Interview with Endie on TheMittani.comJeg Elsker
<>I have spend a lot of time discussing themittani.com on recent Crossing Zebra podcasts. It is clearly something which has stirred up the community and is contributing to a lot of interesting conversation. Mittens suggested yesterday on twitter that rather than discussing this with other people, I would be better speaking to someone directly involved with the site. I had asked The Mittani for an interview a couple of weeks back but it would appear that Jade from Lost In Eve had pipped me to the post. The one person who we haven’t heard from yet is the Editor-in-Chief for the site, Endie. As the individual running the website on a day-to-day basis, he very graciously took the time to answer a few questions for me.
Endie, congratulations on the launch of themittani.com. The community seems to have really taken to the new site quickly and I think that’s largely down to the standard of journalism, the presentation of the site and the quality of the discussion in the comments. Despite all this, even I was surprised at just how quickly themittani.com has taken off.
A lot of people see you as the power behind the figurehead when it comes to
Goonswarm and the CFC so I don’t think anyone was shocked when Mittens confirmed it was you who would be the Editor-in-Chief of the new site. How did he first approach you with the project? What are your day to day responsibilities on the site and how much of your time does it take up?
There was no sudden epiphany: neither Mittens nor I woke up one morning with the firm conviction that “today, we must make an Eve news website!” For a long time, we’d been variously frustrated, bored or repelled by the main sources of news in Eve: the only daily website was openly and enthusiastically biased while the official forums are horribly, terribly moderated. I wanted an Eve news website which *I* would want to read. Mittens wanted a place where he could puff on his pipe while debating the influence of Straussian anti-historicism on Eve power dynamics.
In terms of the site, how does the relationship between you and the Mittani work? Is he hands-on at all or is everything left to you to run on a day-to-day basis?
Mittens is more the heavily-involved proprietor while I’m the Editor-In-Chief. As a Euro, everything but breaking news is likely to actually go out in my timezone, so I tend to make the call on what we run with on a given day, which articles to put in the big Euro- and US-morning slots and so on. But our hours complement each other almost perfectly, so I tend to come in and find that there are two or three items from the American writers queued up for me by Mittens to play with, move around, edit and so on.
He’s not like some Rupert Murdoch character: we’ve put out around 120 articles since launch, I think, and I’ve never had him object or want to over-rule my call. It’s just an extension of what we’ve done in the alliance for years. We’ve worked together in Goonswarm at the directorate level since 2010, so he is pretty relaxed with just letting me do my thing.
There are a lot of fears out there from people I have spoken to that the site may be used as a Goonswarm propaganda tool over time. So far we have seen great articles from the likes of ReverendMak and T3mp3s7 which seems to contradict this but, understandably due to the site still being in it’s launch phase, there are significantly more articles coming from Goons than anywhere else. How important is it to you that themittani.com exists as a trustworthy news and feature source for all the players in New Eden? How do you plan to attract writers and readers from the entire population of New Eden?
As editor, avoiding egregious bias is my responsibility. We’ve spent a lot of time building up the trust of readers from alliances like NCdot, Black Legion and so on and I’m very aware that with one bad week we’ll blow all the goodwill we had from people in places like IRC who decided to give us the benefit of the doubt.
I’m also very aware that, with the exception of what T3mp3st has provided, our coverage of the south has been largely from the HBC side of things. I am desperate to find a “beat reporter” type person from the Southern Coalition bloc who can give me regular updates of how that conflict is going from their side, because people really want to read and understand that viewpoint. I want to report that side of things, but I can’t just make it up.
Is there a Tomorrow-Never-Dies-style incongruity in being the team who reports the news as well as making it? A perfect example may be a battle report written by a Goon which depicts the fight from yesterday evening as slightly more one-sided than it actually was. In turn, on reading the battle report, a number of enemy pilots read the piece and elect to go play DayZ rather than log in to fight this evening, making tonight’s fight easier for CFC. This is an argument often pointed at the likes of the Rupert Murdoch’s Fox. Is there anything you are able to do to address this?
It is, sometimes, very hard not to fall into the trap of being the State Media. I think that we were perversely lucky that we launched in the middle of a pretty rocky phase for the CFC in the Tribute war, and we were pretty unflinching in how we covered that. I think it surprised a lot of people. It helps to have people from hostile alliances, like those you mentioned, or Hilmar Keller from Black Legion, involved. Hilmar is nobody’s patsy, and if we start editing or tweaking his reports to make the news serve a propagandistic end then I’m quite sure he’ll just leave.
We’ve also got a track record of trustworthiness here that would surprise those brought up on propaganda about evil goonies. Are you in a nullsec alliance? If so, then a dirty little secret of Eve is that no matter how hostile your alliance leader is, he and his sidekicks are almost certainly in a very private channel in a Goonswarm-run jabber server, where virtually every major player in Eve nullsec politics hangs out every day. They know we’ve never harvested IP addresses (at least two of them that I know of personally continued to run spies in us for more than a year before our counter-intel guy, Digi, caught them through other means, and I bet others still do) and that we’ve never leaked a word of logs from there, even to Goonswarm directors (one Pandemic Legion member did to Kugutsumen, and we made it damned clear how we felt about that).
