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, July 11, 2013

Fallacy of the undistributed middle

Maybe it was the same guy that wrote both comments.  But you know, maybe not.

I've really enjoyed reading all of the comments here, at EN24, on TMC, and on the EVE Online forums regarding the hiring of Sean Decker last week.  And of course the threadnaught is still rolling, now up to 44 pages which is higher than the point that usually gets CCP's attention, particularly if there are a lot of different player accounts writing in it.  But I have to admit the type of comment that really interests me are the ones that generally go like this, from two anonymous comments here, this one:
He is from EA, the scourge of the gaming world. That should be enough to make us all very, very nervous until he proves otherwise.
and this somewhat longer one:
Jester I would be less concerned if the prick's job was Head of DUST 514 development, the fact that he a Head of CCP Product Development makes me very, very nervous.
"Very, very nervous" is the general attitude of the vocal EVE players, all right, where it isn't outright hostile.  But the two comments above are the combined comment of the week.

When EVE players are hostile toward Decker, the general gist of the comments seems to follow a pattern of logic that goes something like this:
  1. Electronic Arts is evil.
  2. Therefore, everyone who is in an executive position at Electronic Arts is evil.
  3. Therefore, Sean Decker is evil.
This is a logical fallacy, but it's a rare enough one that I actually had to go look it up.  It's called the "fallacy of the undistributed middle."  You could, if you liked, rephrase it like this:
  1. EVE Online is famously full of racist, misogynistic, hateful neck-beards.
  2. You are an EVE Online player.
  3. Therefore, you are a racist, misogynistic, hateful neck-beard.
I'll give you a moment to digest that.  ;-)

This is a fallacy because what you're really saying is "All X are Y.  Some Z is X, therefore all X are Y."  If Electronic Arts is evil, that doesn't automatically mean that every person in EA is evil.  "A few bad apples spoils the bunch," as the homey old saying goes, but nobody stops to consider the good apples that might be mixed into that very same bunch.  When I was growing up at the height of the Reagan-era red scare in the United States, the homey little ward against such thinking was "Communists love their children too."  In both cases, that's the "undistributed middle" of the fallacy.

Am I saying that Sean Decker is a good guy?  No, I'm not, not automatically.  What I'm cautioning you against is jumping straight to the logical fallacy that he's automatically a bad guy just because he was a Vice President at Electronic Arts.  Jumping straight to that logical fallacy is an excellent way to have your opinion ignored by CCP, and for a good valid reason.

Let's be clear: you don't need the fallacy.  Sean Decker has said enough things out of his very own mouth to justifiably make EVE players "very, very nervous."  That's what my original piece was ultimately about.  Now that he works for CCP, he's walked some of them back.  But if you're going to rage about him, rage about him for the right reasons and not some logical fallacy, OK?

One last thing on this topic.  I've been catching some heat lately on EVE Radio and elsewhere from EVE players, claiming that I'm backing off on CCP now that I'm on the CSM.  That one makes me smile because as always, some EVE players think I'm being too easy on CCP, some CCP devs think I'm being overly hard on them, and here's me caught in the middle.  Except now that the CCP devs have direct access to me on a more or less constant basis, they're not shy about letting me know about it.  As always, I can't win.

But you can rest assured that when I write this kind of piece, I'm giving you my true feelings on a matter.  When I say step back and give Sean a chance, I mean that.  But it's not going to stop me from saying to you: if you are going to criticize or even be "very, very nervous" about him, do it as a result of things he actually does or says.


  1. Shouldn't your third clause in the logical construction be "Therefore all Z are Y"? What you have right now is redundant - I'm assuming a typo, albeit an important one.

  2. Funny how that "logical fallacy" is actually accepted as "common sense" in most circles these days. ;-) Think politics. Or religion. Or whatever other favored subject that gets people emotionally invested and riled up.

