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I'm your host, Jester. I've been an EVE Online player for about six years. One of my four mains is Ripard Teg, pictured at left. Sadly, I've succumbed to "bittervet" disease, but I'm wandering the New Eden landscape (and from time to time, the MMO landscape) in search of a cure.
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Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Outvoted

A few days ago, I wrote a post about the interview that Hilmar gave Eurogamer that -- among many other topics -- asked a question about the future of the CSM. I cheerfully admit that post was deliberately provocative, but so was Hilmar's response to the question, so it seemed fitting. That post has quickly become one of the most commented-upon posts on this blog, and I offer my thanks to everyone that weighed in.

It was my intent to come back to the topic at mid-week, but two things interfered. First, the more I think about the topic, the more I want to focus on the key questions raised by Hilmar's answer before talking about how -- if at all -- the CSM voting mechanic should change. And that plan was interrupted by all the new information coming out of CCP about the winter expansion. My desire to blog a bit more frequently doesn't extend quite that far. I was busy enough as it was. ;-)

Things have quieted down now, so I'd like to get back to this topic. "I'm starting to get feedback from players that they worry the CSM is too pre-occupied by a certain playstyle," Hilmar said in the interview. I think that's the key quote (it was very nearly my QOTW for last week).

There are four key questions at play here:
  1. Are the members of the CSM too focused on a particular way of playing EVE?
  2. If so, is this play-style having too great an influence on their actions as the CSM?
  3. If so, has there been a significant player back-lash over it?
  4. And finally, if so, should something be done about it?
Let's look at each question in order.

The members of CSM6 might argue the point (Mittens has even tried), but the answer to the first question is clearly "yes". The members of the CSM are too focused on a particular way of playing EVE. Arguments to the contrary, not a single one of them is a dedicated high-sec player. Only one alternative delegate is a dedicated wormhole resident. At best, only one CSM member is a dedicated low-sec pirate, miner, or industrialist. None are primarily PvE-focused, and few are small-gang PvP focused. Of the CSM members who live in null, the bulk of them are in large, sov-holding, large-fleet PvP alliances.

And all of that was by design. I stated all the way back in April that Mittens got almost the exact composition of the CSM that he wanted. He wasn't attempting to put together a CSM of diverse voices. He wanted a united CSM with a unified voice. His strategy, as a side effect, would result in a CSM all of whom played the game in essentially the same way, and that's what he got.

But that hasn't -- in and of itself -- been a bad thing! As Mittens himself says repeatedly, the problems with EVE were so self-evident going into 2011 that any CSM member from any background would have agreed on those issues. Any CSM member from any background would have also seen the need to explain those issues to CCP. And any CSM member that tried to stray from these big issues would have seen soon enough that they were concerned with petty stuff when there were much bigger fish to fry. So, the answer to question two, "is the CSM's play style having too great an influence on their actions as the CSM?" is clearly "no". No, it isn't. The CSM has been focused on the big problems to the exclusion of EVE's smaller issues, and those big problems have been the same for everyone, in my opinion. The particular background in EVE of individual CSM members has not been relevant.

And the net result of a unified CSM -- this year of all years -- has clearly been positive for EVE players.

Which brings us to question three, "has there been a significant player back-lash over the CSM's influence?" Hilmar implies that he thinks the answer is "yes".

If so, Hilmar -- for reasons of his own -- is over-reacting. The answer, very simply, is "no".

There has been a small back-lash, certainly, but it is an insignificant one. Sure, there has been a thread or two on the EVE-O forums started up by players who are disgruntled about the actions of Goons generally or Mittens specifically. But the number of people involved is a fraction of a fraction: that part of the player base that both even knows about the CSM and is vocal in their disapproval of some members. Hell, the size of the thread agitating for CCP to resume full development on Incarna is almost bigger.

