Welcome to Jester's Trek.
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.
You can follow along, if you want...

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Successful failure

I am not an EVE journalist.  I don't write news.

I say this because from time to time, I have to remind people of this.  Yes, very infrequently I will write blog posts that are intended to factually present the news of the day before I give all of you my take on it.  Here's an example from 2011.  Here's another from 2012.  But it's not my usual thing.(1)  Usually, I'm content to point you at the news or assume that you know it, then give you my opinion of it.  This is an opinion blog.  That's what I do here.  If you want news, there are two perfectly serviceable EVE news websites linked off to the right.

I want to make sure I'm being clear on this because when I talk about the CSM Summit minutes which I'm going to do in a whole series of posts, I want you (and interested CSM members) to know that these are my opinions, not the facts.  Want the facts?  Read the Summit Minutes, or read a news site's coverage.  Ready?  OK.


Focus: CSM Summit Minutes, "CSM as Stakeholder" session

In September, I appeared on the Declarations of War pod-cast with CSM Chair Seleene, Alekseyev Karrde, and Hans Jagerblitzen.  At that time, I asked them what they thought their accomplishments as a CSM were.  They were quick to point to the unprecedented length and detail of the May Summit Minutes.  And then they talked for quite a while about their efforts to make the CSM's stake-holder status mean something concrete.  For months, I have been told that one of the reasons that the CSM were staying relatively quiet was because they were working on this goal, they had NDA concerns around it, and they didn't want to threaten the success of this endeavor.  Discussion of this goal is still the most recent post on Seleene's blog, more than three months later.

And in this regard, the Summit Minutes show CSM7 has failed in their objective.  Their attempts to make stake-holder status mean something concrete have not been successful.

Reading pages 19 through 25 of the Summit Minutes was an emotional experience for me: I felt inspired, depressed, surprised, and angry, all at the same time.  Hidden in seven pages of dry management speak is a blue-print for a total break-down in stated objectives and communications.  It really is heart-breaking.  Hell, read this one little quote alone:
Two step: What we were told at the summit was [the feature] was going to be player-to-player [service] contracts, and the next thing we hear, without any input from us, was that it was going to be bounty hunting. Our expectation was going to be that we were going to be consulted about decisions like that -- and we didn't even know there was a decision being made.
Ouch!  CCP couldn't even bother to communicate to the CSM what the signature feature of Retribution was going to be, much less get them involved early enough or often enough in the development process for the actual feature.  That's a rather horrific communications break-down.  No wonder a lot of CSM7 is so dispirited lately.

At another point, CCP Ripley admits that there were six sprint reviews on the Bounty Hunting feature and the CSM was only directly involved in the third one... and that one only very late!  Once asked, the CSM clearly did their job:
Trebor: One thing that came out of the first iteration is that we proved we can execute within your time requirements.
Ripley: I can confirm that. In my interactions with you guys, we talked about things and you were just on it.
"You got included very late in the process," Ripley adds before (probably sheepishly) admitting "there was not a lot of freedom to act on your feedback."  Ouch again.

Now, to his credit, CCP Unifex opened the session by clearly stating that the buck stopped with him, he recognized that the experiment had failed, and the failure was mostly -- potentially almost entirely -- on CCP's side.  To his further credit, he still agrees with the approach and wants to iterate on it and continue its development.  That's good news: CSM as Stakeholder is not going to be dropped by CCP.  CCP Seagull and CCP Ripley were both present at the session, also bought into this strategy, and both communicate in the Minutes that they want to engage the CSM as part of their respective processes, Seagull focusing on getting CSM input on future plans, and Ripley on using the CSM as a stake-holder during the actual development schedule.

The right things are being said.  Now.  Before...
Seleene: ...later we found out that the people in the team were not even aware we were involved [as stakeholders].
Hans: One of the telling things was that in the spring review we received, there was a document visible on the screen that listed the stakeholders, and CSM was not listed.
Two step: Part of the problem for us is that we not only don't know about the decisions until after they're made, we don't even know they are being made.
So there's clearly some work to be done here.  Whether I'm on it or not, I hope CSM8 will continue that work.

A bit like Frodo, CSM7 has gotten the One Ring to the base of Mount Doom.  That's the good news.  The bad news is that Frodo seems to be dying there.  ;-)  The idea of "CSM as Stakeholder" is going to need a bit more help at this point.  The failed experiment can still succeed.


(1) In both cases, I factually presented the news only because I was not confident of a lack of bias covering the story from the news sites in question but don't tell them that.  ;-)

25 comments:

  1. I'd say Gollum had taken the ring briefly but the CSM Summit was Frodo biting off the damn finger the to get that sum bitch back.