    As for me, I have to be clean-shaven for work, and while I _am_ pretty hateful, I'm an equal-opportunity hater. >:-D

  3. "All X are Y. Some Z is X, therefore all X are Y."
    I think the last Part should be "therefor all Z are Y"

  4. In the description of the fallacy, it should be "All X are Y. Some Z is X, therefore all Z are Y."

  5. it's not a logical fallacy but rather fear of the unknown, as most guys around probably have never heard of him before, so his background in an evil company is good enough reason to be nervous

    1. Ur talking apples while hes talking oranges. Stop talking and re-read the post.

  6. Your application of the "fallacy of the undistributed middle" is wrong. The fallacy has the following form:

    All Z is B
    Y is B
    Therefore, Y is Z

    If you set:

    Z = electronic arts
    B = evil
    Y = everyone who is in an executive position at Electronic Arts

    Then the conclusion is:

    Therefore everyone who is in an executive position at Electronic Arts is Electronic Arts

    the problem is that the fallacy only applies if Y "everyone who is in an executive position at Electronic Arts" is not a part of Z "electronic arts". But in this case Y is clearly a part of Z. So therefore from cause 2. "Therefore, everyone who is in an executive position at Electronic Arts is evil" to conclude 3. "Sean Decker is evil" is mathematical perfectly valid as long as Sean Paul is in an executive position. As he no longer is, you could point out that, no prove is there that he is still evil ;-)

    I think the problem you wanted to point out was that mathematical it's valid if a set has a characteristic to conclude that every part of the set has the characteristic. For people this conclusion is almost always a invalid generalization.

  7. The problem is as that Sean being Vice President, he was not simply one of the EA guys, he was one of those who defined EA. So the logic is rather:

    1: EA is evil
    2: Sean lead EA into what it was
    3: therefore Sean is evil

    Questioning the evilness of the SECOND IN COMMAND of an evil empire is at the edge of trolling. It's like claiming that Goebbels had no part in the Nazi crimes.

    (Apologies for all Nazis for comparing them to EA)

  8. As he was senior management at EA during the time that they sucked balls surely you can only draw one of three conclusions:

    a) He threw good gaming franchises under the bus in an attempt to squeeze every last penny out of them without regard for the future of the franchise.

    b) He really loved making great games but was completely ineffectual at persuading EA management (of which he was part) that that was the way forwards and they trashed those franchises for short term cash despite him.

    c) He wouldn't mind making good games but the corporate culture at EA was firmly in the camp of cash now so he threw his scruples away and went with what would advance his career at EA until he could move on.

    So (A) means he is genuinely evil (from a gamer's perspective) and sucks for eve, (B) means he's ineffectual which sucks for eve and (C) means he'd be perfectly willing to short term eve as long as he thought he could get another job before the negative results come back to haunt him.

    Help me out here, what is your option D where he was a paragon of virtue that fought the good fight at EA, mitigated the (even worse?) mauling of their games, sent ponies to the customers while staying up all night playing internet spaceships and was just trolling about that whole micro-transaction thing?

  9. I wonder what his opinion is of the gutting of high sec that is taking place. It would be logical to assume that if he was brought on to increase the cash flow for CCP, and the game is not going micro-transactions, well then, he will have to care when high sec starts hemorrhaging subs when the null sec cartels / CSM get their way. But who knows if he cares or understands that.

    I also expect him not to care one whit about the RMT desires of the null sec cartel leadership that is driving the huge transfer of ISK generation mechanics from high sec to null sec that is planned. If he lets it continue apace, then he must assume that the increase in null sec accounts will offset the drop in high sec accounts, and if people are RMT'ing, no skin off CCP's nose. That is of course an mistake, since the RMT is controlled by a small segment of the cartel leadership and the increase in null sec accounts will not equal the drop in high sec subs when mynnna, malcanis, soundwave et al are finished with high sec.

  10. Fallacy or not, people has right to express their concerns (in a right way and manner of course) and which way we don't want to go - better express this in front than waiting for undesired results.

