CZ Minutes: Ethical Considerations (Part 3)

 
You may want to read part one and part two before soldiering on into part three of what is probably the longest article on any Eve Online related subject ever.  Just like the past two days, Marc is here along with TMC and EN24 EiCs Tegiminis and Bobmon respectively. Time to land this bad boy and get on with the rest of our lives… Tegiminis: This ties into another issue that should be brought up: Is syndication of existing content a good thing for EVE media to do? Is it something that we should be doing? Of the big three, EN24 is the only site that does syndication; TMC and CZ both lean towards having writers do original content over pulling from other blogs. Is it a good thing? Should EVE media be more akin to aggregation, or should it produce original content? Xander: For what it’s worth, I am very strict on CZ writers putting attacks on TMC, EN24 or actually any other Eve writer or blogger. I’m not saying I wouldn’t ever allow it under very special circumstances but those haven’t arisen yet and I have had a couple of occasions where a writer has wanted to go for a particular site or blogger and I have just said no. It’s just not needed.
I have no issue with syndicating content in the slightest from an ethical perspective
As for syndicating content? I have no issue with that in the slightest from an ethical perspective. It doesn’t work for me personally from a professional standpoint – I’d rather cultivate strong, original content for CZ – but as long as both parties are agreeable to some sort of syndication deal I don’t see the problem from an ethical standpoint. The content creator gets a little income and their work appears in front of more people, the publisher gets content for their site which presumably drives views and revenue. More power to EN24 on that one in my opinion. Tegiminis: I definitely don’t think it’s ethically or professionally “wrong” to syndicate content. I bring it up more as a unique case. Of the three sites represented in this minutes, only one syndicates with any regularity. Does it hurt their brand? I personally think that EN24 needs to move away from syndication and more towards original content, but that’s just me. I barely read EN24 because it’s mostly RSS feeds of sites I already read in order to get my news. I do pop in to read the original content from time to time, but for the most part I steer clear. I’m sure there are people out there who greatly appreciate EN24’s service in syndicating content and aggregating it all in one place, but I do think that if they want to see some serious growth that they need to make the move away from syndication and towards original content. Right now most of the changes on EN24 are aimed at increasing existing user retention or social media presence, but such measures are stopgap at best. You need to provide a clear, focused reason for visiting the site before you can begin to make such concentrated efforts to improve your traffic. My advice to Riverini and Bobmon is the same as it was when I commented on Riverini’s CSM9 bid: stop with the posturing and improve your site first. Establish a competent editorial structure and abide by basic standards of professionalism and courtesy. The only way you are going to move forward is by improving your site’s overall quality, rather than attempting to pull in new readers without changing what they are seeing. Your end goal should not be money or views, but reader satisfaction and engagement. Publishing articles from authors people hate and syndicating devblogs hurts a brand in the long run.
…in it’s inception TMC issued an open declaration of war against EN24
Tarek: I am not muddying the waters in an effort to be evasive Tegiminis. I merely did not want to have a discussion about who did worse to whom. Of course it was me who first brought it up so I guess I have to be more specific. The reason why I mentioned the TMC mission statement is, because in it’s inception TMC issued an open declaration of war against EN24. With an affinity group as large as the one behind TMC, it was not even necessary to directly order people to do anything. Just declaring EN24 “the enemy” was enough. It was very obvious for months after TMC appeared how large numbers of trolls descended onto the EN24 comment sections to destroy every attempt at reasonable discussion. At the same time comments on TMC itself were sanitized and it was declared a quality of the site that there was reasonable discourse in the comments. Hoaxes were created with the intent of having EN24 run them and then look like idiots while TMC published the real story. Everything that happened was very clearly informed by Mittani’s way of agitprop and psychological warfare. All of this happened before your time AFAIK. The main accusation I would have leveled at you is one you already defended against. It would seem to me that this form of conflict is now no longer necessary. Both sides have found their respective niches and are developing further. I am personally very happy to read about your commitment to professionalism. If you do that and EN24 doesn’t, then you will occupy the position of moral and professional superiority, but I sincerely hope that they become more ethically sound too. ccplegion-640x360 Xander: ‘…in it’s inception TMC issued an open declaration of war against EN24’ I think this is a very interesting point. Mittens is on record as saying TMC exists at least partially because he felt the need to offer a competing service to EN24. That’s a pretty shaky foundation to set your site on, no? As soon as you start a site with that mentality, it’s going to be very difficult to escape the ‘us vs them’ symbiosis that we have now. And indeed, TMC is what, two years old now and we are still constantly having this TMC vs EN24 discussion.