    Now we're walking up to the edge with our final couple months to look out over the lavascape. It'll be up to CSM8 to see if they take the ring to its final destination or consumes them.

    Really looking forward to talking to you and Mynnna tomorrow, especially in light of your announcement.

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  2. Funny that you open this piece with a preamble that mentions facts. The fact is that CCP can't be made to do something they don't want to do by outsiders. The fact is that CCP doesn't give a rat's ass about "CSM as Stakeholder" in any of their plans. The fact is that there was a communications breakdown on CCP's part only if they ever really intended to be communicative in the first place.

    There is a pattern of CCP disdain for the CSM that goes back years. They can spout nice words to the gaming media in interviews, in their advertisements, in their CSM interactions, in their devblogs and EVE-O forum posts. A lot of that is probably even sincere. But it is their ACTIONS we must judge them on and they have shown year after year that when it comes to the CSM as a source of input for their game design decisions, they could not care less.

    Run for CSM8 if you like, Jester, and I will wish you well but I think your expectations should be lowered a little bit as to what can actually be accomplished there on behalf of the players. I also think your blog here will suffer. Best of luck to you, but remember: what is seen cannot be unseen and I'd hate to lose you and your blog. It's one of the few I check out at least twice a day.

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    1. If a software development company of the size of CCP really wanted to fully include a player representation (CSM) into their approval/planning/prioritization workflow, it shouldn't be too hard to implement. I think many modern software development companies have a group of key users that are included in the planning process of upcoming releases.

      My guess is they haven't made it an official way of working within CCP internally, which leaves "requesting feedback from CSM" up to individual developers/project leads who have to break out of the normal workflow. And if they forget about CSM, or include CSM too late, or get carried away with coding, or simply would rather not consult CSM first, it doesn't happen.

      So I guess the next logical step for CSM would be to demand that CCP makes some internal workflow changes that officially includes requesting CSM feedback at the appropriate stages of planning.

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    2. I've been playing Eve for 4 years now (5 accounts) and I've been reading Eve blogs over the last 2.5 years. Anonymous might be right when he said "The fact is that CCP doesn't give a rat's ass about "CSM as Stakeholder" in any of their plans."
      That said, however, they sure can be made to "give a rat's ass" when we (the players) elect the right representatives to the CSM.
      Remember Mittani and his political clout? He damn sure got their attention. And I think Jester and his blog have had some influence on CCP and the current CSM whether they want to acknowledge it or not. If we the players vote Jester on to CSM8 then I’ll bet anyone a substantial amount of ISK that CCP will be made to "give a rat's ass."

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    3. So you're saying that the three most senior people in EVE's development flat-out lied here when they said they respected the process and they hadn't done enough with it?

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    4. Yes, certainly sounds like it. It's rather difficult to forget about your customers, so there may have been a conscious decision to slow-roll CSM involvement. Bounty hunting and "Retribution" has more appeal to potential new players than the more arcane "service contracts" that would be more useful to existing customers.

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  3. First you call out CSM7 as a failure, but than back that statement up with a bunch of examples of where CCP dropped the ball - not the CSM (who were quick to call out every one of CCP's mistakes and get them on record along with with Jon Lander's mea culpa and commitment to do better next time).

    In fact, you talk about the fact that the reason the CSM chose to stay quiet was for the success of the program - its continuance to a higher level. Clearly their strategy worked in that regard, as Jon Lander has committed to continuing the process.

    If CCP was the one dropping the ball, why target the CSM? I mean, putting up a caveat post about bias is great and all, but delving into election politics this deep, this early, strikes me as incredibly self-serving. You don't have to go about proving your worth this way, we have faith in you already to do a better job. Throwing the CSM under the bus that is actually putting the ball on the T for you to hit the home run is just poor taste, and its painfully obvious to even the most casual reader.

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    1. This is ONE example, not many. And in a lot of ways, I'm being nice in this post. For example, I could have said that Seleene should have been using his many CCP contacts to jump start this stake-holder process when it stalled, but he didn't.

      But I really don't have to do that, I think. I said in my previous post why I think CSM as a group didn't do a good job. I don't have to belabor the point in this one.

      The point to *this* post is that the main goal of CSM7's term did not succeed and to lay out the reasons why that was. In this particular case, I chose to put most of the onus on CCP, not the CSM. Conventional wisdom might be that failure is an orphan. I disagree. Failure, like success, has many parents.