The CSM this year hasn't been perfect, by any means. They are probably the least communicative CSM in the history of the organization. Their formal communication to the players has been one meeting, two fireside chats, and a single EVE Wiki page. Their informal communication has been limited to infrequent blog posts, forum posts, and Tweets, plus the occasional podcast or other interview. A unified communications strategy this is not. Mittens has sent more messages under the banner of his role as leader of GSF then he has under the banner of the Chair of the CSM. This lack of external communication is made all the more ironic given the extremely high level of internal communication this CSM enjoys.

But that also is not in and of itself a reason to condemn CSM6.

So that's two "no"s and a "yes". By a majority vote, this would mean that any issue with the composition of the CSM is currently over-blown and there's no particular need to change the mechanic for now the CSM is selected... except for two things.

First, using the current mechanic, we've now seen that the large null-sec alliances are going to have no particular problems retaining control of the CSM for as long as they care to do so. Mittens has joked a time or two that he would prefer that the "EVE player on the street" remains convinced of the CSM's powerlessness so that the large null alliances can retain control of it, and the influence that this gives them. As things stand, null alliances are going to be the only bodies of EVE players that will be able to put together the organization needed to put together a coherent bloc of votes. This will leave few or no full seats available to other EVE players.

Second, Hilmar indicates that this sort of CSM is less valuable to him than one that includes more diverse types of players. The veteran EVE players that make up null-sec blocs are an important part of EVE's player base, without a doubt. But there are other parts that are just as important, and the Goons have taken to destroying and griefing those parts to unprecedented levels.

And besides, CEOs have a tendency to get what they want. ;-)

So, despite the 2-1 "vote" against, it seems extremely likely that the mechanic for selecting the CSM is going to change in some significant way for 2012, making the answer to the fourth question "yes". How might it change?

That will be the topic of my next post on this subject.

23 comments:

  1. I don't know you that well, but I certainly have to respect your output and your obvious dedication to Eve. And I don't have anything obviously negative to say, you make good, solid, well thought out arguments in defense of your position. All good stuff.

    I do however, have to admit that it is also obvious ( not just from this post, but from many others ) that you are - and I hesitate to use the word "fan" - but at the very least you seem somewhat smitten with Mittens. And while I believe one must give the devil his due, in my experience the man isn't nearly as deserving of as much of the benefit of the doubt as you seem willing to give him. There are clearly few people involved in our universe that are as self-serving and ego driven. There are many, many of those from the opposite camp - with legitimate concerns - regarding his involvement with the CSM. And those concerns were raised well before his "election".

    And while we can always agree to disagree, I encourage you to take a step back and consider the actions of one person in the larger picture. At the very least such a deep breath might encourage a more well-rounded and fair approach to some of these obvious issues.

    My two cents. Take it as you will.

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  2. Wow Jester, your posts keep getting more and more interesting indeed. How do you possess such knowledge? Not only do you manage to touch on things about EvE that not many would think about, but also you managed to beat Mittens at his own game of demagogy. If you ever nominate yourself for CSM, I would vote for you in a pinch.

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  3. @Rixx: I love love LOVE comments like yours. How does it adjust your thinking if I told you that I have it from several very good sources that Mittens regards me as an occasionally useful idiot? ;-)

    To your point, though, there's no crime in stating that an (occasionally-hated) person is effective. And few could argue that Mittens has been that.

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  4. @Jester - It wouldn't surprise me in the least if MIttens felt that way. I would be lying if I said I cared at all what he thinks. If you do a search for Mittens on my blog you won't find any entries because I've refused since day one to even write his name. My own personal choice and one not based on hatred or disdain as much as not giving him the satisfaction.

    And you are correct, such people have their uses. And while they may be effective, I would have to counter by asking - effective at what exactly? In that questions lies a multitude of possibilities, many of which are not positive for a supposed representative of the Eve community. And not just one specific section of it, one which just happens to have its own interests at heart.

    Again, I read every post, I enjoy a wide variety of viewpoints and perspectives as I often change my own. But on this we must disagree.

