CZ Minutes: Ethical Considerations (Part 2)

 
Welcome to part two of the longest piece we have ever ran here on Crossing Zebras. I’d suggest reading part one beforehand for context. Marc is still here along with TMC and EN24 EiCs Tegiminis and Bobmon respectively and in these 8 or so thousand words things get a little feisty, especially when we get around to RMT…  Niden: Taking a step back towards the OT: It’s question of perspective. I’ll illustrate from the bottom up rather than the other way around. Everyone knows I’m lowsec nerd and almost as easy to troll about it as Rixx Javix is when someone starts talking smack about Stay Frosty. Consider lowsec the template for the following, but you can really replace it with X aspect / part of EVE. The reason I’m so passionate about my writing is because, for the most part, lowsec sees comparatively little of the mainstream media spotlight. There is so much going on under that tip of the iceberg that Joe Highsec / Nullsec never hears about. Even many lowsec pilots don’t know what’s going on beyond their immediate vicinity unless they are extremely well informed and have the time to hit all the right blogs and forums.
It is said that you can either play EVE or the meta, but not both
It is said that you can either play EVE or the meta, but not both. Although they are not in reality mutually exclusive, there is a kernel of truth to it, especially in lowsec. Your typical lowsec player is interested in PvP and lots of it. Their ‘meta’ is usually limited to the people they fight with or against, and even then it’s a lot more grass roots level than what we generally consider EVE meta game. By contrast, null sov players seem to have a lot more time on their hands to fill up an endless stream of forums, blog posts, articles and podcasts with drama and big numbers. Null sov is the proverbial low hanging fruit of EVE journalism because it more or less writes itself. The stories are already there along with fitting the established criteria of big money and numbers. As things stand now EVE media has one foot in the meta and the other in journalism, giving voice to those that already have one. We have our CNN, FOX News and Times, but no Vice. As EVE media grows (and it most certainly is) we also have to evolve, planting our foot heavier on the journalism side of things and the ethics that come along with it. A level of trust from the readers must be earned and nurtured, where they feel that the issues and the news are the first priority, rather than political affiliations or sensationalism. In an ideal world TMC isn’t suspected of CFC propaganda, EN24 isn’t considered a tabloid and Crossing Zebras has evolved from one persons hobby into a trusted source of in-depth information and debate. I think we’re trying to take the right steps in our separate ways, but it’s very much unexplored territory. It’s debates like this where we have a chance to come to a consensus what our code of conduct should be, or at least strive for. Xander: So if I was to consider the biggest weakness of CZ right now, I’d say it’s the lack of content. We have one great piece of writing up every day but only one normally. That’s a result of the size of the site, the ISK we have available as a budget for writers and the time the key personnel (i.e. me, Jeg and Marc) have to spend working on pieces and site development. Tegiminis and Bobmon, what would you both say is the single weakest element of your respective sites at the moment and why? Bobmon: I think our weakest element for EN24 is that we sometimes have problems with things slipping through the radar such as spelling / grammar mistakes. We try to eliminate this but it does happen. We are fixing this by recruiting a lot more proofreaders / editors that native english speakers. Tegiminis: TMC is absolutely perfect in every single way. Kidding aside, I’d say it’s the structure of the site. We’re currently caught between “niche game-driven website” and “larger game journalism organization” and it shows. As mentioned, we tend to miss out on non-null news unless it’s a large community event. So while our pieces are generally of high quality, we don’t have enough of them on the “hidden” areas of EVE, like lowsec/w-space. We’re working on it, of course. I’m actually pretty pleased with the overall progress of TMC, though. We’re constantly working on improving our writers, expanding our coverage, etc. So much like with Marc bringing his expertise to CZ to help it expand, I don’t think this will stay a weakness for long. As is it’s a relatively minor one, albeit one I want to eradicate as soon as possible. Here’s a counter question for Bobmon and Xander (and Marc too). TMC obviously already branched out into non-EVE news that may be of interest to EVE players. How do y’all plan on expanding your particular sites without losing site identity or entering into direct competition with each other/TMC? How do you plan on filling your “space”? Xander: So the first thing I will say is whatever happens with CZ, the decisions made for the direction of the site won’t be based on what TMC and EN24 are doing. Myself, Marc and Jeg will figure out the best direction of the site and go for it. That’s not to say that we don’t have a close eye on both other sites, simply that we’ve started CZ with our own ideas and concepts and we’ll continue to do that – to differentiate the site as our own ‘place’.
