Monday, February 09, 2015

What the Hell Happened to CSM 9?

Up until a few weeks ago, I thought of CSM 9 as a rather subdued affair. 

The first indication that something was off was in the Dev Blog hosted by CCP where CSM members were invited to share their thoughts about the term and only 7 of them choose to do so. That was not overwhelmingly strange since members not running for re-election might choose to pass, but what was jarring was Sion Kumitomo's entry that blasted CCP, the CSM, and the process:
There will no doubt be council members who sing CCP’s praise and proclaim the efficacy of the CSM. Broadly speaking, I don’t know how any of them could get to that conclusion via any evidenced based rationale. The new release pace frequently means that the CSM is cut out of the development feedback process, sometimes nearly entirely. There’s a growing list of items, some major, that we saw at the same time the rest of the player base did. 
[...] 
Actions speak louder than words. The shared Skype channel is frequently home to all manner of defensive, passive aggressive, or antagonistic exchanges. 
All of this makes it very difficult to work as the institution should. Some EVE pundits will say that the CSM is a toothless institution that CCP uses when convenient or as a marketing tool, and nothing more. There's some truth to that. The CSM was designed around a titled system with a Chair and two releases per year. The institution hasn't adapted, and its relevance, such as it was, has suffered because of it. 
Part of this is the CSM's fault. It wasn't until we hit a couple days before a recent release and collectively realized that we didn't have any idea what it was going to contain that we looked around and took stock of where we were. Though there are some bright spots, the overall outlook isn't positive. The CSM should have realized this sooner, and we should have been more insistent on being given the access we require to fill the role we were elected to fill. The situation is also not helped by members of the CSM who are afk to the point of uselessness. 
Part of this is CCP's fault. While I recognize that they are busy meeting the demands of the new release schedule, to be a perpetual afterthought does somewhat sap the enthusiasm of even the most ardent public servant, and it is difficult to engage when there is nothing with which to engage. In some cases, the CSM has been specifically sidelined. In other cases, the CSM has been treated as an enemy, something to deal with if necessary but otherwise best ignored. 
The reason this is so is because, broadly speaking, CCP does not handle criticism well. There have been instances where CSM members have offered appallingly uncalled-for and highly unprofessional input and critiques. But well reasoned counter-arguments and constructive criticism that doesn't match devthink is frequently taken as a personal affront as well.
Still, much of the Eve media pundits looked at that and nodded in agreement that its good that Sion recognized some problems and seems eager to address them. Overall, CSM 9 seemed fine and no collaborative effort is without some friction and issues as it pushes forward in an ever-changing and challenging environment, right?

Then near the beginning of February CSM member DJ Funkybacon opened up on his blog with his own thoughts echoing much of what Sion wrote and it prompted the unusual reaction from a CCP dev to chastise them on twitter.

You can read about the whole affair here on EveNews24.com.

On Feb 6th on a soapbox on TheMittani.com Sion Kumitomo wrote a piece titled "Transparency and Funkybacon" where he revealed some very startling things (emphasis mine):
On June 6th, Funky published a blog post that would mark the beginning of a long downward trajectory both for himself and for the whole of CSM 9. Layoffs had again hit CCP and, on the same day that the layoffs were announced, The Guardian published a brutal expos√© on the demise of the World of Darkness MMO that had been under development. It was a one-two punch that floored the already demoralized company. The rest of the CSM had of course heard about the layoffs and read The Guardian's piece. 
We'd also gently poked CCP for comment and, in reply, we were all told that we'd have a meeting the next day to go over everything in depth. The importance of this is difficult to overstate: a staggering company was taking time out of their crisis mode to talk to us directly and give us feedback. They had lost co-workers, they had lost dear friends, entire families were affected, but they were taking time to sit down with us even so. The entirety of the CSM expressed public sympathy and prudently waited for our meeting the next morning. The whole CSM, that is, except Funky. He knew full well that there was a meeting to discuss the implications and he pushed his blog out the door the night before anyway. 
The reaction from both the CSM and CCP was immediate and intensely hostile. It started the first true internecine brawl we'd seen within the council. First, it was primarily between Funky, Progodlegend, and myself. Later, it expanded to include the entire CSM. PGL and myself instantly realized the implications Funky's actions would have. Layoffs are an intensely difficult time for a company; for a sitting member of the CSM to voluntarily forgo and ignore their access so they could be first in line to comment on it had appalling and dire implications on our ability to work with the company. When PGL and I confronted Funky about it directly, it became apparent not only that Funky believed that he'd done nothing wrong, but that he would do it again if he were so inclined. It was at that point that we made moves to distance ourselves from Funky and began what was to be an exile of sorts for him for the rest of the term. 
It was not, however, a clean split. After much argumentation as well as meetings with CCP Falcon and CCP Leeloo, the CSM decided to wash our collective hands of Funky and deliver him unto CCP's justice. The reason that we decided this wasn't because there weren't opinions on what should be done, but that we didn't agree on the action that should be taken. As PGL has since said, he was in favor of removing Funky from the CSM entirely. Others, such as Ali Aras, defended the right of Funky to remain on the CSM because he was voted there and being unprofessional was not sufficient cause to disenfranchise those voters. I was personally deeply ambivalent at the time, but I did not want to suffer any sort of collective fallout from the inevitable blowback that such an ill-advised blog post would generate. As far as I was concerned, it was an unjustified public blow to a company that was making accommodations for the CSM despite being on the ropes. 
In the end, the CSM made a private channel without Funky, a channel we would use exclusively going forward. Some teams refused to meet with him, some CCP employees refused to speak with him, but he retained access in most places and was able to attend summit meetings, see and engage with the forums, and contribute as he wished if he chose to do so.