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  5. Call me a radical, but it seems to me that the best way for the CSM to evolve is less of an American Style person election, and more a parliamentary style election with player made parties. The percentage of votes to each party will awarded in seats, in this case 10 seats. Those with lesser percentages, will get alternative seats. The player made party (PMP)with the most votes, if over 50% get's the chairmen seat if under 50% they need to ally with other parties to create a coalition of which the CCP approves of the chairman. Sort of constitional monarchy, with the parliament being advisory and CCP having total power.

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  6. Great post Jester, (ty)
    credit should be given to CCP/Hilmar for their upcoming winter changes, when they occur, and it should be noted that hopefully more focus on the core of the game has been promised and i hope will be met.
    CCP should also be encouraged to do this 'left-field' approach to new expansions ie Apocrypha, especially if it regards the core product.
    However, if there are concerns about the make-up of the CSM then they will have to be adressed.
    A fear of mine would be CCP responding to every forum threadnaught (lol) with a knee-jerk action and allowing skillfull media manipulators too much ear-time.
    Maybe we should be reading Chomsky's 'Manufacturing Consent' for a few months while the changes take place and the tempers can settle.

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  7. Autonomous MonsterNovember 1, 2011 at 6:54 PM

    "I have it from several very good sources that Mittens regards me as an occasionally useful idiot?"

    I wasn't aware that it was any great secret, given that he says as much whenever he posts here. :P

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  8. Jester, like the post but I think you forget a key argument which would explain and support Hilmar's statement.

    null-sec players have through there chosen play style (yes, there is a space in there) a history of being very vocal on forums and thus inciting emotions which then again foster to all the fun that comes with living in null-sec.

    Having lived in corps dedicated for either wormholes or High-sec, my view was usually, Who cares about forums? They just weren't relevant to us because forums and the drama that comes with it just didn't matter.
    Sure, we missed out when it came to CSM voting because we couldn't get the numbers.
    I definitely think Hilmar got a point there and I hope he does listen to the non-CSM voices. My fear is that he's gonna overreact again as CCP usually does and tilts the balance to far the other way.

    anyway, just another 2 cents.

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  9. @Rixx: I hardly think one could call Jester a fan of Mittens. I'm sure you saw the comments on his "Deliberately, Purposefully". If anything I would call the take that Jester has to be one of pragmatism. He calls it as he sees it as opposed to a more editorial slant where he calls it like he would like to see it.

    I'm not well versed on the mechanics of this CSM (though I'm learning) but I would like to know (and I hope Jester might comment) if there is a good bit of love for the high-sec dweller from null as they can't really exist without each other. One has to get their officer mods from somewhere...and then one has to sell them in Jita...which is in high-sec...

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  10. The reason that industry and other high-sec/pve activities do not have representation is that they are not aligned as a community and thus cannot exert power as a bloc. In fact, much of the industry community is aligned to the nullsec alliance they inhabit (or control, in the case of Atlas) so by necessity they are splintered in approach.

    BTW nice call, Jester, in realising that the Incursion section of the Eve community is cohesive enough to give you votes.


    To respond to some other posters:

    @Rixx: Never heard of strategic flattery? I appreciate the tactical and strategic effort Jester is applying towards CSM7, much like a well-plotted babylon 5 story arc. Step back and admire the positioning.

    @Jester: You already know why the CSM communication is so sparse this year, and why it will continue to be so. Don't be disingenuous.

    @Anonymous2: Is that you, Endie? Astroturf some more, yo.

    @EchoEpsilon23: Will never happen. Eve is a cult of personality rather than ideals. One only has to pay attention to the rise and fall of nullsec alliances to realise this.

    @Anonymous6: It's never a bad thing to grok how people think, especially if you want them to do something for you.

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  11. @LlamaBin Llama - there is no love in Null for the hi-sec dweller ( and I speak strictly in general terms ), it is more a feeling of contempt and resigned need to be frank.

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  12. Yet another goodpost.

    I think even if all three of those had been "no"s, they'd still cange it just because the CSM made hilmar mad.

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  13. The upper management of CCP has just had their nose bloodied.

    "Second, Hilmar indicates that this sort of CSM is less valuable to him than one that includes more diverse types of players."

