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...

Saturday, September 28, 2013

The five concerns

CSM8 has issued a public statement giving our position on the controversy regarding the giveaway being run by SOMER Blink on behalf of CCP.  I reproduce it here in full:
The following is a summary of CSM activity over the last few days regarding the SOMER Blink promotion.

The CSM was not consulted in advance about this promotion, so it was just as much a surprise to us as it was to the community. Our reaction was broadly similar to that expressed in the forums.

On Thursday the 26th, we received an update on the situation from CCP Dolan after our regular Stakeholder meeting with Team Five-0. Later in the day, we got a second update from CCP Dolan and CCP Manifest.

During those meetings, we outlined five areas of concern that we felt CCP's response should address. These were:
  1. Reintroduction of historically important or unique ships.
  2. Favoring one community fan site over others.
  3. Trusting a community fan site, and more particularly, a player, with the task of selecting the winners.
  4. Forcing players to use SOMER Blink in order to enter -- which may have legal consequences in some jurisdictions.
  5. Providing direct benefit to a for-profit gambling fansite.
CCP Navigator's announcement on Thursday of changes to the prize structure has addressed (1), and details of the method of selecting winners (which we urge CCP to make public) leaves the CSM reasonably confident that the actual drawing will be fair, addressing issue (3).

Issues (2) and (5) are business decisions that CCP has the right to make. We think they are a mistake, and hope that the uproar over this issue will cause CCP to re-evaluate these policies for future promotions. Supporting groups that have a clear educational/public service focus in-game is one thing; supporting a group that is distinctly for-profit -- and one that can use the ISK it generates to secretly support in-game groups -- breeds distrust for CCP in the community.

However, the requirement that one must be a member of SOMER Blink in order to participate remains, and for a lottery with such significant prizes, is very troubling to us. Furthermore, the structure of the lottery, which encourages and rewards extensive use of SOMER Blink, may raise legal concerns in some jurisdictions. For example, in the United States, commercial lotteries cannot require the purchase of a product or service in order to receive an entry.

For this reason, we strongly suggest that the entry mechanic be adjusted as follows:
  1. Members of SOMER Blink are automatically entered into the lottery and receive one ticket, regardless of how much they use the site.
  2. An alternate method (such as posting in a particular thread) be used to allow people to enter who do not wish to become a member of SOMER Blink.
We further recommend that procedures be put in place to sanity-check future promotions to ensure that they are acceptable to the community.

On Friday morning we sent this statement to CCP for their comments, and on Friday evening David Reid (CCP Pokethulu, CCP's CMO) replied to us as follows (reproduced with permission):
Thank you for your thoughtful feedback, and for the opportunity to review your statement in advance of publishing it to the community.

We acknowledge that we rushed this event, and we are certainly learning from it now.

Your statement strikes us as factually correct and appropriate to publish, and there are a few further details we want to share with you also.

First, we are developing a program to allow all 3rd parties the opportunity to apply to participate in these kinds of events and promotions with CCP support, and we will have news on that shortly. In general, we believe CCP should foster the activities our players enjoy, and it is clear these kinds of activities have a lot of support in the EVE community, much like we see in other games.

That said, we recognize it is imperative for CCP to remain impartial with respect to which 3rd parties receive CCP support for these kinds of activities. To that end, we will develop a clear policy on how we plan to conduct future events, including how we will determine which 3rd parties and which events will receive CCP support, and we will develop that policy in consultation with the CSM.

We also want to assure you that we are working closely with CCP's legal team to ensure all legal concerns resulting from this event, and future events like it, are addressed.

If you wish, it's fine to let the community know in your statement that CCP has informed you we are working on a clear 3rd party program for future events and that we will consult with you on this program as we develop it, but there's certainly no requirement for you to include this in your statement.

Thank you again for your feedback here and we welcome your further thoughts.

Thanks,
David
The CSM will endeavor to keep the community informed as there are further developments in this issue, and as always, your input is most appreciated.

Sincerely,
The Members of the 8th Council of Stellar Management
CSM8 Chair Trebor Daehdoow gets CSM MVP of the week honors here for the writing of the statement, though I have to give myself credit where it's due as well.  I was the one that came in as CCP Navigator's statement was being drafted and pointed out that just changing the prizes only addressed one area of concern, and then I noted the others.  Those became the five concerns that are at the core of the statement, and after I'd listed them, the CCP employees we'd been working with (fortunately, and to their credit) admitted that all of them were factual and valid.

