Transparency



  • @Ganymede said...

    Transparency would help this, but no one has come up with a way to define what transparency is necessary, and what is not.

    So let's discuss. Transparency: when? how much? where? about? etc.

    Do we set up court-dockets on-game so anyone can go see that Joe Bob is angry at Jane Marie, with or without details?

    ES


  • Tutorialist

    Mock court hearings would be awesome. In the way watching Jerry Springer is awesome.

    That said, I think explaining your decisions about rules and such is a necessary transparency. Disclosing punishment is probably not.


  • Pitcrew

    I don't know.

    On the one hand, transparency is especially useful when it comes to plotting with someone else if you're trying to create an Enemy Mine situation. e.g. ES and I are playing rival vampires and we tell each other plans and work together to make that rivalry fun and fucked up without making it dicey out of character.

    On the other hand, if ES and I don't get along out of character, transparency will likely end up in lying to keep the other person from preempting everything, etc.

    It would certainly help if at least staff or a designated storyteller knows the other people´s plans (as they would, normally, in tabletop). Either a staffer or a storyteller that both sides trust.

    (I think a large problem is people being too invested in always winning in rivalries.)

    This is, obviously, only on the "plans" level.

    I think staff should always be frank about who their PCs are.



  • There is no reason not to employ a system similar to what we have in the United States. All parties to the complaint are known, as are their allegations and claims. All decisions are public, as are the findings, the reasons for them, and the consequential rulings.

    I've heard staff opposition to this. To that, I respond: if you are incapable or unwilling to express your reasons for a decision that detrimentally affects another, then you should probably not make that decision.

    I've heard player opposition to this. To that, I respond: if you are incapable or unwilling to deal with the consequences of making a complaint, then you should probably not make it.

    Staff don't need to be transparent about how they come up with policies. But they do have to be transparent about how they decide specific complaints of conduct, against them or between players. Without the latter, all support is based on supposition and imaginings.


  • Pitcrew

    It sounds to me like the word transparency as it pertains to different subjects changes. Perhaps transparency as it pertains to a system of complaints and resolutions may have one policy, and transparency as it pertains to plots managed may be another policy?



  • @Ganymede said:

    There is no reason not to employ a system similar to what we have in the United States. All parties to the complaint are known, as are their allegations and claims. All decisions are public, as are the findings, the reasons for them, and the consequential rulings.

    YES. This is the best way. Not all that endless flailing about privacy and whatnot that leaves things shrouded in mystery.



  • I agree with this. I want to see it implemented. But.

    Passive aggressive and indirect OOC revenge and politicking. Gany, when you reply, I'd like to ask for concrete examples of how it would be dealt with. Use actual examples when possible. I have known too many people who didn't go to staff in fear of making the situation worse, even under the promise of anonymity. Most of these people are women.

    Promising it works is not enough, even with what the United States uses.


  • Pitcrew

    @Thenomain
    Hell, even in the U.S., there's a reason witness protection and witness relocation exists: being outed as the source of a social complaint makes you a target to the culture that you are aiming your complaint at.


  • Pitcrew

    Staff Transparency has two main branches that should be addressed separately.

    1. From a STer perspective, I think that scenes that involve judgment calls should have real reasons for being judged that way. Be they rolls, or considerations, or even a log of the discussions and agreements between all involved. And if those judgments are questioned then it needs to be discussed openly, with all the reasons for that call also discussed freely between all participants. There should be no judgment made on a STing scene that has reasons that cannot be discussed openly, with the caveat that sometimes reasons cannot be discussed while the scene is going on.

    As an example, I recently ran a plot where one of the people involved thought I was being completely unethical based on the roleplay that they could see. I responded as best I could while the plot was going on, but quite honestly full and open discussion couldn't be had until after the scene had closed. In the end, I had logs, rolls, and numbers to back up what decisions I made, but to reveal all those to the person who thought I was behaving badly would have meant giving the person information of other people's IC dealings, or alternately giving away the end of the plot before it was a fait accompli.

