Saturday, March 24, 2012

Gambling by Mail

The results of the elections are in, and I've been re-elected in 5th place with 3184 votes.

But a much more relevant number is 718. This is how many more votes I received than I needed to get into the top 7 -- the CSMs who are assured of attending summits. Or to put it another way, if I'd gotten 719 fewer votes, I'd have come in 8th.

That number, and the structure of the elections, explains why I mass-mailed a lot of people on the first day of the elections. It's important to recognize that positions 8-14 are equally valuable (well, 8th has a chance of getting to go to Iceland if someone can't make it). So if you think you're going to come in 9th or 10th, taking a risk that might shift you a few places is, in effect, a bet you can't lose. If it hurts you, you come in 11th or 12th, which is effectively no loss. If it helps you, you might squeak into the top 7.

Given the situation I was in, with many high-quality candidates fishing in my voting pool, I guessed that I would end up somewhere from 8th to 10th place. I might just squeak in to 7th place, but it was iffy.

So it was time to roll the dice, and see what happened.

The mailing contained a link that redirected through my server to my voting page. After eliminating duplicates and obvious spam attempts (the one from an IP address in India was the most amusing), this link got 2235 hits during the election.

However, I used the same link in my forums signature and in my thread (a thoughtless oversight), so this number does not just represent the results of the mailing.

A more interesting number is 1020 -- the number of hits that came via the EVE In-Game Browser, since these were much more likely to have come from people reading the EVE Mail.

Thus, counting the fact that I lost some votes due to the mailing, and that some of the hits do not represent actual votes, I think a reasonable estimate is that the mailing netted me around 750 votes, +/- 150 or so.

We will never know if I actually needed the extra votes I got from the mailing. But I think I made a smart bet -- in particular when you consider the results for Two step, Kelduum and Hans, all excellent candidates who were definitely competing with me for votes.

Congratulations to all the members of CSM 7, both the n00bs and our returning champions. Tonight we celebrate, tomorrow we fly home, and on Monday it's back to work.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

An Open Reply to Susan Black

Yesterday, Susan Black (aka GamerChick42) posted an open letter chiding me for using evemail to solicit for votes. I thought I'd take a few moments to reply to her concerns.

First, Susan seems to think any unsolicited email is spam. For example, it is my standard practice to evemail people who post an encouraging message in my campaign thread, both to thank them and to solicit their help in rounding up votes. By Susan's definition (perhaps because I grouped together 5 or 6 people in the email) this is spam. I'm sorry, Susan, but I strongly disagree that replying to a posting in my campaign thread with an evemail is spam.

But of course, the email that really upset her was the one I did to a large number of players right after voting opened. Susan seems to think that in one devastating master-stroke, I have opened the gates that will permit a flood of unsolicited email to pollute her inbox. I believe her concerns are unwarranted.

CCP has stated that unsolicited mass emails are not permitted, with one exception: active CSM candidates may send out such emails, but are strongly encouraged to do it at most once.

In the real world, at least in free democracies, political speech is traditionally less regulated than other kinds of speech, and for sound reasons. CCP has simply extended this principle into New Eden. Susan may not like it, just as I don't like political robocalls, but on balance, more speech is better. Susan's actions demonstrate this: her response to my speech (the email) was more speech (her open letter), which resulted in more speech (this reply). The result was that everyone has a better understanding of the event and the issues.

In the next part of the letter, Susan appeals to my better nature:

She says that I portray myself as someone who puts in long hours trying to improve the game for everyone. So how could such a person be so rude as to sully her inbox?

She says that I say I listen to the community, so how could I do something that many in that community don't like?

She says that I have disrespected the community by "grubbing around for votes" instead of engaging in open and honest communication.

And she ends by saying that even The Mittani wouldn't stoop this low, and implies that I used EULA-breaking methods to send out the mails. Sorry Susan, but this is not the case! I suggest you do some experiments and find out for yourself how easy it is to use EVE-Gate to do something like this. As for The Mittani, if I was sitting on a 4,000 vote head-start in the voting like he is (thanks to the Goon bloc vote), I would probably take the same relaxed approach to campaigning that he is -- though I wouldn't be as arrogant about it.

