Archive for the Alliance Leadership Category

The King of Scapegoats

Posted in Alliance Leadership, CCP, Eve History on March 29, 2012 by Easley Thames

The Mittani has long been called the “King of Space.” Though he is reviled by many in this game for a myriad spectrum reasons ranging from “arrogance” to “he killed my alliance,” the Goon-king recently earned a certain level of grudging respect from many players – myself included – as a result of his efforts on CSM 6.

Pushing for vital changes at the height of the Jita riots, when CCP stood on the very edge of the abyss, The Mittani has been nearly-universally praised by his former CSM colleagues for his extraordinary efforts as chairman.

The Mittani helped organize the CSM into a effective organization for the first time, using Skype and other forms of communication to hold informal meetings, so that they would be effective when they faced CCP.

Though many view him as self-interested, the renewed emphasis by CCP on (FiS) “Flying in Space” is attributable in no small part to his advocacy, and this shift has been very popular with the broader community.

CCP’s top executive even mentioned him by name during the keynote presentation at fan-fest this year, where his contributions during the crisis were mentioned. In particular, Hilmar specifically discussed the somewhat tense “emergency summit.”

Many have already discussed the overly-harsh, knee-jerk reaction by CCP to Mittani’s gaff. I am among those who think he should have been allowed to stay on the CSM as a delegate, if not as the chairman; especially after his heartfelt apology, resignation as chairman, and generous compensation paid to the “victim” in this case.

What I want to focus on is something else, CCP’s complicity and hypocrisy in this whole affair. CCP saw the slides in advance. Think about that for a moment. They KNEW that Mittani’s presentation was going to focus on the time spent griefing a player that later claimed to be suicidal as a result of serious real-life issues.

Did CCP prevent this from going forward? Of course not, Eve is all about this kind of behavior. The only real competitive advantage Eve has is its cold, heartless galaxy full of players looking to take full advantage of the sandbox.

Now, and this part is critical, what exactly did CCP approve in his presentation? Based on the facts given in the CCP-approved slide-show, anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of a publicly-available kill-board could already find this pilot’s name with minimal effort.

It doesn’t even end with their knowledge of the slides. Consider what these panels are like – generally speaking. If fan-fest is a “party at the top of the world,” then the alliance panel is like a meeting of all the crime-bosses responsible for supplying the drugs and every other manner of vice.

CCP green-lit presentations from people who represent all of the most violent, lawless play-styles in Eve – from suicide ganking, to black-ops ganks, to worm-hole ransoms, to 0.0 blobbing and conquest.

We got to listen to singing ransoms, scamming stories, and plenty of examples of high-sec “griefing.”

They gathered these brutal braggarts, and then fed them tons of booze, all before shoving them in front of microphones set to broadcast LIVE across the internet. What could possibly have gone wrong with this plan?

The lack of foresight here is astounding. That is, of course, if you believe they really care about the kind of behavior The Mittani displayed in the slightest.

I certainly don’t think they ever thought for a single moment about this “Wis” individual. He was just another great story in the dark history of Eve.¬† That’s certainly how I felt watching the panel.

If they felt the subject matter was even slightly objectionable, CCP could have done a broadcast delay (even as little as 30 seconds) on the live stream.

Had they done this, they would have been able to censor the name of the supposedly-suicidal pilot’s character, as well as some of the profanity in each presentation.

Or, alternatively, they could have censored the presentation material ahead of time by suggesting revisions to the presentations. But why should they have to?

These are the kinds of stories Eve players lust for, and I believe CCP enjoys them every bit as much as we do.

We’re all in this game for the kind of – at times brutal – freedom that we have to interact with (and indeed harm) one another.

The real problem is that CCP is still operating on the basis of a tacit acceptance that “anything goes,” but as soon as they get negative media attention about their players, they shove the offending individuals into the forefront and circle their wagons – feigning outrage and surprise.

They tell the community to HTFU – that’s “harden the FUCK up” one moment – then when people pick on each other in a way that raises flags outside the Eve community, they then turn around an put 100% of the blame on the shoulders of those gamers.

Why did they allow this story in the slides to begin with if they don’t find the idea of someone potentially killing-themselves over a couple-dozen internet spaceships to be amusing in the first place? Is that not strongly implied by their conduct? Is that not the greatest proof that “Eve is real” for the players?

It’s time for CCP to get called-out on this. They have been shameless in their attempts to court the press by convincing them that this was unforeseeable and shocking.

As someone who watched the panel, I didn’t even flinch when he named the name. It was neither surprising, nor shocking, when he joked that we could all go and try to make this guy kill himself.