I am the guy in charge of EN24 and I always tell my guys that they are free to do whatever they want to do
Bobmon: TBH I really don’t care about what peoples backgrounds are. CFC, N3, Russian & Co or even random lowsec people.I am the guy in charge of EN24 and I always tell my guys that they are free to do whatever they want to do. I hire Everybody, We check their articles and if its not shit then it gets posted. For some reason people always want to do a TMC vs EN24 type of thing but we are both 2 different styles, With 2 different backgrounds in RL and Ingame. I’m really not the guy who is after getting into wars with people. I play eve and work on EN24 to have fun, nothing more, Nothing less. Tegiminis: If I may be blunt, you can’t do that and expect to be taken seriously. There has to be some measure of quality control and professionalism. Bobmon: Ofcourse thats why I said the Not shit part. TMC is setup to be a real company. EN24 isn’t we are a collection of players, writing about stuff we see happening. We do it because we love it Tegiminis: The only reason I work at TMC is because I love it. I certainly have the background to do my own thing and leave. Doing something for fun and maintaining a certain level of respectability and professionalism are not mutually exclusive. Niden: Not really arguing your point, but I think what Bobmon is trying to say is that EN24 is attempting a different profile – i.e. more of a bulletin board (and as Teg earlier pointed out, this is appreciated by a great many people who don’t have time to follow a million blogs). My problem with that is that it isn’t made clear that that’s what it is. It’s just ‘EVE news’ full stop. Bobmon: Definitely true, We provide News that is coming from the world of Eve Online. We are definitely taking our name very serious and we try to do the best we can but in the end of the day, we are all players who like to write in their spare time. This can mean that the overall quality can be a bit less (hate to say it like this but can’t find another way) and for u nobody has to live of the site Tegiminis: You say this, but you are also describing TMC unintentionally. While we are set up in a more traditional organizational structure, we’re ultimately a volunteer organization, and people write for us because they are passionate about what they want to write about.
Our writers have the same passion. the difference is that TMC wants to be bigger as a organisation
Bobmon: Our writers have the same passion. the difference is that TMC wants to be bigger as a organisation. You wouldnt mind to actually become a Real gaming network site. Our focus different. We are a organisation led by players that love their game. Tegiminis: My point is that this doesn’t mean sacrificing quality. EN24 is, to be kind, heavily flawed in a systemic, organizational way. Bobmon: Our organisation works perfect as it is, Is there room for improvement? Yes thats why Im still working for EN24 because we can be so much better than we are right now.. but lets now continue to the bigger question about Eve media in general. Do you think CCP could help us do our job better in any form or way? Factional_05 Tegiminis: Let’s go back to the concept of volunteerism versus quality control real quick. Not talking about EN24, but in general. I am adamantly in favor of the notion that a player organization can be run in a professional way, and that volunteering to do coverage of something does not necessarily preclude being held to specific standards. Let’s discuss a non-site example: Ripard Teg. Divisive figure? Absolutely. Volunteer? Yup. However, he dedicates the time and effort to making sure his pieces are sound, even if he sometimes draws conclusions that I would best characterize as spurious. This is the sort of thing I want to see from fan media.
It’s easy to claim that, since this is all volunteer, for-fun work, that we don’t have to adhere to stricter, more rigorous standards, but I don’t believe that
It’s easy to claim that, since this is all volunteer, for-fun work, that we don’t have to adhere to stricter, more rigorous standards, but I don’t believe that. I think everybody, from the smallest EVE blogger to the largest fansite, can approach their content in a way that is both fun and professional. So I don’t really agree with the underlying assertion that we don’t have to try. We do. Be the best you can be. Bobmon: TBH That is a site specific question so no thx. Im not here to do the TMC vs En24 war because thats sooo 2012. Every site has its problems, we have ours, you have yours. we all try to improve this over time, Done lets continue. Ripard is a awesome guy, he worked with us and I’m sad to see him gone. LOVE YOU Ripard. We have amazing editors who catch many mistakes and fix them before things go live. Sometimes something slip through. it happens and it gets fixed. All our posts are read before going live and if people see things that could be improved then we will let our writer know. Pieces can take a very long time before posted. Xander: ‘Do you think CCP could help us do our job better in any form or way?’ I think this is a very interesting question. It’s one I had hoped we’d have had more concrete answers on after all the Somergate nonsense from last year but CCP are still working on how to best support community endeavours and sites. The fact is, having a dev on your podcast, article, whatever is a draw. Having access to the relevant people, the proper art assets, community giveaways, etc. are all things that can be massively helpful to a site no matter it’s size. It is imperative it is done even-handedly but the way a lot of things have been shut down since Somergate has been disappointing. I hope they establish a good set of ground-rules soon and open things up a bit. Tegiminis: I can’t really say I want anything from CCP. They have always been very receptive to our needs and have never frozen us out, even when we might cover a topic (like Somergate) that doesn’t reflect well on them. They could probably be more open to smaller entities for sure, but I also think they look for a “notability factor” before engaging in dev-player interaction within the fan media. It helps that we have CSM members on staff. I’ll freely admit that we wouldn’t have as close a relationship with CCP as we do without Mittens’ pull and CSM writers. uAVYv02 Bobmon: our relationship is getting better and better since the time that I’ve been in charge. Before that it was mostly a relationship between certain writers and CCP but now more of our guys have contacts with CCP. I really happy with how we currently work with CCP because they will answer all questions we shoot at them. The thing I personally think CCP could improve on is making a way to get in touch with different devs. Right now only key people (CCP Fozzie / CCP Rise and ex CCP bro) are contactable but others can be hard to catch. It would be awesome if Eve-media could get access to something like the IRC channel #evedev. This IRC channel is a place for all coders and such and some CCP employees are there too to chat around. The above thing would be ideal and prob a bit impossible but I HAVE DREAMS! Tegiminis: Unfortunately, that’s never going to happen. Part of the reason we only ever have the big names from CCP interacting with fan media is because that’s how businesses operate. Fozzie, Rise, and formerly Bro are essentially pseudo-PR; they are the public faces of their respective dev teams.
I love CCP, I love their PR dudes, but they are there to blow smoke up our asses; this is, explicitly, their job
This ties into an interesting notion of “media as adversary” that is super common. It’s also what I tell my writers to adhere to. I love CCP, I love their PR dudes, but they are there to blow smoke up our asses; this is, explicitly, their job. The conflict between media and non-media is one of digging to get at the meat of things while trying to push PR to say things outside of the mandate and be more honest and open. It’s the job of PR to be as open as possible without saying anything actually damning. It’s an interesting relationship; I liken it to two chess players waging an intense match. While they may be enemies on the board, they are friends outside. There are rules and conventions that must be followed – like going on or off the record – and at the end of the match the two shake hands and walk away colleagues, if not friends. There’s a reason that a lot of media people end up being PR. They know the rulebook for the other player, which forces media to be more creative. It’s a fun cat-and-mouse scenario that I relish.
One thing that bothers me is the difference in treatment between ‘fansites’ and ‘media sites’
Niden: CCP’s policy on community is something that I think we all agree needs to be, and indeed is, being looked at. One thing that bothers me is the difference in treatment between ‘fansites’ and ‘media sites’. I mean let’s not beat around the bush here – TMC is an EVE site with other stuff sprinkled in (or at least that’s how it started, it’s a bit too much of the other stuff for my taste tbh), although I’m hardly an authority on the matter I think it’s rather safe to say that that decision was made precisely for that reason. Essentially CCP are saying: if you dedicate yourself to EVE you’re in the kiddie pool (hi HVAC), but if you pretend you’re a ‘media site’ we’ll treat you a lot better. Tegiminis: I don’t think that’s the case re: TMC being oriented a certain way to better enable access to CCP. I think Mittens and Endie built TMC initially as an “EVE demographic” site, rather than an “EVE news” site, because it left open paths for growth. It’s hard to argue with this; we pull in respectable numbers, EVE site or otherwise. That said, TMC always considers “will EVE players be interested?” the core question we try to answer. Sometimes we falter. Regarding fansites vs media, I honestly don’t know. I haven’t been on the fansite side, so I haven’t experienced CCP non-response. All of my interactions with CCP have been from the perspective of a game journalist, both before and after joining TMC. I’d love to hear more about the experiences of fansite people in that regard. If they feel there’s a problem with CCP reaching out to lesser-known folk, then I’m sure there is a problem. Xander: ‘Essentially CCP are saying: if you dedicate yourself to EVE you’re in the kiddie pool (hi HVAC), but if you pretend you’re a ‘media site’ we’ll treat you a lot better.’ I can confirm for a fact that CZ has been turned down on certain ~things~ TMC has been given access to due to TMC being a media site and CZ being a fansite. As such, they fall under different umbrellas and budgets as far as CCP are concerned. Ironically, by devoting a portion of time to non-Eve content in the future, CZ would be in a better position to gain access to certain level of benefits from CCP.