    I don't have anything against this gentleman, who seems to be experienced in the gaming business, but I don't want eve to go F2P model, ever - it would make me stop playing it.


  11. Rip, it's not a question of logical fallacy. See this:


    As shown in there, Decker himself said: "I see the world as a micro-transaction", emphasizing what people consider one of the key "evils" of EA. He isn't just some guy that used to be in EA, he's one of the people driving the very policy that posters hate in the first place. I absolutely HATE what EA had done to what I considered some of the best gaming franchises in the gaming history, but I'd never accuse a lowbie employee that it was all his fault. However, when the ex Vice President of that company makes interviews about the exact thing that I hate with EA, then I can't help but feel that he's somehow (co)responsible for the situation. That, my friend, is not a logical fallacy, it is sound reasoning based on evidence about this specific person.

  12. THIS is what he says:

    "If I get on an airplane, I could pay for economy. But I can decide that I want a pillow, drinks or a better seat, and I'll pay for it. The whole world is set up like that."

    Translate that to whatever EVE stuffs.

    Reference: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/11/29/interview-ea-sean-decker-play4free-games_n_2211813.html

  13. I am sure EA has some very talented and reasonable employees. however, the "EA is evil" meme is a cautionary one. EA have made some horrible decisions in regard to how they have run the business as a result the have attracted the ire of the gaming community. although mr Decker didn't drive these decisions he was at the head of the beast and signed off on some very unpopular directions.
    when we look at a company as being "evil" i am sure we don't direct that at the vast majority of the staff, we direct it at the decision makers and Decker was an instrumental decision maker at EA therefore he must shoulder a higher responsibility for those bad decisions than say the average EA employee.
    this is not even to touch on the fact that CCP must have known that the appointment of any EA senior manager would create this kind of worry, yet they still valued his corporate strategies over the concerns of the player base.

  14. I think why he chose to join CCP is way more interesting than why CCP chose to hire him.

  15. Another homey saying "Leopards cant change their spots"

    EA = evil gaming company
    Decker = not just a drone in the above company but an extremely successful Vice President making up the paths for the drones to follow member of the above company.
    CCP choses said drone leader to take them in some unknown direction that the current leaders of CCP cant achieve? (question/statement)
    But I do reserve the right to change my opionion should his "actions speak louder than his words"


  16. But I am a racist, misogynistic, hateful neck-beard! I'm not fat though, so that works against me I guess...

    In all seriousness though, I can't help but see this all via the POV of in-game EVE stuff - Sean is a new recruit that got a director position in your alliance's shot-caller corp and has THE worst-rep ever corp in his employment history.

    No wonder people are on edge...

  17. "Very, very nervous" is not hostile, it is distrusting. And in the case of trust (former) affiliation matters, perception matters. The two quotes show justified trepidation towards Sean, and yet you misrepresent them as neing hostile towards Sean, or even describing Sean as evil, to go merrily of on your "rare" fallacy story. Misrepresenting your opponents words is also known as a strawman fallacy. HTH, HAND.

  18. Now I'm going to have Sting stuck in my head all day.

  19. You are - wittingly or unwittingly - misrepresnting your audience. This is not everything people are saying. Many people raise valid claims about his opinions about "the whole world is a microtransaction" interview and what this may mean to EVE.


  20. I dont care really. If CCP goes to far... I will just left the game behind me.

    I play this game for what it is. And main reason to play this game are people behind their PC-s. That is why I get online so often. But I can hold contact with those people even without eve.

    I do not know where this is going.. but I am sick of politics in RL. And I don`t need more of this in game.

    I will just wait... and leave if things go bad.


    But all in all... I do not like some fancy Sean Decker in here.

    And mostly I don`t like people who should represent us.... talking about... X is Y or Z... like we are all children who don`t understand basics. Like: this is banana not apple..

    I am sorry mate. I understand you are doing your best.. but .. this article is just load of.. what ever.