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    2. For the record, it was Seleene's relationship with Jon Lander that got the Stakeholder process back on track after it started to derail. Jon takes -ultimate- responsiblity for what went wrong, as any good manager should. But it would be absolutely misleading to say that he was the person making all of the communication mistakes we complained about.

      Seleene's ability to batphone Jon and get -results- is precisely why we're able to continue with the Stakeholder process into Spring. Seleene was the one that forcefully confronted Jon about what wasn't happening and what needed to happen, and the reason that CCP was so prepared to own up to the mistakes made at the summit without us having to present our complaints for the first time.

      You're welcome to formulate whatever opinion you like, you only see what you see, and I get that. And Seleene's performance this term is by no means perfect - but his relationship with CCP and willingness to go straight to the person who mattered whenever there were serious problems to solve has been an invaluable asset this term.

      If you obtain a CSM8 seat and get to enjoy being a part of the ongoing Stakeholder development, you'll have him to thank for his dedication to this project.

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    3. I suppose it's a good thing Seleene stole the chair from Two Step in defiance of the popular vote, then. Would Seleene still have leveraged that relationship if he had not been chair?

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  4. I'm not sure where you're getting dispirited from, to be honest. In fact, you know we're excited about we saw at the summit, because that's exactly why I've been encouraging you, Malcanis, and Mynnna to run. :-) CCP is reaching out to the CSM in new ways, and as of this very week showing through -action-, not words, that they are willing to atone for the mistakes made in the fall.

    When we started the pilot program everyone, including Jon Lander, made it clear that mistakes would be made (I believe this was actually said in the May minutes). That was to be expected. Certainly not to the level that occured, but the bottom line is that the pilot program was an -audition-, ultimately. It was never about Bounty Hunting vs. Treaties - it was about proving that the CSM can respond promptly, provide valuable feedback, and not slow down the process.

    In fact we had a choice - throw an indignant fit about the fact that Bounty Hunting was chosen over our heads and demand CCP work on Treaties instead, or simply agree to help make them make a really successful Bounty Hunting system. The real prize, of course, was getting to do this over again during talks about the summer expansion. Opting to go along with Bounty Hunting not only turned out to be a commercial success for CCP - but we got what we were after - a chance to sit in the circle while the summer expansion is drafted.

    By all means, label that a "failure" if you must. -It's campaign season!- I really don't care what you have to do to get elected, because I want you on the council. You're going to enjoy yourself this year, particularly -because- of the level of access you'll enjoy that no other CSM before you has enjoyed. You will have earned it (assuming you make it through election season) and you'll do an excellent job.

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    1. That casts you guys even further in the Eisenhower mold I talked about a few months back, though. Kind of a pity, actually. In much the same way CSM4 is a footnote story of how CSM5 was successful, you guys might be a footnote story about CSM8's success. Can you live with that if it goes down that way?

      Not a lot of people can name too many people from CSM4...

      If course, if it *doesn't* go down that way, then you'll have significant "I told you so" powers. ;-)

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    2. I don't give a crap about being the star CSM when it all goes down in history, I'm perfectly content to help set YOU up for success. CSM6 didn't "save nullsec", they didn't solidify the CSM as a stakeholder, they didn't get the white paper rewritten. They didn't resurrect dead horses. But we couldn't have done what we did without their groundwork to build on.

      I really only care about two things this term - results*, and being honest about what actually took place. That should hopefully be your concern this year as well, not making sure you're known as the "BEST CSM EVAR" Do your job well, and you'll set up CSM9 to be in an even more meaningful and effective place, and your work will be outstaged by theirs. It's time to shed the pundit hat, and take this on as a job that you know you'll never get the credit you deserve for.

      *Measured by three questions - Is the game in a better place at the end? Is it headed in the right direction? Is CCP making better use of the CSM than ever before?

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  5. I almost wrote this exact same blog post yesterday Ripard but decided against it after a two hour argument/discussion with Hans over Skype. In the end, I am glad I didn't bother - you have written what I would have but with far more eloquence.

    One thing I would like to add to the discussion though. Unifex points out that this is a line in the sand for him and the relationship between CCP and the CSM. It all changes from here. And yet Seleene suggested that the minutes would hopefully be in the community's hands by NY, presumably on the basis of assurances from CCP. That it took a further 17 days before they were publicly available suggests there are at least some elements of CCP who are not giving the CSM the same level of respect they are receiving.

    CSM7 given continuous rhetoric that they are the CSM to build the bridge between the two entities. I suspect we are still a very long way off that yet. While I don't doubt the amount of work the key members are putting into this, I do have doubts about the narrative they are feeding the electorate.