CZ is looked at differently to a media site such as TMC and lose access to certain privileges as a result
By the way, to be crystal clear, I’ve never felt like CCP has treated CZ ‘badly’ in the slightest as a fansite. I’m just aware that we are looked at differently to a media site such as TMC and lose access to certain privileges as a result. Niden: If only we had a player elected body that could discuss this stuff with CCP in a sober manner ;). Or could that somehow be misconstrued as a conflict of interest? Tegiminis: Xander, Tegiminis, and Marc Scaurus for CSM10. You heard it here first. Xander: Niden, it shouldn’t shock you to hear that I’ve already brought up the ‘community’ issue with CCP already. They are still looking into it. Soon(™). Niden: Not at all, one of the main reasons why I voted for you and recommended others to do the same. Not because you have my family hostage, honest. Just one thing I wanted to add to the “RMT” issue (along the same lines as what Marc was talking about earlier); Let’s assume the EVE media continues along the curve that has been set, let’s also assume that EVE itself continues to grow at a steady rate. The issues we’ve discussed on the matter so far have been dismissed due to their current size, it’s not that much money so who cares, right? But if we consider the above statements as true it’s going to be a different kettle of fish further down the line. Sooner or later we’ll be at the point where staff / owners / management have to be paid in RL money in order for a site to stay competitive. We can all feel the effects as we pour more and more time into this ‘hobby’. We can’t assume that it’s going to stay like it is, obviously there is a demand and it’s growing as EVE expands into everything from VR to E-sports. Although you can get a beer for ISK at FF (gf Hilmar) I don’t see my landlord accepting it as payment just yet.
The only way to proportionally follow EVE as it expands is turning media into business
Passion for the game and the community can only take us so far, but in the end we’re going to hit a brick wall of reality and waggro. The only way to proportionally follow EVE as it expands is turning media into business. Marc: Seriously guys? 17k words? Am I reading that correctly or am I still asleep? Wtf is wrong with you people. This is like 6 months worth of HVAC posts in a couple days. EVE_Online___Rattlesnake_by_biddybam Tegiminis: That’s exactly TMC’s plan, Niden. We’re currently stuck in a grey area, but our eventual goal is to move away from ISK payments entirely – unless the author wants to be paid in ISK instead of real money, which a few do – and make it so that real money payments are the way to go. That way we can pull in both volunteer as well as professional talent. The more interesting question is this: Once sites like TMC, CZ, and EN24 finally hit that “breaking point” where the money is self-sustaining, how will other sites break into the EVE niche and begin that transition from ISK to money? Will they be hurt by sites like TMC already having that “real money” factor to pull away writers? Marc: “Once sites like TMC, CZ, and EN24 finally hit that “breaking point”” – the better question is ‘can they?’ I’m not entirely convinced. That ‘breaking point’ is a pretty high mark to achieve – some regular gaming sites (most, probably) never get there, even with VC backing and the like. I think that, if we’re all just really fansites on steroids, it really changes the nature of this discussion. Are we even obligated to *have* ethics? Standards? Professionalism? Right now, of the three sites represented here, we have CZ, which does 1 piece a day and is solely about EVE; EN24, who by their EiC’s own words “TMC is setup to be a real company. EN24 isn’t we are a collection of players, writing about stuff we see happening. We do it because we love it,” implying a pretty heavy bias towards remaining a fansite with some ad revenue (despite riverini’s attempts at starting up other game coverage); and then there is TMC, which is really in a league of its own but still pays out primarily in ISK, gets most of their hits from EVE news, and bears an EVE character’s name on the banner. Hell, all the articles are written with character bylines. Does any of that scream ‘real media’ to anyone? Does any of that make you think ‘why those guys really should have some kind of standards in place to govern ethical dilemmas’ – it certainly doesn’t to me. Xander: Surely whether obligation exists or not, striving towards a set of positive standards only leads to a better experience for everyone – better for editors knowing they are likely to receive from writers, better for writers in terms of the feedback they receive from editorial staff and better output in terms of the quality of the pieces that hit the front page. We don’t necessarily ‘need’ to conform to some code, implied or otherwise but I can see no good reason not to irrespective of whether or not the goal is ‘real media’. Fucking love that shot from True Detective btw. Tegiminis: Destructoid started as a way for the owner to get a free pass to E3. I don’t think that origins matter that much once you start to find your stride and grow as a site.giphy As for the character bylines, I stick by that because EVE players are verifiably insane and I don’t want them potentially harassing our writers based on their real names. We might make the switch to real names only when it comes time to make the switch from “mid-tier” to “pro as heck,” but for the moment we don’t have publicly visible real names for a reason. I don’t think it’s an obligation to have ethics or standards, but i think it’s a phenomenally good idea. If you don’t, you hurt your site and your writers, and ultimately ruin yourself in the long run. While we can quibble over whether we are ~required~ to adhere to standards, or whether or not we are “real media,” I don’t think it’s a bad idea to attempt to follow actual business standards of professional organizations. We aren’t blogs any more, and we can’t think of ourselves that way if we want to be respectable. What’s True Detective? Marc: Okay, so we don’t need to have any ethics, but it is probably a good idea. In 1-2 sentences, then (and I mean 1-2 sentences) what are the core ethics we should be shooting for if we want to be big boys and girls? Tegiminis: You know I could just write a two-hundred word sentence. I can and have. Wouldn’t you feel silly.
