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!


  1. Well...I can't say I don't applaud your honesty, and that you are sincere in feeling the need for this is also beyond question to me, but...meh.

    Politics is just icky, isn't it:

    Damned if you do, damned if you don't :(

  2. I have no problem with what you did ... but I don't entirely agree with Jester's proposition that the mass evemail was a pareto effect. There are those people who may have been about ready to vote for you who did not once they received the mass evemail. There may have been people last year who voted for you, but who did not this year because of the mass evemail you sent during the CSM6 campaign. Jester assumes that there is no negative backwash from there mass evemail campaign on to you ... I believe there probably was and is (although probably minor compared to the benefit to yourself overall.)

    1. The people who decided not to vote for me almost certainly voted for someone else -- and very likely candidates that I have supported. As long as the number of people who hadn't planned to vote but were induced to is greater than the number of people who had planned to vote but decided not to, then the total voting pool is increased.

    2. Total voting pool might be increased, but that makes your goal of getting elected even harder, since you have more votes to compete with, which makes the votes you do have worth less overall.

    3. That depends on what fraction of those new votes I get, and how much of the original voting pool I manage to shift to voting to me. Given that the election has 14 winning slots, and that new votes that I do not get will tend to get distributed over many competing candidates, I only have to capture a relatively small percentage of the additional voting pool in order to gain a net benefit.

      Or if you look at it another way, right now Jester has me coming in 8th. Let's assume he is right. In this case, I just need to get more of the new votes than the guy in 7th place to close the gap (and hopefully more than the guy in 9th place so that he doesn't close the gap on me.

    4. True. But there's no way to accurately predict what portion of those votes you will get, and whether the votes that do get cast are spread evenly among all other candidates. Would be nice if CCP would eventually post stats that showed voting per day or hour, so that after the election we could see the effect of your campaign. They'll never release that information, though.

  3. I like Susan and her blog very much--she is an well-spoken, smart person who expresses and defends her opinions with clarity and style. But at the end of the day, I think people are making a mountain out of a molehill with this particular issue.

    I was happy to help you with both the original email and this response to Susan. I should observe that I am no fan of spamming people and that we talked at some length about your approach to sending this email as well as the message it contained.

    In my view, a single political message from a candidate--regardless of how many characters that message is sent to or what publicly available methods were used to identify recipients--does not qualify as spam. To me, spamming is the act of repeatedly sending messages that are of no interest to me. Given that, I felt perfectly comfortable offering editorial advice. If I had disagreed with your approach in any way, I would have said so and refused to help.

    Incidentally, I noticed some people on the forums qualifying your message as spam because they got it on multiple characters. That does not correlate since there is no way for you to know whether one or multiple players owns those characters.

    Beyond that, anyone who was offended by the CSM mailing you did last year should have assumed you'd do the same this year and could have simply blocked you in advance of any potential election emails from you this time around if it was such a big deal. This is no different from blocking any other character in-game who sends unwanted messages, whether they do it once or many times.

    Also, CCP should amend the CSM White Paper or CSM Summary to include a non-ambiguous policy about political mass emails. Those documents and others that provide information about the CSM probably need updating anyway to reflect the changed structure of the council and policy about who goes to Iceland.

  4. I also don't buy your magnanimous argument, that a vote not cast for you is likely cast for someone you support. The EVEMail was designed purely to get you elected, not simply to get people to vote.

    That's reasoning after the fact, to calm down the shitstorm around the Mass EVEMail drama.

    That aside. I do applaud your EVEMail campaign and the amount of work that must have went into to harvesting all those player names, not too mention actually EVEMailing them afterwards (a lot of copy-paste, I assume, unless you automated it.)

    For future CSMs, I would support CCP giving all CSM candidates functionality to perform a one-time EVEMail to every account holder to get their message out to the masses.

    1. I'm not claiming that I was being altruistic. I'm just saying that it was a nice side-effect. Anyone who was not intending to vote but was spurred to vote by the evemail (but not for me), is either going to vote for The Mittani (because he's famous; those votes don't hurt me) or for a serious candidate who is actively campaigning (most of whom I'd be happy to see elected).

      With regard to your suggestion, I think it would make it too easy for lazy candidates to get their message out. They should have to suffer like I did. :)

  5. Just because you're allowed to do something doesn't mean that doing it doesn't make you an asshole. Having to put a CSM member on block list is extremely disappointing; you have become the single strongest argument for the implementation of a 'vote against' feature.

    1. Why would blocking a CSM candidate be disappointing if you don't want to receive their messages? Am I missing something here? Your reaction to a simple, one-time evemail seems kinda over the top..."asshole"? "strongest argument for 'vote against'"? Really? Seems more like the mass evemail is just a convenient focal point for your pre-existing dislike of Trebor.

    2. Let me guess -- you grew up after decent spam filters had been invented.

      I expect lies, dirty politics, and general unpleasantness during ~campaign season~, but there is a line between what is acceptable and what isn't. Spamming half of eve is so far across that line that even mittens can't see it from where he's standing. Trebor has placed himself squarely among the very worst class of person on the internet.

      As far as I can tell he does good work as a CSM, but this shit is uncalled for.

    3. Actually, I wrote one of the first spam filters.

    4. And I'm the same age as Robert, so there ya go. They didn't even HAVE the Internet when I was growing up.

  6. Screw em, it's an election season, if hitting the "trash" button is too hard, how the hell did they get to flying internet spaceships?

  7. [quote]
    First, Susan seems to think any unsolicited email is spam.

    Yes, that is the definition of spam. Unsolicited email.
    You Sir remind me of a Chinese Gold farmer we once banned for spamming in our forums. His reply? "It is not spam, it is my business".

  8. If spam emails were a problem in Eve, then I'd be pissed at Trebor for contributing to the problem. But they're not. I got an unsolicited email, scanned it for a few seconds, and deleted it. Much worse happens to me daily in Eve.

  9. During your CSM6 campaign, I was one of your "spam" recipients. I hadn't planned on voting in the CSM elections because I didn't think I knew nearly enough about the game or its facets to make a "truly educated" vote.
    Your email was educational about what the CSM does, how it works, and why it's important. I figured any dude who gave two fucks enough to actually sit down and fire off an email like that to random people he probably saw in local, gave two fucks enough about the game to serve on the CSM.
    So I got off my ass and voted for ya.

    This year, I didn't get such an email :tears: ... but I still voted for your big dumb ass anyways. lol.

    The thing I find really sad and ironic is that all the people who're bitching at you about a short EVEMail, are probably the same people who saw the Kony vid, hit "like" and "share" on Facebook, tweeted it, and commented in Reddit about it.
    OR they're the people who saw people "liking" and "sharing" it left and right, and fired off a nasty tweet/FB message/etc about "spamming up my page" right before un-friending/un-following the "offensive" party.
    *rolling eyes*

    Wait, how dare we post unsolicited comments to your blog, anyhow?

    1. I know! You should be ashamed of yourself! :)

  10. Was it spam? Yup. Was it bad spam. Nope. Unsolicited evemail from someone that I don't know? yup. did it ruin my day or annoy me? nope.

    Do I despise being contacted by politicians at home? yup.

    So. I was surprised at getting the EVEmail. I am surprised that such a thing is condoned by CCP. However, I am eternally grateful that all candidates did not similarly send EVE-mails.

    I would like to see a flag assigned to each character, a toggle to receive CSM mailing.

    I just really really really don't want to get to the point where any character in EVE can broadcast eve-mail that widely. The idea of getting "support candidate X" from mail from each of the 2000 candidate x supporters would drive me out of my nut.