    After the plot ended, we had a long discussion about what was going on behind the scenes and why it looked, from an IC perspective, that certain things were unfair. I think (I hope!) the conversation ended in a good place, and the person who thought I was being unethical doesn't think so any more. Which is nice, as I like this particular player. That being said, that sort of transparency sometimes has to wait until after the fact, or the people involved in questioning would have to recuse themselves from the plot, in order for it to be fair to everyone playing. But I think you SHOULD be able to explain what you did, and as a STer you should be WILLING to explain at any point, so that people feel they have real answers. They may not be answers the players LIKE, but they should be able to get answers.

    1. From an OOC perspective, regarding player complaints, allegations of metagaming, and other problems - I don't think it's a good idea to force the person making the complaint to be named publicly. It's easy to say "well, you should be strong enough to stand up for yourself," or "if it's really a problem, you'd be willing to publicly say it's a problem" but the reality is that just isn't true. To Thenomain's point, a lot of women are afraid to stand up for themselves, or to say things are a problem that definitely are problems, and more often than not I've heard the "well, if you won't speak up then it's not a problem" is a rationalization I've heard by some of the worst, most abusive staffers I've seen as to why they won't do anything about what is a known problem. (Note that I'm not speaking of Ganymede obviously, having never staffed with her) Sometimes protecting those who are abused and afraid means keeping their problems anonymous.

    What I do believe though, in matters of OOC Transparency, is that disciplinary actions should be made public. If someone is given a 2 week ban from a sphere, it should be posted to that sphere. "So and so is taking a break for 2 weeks, for disruptive behavior/player abuse/metagaming/whatever." Or if someone is banned from the game that should be posted as an announcement. "So and so is banned from the game for alt-cheating." You don't have to go into every sordid detail, but if you make a decision to ban or suspend someone, have the balls to say why, and let people know publicly that Something Was Done. Too often even when staff takes action against someone, no one knows it actually happened so it looks like staff is doing nothing. This creates a culture of distrust, and a sense of "well, if nothing is going to be done why bother complaining anyway?" And then that leads to a spiral of misery where the playerbase no longer trusts staff, even if staff is trying to take action. If you complain, and you here "this was handled" - I think that's also not enough information. If you complain and instead you get "I spoke with so and so directly about his repeated attempts to OOCly pressure people to TS him, and let him know that this is not okay, and he is suspended for 2 weeks from playing this character and has been told that he may not address this issue with anyone he has pressured in this manner," then that's better. It sets specific guidelines and expectations, so that the people involved know where the line is now, and feel comfortable knowing you do too. And then you post on the board - "This person is suspended for 2 weeks for trying to pressure people OOCly to do things ICly" - and the game knows that you'll take action to protect the playerbase. And if said person comes back and does the same thing, then you get to ban them forever and no one is surprised.


  • Pitcrew

    Transparency re: IC things:

    *Documentation and archives
    *Any metaplot should be documented both in plan and as you go along summary on a staff board or forum that does not idle out so that when you have staff turnover you do not have a black hole of memory because someone "kept it all in their head"

    Transparency re: OOC stuff:

    *Yes, all parties of a complaint should be made aware of who/the nature of it. Person to person, not through a vague Some People bboard post.
    *All complaints documented and archived including those that are found to be unfounded/unactionable
    *All parties should be informed of the specific resolution.
    *Agreed that some disciplinary actions, such as banning, should be posted to the sphere/game at large. The basic complaint, the fact that it was found actionable, and the length of time for the ban. These actions should be posted to an active staff forum that does not expire as well, so that there is a running documented "ticker" for such things so that people do not have to dig up stuff out of the archives every time and so that when there is staff changeover someone can tell at a glance how many actions a player has had made against them.
    *I also happen to think that OOC discipline for OOC reason should be tied to the player, not to the PC. Someone with ten million alts should still only get 3 strikes for the same behavior before it escalates to the next level. The problem is the person, not the PC.


  • Admin

    And for the love of ... Defaulting a decision through inaction is not a valid approach.

    When an issue is first brought up there should be a very specific time frame under which staff has to respond and make a decision; it's up to players to provide input within that timeframe but either way there should be a resolution.



  • @Thenomain : It would be easier if you were to give me a hypothetical to address; otherwise, I'm just speculating as to what you want me to tell you. Thus, I'm unsure if my response would be "concrete" for your purposes. But, here's what I would do.