I know for a fact that CZ will never compete with TMC or EN24 when it comes to news
As for space, I am biased but I honestly believe that CZ has consistently the highest quality of writing on all three sites. That’s maybe an arrogant opinion but I do genuinely believe it. I also know for a fact that we will never compete with TMC or EN24 when it comes to news. I think our niche in the Eve media triumvirate is already established – high quality features and op-ed. Priority on well thought-out discussion and breakdown on events and less on ‘here’s where you come for bang up to date news’. Whatever we do with CZ in the future, I don’t see that changing as a core tenet of the site. The way I have always looked at the three sites is simple – EN24 is the IGN of the three, TMC is the Eurogamer and CZ is the RockPaperShotgun. I visit all three sites regularly but I get different things from each. I’ll also say with a bit of pride that CZ has been a ‘media site’ for six months at this point and while we are still lagging behind in third in terms of quantity of content and hits/pageviews/whatever, I’m immensely proud of how quickly we’ve established ourselves as a venue for unbiased, quality Eve content from all the different parts of the meta. #CHESTBEATING Tegiminis: It’s funny you mention Rock Paper Shotgun, because that’s also the direction I’m attempting to take with TMC. Rather than being simply another news/feature mill, we want to provide a service for our readers, much in the same way that RPS or (to mention another relatively decent site) Joystiq. One of my standing mandates is that if we can’t frame a piece in an interesting way, or deliver some sort of analysis, I don’t want to run the piece. I’ll fight you over the quality of writing. I think we at TMC do a damn good job. Pistols at dawn, you scoundrel. Xander: ‘One of my standing mandates is that if we can’t frame a piece in an interesting way, or deliver some sort of analysis, I don’t want to run the piece.’ Really…? http://themittani.com/news/battlefield-3-and-plants-vs-zombies-free-origin What was the particular framing of that story that caught your editing eye? Tegiminis: Everybody loves free videogames, that’s what. Don’t lie. We all love things for free. Xander: Who said otherwise? You dodged my question. That linked article is quite literally a nothing piece. Tegiminis: Some pieces don’t need it. I’m not going to require my writers to do a deep analysis of “HERE IS A FREE GAME MAKE SURE YOU GET IT NOW BEFORE IT ISN’T FREE ANY MORE.” Hence: everybody loves free videogames. The framing already exists; the writer doesn’t need to add an existing framework to it. Xander:  You’re reaching and you know you are. Hey I’m not suggesting for a second everything on CZ is perfect. It clearly isn’t but come on, a 70 or 80 word ‘article’ with a link to Origin. You could have done so much more there. Even a wee 200 word review of each of the two games listed. I’m not saying the piece is ‘bad’ or ‘wrong’, I’m simply saying it’s nothing. Vapour. And it directly contradicts what you said earlier. I wouldn’t run a piece like that on CZ not because I think it’s bad, simply because it wouldn’t meet the criteria for what I would want to see on CZ. For what it’s worth, it’s markedly different from what I would expect to see on the likes of RPS also. OriginsEA_logo Tegiminis: Really? You must have missed where they did almost exactly the same thing (except with RPS’ classy snark, of course). Their piece is slightly more expansive, but not terribly so. Most it does is mention Hardline/the BF4 microtransactions (we separated the microtransactions/free BF3 so there’d be more concrete discussion on each topic). Could we have done more with that piece? Yeah, probably. I’m fine with how it is, though. Some stories don’t need an angle, or a frame, or a narrative; they just exist and by existing are interesting on their own. Everybody knows what Battlefield 3 and Plants vs Zombies are. I made the call to get the information out there, rather than spend time futzing around. I actually like how direct that piece is. If you want to get snarky about individual “nothing” pieces, how about that piece on neckbeards by HVAC you ran? Can’t say I’d see that from the likes of RPS either. That’s not meant to be a dig. I like that piece; it’s funny. Xander: Not taken as a dig 🙂 I actually think HVAC’s piece is EXACTLY the kind of thing I would expect to see on RPS – maybe written differently granted but a piece on gamers and fitness is right up RPS’ street. But again, I don’t want to keep quoting you but… ‘One of my standing mandates is that if we can’t frame a piece in an interesting way, or deliver some sort of analysis, I don’t want to run the piece.’ Where was the interesting framing or the analysis in that Origin piece? Even the RPS variant you linked to had a wee bit even if it was slight. The more frustrating thing about that piece is Hendrick is a bloody good writer and ten minutes more ‘work’ could probably have moulded it into something that meets the criteria you established in your quote above. In my opinion of course 😉 Tegiminis: Don’t winky face at me you bastard! Sure, it could’ve been a larger piece. I made the call not to make it one, because it distracted from what I considered the thing people wanted to know: free videogames. Could I have had Hendrick write more? Yeah, sure. But I used my judgement and shipped the piece out as is, simple framing and all, because I felt the interest behind it was self-explanatory; you honestly don’t need an “it’s a free game!” piece to be any more complex than that, even if you can make it so.
Saying that in order to fulfill a mandate you have to apply that mandate to literally every piece is silly
Saying that in order to fulfill a mandate you have to apply that mandate to literally every piece, regardless of content or intent, is silly. Some pieces don’t need it. That’s part of making editorial judgement calls, after all. I certainly bounce enough of our pieces back to our writers as is. Xander: Yeah, I think that’s fair. As soon as you doggedly stick to certain rules, you are on a hiding to nothing. If you have good writers, they should be free to submit pieces that will surprise you as an editor and change what you consider to automatically be ‘correct’. ‘Guidelines’ are an important part of the development of any site where writing is a key spine in the development. ‘Rules’, not so much. Ok so there’s one topic we haven’t discussed yet and I don’t think this episode of the Minutes can go by without touching on it. Tegiminis, you know my personal opinion on this one but my view isn’t universally shared. As I understand it, at the moment TMC (and EN24 I believe) has a real world, dollar income based on advertising. While there are one or two writers who are paid cash, the vast majority are paid in ISK. Essentially, the site generates cash and pays for its content in ISK, a practise some consider RMTing. I don’t believe we can discuss Eve media ethics without looking into this further. What are your thoughts Teg and Bob? Tegiminis: So this is a complicated topic.