[...]
When I sat down to write my own review blog post, I turned over every event of the year, sifted through logs, and started charting trends, not just in how CCP interacted with the CSM, but how the CSM interacted with the CSM. As matters started to crystallize in hindsight, I finally understood much that I didn't appreciate and could only start to comprehend with the distance of time. It was then that I did what any sensible person
would do: I apologized directly to Funky for how I had treated him.

I apologized because I had acted in haste, because I had made false assumptions, and because I believe there is value in admitting when you've made a mistake. Even if I didn't agree with his actions, I should not have treated him as I did, for which I remain ashamed. At the time, I didn't expect any of this would ever become public, but if I'm covering it all I'd be remiss if I ignored my own part in it. If Funky is reading this, and I'm sure he is, I stand by that apology and if I had to do it all over again I would do it very differently. Small comfort though it may be, lessons learned, and I can but offer that I won't make the same mistake again.

This doesn't, however, mean that I absolve Funky from criticism. Nor does it mean that my stance has shifted on matters of professionalism and decorum between the CSM and CCP. With all that context and history in place, it is time to examine the events of the past few days.
And then further on:
With all due respect for Funky, I tell this story for another purpose entirely: it's the perfect case study to make the case for greater transparency in the CSM. Funky is not the least active CSM member. Funky is not the member of the CSM that has most hurt CSM-CCP relations. Funky was not the guy updating his website while at the summit table. Funky isn't even running again. There is little sense in laying bare this saga unless there is a lesson to be learned here, a way that we as players can make our Council more effective.
Sorry for quoting so much of his four page post but I think its worth understanding how serious this issue is. The CSM near the beginning of its term decided to shun one of its members and Sion feels that other members have been more damaging to CSM-CCP relations.

