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.
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Monday, March 25, 2013

Transparency v. being transparent

This is going to be one of those posts that touches not only on EVE, but on life.  I've defined transparency on this blog once or twice before, but today it's time to really get into it.  It has to do with the difference between "transparency" and "being transparent."  The first is a common business term.  The second has more to do with business management.

Non-intuitively and despite sounding the same, the two phrases have opposite meanings and connotations.

Transparency in business is usually good.  It's defined as open communication and accountability in the information being communicated.  When your business has transparency, you are removing barriers to information and are allowing your customers or colleagues to make informed business decisions about the information that you're presenting.  As I've put it before on this blog...
Put simply, a clerk at a check-out counter ringing up the purchase of your groceries is being transparent: you know exactly how much each item costs and can make business decisions based on those costs whether you really want to buy those bananas or not.  An appliance repairman presenting a non-itemized bill for $300 to fix your dishwasher is not being transparent: you don't know how much the parts are costing compared to the labor or how that amount was arrived at.
Transparency in business is a good thing and in real life you should hesitate to do business with anyone who is not willing to operate this way.  Lots of organizations in EVE operate this way too, from Red Frog Freight to Goonswarm.

A business manager being transparent, conversely, is a bad thing.  There's a interesting scene in the movie Apollo 13 that demonstrates being transparent that's sometimes used in business management seminars.  In the scene, Ken Mattingly (expertly played by Gary Senise) has been scrubbed from the mission by NASA's flight surgeons because he's been exposed to the measles and has no immunity.  Jim Lovell (Tom Hanks mostly in affable mode) has been given the job of breaking tne news by their mutual boss, Deke Slayton.  Lovell objects to the decision strenuously to Slayton but is overruled.  In the following scene, Lovell delivers the bad news.  Did the scene play this way in real life?  I don't know.  But in the movie, Mattingly understandably objects and makes it clear that he's sure Lovell has been ordered to give this news (which is true).  He wants to argue with Slayton himself.  Lovell responds: "This was my call."

Now that's a lie, but the price of telling the truth is being transparent.  Being transparent -- and exposing your boss to criticism in doing so -- is a bad thing.  Mattingly can certainly escalate his concerns to Slayton and cause all sorts of drama.  Know what it would accomplish?  Not a damn thing!  The decision will still stand but now there will also be bad feelings surrounding the decision, or more bad feelings if there are already bad feelings.  Being transparent works in the other directon as well and is just as bad that way.  Lovell could share Mattingly's distress with Slayton but again there's nothing to be gained by doing so except to add drama and increase bad feelings.

Being transparent is nearly always a bad decision.  There are times it must be done, but if you must do it, understand what you're doing and why you're doing it.  Have a good reason for making this decision.  Because otherwise, you're causing drama and bad feelings for no good reason.  The difference between transparency of business data and business decisions, and being transparent is subtle, but important.

Why do I bring this up now and feel the need to write a long blog post about it?  Because there are two situations going on in EVE Online right now that brought the difference between transparency and being transparent to mind.

First, there's a lot of drama right now surrounding one of EVE's largest and most well-established incursion communities.  The parties involved in the drama know the details, and it's not really my place to share them at this time.  But the person at the heart of this drama could have prevented much of the issue by offering his (now former) partners more transparency in the information he provided regarding his decisions within the community.  By offering more transparency into his decision-making process, he could have avoided the situation that he finds himself in.  Meanwhile, his former partners are doing a good job of not being transparent in disclosing individual player concerns as the drama unfolds.  They could create a lot more drama around this situation, but they're not doing so and as a result, the rank-and-file within the community are being protected and there's a minimum of bad feelings being created.  That's smart.

Second and in a similar vein, as Montolio resigns as leader of the TEST Alliance and its associated coalition, he's doing a very good job of offering transparency around his decision but at the same time is also not being transparent about the decisions of the people he's working with and who are replacing him.  Montolio (or indeed, any leader in his position) can do a great deal of damage on his way out the door by being transparent.  But they can do just as much damage by not offering transparency around their decision to leave.  In my opinion, Montolio is striking just the right balance.

And it's a very tricky balance to strike.  Anyway, just something for all of you out there to think about in your own careers, whether in EVE or in life...


  1. I don't agree with your idea of individual transparency as a bad thing whatsoever. If it takes lies, deceit, and misinformation to hide true intention, thoughts, or direction, then your organization has fundamental issues that will eventually blow out of proportion.

    Am I saying transparency is good all the time? Of course not. But viewing it negatively, such as you referenced as keeping business transparency and personal transparency separated, is completely detrimental to whatever organization you're apart of.

    Your example of transparency with the Apollo 13 reference completely misses the larger point: you have a weak boss without the capacity nor capability of dealing with his subordinates. Instead, he uses them as tools to avoid confrontation when in fact he could very well use the situation to defuse emotions and create a situation where Mattingly can still contribute to the mission. But by delegating the dismissal to Lovell, Slayton effectively ostracizes himself from the entire thing and has made himself look weak and dishonorable in front of Lovell.

