Join me as I examine the creation of the CSM, how it works and what it's actually achieved since its inception.
How it works:
Players post threads in the Assembly Hall forum highlighting particular issues and other players can reply and officially give the topic their support. Those topics which get enough support are passed on to the CSM, who collect together a list of gameplay issues that the playerbase feels are important. Later the CSM members are all flown out to Iceland to have meetings with EVE's developers. In those meetings, they discuss the ideas on their list and find out which ideas are feasible and which aren't. Those that are feasible and developers like then get added to the development list for future patches and expansions.
The CSM concept is a very effective method of gaining useful information from the playerbase at relatively low cost and it's not limited to just EVE Online. Other MMOs have also begun adopting their own CSM-style player advisory board. In fact, Star Wars Galaxies has a similar "Galactic Senate" group which pre-dates EVE's CSM by a solid eight months. Age of Conan has followed suit with its "Class Advocate" system. One player is chosen to be the advocate for a particular class and players bring any balance concerns or ideas relating to that class to their advocate. While EVE's CSM is a more freeform system where entrants choose what issues they want to back and players vote, the underlying principle is the same.
The first CSM served as a proving ground for the idea of a player-elected advisory council. It ran into problems early on when the CSM delegates and their chairman "Jade Constantine" had a few clashes of personality. After a rocky start, the meetings became very productive and subsequent terms of the CSM have gone much more smoothly. Of course it was no coincidence that the launch of CSM came just after a major developer misconduct scandal. One of EVE's developers had been found to have abused his position to give himself and his alliance an advantage in-game. The famed T20 incident left a lot of the playerbase with a sour taste in their mouths and the media attention may have damaged CCP's reputation.
In the wake of that event, CCP intituted a new internal affairs department whose job it was to discover incidents of developers abusing their power. During their stays in Iceland, each group of CSMs get to see CCP's internal affairs department first hand. This level of transparency and the reassurance that the new procedures are adequate has gone a long way to restoring people's faith in CCP. Those procedures were put to the test in the third CSM when elected member Larkonis Trassler abused knowledge he gained at CCP HQ to make a profit in-game. The infraction was found instantly and Larkonis stepped down from his position on the council.
Read on to page 2, where I look at what the CSM has actually accomplished and why I'm considering throwing my hat in the ring.