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Wodahs-Reklaw

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Future of the Council Opinion/Discussion [POLL]
« on: December 02, 2018, 03:03:04 am »
Hello everyone,

as a member of the council and someone who is concerned about the health of the community I wanted to get the public opinion of the following:

1.  Should the council exist?
2.  If the council exists, what functionality does it play in the commuinty, which rules need to be changed, etc.

The current membership of the council [as of time of this posting  :kappa:]:

*  Luke  "Homieonice" Szklarz
*  Alec "Troubleclef" McDonald
*  Daniel "Wodahs" Coelho
*  Bryan "Boss" Bosshardt
*  Kyle "Flicker" Wiebenga

The main reason the council exists is the following logic (as far as I know) is that there are many very technical game related questions that come up from time to time.  These decsions are usually constrained to threads where having fewer, knowledgeable voices tends to have a more concice discussion about the topic being discussed.

Some examples of recent issues:
*  Removing player(s) form the fourm/rankings
*  Using HDMI modkits
*  Determining of what is "Quality" proof is
*  Deciding on what to do for LTK records without proof

The current structure is that only the Council members may view the content in the Council Sub-forum (to keep investigations prviate until decisions are made in the case of cheating).  Fourm admins also may view and comment in the topics when the issue becomes site related. (If anyone else wants to chime it on the specifics that would be helpful.)


-- My perosnal opinion is below --
I believe the council helps prevent decisions being made too quickly based on drama or of the moment thinking.  The discussions I have seen are usually very constructive and are free from the memes and perosnal attacks that may be prevelent in a public opinion poll.  The drama free environment where judgement is made in concerning the entire community but all the historical context of the game and previous decisions is important.  So I think it has value.

However, I think the following changes should be made:
*  Council sub-forum should be publicly readable (if possible)
*  Have some sort of appeal or public override if anything we do is overwhelmingly disagreed with
*  Remove/Add members by public vote
*  Have the Council members themselves be not just deciders, but "leaders of the community". I am not entirely sure what this means yet, but I think the council members should be here to help facilitate healthy discussions and possiblely represent The-Elite if need be.

I welcome any discussion and I hope everyone stays on topic!
« Last Edit: December 02, 2018, 03:14:17 am by Wodahs-Reklaw »
Daniel Wodahs-Relklaw Coelho

TheFlash

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Re: Future of the Council Opinion/Discussion [POLL]
« Reply #1 on: December 02, 2018, 03:56:06 am »
Thank you for taking the initiative of starting this discussion.

The main reason the council exists

An alternative explanation is that at the time the Elite Council was created, there was no single leadership figure who had all of the required:

- Trust of the community
- Composure under direct personal pressure
- Time and energy
- Knowledge of the games
- Technical capabilities

to make, implement, and stand by the decisions needed to run the entire rankings site.

The current structure is that only the Council members may view the content in the Council Sub-forum (to keep investigations prviate until decisions are made in the case of cheating).

A few notes on this point:

- At one point it was agreed that all Elite Council topics would be moved to a publicly viewable area after resolution. That has not been the case for over 2 years. I do not know why this changed.
- There were exceptions even when there was a publicity agreement. For example, one time a Council member shared private conversations with another individual in confidence that they would not be revealed to the general public.
- At certain points in the past there have been Elite Council topics or data specifically marked "private", indicating that they believe the specific information should not be publicly shared.

Fourm admins also may view and comment in the topics when the issue becomes site related. (If anyone else wants to chime it on the specifics that would be helpful.)

Specifically, this currently means Jimbo, Ngamer, and me.  Ngamer officially passed the Forum Administrator role to Jimbo a couple years ago so he is both Forum Administrator and Rankings Administrator at the current time.  Ngamer retained the Admin role to assist Jimbo with administrative duties and the operation of administrative controls.  I have the Administrator role in order to make changes to the server configuration but do not claim any right to add or remove moderators or make major changes to the forum without Jimbo's express consent. I also frequently advise or assist Jimbo in operating the administrative panels.