So this isn't over yet, though it's not stopping the SOMER Blink giveaway.  CCP will just hopefully have to get this right for future giveaways.  I myself expect to be issued a Jester's Trek branded Talos or Vindicator to give away to a lucky reader, since my love of "green and covered with blasters" is well-documented.  CCP, take note.  ;-)

Two interesting things about CSM8's handling of this compared to past CSMs:
  1. We made it clear to CCP right from the get-go that we were going to issue a public statement about this and exactly what it would say.  At each stage, we shared the text with CCP executives and were clear about what was going out and why.
  2. And those same CCP executives did an absolutely terrific job of staying in communication with us, responding rapidly to our e-mails and our concerns both through that medium and Skype.
If nothing else, after CCP had thoroughly shot themselves in the foot with an elephant gun -- again!  for the second time in less than a month! -- the CSM's ability to respond to this was a model for CCP-CSM communications.

Gods, do I hate slapping CCP's hand so hard on this.  Because in theory, CCP working more closely with their community sites over the last year has been really really good.  You don't have to look much farther than the Syndicate Competitive League to see that, for instance.  But it really illustrates that the brains behind this promotion really should have checked it with more people.  The situation this past week was totally, completely avoidable.  And it did a terrific job of disrupting what should have been a CCP victory lap day -- more about that in a couple of posts.

CSM, working for you, et cetera et cetera.  Stay tuned.

24 comments:

  1. The fact still remains that since this is a game with no legal repercussions for scamming, CCP can (and will) be duped into *publicly* trusting someone they shouldn't. They will end up with egg all over their face after someone runs off with CCP's stuff/ISK.
    CCP Pokethulu, instead of giving your stuff to Sommer, why don't you ask for their code so you can develop an internal CCP site that you know will be impartial 100%.

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    1. Or, if Somer Blink steals the ship, CCP they can delete the pixels that we call "ship" from the database and move on with their real lives. If Somer rigs the game and makes an Alt win, who will ever know and - much more importantly - who cares?

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  2. A great job by all concerned CSMers and involved CCP staff. The potential for damage to the confidence and community good-will they've so carefully built since 2011 has been greatly mitigated by the clearly much-improved ability to communicate and react.

    However, should we believe their policy of calculated "testing the water" community brinkmanship or was this just pushed through without due consideration? Are we looking at a worryingly cavalier management style or one that is prepared to ride roughshod over esoteric community elements to bolster the bottom line?

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    1. "However, should we believe their policy of calculated "testing the water" community brinkmanship...?"

      No, CCP has boken trust too often to let this go unquestioned.

      "...or was this just pushed through without due consideration?"

      Very likely, as it seems to be the standard procedure of late.

      "Are we looking at a worryingly cavalier management style or one that is prepared to ride roughshod over esoteric community elements to bolster the bottom line?"

      Unfortunately, probably so. Both past company history and recent management changes seem to be moving in that direction.


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  3. GJ, CSM.

    Taross/Giel M

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  4. Hmm... IB4Dinsdale

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  5. "We further recommend that procedures be put in place to sanity-check future promotions to ensure that they are acceptable to the community."

    Crazy idea here:
    What if, and hear me out on this, there were some sort of group, a council if you will, of players under NDAs that were elected by the playerbase that CCP could use as a sounding board for sanity checking ideas?


    I know, it's pretty nutty.

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    1. We argued back and forth whether listing the CSM explicitly was too self-serving. ;-)

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    2. This is why I think the CSM in general is overall nothing but a PR stunt. They pull stuff like this all the time. Last year their decision to stop working on POS issues caught the CSM completely by surprise. The year before that it was Incarna and super expensive microtransactions. The year before that it was something else.

      There's a clear pattern of CCP not caring one whit for actually using the CSM for what it's supposed key role is. If I was on some advisory panel in a stakeholder capacity and this somer.blink thing was dropped out of the blue with no warning, I'd be out the door the next day. Some stakeholder status, eh? As Judge Judy says, "Don't piss on my leg and tell me it's raining".

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    3. The truth, as always, is somewhere in the middle. It's impossible for a mid-size corporation to tell a small group of people everything. They do tell us a lot and do share their plans on a lot of things. And from time to time, we've been able to stop something dumb before it happened.

      In this case, though...

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    4. The CSM's success stories in this arena are all private, the failures are all public. It drives the impression that either CCP isn't talking to the CSM or the CSM can't convince CCP out of a wet paper bag.

      Unfortunately, it's the nature of the work that this will be true.

      Delete
  6. I think the CSM approached the issue in the best way possible. CCPresponse is also encouraging, even if it is from the head of marketing. Marketing guys aren't the most trustworthy people. (bad RL Goon analogy withheld)

    You said, "supporting a group that is distinctly for-profit -- and one that can use the ISK it generates to secretly support in-game groups -- breeds distrust for CCP in the community." I note you said CAN secretly support, not DOES secretly support. Which brings up a question I never thought of before: DOES somer.blink secretly support some group or entity in EVE?

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    1. If people knew about any secret support Somer Blink gave to other entities, it wouldn't be a secret!

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  7. Two interesting things about CSM8's handling of this compared to past CSMs:

    Here's a 3rd: CSM6 got the change the players wanted into effect. CSM8 got a "sorry but we're doing this anyway."

