In a few days, the first round of voting for the CSM8 election will begin. This first round is merely to determine who will appear on the ballot for the real election; each candidate who gets at least 200 votes will qualify. (Or, if fewer than 28 candidates pass the 200-vote threshold, the top 28 will qualify.) After the candidates are determined, I will provide some information about them, to help everyone know which candidates have appropriate views on highsec, and which candidates have more malignant tendencies.
As long as I'm writing a post about the CSM, I may as well address some other CSM-related issues that I haven't given sufficient attention thus far. If you're not interested in reading anything related to the CSM, then you may take this opportunity to scroll down.
One of the things that people have occasionally asked me about--and have asked of other candidates with blogs, etc.--is what the effect will be on MinerBumping, if and when I am elected to the CSM. In terms of posting carebear tears, there won't be any change. Some have suggested that it is unbecoming of a CSM representative to "bully" EVE players in this fashion, but they couldn't be more wrong. MinerBumping is quintessential EVE. Not only does MinerBumping showcase proper, legitimate EVE play, it showcases ideal EVE play, and provides a positive example for other players to follow. Suicide ganking a fleet of Mackinaws and then posting the ridiculous, tear-filled EVEmail sent by the mining ships' owner is absolutely in the spirit of EVE. That's true whether the ganker is a player, a CSM representative, the CSM Chairman, or an employee of CCP.
However, my posts here (and my columns on TheMittani.com) concerning EVE's game mechanics and the direction CCP is taking EVE are a different matter. If and when I take a seat on the CSM, I will be placed under some serious limitations. Each member of the CSM is required to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) with CCP. The NDA prevents CSM members from talking about certain topics, especially relating to CCP's plans for the future. One of the reasons for the NDA is to prevent CSM members from taking undue advantage of the access they're given by CCP. For example, a CSM member might learn from CCP that a certain in-game item will increase in value. The NDA prevents him from using that information or telling others. CCP takes the NDA seriously. If it is broken, as it was in the case of a certain spoon-throwing carebearess a few CSMs ago, the offender is booted from the CSM and can be permabanned from EVE entirely.
The intent originally may have been to protect CCP's secrets, but the NDA can apply to almost anything. One of the reasons why the CSM seems to be silent most of the year is that CSM members are not permitted to reveal what they're doing behind closed doors, and must wait for CCP to make things public before the CSM can discuss them with the EVE community.
Speaking generally, I think this policy is exactly wrong. The CSM ought to have the freedom to immediately engage the community (i.e., to stir things up) when they see something they don't like. Otherwise, by the time the CSM is authorized to let the community know what is happening, it's too late to change things. For example, consider the successes of CSM6. EVE players rioted in response to the "Greed Is Good" memo (among other things), because the memo was leaked by someone (no doubt in violation of an NDA). The CSM6 was able to leverage the community's disgust and helped CCP get back on track.
In the past, I have written at length on my concerns about the direction of EVE. I speculated freely about the possibility that CCP would introduce a series of nerfs to highsec aggression. As it turned out, my speculation proved to be accurate. Ironically, had I been a member of the CSM at the time, I probably would have had access to more information to back up my claims--but I would have been prohibited from writing on the subject.
When I decided to run for the CSM, I recognized that I would need to accept these limitations. Through the writing of Manifestos on EVE-O, columns on TheMittani.com, and MinerBumping posts, I put a spotlight on an issue of critical importance to EVE. When I started, people weren't talking about it very much, but now it's the focus of attention. I have a unique platform, but when I take my seat on the CSM, I will be required to put it aside.
Why give it up? I entered the race because of my belief that if I can speak to the decision makers at CCP face-to-face, it's possible I can convince them to change direction. After all, it wouldn't be the first time CCP has changed course. That possibility is worth giving up my platform for a year--perhaps longer, depending on the circumstances and the terms of the NDA.
My critics believe that my CSM run, along with most everything else that I do, is driven by my arrogance and ego. They say that I overestimate the power that a CSM member has, and that I would spend my time on the CSM screaming in vain for nerfs to highsec. They say I'm ignorant of the possibility that CCP might simply dismiss me and move on to something else.
The criticism amuses me, because their portrayal of me is exactly the opposite of how I approach things. I don't take anything for granted. I am fully aware of the fact that the value of my seat on the CSM is dependent on how seriously CCP takes the CSM. However, I also believe that even if CCP were completely dismissive of the CSM, there would be value in having fourteen representatives who spoke against a bad idea. The question is whether there's enough value in the power of a CSM seat to justify my giving up my platform, as opposed to endorsing another candidate(s) for CSM who shares my beliefs but doesn't have a platform to give up.
With that in mind, I turn my attention to the recent changes to the CSM. The voting system has been altered considerably, to a Single Transferable Vote (STV) system. Much has been said by many about the change. The change was a mistake, since it greatly enhances the power of organized voting, which was already powerful to begin with. As far as my own prospects are concerned, the system enhanced my chances of winning a CSM seat (which were already very high), because of my support among nullsec alliances, some of whom have already made plans to include my name on their bloc vote lists. I don't have very strong opinions on the new voting system, other than my view that it wasn't very well thought out.
