CZ Minutes: CSM X

With Fanfest coming earlier this year the now shortened CSM term is coming to a close, and with that the race for CSM X is in full swing. With a number of incumbents standing, along with our very own Xander Phoena among others, there are some new faces making an appearance, although several of them are well known in the EVE community. Traditionally it has been so that when EVE is in trouble, CSM voting goes up, and vice versa.  It can be argued that EVE is indeed in a very good place, what do you think this will mean for voting numbers this year? There has been somewhat of a debate amongst those invested in the CSM process, what makes a better CSM X, experienced veterans who know their way around the game and the meta, or fresh blood with new ideas and ways of thinking? Bloc voting has always been a hot topic, what is your personal stance on large organisations virtually controlling how the majority of their members vote? Would you consider it an issue for the 2015 elections and why? Georgik: YOUR VOTES DON’T COUNT, His name was Grogoth Drem. Hendrick: If I recall, voting turnout was at a record low last year and the summer had the lowest activity amongst the EVE community since the “Summer of Rage.” Added to this, the game itself while feeling fresh with certain shakeups hasn’t really changed much since this time last year in terms of Nullsec control (which is arguably the biggest selling point of the EVE experience). ss+(2015-01-09+at+01.46.11) I would hope there are CSM members who are capable of addressing these sort of issues with CCP. We regularly hear how the CSM is unabashedly partisan and that some people treat it as a “meta game tool.” When you hear that, it becomes obvious there are people shoved into this seemingly important position who are incapable of differentiating between their video game persona and their out of game role as an arbitrator between the community and CCP. There are, sadly, people who care more about their internet pixel money and e-status than the betterment of the game and it’d be nice to not have a CSM filled with those people. The CSM should working to make sure this MMO game we play can survive in an industry that is growing more and more crowded each month and not pushing their own personal agendas. Mynxee: While EVE is in a better place than ever before, there is still a lot of change coming down the pipeline in future releases that will involve hundreds if not thousands of design decisions. Based on personal experience as a CSM5 member, my take is that those CSM representatives who are well-versed in gameplay and game mechanics bring extremely important expertise to share in discussions with CCP devs – especially these days when the devs are so much more positively engaged with the CSM than in the past. The most important skills a CSM member can bring to the table are a solid understanding of problems that affect their particular playstyle, a willingness to listen to prospective solutions from both devs and other CSM members, an ability to identify and clearly articulate the potential ramifications of proposed solutions, and the savvy to suggest reasonable adjustments or counter-proposals. It is difficult to imagine anyone playing for less than six months or maybe even a year being able to bring that skillset to the CSM (unless they had been immersed in Eve to the exclusion of all else during that time!).
“…the devs are so much more positively engaged with the CSM”
And yet, the new player voice is so important to both hear and cultivate. New players who feel their opinions are heard and that they can be part of evolving Eve into an ever better game may also feel more invested and thus likely to stay for the long term. Somehow, we need to make sure their voices, concerns, and confusions are heard and included in the process of making Eve better. I believe the CSM can (and should) play a central role in this. For example, CSM9 member (and CSM10 candidate) Sugar Kyle has blogged quite a lot about her impressive devotion to Rookie Chat and guiding/adopting new players. It would be interesting to get a group of 6-10 new (one month or less) players together and let them talk about their experiences in the game. And then perhaps reconvene with them every three months for a year to see what paths they take…or even how many stay. Maybe a certain podcast we all know and love will step up to that challenge… 😛 It’s hard to say which way voting turnout will go this year. CCP often seems to fall short in doing obvious promotional activities at the right time and for the right duration and to the right audience to encourage turnout. However, in the past it was their take that the CSM and the players should carry that burden because the CSM is all about being a voice for the players. To a certain extent, I agree with that approach and many Eve bloggers, podcasters, and forum warriors have stepped up admirably to the challenge of promoting CSM elections and providing exposure to and information about candidates. However, there are many newer players or even long term players who are not tuned into the wider community outside of game. They miss all the information available about elections and candidates. So whatever can be done to raise awareness about the CSM elections in-game is important in terms of reaching those players. Unfortunately, the only real option for doing that in game is via channels. So, you would think there’d be an official CSM channel that was listed in the Channels window. Nope. There IS a CSM Public channel, but it is long unused as you can tell by the MOTD:

“Channel MOTD Welcome to CSM Public, the channel for all things related to the Council of Stellar Management. Join the CSM-NEWS mailing list for occasional announcements and updates.