Yes, we pay the majority of our writers in ISK. A few people, including me, are paid in real money funded through ad revenue.
Yes, we pay the majority of our writers in ISK. A few people, including me, are paid in real money funded through ad revenue. This is an open secret, and has obviously led to accusations of RMTing by people who mostly just want to hate TMC to hate TMC. After the Somer Blink scandal, CCP issued more stringent regulations on what you can spend ISK on. For us, a writer has to write about EVE in order to be paid in ISK; if you don’t write about EVE, no ISK. This is a requirement handed down by CCP, and ensures that ISK is always tied to EVE as opposed to somebody writing all about Star Citizen while raking in those spacebux. Believe it or not, our revenue is not that high. It’s something we’re working on, because ultimately we want to move away from paying writers in ISK (unless they specifically ask for it). Part of the maturation of any journalism site is the conversion from volunteer – which, despite receiving an ISK paycheck, is the status of the vast majority of our staff – to professional, and doing so requires a fairly substantial war chest. Now, regarding RMTing: no, it’s not. First, RMT has to have the express goal of converting ISK to real money. The advertising on TMC was originally set up to support server costs, not provide any sort of appreciable income; the fact that the site grew so fast and so large means that we suddenly found ourselves with more money than needed for server costs, but not enough to fully fund a staff. TMC’s goal is to provide content, and then get paid for said content. Receiving real money from adverts is ancillary to our main goal. Second, RMTing needs a reasonable conversion rate. If I were to try and measure the conversion rate of ISK spent/money earned (which is near impossible anyway, given the fluctuating nature of advertising revenue), TMC would have an absolutely abysmal rate of conversion. This assumes that it’s RMTing, of course; it’s not. GAMES-EVE_ONLINE_35487375 Third, making an equivalence between selling virtual assets for real money and funding a fansite through virtual assets is misleading. CCP doesn’t consider funding a fansite through virtual assets to be RMTing, so we don’t either. They do, however, consider the outright sale of ISK or assets for realbux to be a violation of RMTing policy. In short, in order to RMT, you need two things: a buyer and a seller. TMC is neither. We fund our writers through ISK, and we receive real money through adverts. There is no real transaction going on, and we don’t want there to be. TMC is simply stuck in a unique position; we want to pay our writers real money and move away from ISK, but we don’t have the revenue to support it. All money earned from TMC advertising is poured back into the site, and that’s why it’s not RMTing.
In my Eyes RMTing is when you buy or sale isk for rl cash which isn’t the case so in my eyes its just haters that wanna hate
Bobmon: We run advertising on our site that indeed makes us RL money but this is also spend on the site to balance out the costs of actually hosting. In my Eyes RMTing is when you buy or sale isk for rl cash which isn’t the case so in my eyes its just haters that wanna hate. RMTing is causing harm to the EVE community and we from EN24 have fought against it in the past to prevent it from happening and we will try to do the same in the future Joran: “Second, RMTing needs a reasonable conversion rate.” If I can chime in briefly here, I don’t understand this point at all. The entire purpose of RMT is putting money into a specific pocket. Conversion doesn’t matter in the slightest, because you are making real world dollars from a fake currency. In fact, the entire situation that started the Somer scandal and put all this in the public light was someone giving away amounts of ISK per every PLEX bought, to the point it was stupid not to click on the link. And as to your third point, while you say CCP doesn’t consider funding a fansite to be RMT, clearly funding of Somer through PLEX sales was quantified as RMT. The line you’re drawing here is awfully thin. I dislike the entire idea that RMT has been extricated from the client as it has, frankly I would rather allow entrepreneurial individuals to create what they can, it seems only in CCP’s best interest. The problem is once CCP has made this poor decision, I think they need to follow it to the logical conclusion or reverse it for everyone. To me, this means either changing the Somer ruling or not allowing our websites to use ISK for real world gains. Tegiminis: So the difference between Somer and TMC is that Somer was using ISK to incentivize people to buy PLEX. In essence, they were selling ISK under the table. That’s a pretty clear violation of RMT policy. Compare this to places like CZ, TMC, or EN24, which use ISK in relation to EVE Online, and never as a saleable object. Comparing the two is definitively a false equivalence. Where one (Somer) has the intention of converting ISK (Somer’s stockpile of gambling gains) to real money, EVE fansites convert ISK (usually funded by the alliances or persons involved) into content.
There’s no exchange of ISK for real money, no conversion, no sale. It’s, at most, tangentially RMT
I think that’s why CCP doesn’t consider it RMT, and it’s also the reason why I don’t consider it RMT either. There’s no exchange of ISK for real money, no conversion, no sale. It’s, at most, tangentially RMT. Saying that it’s the same as Somergate is reaching. Bobmon: Damnit Tegi why do you keep typing stuff I want to type! Joran: “EVE fansites convert ISK (usually funded by the alliances or persons involved) to generate content.” Even if I take your entire argument at face value, the purpose of this content is to generate real world dollars. So all you have done is put another step in the process. I agree it’s not directly what Somer was doing, but as I said, personally I believe you have to follow CCP’s argument to the logical conclusion. Tegiminis: By that logic, all scamming in EVE Online should be banned, all people should play nice, and everybody should be hugs and cuddles. There are degrees. You can’t take arguments to “logical extremes” because that’s a slippery slope fallacy. Joran: Well I think we will have to differ on what is an extreme and what is not. Clearly everyone has a foot in the game here, including myself at CZ. I simply think this is going to come to a head eventually. Tegiminis: I agree. It’s an unclear area. I’m not sure if CCP will directly address it, though, because it takes away the growth potential for these sites.
