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Memoirs - Part Fourteen: Who you are

Virtual Realities: Memoirs of an internet spaceship politician
by Sugar Kyle CSM9, CSMX


Maybe I don't work well with others

Over the course of the summer I discovered that I enjoyed the CSM. The communication and the potential productivity was fun. I'd grown more comfortable with slipping in the thoughts, ideas, and concerns brought to me. The unfortunate part was that I was not enjoying much of my fellow CSM members. I'd started to feel as if I had to defend my area of space from potential interlopers. There were a lot of different play styles on display. Some of the responses or ideas from other CSM members infringed or down right ignored low security space and high security space.

And personalities. Time had not made things more familiar. I had the person that corrected my misspellings. I had a second member randomly correct peoples grammar or spelling or word choice and then go, "Sorry, habit." How I clenched my jaw and rolled my eyes at that. Maybe once in a while but not every single time to every single person. I also loved the one who would write updates to the players after asking the rest of the CSM what had happened during the week. 

It is not saying that I didn't try. I did, a bit. Corbexx and Sion became my right and left sides. I tried to chat to some of the more neutral members but the empty, noncommittal answers drove me nuts. I am a person of opinions. If there is nothing but mushy emptiness in response to my words, I'll find something else to do.  There is something uncomfortable to me when someone will never give an opinion or thought but only make neutral statements. However, he loved to play the devil's advocate. He had nothing to say himself but he would argue and try to destroy points just because. I wondered how I ever thought he was a nice guy.

I didn't have to like them. They didn't have to like me. I wasn't doing anything to make myself loved and really, I was rather unbalanced. One develop said we chatted to much in the open chatrooms. I spent a lot of time dialing myself back. Talking too much is one of my personal character flaws. One of the incumbents, when he even appeared, would say we talked to much and he wasn't going to waste his time catching up. He said if anyone wanted his opinion, CSM or CCP, they could use his name and he'd be pinged.

Keeping up with CCP was quite a job. Their work day started five hours before mine. I'd wake up early and try to catch up on conversations before work. I'd answer and head to work where I'd use my breaks to keep up with the conversation on my phone and provide feedback. Anything longer I'd take notes for and write up when I got home. I enjoyed it immensely and thought myself one of the more productive and engaged members of the council. 

It was easy to spend five to six hours a day on chats and another two or three in the evening. It was a part time job if you wanted it to be and I did. I was going to prove myself worthy of an invite to the summits where I'd be able to put my work forward in person. Everyone said that going in person was the best thing to do. Plus, it was exciting. A paid trip to sit down with a gaming company and share ideas and opinions? Wow.


Not that there were not hurdles. My weekly updates and my bi-monthly chats were not enough. Nor was my regular availability. I made sure that I was on Twitter. I made my Skype contacts available. I joined so many player chatrooms that I had lost a quarter of my play screen to chat windows. I will still trying to figure out the best way to share information I cannot share. People wanted to know what the arguments were. They wanted to know where CCP stood on the topic. They wanted to know what was going on. They wanted to know everything that I knew.

The problem lay in the fact that what was being discussed was not the final outcome. Early in the process the malleability of topics led to its own trap. A conversation could start and end in two different places as opinions were expressed and minds were changed.  Some of the topics raised would have enraged some people. In the past, spitball type ideas rarely went over well when presented to the player base. It came from the fact that nothing CCP said was casual to their audience. Every random idea was a development idea set in stone when heard by the playerbase. It made sharing the communication process an unexpectedly tricky dance because CCP couldn't share flow of thought without causing panic.

It would have been easier to lie. Much easier. It would be nice to say that I threw myself into the gauntlet of honesty with intensity and vigor. In truth, I minced down an awkward path of truth and sharing. My intentions are good but I realized that I left everyone frustrated. I could only share pieces and partial sides of opinion. In my imaginary ideal situation other members of the CSM would also openly and publicly share their pieces and partial sides. The viewer would gather it all and form a more complete opinion while seeing the efforts made to have viewpoints seen.

There is no imaginary ideal situation. A few times our liaison said that they wanted to release the conversation logs or the old forum discussions. I disagreed with it. Not because I hid anything. The disagreement was because the path taken could do as much damage as the outcome. The rampant lack of trust was at fault. “The developers do not know what they are doing,” was something often said to me. “Tell this developer that they are stupid,” was another. The more vitriol tongued would request that a developer was told to kill themselves. For such a thing is supposed to be an acceptable request when placed across the internet and I was wrong to view it with the distasteful horror that I did.