CSM6 Delegates and Alternates (link)”

CSM6? Sigh. Why isn’t this channel administered and kept up to date by CCP’s CSM Coordinator (currently CCP Leeloo) and listed in the Channels window? If channels for Eve Uni, Eve Radio, EveTV, New Eden Radio, and SIRadio are listed there, I am at an utter loss to understand why the CSM Public channel isn’t listed there as well. If it were, players could actually discover it without having to be tuned in to forums or other information sources outside the game. It could be promoted by both CCP and the CSM as an in-game gathering place for players who want to interact with their elected Council. At a stretch, why shouldn’t current CSM members be required or at least encouraged to be present in such a channel when logged into the game? People wonder why election turnout has been trending downward. The way I see it, if you’re not covering all the bases in reaching out to players or making it easy for them to find out about the CSM and become interested/invested in the process and the election, it’s no big surprise. Doing that in-game seems to be the most logical idea in the world. The mind boggles at why the idea of an in-game CSM channel is not being actively promoted. I mean, most of us who are going to be voting in elections do play EVE, don’t we? There’s another statistic it would be interesting to see: aggregated number of daily logins for the 30 days prior to the election for accounts that voted. 10269607_10100426053382449_4270443293299718504_n Apoth: *Echoes Georgik*. But seriously, my number one vote by a long way is to Manfred Sideous. In my mind it will genuinely be a loss to the community to not have him on CSM 10. He was outplaying PL in their golden age of sov warfare, and continues to be a badass FC/theorycrafter/Campaign Commander. He is also one of the nicest guys, he has literally spent hours just sat down answering my questions as a new FC in PL, and as you can see from his thread he’s willing to do that for everyone else too. No it’s okay Manny, go ahead, I’ll swallow *gasp*. Ahum, anyway. Bloc voting is still going to be a thing. It has always been a thing and I don’t really see it ever not being a thing. It’s a bit meh but I don’t really see it as an issue, more of a part of the game. Niden: I disagree with the notion that nullsec control is the biggest selling point of EVE, it is perhaps the simplest one to explain to outsiders. Everyone understands big explosions and lots of ships. The greatest selling point of EVE is that thing that was so eloquently described in the This is EVE video. I also don’t agree that EVE “hasn’t changed much”, with all the changes both nullsec and lowsec have changed at least a noteworthy amount. Like Hendrick however, I’ve had it up to here with people who seem to think the CSM is part of meta gameplay. I wish I could say that I believed that to be a thing of the past, unfortunately, I don’t think it is. I also think bloc voting perpetuates this problem and is in itself a failure. The danger is of course that people whose primary interest is their group rather than the community, the game or even their area of space (being nullsec) make it onto the CSM. The council’s function becomes effectively compromised. The most common mistake people make when discussing these things is that they decide they, for the reasons stated above, have no faith in the CSM process and thus do not vote. Or, even worse, vote as they’re told rather than exercise their free will and actually sit down and spend some time to learn in order to give a fuck about the community, rather than being a cog in a machine.
“Don’t do as you’re told, make up your own mind about candidates.”
I believe we need a mixed bag of veterans and fresh blood. The problem is that many of those veterans get in on some organisations ticket. I have hope however that hard work and showing a true dedication to the issues, such as Sugar Kyle has shown throughout this term, can still prevail. I also agree with Mynxee that it is vital that CSM members are well versed in the day-to-day life and mechanics that govern the daily life of their constituency. People who are more involved in running alliances and coalitions then they are being down in the trenches tend to forget what life is like out there. I have a hard time predicting if voting will go up or down this year. I guess I’m kind of hoping that with all the positive attitude in EVE of late, part of that inspiration will go towards investing in the CSM process. The CSM really do make a difference, something they have proven time and again during CSM 9, and the process deserves a little bit of your time and the exercising of your free will. Don’t do as you’re told, make up your own mind about candidates. Leave the meta behind, this is for the betterment of the game as a whole. Dunk Dinkle:  I think that the relationship between the playerbase and CCP is a much different place that it was in the past. A new willingness to make fundamental change to gameplay, a faster development cycle, and commitment to listening to players has changed the role of the CSM. Rather than battling with the Dev Team on issues, it appears to be a more collaborative situation than previously. Sure there are issues that pop up, like the way the jump drive changes were announced, but they are the exception rather than the rule. However, there are a number of players that view the CSM as people who can go to the Dev Team and say “put this feature in the game!” or “remove this thing I don’t like!”. This really isn’t the case, but many player envision that this is how it works. The CSM should not be seen as ‘junior game designers’.  They truly are an advisory group and sounding board. As far as bloc voting, yes it’s an issue, but it’s an issue for any election for any purpose.  There is power in grouping together with like minded individuals. CCP has done a lot with the voting system to mitigate the effects, but realistically, it’s not something that can be avoided.