Then the next day we get Xander Phoena writing a response on this sopabox Crossing Zebras titled "On Transparency" (emphasis mine again):
Of late, a few things have been said about me and my tenure on CSM9, most notably by Sion Kumitomo from Goonswarm. My intention was to address said points on my upcoming Cap Stable interview, but my work has conspired to shift that right in the calendar until the 16th or 17th at the earliest and I’d like to give my own position before then. 
Sion has said some very inflammatory and subjective things about me and I am going to try and avoid doing the same in response. While they are clearly limited, I think it’s best to try and stick to the facts rather than be drawn into the pettiness of ‘he said / she said’. His arguments focused on three key points:
I am constantly breaching NDA
I have done nothing on CSM9 / been a lazy CSM member
I am only on CSM as an ego trip 
In going through these one by one, I think we can get a little closer to the transparency Sion claims he is alluding to.
[...] 
Sion continually claims I have broken NDA and has yet to state a single example. No one will find any because they don’t exist. I’m very pleased to state here for the record that I have not broken NDA at any point during my term. In the interests of transparency, I think it’s fair to state that there have been two occasions where I have sailed close to the wind to the point where CCP has spoken with me about it. Obviously, the difference between getting very close to the line and stepping over it is monumental – one is legal, the other, not so much. I don’t deny it is something I have struggled with this term however. 
[...] 
By this point, CCP Leeloo, CSM9 and other developers had over six months to evaluate whether I was someone positively contributing to the process, or if I was not only doing nothing but actively harming the process with NDA breaches. We now know that both Matias and Major JSilva were forced to resign their seats, one for complete inactivity and the other after an investigation into account sharing. 
[...] 
Sion had nothing to do with me leaving Zebra Corp and eventually the CFC before joining PL, but he has told me since that he took it as a complete and utter form of betrayal. In terms of our time on CSM, it was like a switch had been flipped. He almost immediately became openly hostile towards me at any and every opportunity. He is in a very fortunate position of being a lock for CSMX due to being high on the CFC ballot for the upcoming election. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that he has decided to use his position and time to enact a vendetta on me. 
You may suggest I am simply being paranoid. Let me provide another example. In CZ52 I mentioned that someone from the CFC had actively went out of his way to stop anyone from the bloc being involved in any way with Crossing Zebras. That person was Sion. I went and spoke to him directly about this at the time and he advised that Crossing Zebras was considered a ‘hostile org’ to the CFC. That’s the same Crossing Zebras founded by two dudes from the CFC, with two out of three podcast hosts from the CFC, with staff from almost every area of the game – Goons, CFC, Eve Uni, RvB, lowsec, wormholes, Pandemic Legion and PIZZA to name but a few. He also stated he would be more inclined to assist me in the matter had I not actively ‘betrayed’ him. 
Less than 24 hours later, I spoke with The Mittani who had just got back from his Christmas holidays and he immediately ensured me any such internal CFC ruling had been revoked and he would see me for a pint at Fanfest. Several other CFC members I have spoke to confirmed they found the original ruling entirely horrifying given that it actively had the potential to hurt a community website. 
The problem here isn’t that I am a ‘bad’ CSM member or constantly breaching NDA or anything of the sort. The issue is that Sion feels personally betrayed by how I left the CFC. He wants revenge and he doesn’t care how he goes about it whether it be attacking this very website or my CSMX candidacy. He is utterly incapable of drawing a line between the in-game meta and work done for the community outside of the game such as the CSM. It’s an incredibly worrying attribute for a CSM to have – someone who is willing to actively lie to avenge a perceived in-game slight.
What the hell?

OK, did I miss memo somewhere? I thought that Matias and Major JSilva stepped down from CSM 9 duties willingly. To the forums!

CCP Leeloo annouces Matias Otero's resignation:
Hello pilots,
I’m here today to bring some unfortunate news to you. Our CSM9 representative, Matias Otero, has decided to resign from his CSM duties due to personal reasons. He has informed CCP of his decision to do so, and while we are of course sad to see him go, we respect the fact that real life issues must of course take priority.
And Major JSilva announced his resignation himself:
Today, I must announce my resignation from the CSM. Thanks to CCP and anyone who voted for me for giving me this unique opportunity. I also wish the best of luck to my replacement.
And 2nd post was CCP Falcon with "<3 am="" and="" ccp="" go="" img="" leeloo="" nbsp="" really="" sad="" saying="" see="" silva="" src="https://forums.eveonline.com/Images/Emoticons/ccp_sad.png" to="" you="">". I don't remember it ever being revealed later on that they were forced out,  Matias for inactivity and JSilva for account sharing. 

Regardless, seeing all this bickering and sniping with accusations and counter-accusations being thrown around, including CCP Leeloo getting involved arguing with DJ Funkybacon (something she should have NEVER done in my opinion... airing shit like that on twitter is not professional), has tarnished what I thought was a respectable iteration of the council.

The wheels came off the bus somewhere and I don't know if it was the incident with DJ Funkbyacon near the start of the term as Sion proposes, the change in development and release cadence, or the fact that the CSM opted to not elect leaders right from the start, or something else entirely (after all, sometimes a team just does not work for no fault of its members). Regardless of the reason this is one of those times I step back and ask "what the hell happened here?!" because its not a pretty sight.

In order for CCP to be expected to take the CSM and its individual members seriously, it needs to look and act like a serious body of professionals, regardless of the fact that the group is made up of unpaid volunteers. Personality conflicts between members need to be ironed out and resolved, not absconding the discussion into private channels to in effect shun its members. Is more transparency the answer, as Sion Kumitomo has suggested? Perhaps, but I don't know how much that would damage the CCP-CSM dynamic to know that nearly everything presented to the CSM is at risk to premature exposure. Would forcing the CSM to elect leaders who are responsible for ensuring the CSM works together and having the power to eject members that are disruptive or inactive help the situation? Again, I don't know, but I still feel a little betrayed that the real reasons for Matis Otero and Major JSilva were hidden from public knowledge.

