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Official V6 Away Thread
Handler: MurderWeasel
Dates Away: July 6, 2017 - July 12, 2017
Days Away: Seven
Reason for Away: Going out of state, may not have internet and won't be around much even if I do.
Characters: Nobody! Mostly for chat/in case mafia's rolling by then.

v7+ concepts
Very up in the air because I'm bad at concept stage stuff and nothing comes together until I've got a profile. This may get ditched, replaced, etc. on a whim, but hey, I'm posting a concept to see where it goes.

Shane Ragsdale is the nicest guy in the world, but a lot of losers can't take a joke or insist on pushing points even though he's obviously right, which means he gets in his fair share of squabbles. He's really good at picking up hobbies, achieving expertise in short order to the point where he knows better than veterans how to do things, so it'd be great if they could stop criticizing him and implying his failures are the result of some fundamental misunderstanding. He can be a great friend if you're the sort of person who can walk on eggshells or if he decides he likes you, but otherwise he can be a little unpleasant to be around. One thing he's legitimately good at is bluegrass, and he plays banjo and sometimes mandolin in a pick group that meets weekly.

V7 Pregame Information
Quick question:

When exactly in the early 2010s does the school date to? Assuming that V7 takes place in 2017 or 2018, the characters in question could be the inaugural class if the school was completed in spring 2013. Even if this is not the case, it seems like students would've attended the school at the same time as the original class/could have older siblings in that class, which also makes me curious how the opening was handled (for example, was the freshmen-only rule in effect from the start, leaving the school to slowly fill up, or were there initial transfer classes from some of the other schools?).

Thanks!

Project: Wiki
I'd almost suggest spinning Endgame off into its own page (or having an extra page for it too, a la rolls). A few reasons for this: 1. it might be useful to discuss the changing mechanics that come with Endgame, 2. it might be worth cataloging the exceptions (Endgame is usually but not always four--V4 and sorta V2 had five), 3. it could be worth listing Endgamers somewhere (something that was suggested during the slimming of the old MVP page but never implemented largely 'cause nobody got around to it).

General Video Game Discussion Thread
I believe flash sales were discontinued due to the introduction of the refund system a few years back. The result of that is that currently the overall sale tends to be slightly better than the base sale in the past, but a notch or two worse than the best deals. It's worth poking around a bit to see how good the deal is (Cheapshark and many other sites track across platforms and give historical lows) because some devs like to put stuff on an actually-not-that-amazing rate in the main Steam sales now and will have it cheaper at random times throughout the year. I'll do some poking to see if there's anything super great on sale this time, though.

Mass Effect Mafia Fallout Thread
I think now's a decent time to remind the collective that, despite occasional suggestions to the contrary, I am truly spectacularly bad at scumhunting in most situations.

Mass Effect Mafia Fallout Thread
Flare
Jun 22 2017, 10:27 PM
Letting people quote their roles pretty much throws this out the window, as you can see by how this game became a discussion of "Would decoy word it THAT way?" and how accurate our hits on scum were after we all just mass-claimed and blew the game open.
Funnily I once got called out for faking a role PM because it was full of typos. It was faked, but my actual PM was also full of typos and I'd put fake ones in for authenticity to that. I guess everyone else got proofread PMs. ><

I don't think PM-quoting is bad if there's a mechanism in place to punish (and mod-provided safeclaims is such a thing--bonus points because scum could very quickly make the pool communal and swap PMs as they desired).

re: balance, I do think Town got a super strong hand and scum did not. Part (indeed, likely most) of this was the spread of roles scum had. Basically, a goon is the vanilla townie of scum and a designated killer with nothing else going is actually worse than a goon in most cases (being vulnerable to trackers, watchers, etc). If scum had had, I dunno, a busdriver and a one-shot strongman and a double-voter (to pick three scummy roles at random) that'd've left them with a few more cards to play to punish town mistakes. That said, we also did see an awful lot of townies effectively dropping out, which is fairly common in SOTF meta and gives scum an instant (and potentially major) leg up; to some extent, that may be a balancing factor of its own (especially since scum almost invariably stick the game out if no replacement can be found).

re: hundreds of posts, there are two sides to that coin. Yes, huge, fast threads are hard to parse. I fell way behind at multiple points and really struggled to force myself through like ten pages of overnight argument (and I had a lot of posts myself!). On the other hand, there are a lot of folks who tend to largely check out of the game, or say they're not good at coming up with stuff early and then sit around waiting for things to develop, and that strikes me as equally problematic and a factor in how certain voices become dominant. You don't have to be perfect to engage in discussion. You don't even have to be good; I think with the last few games I've amply proved my general early-game incompetence. But giving something, even if it's stupid stuff like "I don't like Goose's grammar, watch him later," allows the conversation to become more full.