    The complaint is made, the parties are known and published. I would ask for the usual bits of evidence, like logs. And then I would perform my own investigation, asking questions and whatnot, and looking at prior history. Finally, I would write up a summary of: (1) what I reviewed; (2) what I discovered; (3) what facts or inferences may be established from the above; and (4) what I will do to address the situation. And then, I will do it. I don't expect the process will take any longer than a week.

    The purpose of the procedure is to demonstrate my mindset, and my process. Not everyone will agree with it, and I don't expect anyone to. The hope is, by publishing the decision and the process getting there, players are satisfied that something was done, and that something was reasonable. The outcome may be debated (e.g., whether the punishment fit the crime), but I think that players will be reassured that someone is doing something. And if they disagree fundamentally, then will have cause to depart.

    Regarding complaints against staff, I think it's important to administratively suspend staffers while they are investigated. This may cause a disruption in staff services, but that disruption is outweighed and justified by the fair play promoted by the process. I honestly do not think this process would be especially difficult to implement, fairly and promptly.



  • @Ganymede,

    That's concrete, but I don't think it answers the social backlash implications of the method in such a small group environment, is all.



  • Your "social backlash implications" are undefined. Based on what you said before, I can only presume and advise as follows.

    Regarding passive-aggressive behavior, this will always exist. Deal with it, or cut through it, but there can be no staff policy that can effectively address how despicably and cowardly people treat one another.

    Regarding indirect OOC revenge, that may be raised in a complaint as well, or added to an existing one. That's the beauty of an open system: you can complain as you will, have an investigation, and a determination as to whether something shall be done or not. But, be careful: if it is found that one is abusing the system, I would not hesitate to have it cut back.

    Regarding politicking, this is another thing that people have to deal with. I have no remedy for it; worse, any policy that may be enacted will be yet another thing for people to use in their petty political worlds. I haven't the time for such nonsense.

    Beyond these three things, there is the potential backlash that the small group will tear itself apart. That is telling, under the circumstances: if provided with a reasonable, real-life mirror of a "justice" system, a group that tears itself apart is likely unworthy of efforts to keep it together.



  • Social backlash implications: Wherein someone takes the knowledge of the complaint and acts upon that in an IC manner, or an extended OOC manner. People just don't come to staff about this, because there is no trust that staff will know what to do. "Prove it" comes to mind, and these are things that cannot be proven. What Billy says to Joey behind the scenes to make Joey act like a prig to Sue, because Sue once complained to staff about Billy, and now everyone knows it. Jimbo, who doesn't like Billy for no particular reason, jumps on Sue's complaint bandwagon and they form an alliance against Billy and Joey, though Joey has nothing to do with it except that he's being fed misinformation.

    Whether or not Sue was right or wrong, is this is the exact opposite of the kind of game I want to play on. This is already the kind of game we play on. How does everyone knowing what everyone else thinks, or people being afraid to come to staff because of the above, solve anything? Rather, what is it that you're trying to solve? Because I don't immediately see it solving the trust issues that most destabilize a game.

    Maybe if you have the right staff, and the right players. But if you have the right staff, then you don't need a system like this. They will make do with what they're handed. If you have the right players, you don't need a system at all.


  • Admin

    @Thenomain said:

    Maybe if you have the right staff, and the right players. But if you have the right staff, then you don't need a system like this. They will make do with what they're handed. If you have the right players, you don't need a system at all.

    You can't ever have the right players unless you specifically plan to have a tiny game and are pretty strict about every character approved and ever position someone is promoted to until it's clear who fits in. It'd probably not be much fun for anyone involved.

    You can however control who staffs for your game.

    Now, while the burden of proof is on the accusing part I agree it's next to impossible to deal with. Even things which are conceivably demonstrable - such as abuse of OOC information turned IC - are usually really subjective and take a tremendous amount of shifting through logs and reading between the lines for someone to establish.

    If however your staff has a good reputation for being fair and they don't mind dealing directly with crap they can still cut through the white noise and make a ruling. It's not the system though in that case, it's the people involved. It's damn hard to use this approach though.

    • For starters you might not have access to those kinds of staff members.