CSM 9 feels like a partial failure to me now, and I'm not sure where to lay the blame. I con only hope that people closer to the inner workings can see the problems gumming up the works and resolve them before the whole machine falls apart.

14 comments:

  1. Well, there is the "what in the hell happened to CSM9?" question. But it also raises the question as to if anything similar has happened in previous CSMs, but got held in because of "professional courtesy" or some other league of spaceship politicians code of silence about what went on. I don't think Sion is on about transparency because CSM9 deviated from the past norm on that front.

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  2. Good post. I will say that I don't remember exactly how I knew, but I did know that Matias and Silva left for those reasons. Again, I don't remember where or how I knew this, but I thought it was common knowledge.

    As for the rest, amazing how quickly things turn around. Two weeks ago I would have said CSM9 was a decent success - now? It has to rank as one of the worst overall in hindsight. It is a shame since there are many good members serving.

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    1. I think the revelation that a number of them have huge grudges, and the fact that some CSM members got removed, means the CSM was some huge failure. It sounds like they were able to communicate with CCP despite hating each other's guts, that's the important part of their job.

      Remember we've had CSM reps booted in the past by abusing NDA info for personal profit, and I'm damn sure that other people have gone totally inactive before. Just this time CCP decided to boot the empty seat because they had a 15th candidate that missed being elected by a hair, so there was an easy alternate.

      One time The Mittani and Jade Constantine were on the CSM together, I'd bet they didn't get along either.

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    2. I thought Matias left on his own due to RL, and had no idea about JSilva until Rixx told me on Tiwtter recently in connection with the fact he now owns the character. So while I don't think I'm the most attentive blog reader, I do follow Twitter pretty closely and must have completely missed any mention of it there. *shrugs* In my opinion, CSM gonna CSM and ain't nuthin' anyone can do about it. It's simply the nature of the beast when you get a lot of strong opinionaters on one team.

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  3. If you re-read your post, you see that every piece of drama was started by Sion. Without him everything would be either fine, or professionally handled (maybe Matias was indeed inactive and asked to leave, but ASKED to leave and not kicked).

    I believe the purpose is to tarnish CSM as an institution to make the general public not vote. Goons will vote on command anyway, so they will get a larger share of CSM10 votes.

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  4. Well, the only thing you're missing is the initial Twitter exchange between Leeloo and FunkyBacon about his summary post.

    https://twitter.com/FunkyBacon/status/561889509391208449

    It's interesting that 2 hours before he published his blog post that Funky was Tweeting that the reasons that he didn't submit an entry for the guest CSM dev blog post were because "I only had the benefit of 2/3 of the term at that point. Hardly a fair time to drop a review" and "Mid Nov I was busy fighting for corp aggression compromises and clone/pod changes. Was writing and speaking about those." That is much different in tone than the reasons he gave in his blog:

    "I've been so disillusioned with the entire process this year that I didn't bother. It's simply not worth it, and the amount of fucks I have left aren't enough to go through the effort to write something to hand to CCP so they can 'clean it up' and drop it on an official dev blog that might get as much traffic as my blog when I don't write anything new for 3 months."

    I'll agree that CCP Leeloo should not have responded to Funky. Her response generated more attention to Funky's blog post than it deserved.

    One question you didn't really address. How should CCP call out members of CSM who do little or nothing? Or should CCP out those members at all, especially if they are not running for reelection?

    One final thought. I concur with Wilhelm, I figure this type of conduct happens behind the scenes on every CSM and if we get 7 out of 14 good, productive members then we're doing all right. Then again, maybe I'm just bitter because I thought Funky would be a good member of the CSM and he proved me wrong.

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  5. In the rush to villify the CSM members who may or may not have contributed to the drama, let's not forget to sling some mud CCP's way.

    I suspect that all is still not well in CCP with regards to how the CSM is viewed. Having the CSM be a de facto part of CCP is great, but unless that situation is acknowledged in CCP's employee performance metrics, so what? I've seen this sort of thing countless times, where a company espouses a new policy, etc, but forgets to incorporate that into their performance reviews - if an employee's performance is only judged on A, B, and C, with no room for (new policy) X, that employee is going to work to A, B, and C. I don't doubt that the dev teams are hideously busy with the new 6-week cycle and I'm forced to wonder if, on their checklists, there's a tick box for "Timely CSM Notification of Changes"? It wouldn't be the first time in history that something like this fell through the cracks. Large corporations do it, why not CCP?