In short: I think if everyone's posting more, there's gonna be less of the three-people-have-half-the-game effect.

Mass Effect Mafia Fallout Thread
@Maddie: I haven't really figured balance yet--I just like to start stuff off with positive notes and saw some solutions to common issues that I liked! I'll give full setup thoughts later but I do think this skewed notably town. That said, I think your role PM (if it's as quoted) actually explicitly says your kills are blockable, making "Hitman" just a term for designated kill role (which is something I use too). That actually weakens scum compared to a floating kill in terms of balance, as an overall observation.

Mass Effect Mafia Fallout Thread
I had fun with this game for the bits I was in (though I fell out of following it afterwards for non-game reasons). I can't speak to the flavor, but I think having double role PMs for scum is a solid way to handle some of the unique setup elements (including the quoting of PMs) and it's cool to see that that's how things worked. I also am always pleased to see games that skew a bit more vanilla in setup/roles involved, and that's not afraid to assign some vanilla townies.

EDIT: I do think a couple non-Vanilla safeclaims could've helped scum a lot, though, since whacking vanillas is comparatively low-risk. Though scum of course could've also tailored their claims as the game progressed, and there is a measure of information on town's comp inherent in any safeclaim PR.

Staff Responsibility/Accountability
A few thoughts:

SOTF Help
 
While staff has, at some points, allowed a 24-hour grace period prior to sending activity notices, this was never an official rule and it is no longer in practice as it made properly keeping track of activity and keeping staffers all on the same page difficult.

This was not an official handler-facing rule, but it was internal policy. References:

V4 Inactivity Thread, posts 56, 126, 242, 363.

V5 Inactivity Thread, posts 21 and 23

I'm also pretty sure I posted to the same effect in the V6 activity thread, but don't have that one hanging around in my hoard. As is probably obvious by this reply, I did back up certain historical staff threads while archiving versions a while back. I did check my references before making the initial assertion.
SOTF Help
 
Immediately after receiving his notice, Ciel messaged a single staffer personally to state that he had been in the process of posting when the notice was sent. In light of this, that single staffer, without allowing for deliberation from the staff team as a whole, erroneously rescinded the notice.

Logs have been posted. I respectfully disagree with the interpretation in question; Ciel requests that the staffer check Help, the staffer does so and claims to be consulting with the staff team, and then a response is issued.
SOTF Help
 
When the rest of the staff team was available to review the decision, it was ruled to be incorrect and the terminal notice was reinstated. At this point, Ciel had not made an official appeal and was now given the chance to do so through the proper channel of Help.

This has come up a few times in discussions, but what constitutes an official appeal? Where is this defined? The initial response was sent through SOTF_Help. This is logged. As I've said, it's certainly not a good appeal, but I see no evidence it's not an appeal overall, and I do think it's incorrect to frame it otherwise.
SOTF Help
 
At this point, Ciel contacted MurderWeasel to claim that staff had unfairly declared his character inactive without giving him a chance to appeal.

This isn't quite correct. He contacted me to discuss the situation. I smiled and nodded and expressed condolences until the granting and rescinding came up. That became a pretty major issue for me. It remains so. I was aware of the other facets of the issue, but I don't think staff handled them inappropriately in any way and have no interest in arguing them.
SOTF Help
 
MurderWeasel contacted staff through Help to share his concerns about the situation. Multiple staffers spoke with him and explained the situation, but he felt that this merited public discussion and made this thread.

This is true, though all conversations were individual staffers speaking for themselves, as I've noted before. The general consensus was that I had not misunderstood the situation.
SOTF Help
 
It must be reiterated now that at the time, the matter had already been settled. A decision had been officially reached almost a week prior to this thread’s creation. Staff accepts full responsibility for the initial error in handling this case and any confusion or inconvenience that it caused, but that error had no bearing on the eventual outcome.

