against. With that in mind, and being completely honest, CCP Rise and Fozzie could completely cock up the next 3 ship rebalance passes and I'd still be playing.They probably won't though, because even if CCP continues to misuse the CSM, the bloggers, podcasters, news sites, and even the forum trolls will still be around to help feed the discussions and give voices to the players.

For myself, I'm looking forward to getting back into Eve with friends, and shaking off some of this CSM bitterness. I'll see you in space!


  1. I've been saying the same thing for ten years, it is far better to be out here beating the drums than inside listening to the drums. Which is why I haven't run or ever plan on running.

    It'd be curious to go back and check to see just how many former CSM members still play Eve. I know I have one of them as an Alt character now, and my guess is the percentage would be very high. I can name a dozen at least that I know of without even checking.

  2. I know all too well about that CSM bitterness. Many of the frustrations and obstacles of serving are probably unavoidable due to the inherent limitations of the institution. CCP holds all the cards and thus the CSM can never be what many players would like to see it become or imagine (incorrectly) that it already is. It serves a purpose, I'm glad it's there, but my expectations of the CSM have certainly narrowed over the years. Best to let that bitterness go as soon as you can and focus on what's fun about EVE.

  3. An excellent spot-on and honest post. Thanks!

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. I have read this and I approve your message. As a member of the "media of EVE Online" I have kind of seen this writing on the wall. Us "media" types should never run for a CSM seat. At least your not quitting eve like so many that have been on the CSM after they finish.
    Shoot ya in space later Bacon.

  5. There may be some serious communication and process isssue with the CSM system but throwing a temper tantrum and loudly announcing you are out of fucks too give is just plain embarassing.

    Given the very short term of a CSM period and the fact that you yourself only recently campaigned to be part of it makes me wonder about your original intent to serve on CSM 9.

    If you really can't take it anymore just ask for release and step down. Not attending meetings and writing whiny blog posts is just cringeworthy and soils what little good reputation the CSM has left.

    1. The point of this blog posting was not to soil the CSM's reputation. My own intent when running was to participate more in the development process, and get in on discussions with CCP at an earlier stage than when I was simply a blogger or radio host. To be pro-active more than reactive.

      The reality of the situation became pretty clear a couple of months into the term when it was apparent that being on the CSM was also largely a reactive role as well. I had expected to get information on upcoming changes in earlier stages while they were still being developed with a chance to give feedback on ideas in process, but the vast majority of the things presented to the CSM are pretty much complete with only room for small tweaks, with more drastic changes happening in the wake of a massive forum backlash.

      As for meetings, I made sure to attend the most relevant summit meetings. You might recall some hullabaloo over the awoxing nerf, clone changes, and a few other incidents, many of which are covered on this blog. I was in those meetings, gave feedback, and feedback was largely brushed aside until the media portion of Eve's community got hold of it, and with our efforts, changes were made.

      For the regular meetings, between summits, most of them are sparsely attended and I'm not the only one who can't make them. All of us are provided a recording of those meetings through e-mail and given the chance to provide feedback. when I have something to say, I pass it along. Until the switch to confluence recently, I was also a regular participant on the internal CSM forum with feedback in nearly every dev posting excepting areas of the game where I felt my lack of experience would not allow me to give decent feedback, such as wormholes, or 3rd party development.

      the point of this blog is that you would think that would be enough, however after seeing the feedback of myself and others fall of deaf ears time and again, and the process taking the shape that I've outlined above, it became apparent that the more effective way to deal with CCP and push for changes was in the open forum of public opinion, and not in polite internal discussions.

      I hope that clears it up for you.

  6. I seen CCP Leeloo complain about it on Twitter, but I am more interested in, if she thinks anything you said was untrue.

  7. I have a sneaking suspicion that the primary reason for the lack of timely communication is that there are no performance metrics that include such. It's been my experience that most companies say they want their employees to do one thing, but when it comes time for the yearly review, what matters to job performance has nothing to do with what the company says it does.

    I'd be willing to bet that if there was a tick box on each of the Team Manager's review sheet that said 'Got feedback out to the CSM in a timely fashion?', you'd see better results.

    1. That's an excellent piece of feedback. It is a fact that it is not a requirement for any team or employees to report anything to the CSM. in my opinion it shouldn't be a requirement, but more effort could certainly be made to include the cSM on certain developments as only good can come from more eyes and minds looking at changes and issues as they're being developed. Having player feedback from a group that also can't go out and talk publicly about your raw ideas should also have more value.

    2. Yeah, that's what I was getting at. If the company goes to the time, trouble, and expense to set up something like the CSM, they should use it. Unfortunately, from what I've seen in the real world, most managers, from some rather surprisingly well-known companies, don't stop to think through their new, exciting ideas and what changes are required throughout the company in order to make them effective.

      The classic example I use is customer service call centres. You would think a high quality score or high customer satisfaction would factor highly in customer service agent performance reviews, but all that matters to the agent is what their manager's score them on, namely average call time, calls per day, etc. In other words, absolutely nothing that has anything to do with customer satisfaction.

      Agents that take the time to go the extra mile rarely get the kind of praise that matters (i.e. having it mentioned/rated on a performance review) and more often than not end up getting pooed on for not meeting the official customer non-satisfaction metrics.

      I'm betting that the same thing is happening at CCP. Might even be worth mentioning directly to Seagull. Who knows, she may be one of the rare set of managers that can see the forest for the trees.

  8. good riddance.

  9. You say that you have more influence with media than as a CSM member yet you only cited 3 examples. 1 edge case regarding Ripard Teg and the Ero1 situation then hauler balancing and the intra-corp aggression toggle which you claim to have influenced. This smacks of confirmation bias considering how long you have been active in the media yet only cite 2 examples where you feel you had influence.

    These examples of CSM versus blogger sound a bit anecdotal to me. They are like cancer cures where the individual underwent chemotherapy prior to taking homeopathic remedies (or some other unproven treatment) yet claim the homeopathy to have been the cure. In this case the CSM would have been the chemotherapy.


  11. CSM needs more "PSSH!"

    Regards, a Freelancer