Consider how much EVE media contributes to the evolution of EVE as a social platform and as a business
Consider a site whose whole model is built around EVE. Contributors are paid in ISK, stories about EVE are written, and CCP says no real money can go through the site whatsoever. That severely limits both the site’s growth potential (real money is needed to fund these sorts of things, that’s an inescapable fact), and the reach of CCP. Consider how much EVE media contributes to the evolution of EVE as a social platform and as a business. It’s a pretty large contribution. Restricting EVE media sites so that they can’t run ads, can’t use real money, and must solely rely on ISK hurts that, and CCP knows. Thus, CCP’s policy of: if it’s about EVE, feel free to pay ISK. If it’s not, don’t. plexstore-hdr Xander: The problem is Teg, in less than a thousand words you have went from; ‘Now, regarding RMTing: no, it’s not.’ to ‘It’s, at most, tangentially RMT.’ If there’s even the potential for what we are all engaged in to be considered RMT, should CCP be looking at all our individual enterprises more closely? Could it be that the reason they don’t is because it is such a borderline case and frankly, they see all this Eve-related content as a ‘good thing’? Tegiminis: That touches on an interesting concept: CCP using EVE media as, essentially “free advertising.” It’s certainly the case that articles on TMC have been quoted across the internet by Legitimate Journalists when discussing EVE, and as a result create more subs for CCP. So it’s entirely possible that they are giving EVE media a pass because it provides a service to them, as opposed to Somer, which provides a service solely to EVE players.
 TMC’s aim is not to make ISK into money, it’s to be a good site and grow into a legitimate news organization
I make concessions that some people think it’s RMT. I don’t. Hence my “tangentially related” statement. I don’t consider it RMT, but you can’t escape the link between ISK/realbux, and if people want to say that’s RMT, there’s not really anything I can do to dissuade them. All I can say is that TMC’s aim is not to make ISK into money, it’s to be a good site and grow into a legitimate news organization. If people want to tinfoil hat about it and claim that Mittens is funding his mortgage through TMC (hint: he absolutely doesn’t need TMC’s income), then whatever. I can’t change that.
We’re so deep in this, we’re the last people who should be decided what is and isn’t RMT
Xander: We aren’t the people who can make that call though surely? We’re so deep in this, we’re the last people who should be decided what is and isn’t RMT. If we are even considering that it ‘could’ be, it’s not unreasonable to suspect that a lot of other people firmly believe it ‘is’ RMT. And if enough people think that, shouldn’t CCP be looking into this further? I mean from an ethical standpoint, CCP can’t be giving Eve media sites a pass for perceived RMTing when they jumped on Somer right? Tegiminis: CCP did look into this. There was a big investigation into our books, and they came away from it saying “don’t pay anybody but EVE writers in ISK.” We changed our pay structure to reflect this. Xander: Interestingly, CZ hasn’t been approached by CCP on this matter yet. Probably because we are fairly new to this writing game. I’d imagine this article may draw some attention our way ironically. We don’t have any RL income into the site so I’d imagine we are fairly bulletproof in that regard at least for the moment. Joran: Just to throw one more firecracker into the discussion, if we don’t accept Teg’s argument at face value, what Somer was actually doing was selling Blink credit, not ISK directly. What if they sold a service, and said you could participate in a dozen lotteries? That makes it much more like a content for ISK arrangement. Tegiminis: You’re still ultimately performing some exchange or purchase. Nobody is “buying” ISK through EVE media sites. That’s ultimately my cut-off. I consider it RMT if you are purchasing something with real money. In your example, while it’s less direct than the “free blink credit with PLEX purchases,” it’s still “give us money, receive ISK.” There is no such exchange going on with EVE media Xander: Bobmon, you mentioned earlier; ‘RMTing is causing harm to the EVE community and we from EN24 have fought against it in the past to prevent it from happening and we will try to do the same in the future’ Where would you say this article falls into with regards to EN24’s policies regarding causing harm to the community? http://archive.evenews24.com/2011/09/15/wanted-botting-advisors-eve-news24-to-evangelize-the-good-news-of-quick-isk/ Bobmon: That is a very old post but yes it was one of the articles I was talking about. I can’t really talk about the specifics behind that article you linked because I around at the time. Xander: Would you run the piece now Bob? Do you think it was a good piece for the Eve community?
Around the time that we posted it Botting and such actions were happening in front of CCP’s eyes and somebody had to go out there to get the evidence
Bobmon: Around the time that we posted it Botting and such actions were happening in front of CCP’s eyes and somebody had to go out there to get the evidence. Im not saying that it doesn’t happen anymore but thanks to the changes that CCP implemented (2 years ago now I believe) it just dropped in activity which is awesome for the eve community. Right now we don’t really see anything happening like we did back then but if I would see something then sure why not.