Respectfully, I do not see evidence of accepting responsibility for the initial error. To accept responsibility is to admit fault and set things right within one's power. That either has not been done, or the way staff sees handling fault varies from how I see it (differing opinions are of course fair, but I'd argue the results here are unfair). In this case, I do feel that the fair way to handle things and show true acceptance of responsibility would be to honor the original appeal, then take whatever internal actions are necessary to prevent recurrences (personally, I doubt that much beyond a simple "Staff don't do this again" would be required, given that this has become such a wide topic of discussion.
SOTF Help
 
Ciel is not being punished for a staff error. His character was terminally inactive and was taken care of in the same way as any other terminally inactive character would be at this point in the game. He was allowed to appeal through the proper channels, he did so, and his appeals were denied after the proper amount of staff deliberation.

I mildly disagree here. Had Ciel posted at the same time without any initial warning PM being sent, would staff have marked him terminal? Clearly no--people go over two weeks all the time and get away with it by sliding under staff's radar. Retroactive enforcement has, to my recollection, been brought down on someone once in site history. It was on Mini, and it came after several explicit warnings that retroactive punishment would be applied. It still didn't feel very good.

A handler was authorized to post by SOTF Help--where he lodged his initial response--and did so. In any other situation, that marks a return to activity. It doesn't feel good for that to suddenly not count, and it doesn't feel good for Help's responses to be open to question. That's the difference, and what makes the typical response inappropriate. Otherwise, I'd be 100% on-board with this.

To say he is not being punished for staff error assumes this as the starting point: Ciel is terminally inactive. I think, however, a slight change in perspective will reveal a different situation. Consider the following starting point: Ciel has just had his appeal granted and has put up the post he was 80% through, returning to activity.

There remains no way for him to have known that this second point wasn't where he was at. Everything else comes from internal staff discussions and knowledge. I really do get that--I've been on both sides of this--but the fact remains that Help granted an appeal, the handler acted in accordance with the outlined terms, and then staff changed its mind.
SOTF Help
 
Since this has also come up, the recent PSA about contacting staff through the proper channels was not a direct response to Ciel's actions either. It was written in response to multiple instances throughout the current version of handlers messaging individual staff members through PM, chat, or other channels with questions or concerns better sent through Help, which just makes it harder to keep all of staff on the same page.

Thank you for the clarification. As noted, I don't think the thread in question really applies here at all since the procedure it outlines is the one Ciel followed, and if this is a recurrent issue elsewhere it's not my place to address it.
SOTF Help
 
While it is important to uphold the rules of the game, it is equally important to maintain an enjoyable writing environment for handlers and to avoid complete character destruction as what may have happened with the characterization of Bart and Scout. As such, Aura and Ciel may have five days to draft a one-shot death for their respective characters and submit them to SotF_Help. Staff will work with you on any questionable details such as time, location, or any other requests you may have.

While I still disagree with all the stuff I've noted above, I do want to pull this out as the incredible act of lenience it is. If staff are settled in the other matters, this is, as stated a few posts ago, way above and beyond and a major exception. I think it's pretty important to highlight this and give massive credit where it's due (while, of course, continuing my poking at the issues I have with other facets of this).





I'd also like to thank staff for giving me the official reply I've been asking for. While obviously I still disagree with the ruling and handling of the situation, having an active and official dialogue helps me feel much better about the whole process.

Staff Responsibility/Accountability
A couple thoughts:

RC
 
Why is a character who has not posted for a month without an away allowed to have a proper death thread written by their handler, but Jeff and Aura have a death post handled by SOTF_Help mid through a discussion? Staff has the right to declare inactive characters dead, but at least let the death be handled by their handlers when they're active. Equality, guys. A month is the double of 2 weeks.


There's actually a really specific reason for this, and I don't think it's an incorrect choice on staff's part (bar the "midway through a discussion" bit). The short of it is, killing characters off takes a lot of staff time and effort and is usually a last resort. If a character is rolled but the death is taking forever, staff is faced with a choice. If they intervene, they either have to do the scene in progress on the handler's part (which produces roughly the same results as letting it go, but potentially actually slower as staff has to catch up, and likely at lower quality as staff isn't as familiar with the character) or do something totally different (burning those currently involved with the death, and also being kinda slow and not as great). If they don't intervene, that stuff is avoided.