Don’t take sides. Extend professional courtesy
I don’t have to, though. I can sum it up in six words: Don’t take sides. Extend professional courtesy. I wouldn’t presume to take TMC towards or away from a particular side, especially since we have a pretty wide variety of conflicting alliances represented on staff. We’ve drifted one way or the other over the years, of course; no organization is perfect. Likewise, I try to extend professional courtesy to anybody I meet or talk to in my official capacity. That means being honest and friendly and helpful and not misconstruing others. To its credit, I think CZ does a great job of staying out of the middle of things almost for the same reason TMC generally does: it’s hard to fuck up like that with a stable of writers that come from different viewpoints. I’ve also had nothing but professional interactions from members of CZ staff, with the exception of Marc who is a big fat jerk who smells and is weird. Niden: A wise man once said “There’s probably only use for five computers in the world,” another said “football is a game.” Yes, we’re fansites on steroids and EVE is just a game. If I was to attempt to explain this discussion to my wife she’d probably say “Wow, you’re such nerds, it’s not even real. Weren’t you going to do the dishes?”
The community is real. The people are real
The community is real. The people are real. No matter the means, whether it’s Facebook, football, wildlife preserve, political involvement, learning to cook Vietnamese cuisine or just picking your nose like HVAC – it is all done in the pursuit of happiness beyond the need for immediate survival. All fabrications just as much as EVE. The end result is exactly the same: electrical signals moving between neurons. The only two things that are actually real in this world are happiness and the connection to other people. In the end this ‘media’ business is what we make of it. It’s not a matter of if we should, or shouldn’t take it so seriously and attempt to adhere to some type of standards, it’s a matter of growth. Things that expand need a scaffolding, otherwise they collapse under their own weight. Although quite ethereal in nature, because at this point it’s mostly ideas in our nerd heads, it will be the structure upon which we will rely as things evolve.
So tl;dr: let’s have some standards, because why not?
So tl;dr: let’s have some standards, because why not? “We are things that labor under the illusion of having a self; an accretion of sensory, experience and feeling, programmed with total assurance that we are each somebody, when in fact everybody is nobody.” Marc: And that brings us to Thursday, June 5th, in which major layoffs have been announced at CCP. Unless Bobmon wants to toss some things in here to wrap up, I think I’ll start culling this for a worthwhile summary (the full doc will still be made available as well) and we can all continue on with our lives. HVAC: What the hell, I’m not reading all of this.
Tags: bobmon, cz minutes, en24, ethics, marc, 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.


  • Saint Mick

    I was hoping for a lovely group hug picture at the end captioned “Now we’re all best of friends” but it wasn’t to be. A great read.

  • Enrico

    Great Series

    I think all 3 sites have their pros and cons. Personally, I prefer CZ the most, mainly because its style is similar to what I prefer to read in general. That said, it does seem like some weeks, some of the writers are mailing it in. I think Joren does the best job, but since he’s new, he might not have run out of ideas yet. I read Niden the least, mainly because I’m not that interested in low-sec and his first few columns didn’t really pull me in. The first few CZ minutes were good, but I get the impression that some of them are an echo chamber, even if I don’t agree with the conclusions that are being reached. The only person who I feel really holds everyone else’s feet to the fire in those is Jeg, but it seems like he doesn’t contribute every week.

    I rarely visit EN24, mostly because I can’t stand to read things on that site, and I can just visit the blogs directly. Though I’m not really a fan of a lot of the blogs they have. On average, I’d much rather read a CZ column.

    I have two main issues with TMC, though they’re both improving with time. The first issue is the variation in quality. Some of the stuff is pretty good, but some of it is pretty bad. This seems to be improving as they move towards less-well-known, but higher quality writers. The second issue is the “troll” mods in the comments sections. It’s pretty hard to take seriously the attempts to be impartial when you have a bunch of GSF mods who don’t appear to contribute to the site hazing commenters. Some of these people seem to have been removed.