Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Another Blogger Writing About The CSM 8 Summer Minutes

I have to admit I don't really understand the way that the Council of Stellar Management works.  So perhaps the fact that the CSM 8 Summer Summit minutes are not out yet means the world is about to end.  Or maybe not.  But the way that some people are acting this is not only a crisis but a scandal of epic proportions.  Since I can't explain why the lack of minutes is important I thought I'd take a crack at figuring out why the minutes are still not released instead.

Schedule:  No matter what happened, the CSM 8 Summer Summit minutes were going to release later than those of CSM 7.  The CSM 7 Summer Summit took place from 30 May - 1 June 2012 with the minutes published on 2 August.  The CSM 8 Summer Summit took place from 28-30 August 2013. 

Also, I wonder just how much of an impact the work on the expansions had on the release time.  The 2012 winter expansion, Retribution, launched on 4 December, a full six months after the CSM summit.  If anything, the summer vacation season made access to those who needed to review the minutes spotty and contributed to a 2-month time to release the document in 2012.  CSM 8 didn't face that issue as the summer summit took place after the vacation season.  However, that only left 2 1/2 months before the 19 November 2013 launch of Rubicon.  With that little time before the expansion, CSM 8 needed to get the first draft of the minutes written up quickly if it wanted the document reviewed by those working on getting Rubicon released.  I don't know the length of CCP's sprint cycles, but I imagine that once the cycle starts, getting the people involved diverted is difficult.

CSM: One thing comparing CSM 7 and CSM 8 stood out to me.  CSM 7 just got the work done faster.  The 162-page CSM 7 Summer Summit were released 62 days after the end of the summit.  The process for the CSM 7 Winter Summit, held from 12-14 December 2012, saw a 113-page set of minutes released 33 days later.  According to a post by CSM 8 Vice-Chairman Ripard Teg, the CSM had finished writing the minutes and submitted all sessions to CCP for review on 24 October, 55 days after the end of the summer summit.  While CSM 8 Chairman Trebor Daehdoow stated that he intended, "to stream them out in small chunks as individual sessions are completed," that obviously did not happen.

Even if the plan to release the minutes in small batches were implemented, I don't believe the plan would have mollified those clamoring for the minutes today.  Ripard reported on 25 September that of the 25 sessions held during the summit, only 13 were finished or close to finished.  Getting all of the minutes published before Rubicon at that point was probably impossible.  Even Ripard wrote that:
"Frankly, I think this is our CSM's first dropped ball since taking office.  We could have, and should have, gotten this done faster.  We're continuing to work it.  I myself am determined to keep up with Trebor so I'm deciding which session to claim next.  Hopefully the results will be in front of your eyeballs soon."
I should add one more decision that CCP may have made that extended the time for seeing the minutes released.  How were the minutes written?  Did the CSM try to make them extremely detailed and leave in material that was very close to violating the NDA and let CCP sort it out?  I can understand why they might want to do so, but that makes the process take longer.

CCP: I think that some things went wrong on CCP's end that led to the delay in the publication of the minutes.  I've already discussed how the scheduling of the summit could have impacted the process.  I also think that some of the personnel moves have impacted the minutes.

I don't want to pick on the new guy, but CCP Dolan does have a role.  Of course, don't people expect the new guy to stumble a bit or take a little longer to get things done?  Also, I can't imagine that CCP Dolan has the same relationships with the development teams as someone who's worked at CCP for 10 years like CCP Xhagen.  Even in the best of times I wouldn't expect people to respond to Dolan as quickly as they did Xhagen.

At this point I have to wonder if CCP Dolan was on-board with the concept of releasing the minutes piecemeal or if he decided to wait until all the minutes were completed until he began distributing them for review and approval.  I can see how if one of the developers were affected by 4 different sections of the minutes that CCP Dolan wouldn't want to go the dev up to 4 separate times as each section was completed.  I don't get that from reading Ripard's blog, but I don't know what occurred behind the scenes.

Another factor that could have affected the delivery of the minutes is that EVE Online experienced some turmoil at the top with Jon Lander moving from the executive producer's role for EVE over to mobile development and then temporarily to EVE Valkyrie.  CCP Unifex was replaced on an interim basis by CCP's Chief Marketing Officer David Reid.  Jon Lander was a big proponent of using the CSM.  David Reid, on the other hand, is wearing multiple hats.  As the CMO, he is also trying to promote DUST 514.  The fact that a brand new game, EVE Valkyrie, that no one knew about in March was dumped in his lap to start promoting in May probably left him stretched pretty thin.  Could a lack of high level interest contribute to the slowness?  I wouldn't have expected David Reid to have developed an in-depth knowledge of the workings of the CSM as I'm not sure the original plan was to have an interim executive producer this long.  I personally thought that CCP would have announced a permanent replacement before the CSM summit was held.

Stuff Happens:  EVE Online has experienced a very eventful 3-4 months.  Everything from a kerfuffle over the Terms of Service to two scandals concerning SOMERblink plus the live event fiasco have kept the Community team hopping to put out fires.  Add in supporting CCP's presence at EVE Vegas and the extremely successful PLEX For Good campaign and people were busy.  However, isn't stuff like that part of the job that CCP Dolan needs to handle, just like making sure the minutes are published in a timely manner?

Conclusion:  I wrote this article as an intellectual exercise because for some reason I am supposed to care that the minutes are still not published.  But honestly, I don't care at all.  I understand that as an institutional matter the CSM must publish them.  But is my life affected if they aren't?