Funnily enough, when he learned what I was doing, The Mittani attempted to pump me for details about how and what I did (I told him nothing!), and apparently put a team of Goons to work doing a cost-benefit analysis. I guarantee you that if he felt he needed to, he wouldn't hesitate to pull an all-nighter, just like I did.

In this section, Susan -- laboring under a misconception -- appears to believe that "Trebor of the CSM" and "Trebor the CSM CANDIDATE" are the same guy.

They are most definitely not.

Trebor of the CSM is the guy described in the evemail, who puts in the hours working for the community.

Trebor the CSM Candidate is a guy currently engaged in a vicious, all-out PvP cage-match with the other candidates for votes. Trebor the CSM Candidate knows that if he doesn't get enough votes, he doesn't get to be Trebor of the CSM, and that with only 7 people going to Iceland in the future, that cage-match went from a knife-fight to a gun-fight.

For most of the year, I'm Trebor of the CSM, hard-working Mr. Nice Guy. But during elections, I'm a vote-grubbing machine -- not because I like being that, but because the current election system requires that I be that. To do any less would be to betray those who support me.

That's why I didn't bring a knife to the gun-fight -- I brought a shotgun. In one fell swoop, I not only caged extra votes, but I also slammed the door on the other candidates -- because most of the voters that could be swayed by such an email will have either voted for me, or if they were pissed at me, voted for other candidates which will very likely be candidates I would like to see elected! Susan is supporting Hans, so she should be very happy: I'm sure he got a couple of dozen extra votes out of this, maybe more.

I guarantee you that in their hearts, the other candidates are either pissed they didn't think of doing this, or pissed that I pre-empted them.

Jester gets the logic behind what I did in this post - I introduced a Pareto improvement into the election, and captured most of the new economic capacity (votes).

Finally, in her concluding section, Susan asks me to petition CCP to make this tactic out of bounds in the future.

Believe it or not, I have no problem with this. Indeed, the greatest victory for a gamer is doing something that forces a change in the rules of the game. However, I would much prefer this be done in the context of a change to the voting system that makes the results more representative of the preferences of the voters -- because that, more than anything else, will encourage the kind of campaign that Susan would like to see.

Robert Woodhead

PS: You may be interested to know that another gamerchick (Mynxee) understood what I was up to and provided editorial feedback for both the final draft of the Mailshot Heard Round New Eden and this reply. Thanks, Carole! Love ya, babe!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Knocking on Doors in Outer Space

Last night was a busy night for me, because as soon as the polls opened, I initiated a plan that I'd been carefully working on for quite some  time.

The essential problem I faced with the CSM 7 election was that, with the possible exception of Seleene, I was the only major candidate without a core constituency.

The bloc candidates, of course, have their blocs to vote for them, and the other strong candidates either had mini-blocs or "functional" constituencies (such as Two step with wormholes and Hans with Factional Warfare). But I have always been a general candidate, attempting to represent the broader interests of the entire community, so I needed a way to reach my more diffuse constituency.

I knew it was going to be even harder than last year. Last year, you may recall, my campaign thread was heavily trolled, and I used that to my advantage. This year I was pretty sure that wasn't going to happen, and sure enough, the trolls didn't show up.

But I had another option - retail politics. In order to drum up votes, I would have to knock on as many doors in New Eden as possible. I also knew from what I'd done in the previous election that directly contacting players via EVEmail was feasible -- I used it both on my behalf and also to help out other candidates (in particular, Meissa).

So over a month before the election, I began my preparations. I compiled a list of names, used the API to get their corp affiliation, and prioritized them. I consulted with CCP and got a ruling from a lead GM that, just like last year, sending a political EVEmail to a character was fine -- it was sending a ton of messages to the same character that was against the rules.

And the moment the polls opened, and I had the direct voting link, I sat down at the keyboard and poopsocked it. Some people are claiming that I used a bot; this is not the case. I merely took advantage of my hard-won knowledge of EVEGate to send them as efficiently as possible.

It was a long night... a very long night. But hey, everyone who's worked with me on CSM will tell you I'm a hard worker!

The Political Calculus

Before embarking upon this project, I had to figure out whether or not it would be effective. And as it happens, I had the statistics from my efforts in the CSM6 elections. Based on that experience, I knew that:

* Almost all of the recipients who would flame me wouldn't have voted for me anyway.

* I would lose very few votes from supporters who were offended by the tactic, in particular because if they were, they would typically get in touch with me, and I would be able to explain why I did it.