Meanwhile, if a character is inactive, it's pretty important that staff write the death, just because of what inactivity means. If staff allow handlers to write inactive deaths, it raises a really big question: why are the characters dying to begin with? If someone can be trusted to get a death together, that's effectively a second chance. At that point, just let them keep writing the character! Otherwise, it looks like the purpose of the inactivity system is narrowing the field, which it really isn't (at least, in my experience).

I don't think that the thread in question is meant as an insult. I think it's a pretty standard inactive situation absent the external circumstances around it, and there's a lot of complicated stuff that goes into writing such threads. It's not mid-bathroom-break-collarsplosion here. Stepping into an unoriginal character's story just to end it is really tough, will almost never feel totally satisfying or line up with a character's story well, and just kinda sucks all around, and I think by and large staff do the best they can.





re: communicating with staff, I also had mixed feelings about the "new" rule, but mostly just because it confused me. Heck, it still confuses me, since as I mentioned a while ago it doesn't actually seem to apply to the situation in this thread. I do think that in most cases a simple "Thanks for raising this concern, I'll have to bring it up with staff and get back to you," suffices. There's even room for a "Here's my personal opinion, but this is very much not up to me and needs to go through staff as a collective." I think everyone agrees that nobody should be pressuring staffers one on one and that decisions should involve the whole staff if necessary, but I'd also put forward that staff made it this far dealing with all kinds of stuff without routing people through Help, just via solid in-staff procedures. The weird thing to me about the rule is that it's basically no major change to how stuff has always been handled, except removing a bit of staff responsibility to be able to deflect.





Malloon
 
If both side of the issue have broken the rules, however (which I would disagree with, since on a purely technical basis, only Ciel broke a rule (sorry Ciel)) and the consequences of both are inconsistent, then the only option left is inconsistency. If there were a rule in place to deal with conflicting rules, then there wouldn't be inconsistency, but there isn't, so whichever option offers the least inconsistency, it seems, would then be the best option. Murder and Riki have said that what Staff says through SOTF_Help should be considered true for fairness for the handlers on the receiving end, even it it's because of an individual member going rogue, but while that might be a good policy and perhaps a good rule, it isn't official. Since it isn't official, even though it perhaps should be, the only inconsistency is perhaps the lack of leniency. I'll get back to this later.


I would disagree here, even in technicality. The rule in question is:

Inactivity PM
 
If you wish to appeal this inactivity, please respond to this PM within three days (seventy-two hours) with your appeal. Failure to respond within the time limit will result in your appeal being denied, unless you are validly listed as Away and thus unable to respond.


I think arguing that Help isn't binding based on stuff outside handlers' knowledge is a very slippery slope. After all, if that's the case, how are we to trust this rule? And what does it mean for the vast majority of the site's rules, which are posted from individual staffers' (or former staffers') accounts? Is all of this stuff unofficial?

Malloon
 
For Ciel's case, which might or might not be a moot point at this point, some people have said say that we can be lenient despite the importance of rules, as long as it's stated that this is a one-off thing because of the mistake made by the member of Staff or because that would be more conducive to the fun we're to have here. The counter-argument that has been made to the first point is that this is not a one-off thing and gives individual staff members too much power, whether or not they're punished afterwards, since this does set a precedent for any case in the future where a staff member makes a mistake - it's either that, or more inconsistency, which would also counter the second point, since that would impact the fun for other people in the future, among other things. In essence, if and on whatever grounds leniency is/would be granted here (since this has been thoroughly discussed and will be brought up in later cases), whatever is granted has to become a new rule.

This same counter-argument above has been used against the idea that there should be a rule that everything that Staff says in official capacity should be true - having individual staff members make a decision that can't be changed can definitely be dangerous. I don't have to say why, I think. That fact that staff members are thoroughly vetted before joining mitigates this somewhat, but staff members are people, and people can make mistakes, as demonstrated here.