Isn’t an ‘EVE Media Site’ really just a fansite that has renounced the restrictions placed on it by CCP’s fansite program
Marc: The thing that strikes me, catching up on the last few thousand words (good lord), is the use of the phrase ‘EVE Media’, as if that was some subset of gaming media that has been established. We all kind of walked into this assuming we know what EVE Media is, or at least what it isn’t; it isn’t quite ‘real’ media in the way RockPaperShotgun or Polygon are, but it isn’t fansite material like Eveoganda or the other half dozen or so blogs that still exist (I kid, there’s at least 10). At the end of the day though, isn’t an ‘EVE Media Site’ really just a fansite that has renounced, more or less, the restrictions placed on it by CCP’s fansite program? It’s interesting to contemplate at least. evedust514screen2a-1358643512 A few points on the RMT discussion: First off, there was no ‘big investigation of [TMC’s] books.’ Instead, following Somer, CCP just let it be known that TMC could only pay EVE writers in ISK. There is no audit of this, nor frankly should there be. Other gaming media sites (low rung sites anyways) often compensate contributors with review code or ‘press accounts’ or what have you. Does CCP have the right to tell every site in the world that they aren’t allowed to give a PLEX to a contributor? If they do, what kind of precedent does that set, how enforceable is that even, and frankly why bother?
Taken in its most literal form, RMT is using ISK to get real money. In that way, what TMC does is undeniably RMT
Second, the entire RMT conversation has not discussed the ethics or implications of RMT, but has generally revolved around ‘what is RMT?’ Taken in its most literal form, RMT is using ISK to get real money. In that way, what TMC does (again, I’m not terribly familiar with EN24’s practices, revenue, etc) is undeniably RMT. Writers are given ISK in exchange for content, which is then used to generate real money through the wonders of online advertising. Pretty cut and dried there. However, from a practical standpoint, TMC’s rate of exchange is pretty piss-poor – there are plenty of Russians who do about a thousand times better daily. Somer did better and that was off of referral money. Getting mad about the fractions of pennies being scooped up by The Mittani for every thousand ISK he pays out to writers is just silly. He’s not exactly diving into pools of gold coins. Third, and most importantly, is really the question of: does it matter? Does it inhibit a site’s ability to provide clear and concise information about EVE? Does a site like TMC or EN24 suffer for the fact that they pay out ISK to their writers and editors and make a few bucks as a result? I believe the opposite is true (or at least is potentially true). In theory, more money means more investment into the site, which should translate to both a higher quality of writing (or editing) available, as well as a better user experience for readers. People earning a wage can be expected to produce at a higher level than those doing it for the lulz or for the soap box or for love of a hobby. This is where I tie in my previously off-handed paragraph about what being an ‘EVE media site’ even means. The really important consideration, from an ethical perspective, is what happens to a site when all they cover is EVE, and that site provides someone’s livelihood? Think about those old gaming magazines like Xbox Magazine. That’s a wider and deeper pool than EVE, sure, but could you really trust XBM to, say, expose a significant exploit that existed in the Xbox that would tank that product, and in doing so, their own livelihood? On a very much larger scale, this is what ethics in the gaming media really revolves around. Accusations of reviewers being on the take are a dime a dozen, and I’m pretty confident nearly all bogus.
If you are inextricably linked to a single publisher, can you even hope to cover the publisher in anything approaching an ethically sound, journalistic manner?
However, I think those claims and accusations are usually bogus because the gaming industry itself is a multi-billion dollar industry. Games are made in every corner of the globe, and gamers exist in between all those points, almost without exception (ahem, North Korea, ahem). A site’s integrity, and the appearance of it, are much more important than a few extra bucks thrown to a reviewer to make an 8 into a 9. Boil that pool down though. Down to CCP size. Limit the worldwide population of gamers to the size of CCP’s subscriber base. If you are inextricably linked to a single publisher, can you even hope to cover the publisher in anything approaching an ethically sound, journalistic manner? Or is the best you can hope for a sort of ‘fansite on steroids’ level? There’s about 800 words for you nerds to chew on (broke 10k with that, you are very welcome), have fun. Oh wait, also: something something Tegiminis is a furry and something something there’s probably a difference between ‘media’ and ‘press’ with different obligations for both, i.e. are you a youtuber (media) or a reporter (press) or somewhere in between and ohgod what does THAT even mean. Tegiminis: I think that “what is RMT” is complicated when taken beyond the most base level, which is “buy virtual assets with real money.” Hence why there is a regular difference of opinion on whether or not sites like TMC or EN24 are RMT or not. If taken at its most literal – ISK and realbux interact in some way within a system – then any organization which involves ISK and real money is RMTing, end of story. That seems too broad of a definition for my tastes. As for the “big investigation,” I worded that wrong. I didn’t mean that there was an audit, I meant that CCP took a look at how writers were being paid at TMC, talked with Mittens, and then told us we had to adhere to a new standard. I should’ve worded it better (ohgod I’m not perfect like I say I am).