Jimbo removed himself from the Elite Council but may have posted a little bit since his removal. Ngamer has not posted in the Elite Council threads at any time he was not on the Elite Council. I have posted very sparingly, I believe only twice in the last year.

In addition to the five Council members listed above and the accounts with forum admin status, users mw and Botched Movie Quotes currently have access to view and post in the Elite Council section of the board. As far as I know, this is at Jimbo's discretion.

*  Council sub-forum should be publicly readable (if possible)!

In case others like this idea, I will note that there are at least two options here. One would be to have a fully public section where most Council threads can go in addition to a private one for the rare cases where privacy is necessary. Another would be to maintain the current setup, but move threads to the publicly viewable "Elite Council Archive" immediately upon thread resolution. Also note that it should be made clear to Elite Council members when they are making posts that will eventually become public, to avoid posting things that they would not say to a wider audience.

*  Have some sort of appeal or public override if anything we do is overwhelmingly disagreed with
*  Remove/Add members by public vote

The most important thing with either of these "community based" decision making strategies is having a clear and widely known procedure for enacting them.  In a recent episode, a Council member made a public poll to inform the Council on a decision, and there were numerous claims that the system in place was unfit for various reasons including: not having a quorum (excluding moderately or mostly inactive site members), voters wishing their choices were not publicly viewable, and whether or not "fringe" members' votes would be counted (or any procedures for canceling a voting attempt).  They can work, but not without great care.

I think the leadership also needs to clarify whether or not the "Rankings Administrator" has power over the Elite Council or serves under them.  My belief at this point is that the Rankings Administrator could make any unilateral decision above the community or Elite Council's wishes if he felt they were sending the site down the wrong path. This hasn't really happened lately, but I am interested to know which way this relationship goes. Also, does the Elite Council pick the Rankings Moderators or does the Rankings Administrator? In the past those members have been chosen by the Rankings Administrator alone, but that may not quite be the case anymore.

*  Have the Council members themselves be not just deciders, but "leaders of the community". I am not entirely sure what this means yet, but I think the council members should be here to help facilitate healthy discussions and possibly represent The-Elite if need be.

There is currently a leadership vacuum approximately 6 feet 3 inches tall and 220 pounds.  Whether we have an Elite Council, a Lone Leader, or a Community Show, there absolutely must be a single individual responsible and held accountable for things like:

- Making sure decisions are publicly and widely known (on at least the forums, if not the rankings -- a single line in Discord doesn't cut it)
- Making sure decisions are actually implemented once they are made
- Communicating decisions directly to affected parties
- Having the final, absolute say when things go totally crazy
- Being a participating, active member in the community who can respond quickly to developing situations

Finally, to the actual questions at hand.

1.  Should the council exist?
2.  If the council exists, what functionality does it play in the commuinty, which rules need to be changed, etc.

I think it can be a useful institution, but I would really like to see it reframed!

If a Council exists, the purpose of it should be to inform, guide, and reaffirm the single individual responsible for leading the entire site.

They should act and make decisions on behalf of:

- The Community
- Each game
- Alternate modes on the rankings

They should understand that this role is more of a responsibility than an honor.  When the Community wants something changed, they should be able to go directly to a single Elite Council member who would then be responsible for informing him/herself of the situation and then communicating that to the rest of the Elite Council for discussion.

The single leadership individual should ask the Council for assistance if they aren't sure what to do. The single leadership individual should let the Council inform him of what the Community actually wishes to do.  If 67 Community members all post in support of some new idea, then the job of the Elite Council should be to review the idea, confirm the specifics with the Community, and convince the single leadership individual that this is the right (or wrong) thing to do.
« Last Edit: December 02, 2018, 05:01:19 am by TheFlash »

Petey

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Re: Future of the Council Opinion/Discussion [POLL]
« Reply #2 on: December 02, 2018, 05:00:02 am »
To add onto my vote, and take my vote and comments with a grain of salt if you wish, I've been involved in the discussions tonight, but I've never been particularly relevant to the community, though i have been around, off and on, for the past ~2 years and want what's best for the elite.