I sort of agree here, but the big thing is that there is an enforcement mechanism already in place for rogue staff decisions: internal discussions, procedures, and consequences, as necessary. As I've said before, that could range anywhere from "Please do not do this again," to "Okay, you need to check everything with at least three other staffers before posting and failure brings dire consequences," to "Sorry, you're off staff." It's all about magnitude and results. I think making everyone wait a day to see if staff means what they say is an unnecessary slowdown--that sort of thing should come before they say it! Especially since staff check-in has been something that's been harped on a good bit internally (I don't have the text anymore, but I had a couple rambles on this a few months before dropping from the team).





re: RC's point about who the staffer was, I actually disagree. I do think new staffers make mistakes, often. That's part of the learning curve! But the staff test at least historically has specifically poked at the difference between unilateral action and staff discussions, and while mistakes happen, it's still not fair that the handler be punished. I do think it's a good argument for internal staff stuff to amount to a slap on the wrist, though.





re: second appeal, I've avoided it because Ciel has expressed a desire to avoid digging into it. Also, while I personally disagree with rejecting it, I think that, had it been a first appeal, staff would've been 100% within their rights to do so, and I'd be in a spot where my stance would pretty much be, "Wow, that's pretty hard-line, but it's staff's right to say rules are rules." Staff can reject appeals for pretty much any reason barring their own screw-up. I don't think they should, but they can!

That said... there's a reason that staff screw-ups are the exception: it's unfair to punish handlers for staff error. We all know where this line of discussion goes.





re: exceptions: I dunno. I don't think rewriting the thread is the way to go as far as the issues at play go. If staff wanna do so, cool (there is precedent from V4 Endgame, though that offer was never taken up) but that's a whole other can of worms and a real complication, and as I've said I think the death thread isn't perfect but I think absent its interjection into the conversation it's pretty fair. I think any staff fiddling with it is outside the scope of my issues and if they do that's really them going above and beyond and being extremely extremely generous.

My conversation with Ciel that started this all was mostly him venting, and us actually disagreeing about the general workings of the activity situation. The initial appeal situation didn't come up until two hours in, and pretty much hard-turned me on the issue. That's my dog in this race. That's what I see as being a huge issue (coupled with the communications issues that have shaken out since). Aside from those two issues, I think staff has handled everything in a way that's harsh but does follow both the letter and a spirit of the rules (not taking a potshot with "a" as opposed to "the"--there has always been disagreement on the exact philosophies and purpose of the activity system).

Staff Responsibility/Accountability
Also, one other thing I can 100% say from my staff tenure:

This stuff takes time. Quite a bit of it. Getting everyone on the same page, drafting replies, etc. is a multi-day process. I've only kicked things up a notch in cases where I saw other facets of the situation progressing without the conversation doing so. By all means folks should feel free to speak their minds, but even if staff met right this second and decided to totally change course and resolve the situation in the way I think is best (and I'm not saying that's likely) it'd probably take a couple days for any sort of announcement to approach readiness. Lack of an immediate response is to be expected and is not a sign of disrespect or lack of concern.

Staff Responsibility/Accountability
I would like to weigh in and really suggest that ultimatums are not the way to go here. While I absolutely want a response (and trust me, I've had my own rather heated moments in this), I would prefer wherever possible to try to keep things calm and by the book.

At the end of the day, everyone's here to write and have fun. I know I'm coming off hard in this thread. I feel strongly about this. But I do feel just as strongly that everyone here wants roughly the same thing: a functional, fun, happy SOTF. I think staff have mismanaged things but by and large I do not think they have acted in bad faith and I really would like to call on everyone on all sides of this to also not act in bad faith.

Staff Responsibility/Accountability
Actually, in fairness, I failed to note one exchange:

Posted Image

Reads bottom to top. I'd censored only staff names from my initial log, and after this removed all other names too.

While sent by a single staffer, I do believe this is official staff communication. It is not, however, addressing my concerns.

Staff Responsibility/Accountability
Moving it here since it wasn't addressed in the appropriate venue:

Posted Image
Posted Image
Posted Image
Posted Image
Posted Image
Posted Image

All extraneous stuff has been trimmed. Apologies to the bystanders; the initial statement got my hackles up.

