Hands has done an excellent job giving the community virtually direct ears to CCP. How much CCP actually listens to us and Hands, still has yet to be seen, but in terms of opening up the dialogue between the two parties, at this stage of the game anyone who denies that the lines of communication haven't been opened up successfully is just spewing propaganda. The same goes for Alekseyev Karrde. I still have my fair share of criticisms of this CSM in terms of overall visibility, being overly reactive and defensive as of late, and the image of feeling out of touch with the community as a whole. I've said this a million times, and I will continue saying this a million times until the record gets set straight, Alek and Hands have both done excellent jobs of interfacing with their respective communities. Still despite this, I can't help but have the impression that the CSM as a whole is a bit out of touch with the community. Ironically, a lot of this image comes from personal observations surrounding Hands and Alek themselves compared to the public perception. I think a lot of it stems from the fact that despite doing a good job at the things they were specifically elected for, they're losing touch with the blogging communities who have historically been some of their biggest supporters and are much more reactive then they should or have any reason to be. When you really look at it, I think that a lot of this stems from the issues within the CSM as a whole and is representative of the frustrating situation and unhappiness stemming from the other representatives either straight up not caring, or drawing the line of how much time they're willing to commit to a volunteer position.
Fast forward back to the CSM Summit. Seleene specifically calls out Alekseyev Karrde in his followup blog post for being extremely hardworking and on top of his game regarding the mechanics the fixes to post-Inferno war decs. This was directly the result of the work he was doing with the community. Needless to say, many of us figured that amount of time and willingness to interact he gave us was what most CSM members were doing. It makes me wonder if he stood out at the summit that much to Seleene, how inactive and unmotivated has the rest of the CSM been?
First, let me share with you my perspective on Alek's CSM activity.
After being elected to the CSM, Alek headed up a focus group that was created and moderated by Iam Widdershins of PRONS. While, this wasn't a publically advertised group on the forums, public personalities and directors of every major and minor established highsec war dec group was included with the free ability to invite additional people as they saw fit. Even the God Squad dickbags were extended an invite. If a group wasn't there, it was because their chose not to take part in discussion. Some might decry that this was not made available or public to whoever wanted to show up, but I don't think it needs to be. While it may not carry the same visibility, you get a lot more done in a focus group than you do in a town hall setting where lots of people talk, but few people actually say anything.
Alek did a good job of communicating our concerns to CCP, while also letting us know CCP's viewpoints on certain issues which helped us shape our dialogue in a useful way for CCP to digest. Pretty much every single dev blog you saw prior to Inferno's release and a month after regarding changes to game mechanics was a direct response to concerns that we had brought up to Alek. In fact, we saw more of our own words in those dev blogs than we did CCP's.
While the Inferno war dec release ended up being the death knell for all of the major highsec groups, this was more due to CCP wanting to kill the Privateer model no matter what and the fact that without a Crimewatch release to rejuvenate highsec, it just kept going down the path of neut logi stagnation, hardly things you can fault Alek for. I doubt that without Alek there, CCP would have taken much longer fixing the ally system and with how bad it's initial release was, I doubt even with players posting on the EVE-O forums in the features section, it would have only gotten half the fixes it did.
Prior to the summit, he made sure we had given him a list of all of our key concerns to be brought up via the mailing list that had been setup. This allowed us to make sure we had gotten everything we wanted heard on the list and gave us something to directly compare with what we saw in the CSM minutes. Ironically, most of us left highsec before the minutes were released due to the aforementioned reasons, but he did a solid job of bringing up our listed concerns to CCP. Following the summit, without breaking the NDA, he immediately let us know his impression of how things went and a very rough timeframe on when we could expect fixes and tweaks. Regardless of anyone's impression of him as an individual or EVE player, I don't think anyone could have done a better job.
Fast forward to back to the present where you have Alek unable to name more than two groups he's talked to within the community when Ripard asks him what he's done. Granted, Ripard's started out by asking why he hadn't contacted Rote Kapelle and asked him to name ten small gang groups he has been in touch with, but I still couldn't help but wonder why he didn't mention the war dec round table which would have been the perfect answer, not a single time during that podcast.
The entire podcast, I wondered why instead of accepting that they could be doing certain things better and presenting positive things they had done, the three CSM members were defensive and combative. This was a disturbing trend which I noticed starting in the voting reform thread by Trebor, where the CSM spent more time defending itself and counter-attacking Goons than actually addressing the occasional legitimate criticisms that were brought up. Then, Two Step has a townhall and manages to upset the entire lower class wormhole community. Something is seriously wrong with this CSM as a whole, when the two most important delegates in regards to the Inferno and upcoming winter patches, Alek and Hands, who are doing everything they should and need to regarding community representation thus far, unnecessarily put on their crap hat, showing high levels of frustration and combativeness when they should be calmly sitting back on of a relative pile of smug.