I agree with your idea that the council should serve to make reasoned and informed decisions that are best for the community, and I think it can do so better than a simple poll can do in most situations. I think all of the changes you listed should be implemented, as well as requiring, at the very least, an attempt to contact all council members to get their input in the decision making process before decisions are made (as was not done in the case of the [Banned User #7] unban). I believe these changes will help prevent situations where the council can be undermined and used to make decisions the community disagrees with, which, as we've seen recently, is a weakness of the council in its current form.

Source on everyone in the council not being contacted about the [Banned User #7] unban decision: Reddit Link
N.B. the numbers of council votes given here has been contested by some council members as well, and at least two council members who were not contacted have indicated that they would have argued against the decision to unban [Banned User #7] had they been given the chance.

Re: Council threads being public.  I'd say the first option theflash mentioned, most council decision threads being publically viewable, with a rare few being private, if need be, would probably work best.

I'd say the leadership you've displayed tonight, taking the initiative on this post, and taking the initiative, in general, in a difficult situation, after just learning yourself, tonight, what was going on, is exactly the type of 'leader of the community' quality the members of the council should have. Perhaps that would be easiest, as theflash said, if there were one leader and an advisory council, so that there wouldn't be situations where people are unwilling to step on toes and step up as a leader.  With that said, I'd strongly lean towards still having a council, rather than a sole leader, since having a single leader could make situations where the will of the council and community are undermined more likely, if said leader is not exceedingly well-chosen. 

While extremely unpopular decisions can and should be reversed, like happened in this [Banned User #7] unban/reban, it would be best to avoid situations like this in future, as they can clearly fracture the community. The changes you suggest, as well as a requirement of input from all council members in decisions, if at all possible, should work to make council decisions more carefully-thought-out, and should help avoid more situations like the [Banned User #7] unban in the future.
« Last Edit: December 03, 2018, 08:57:35 pm by Petey »

Shadow

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Re: Future of the Council Opinion/Discussion [POLL]
« Reply #3 on: December 02, 2018, 08:03:30 am »
Excellent posts, Wodahs and Flash.

Yes I do think the council should exist and I do think the functionality needs to be redefined (and I've thought this before recent events). I'm just going to urge caution on everyone's part not to just do so in reaction to recent events but to consider the history for the past decade.

No political system will ever be perfect but yes, either we need a council or a benevolent dictator---someone who will be able to make informed, careful decisions, whether popular or not, for the good of the community and site. I like some of Flash's suggestions for the latter and they merit some thought.

Here are some general observations:

* Absolutely agree that the role of the council needs to be better defined.

* I see the role of the council being to make level-headed decisions for the benefit of the site and community. There is both a technical aspect to this and a social aspect.

* This probably won't be a popular opinion, but in many ways I feel the council should be a speedbump. Decisions in general should not be made quickly and they are largely there as a protective buffer between the community/site/history, and the people.

* Being a good player to be a council member is not necessarily a good requirement, as I don't see the role as being strictly technical. Having at least one or two long-standing members is a good idea (Wouter, Boss) as they will have a different perspective other than the "now". Actually, because I see the role as not purely technical, I sometimes feel that having only high-level, active players skews the council's perspective. There should be balance and a willingness to make unpopular (if supported by evidence and logic) decisions.

* Community input though polls and discussions is helpful but should not be the sole arbiter. The community is extremely fickle and subject to mob thinking and being swayed by whoever is the loudest and most obnoxious. The community is ill-defined and I am very uncomfortable at what seems to be people from Reddit/Twitch forming accounts for the purpose of voting in community polls. I am also uncomfortable with how quickly a recent poll assumed the community had had time to weigh in. The community isn't defined by whoever is on Discord or whoever is fired up about an issue. A quorum is difficult but at least think about that direction as opposed to justifying a decision based on "whoever happened to log in the past 24 hours."