    I think this particular line is entirely nonsensical --- I see no evidence from CSM's past that Hilmar in any way found the CSM valuable to begin with (diversity or not). The CSM was only formed after scandal threatened the financial health of the game. At present it is only being listened to because of the abject failure of the decisions he was ultimately responsible for and the current financial state of CCP. If he had listened to them prior then all that has occurred over the course of 2011 would not have happened. He would not have achieved the growth he wanted (which was a stretch to believe in the first place) but CCP would not have ridden this roller coaster either.

    The most likely explanation of his comments is simply that he personally will not internalize the fact that it was his decisions that led to the current state of his companies financial health. It was Hilmar's personal disdain for the opinions provided him from the CSM and the players on the forums over the NEX store that directly set the stage for the loss of subscriptions/revenue and the subsequent layoffs. Leaving the game became to be seen as the only true way to get his attention --- by his own admission.

    The relatively minor backlash against Mittens in particular may provide Hilmar the excuse to do what he already wants to do. The structure of the CSM in general is a totally irrelevant issue to the future of CCP and EVE compared to the internal attitude and how it changes to accept outside opinions. The recent developers work and announcement are a start -- but the current expansion plans are all low hanging fruit. The winter expansion buys them 6 months tops.

    If CCP were a true public company instead of a mostly privately owned, Hilmar would never have made his apology letter because he would have "retired".

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  14. The general consensus is that null sec alliances run EVE via the CSM. While I certainly believe that the CSM carries some weight within CCP, please don't think the company is completely blind to other demographics.

    Growth (as in financial growth) comes for CCP from two sources, a) new players who have to get through the starting zones in high sec and b) old players needing to run multiple accounts. CCP's real problem is not retention of old players (=low/null/incursion/WH) but new players since the company faces a uphill battle against internal drivers (summer of rage press + difficult game to learn) and external (move away from PC games towards "apps").

    CCP's appeasement to the CSM is cute marketing but Hilmar MUST get the word out to the 10million or so WoW players who are tired of Pandabears and pink ponies. For this he does not need Mittens to tell him how to run his company. For this he needed pretty Avatars and a much easier PvE environment. That this has failed is a consequence of CCP's incompetence to develop this aspect of the game as well as the outspoken nature of Mittens-like players.

    CCP can not and - if they want to have growth back - will not become slaves to Mittens or his ilk.

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  15. This is an awesome post, and a good fundamental breakdown of the complex issues regarding the CSM, CCP dynamic as I see it.

    I don't hold an opinion of Mittens, I make a point of being apolitical, although I don't advocate Goons play style, it is their game to play as much as mine and I will adapt and survive. Mittens, and in general the CSM and in fact the prior 2 or possibly 3 CSM have steadily been given more weight than before and been effectual in getting player voices heard at CCP.

    Need to applaud CCP really, nowhere else to my knowledge has any company generated a stakeholder group consisting of essentially clientèle. Ok so they may not listen to them as much as other stakeholders (rightly so) but it shows a big commitment from CCP that no one should forget or underestimate.

    Hilmar may be frustrated with the current CSM form, but the reality is as pointed out that Alliances are by their very nature voting power blocs that other areas of the game space cannot create. The only major Hi-Sec personality of note is Chribba, who is fairly genuinely apolitical.

    Hi-Sec, the stereotype (and this in my experience is not entirely fair but it is easy to see where the POV comes from)

    Here it comes.

    Hi-Sec is generally for, new players, missioners (solo players), small time margin industrials, small corps unable to produce sufficient capital and infrastructure to live in low/null/WH's, and market alts.

    Each one of these segments (with exception of 1) of the population have by definition small numbers of contacts in game or have chosen to play eve in a much more casual manner then a CSM candidate needs, making their election in the current system problematic. The exception is market traders/market alts. These may or may not have vast arrays of contacts in game, but of course are there to make isk in the major trading platforms.

    Bottomline, changing the format of the CSM is IMHO the only way to be a more rounded for the other areas of the game. The trick is how do you get there with voting, but getting the understanding of what every group needs?