    • Most people think they command such respect whether that's true or not. Yet self-awareness if not traditionally most MU* players' strong suit.

    • Many staff have the illusion this respect is granted along with the staff-bit flag, and that the sliver of authority invested in them makes their rulings credible. The very idea is laughable.

    • The vast majority of staff members don't want to have to deal with even relatively small amounts of drama. What they do is hide it under the carpet and don't do anything about it hoping it'll just go away on its own causing +jobs sit there for weeks and months. Sometimes it works. Sometimes one party will just say 'fuck it' and leave your game, even if they were in the right. And sometimes it all turns into TR's Mage sphere - a cesspool of spite and universal mistrust left unchecked for so long it just takes over.

    For me there's only one way to deal with this: Pick your staff first. No, hand-pick your staff first. Everyone has to be really good. Adjust your game's size in any way you see fit so that things can be handled with the staff you have to avoid having to compromise who you are hiring. Then run that game, hoping you'll get quality people to replace anyone lost to natural attrition, burnout or real life.



  • @Thenomain

    In the case where Billy defames Sue to Joey, Joey thereby acts on it, and Jimbo jumps in to assail Billy and Joey jointly, there are several solutions. Mine is to suspend everyone involved in order to get to the bottom of the problem. Presuming the above facts to be true, I would release Sue, who has actually done nothing wrong, and admonish Joey for acting like a prig based on Billy's statements. My ire would be directed at Billy and Jimbo, as they have no cause to start the problem. The punishments would fit whatever the nature of the malfeasance might be.

    There is an immediate deterrence in a system where "justice" is transparent: calling in the authorities will bring the truth to light, or could make one look like a fool. Also, it demonstrates the mindset of staff in their investigations and determinations. "Trust" means "predictability" in the land of the anonymous. If you can count on staff to decide things swiftly and decisively -- and in a direction that promotes security -- that should enhance player trust.

    It's not perfect. Nothing is. But, in my opinion, the right staff should approach player complaints this way. And it may be enough to put the system in place to encourage players to resolve their issues themselves.



  • @Ganymede said:

    It's not perfect. Nothing is. But, in my opinion, the right staff should approach player complaints this way. And it may be enough to put the system in place to encourage players to resolve their issues themselves.

    I want to agree with you, but we need the right staff to be consistent and just (not fair, but just) to everyone. The idea that we can go through a revolving door of staffers, or that staffers do not act in a timely manner (because this is a hobby) undermines this from the start. The thought that players won't approach staff because they don't want to be outed undermines it. People should feel safe from retribution for their concerns.

    Anyhow, I think we've both said our peace in about as clear a manner as possible. Hopefully something can come from this discussion.



  • @Thenomain said:

    The thought that players won't approach staff because they don't want to be outed undermines it. People should feel safe from retribution for their concerns.

    While I'm sympathetic to people that are in an awkward situation, don't want to ruffle feathers, and/or need to remain pseudonymous for whatever reason, this is fundamentally incompatible with any sort of justice.

    The prosecution must cite sources. If they cannot, there is no case. Adherence to this principle is necessary in order to guarantee those who are witnessing and citing concerns from future retribution as much as those currently acting as defense.

    A complaint and its rebuttal should be either a matter of public record, or at a minimum visible to all involved parties. If you cannot trust the people in a mush to handle at least that much safely-- why are you playing there?



  • @Thenomain said:

    I want to agree with you, but we need the right staff to be consistent and just (not fair, but just) to everyone. The idea that we can go through a revolving door of staffers, or that staffers do not act in a timely manner (because this is a hobby) undermines this from the start. The thought that players won't approach staff because they don't want to be outed undermines it. People should feel safe from retribution for their concerns.

    You always need the right staff. How do you plan on recruiting them? With good systems. I would posit that if this system were implemented, you'd have good staffers lining up at your door. Why? Because the system protects good staffers by showing the players that, indeed, nothing nefarious is going on behind closed doors.

    People are never safe from the petty, weak, and jealous. To expect it is to expect a fantasy. It's nice to dream, but that doesn't mean that one should not strive for a better reality. As you said, right now, we have nothing, so unless there is evidence or argument that the proposal will undermine what security exists, I'm not sure if your doubts are founded.


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