In conclusion, CCP should have admitted they played a major role in this whole affair.

Either they should rethink they way they approve presentation materials before fan-fest, or they should stop contorting the Terms of Service and EULA to punish someone for an out-of-context real-life communication.

I feel strongly that, at a bare minimum, this means they should have shared in the responsibility. Instead, they came down hard on the man that – in many player’s eyes – had a major role in saving their company’s very soul last year.

The sad thing is, the gaming press will drop this story in a day or two, and even having him step-down as chairman would have been enough of a signal to non-Eve players that “the mean guy got punished,” but instead they removed one of the best voices we have on the CSM entirely.

For all the reasons stated above, as well as man others I have posted in the comments of various news-sites and forum posts, I can’t see CCP’s response as anything but cowardly.

They are just fortunate that The Mittani was so uncharacteristically willing to fall on his sword for them this time. Not everyone would do the same in this situation.

Our Welcome to Macrabe Votum

Posted in Against All Authorities, Alliance Leadership on December 2, 2011 by Easley Thames

Maverick CEO Avicenna Sarfaraz recounts the tale of how Macabre Votum found itself in the “-A- bar” with the rest of us lunatics in an adaptation of a Korean comic meme that has been sweeping the inter-webs:

Once you go in, you can't go out!

IT Alliance :: Administrative Shutdown In Effect

Posted in Alliance Leadership, IT Alliance on February 11, 2011 by Easley Thames

I have had some mails asking about whether IT is disbanding. I saw EN 24 posted something about this, so I just wanted to clarify what is actually going on.

RKK CEO Argentina announced to the alliance that February 10th would be the last day of “administrative functions” for IT Alliance until further notice.

While this sounds rather underwhelming, it’s an official declaration of some very serious changes:

1) The alliance will officially not be fighting for its remaining space.

While we haven’t had anything planned recently, this essentially does away with the uncertainty for some people who were still hoping to fight back. Roams are encouraged to pass the time.

2) Reimbursements are no longer offered for any ship losses.

This is only logical since there are no more official/reimbursable operations. Reimbursements owed up until the 10th will be paid out as usual.

3) Alliance leadership is officially on hiatus.

This means all issues should be handled on a corp level until there is some kind of reorganization after the evacuation.

Many corps are “doing their own thing” now in various corners of Eve, so I think this is another intuitive order.

4) Anyone who hasn’t moved everything to low-sec or NPC 0.0 should hurry up and do so now.

All IT corps took care of this long ago. Truthfully, I thought the NC would be here camping pipes and incapacitating bridges much sooner. Their lackadaisical approach and choice to finish Fountain first made it a cinch to get out every last asset.

[And yes, I know, Evolution lost some freighters, but it wasn’t to Clusterfuck/NC, it was just a smart gank by an unrelated party].

Argentina’s Post for Reference —

Before I mention anything else, I just want to say that I love the RKK duck signatures. :cultural victory:

Now for where the clarification is needed. This announcement does not mean IT Alliance will be disbanding.

The alliance will remain open, and those who want to stay can stay. I do not know if there are concrete plans for the future yet, but there have been some efforts to make it easier for a future regroup if and when that ever happens.

Unlike the fall of Kenzoku, this time around the GBC breakup has been fairly ugly with several corps leaving with a strong distaste for the leadership of other corps.

It speaks volumes that there are dozens of familiar faces in other corps re-subbing now that the war is lost, simply because they won’t have to deal with people they hated in the alliance anymore.

A great deal of good will between IT corps has been lost since we reconquered our space, and I think it would take very strong leadership to bring a majority of the GBC elements under the same banner again.

At a bare minimum, some time will be needed to shake off the baggage from the last 3 months.

Down the road, I wouldn’t rule out a revival, but the chances of getting back the corps that have already left in the near-term future seem slim-to-none.

I was not surprised when IT was formed. Everyone, wanted revenge after BoB was disbanded and Kenzoku got dog-piled. This time, IT Alliance killed itself more than any particular hostile group, so I don’t know if the same strong motivation is there to reform.

That said, if it were any other group I would be far more doubtful. Ex-BoB and GBC corps have a way staying connected even after shattering defeats.

It will be interesting to see where each IT corp ends up. So far, Dark Rising and The Executives are the only ex-IT corps not to join a new alliance. The Executives just left, while Dark had been out since the early days of the Fountain invasion.

Other ex-IT corps seem to be joining new alliances together in pairs. Finfleet & X13 joined Raiden together, and now DICE + BNC are joining NorthernCoalitionDOT.

I do not know for sure who is staying long-term in the alliance at this point. Another week or two to allow the dust to settle is needed before taking an official “head count” of who is still around.