    I know there is no love loss between hi-sec dwellers and null-sec alliances, but the two need one another, and each would do well to remember that!

    Ultimately, hi-sec needs some love and attention. CSM needs to be seen to be encouraging growth in this area (which I believe they are), just not as publicly as 0.0 where let’s face it, most of the people who are charismatic and willing to exert their will reside, however I don’t believe changing the CSM will help beyond making Hilmar feel better.

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  16. Interesting though, I wonder if the argument could be made that a strong focus on the nullsec perspective may very well put overly much emphasis on certain topics (and thus on what Trebor aptly calls the debate of the feature war) but that it serves as something between an engine and a catalyst for further perspectives available.

    Nullsec as engine to EVE, as it was once called. Just in a new coat.

    Personally I don't subscribe to that view, I used to, but that unilateral strength died ages ago. The bulk of EVE's subscribers these days are no longer the ones that go deep / far / long.

    That imposes challenges for game design. CCP misunderstood completely the necessity to adapt to casualisation in gaming for EVE, and misunderstood completely the requirements to engage in more rapid content / feature service cycles as with Incursions. It's one of those things that nags me in the back of my mind, say all the event / trend creators and pushers find their way back to EVE, do they still have the time / investment available to make in EVE that they did in older days?

    As dangerous as it is, I can see CCP asking similar questions at some point, because the user types present in EVE have been changing.

    And on CCP changing CSM, heh, good luck. When it was amazing exposure they decided to call them stakeholders without having a clue of what that meant, and had their pants pulled down by their own sillyness. So CCP toned it down, and a few people across various fences put a working relationship together and CSM became a feedback group. And CCP once again had its pants pulled down, for the same reasons. This round made worse, because CCP tried (and succeeded) in putting CSM between them and us, and tried to turn them into something between advertisers & evangelists (which ultimately failed).

    Really, any change CCP may think of, is pointless if CCP doesn't get its act together. We've seen em blame everyone anywhere and anything for terrible things, but ultimately they create their own crap. Like any human being I'd say. CSM people will do as they please either way, and even any newboy fanboys will wise up over time through exposure to the social and the professional sides of CCP.

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  17. The CSM at best acts as the voice of those interested in the meta-gaming and meta-politics provided through the mechanism of the CSM.

    If I were Hilmar, and really wanted to collect the opinion of the player base, then I would simple survey them. (Whatever happened to that player survey they did six months ago anyway? All of them. I recall at one point not being able to complete my log on until I had decided on just the right sideburns for my toon.

    Using the same mechanism, they could put a survey in place blocking the game log in until each player had filled it out. Also, they then have the toon's login and it would be a simple matter to correlate the survey responses with and aspect of the toon's activities and history in eve.

    As it is, the CSM from the point of an average, ordinary, anonymous player is about as representative of player opinion as [insert your local, regional or national government or student society here]. The view winds up being apathy, mistrust and derision.

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  18. A minor correction regarding the makeup of the CSM; the statement that "only one alternate is a dedicated WH resident" is incorrect.

    I have two main characters that I play: Trebor is currently enjoying the pleasures of ganking nullsec alliance members as a member of Dirt Nap Squad; prior to that he was part of a sov-holding alliance and specialized in corporate logistics.

    My other main is a pure industrial character, currently a long-term resident in a C4 wormhole; previously, he ran a complex ship production line in hisec.

    Because CSM candidates are by definition heavily invested in the game, they will tend to skew towards people with nullsec experience, though this does not preclude them having experience with the "hisec" lifestyle.

    The trick, for hisec voters, is to support candidates that will not unduly favor their own particular interests in the game, but rather will push for improvements that benefit everyone; when that is not possible, they should ensure that every area of the game has a turn getting the "love".

    So this winter/spring, nullsec is getting the love, plus we are getting a lot of improvements that benefit everyone. Which means that CSM7 ought to (for example) be pushing for some POS/Industrial love, which will benefit hisec but also have spillovers to WH/nullsec.