To be clear: I, personally, have never received official statement from staff on this matter. My communications have been as follows:

1. immediately after hearing about the situation, I drafted this thread. I reconsidered because I specifically did not want it to be publicly messy unless necessary, and instead PMed it to Help with the following note:
Quote:
 
Heya, staff. I was all about to fire this off in a righteous rage but after taking an hour to proof it and reconsider and muse a bit on how past disagreements played out, I decided to send it by PM instead as a first attempt at resolving the issue. I am not looking to start a massive public ordeal, but rather to deal with an issue that I feel is extremely pressing and serious. That said, I'm very intent about this being addressed and may well bring it back to the Support board if I feel that doing so is in the interests of site health and full transparency. I'm in a somewhat difficult position here in that I'd much rather be having this as a conversation involving the site as a whole, but fear that my history on staff and the rather extreme nature of my current disapproval of staff actions would risk cultivating an atmosphere of hostility, which I really do not want to do.

I also don't really want to rewrite the post to account for the change in audience, since it took long enough as-is, so here are my concerns laid out:

<snip OP>


2. I had the aforementioned Skype call with a couple of staffers, who were hoping to correct what they thought was a misunderstanding of the situation. It was established that I did not misunderstand, and both sides acknowledged the unfortunate inevitability of further discussion on the matter. I think "Voice call during video games at 2 am" is pretty clearly not official staff communication.

3. When staff moved forward with rolls without responding to my PM, I posted this thread. At around the same time (starting shortly beforehand), I was chatting privately with the above-quoted staffer on the situation. It was, I felt, a productive discussion. That said, it was an unofficial discussion with a single staffer, and one in which both sides again acknowledged where this was headed.

4. All other exchanges are logged in this thread already. I don't speak for Ciel. I've seen some of his communications with staff, but I'm not sure if I've seen all of them. But no official communications have come my way, unless that one response to the PMed logs signed by a single staffer counts.

I'm totally down for anything proving me wrong to be posted. Maybe I've somehow forgotten. Maybe in some weird twist of fate I missed a PM or something. I double checked to the degree I can, but hey, I've been wrong on very silly stuff before, and I'd actually feel a lot better to discover that I'd done something foolish. But here's the gauntlet: if staff has officially communicated with me, I'd really like to see some evidence of it.

Staff Responsibility/Accountability
See, I think there are a few things at play here.

First off, if there's a problem with staffers acting unilaterally, that's an internal issue. Staff can very much self-police such problems. If it's a recurrent or major deal, staff have loads of options for individual action or removal of offending parties. If it doesn't merit such drastic measures, then clearly it's not a huge issue.

Beyond Goose's point, though, I feel like staff are trying to have it both ways on this issue. They've moved forward at every step without acknowledging concerns in any official capacity. There have been personal statements, and I greatly respect the risk and initiative those staffers who made them took, but at the same time anything prefaced with "this is only my opinion," is not an official statement. This needs one. One has been directly requested multiple times. The only reason this is getting any attention is because folks are persistently prodding over it, and that's a sorry state of affairs.

Staff Responsibility/Accountability
Yeah, I'm pretty darn disappointed right now. Still no official response to any of my queries or concerns.

Staff Responsibility/Accountability
Zetsumodernista
Jun 5 2017, 03:27 PM
MurderWeasel
 
Among other things, if we really want to get into closed-doors policy, the initial notification was a violation of the twenty-four-hours buffer period designed to account for timezone differences and specifically to neutralize complaints about being warned mid-post... a protocol placed in V4 after the granting of an appeal basically just like this one, and one which I believe I reminded staff about following the sending of an inaccurate terminal notification near the beginning of V6.


This is the main thing, for me. If the original notification was sent erroneously (gah, that doesn't even look like a word anymore), then the appeal should be granted, no questions asked. Staff has to comply with appeals in cases where the original inactivity warning was mistakenly sent.
That's true, but it's complicated. In this case, there's official-public-rule (which is "one second past deadline = inactive") and there's private-staff-protocol (which was, at least until my departure, "wait 24 hours minimum"). I actually only bring that point up to note that there are already exceptions to the internal system being made here, so I find the statement that it must be protected at all costs questionable. Staff are 100% within their rights to enforce to the second, and the rules very specifically say so... it's just not the established internal procedure that held for the past six years or, which was in part specifically designed to avoid incidents like this.