Alliance Communication Strategy :: An Introduction

Posted in Alliance Leadership, Corporate Management on February 9, 2011 by Easley Thames

Communication is a basic and essential behavior in communities of all sizes. Despite this fact, there are glaring differences between the way leaders in Eve Online choose to communicate: both externally and within their own organizations.

I have been fascinated by the importance of communication in Eve for a long time. This is my first attempt to compose my thoughts on the topic of alliance leadership & communication.

Here, instead of focusing on specific examples, my emphasis is merely on setting forth a general introduction to the importance and practice of communications from the position of an alliance leader.

INTERNAL COMMUNICATION

There are many ways to communicate internally. Some alliances do a monthly or weekly meeting, while others simply post orders for the rank and file to comply with.

In general, I think alliances in Eve should avoid implementing any form of direct democracy, but members shouldn’t feel terrified to make suggestions either. The correct balance depends on the circumstances surrounding a particular discussion.

If things are going badly, members will look for guidance and reassurance. When things are going well, you don’t have to deliver fire-side chats quite so often.

Regardless of HOW leaders announce their plans to members, the medium is often just as important as the message. There is something markedly different about alliances that use graphics, videos and songs when conveying messages.

Having a creative side to your message can help you play up the humor in a simple brag-post (perhaps after a victory) and alliances with a strong overall “brand” (of which message and creative material is a part) tends to make your alliance more cohesive.

Compared to those who lazily type out a few lines of text, alliance leaders who can tap into a shared culture (even something shallow like a catch phrase or image theme) will get much greater results.

Further complicating the problem are the issues of “encoding” and “decoding” a message. Using images pulled at random are less effective than ones that are familiar to your audience. In other words, the most effective communication comes after taking steps to build a relationship with the membership.

I am going to reference (http://web.njit.edu/~lipuma/352comproc/comproc.htm) repeatedly to introduce some basic theory from marketing 101.

For reference, here is a brief introduction to business communication theory:

The communication process is made up of four key components. Those components include encoding, medium of transmission, decoding, and feedback.

[…]

In order to convey meaning, the sender must begin encoding, which means translating information into a message in the form of symbols that represent ideas or concepts. This process translates the ideas or concepts into the coded message that will be communicated. The symbols can take on numerous forms such as, languages, words, or gestures. These symbols are used to encode ideas into messages that others can understand.

This symbolism is evident in numerous, successful alliances. The Goons with their bees (and now Frogs?) or the NC with their rainbows and carebear dolls are examples of this. When a bee is stinging a clown to death, that’s an encoded message.

However, the extent to which members relate to (and understand) a message will depend on several factors.

After the appropriate channel or channels are selected, the message enters the decoding stage of the communication process. Decoding is conducted by the receiver.

[…]

The receiver is the individual or individuals to whom the message is directed. The extent to which this person comprehends the message will depend on a number of factors, which include the following: how much the individual or individuals know about the topic, their receptivity to the message, and the relationship and trust that exists between sender and receiver.

All interpretations by the receiver are influenced by their experiences, attitudes, knowledge, skills, perceptions, and culture. It is similar to the sender’s relationship with encoding.

When does a gimmick seem stupid or a diversion from important events? When you’ve lost faith in your leadership.

The message will not be effective, no matter how clear, if the relationship between a leader and his members has been degraded sufficiently.

This implies that, when attacking an alliance on a psychological level, it is wise to destroy the image of their leaders first.

If you insult pilots directly, they’ll stand up for themselves. If you give them someone else to blame for their defeats, human nature will lead to finger-pointing.

That is why strong internal communication is necessary to dispell misinformation and rumors as soon as possible.

Beyond playing defense, alliances should have strong messages that have a positive influence on membership pride and trust. Don’t let others define your organization from the outside!

Finally, a major part of internal communication – and the area that differs the most from communication with those outside your corp/alliance – feedback.

Feedback is the final link in the chain of the communication process. After receiving a message, the receiver responds in some way and signals that response to the sender.

[…]

“Even a lack of response, is in a sense, a form of response” (Bovee & Thill, 1992). Without feedback, the sender cannot confirm that the receiver has interpreted the message correctly.

Feedback is a key component in the communication process because it allows the sender to evaluate the effectiveness of the message. Feedback ultimately provides an opportunity for the sender to take corrective action to clarify a misunderstood message.

“Feedback plays an important role by indicating significant communication barriers: differences in background, different interpretations of words, and differing emotional reactions” (Bovee & Thill, 1992).

Effectively communicating requires a safe-cracker’s ear. You can’t simply churn out information in a one-way stream.