    Professional transparency is always a good thing. Irrational, emotional, and disorganized transparency is not. I think this distinction is very important.

  2. This has been one of your more opaque blog posts... :)

    1. Said the expert on being opaque. ;-) I accept a compliment from the master.

  3. "Anyway, just something for all of you out there to think about in your own careers, whether in EVE or in life... "

    ...or for certain of your readers, when they inevitably grill you because you will inevitably be able to say less about *things* if you make it onto the CSM than they'd like?

  4. someone got careless with one of his infiltrators

    transperancy isn't always what it seems

  5. Is being transparent allowing your part in the chain of command to be skipped (so letting your boss receive a thrashing it was your duty to be responsible for) or giving out overly precise information that harms everyone involved (who the Apollo decision ultimately came from) or specifically giving information about who in an organisation is responsible for something?

  6. Talking about ISN's decision to gank another Incursion community's leader in a multi billion ISK ship? I'm glad the longest established Incursion community's leaders arn't pulling such crap.

    1. or was the Incurion drama you were alluing o about something else Jester? RE: "First, there's a lot of drama right now surrounding one of EVE's largest and most well-established incursion communities. "

  7. By this definition of "being transparent," Shakespeare's Iago is the noblest of the characters in Othello.

  8. My boss put it like this:

    There's a difference between being transparent, and wearing transparent trousers.

  9. "First, there's a lot of drama right now surrounding one of EVE's largest and most well-established incursion communities. The parties involved in the drama know the details, and it's not really my place to share them at this time."

    But it is your place to comment cryptically regarding said details? If you truly believe that it's not your place to comment, Jester, then you've just pissed off everybody; the people who know what you're talking about for alluding to it, even in such vague terms, because now everyone's attention will be on them to find out what exactly is going on, and the people who don't know what you're talking about because they don't know what you're talking about and you aren't telling them.

    Saying "It's not my place to comment, so let me comment in as vague terms as possible" is disingenuous; if it's not your place to comment, then don't, and if you want to comment then comment.

    1. Hm. You raise an interesting point. I often struggle with wanting to cover a news event but not being a news blog. This is an event that the two EVE news sites SHOULD be carrying but aren't. If they did, I'd point to the story and then comment on it. But neither of them are covering it. I am not a journalist so I doubt my own ability to be objective about the situation.

      So what's a blogger to do? Hopefully my pointer will cause one of the two EVE news sites to go ask some questions.

    2. In other words you feel free to comment on the coverage but not the substance itself? That's a classic "journalist" answer if I ever heard one. CNN/Fox News/MSNBC can't directly cover a salacious story but they certainly can cover it after it blows up into drama in the interest of covering the "controversy".

      As noted by Steph -- comment or don't. Either position is defensible on grounds of integrity. The middle isn't.

    3. I agree with Steph - the vagueness is a killer to this post.

  10. I am not a journalist so I doubt my own ability to be objective

    Charmingly naive. (1) "real" journalists are not objective; rather, they are human beings. At best, they strive to be objective. Yet many do not achieve the ideal. (2) you are just as much a journalist as anyone who writes for the New York Times. You have a journal; you report news. That's all it takes. It's not rocket science, nor do you have to be infused with the Holy Spirit via an unbroken chain of ordination passed down in mystic ceremony from the First Journalist. (3) You are objective enough to be a good journalist.

    1. This.

      Have an opinion, expound and expect to be burned for it.
      You might as well have posted one line; "I know something you don't."
      Which is just the sort of thing a flirtatious tease would say before the abrupt dumpster ride.

  11. I disagree with what you are hinting at. But as is typical in these cases, you have not defined what you mean by "being transparent", so it's difficult to criticize. But let me second what Walter said. A boss who won't own up for his own decision is no boss I want. It seems to me that "being transparent" is a new euphemism for "telling the truth".

    Yes, I believe in the white lie. I believe in manners, and that they are necessary for society to function. So the full unvarnished truth all the time is a bad idea.

    It is one thing to hide information that you don't need to reveal, which is unrelated to a situation at hand. And this is especially true if the information you choose not to reveal might not even be correct. It is another thing to hide relevant information. This is, in my estimation, "hiding something" or "lying" or "covering up".

  12. Hands down, Rote Kapelle pilots demand the sweet sweet drama they signed up for.

    Generally my rule of thumb is "release the drama 6 months late". It gives the most butthurt individuals the time they need to find perspective, while still providing grist to membership that they crave.

    We are, admittedly, somewhat sociopathic.

  13. To echo MadOverlord, this is one of the most opaque blog posts I've seen here, but I'd like to amplify. This is one of the worst blog posts I've seen here. You try to illustrate the difference between being transparent and transparency by talking about one, and then talking about the opposite of the other, yet claim that they are opposites to begin with. I couldn't even follow the logic.

    Then you tell us that the reason you made the imcomprehensible comparison in the first place is because of some unspecified controversy within the Incursion community, offer your opinion on the merits of each side, but never tell your readers what the hell is even going on.

    End result: a comparison/distinction post that makes no sense as a setup to an opinion piece about a situation that you won't disclose.

    Also, it's "Sinise".


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