* I strongly believe the council needs to be (and has needed to be for a long time) more open. I support a publicly viewable subforum where all discussion takes place. I felt like a number of decisions (such as the Zwartjes one) were made before the public even knew about it. The decision log can be done away with if the council discussion is public.

* I suggest a separate subforum where polls are started by council members on each topic that may be controversial (strictly technical ones need not have community input) to be concurrent with council discussion. This helps avoid polls and topics being started by someone with a vendetta who frames the conversation in a biased manner. These polls are for the purpose of checking the pulse of the community, but are not the final say: the council members or the benevolent dictator need to have the final say. The polls should be private but the voters viewable by the council members, for informed decision-making.

* I can't think of a good way to elect council members, popularity contests (i.e., public polls) are not good. Council members electing their own members risks stuffing the council with like-minded individuals and "buddies". The benevolent dictator choosing them risks him choosing yes-men. Throwing that out there for discussion.

Again, these are really important things, and I look forward to seeing good suggestions and sound reasoning in this thread.

Slugg Christ

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Re: Future of the Council Opinion/Discussion [POLL]
« Reply #4 on: December 02, 2018, 08:51:01 am »
I feel as though the ideal way to mend the situation in most people's eyes while maintaining the benefits the council provides would be to maintain the council, but have community wide elections a few times a year.

I would also suggest polling decisions as well, requiring a majority vote from the community to pass.
This could be easily manipulated, so perhaps the sub forum for polling decisions should require 500 points for access, similar to the recent changes to discord.

Really, the ideal situation is my mind is to maintain a body of experienced members who are more seasoned on dealing with these issues, but at the same time reducing the amount of power that they hold, and placing some in the hands of the community.

The council members would be the first to discuss a matter before going public. When they come to a conclusion, a thread would be posted to poll the decision and share the conclusion of the council explaining to the community why you, as trusted members of the community feel the way you do.

Obviously this doesn't include banning cheaters etc. That would be a ridiculous thing to poll.

Not a perfect idea, but I feel it could he refined into a decent system.

Whiteted

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Re: Future of the Council Opinion/Discussion [POLL]
« Reply #5 on: December 02, 2018, 09:10:50 am »
Some kind of council is definitely necessary to prevent chaos in making decisions. I think a full-blown democracy is going a bit far, but I think a few measures would be good:
  • Community rejection of any decision with some strong majority like 66/75%
  • Some kind of regular rotation (maybe every year, half year) of who's in the council, replacing 1-2 members (individuals could return).

I'd stress this from Shadow:
Quote
Council members electing their own members risks stuffing the council with like-minded individuals and "buddies"
Perhaps it is a testament to the privacy of the council's discussions but I never got the impression there was much disagreement on the council, which I'd say is a bad thing.

Luke

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Re: Future of the Council Opinion/Discussion [POLL]
« Reply #6 on: December 02, 2018, 03:36:27 pm »
The following problems with how decisions are made by the council need to be changed otherwise any effort to fix what happened this past week will be made irrelevant fast.

1. We cannot allow someone within the council the power to make a decision and act on the decision without there first being a vote between all members of the council.

- This means notifying everyone and having heard back from everyone.

- Possible solution is have the person who can then press the button only able to have access to the button after a decision is reached. Keen to hear any suggestions for how to implement this.

2. Perhaps it is too easy to simply "resign" from the council.

- We witnessed the abuse of this first-hand last Thursday. Following Karl's scramble to get his, Goose's, Grav's, Troubleclef's (who was told there was already a majority vote), and persuade Jono, we had Karl, Grav resign from the council (Goose was removed).

- Is this too easy for council members to band up, do whatever they want and then simply resign to avoid further blame / responsibility. Ideas for how to deal with this are welcome.

3. Make the council more transparent with the general community. Discussions can be private but decisions and the reasons behind them should be made public.