When a site like TMC – or CZ, or EN24 – is growing into a more professional endeavor, it invariably needs money to grow
You sort of touch on something that I mentioned earlier, which is that when a site like TMC – or CZ, or EN24 – is growing into a more professional endeavor, it invariably needs money to grow. Money – actual money, not dumb spaceship money – is inextricably tied to better performance from staff. After all, ISK is only useful for EVE; realbux are useful for everything, including EVE. So there’s this interesting interaction going on where you are stuck between two worlds: you are paying writers in ISK, and are getting ad revenue, but you don’t have enough revenue to successfully change from an ISK payroll to a real money payroll. Wormhole As for the “fansite on steroids” question, that’s interesting. Having been on both sides at this point, I don’t think there’s a significant difference (although there obviously is a minor one) between TMC’s relationship with CCP and, say, Joystiq’s. Namely, both sites want to preserve a working relationship with CCP without refusing to cover important stories that may damage CCP’s reputation. TMC sidesteps the “you won’t publish damning things about CCP” problem by building up the Other Games portion of the site; as you mentioned earlier, we have pretty significant coverage of non-EVE content, even if EVE is above and beyond our most popular content. I know EN24 and CZ are both moving in that direction as well, although each in their own way rather than the “collected umbrella” model that TMC follows. Regarding the ethics of RMT, that’s difficult. If we are classifying any action which involves ISK and real money being RMTing – which includes things such as sale of assets on eBay, paying writers with ISK on a site that has a real money revenue, or providing ISK incentives for referrals – there’s a bit of an ethical grey area. Obviously there is CCP-approved RMTing through the sale of PLEX, but CCP also appears to approve of paying writers with ISK as long as they are writing about EVE.
Is it ethical to allow EVE media to pay writers in ISK while bringing in ad revenue? It’s a tough question
Is it ethical to allow EVE media to pay writers in ISK while bringing in ad revenue? It’s a tough question. I think it is, primarily because the end goal of TMC is built around transcending paying people in ISK (unless they want to be, of course) and instead paying writers in real money. I think CCP recognizes that larger EVE press, like TMC and EN24 and soon to be CZ, have to exist in that ethical grey area for a time before maturing. I also think it’s in CCP’s best interests to have sites like these exist and mature, because it reflects well on their brand; CCP has the potential to say “look at all these real journalists that came from writing EVE stories,” and that’s definitely something they want to keep in place. They may also consider the ad revenue for these sites as a sort of concession, given that they bring in a lot of subscriptions and attention for EVE. Ultimately – and yes, this is a cop-out of sorts – RMT is what CCP says it is. If they consider larger EVE press to be RMT, then they are. If they don’t, they aren’t. CCP obviously doesn’t think these sites are RMT at the moment, given that they took a look in the aftermath of Somergate and issued a new mandate, but whether or not they revise these rules in the future is up for debate.
When sites like CZ or EN24 or TMC have a larger audience, it exposes more people to EVE, which is better for CCP’s business
I don’t think they should. I think that the transitional period between being ISK-funded and realbux-funded is an important one to larger EVE sites, and one CCP would be shooting themselves in the foot over if they decided to restrict. It would ultimately restrict the growth of sites like TMC into genuine media outlets, and it’s in CCP’s best interest to promote that growth. When sites like CZ or EN24 or TMC have a larger audience, it exposes more people to EVE, which is better for CCP’s business. It also promotes a healthy discourse independent of CCP’s services, which is important for improving the game. Blawrf for CEO 2014. Xander: I think you are right Teg. I think that part of the evolution of any site (and clearly TMC is blazing the trail here) is the move from a purely ISK based infrastructure like we have at CZ at the moment to a purely cash based structure. In between you are going to get what TMC is at the moment with what is to a lot of people’s eyes is RMT. Now as you also correctly point out, PLEX is essentially CCP sanctioned RMT. Should CCP be prescriptive in the rules on this? I hate that CCP needs to be specific on minutiae like this but as long as they don’t address the RMT argument, there will always be people who will whine and complain that what the likes of TMC is doing is harming Eve Online. It’s a ridiculous argument in my opinion but it’s one that will never go away as long as CCP quietly ignores the subject. By the way, I’m well aware that even if CCP does rule specifically on this issue that some muppets will still complain but at least everyone can be seen to be complying with the official guidelines in the same way that PLEX-RMT is a-ok. Tegiminis: While I discount the RMT argument – I don’t think what sites like us do is RMT at all – there are definitely still problems with EVE media harming the community, or otherwise not behaving professionally. From my side, I remember when I found out that EN24 (don’t know who was doing it individually) was copy-pasting TMC articles into pastebin in order to avoid linking to the site. Then there was the whole deal with the recent NCdot State of the Alliance, where it was changed to have EN24 branding after others, namely TMC, put up a post on the recording.