* I would gain votes from the general community who hadn't been that involved in the election so far.

* I would be able to appeal to my supporters to lobby their in-game social groups on my behalf.

And finally, and perhaps most critically:

* I knew that if I didn't do it, someone else probably would. People had seen what I'd done last year, and other candidates had far more resources (whole alliances) than I did. Furthermore, the benefits would go to the candidate who struck first.

So that's why I pulled an all-nighter.

One of the few amusing moments during this grind-fest came in the wee hours of the morning, when The Mittani started asking me all sorts of questions on Skype about how I was doing it. He was clearly impressed -- and I'm not telling him a damn thing until after the polls are closed!

As you might expect, I've gotten a ton of EVEmail in the aftermath of my mailgasm. You will probably be shocked at how high the positive/negative ratio is.

But you won't be shocked about how tired I am right now.

The MailShot Heard Round New Eden

Just in case you haven't seen it, here's what I sent out:

Over the past two years, I have spent countless hours pushing CCP to improve the game for the benefit of the entire EVE community, not just one narrow interest group.

I am not the guy who arrogantly styles himself the King of Space and proclaims that your opinions are worthless.

I am the guy who thinks your opinions matter and that the CSM is about pushing hard for what the community wants.

I am the guy who spends at least an hour a day listening to the community and keeping you informed.

I am the guy who used crowdsourcing to show CCP what you really wanted. When they finally woke up last fall and realized you want spaceships, my lists of what you wanted told them exactly what they needed to do.

I am the guy who pushed hard for the removal of Learning Skills -- and made sure it got done right.

I am the guy who has been pushing for User Interface improvements every day, and now CCP is devoting more resources to the UI than ever before.

I am the guy who has been pushing for Industrial and POS improvements, building support for them, for two years. Guess what all the new candidates are talking about now?

I am the guy who has been endorsed by four members of CSM 6, the chairman of CSM 5, Cerain, Malcanis, Erik Finnegan, and Jester the EVE superblogger.

I am the guy who has been pushing and pushing and pushing on your behalf for two years -- and getting steady results.

Now I need you to push the VOTE button so that I can keep on working for you.


(You will be sent to the EVE Website in order to vote, and asked to log in. If you have multiple accounts, you get one vote per account, but you will have to log out of your current account and re-click the link in order to vote again. The direct link to the Election page is in case you need it)

After you have voted, push some more. Push this EVEmail to your friends and corpmates by clicking the FORWARD button. If you are using EVEGate, you will have to use the REPLY button and edit the To: line, otherwise the formatting will be messed up.

If you push for me, I will keep on pushing for you.

Thank you for taking the time to read this, and for voting.

Robert Woodhead (aka Trebor)

PS: Please do not hesitate to get in touch if you have questions or suggestions. Here are some handy links:

Campaign Thread -

My Blog: Confessions of a Starship Politician -

The July 2011 Crowdsourcing -

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Vote Early and Often

The polls are open in New Eden! If you think I've done a good job over the past two years and want to sentence me to suffer the sadistic seats of Icelandair for several more summits, then click here to vote for me.

The voting rules:

* One vote per account.
* Your account must have been created at least 30 days prior to the time you vote (or 60 days if created via the buddy program).
* Your account must have been active for at least 24 hours prior to voting.

So if you have an old account, you can reactivate it (say, by using a PLEX) and then vote the next day.

I obviously hope you'll vote for me, but no matter what, vote. Make your voice heard.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Dunning and Kruger Demolish Democracy

Since we're in the middle of election season in EVE, I found this article particularly amusing and appropriate. David Dunning and Justin Kruger, the two scientists behind the Dunning-Kruger Effect ("Incompetent people are too incompetent to know they're incompetent") have done some interesting research that indicates that it has an alarming corollary -- "Democratic elections produce mediocre leadership and policies".

The takeaway? Computer simulations imply that "democracies rarely or never elect the best leaders. Their advantage over dictatorships or other forms of government is merely that they 'effectively prevent lower-than-average candidates from becoming leaders'".

I guess this all just confirms what the eminent social scientist W. Churchill said over 100 years ago -- "Many forms of Government have been tried and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time."

The polls open in New Eden on Wednesday. Get out there and vote -- and try not to do it too incompetently! :)