LAS

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wheatrich

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Re: Future of the Council Opinion/Discussion [POLL]
« Reply #7 on: December 02, 2018, 07:49:01 pm »

- Is this too easy for council members to band up, do whatever they want and then simply resign to avoid further blame / responsibility. Ideas for how to deal with this are welcome.


What you just stated is what the karl/goose/grav etc types of the world do EVERY SINGLE TIME.

Luke

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Re: Future of the Council Opinion/Discussion [POLL]
« Reply #8 on: December 02, 2018, 08:09:45 pm »
yeah so maybe council members shouldn't simply be able to resign at a moments notice
LAS

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Petey

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Re: Future of the Council Opinion/Discussion [POLL]
« Reply #9 on: December 02, 2018, 08:19:15 pm »
Or maybe, in general, council resignations shouldn't nullify all repurcussions for actions taken as a council member which are determined to have harmed the community.  Something like the possibility of a temporary community ban for such actions would probably help prevent similar events in the future.
« Last Edit: December 03, 2018, 07:01:41 pm by Petey »

Klewer

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Re: Future of the Council Opinion/Discussion [POLL]
« Reply #10 on: December 03, 2018, 12:28:30 am »
It's always felt like a "cliq", and definitely needs to become more transparent.
I actually think the current size is ideal after the resignations.

Luke

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Re: Future of the Council Opinion/Discussion [POLL]
« Reply #11 on: December 03, 2018, 12:33:38 am »
I wouldn't mind a couple more positions on the Council to make sure a wide range of viewpoints can be put forward.

I think 7 would make a great number, who else agrees?
« Last Edit: December 03, 2018, 06:34:24 am by Elite Top 5s »
LAS

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Petey

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Re: Future of the Council Opinion/Discussion [POLL]
« Reply #12 on: December 03, 2018, 12:44:30 am »
Yeah, i think 7 would probably be better than 5 or 9, personally. Bit more chance of disagreement and constructive discussion, but not too large as to make it difficult to get in contact with all members before decisions are made.

Shadow

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Re: Future of the Council Opinion/Discussion [POLL]
« Reply #13 on: December 03, 2018, 06:30:17 am »
Seven seems reasonable.

Huzi

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Re: Future of the Council Opinion/Discussion [POLL]
« Reply #14 on: December 03, 2018, 03:40:42 pm »
I think 7 is good

Alec M.

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Re: Future of the Council Opinion/Discussion [POLL]
« Reply #15 on: December 04, 2018, 04:07:55 am »
Se7en!
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Wodahs-Reklaw

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Re: Future of the Council Opinion/Discussion [POLL]
« Reply #16 on: December 05, 2018, 02:02:24 am »
So just to respond, I think it has been recommended that the council should have 7.  It hasn't been decided the process for adding the other two yet.

I don't think a total re-org of the current council is all that desired since only one/two comments suggested a total reelection.

Once we have our 7 we shall decide based on the feedback the best ways to implement more transparency, formal criteria/process for coming to decisions, and decide what to do if members of the council look to undermine one another etc.

I have been a bit busy and havn't been pressing much at the moment, so nothing official has been done yet, but I would keep an eye on the council decision log and maybe for formal announcement somewhere.
Daniel Wodahs-Relklaw Coelho

Shadow

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Re: Future of the Council Opinion/Discussion [POLL]
« Reply #17 on: December 06, 2018, 01:58:16 pm »
I just wanted to point out real quickly that this poll and topic highlights how problematic going to a community-democracy (without a council) would be. Here we have arguably the single most important decision that will have longest- and deepest-lasting ramifications for the site and community and I'm noting a huge lack of participation. ~30 votes, no offense but probably a third from people who I've never heard of (maybe they are active in Discord or Twitch but half of those don't have any forum posts at all) and most importantly, I'm struck by who didn't vote. Two cents.

TheFlash

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Re: Future of the Council Opinion/Discussion [POLL]
« Reply #18 on: December 06, 2018, 10:06:51 pm »
The poll has been open for several days now and currently sits at 44 votes. People are still voting, but I think it would be nice to see what kind of comments people are leaving alongside their votes.