A much-less publicized change to the CSM has to do with the way the "Iceland reps" are chosen. Fourteen candidates are elected to the CSM, but only half of them are flown to Iceland, where they may interact directly with CCP during the summits. Before, the seven were chosen by, well, the voters: The top seven vote-getters went to Iceland. Not anymore. It had been suggested that the CSM itself should decide which seven members were most deserving of the privilege. In this way, the CSM could govern itself and punish or reward its members based on their merit and conduct, just as other deliberative bodies do.
A few weeks ago, there was an announcement concerning this change. At first, it appeared that CCP and the CSM would make the decision together. Then, when the dust settled, it turned out that CCP would make the decision on its own. The two top vote-getters would be guaranteed seats at the table, but the remaining five would be selected by CCP in its sole discretion, with the CSM getting no vote in the matter. The CSM had imagined that changing the system would enable them to govern themselves, but instead, it gave CCP power over the CSM. Rather than the voters deciding who talks to CCP, CCP decides who talks to CCP.
Proponents of the change believe that this is a good thing, because high-quality representatives with fewer votes could be elevated over low-performing reps. Regardless of whether that's likely to happen, there is no question about the transfer of power. CCP determines which reps deserve a seat at the table, rather than the voters. This undercuts the central purpose of the CSM, which is to give the voters a voice that runs contrary to CCP's own thinking. It also gives CCP leverage over the CSM that it did not have before.
The change, I think, is also bad for CCP. The only thing it guarantees is controversy. No matter which CSM representatives they choose, there will be arguments and drama about one person being chosen over another. Not only is controversy inescapable, but all of the resulting angst will necessarily be directed at CCP, because they make the decision. This is not an ideal situation, given the fact that the CSM was also created to improve CCP's relationship with the EVE community.
In determining the value of a CSM seat, one must infer CCP's attitude toward the CSM, based on the information that is available. The meeting minutes of the most recent CSM summit were full of red flags, with the CSM repeatedly (and loudly) complaining about being cut out of the loop. Only one of the fourteen incumbent CSM members is running for reelection, which is never a good sign. Originally, the top nine vote-getters in the CSM election went to Iceland; this number was reduced to seven, and then to two, with CCP choosing the other five. Some may downplay the importance of having an "Iceland seat", but why would CCP willingly put themselves in the crosshairs of guaranteed drama and controversy, unless they felt it was worth it to control who gets the seats? These are all things that need to be considered.
Before, I would have been guaranteed a seat at the table in Iceland, receiving one of the top seven vote tallies (regardless of whether STV was used). Now a new scenario presents itself, one in which CCP declines to include me--based on my platform, reputation, attitude or whatever--but in which I would still be under the NDA for a year or more. If the CSM is increasingly viewed by CCP as obsolete, or if they view it as a pool from which they pick and choose the useful candidates and marginalize the rest, then I must adjust my cost-benefit analysis of giving up my platform in order to take a seat on the CSM.
Again, I return to the question I asked earlier: Does a (non-Iceland?) seat on the CSM offer enough influence to justify going under the NDA, as opposed to having someone else on the CSM who shares my views but doesn't have a comparable platform to give up? At this point, to ask the question is to answer it. Accordingly, I am withdrawing from the CSM8 race. Today was the last day to submit my application to CCP to include my name on the ballot for the first round of voting. Instead of sending my application in, I wrote this post.
I am fully aware that many people will be disappointed by this decision, if only because they were looking forward to seeing the carebear tears generated when "James 315" got listed under the CSM winners list. As you may have guessed, I did consider going ahead and winning the seat to resign it later, if only to see the reactions of all those angry miners when I won. However, doing that would absorb a lot of good voters' votes, even under an STV system. I still believe the CSM holds value, and I would prefer to have as many good representatives win as possible.
I'm also aware that my departure from the race will generate its fair share of tin foil. Rest assured, I did not leave the race because I was disqualified by CCP, or because I'm really someone else's alt, or because I was afraid of being hunted down by angry carebears IRL (I have a very common first and last name), or because I want to spend more time with my family.
There may be a temptation for people to tune out of CSM politics. With my dropping out, and the departure several days ago of a prominent lowsec candidate, and thirteen of fourteen CSM incumbents not standing for reelection, and with The Mittani washing his hands of the CSM, and with so few prominent EVE players stepping up to run, it may look like everyone's abandoning ship on the whole CSM experiment. That's not my view. However, I do believe that I better serve the pro-balance, anti-carebear agenda from outside the boundaries set by the CSM.
Finally, I would like to thank everyone who has supported me during this campaign. Together, we seized the focus of the CSM8 election and aimed it where it belongs. As it turns out, we also drew all the fire of our opponents, and we put the CSM candidates who agree with us in a better position to be "good cop". For that, I believe, they thank you as well.