Even if you do not want to engender democratic practices (and I don’t feel Eve CEOs should to any significant extent) it is essential that a leader LISTENS.

Not only does turning a deaf ear to feedback prevent you from effectively adjusting your message, it is flat-out aggrivating at times!

Key members, valuable corporations, and even entire alliances have changed sides because someone simply failed to listen to their feedback.

EXTERNAL COMMUNICATION¬† — PART ONE: PROPAGANDA

As far as MMO’s go, Eve Online stands alone in terms of the use of propaganda by players. It really adds something to this gaming community that I haven’t seen anywhere else.

Sure, there are terabytes of WoW-related guild machinima and other videos / blogs / news sites. However, there really isn’t a need for players to attempt to influence each other in a way that can impact in-game PvP.

When I was a noob running missions in empire, videos like Stahlgren’s classic Goonswarm campaign records opened my eyes to the world of 0.0 warfare. I know their newbie drives added many fresh pilots every year, and this has clearly impacted the balance of power in 0.0 over the years.

Recently, Goonswarm Federation took back the title of largest alliance with a whooping 88 corps. Most members are concentrated in the massive GoonWaffe corporation, but “pubbie” corps are a large part of the alliance, and many of those pubbies were drawn in by the successful forms of communication that have become inextricably linked to Goon culture in Eve (and other MMOs).

Band of Brothers has had some good propaganda over the years, including the “Relentless” video of great notoriety a few years back. While newer players likely have no recollection of such events, the circumstances surrounding BoB’s alamo-like stand at that time were impressive to say the least, and stand in stark contrast with the current situation in Delve.

Unlike BoB, IT Alliance was simply not successful in creating propaganda, managing its image, or even releasing your run-of-the mill fleet pvp videos on a regular basis.

This was the first thing we put out as an alliance: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3AY7ysblqhM&feature=related. I will leave you to judge for yourself how effective this clip is compared to what Lofty and Stahlgren produced.

Since IT has imploded before a major challenge in Delve, I thought I’d share some -MVN- propaganda we had cooked up for the siege. A few examples were also included above, and in my previous post.

Enjoy the shameless pic dump:

By Janos Vaas

By Captain Sonic

By Cugel Iocounu

By Janos Vaas

As a quick note to Popsikle and other MVN Artists not featured in any posts: Most of your work would break Word Press rules against NSFW images. I don’t want to get anyone fired over pics of Avi and Mittani shopped onto gay porn, erotic as they may be.

EXTERNAL COMMUNICATION — PART TWO: HUMILITY, HUMANITY, AND… HUGS

Those who spew forth nothing but propaganda when communicating publicly become pariahs, or mere things of amusement at best. They lose the potential to be credible sources of information.

I think all of the best known CAOD-posting heroes might fall into this category. Sensible posters looking to discuss in-game events rarely bother with that forum anymore. It has become the default presumption that anything posted on CAOD is a troll until proven otherwise.

How can you persuade anyone if you are only seen as a dishonest or delusional? Remember that your credibility factors into how your audience will “decode” a message from you.

Public relations is a term that gets thrown around alot, usually by people who don’t understand it or do very much of it. If you really want to have a relationship with the public, you need to do more than lie (or exaggerate) when communicating with them.

If your entire “PR” department is limited to creating propaganda, you have already failed in a sense.

There is something to be said for “un-marketing” in Eve.

Being a relateable human being and engaging in communication not related to “serious business” can be one way to do this.

Truthfully, it shouldn’t be a purposeful or conscious decision to do this. You should simply allow yourself to be something other than a caricature of yourself when representing your alliance publicly.

Humility: In some ways, Test Alliance Please Ignore might embody this fairly closely. They are the 2007 Goons, before all the un-ironic smugness crept in.

Finally, “hugs.” I think that a little bit of respect for others is important. Expressing it at times can help you keep friends around for when those ties will really count.

Alliances with strong allies can rebound from a devastating event more easily for at least two reasons: (1) Others can step in for you directly and prevent your collapse, or (2) they can at least offer you a couch to crash on while you recover.

If you try to shoulder everything alone, your alliance will fall as soon as you’re unable to deal with even one major crisis.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Effective communication can take on many forms. While there is sound theory that can guide a leader along the way, it isn’t so important to follow a recipe that he or she should ignore inspiration or the desire for originality.

What makes certain alliances truly great is not their moon revenue, territory, or the size of their titan fleet on any given day. Those things can all be taken away by your members at any time if they decide to do so; not to mention your enemies.

What make an alliance great is uniqueness. As long as you offer some particular kind of identity and experience, there will always be people who simply “fit” there.