A Peer-Reviewed CSM

Last week, Sion Kumitomo kept the drama train moving on the tracks towards the CSM X election by writing an article for TheMittani.com in which he rated his fellow CSM members who are running for reelection. He was, by and large, fairly complimentary of most running – with a couple notable exceptions. However, I don’t necessarily want to get down into the weeds on what was said, exactly. Instead, I’d like to talk about accountability for CSM members and the way in which Sion has demonstrated how that looks.

First off, let’s begin by stating the obvious – there is no accountability on the CSM. None, zilch, nada, not a snowball’s chance in hell. Sion himself has stated numerous times now that the CSM uses the NDA as a screen as often as they are actually bound by it. It’s a lot like elected a representative to Congress and then having that representative come back at the end of their term, asking for reelection because ‘things’. Why no specifics? Oh, national security of course! Okay, that’s not a perfect example – there are plenty of times national security really is a constraint on the transparency of a congressional representative, just as often as the NDA is actually a constraint on the transparency of a CSM delegate. The point remains though: how on earth are we supposed to judge the efficacy of CSM members?

One way, a way which many on the CSM itself tend to subscribe to, is how publicly engaged the members are with the players. This is not the best metric, though, not by a long shot. There is, of course, the problem involving the fact that the CSM is intended to be the player’s voice to CCP, not vice versa – appearing on every podcast on the planet, having a prominent blog, or spending all day chatting with players in an in-game channel is certainly helpful (in a keeping-the-pulse-of-the-electorate sort of way), but ultimately not the true purpose of the CSM.

Another way would be to judge members based upon attendance of the summits; this falls down as well. Taking into account the fact that everyone flown out to the summit is guaranteed 100% attendance (and who knows what those members are actually doing in those meetings), as well as the fact that timezones make it brutally hard for some people to attend remotely, as well as the fact that those who do not attend live are still able to catch up after the fact and provide input – you can see that attendance is a pretty poor metric. As a corollary, you could potentially judge participation on number of contributions to the CSM forum (or, now, Confluence), number of lines in a skype chat log, or any other silly number based metric you can tenuously tie to performance.

The real problem with all of these methods is the fact that sometimes, saying less is more. Sometimes, back channel communications are more effective than public confrontations. Sometimes, a given CSM representative’s opinion isn’t really pertinent to the conversations at hand. None of these things indicate an ineffective CSM member. All of them indicate restraint, patience, and professionalism – qualities you look for in a CSM member. So, great, I’ve shot holes in all the ways we can potentially monitor the CSM. It’s hopeless, right? The definition of Quixotic?

Perhaps not. Perhaps the key lies in what Sion did in his article. Controversial as it is, and for all the ruffled feathers it caused, it provided tremendous insight into the efficacy of the CSM members referenced. Now imagine if every incumbent running for reelection issued similar report cards for their peers. Imagine if they were anonymous in nature but curated to prevent straight-line ‘yes, yes, everyone gets a 5 I don’t care about this’ responses. Imagine, essentially, a peer-review process that took place in the weeks following the annual Winter Summit, but prior to the election kicking off.

Now we’re getting somewhere.

There are problems, still, with this: who would curate the responses to ensure trolling doesn’t occur; how do you prevent the process from being gamed in such a way as to cast one member in a particularly bad light; how do you disseminate this information effectively; how involved is CCP in the process; and so on. However, these are by and large logistical problems, not conceptual flaws. If I were a candidate looking to make some kind of reform to the CSM, or looking to encourage transparency on the CSM so that members could be effectively judged on their time in office, a peer-review board would be something I’d take a pretty significant, long look at.