Monday, January 28, 2013

Analyzing The Honey Botter Expose - Eve News 24

The first four posts of this series analyzing the Eve News 24 article, "The Honey Botter Coalition – An exposé on Botting within Eve Online’s biggest Coalition, focused on the reporting done by the authors of the exposé.  But I also see issues with the editing and editorial decisions surrounding the article as well.  I believe that if these shortcomings were corrected that Eve News 24 would have produced a much stronger exposé.  People still would have criticized EN24 because the reality is that botting and 3rd party RMT are as much weapons that players use against one another as those violations of the EULA are a problem for CCP's business.  In this post I'll examine some of these shortcomings and how EN24 could have presented the information in a more effective manner.

Length:  First, the article, at 7,300 words(1), was too long.  Actually, what made the article too long was the 6,100 words(1) of chat logs pasted into the article.  To give some perspective, the word count of the first four posts of this series equals the number of words in the chat logs published in the EN24 article.  I found my eyes glazing over and even reading the story multiple times I'm still not sure I have a firm grasp on everything discussed.

The solution is simple: divide the article into three parts.  The first part would consist of the charges of Montolio dealing with Horus to get ISK with which to prosecute a war against the CFC.  That is the part that is the most solid and, in retrospect, foreshadowed the recent HBC/CFC drama.  The second part should have covered the allegations against Tribal Band and the links to Pandemic Legion.  Of the three parts that is the weakest segment presented as many of the facts are still in dispute.  The final part called for a thoughtful, well written editorial on the botting/RMT situation among the null sec power blocs and the changes that EN24 (i.e. riverini) would like to see made in CCP Sreegs' policies.  Reasonable people can disagree with those policies and the resulting debate could have crept into the upcoming Council of Stellar Management election campaign as an important issue.

Timing:  I find the timing of the publication of the exposé puzzling.  Why publish the article on Sunday, 30 December?  Having gone through all the work, why bury the story on the Sunday before New Year's?  I understand that publishing the story on a Sunday gets everyone talking about and reading the story on Monday.  But with so many people having the day off from work people might not even visit EN24 until Wednesday 2 January when the story was at the bottom of the first page.  That timing just did not make sense to me.

Also puzzling is the publication of the story only four days, and two working days, after submitting the evidence to CCP.  If EN24 chooses to criticize CCP for not acting on player tips, then EN24 has a responsibility to give Team Security an opportunity to look into charges.  Only giving CCP four days to look into the allegations gave EN24's critics additional ammunition with which to attack the article.  The day I think EN24 should have published the exposé is either 13 or 14 January.

Sloppy Editing:  Another reason to push for a delay in publishing is that the article needed more editing.  I'll just point out two instanced that affected the credibility of the article.  The first is when the identification tags were shortened in one of the chat logs and the colons were missing after Montolio's name.  This led to allegations that the logs were faked.

Missing colons due to sloppy editing
Another, more serious issue occurred concerning riverini's conversation with Montolio.  Many people pointed out that one of the phases was not written by Montolio because the TEST leader would never use "ur" as an abbreviation for "your".
A stealth edit to correct a mistake
The problem for the EN24 article is that the line in question was not written by Montolio, but riverini.  I know this because riverini provided me the conversation to prove he really had talked to Montolio before publishing the article.  The actual logs show that riverini, not Montolio, made the statement. I pointed out the mistake to riverini and he updated the article.  But the damage was done as sloppy editing gave Montolio's denial credibility.

Stealth Edits/Deleting Comments:  I realize that doing stealth edits and corrections is a common practice of many mainsteam media organizations.  But I think if significant facts are changed in a story the new site should at least publicly acknowledge the error and make a note someplace in the article.

EN24 engaged in this practice in the example provided above.  EN24 also came close to this when adding my information about leetcheese to the story.  I would show a before-and-after shot of this stealth edit as well but I didn't start taking screenshots of the story until I noticed the mass deletions of comments concerning EN24 publishing the story only 4 days after submitting the logs.  I am not a big fan of this practice.  If something is wrong or embarrassing, own the mistake.  This practice among mainstream media websites has led to a cottage industry that captures mistakes before they go down the memory hole.  Do we need to start doing this with Eve news sites?

Check Sources/Links:   When writing an investigative piece like this exposé readers have to rely trust that the reporters are giving good information.  One way to gain that confidence is to provide accurate information on those facts a person can reasonably verify themselves.  Providing misleading links is not the way to go about winning trust.  For instance, Eve News 24 has published an interview with CCP Sreegs on the subject of holding alliances responsible for ISK selling operations conducted by its leadership or large-scale operations conducted by members.  But a link purporting to link to CCP Sreegs' words instead linked to a presentation by CCP Stillman.  Is it because the interview with CCP Sreegs contradicts some of the assumptions made in the conclusion?  If so, this type of misleading fosters distrust in the reporters, which is the last thing an investigative report needs.

Conclusion:  Many people dismiss Eve News 24 as a poorly written news site that has to rely on syndicated blogs for content.  I think this botting exposé had the potential to show what Eve News 24 could do as it tackled a subject almost entirely ignored by the more upscale The Mittani -dot- com.  But I believe that some bad editing and other editorial choices got in the way of a potentially good story.

(1) - As determined by copying the article into Microsoft Word.


  1. What you call 'sloppy editing', I call EN24 being their usual selves: making up shit as they go along to make stories juicier.

    The problem with this site is that their credibility is so tarnished they can't run any 'exposès', at least without tangible proof. Half-assed seemingly doctored chat logs is all they seem to have.

    1. The thing about the chat between riverini and Montolio is it happened. The only doctoring of that chat resulted in riverini looking bad because he screwed up the copy and paste.

  2. Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity. (Or perhaps laziness).
    I assume running a site like EN24 or doing research on botting take up more time as most people care to spend on such an acitivity.
    So if understaffed and perhaps fearing that another site might run away with the newsscoop he just cuts some corners and publishes with the thought that half a story is better as none.