Tarek: With no really contentious issues on the table, it might as well be that voter participation goes down this year. One major factor I expect to lead to a different result is whether Brave Newbies will spread the word and urge their members to vote. They are currently the single largest organisation in-game and therefore represent a major group of potential voters if they can be mobilized. That constituency – if you wish to call it that – is also likely to vote for “younger” candidates like June Ting. While I agree that it takes some experience to grasp the complexity of EVE and even more insight to understand how the CSM process works, I don’t see that as a reason in itself to dismiss less veteran players. Ali Aras, for example, has done a great job albeit that she had only played EVE for maybe two years when she was first elected.
“…older “bittervets” can often suffer from tunnel-vision”
The “elder statesman” candidates bring their own baggage with them. Apart from concerns about metagaming and accusations of self-aggrandization, older “bittervets” can often suffer from tunnel-vision. Usually they have been engaged in the same style of gameplay for many years, some even as part of the same organisation throughout all that time. As such they may fail to remember what the game was like back then when you were virtually alone in the game, all you could fly was a T1 cruiser and your best source of income was level 4 missions. That of course ties in directly with the bloc-voting problem. The reason I call it a problem is twofold. On one side it shows that there are many players who – despite voting – haven’t the slightest idea what is actually going on. Someone just shoves a pre-completed ballot in front of them and they simply delegate the whole decision making process to someone else. On the other side bloc-voting is not only very likely to put cynical bittervets on the CSM (after all, the major candidates usually come from longstanding alliance leadership) but even exacerbates the problem by voting in people who an organisation wants on the CSM rather than those which would be needed for the process to yield the best results. That being said, even bloc-voting is not necessarily a bad thing. I am glad that Mynnna was part of the last CSM and I would venture a guess that an industrialist and spreadsheet wizard would not have a high chance of being elected without the support of a large bloc-vote. Xander: I heard there was an awesome guy on CSM9 none of you seemed keen to mention by the name of a certain ‘Xander Phoena’. Thanks team! Regarding bloc voting, it isn’t an issue in the respect that there is literally nothing you can do to stop it other than putting in a rule that states ‘you can’t vote for someone in your own corp/alliance’ and even that doesn’t really work given that blocs don’t officially exist in Eve. Also, if you look at the make-up of CSM9, a significant proportion don’t come from 0.0 blocs anyway. A ‘fair / representative’ proportion I hear you ask? Well it’s almost perfectly representative of those who voted with the new voting system. As to whether or not CSM is still effective – I think Eve still faces many issues but I’d love to meet the person who genuinely believes the game is in a worse place at the end of CSM9’s term than it was at the start. Can CSM9 claim all the credit for that? Absolutely not – it can’t even claim the majority of the credit. Is it helping CCP to see problems that they may otherwise be oblivious to – ‘woods for the trees’ syndrome perhaps? Absolutely. Look at things such as the changes to rules on input automation, adjustments to the jump drive changes and much more besides.
“…once you are elected, I am of the opinion that all that in-game meta nonsense stops right there.”
On a side note and referring back to something Hendrick mentioned earlier – it is clear that there is a certain amount of ‘meta’ in play when it comes to attempting to win a seat on CSM. Whether any candidate chooses to engage in such when attempting to be elected is up to them – I certainly did. That said, once you are elected, I am of the opinion that all that in-game meta nonsense stops right there. We are there to advise CCP on how we believe the game could be improved not to push any in-game political agenda. This is not a position which is universally agreed upon by all CSM members and perhaps I am a little naive, I don’t know. For me, CSM exists to improve the game and isn’t part of the game in and of itself. Georgik: YOUR VOTES DON’T COUNT, His name was Grogoth Drem.
Tags: csm, CSM X, cz minutes

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12 year EVE veteran, Snuffed Out scumbag, writer, graphic artist, producer, Editor-in-Chief of Crossing Zebras and the second most influential player in EVE, according to EVE Onion.