Though I am an optimist by nature, I believe optimism must also be leavened with real talk, otherwise it has no meaning. Much has happened in the CSM race since my departure, and CCP has been taking a lot of flak on a lot of different fronts. In today's post, I'll get you up to speed with what's been going on, and we'll talk a little bit about what we've learned.
The CSM is a flexible instrument. Its importance is determined by how CCP chooses to use it. The CSM has had its ups and downs over the years. If CCP believes the CSM is important and worth listening to, it can have real influence--as it did during Monoclegate and the Jita Riots. If CCP believes the CSM is an outdated publicity tool, then the CSM will have no influence, regardless of the effort or expertise of the CSM members.
We can only infer CCP's attitude toward the CSM based on its conduct: Do they treat the CSM as something very important, a high priority worthy of a lot of time and attention? Do they devote enough CCP employees and resources to the CSM? Or do they treat it as something of lesser importance?
CCP is aware of the criticism they've received in the last couple weeks, and they have addressed some of the complaints. First, I'll recap the problems that have occurred, then we'll take a look at CCP's responses, and finally, I'll offer my own opinion. Fair enough?
As I mentioned in an earlier post, CCP has taken a lot of heat for its failure to promote the CSM8 elections, especially in light of the new two-round voting system and the whole STV thing. Then the day of the first round of voting came. There was little fanfare, which was appropriate, since voting didn't actually occur. It was delayed three days due to a simultaneous overhaul of EVE community website, which apparently took priority over the CSM schedule. Then, because the work on the website still wasn't finished, voting was delayed another day.
The first round of voting opened up last Tuesday. To say that it didn't go smoothly would be an understatement. The voting interface did not work properly on some web browsers, including Google Chrome. If my blogger stats are any indication, Chrome is the most popular web browser among EVE players. Why the website wasn't properly tested with all the popular browsers, I do not know.
Although the second round of voting will have a complicated STV system, the first round of voting is as simple as it gets: Candidates need to accumulate 200 votes. But this, too, proved problematic. Shortly after voting began, CCP sent out e-mails to the candidates who had passed the 200-vote threshold. Unfortunately, some candidates who had not passed the threshold also received e-mails telling them that they had gotten 200 votes. As a consequence, some of these candidates suspended campaigning, and in fact directed their supporters to vote for other candidates.
Xander Phoena of Crossing Zebras interviewed CCP Dolan to ask him about all of this. Previously, long-time employee CCP Xhagen was in charge of CSM-related matters. Prior to the CSM8 election, Xhagen was replaced by Dolan, a relative newbie. Dolan accepted blame for the "false positives" in the first round of voting. He explained that there wasn't an error with the program that tallies the votes, but there was a problem in the e-mail system. According to Dolan, candidates were under the false impression of having achieved the 200-vote threshold for no less than two days until Dolan discovered the mistake. Even then, he only discovered it because one of the "false positive" candidates, someone whom Dolan knew hadn't passed the threshold, replied to the e-mail (probably with an "awesome, thanks!").
Why this process wasn't being monitored by more than one person, or at least being double-checked by the one guy in charge, I have no idea. In any event, as a result of the error--and maybe also as a result of the delayed start--the first round of voting was extended for another few days. It seems that the beginning of the final round of voting will also be delayed for another day on top of that.
In the midst of all the problems with the voting system, there's been controversy about the treatment of some of the candidates. I won't go into much detail, but you can read more at CSM candidate Unforgiven Storm's blog post, entitled "The CSM Election Circus". Of note, CSM candidate Xenuria was banned from the ballot due to allegations that he's a member of a hacker group, which Xenuria denies. You can see watch Xenuria vent about this on his YouTube video, which was scrubbed from a thread he posted on EVE-O. CCP Falcon locked the thread, painstakingly citing nine separate forum rule violations, a level of thoroughness rarely seen!
Meanwhile, CCP was unsure of what to do with CSM candidate Fon Revedhort, who has come under fire for his views on race. These views had been scrubbed from his EVE-O posts by forum moderators, but not before anonymous well-wishers helpfully screencapped them; Xander Phoena extensively questioned Revedhort about these views during a candidate interview. CCP received its own share of criticism for allowing such a candidate on the ballot. In fact, Revedhort ran in an earlier CSM election, so these issues were known long in advance. Dolan conceded that CCP was aware of the issue, but said that he (being a newbie, I suppose), was unaware and had not been told. As of this post, CCP is still deciding what to do about Revedhort.