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    1. To be fair, the run-up time on this one was basically nothing. Less than a day's notice, and it was running.

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    2. I was unaware previous CSM's were faced with a CCP-giving-favoritism-in-a-lotter-to-a-player-group type scenario, or that they all handled it by making a public statement that they DIDN'T run past CCP or warn of before hand. Also, Jester's second point there isn't "how CSM8 handled it" at all, its merely the CCP response. Sorry Ripard, but this just smacks of the stupid "I'm better than the last guy" competitive game that every CSM plays - because it sounds like you did pretty much what most CSM's do in this situation. And yeah, I get it, you gotta keep selling yourselves all year long - but this was a rather weak attempt at the "I'm better" game. Just do your job, and people will see it, there's no need to spice all your posts with self-praise, especially if you have to stretch it this far to make a point.

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  8. I could agree with pretty much anything CCP said or did outside of the game on the general principle that "it's their business" and none of mine. The problem is that the rewards are ingame. They're creating a whole new form of PvP. Third-party websites will be competing for ingame rewards and as soon as it becomes clear what the rules are, the true gaming will begin. That stage will be immediately followed by the "Rules Lawyer" phase in which every third party website engages in a battle royale of Who's Best and Who Met the Criteria But Got Jacked, Again, Because CCP Is Mean, Hates Me, and Supports My Enemy.

    Inevitably, someone will point out that unless the rewards are all given out simultaneously, timing is a factor. Rewards are a benefit NOW, and if you give my enemy a pile of goodies NOW, I might not survive to collect my own pile of isk later. Your place in the line becomes a point of contention.

    And so on.

    If CCP wants to reward third-party sites for helping build CCP's business, they need to do it out of game. The concept of providing a free Fanfest trip and that sort of thing is a great idea. If someone feels strongly about ingame incentives, then the rewards should be cosmetic but permanent. Naming systems, planets, or stations, that sort of thing. Perhaps something along the lines of getting a chance to push certain fixes/additions/"resonable things" to the top of CCP's to do list.

    It is inevitable that cash and ISK rewards will have bad results. This game is full of really smart people who live to figure out how to game the system. --Zaxix

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  9. I think the CSM has finally become the roadblock to CCP stupidity. Unfortunately, individual folks at CCP have noticed this and simply walk around the roadblock to do what they want to do. They used to run over the CSM. They can't now, so they do an end run.

    The concept of "Its easier to get forgiveness than permission" comes to mind.

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  10. So CCP have audited CCP and given them a public stamp of approval, that's great!

    Is the plan to extend this faculty to anyone else in the game or is it for Somer only?

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  11. GJ CSM8!

    to 1)
    The ships are unique and it is good that it stays that way, but I would like to see "new Ships" in memorial to this old ones, especially the Gold Magnate. Many Players don't even know about it. Bringing out a Mark II of this ship telling the story about its ancestors would be great (IMO).

    4)
    Yep, will be the reason why I don't participate. I like the idea of somer blink and respect there work. I just simply don't want to get into that.

    CCP could easily make the give aways them self with just a new character. Each Player places a bet by sending his money to that character. A webside informing about the current highest bid (anonymous) would be easy to forge with the current api system. Even a page to keep tracks of a raise wouldn't be that hard.
    Auction over, all non winners get there money back. Easy to do with a CREST input level.

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  12. "The ships are unique and it is good that it stays that way, but I would like to see "new Ships" in memorial to this old ones, especially the Gold Magnate. Many Players don't even know about it. Bringing out a Mark II of this ship telling the story about its ancestors would be great (IMO)."

    There is nothing wrong with keeping the memory of classic old ships alive, but it's bringing out mark IIs and what not that spoil the rareness of the original. Perhaps they could bring out a "Collectors Edition Golden Magnate Replica" that is the same model but actually a shuttle or something, but having a flying, working version would take away from the fact that there was one, it blew up and it's gone.

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  13. "To that end, we will develop a clear policy on how we plan to conduct future events, including how we will determine which 3rd parties and which events will receive CCP support..."
    It is incredibly stupid and naive(something a 10+yr old company shouldn't be) to create a new initiative *BEFORE* having policies figured out. Asinine, wow...

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    1. CCP has always been an... enthusiastic company. But that enthusiasm for brain farts like this is balanced by enthusiasm that brings us Valkyrie. So it balances out here and there.

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  14. It seems CCP is the galactic master of finding good ideas thinking, 'hey! we can have fun with this!', and somehow managing to make a magistic mess when they are utterly unable to coordinate their drunken feet as they stumbe off and think skipping directly from idea to implemetation is just as good an idea today as it was yesterday, and the day before, and last week, and last year....
    The Forgman kinda visualizes it best...
    http://media.tumblr.com/tumblr_lqa969Np661qzs6oc.gif

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