Why the name? I have heard the explanations given from The Mittani himself regarding leveraging the followers he has on twitter and taking advantage of the fact that a lot of players recognise the name. I have also heard from other Goons involved with the site that Makulu Zarya turned down the opportunity of an interview purely because of the name of the site. Was there not a fear that any benefit gained from an ‘instant readership’ would be cancelled out by the fact that the name might ostracise a large percentage of the community? Even if they were to visit because they ‘love him or hate him’, is there not the possibility of a fundamental barrier of mistrust which is very difficult to overcome purely because ‘The Mittani’ is a bogeyman associated with spying and propaganda?
I made that call, and had to persuade Mittens to take my advice on that one. The Mittani is probably the biggest brand in Eve outside the game name and CCP. I felt that we can overcome a lot of the natural distrust far more easily than we can differentiate GenericEveNewsName dot com from the competition. People were always going to give in to the temptation to take a look, no matter what they thought of Mittens, and when they did then we knew we’d have the content to surprise them and to bring them back.
What do you consider to be the most successful aspects of the site so far in terms of the site itself, the articles, the writers, the discourse amongst the readership? Conversely, what are you looking to improve both in the long and the short-term?
I get a thrill reading the comments pages. We have people on there writing five or six paragraphs of well-thought-out, tautly-worded comment and then they get engaged, clever responses from others. You just can’t get that sort of platform for people anywhere else, because the official forums have such terrible moderation, while the other main news site rewards and encourages ugly polemic on the level of text-speak.
Some of the most interesting pieces on the site so far have been those which provoke discussion amongst the readership – the learning implants piece stands out in my mind. Do you have plans to involve the community in any bigger way, perhaps though the crowdsourcing of future discussion topics or in-game activities?That’s the way we have to move: you just can’t get away with making your website a one-way pipe of content from the writer to the reader any more. How we do that best is as tricky for us as for everyone else on the web, but there is such a mass of talent out there that you see every time you read the comments page on a feature, and we have to work out how to give those people a better platform.
The book reviews seem a bit of a strange choice but Mittens has stated that these have proven to be very popular so far. I understand the plan is to cover other games Eve players find popular such as World of Tanks, Planetside 2 and DayZ. Will the site cover anything else quirky or outside the immediate domain of internet spaceships?
We’re an Eve Online website, but we’re games nerds, and so are almost all the people in the Eve community. The bias on the site is going to be Eve Online but the nature of Eve, especially for experienced nullsec players, is that there is an awful lot of waiting around, and Eve players tend to coalesce around a few other games, some of which interest us, too.
Off-topic, I think that the fact that Eve is a game of hours of hanging around punctuated by minutes of intense adrenaline is something that I think CCP need to deal with if they want to break out into the broader gaming market. They’ve spent tens of millions on Dust, but a far smaller investment into some radical games design on their own game in order to make available the sort of thing that Eve players have to work hard to simulate right now (for instance in RvB) would pay huge dividends. Look at what Eve players say when they first play World of Tanks: they’re delighted that you just jump in, are in a fight within minutes, and if you die you get into the next fight just as quickly. Eve needs that.
At the moment, themittani.com appears to be primarily focussed on written pieces. Are there any plans to expand into other media videos or podcasting?
We have a great video-maker, Robus Muvila, heavily involved with the site but so far we’ve been exploiting the fact that he also happens to be an awesome Drupal dev, who created our Content Management System. I’d love to get more video onto the site: anyone who watches, for instance, the Clarion Call 3 video by Rooks and Kings can see the potential for Eve videos that are more than just red squares jerkily dancing around to bad dubstep or speed metal. I also really enjoy the podcasts done by the Kugutsumen group, such as Doink, Jeffraider, Grath and so on, but you need what they have: an informed, opinionated, experienced group of people who can argue with each other without falling out. That’s not something that you can just pick up at the shops.
How many staff have you got on the books at the moment and are you still looking for more writers or other staff? If someone was interested in writing for themittani.com, how should they contact you?
We have something around 25 people doing writing, proofing, design and tech work, with occasional contributors who don’t want to bother with regular articles but who have something that they would like an audience for. If someone has read a few articles on the site and thinks that they can write something that would fit in, then they should use the contact page, or even PM me on Kugutsumen if they want to speak to me directly. They can send me a brief précis, or even a sample paragraph or so and I’ll read it and get back to them. But they have to get their email address right! We’ve had a few people who have either got that wrong or who forgot to include one altogether, including a guy from AAA’s bloc who I was very keen to speak to!