The CSM8 election came under the skeptical eye of The Mittani himself, who took aim from another angle. Initially, it was assumed that the STV system would increase the number of candidates running, since it encouraged blocs to run multiple candidates, rather than just one. And it did: Nullsec blocs, especially the CFC and HBC, ran multiple candidates; the wormhole community also put forth multiple candidates in lieu of holding a primary. On top of that, EVE subscriptions reached an all-time high. In spite of these developments, the number of CSM candidates unexpectedly fell. The Mittani noted that CSM8 had the fewest number of candidates in CSM history, only 35 candidates competing over 14 seats:
"The question is 'why'. You might blame CCP for this, for not promoting the CSM's accomplishments enough. You might blame CSM7 for this, if you are among the players who consider them to have underperformed... Regardless, the sheer lack of interest for players in even running for CSM8, compared to past elections, is jaw-dropping - I was surprised enough by the 35 figure to spend an hour digging around cached articles from five years ago just to make sure I wasn't deluding myself."In the wake of the "false positive" problem, at least one of the candidates on the ballot requested to have his name withdrawn. In addition, twelve other candidates (myself among them) dropped out of the race prior to the first round of voting, or were disqualified. That is to say, about a quarter of the declared candidates left the race. And, of course, 12 of the 14 incumbent members of the CSM chose not to stand for reelection. All of this helps explain how the number of candidates dropped to 35.
Later, during his Goonswarm CEO update, The Mittani took another series of shots at the CSM:
"CSM7 has been either (charitably) a damp squib or (uncharitably) a goddamned joke - and not even a suicide joke. I'm not sure what a year of arguing with Trebor and Issler Dainze does to a man, but the short history of CSM7 seems to be summed up as 'Seleene and Trebor conspire to steal the chairmanship from Two Step in the first week of their term, succeed, and then nothing much gets done as the whole group has been poisoned with betrayal right out of the gates'. Of course, everyone involved publicly claims that the initial Chairmanship Conspiracy had no impact on CSM7 and that they're all just the best of friends, so perhaps I'm just completely wrong about both politics and psychology.Yikes. CCP has not been entirely content to stand idly by while a negative pall gets cast over the CSM. On some points, they have defended it. Let's consider how their arguments stack up.
While CSM7 backers are vehemently claiming that a lack of candidates running for CSM8 is absolutely not an indication of broad disinterest in the institution (My favorite rationalization is that due to 'education' suddenly everyone realizes that the CSM is 'real work' and that thus fewer people applied to become a candidate, heh), the reality is that we can expect to see less than 30 candidates on the actual ballot for CSM8.
It is in our best interest to ensure that we vote in an organized fashion, even if it seems that CCP is shuffling the institution off towards irrelevancy. I personally believe that CCP only responded to CSM6 because of my media connections, which is one of the reasons I put so much effort into My Dumb Website (tm) rather than running for CSM8."
Regarding the lack of promotion for the CSM8 elections, CCP Dolan and CCP Fozzie have both conceded that they wanted to concentrate on promoting the final round of voting, rather than the first round of voting. During his interview with Xander Phoena, Dolan pointed out that it wouldn't have done much good to promote the election when it wasn't possible to vote yet; Fozzie has tweeted that he didn't want to have two separate get-out-the-vote efforts for the two separate rounds of voting. Dolan promises that they'll do much more to promote the election after voting day arrives.
This is a curious way of looking at things. When advertising something, one usually builds up the hype in advance. For example, CCP was already advertising and building hype for Dust 514 years before it became available. They've already begun hyping the summer Odyssey expansion. In politics, the get-out-the-vote efforts begin long before election day (or before early voting opens). Promoting the CSM8 election after voting opens doesn't make any more sense here than elsewhere. The CSM8 voting process is complicated, and there are many potential candidates to learn about. During the Crossing Zebras interview, Dolan suggested that one way they might promote the election after voting starts is to have a Community Spotlight series on some of the candidates. That probably wouldn't be a great thing for the candidates who don't get their feature on day one or two, when people are already casting ballots.