The thought process is one of the more interesting parts of communication. Yet, it was also the most dangerous. I had experienced it first hand some years before when I recorded a response verbatim by the then executive producer. It was a very controversial subject that was answered in a brief manner. One that no one listening noticed but became a glaring point when typed out for later reading. In that time, I had a member of the community team do damage control by suggesting that my hastily typed notes were indecipherable and odd, so not much should be read into what was said. The meeting was not recorded. The talk was not well attended by other employees. I had, without realizing it, created one of the few recordings of the talk. It made me easy to discredit and tuck away as players panicked over what the developer meant.

One of my early and more unpleasant lessons. The simple route would have been avoidance. That path contained to heavy a dosage of sense for me to follow. But, it violated my goal to include people as much as I could. I had to place myself into that uncomfortable place to share what I could, do by best to not cause panic, and mitigate damage. I considered myself translucent because the reality was that I couldn't be transparent. But these efforts are why I considered my CSM venture to be utterly, and shamelessly selfish. I tried to create what I wanted to have. I wanted to be communicated with. I wanted to be able to know that something was happening beyond the NDA wall. And so I attempted to create what I wanted without pondering if I should.

Sion once challenged me that I had to be political. That I would have to give to get. I’d have to support people I disliked to make other, great things happen. It was not an intentional sacrifice of my morals but it would become an eventual one.

I told him that politics could go screw themselves.  I wasn’t willing to make that sacrifice. It would be as much raw honesty as I could make. I would be a conduit which things flowed through between the players and CCP. I would refuse to accede to any other moral option. I'd fail and burn my entire CSM run down with me before I did it and I'd be proud of my failure. If there was anything I was self righteous about it was my honesty and effort at transparency. I sometimes spent days writing my weekly summary when I needed to include a personal opinion. I made sure, as I checked down the topics to state how I felt about them. I was pleased with my effort. So pleased that it came as a nasty shock when I was told that i was not sharing my opinion.

That is where I learned what was and what was expected are often different things. A simple statement of opinion might be, “I am not pleased with the proposed change of this mechanic. There are other options and I have presented several and continue to express my disagreement.” It was a calm statement. Too calm to make some people happy. Too simple in its structure to make them realize that an opinion had been stated.

Passion does not have to be loud. It does not have to be violent in its exhibition. It was my belief that I accomplished more through the calm. My disagreement was clear. My counter argument was made. Because, I was supporting and enabling the player base but I was arguing with the developers. I had to be able to maintain a comfortable relationship with them and not cause them to shut down. Instead, I attempted to foster a comfortable environment where developers were comfortable. 

It was strange to be chastised for this behavior. It was the very behavior that had helped get me elected. It would seem that people wanted what was brought to the table. And many did. Or at least they thought that they did.

Trying to find an invisible ledge leaves you open to falling off. I wondered if I was falling without knowing it when an email Labeled "!!!IMPORTANT!!! SKYPE LOG LEAKAGE" flickered across the notification screen of my phone.  An  e-mail from our coordinator was unusual. Normally, messaged were dropped in Skype for everyone to pick up as they needed. Mails were normally meeting notifications. That made this one all the more distressing.  It was only August wailed a plaintive mental voice. Someone was leaking things already?

It is sad  that I expected someone to leak. But I did. It wasn't going to be me.

Per the message, a developer had been sent Skype logs of the main open discussion channel. The lgos dated back a month and stopped a week ago. Someone had passed the logs on or someones account was comrpomised. We were asked to check our Skype login records and then log out every account we had, reset our passwords, and log back in.

Had one of us been hacked? Was someone so obsessed with knowing what CCP said to ust hat they had worked to enter our accounts? Our Skype names were public information. It was an unplesant feeling. What if I was the leak?

I chatted with Corbexx and Sion about it. It felt somewhat wrong and dirty. What if someone had gained access to me and used my account? At the time, my Skype password was not particular secure. I had only opened it when I had decided to run for CSM. After the e-mail, I used a more secure password and wondered if my laziness had been a weak spot.