Leave as-is: 11 votes
Change: 25 votes
Remove: 8 votes

Most of the comments on these are pretty easy to analyze, here's a rough breakdown, including the comments in this thread.

Add members (most say 7)11
Don't add members1
Increase transparency8
Public vote to initiate or override council decisions7
Add/remove members regularly by vote6
Council members should also be community leaders4
Replace the entire group of members2
More community involvement2
The power to enact changes should be more carefully gated2
Smaller council1
Add the PD proof mod1
Add/remove members other than by public vote1
Don't let council members resign easily1
Improve council decision making process1
Include gaming abilities in a council membership test1

Keep in mind that any of these that are asking for a specific change rather than reinforcing the status quo are counter-balanced by the 11 members who voted to leave everything as-is.

Some of these seem worthy of actual discussion:

Adding members

I'm a little surprised how many people seem to want to add more members to the council. The only person who explained their reasoning on the member count was one who wanted a smaller group ("less of a clique").  The council has had various member counts over the years, at times having as many as 13, if not more.

Can anyone who is interested in this avenue share their reasoning? What benefit comes from having additional members?

I have been thinking about drafting a post about the dysfunction and disorganization of the council over the last several years. Having a large group sometimes made things difficult. I believe a smaller group has some advantages like increased personal accountability for actions, less hivemind/"sounds good to me", and a lower overall burden on the community's resources (this is way more a responsibility than an honor).

Increased transparency

The last policy I knew of was that council threads would be made public after discussion ceased. That stopped with no mention of why. I don't know if this even constitutes a call for change, more like a call for people to do their jobs.

Public vote to initiate or override

So messy!

I'm going to write a big thing about this but put it in spoiler tags because I don't think it actually matters:

Spoiler
Someone suggested a specific forum with strict rules for voting in specific topics. If you want to go down this route it will need to have well formulated rules! Many people think they can just make a poll about something and get some votes and BAM, it's a thing. This doesn't always work so nicely.

For example, the council themselves have failed to clarify the meaning of their votes on numerous occasions leading to general confusion.  They often vote about a concept rather than a specific change to the text of the proof policy or a specific rule to be published. Then it comes time for implementation and they find out they actually don't agree as much as they thought.  Taking this to a community-wide level will require great care.

Something like a specific moderator who has to approve a poll before it goes live, or similar, would certainly help. Even better would be requiring a pre-poll topic to clarify exactly what will be voted on. There will also have to be a clear policy on who can vote, how long they have to vote, whether potential voters need to be notified or not, thresholds, etc.

Or instead, you could just continue the current trend of having *informal* but non-binding polls to **inform** the council members of the community's wishes. Then the council members can take up the tough work of coming up with an exact solution. Make them do the work for you, it's their job.

And if a poll comes out 49-48 and the council comes up with a compromise or picks the less-voted option, they should totally be able to do so, with the knowledge that if enough people don't like their reasoning they could be voted off the council for not representing the community's wishes.

Adding and removing council members

This is already in the rules document. It says:

Quote
If public opinion of a council member becomes negative, discussion will be held in public forum to remove or replace members of the council. Likewise, when public opinion of a member of the community is favorable for addition, they shall be instated to the council.

It sounds like people want to do "elections" to refresh or remove the council members. Just need to determine voting eligibility and the process for calling a vote (term length or on demand). This is much easier than having the community make policy decisions by popular vote.

The power to enact changes and Don't let council members resign easily

If someone abuses their powers they should be removed following whatever procedures are in place. This seems like a case of "technical barriers won't actually solve the problem".  I read a description of events that happened recently where a large number of those in power made a number of conflicting decisions in a short time period. Keep in mind that even if something is wrong for a few hours, what really matters is where the final result stands.

If someone wants to resign after a controversial decision, as long as they aren't picking their successor, the newly formulated council can just override whatever poor decision was previously made.