    Lets get to basic. CCP get us the skills to train. We train them, so we can play. We need to pay for game to play, and we need to grind (or pay more) to play. Or vice versa.

    So yes.. we can get angry.

    And we will get angry in the future. CCP want us to be angry. They designed the game that way.



  21. No, but if someone comes from EA into a community that literally is the living counterpart to EA's existance industry wise, and then says "lolno EA is/was awesome and our F2P have NOTHING Wrong" - well this wakes the Attitude that he really IS the Evil from EA.

    He simply should know that he's on VERY thin ice player perspective wise and a fuckup from his side can basicly cause a new "Monument Shooting". And i simply dont want that caused by an EA guy - cus really everybody told u so beforehand if it happens.

  22. That's a very poor analogy; most eve players are not in a position of power that would enable them to change the behaviour of their fellows. Sean Decker by contrast *was* in a position of power at EA and seems to have actively encouraged/initiated some of its more obnoxious behaviours.

  23. oh oh, we need an altruist to sort this out.


  24. It is like that last Pope we had. He was one of the good Nazis.

  25. Nervous? Of course. Its change.

    Am I nervous because I'm assuming it will be a bad change? Not necessarily.

    I have no doubt that Sean's addition to CCP WILL cause change. Why? Because you don't bring in someone with Sean's pedigree without the intent of making changes.

    There will be change. I do know know if this will be good or bad. Or short term bad with long term good, or short term good with long term bad.

    There will be change, meaningful change.

    Anxiety grounded in anticipation of the unknown.

  26. Better construction of the first fallacious syllogism:

    1. Electronic Arts is evil.
    2. Sean Decker was an executive at Electronic Arts.
    3. Therefore, Sean Decker is evil.

    The way you constructed the argument, there are actually two conclusions (2 and 3) and no minor premise stated.

  27. I am not (yet) one of the naysayers, but in the case of Mr. Decker I would point out that he was in *charge* of a part of EA that made decisions that angered many gamers, not a random employee or manager. I think it is generally a more sound principle that we can hold executives responsible for the policies enacted under their watch.

    However I agree that we should give him a chance before we break out the tar & feathers and run him out of Reykjavik. What makes a sound business decision for EA is not necessarily equally sound for CCP and I suspect that he is savvy enough to recognize that. I just hope that he is not isolated and thus aware of the distrust.

    But EA? It's evil! Don't touch it!

  28. I agree with Ripard (though a whole post on yes, er right to be nervous, yer just saying it the wrong way is, well... meh)... But, THAT he worked at EA doesn't and never did mean crap to me... EA has not failscaded and their products sell everyday... you may not like their games/devs/idea/ whatever, but a helluvalotta people do... No it is not EA that worries me... I care about only what Decker himself himself has done and said...

    "I see the world as a micro-transaction."... THAT freakin worries me.

    And a question for your Jester... if you read this, he is based out of Atlanta, right? And the Atlanta office is mainly dedicated to doing what...?

    I can see the Head of Product Development for CCP only really working out well in Reykjavik as that is the HQ of CCP, not Altanta... Even in today's multi-media-interconnected-iPad world face-to-face is still the best way to for people to work efficiently together, especially at the exec decision making level... otherwise CCP would have no reason to fly members of the CSM out to Reyk several times a year.

  29. The logical fallacy is not as bad as all that; it's not like he's some random QA grunt who took the only job he could get. He was a senior executive. I think we can stipulate Behavior/philosophy of a company is positively correlated with behavior/philosophy of its executives.

    No, it's not a logical truth, but it's a pretty strong Beyesian update to P(Sean Decker is a scourge on the gaming world).

    Incidentally virtually all conventional wisdom/homey sayings are logical fallacies; if the premise could be easily proven with logic you wouldn't need a saying. Only if it's important and usually true but hard to prove would you need a saying.