We have to have a baseline of respect between sites and contributors, because without that we become embroiled in the typical EVE partisan clusterfuckery that we should be above
I think that in order for us to mature as media, we have to not be doing these sorts of things. We have to have a baseline of respect between sites and contributors, because without that we become embroiled in the typical EVE partisan clusterfuckery that we should be above. This means separating your EVE life (say, as a spy/stenographer/FC/whatever) from your professional life (media stuff). For my part, I don’t particularly like that Incindir wrote that EN24 “expose,” as interesting as it was. Likewise, I encourage my writers to focus on improving themselves, rather than attacking outside writers or influence. I think TMC has matured a lot since that piece, and I’m pretty proud of that. We certainly have had writers come to us with pitches to attack other bloggers and sites, and since my tenure as editor I’ve turned down every single one. They don’t reflect well on TMC at all. Tarek: Tegiminis, I very much appreciate the fact that you are talking about a baseline of mutual respect. Maybe a good way to start is to remove the not-quite-so-veiled insults against EN24 from TMCs “About” page. I do not think that the actions of EN24 staff in the past are to be tolerated, but TMC began its existence with a mission statement that was very much geared towards throwing the gauntlet into the face of EN24 and the TMC side was also playing dirty. Lowlife---plex-fighting_art2 Tegiminis: A fair point. That about page was written before I was editor, and is nearly two years old. It should be changed. Tarek: I honestly believe, that those two sites (CZ is not really playing the same game) can exist next to each other without having to be “enemies”. Basically it would be nice to see the attitude that is normally seen at Fanfest to be also extended to the EVE news sites i.e. you leave your in-game baggage behind and deal with each other as human beings. I also think that Riverini has learned in that respect. By appointing Bobmon he has taken a bit of a more behind-the-scenes role because he knows he is a polarizing figure. That being said, EN24 still makes grave mistakes in that respect. The recent copy-paste action without asking the author was ill advised to say the least. It is wrong, though, to think that this is all due to a malicious drive. The editing and submission process of EN24 is much more individualized. There are people who can publish pieces without oversight and they might lack judgement. Xander: Can we start playing the same game here on CZ? Let’s try it. ‘Hey Tegiminis – you a bitch.’
I’d argue that EN24 by far has the widest range of quality in terms of pieces from the three sites
Tarek, to address what you say at the end of your comments, that a lot of people with varying ideas of ‘editing’ and ‘quality’ can publish to EN24 is, well, a little strange to me. One one level, I can see it working in the same way that Goonswarm works – no single point of failure. It allows the site to trundle on and operate without one man desperately holding on the the steering wheel. On the other hand, it makes it more or less impossible to ensure a consistent quality of article at the end of the day. I’d argue that EN24 by far has the widest range of quality in terms of pieces from the three sites. I’ve read some amazing pieces on EN24 but I’ve also seen some stuff on there I would generously describe as ‘questionable’. Tarek: Yes, that is definitely the case. I can only guess, but I think the idea is to facilitate the quick generation of content and quality can become a casualty of that approach. I guess Bobmon can say more on what they want to do to address that. The comparison with Goonswarm is actually a funny one. There are a lot of people out there who say EN24 is shit and direct a lot of hate at the site. In a way they seem like they almost embrace that or at least shrug it off, much like the Goons did when they were treated similarly.
We are working to get everything to the Awesome level but we are not there yet
Bobmon: This is true, questionable post can have many different reasons (new writer, new editor etc.) We are working to get everything to the Awesome level but we are not there yet. Thats where my job comes in place. lets just say that We know we can improve and we are working hard on this. Tegiminis: So here’s the flaw with your assertion, Tarek (besides CZ not existing in the same space as TMC/EN24; it does, it’s just not the direct overlap we see between these two sites).
EN24 is rife with writers who hate the CFC, and TMC, like a poison. I don’t think that Riverini or Bobmon are willing to change this
EN24 is rife with writers who hate the CFC, and TMC, like a poison. I don’t think that Riverini or Bobmon are willing to change this, because it means a fundamental culture change of EN24 away from “the opposition” and “individual bloggers collected in one place.” This is the primary draw for most of their traffic, and it works for them. Unfortunately, it limits the pool of writers they can pull from and the topics they can cover. It also means that we end up bringing on writers from EN24 after they find the culture not to their liking. There’s also the notion that by attacking TMC, and our writers, EN24 is “punching above its weight” in an attempt to take on the current juggernaut. While it’s always admirable to try and leverage yourself into a position where you provide interesting dissenting viewpoints, there’s generally no excuse for the sort of unprofessional behavior I’ve seen from EN24. Compare a veiled dig at “other news sites” in TMC’s about page to an actual copyright violation committed by EN24’s staff. Something which I’m dead positive is Riverini’s doing, considering Seraph’s assertion that he originally linked the TMC articles and Riverini’s refusal to add the links (he stripped them out entirely after we told him to take down the pastebins, rather than simply switching them out to the TMC article links). One is a little sassy and should probably be changed. The other reveals a systemic problem with the culture and leadership of the site.
A sassy veiled dig at EN24 on a two-year old about page nobody reads is not the same as copypasting content from another site into pastebin to refuse them hits
I’m firmly adamant that I’m running TMC as a professional. While I may personally sass Bobmon or Riverini or EN24, I don’t presume to speak for TMC or use TMC resources to strike out at EN24. They do not offer me the same courtesy. You’re being disingenuous by comparing the two; a sassy veiled dig at EN24 on a two-year old about page nobody reads is not the same as copypasting content from another site into pastebin to refuse them hits. This base line of respect means not doing things so blatantly rude and awful to the competition that you look like an asshole. So far, from Seraph’s hit pieces on trying to get Jayne Fillon banned to Bobmon changing an NCdot SOTA to have EN24 branding, I’ve seen nothing but rudeness. It doesn’t affect me in the slightest – excuse me while I wipe up my tears with all this awesome content I get from my writers – but it hurts EN24, and ultimately I want to see a genuine competition. No competition breeds complacency, and if I’m going to be totally honest, I think of Crossing Zebras as our only real competition in terms of quality, professionalism, and presentation. Besides Xander’s My Little Pony logo. Kill all bronies.