I'm totally serious. They've done enough within the confines of their areas of expertise/responsibility and have enough people willing to vouch for them that they could have easily said, "Yo dawg, we've handled our shizzle and da peeps is happy. If Trebor badposts, thats on him. If the rest of the CSM doesn't want to blog, or update, or even do anything, thats on them. We might be on the CSM together, but its an unpaid position and it doesn't matter what mandates Seleene lays down, if someone doesn't want to do it, theres nothing that can be done about it unless someone else has the time or is willing to take on the extra work."
I think that the reason those two respond so poorly to criticism that the CSM isn't doing anything and can't even think to point out the things they are actually doing or have done successfully already is because they're frustrated as fuck about the internal situation within the CSM. They know they're doing all they can and the CSM is still receiving a fair share of criticism. There's a lot of dead weight on the CSM and Alek and Hands can't say that the reason you don't see more out of the CSM as a whole is because they're the only ones actually doing shit and already have a full plate covering for other people as it is, no matter how much they want to say this. They can't reply to Ripard that the reason more CSM members aren't using their blogs to update the community on happenings is because the other guys aren't doing anything to begin with. I am starting to think that the time they spent discussing being able to remove CSM candidates for inactivity during the summit was in response to more than just Darius III.
The fact is, in the face of the questions they're being asked, they feel like they can't defend themselves as individuals without throwing the other CSM members under the bus. Likewise, they struggle defending the CSM as a group because there are genuine feelings of frustration at the lack of effort by other members and they feel bitterness that as the few active CSM members they're the ones that are coming under fire for the inactivity of the rest. In essence, they're dodging one bullet only to step in front of another. Anyone who has ever been on a group project with complete dead weight that could care less knows what i'm talking about.
Ultimately, the real issue facing the CSM is growing pains as they evolve from being a vanity position to a group that CCP actually listens to. In the past, the CSM could take up as much or as little time as you wanted with little impact. After CSM5, they actually became stakeholders and with that an actual effort requirement was born. The problem now is the CSM responsibilities have grown considerably, while only half of the delegates get to receive the only reward, the Iceland trip. They're still unpaid volunteers expected to do what more or less is a full-time job in terms of commitment. Since nobody is paid, people will only do as much work as they feel like. CCP even refused their request that there be a minimum activity level to serve on the CSM. This means Seleene's only tool as chair to influence people to want to spend their free time on CSM responsibilities is persuasion and whenever he plays nice guy and someone comes up short he's left holding the check. The fact that The Mittani was retired and could treat the CSM Chair like a full time job probably had more to do with his success than anything else and everyone got used to that level of effort. I'm sure that he put in way more time on the CSM than any of us realized or he will ever publically admit, which helped alleviate the impact of non-contributors on the CSM.
Anyways, i'm not really happy with how the visible and active CSM members are responding to the current situation and its frustrating watching them become less and less likeable as time progresses. They really need to take a deep breath and take a different approach because they're not doing themselves any favours in the public eye right now. I honestly don't have a problem with them throwing people under the bus as long its justified, then moving on. As long as people see 13 people on a "unified" CSM, they'll expect the results of 13 people and will be upset when all they get is the work of 5. When that happens, guess who comes under fire and has to deal with the consequences. Protip: its not the 8 that aren't doing anything. If the CSM wants to be transparent about what they're doing, they also need to be transparent about what they're capable of doing and details of what each individual person's responsibilities are so the public can judge who is doing their job successfully on their own.
One final thought, Ripard suggests more town halls and posting more on the EVE-O forums about what they've been doing or have planned. I'm not entirely convinced this is the best approach. Two Step did a wormhole townhall and judging by the negative reaction, it was clear that was the first time he had brought up his wormhole concerns to the community at large. Next, Trebor made his post of derp on the EVE-O forums and the universally negative response made it clear that was the first time the public had seen that. Replace their names with CCP ______ on the forum post or the town hall meeting and you have eerie flashbacks of how CCP used to operate. On the other hand, you have Alek and Hands' approaches, which don't have the built in visibility, but are significantly more effective because despite they allow for players to help fill in the gaps as things go along so by the time an idea is fleshed out, it has a very player like feel in a CCP digestible package.
The ball is in the CSM's court. They can keep responding defensively to criticism or they can start doing things to change and improve upon the current situation. In the grand scheme of things there's plenty of time left.