    That said, CW usually sucks because our world is too complex and diverse to get away with such shortcuts these days. Much like human propensity for finding patterns everywhere, it probably helped us climb down from the trees, but now gets us into so much trouble...

  30. some random guy withion EA is probably not evil, but there are some people leading everything, tellingthose random people what theyshould do.
    iam not so much anexpert of how large corporations are constructed, but my bet would be that someone who calls himself vice president is one of those guys who makes decides how things should be done and tells other people to do it like that.

    so if a corporation is evil, it is because the leadership is evil.

  31. So what you're really saying is that all Communist children are racist, misogynistic, hateful neck-beards.

    I don't have an opinion on Sean Decker (although his name has a Hollywood villian quality to it) and to be honest I don't really have an opinion on EA either. I like their games, I play their games. The same applies to CCP. I like Eve, I play Eve.

    CCP made a conscious decision to make their staff "real". Real people made this game, real people play this game. Say hello to the real people behind the game. It's a very community orientated thing to do and I applaud them for it. But it does open them up to threadnaughts about their hiring choices.

    I wouldn't be concerned about the Deckernaught because let's face it, Eve players love to blob. If he's introduced as CCP Stalin then maybe we should get a little worried but CCP is doing what companies have been doing for decades, hiring a big fish to come live in their small pond so their small fish in a big pond ratio is increased.

    As Jester says, give the guy a chance

  32. Jester, the only good thing that could ever come of it is hilmar firing decker. The fact he once said "i see the world as a microtransaction" should be grounds for never being permitted to ever touch EVE Online in *any* form. The fact he has also had a hand in fucking up a decent number of franchises and killing development houses that ea has bought is also a giant red flag. This guy is literally the antichrist of what CCP and EVE are.

    I'm not even nervous about him, I've already made my decision on him from how he has done things in the past. Nothing good will come of it, at all. I'm waiting for the trainwreck to happen.

  33. Its funny though, for EvE players, the fallacy is actually accurate when describing "in-game attitude".

    I'm sure only few are like that in RL, but it is applicable in-game.

  34. Hot objects are dangerous.
    Therefore, all objects that belong to the "hot object" group are dangerous.
    Therefore, I'd better be careful while boiling water.

    I will reformulate your patterns:
    1)EA is known for being a greedy corporation and not caring particularly about its customers.
    2)Therefore, most of the people that work for EA follow this corporation's principles.
    3)CCP has employed an EA executive due to the features he accomplished while employed by EA, and while following the aforementioned principles.
    4)Therefore, it is very likely for the aforementioned EA executive to want to/be wanted to apply such capacities while working for CCP.

    "It doesn't automatically", you say.
    Exactly, not automatically.

    1. your point 2 is an assumption, not a consequence. the word "therefore" is totally out of place. I agree with you, but you gotta do a better job than that.

  35. Jester, the first rule of politics is "turn off the news." politicians fail because they start listening to opinions and not facts. If you are doing your best possible job as a CSM forget what players say, they're all rageful neckbeards anyways

  36. Teaching your constituents about how fallacious they are only works well for Mittens.

    I'm just (half) kidding there.

    Most people don't apply logic to what they say, hell, sometimes I DON'T apply logic to my arguments. Still, from time to time it's worth a try to do little posts like this one. Thank you for that.

  37. There are some days when I think this really is true:
    1. EVE Online is famously full of racist, misogynistic, hateful neck-beards.
    2. You are an EVE Online player.
    3. Therefore, if you aren't a racist, misogynistic, hateful neck-beard, you'll become one.

    Those are the days I want to unsubscribe.

  38. Well, a bit of counter to your fallacy argument: It's not simply "EA is evil, therefore everyone in EA is evil". Considering he was in a leading position in EA, you could argue either the leaders are evil or they didn't a good job (i.e. maybe incompetent), because they failed to stop EA being evil.