A screen shot would go a long way. Skype allows some customization of names. The chances were high that how the name appeared would narrow down the speaker. We sent our login details to our liasian and waited.

And waited.

Suspicion is ugly. Who might have leaked? Who had the agenda? Was it someone that we suspected? One member had said, very publicly, that he was not going to waste time reading chat. He had also pushed to have a staff of people to handle the workload. Another was inactive. Had he given access to his account? Would he notice if someone had gained it? What about the ones that went to meetups with other players? People bragged about their intoxication level. It would take little for them to lose access to their smartphone and someone else to take advantage of it. Who had to gain from this? It was all balanced by the nagging discomfort of being compromised.

Had something gone wrong? Finally, we asked what was going on with the logs. Had they figured out where they came from? The answer was that they believed it came from a developer but the logs had been deleted by the person that received them. Talk about something that made no sense. Why would you delete what you had been sent when it was the only evidence that something had happened.


The subject vanished as quickly as it had appeared. I have no idea what the outcome was.

Over the summer, Corbexx, Sion and I used the time to create a staging ground. We had a general idea of what was coming. Now it was time to figure out how to work with the new releases. We each came from different parts of the game and we'd be able to use that to have a big picture of the potential consequences of changes coming in. The changes came hot and heavy. One team would release something and leave for vacation. Another team would do the same and leave as other teams returned. We wound up with a rapid fire situations of bugs and fixes, pros and cons. It felt as if we were to dodge, catch and throw at the same time. And somewhere in the middle of that, the Summit selections needed to happen.

It was a matter of logistics. My employment was not such that I could take time off on short notice. Short notice was under three months most of the time. Indeed, we pushed for the Summit dates to be set as soon as possible. The selection could come later but those of us who did not attend would telecommute. The time zone alone would necessitate time off from work the telecommute.

Seven of us would go. Two permanent members and five others. When I counted on my fingers who was active we were at six people for the five positions. I felt that one of the six was dead weight. He repeated what others had already covered and made a good public presence but brought nothing to the table.

Our liaison decided to allow us a private vote. We were each to send in our personal summit list. This was cross referenced with the developers. It was not done in public. That was suggested at first and rejected. How I hate to admit it but people are uncomfortable confronting each other. If we had to list our choice, I did not believe we'd have honest lists. Also, there is that quiet bitterness that develops. It made no sense to give ourself reason to resent each other. There may be should haves and could haves or head nods to professionalism. It would have bred resentment.

With the summit in the air, one of the incumbent members suggested that we get the order in for CSM polo-shirts. They had done so the previous year with at least half of the CSM participating.

My impolite tongue made an appearance along with my famed lack of humor.

I hated the CSM polo shirts. The first problem was the simplest. I did not like polo shirts. After that, there was something uncomfortable about making myself a shirt with my name and the CSM on it. I felt as if I would be shoving it in peoples faces. I had quickly learned that announcing myself or naming myself as being on the CSM, when not met with blank stares, was meant with derision and attacks. While I did not hide, I did not promote. 

But the deeper reason was that I hated the logo whomever had selected for it. It pissed me off. It took CCP's logo, which is a series of six circles with a seventh that stretches out and has CCP on it and makes bitter snark of it.  In each circle was a smile face that underwent a change from joy to face slapping. As it was explained to me, it was the cycle of CSM's reaction to the office. It amused many. I hated it with a passion and refused to use it as a descriptive logo for anything that I did in relationship to the CSM. I would not take the bitterness and fatigue of the past and attach it to myself.  I had no sense of humor for it and less interest.

It was an overly complex state of mind for a shirt, but it was what I was stuck with. I responded that I had no interest in a CSM polo shirt and would never wear one. Other's may not have shared my complex tastes, but there were more no's then yeses. I think if more of us had said yes the wafflers or those that wanted one would have stepped forward. However, the nays were snarled with enough force that the topic was never broached again.

When I look back at the outside presence of CSM8 vs CSM9, the previous CSM seemed to work together, more. They presented a unified front even when they disagreed. The refusal to participate in the polo shirts was another chip away at the old unified front of the CSM. I could not see myself sitting on stage, laughing with everyone as if they were my friends. They were not. I didn't talk see most of them. I talked to fewer. I could not see dressing like them as if we were one. Each time a former member of the CSM gloated about how productive their term was and how active their CSM was it made me grit my teeth and swear that I'd never let myself sink behind the safety of my elected title and assumption that being elected gave me street credit.

