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EVE Evolved: Stellar council - one month on


Yesterday marked the one month anniversary of EVE Online's democratically elected Council of Stellar Management. The council was created as a way for the players to democratically decide which game issues are important enough to bring to CCP's attention. Since CCP are unable to sift through the forum for important topics, this gives a way for players to put forward their problems in a constructive manner. The council vote on whether each issue is important or not and compile a list to present to CCP. CCP have the final say in what issues from the list they think need to be addressed and will essentially be using the CSM to focus player feedback into a constructive form they can use.

Since its inception, the CSM has been plagued with problems and disputes. From the beginning, it was clear that a surprisingly small proportion of the playerbase were interested in the whole thing. Only 11% of players voted and of those even fewer actively participate in presenting issues to the council. With such a low voting turnout from the general EVE populace, it was argued that organised alliance voting made up the majority of the votes. Disputes escalated to new heights with the conclusion of the third official CSM meeting but recent meetings have seen vast improvements across the board.

At this one month anniversary, I look back on the problems that have plagued the council of stellar management and how they've been handled.

The chairman:

The public vote for the council's members served a dual purpose. The results of the vote determined both the members on the council and who the chairman would be. With the highest number of votes, Jade Constantine was made chairman of the council for the next six months. Reception of the news was varied, with some players supporting Jade and others predicting that the council would fail horribly under his guidance. Almost immediately, the question was brought up of how a vote of no-confidence in the chairman could be enacted if required later.

The thread pointed out that if the CSM's chairman were to violate the processes laid out by CCP, there was currently no way to replace him with someone more capable. Those that didn't want Jade to be chairman used the thread to ask that he be immediately removed and replaced by someone else. However, the majority of the thread's responses supported the original idea that if the chairman did start to fail in his job, there should be a way of replacing him.

Jade addressed the chairman issue in a later thread, stating that he personally believed the chairman should be elected by a vote between the council members. Although current processes laid out by CCP did allow for him to step down and vote in a successor, Jade suggested that this would involve giving up his seat on the council entirely. Instead, he wants to get the CSM document changed so that the vote is mandatory for future elections. Making his intentions clear regarding his current term as chairman, Jade promised to step down and re-elect the chairman by vote if CCP permit that change during the Iceland meeting.

Why hold a second vote?:
Amidst the discussion over whether the council should vote for the chairperson or not, some players contended that the person who won the chairman seat had already been voted to the position by way of receiving the most votes. The problem with this is that the vote itself should not have served a dual purpose in the first place. People can't be expected to take the chairman position into consideration when voting for council members. Each of the council members was elected based on their plan for what type of player they were going to represent and what type of issues they were going to support. While this is all that's required to be a successful CSM applicant and win the initial vote, the council chairperson needs to have additional qualities that are not guaranteed by receiving the most votes in the general election.

The chairman is a normal voting council member whose responsibility it is to ensure the smooth running of the council. This requires a person who can easily separate their own opinions and agendas from their responsibility to fairly follow the established protocol. Whether they personally think an issue is important or not doesn't matter as each issue must pass through all of the official channels. This is an important concept because if the chairperson has more leverage over a decision than the other council members, that means he has more than just a single vote.

Allowing the council members to elect their own chairperson by vote would give them the ability to choose whoever they think best fits that role. It also allows them to voice their opinion on who they would most like to deal with in meetings, avoiding council members having to deal with a difficult or biased chairperson.

Rabble rabble rabble:
Complaints on the forum about the CSM have not been limited to its chairperson. Goonswarm, the game's largest alliance, managed to get two representatives voted to the council by sheer force of numbers. As expected, threads calling for a vote of no confidence in the two Goonswarm council members started up soon after the results of the debate were published. Complaints about Jade Constantine's handling of the council also began the day of the election results when he was declared chairman.

Jade's opponents claim that he has augmented his role by giving himself powers he is not supposed to have. In the third council meeting, he muted one of the other council members, an ability not outlined in the CSM document. Jade maintains that the council is meant to be making a lot of its processes up as they go along, that as the first council it's their job to work out the fine details and handle new problems as they arise. Jade recently added that he has deferred moderation abilities to other council members in the hopes of avoiding the problem in future. He goes on to suggest that since all voting council members have their own agendas, a non-council CCP employee should be chairperson.

Is the CSM fundamentally flawed?:
The concept of the CSM is a good one but its execution has been fraught with difficulty. A council of advisors who represent the playerbase to CCP could improve EVE immensely and shorten turnaround time on important issues being resolved. Unfortunately, due to low voter turnout, the elected members only represent the support of 11% of EVE's playerbase and so whether or not they truly represent the playerbase at large is still in question.

The council itself was created with vague guidelines from CCP and their influence in governing it so far has been almost non-existent. As a result, unforeseen issues such as how to conclude a vote's success or how to step down as chairperson without leaving the council entirely have been difficult to resolve. The council have had to fill in the blanks in places and build their own rules from the ground up. While this is an interesting foray into development of a political system, the lack of established structure adversely affected the council in its earlier days.

Final thoughts:
In laying down the law and inventing processes as he goes along, chairman Jade has ruffled more than a few feathers. In the eyes of some players, his abrasive personality and handling of the chair have brought the entire CSM into disrepute. Calls for him to be removed from the chair have surfaced on the forums, met recently with surprisingly enlightened efforts on the part of the chairman to keep the council on the right path.

As tempting as it may be to heap the blame for all of the council's problems solely on the chairperson, it is my considered opinion that as much of the blame lies with CCP as with Jade Constantine. If the council members had more direct guidance from CCP in administration and defining the chairperson's roles, most of the problems encountered so far could have been avoided or quickly resolved. Jade's eventual efforts to correct for previous problems and keep the fourth and fifth meetings conflict-free have proven effective and popular.

When initially declared chairperson, Jade left his critics with a strong statement of his intentions. "I've got my eyes on the future here", he said, "and I really want to leave the CSM process stronger and more certain for whoever is elected next time around.". The CSM is currently meeting with CCP in Iceland to discuss the issues raised by players so far and the future looks brighter than ever for EVE's first real foray into democracy.

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