Perhaps my attitude toward the minutes is colored by the fact that I don't expect to read anything I haven't already heard about.  Despite what I wrote in the introduction, I do follow the goings-on of the CSM.  I read all of Ripard's posts about the CSM.  And while Ripard is the famous blogger, I also read Mike Azariah's blog too.  I watch Ali Aras' Space Hangouts and listen to her CSM updates on the Declarations of War podcast.  I make sure to listen to Crossing Zebras when Xander does his interviews with members of CSM 8.  If I can't listen to the CSM town halls live I download them from EVE Radio.  I also follow CSM members on Twitter as many are active in #tweetfleet.  I guess I should add I also occasionally visit the CSM 8 website to see if anything interesting is happening.

So I don't believe the lack of minutes is the end of the world.  But who's to blame?  A better question is probably who's not to blame.  So hopefully at the next CSM summit everyone will get together and figure out how to get the minutes out for the winter summit before Fanfest 2014.


  1. Perhaps it's not the end of the world but it is a -- let's say -- a lack of appreciation. The CSM are CCP customers not their employees. And when they volunteer their time to sit on the CSM and contribute to CCP's development of Eve, the least thing CCP can do is show some appreciation for their effort and provide feedback on their efforts ASAP.

  2. It's not so much that there's going to be earth-shattering news in the minutes. More that part of the CSMs job is to minute the summit, and they've put a lot of work into the first drafts for them to languish on CCP Dolan's desk.

  3. In CSM5, the CCP teams who participated in our first Summit didn't bother to review/provide feedback on their session write-ups and then were pissed at what was reported. After that, CCP changed its process to avoid having that happen again. So, while Dolan may be assigned to shepherd the minutes through the review/editing process in CCP, he can't do much but ask nicely if reviewing teams don't get the work done for their session write-ups.

    Based on a comment in Ripard's CSM update, I strongly suspect there is controversial material the CSM wants to share that CCP wants to strongly control the messaging for. CSM is fighting a losing battle if that's the case. CCP will redact whatever they want or more passively just sit on it until "the world has moved on". As you may recall, entire sections of CSM5's emergency summit and winter summit minutes that related to Incarna were redacted...for no good reason except to control messaging about that mess of a feature and CCP's dismal failure to perform.

    Unfortunately, this puts CSM members in a tough spot. CCP declares all summit proceedings as NDA material until THEY decide what isn't and can be released in the minutes. So CSM members have to tread carefully if they don't want to violate the legal agreement they signed when they accepted their CSM seat.

    Does any of it matter? I guess that might depend on what's in those minutes...or more importantly, what gets redacted when they are released. At the very least, this situation is a good heads-up about the consistently occurring frustrations of being on the CSM for those considering running for CSM election. Having been there, done that, experience tells me that there is a lot more frustration happening than Ripard's or Trebor's or Ali's or Mike's generally optimistic spin on CSM/CCP relations suggest. Nobody wants to rock that fragile boat and risk losing the increased interaction with devs that CSM has these days.

    To me, the failure to make Minutes a priority (I mean come on, how long would it really take for a devs to review only the writeups for sessions they were in?) is a slap in the face of the CSM and by association, the players, whether intended or not. CCP can be a little clueless about this kind of stuff, for sure.

    1. What we have going on appears from the outside to be CCP walking back the importance and position of the CSM in the process. All of this seems almost certain to be a reaction to the rather large role the CSM was drafted to play after Incarna blew up in their faces. They refused to listen to the CSM (and the redactions were an early sign of that), had the process blow up in their face, used the CSM to regain credibility and calm the waters, and they are now probably trying to scale back CSM involvement. What are the odds we see another roller coaster ride? The star gate, exploration, and other items could be great if done right, but done wrong they could cause as much is not more disappointment than Incarna did.

    2. You could be right. Seagull seems to be a CSM advocate but there are still at least a couple of management level people in CCP who (based on what I observed as chair of CSM5) would really rather the CSM just go away and engage very little or at all from what I can see. Who knows what influence they could be having on the situation with the minutes, perhaps due to their involvement with potentially controversial content, policy changes or who knows what else.

  4. The most important aspect of publishing the minutes, in my opinion, is that it breaks a lot of information out of the NDA. CSM members have lots of things they'd like to talk about and until CCP officially announces it one way or another, they can't. Previous summit minutes "announced" a lot of things that went on to be talked about extensively.

  5. Yeah, I can only read into the delay a reduced sense of urgency on CCP's part. We're years away from Incarna now, development is proceeding apace, and so far the lack of minutes hasn't caused the torches and pitchforks to be broken out. They're not releasing the minutes in part because--evidently--they don't have to.

    The CSM minutes are mostly important to me in that they might help me understand what our CSM electees are doing for us, so maybe my next year's votes will be better informed.

    Go on, CCP. Coast for a while, if you think your efforts can be better spent elsewhere. Just be aware that shutting down one line of communication makes us view future fuck-ups with a less-favorable eye.

  6. It is indeed taking longer than expected but looking at the old meeting minutes, they aren't really important. At least not in the format of:
    X says ...
    Y says ... and DEV G countered ...

    If the minutes continues to be a transcript of the videos taken from the meetings they are (IMO) not useful for the greater public. It is nice to have them available but a much shorter version would be sufficient and both parties would have way less workload.

    What would I like to get out of a meeting summary?
    What are they talking about.
    Which direction CCP thinks will be good for the game.
    How are the stances of my supported CSMs and those I didn't vote.
    Who is a constructive participant in which fields of subject.

    Maybe someday in the future, once the minutes are released I may find the time to write the summary I would like to get.
    Until then, EVE continues to work fine, with or without minutes doesn't matter.