The time for CCP to begin promoting the CSM8 campaign was, well, during the CSM8 campaign. There's plenty they could have done. People like Xander Phoena, or even bloggers like Poetic Stanziel and The Mittani, who have been critical of the elections, did more to promote it. I also think CCP needs to do more to promote the accomplishments of the CSM over the course of the year, if only to combat the image (such as that expressed by The Mittani) that the CSM has no accomplishments. It seems the CSM members are not able to promote themselves either due to the NDA or excessive modesty.
Then there's the issue of the small roster of candidates. The Mittani argued that this signals the EVE playerbase's lack of confidence in the CSM. Critics have made a similar point about the decision by 12 of the 14 CSM7 members not to stand for reelection. Trebor Daehdoow, one of the two CSM7 members standing for reelection (the other is some guy named Greene Lee), is convinced that there's an innocent explanation. According to Trebor (and Dolan has expressed his agreement), the reason so few people are running is that more people are aware of how much work it takes to be on the CSM.
There's a glaring weakness in Trebor's argument. Trebor himself frequently says that only a few of the CSM members do the work, and that most do little or nothing. Indeed, this was the main justification for giving CCP--rather than the voters--control over the Iceland seats. But if most CSM members don't do much work, then why do they feel so overworked that they won't stand for reelection? No one has ever even attempted to explain this paradox.
A second explanation for the drop in candidates is that the two-round voting system discouraged "joke candidates" (in Dolan's words) from running. During the interview, Dolan admitted that he himself ran as a "joke candidate" in a previous election. This doesn't make much sense, either. The drop in candidates occurred prior to the first round of voting, not afterward, and the requirements for applying to run for CSM haven't changed. There doesn't appear to be any reason why having two rounds of voting would discourage such undesirable candidates from running in the first place. Sgurd Battersea ran for CSM8, and he admitted that he did it as a joke. By contrast, Darius III was an infamous troll candidate in prior elections, and he would have easily cleared the 200-vote threshold, given that he won CSM seats in the past.
Dolan claimed that having fewer candidates implies that they're of a higher quality. In past elections, he said, voters would need to wade through 30 good candidates and 20 joke candidates; now they just have 30 candidates, almost all of high quality. Xander Phoena, who has interviewed most of the candidates, could not suppress his laughter.
Lastly, we have the STV voting system. Despite the problems with the first round of the voting (otherwise known as "the easy part"), Dolan is confident that nothing will go wrong with the more complex part of the CSM8 election. One might be forgiven for replying:
This leads us to the question of whether the new voting system was thought out very carefully. It has gotten a lot of criticism, particularly from those who feel it offers an undue advantage to organized bloc voters. CCP Fozzie, whose relationship to the CSM and voting process I'm not clear on--other than he talks about it a lot--expressed total confidence in the new system:
It's always comforting when the people in charge know they're right. In the interview with Xander beginning at the 27-minute mark, Dolan elaborated on how he thinks the STV system will affect the CSM representation:
"One of the things that's wonderful about Wright-STV is that it greatly, greatly lessens the advantage of being organized." (27:45)In fairness, Fozzie may have a different view, in which case CCP has its wires crossed and didn't put the guy in charge of the CSM voting who knows how it's supposed to work. (Maybe that's not really "in fairness".) But let's consider Dolan's argument. He thinks that in the past, nullsec blocs had the power of highly-organized, accurate exit polling, which they could use to get themselves multiple seats on the CSM; now the STV process empowers everyone.
"It greatly decreases the power of 0.0 blocs." (28:45)
The problem is that Dolan, relying completely on the assumption about sophisticated exit polling being used across nullsec in past elections, is mistaken. Although Goonswarm previously used exit polling to try capturing multiple seats, such tactics were weren't frequently used. For example, during the CSM7 election, the Goons all just voted for The Mittani. More importantly, Dolan completely ignores the possibility of blocs coordinating among multiple alliances, or even multiple coalitions, as will be the case here (the CFC and HBC are working together). Needless to say, there was never any pan-nullsec exit polling in the past.
Pretty much everyone else thinks that nullsec bloc voting will be enhanced by the STV system. Remember, Dolan's not arguing that things will stay the same. He thinks STV "greatly, greatly lessens" their voting power. According to Dolan, we can expect less nullsec bloc representation under the new system. I guess we'll see.
So there's your dose of real talk. I think it's important to clear the air and get all this pessimism out of our systems. Voting day approaches!