  39. A problem with the assumption of "undisputed middle" is the fact that Exec has his name on a lot of titles.

    Contrary to almost any argument... the nature of his position takes away the ability to say "look, I just work here" in any sort of form of innocence.

    So while we might assume he is disastrous to a working game title based on prior experience (...), that doesn't necessary take away from his general attitude or intentions.

  40. While it is true undistributed middles are a *logical* fallacy, I'm not convinced they aren't always *pragmatic* fallacies. And by that I mean...
    1) Electronic Arts is evil. (I don't actually like that phrase, I'd prefer something about bad judgement/priorities, but...)
    2) Any good person in executive positions at Electronic Arts wouldn't be able to stand it for long, thus leaving.
    3) Therefore, everyone who is in an executive position at Electronic Arts is evil.
    4) Therefore, Sean Decker is evil.

    If Sean Decker, just as an example, is good enough at his job to get an executive position, he can get it somewhere where priorities and philosophies match closely. If he stays at EA, it must be because there is sufficient match on priorities and philosophies.

    Is that a conclusion undeniably evidenced? No. But I didn't have to jump over any tall buildings to get there, either.


  41. I actually thought that was linear logic.

  42. Dylexic Neckbeards of Eve Untie!!!!

  43. In part, the argument you outline above actually follows. All EA Execs are evil, Sean Decker is(was) an EA Exec, therefore Sean Decker is evil. Textbook sound argument. All dogs have four legs, Rover is a dog, therefore Rover has four legs.

    The real fallacy is that "All EA Execs are evil" does not follow from "EA is an evil company", even putting aside that these two statements are pure opinion and impossible to prove. A better analogy for the argument would be this:

    1. EVE Online is a terrible game
    2. Jester is an EVE Online player
    3. Therefore Jester is terrible

    Far from an undistributed middle, this is in fact a classic non-sequitor.

  44. Sean Decker is a no-talent parasite, and EA was merely the latest stupid company to get stuck with him. As a proven incompetent, he was shunted sideways into a non-critical VP position, since EA could not fire him outright, without cause. He would have eventually been laid off, as part of a downsizing of a non-essential division, which is the legally safe way that companies get rid of non-performing execs (just FYI - anyone who is a VP of Special Projects is scheduled to be downsized soon).

    These parasites build up good resumes - typically built entirely on other people's work - and know exactly how to brown-nose themselves into a new position. Like fleas, they simply jump to the next victim. CCP is merely the latest victim.

    Unfortunately, in this industry, there are no professional requirements, standards nor licensing boards. Any loser, with nothing but a smart mouth and the easy willingness to take credit for the work of others, can rise to the top of an entertainment company.

  45. 1. No sign of Jester replying yet and 2. I made the comment "Jester I would be less concerned if the prick's job was Head of DUST 514 development, the fact that he a Head of CCP Product Development makes me very, very nervous." and I find Jester's response to it frankly insulting and condescending. Along with a casual rejection of the majority of players concern's (and a misrepresentation of their worries) we are presented with pseudo intellectual clap-trap and a new feature of Jester's recent blog's; dismissal of players concerns and emphasis on being a good 'insider, typical CSM behaviour imo.

    Just so that Jester is under no illusion about my position: Decker was not some middle level management monkey, he was at a senior position at EA and would have put his name to many of their decisions and indeed is not shy about letting everyone know his idea's on gaming and it's future. People get hired at his level for 2 things; their prior performance and ideas and how they plan to bring those same idea's to their new organisation; CCP did not hire him because they liked his smile, they hired Decker SPECIFICALLY to bring Micro Transactions and F2P/Pay to Win to their product range, be it DUST514, WOD or EVE-O).

  46. Who cares if a lot of EVE players hate Decker because of the EA taint? Is there any possibility that this hate will affect gameplay or CCP's bottom line?


    So don't worry about people hating for the wrong reason. Decker will prove himself or be invisible during his tenure, and gamer hatred of him personally will be irrelevant.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.