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  19. this rixx guy posts a lot of comments about how little he cares about me or what i think, and about how little he posts about me.

    'heh'

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  20. I think it is worth pointing out the sorts of folks that were elected in the past as highsec reps. Pretty universally, they have been really bad.

    I also wonder what sorts of population numbers we would see with a better system of counting folks. For example, I have basically 4 "mains" on my 3 accounts. 2 of them in w-space and 2 in highsec. I wouldn't consider myself a highsec player though. I suspect a lot of the vast hordes of highsec folks in the QENs are alts of mains who live elsewhere, or even just mains who happened to clone jump or visit highsec when the snapshot was taken.

    I actually think we have a good amount of highsec knowledge on CSM 6 as well. Both Meissa and I do invention/production stuff. Draco Lhasa is actually in highsec doing incursions now, I think. Just about everyone has lived in highsec a little bit, and it isn't like the basic highsec mechanics have changed all that much in the last 5 or 6 years...

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  21. I'm a hisec rep! Most of my characters are in hisec RIGHT NOW. I care deeply about issues of gankers, scammers, pirates and 0rphanage members in hisec~

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  22. @ anonymous

    "If I were Hilmar, and really wanted to collect the opinion of the player base, then I would simple survey them."

    The problem with that is not simply the typical range of problems surrounding surveys. Even more so it is the problem that CCP has quite the established history with surveys, both inside the company and among customers. None of that history being very good, far from.

    A severe vulnerability of CCP exists in always seeking paths towards validating internal and frequently personal perspectives - which is understandable - but which CCP never buffers against syndromes like "leading the witness" or "self fulfilling prophecy".

    I would agree that CCP should have learned about their fundamental issues with surveys, as they should have learned about their organisational vulnerabilities. Unfortunately it comes down to nearly a decade of established and socially internalised behaviour, which makes that incredibly hard to deal with. Prohibitively hard to consider, and beyond that even harder to analyse and get to work with.

    Anyone who over the years has seen CCP's yearbooks will be instantly nodding at that observation, with a severe headache, but even just going over the surveys CCP has sent out to players over the years will not have a hard time figuring out that surveys to CCP are primarily an instrument of validation and secondary an instrument of messaging (in the function of channeling user behavioral patterns).

    I'm not saying that CCP cannot change its ways as a company or as a culture. I hope they do. But this kind of retrospection and self inspection faces an enormous knowledge challenge, corporate cultural challenge and an even more worrying amount of inertia in moving away under duress from established shortcuts.

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  23. This CSM6 comments are pretty much the reason why the voting method needs to be changed. A chairman with this ironic condescending tone is not what I voted for tbh (but I believe more and more that it's all acting to create a stereotype 'Mittens' than anything else) more, as much as I do respect trebor and a few others in CSM6, just because you casually fiddle around 'carebearing' it doesn't entitle you the all knowing god about what needs or not to be done in those areas of the game.

    I'm a 'like everything in eve guy', I rat, I mission, I live in null and high, gone through low for a bit, been in FW and left as it sucked, and there are plenty of areas outside of null that need heavy rework, in the end they all need to be worked on, unfortunately the CSM has a small 'tendency' to push for null fixing as a priority, which personally (mind you personally) I don't agree, as someone who wants to see more people in EvE, you won't do it by implementing changes/adding content to a place where it's less likely to have new players, at all.

    The argument that past high sec csm members were bad, well, I'm sure others not only from high sec were bad also, they were not the only ones, the CSM has a learning curve also, and I'm pretty sure now, for several reasons (including the media projection CSM6 has given) the quality of members can and will be a lot bigger than the past, all this to say, I humbly believe that the voting method should change, there has to be people dedicated solely to cater different play styles as a major focus in his position on the CSM while in the end making decisions for the greater good even if sometimes it requires him to either abstain himself from certain decisions or even going against his 'beliefs' if necessary.

    In the end CSM6 did save EvE imo, but, all that is needed is common sense, see the whole picture from all sides and not be narrow minded.

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