Rivalry can still be had without resorting to practices which are unethical and underhanded
Tarek: Both sides are guilty of playing dirty at one time or the other. What I said is not so much meant to absolve EN24 or accuse TMC, but to make a link with your statement about mutual respect. That does not mean you have to like each other. I think it is very healthy that there are people out there who hate the CFC with a vengeance, otherwise things would become even more unified and streamlined. Rivalry can still be had without resorting to practices which are unethical and underhanded. Tegiminis: I agree. We don’t have to like each other. We do, however, have to abide by a certain civility when involving the other site in a professional endeavor. This means not letting personal vendettas drag down the discourse.
EN24 needs some sort of guidance from at least one person at the helm to ensure it follows basic standards of professional journalism
By comparing continued unprofessional behavior to an ancient about page, you are drawing a false equivalence between TMC and EN24. There’s a vast difference between site cultures; TMC is much more oriented around proper editorial oversight, continued quality coverage, and generally professional behavior. This wasn’t always the case, for sure, but it has been since I started as editor. EN24 needs some sort of guidance from at least one person at the helm to ensure it follows basic standards of professional journalism. It currently doesn’t have that. If you’re going to point to me sassing Bobmon, Riverini, or EN24 in comments or on Twitter, I’d like to point out that those comments are purely my personal stance. I’ve never used a professional resource to attack EN24 or its writers, and I would never consider doing so. As much as I find fault with what is going on, I ultimately want us all to move forward in the spirit of professionalism. If you can point out an instance of me using my professional resources to attack EN24, I welcome it. That way I can apologize for my behavior and for stepping out of line. 2009-12-27-22-16-53 Tarek: Me mentioning the – admittedly outdated – about section was just one example where an “official” statement is being made and not revised. Does that warrant unprofessional behaviour from the other side? Definitely not. Does it make it understandable? I would say it does. The affinity group of TMC has regularly engaged in activities which were actively geared towards discrediting EN24. I am not saying that this was “use of professional resources” you guys are too smart to not keep that backdoor open for yourselves. That being said, I see no point in making lists of who did what. I rather keep with such statements of yours as “I ultimately want us all to move forward in the spirit of professionalism.” Tegiminis: I absolutely do not think that a cheeky about page dig makes it understandable to steal competitor’s content. That’s some seriously scummy behavior, and I would never consider doing the same to EN24. Or any site, ever. I’ve never done it in my professional life before TMC, and I do not abide by it at TMC either. I’m interested in hearing about some of these discrediting activities you mention. For what it’s worth, I fully admit I was sassing EN24 in the comments section. It was puerile of me, but I’d hardly consider that as a concentrated effort to attack EN24. Commenting on silly behaviors does not mean active discrediting, and whether or not it’s purposeful you’re definitely muddying the waters here. There is no back door. There is no “too smart to be caught.” It’s a matter of standard. For what it’s worth, I allow EN24 writers – assuming they aren’t breaking the rules – to comment on TMC. I welcome the sass. It actually brings me joy. If we’re being frank, I don’t even mind EN24’s unprofessionalism, because ultimately that’s tanking their brand, not mine. What I am concerned about is that EN24 constantly loses writers to other sites, most notably TMC and now CZ. Rather than taking a look at why those writers left, and looking to improve their culture so that they can retain more quality writers, they continue to pump out the same syndicated blogs with a mere handful of original content. Every writer of note that I know on EN24 that isn’t adamantly committed to partisanship has left for greener pastures at some point or another. That shows a problem with EN24 that should be fixed, and it’s a problem I’ve told Bobmon and Riverini how to fix. Riverini threw it back in my face, so what can I do?
Tags: bobmon, cz minutes, en24, rmt, tegiminis, tmc

About the author

Xander Phoena

The good looking, funny, intelligent member of the team, Xander set up Crossing Zebras with Jeg in April 2012 mainly because he was talking too much about Eve on his other podcast. Playing the game for almost five years, Xander still has absolutely zero clue about how to actually play Eve but somehow still manages to talk a good game.


  • Tegiminis

    SASS MODE OVERDRIVE

  • Saint Mick

    Another fantastically interesting (if lengthy) read, especially so given my affiliation with PC Gamer Magazine.
    Humbly I would suggest a couple of potential reasons for writers hopping from EN24 (a site I really enjoy):
    Firstly the percieved quality issue; Although its undoubtedly improving, great articles can be sat next to articles of significantly lower quality and that proximity “rubs off”. Appearances may not be everything, but they are important.
    Secondly the utterly poisonous comments on EN24 must put writers off – No-one can take that kind of abuse again and again. Commentards (myself included) often have little to say, but the sheer venom in the comments section of EN24 would depress me if I had poured my heart and soul into the creation of an article for minimal reward. The “community” on CZ appears to be thoughtful and civil (we’ll see if this stays the same as the site traffic grows) and just a little less rancid on TMC.