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    1. Hans, Trebor, and I are having a discussion about that very thing in the comments of Hans's blog:

      http://hansshotfirst.blogspot.com/2013/01/csm-winter-summit-2012-minutes-update.html?showComment=1358318676389#c3825271893987488006

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  6. I will believe CCP re CSM as stakeholder when they start walking the walk instead of just talking the talk. The talk has been going on since CSM5. The time for Unifex to prove his commitment is immediately. Shit or get off the pot, Lander. Now is also the time for the CSM to start holding CCP publicly accountable each time they fail to treat the CSM as a stakeholder, not months later in a couple of merely gently chiding statements in a document that most EVE players probably won't read.

    CSM as Stakeholder would be a good cause for you to go "activist" on, Jester--whether or not you get elected to CSM8.

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    1. If Unifex or anyone else for that matter drops the ball this quarter, the public will hear about it -immediately-. The decision to float a pilot program and evaluate success/failure at the end was specific only to the pilot program itself. We all know now (CSM and CCP alike) what went wrong, and what needs to be done to correct those issues.

      I stand by the decision to give them -one- chance to make mistakes and learn. Keep in mind - this had never been done before, and nothing ever goes perfectly right out of the starting gate. SOMEONE had to take the risk and just try this out sooner or later. But now that they know better - there is absolutely no excuse for dropping the ball on the CSM the second time around. You should NOT mistake the way the CSM handled the project in the fall for the way we will be handling feedback in the future.

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    2. And equally, I would expect the CSM to report on the positive events DURING the pilot that demonstrate CCP is making good on their word with regard to this new stakeholder pilot program. Waiting until the end is like shutting the gates after the cows leave, instead of while they're headed right for it. But since I don't have any horse in this race, take that opinion fwiw.

      I would also argue that this is really CCP's third chance to demonstrate that they mean it about CSM as stakeholder because they dropped the ball on it in CSM5 too, paying only lip service wrt integration during that term. CSM6 seemingly ignored stakeholder status altogether for all intents and purposes so CCP can be forgiven for not worrying about it then.

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  7. Reading between the lines of the CCP minutes, I get the sense that CCP doesn't entirely trust the current CSM. Perhaps CCP felt a bit burned by the CSM6 after the Incarna wars and didn't want CSM7 exerting what CCP felt was undue influence over design decisions.

    The nullsec caucus, for example, came in with a coordinated set of design changes they wanted for future nullsec which they'd publicized in the forums before-hand and pressed home firmly at the summit. CCP was polite, but non-committal.

    The message seems to be 'We value your input, but don't doubt who owns the game.'

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    1. Are you referring to the most recent summit?

      CCP will likely be even more non-committal outside of focused expansion planning efforts precisely -because- of incidents like yesterday's threadnaught which result from messaging that gets interpreted (rightfully so) by the players as commitment.

      They didn't promise 0.0 improvements during the summit because the viability of a cohesively themed expansion touching a wide variety of gameplay styles is more important than any one specific feature set within the new rubric. If we can demonstrate that POS or 0.0 improvements can be worked into a well themed expansion, it's certainly still a possibility. This much CCP has stated clearly.

      As for whether they trust us? Decide for yourself once this process is over. But to put it into context, they've already pitched to us an enormous bucket of features that each team has deemed individually viable for May release and have asked for our thematic ideas to be drafted over the weekend as far as putting these ideas together into a fun expansion.

      The summit was simply a chance to look at the general direction of 0.0 and help the design team prepare to give the aforementioned proposals for deliverable features.

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  8. Do you happen to know if CCP has dedicated PMs, or if their PMs are really software developers wearing PM hats? In my experience, software devs care about stakeholders exactly as much as the PM makes them, and dedicated PMs are much better at dealing with stakeholders, buy in, and over all service design, then devs, who tend to be more focused on the specific technical details and time line when they are forced to wear that hat.

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  9. "Two step: Part of the problem for us is that we not only don't know about the decisions until after they're made, we don't even know they are being made."

    I'm pretty certain on this one: decisions are being made all day long. It is the bulk of the work for the three management people cited here. In fact, if one were to allow the CSM to know when the decisions are done, the three of them would need to walk the CCP office wearing a helmet with a camera and mic, streaming everything the say or do during their work.

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  10. I bet CCP dropped the ball on CSM7 because the CSM didn't bark loud enough. It's easy to forget about a group that sits by silently and doesn't complain about being left out or otherwise makes themselves known and available.

    If CSM7 was being left out so bad like is mentioned above, they had to know that they were being left out. Now if they did try as hard as they could to be heard and were still being ignored, then I feel sorry for CSM8 and others.

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