    I'd say, on balance, most of the fault lies with CCP; absolutely everything the CSM can or cannot do rests with CCP. If CCP doesn't truly integrate the CSM into their processes, it's not the CSM's fault.

    This also isn't the first CSM to make the same complaint about CCP's reluctance to listen to them. CCP created the CSM, though not exactly enthusiastically, and I'd bet dollars to doughnuts there's still some lingering institutional resentment towards being forced to have their work validated, even if only in a minor way, by these unpaid outsiders.

    All THAT said, I think the last 2 CSMs have been much improved over their predecessors. But after 9 CSMs, I think we'd all be forgiven for asking CCP why they haven't gotten the kinks worked out yet?

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  6. So much to say... but none of it will change or help anything.

    Everyone knows you can't put three people in a room and not end up with drama and 'politics'... it is how people are. And that is before you factor in that we are taking about people from the EVE playerbase here... No, that doesn't bother me, people are people, that there has been 'drama' doesn't in any way lessen the hard work and effort and the overall positive impact Sugar Kyle, Mike, Sion and the other 'active' CSMs have had as our representatives on the playerbase lobby group that is the CSM.

    And, well... IMPO Funkybacon was the worst possible player to have on the CSM ever. I thought Sugar Kyle was going to be a dynamo from day one and I though Funky would implode eventually, and I got that completely right.

    I'd like everyone reading this and thinking anything like "...that a number of them have huge grudges, and the fact that some CSM members got removed, means the CSM was some huge failure. to stop and think for a second about this list of politicians convicted of committing crimes while in office... at least our guys aren't going to jail... =\

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  7. Whatever drama came up in CSM9, it should not be revealed to the public at all (as it has apparently been handled on previous CSMs) - neither by CCP nor by CSM members. This damages the public reputation of CSM, which is imo much worse than just some inactivity / account sharing stuff.

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  8. Donning my tinfoil; the roll call for CSM X reads as four from CFC and four from PL. Not much room left at the table for anybody else. When the goons joked about just block election of an all goon council - I secretly thought; go ahead and do that please. It would likely mean be the final CSM. I could assume that this is an effort to prevent another ambush like the jump nerf. If there is one thing lacking in Eve's player base it is sense of moderation and restraint. Doff tinfoil.

    http://community.eveonline.com/news/dev-blogs/csm-9-review/

    Firstly, one was negative and five were positive about the experience and the results so far. We now know why Funky didn't discuss - but what about the rest?

    [quote]I suspect that all is still not well in CCP with regards to how the CSM is viewed.[/quote] Just how many people actually enjoy someone sitting over their shoulder whilst working in the role of critic?

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  9. It doesn't matter whether CCP employees enjoy the process or not. The company created the CSM and it's up to CCP to do what they can to fully and properly utilize the body they've created.

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  10. I don't think I would vote for any incumbent on CSM9. As a new player, I think we need to see people with more of an attitude towards professionalism, and NOT a "journalists' club". These guys are supposed to represent the players toward CCP, not use the CSM to self-promote, which is what EVERYONE was doing.

    On goons: they have always followed, historically, fascist political tactics. Sniffing CSM votes isn't news. Call it "grr goons" call it tinfoil hatting, nobody fucking cares. Goons do stuff. So does everyone else. You decide how right or wrong it is yourselves. The fact of the matter is yes, they can autopush unprofessional candidates onto the CSM - I don't consider any of the CFC candidates for CSM10 good candidates.

    Given my past experiences with him in the TF2 community and his reputation as a communications and marketing professional, I am most interested in Chance Ravinne as a candidate, and I'm curious to see how he does. He doesn't know the game as well as a lot of people, but he's also not a screaming shitlord, so he'll do better than a lot of past CSM members over the years.

    The jump nerf was not an ambush to the CFC, a lot of member corps are just fucking retarded and unable to react to change at any given pace. Partly because a lot of false flags had to be raised because of a whistleblowing problem early last year.

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  11. It's about the news sites. All of the drama seems to be driven by the interests and rivalries of third party Eve news franchises (TMC, CZ, Eve Radio).

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