Take me for good or bad but at least I would not play false. No shirts.

It only took a week for our liaison to give us a list of attendees. We could share that we were going but we could not announce the list. That would be done in a formal forum post written by the liaison announcing the summit dates, schedule, and attendance.

My name was on it. The people I believed should go were also there. I was pleased. I was also nervous. Would I get along with the handful of CSM that I had started to develop a relationship with? None of the people attending upset me. The person I least wanted to go did not go which pleased me. I only hoped to be able to present myself well when the time came. But, I was eager to. CCP was flying me to Iceland to discuss the game. It floored me.

Heaven forbid things go smoothly.

The missing member created a problem. How were we to share that he was inactive? Our liaison had hobbled us earlier in the session and she had told us that we could not talk poorly about each other. Now, when we had a member that was inactive it was time to challenge that order and we found ourselves a bit frustrated and confused.

Was reporting his status negative? It was truth and public truth. "You don't know if he is talking in emails or private chats," our liaison pointed out. This was true but we could say that he had not interacted with us. The last interaction in our CSM to CSM chatroom had been the second week of June. 

I was not bold. I wish I could say that I was but I was not. Three months into my term and I was still shocked that CCP was discussing their development ideas with me. Could I go and speak out this way? We had been told not to talk poorly about each other. But there had to be a line. I had found out that one of the more celebrated members of the previous years CSM had taken a thee month hiatus in hte middle of his term and no one had ever commented about it to hte public. I felt that it was the public right to know if people were active or were not active.

"If someone asks me if he is active, I am not going to lie." I said. "I am not going to go and write a blog post calling him out for his inactivity. But, I will not pretend that he is around when he is not."

The activity of the CSM was interesting to people. At the same time we noticed his lack, so did the people that had voted for him. They started to call for him on their social media and he did not answer. They tracked him through his public postings to another game. Another game that he was happily playing and active on. Finally, they harassed him into appearing and he, grumpily admitted that he had become bored with Eve and hoped that the CSM would reignite his interest. It had failed.

"We are not going to have fully inactive members," said our liaison. That was met with support. "I have mailed our missing member to see where he is." A week went by without a response. She attempted tor each him by email and social media to no response. Finally, she told us that he said he was going to resign.

It was both good. We were only three months into the session. If he resigned there was plenty of time to spin up a new member before the summit. There was not a tremendous amount of productivity lost and only productivity to go.

It was bad. People rarely resigned from the CSM. Most just went inactive and everyone dealt with it. We were exploring a somewhat new situation. How would people take it? How would those that elected him tolerate it?

It was an unknown. That was not very pleasant. It would not equate to a smooth CSM term. But, it was necessary. I was there to do the necessary and endure it. After all, I had been active and participating.

A week went by. And then a second. At the third one we asked our liaison when was he going to post his resignation? 

"I will see," she told us.

A few days later, he resigned. 

I expected that he would say something to us. Instead, he just left all of the rooms. He wrote a polite little empty speech about leaving and he was gone. Leaving the rest of us to deal with the aftermath.

There was anger. There was angst. The election results were rerun as if he had never been elected to select the runner up. Some people did not agree with that and felt the 15th person should have been selected. It turned out that both methods produced the same person. I was not sure which method I liked better since I didn't like ether. In the end, removing the person from the vote muted the voice of the people. The order of the election was my preference in the end.

We took some hits from previous CSMs for that. There had been the occasional resignation but normally for wrong doing or gross misconduct. Being inactive had been a norm. The release cycle had allowed people to hide months of inactivity and hide it they did. Every time I found out someone had vanished for four or five months of their term and everyone kept it quiet my jaw clenched a little tighter. I removed all the activity markers from the alumni chatrooms and let them fall from my attention. I was happier that way.

Comments

  1. I honestly had no idea that that much "political machination" went on with the CSM but it being EVE I guess I should not be surprised. *shakes head and grins at My own naivete.
    I have to say though that I completely agree with your opinion on clothing (the shirts) and what a person choses to wear saying something. My own wardrobe (as sparse as it is) is a reflection of my own "life philosophy" and I believe what a person wears does matter.

    ReplyDelete

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