Staff Responsibility/Accountability
My thoughts:

First off, while sixteen minutes is quick, it is absolutely not unheard of. The inactivity system also works a little bit differently than most parts of staff work, unless something has changed since my time on staff without notification. It used to be that activity enforcement was delegated to certain staffers, and appeals were often handled by that small subcommittee, or required a simple majority (as in, waiting for everyone to be online/weigh in was not required, given that a notable chunk of staff never checked or responded to the list). At several points in V4, appeals were granted within minutes, and that was before the advent of staff Skype and Discord groups, which streamline communication immensely. There has never been any particular formula for drafting positive responses to appeals unless the appeal in question was a prickly issue, since it's not something that requires much PR oversight.

More than that, much of this requires pretty intimate knowledge of the staff team's inner workings. When it's staffers and ex-staffers chatting, that's fine. When it affects members, however, it is not.

You state that the PM was unofficial. I disagree. It was unauthorized, but it was sent from an official account in compliance with the official rules.

On that note, activity enforcement has always been a bit of a grey area. I don't particularly think that a dredging of all the little foibles and exceptions is necessary, but as the person who handled it most directly for the duration of V4 and V5 and who wrote the rules being cited, I think I have a pretty good understanding of them. Among other things, if we really want to get into closed-doors policy, the initial notification was a violation of the twenty-four-hours buffer period designed to account for timezone differences and specifically to neutralize complaints about being warned mid-post... a protocol placed in V4 after the granting of an appeal basically just like this one, and one which I believe I reminded staff about following the sending of an inaccurate terminal notification near the beginning of V6.

Failing to grant legitimacy to the communication is the arbitrary betrayal here, and not merely of procedure (which to any handler view was followed) but of site trust in the handling of such matters. Because, let me be clear, the rules as written have not been followed. The rules are that you reply to the PM to appeal, then staff replies to let you know how it shakes out. There is no rule involving rescinding an appeal. This is because it has never happened, in the history of the site.

If staff screwed up, it is on staff to eat that and fix the issue. It has always been.

I think a more apt metaphor here might be double jeopardy. If the jury lets you off, you can't be dragged back in just because they find more evidence later that you did it.





To Zetsu: Not exactly. My argument is this:

If an appeal is granted, it is granted. This is especially the case when the handler did everything correctly. There is nothing in the rules about rescinding appeals because it is so alien a concept nobody ever thought it might happen. There is no justification for rescinding an appeal short of handler deception. If the appeal itself was invalid, yeah, yank it. If it was merely mediocre, tough beans.

Every mistake in this process besides waiting too long to post rests on the shoulders of staff as a unit or a subsection of staff in particular. And a fair administration does not punish others for its mistakes.

More than that, in all cases it is admitted that a handler would have no way to know how the inner workings of the system play out. CHanging the rules and pulling the rug out from under someone is unacceptable.

To pull a recent example I became aware of not too long ago, now that all involved are dead:

In V6, an illegitimate Hero Card was played. By the adoption rules, a character may not be Heroed until three rolls have passed. In this case, since the characters in question had only been offered after the first rolls, that means there's no way three rolls could have passed post-adoption but pre-fourth rolls.

Now, this is clearly not on any of the handlers involved--the rule in question, IIRC, never needed invoking during V5 and was somewhat obscure (though it is actually what prevented Kaitlyn from being eligible to be saved by Swap the next time she was rolled). It's mostly on staff for forgetting to vet cards, but it's an understandable and fairly minor mistake. The question, however, becomes what should've been done were it caught before all involved were dead.

Were it caught during card time, the fix could be a pretty easy "Sorry, can't Hero yet." Were it caught after card time ended but before anyone died, things would get pricklier. Would staff revoke the Card (causing disruptions to deaths in planning)? If so, would they give an opportunity for someone else to Hero Kaitlyn? After all, the first Hero likely moved her off the lists of everyone else considering Heroing. What if a later handler who Heroed someone else would've instead saved Kaitlyn? It's a huge can of worms.

Now imagine the issue were discovered only after Oskar's death. What's the course of action then? How might rescinding the card work? Would Oskar come back to life? Would both characters have to die (making Oskar's death unrolled)? Would someone else get a chance to Hero instead?

I bring this up mostly to make the point that, once an error is introduced and a handler moves on with the understanding that everything has been dealt with, changing course is messy, complicated, and feels bad. The issue currently in question happens to be one where the damage is fairly limited in scope... but the inciting error, I feel, is much less understandable and ambiguous than the error regarding card usage. And yet, I struggle to imagine that staff's stance on the former would be anything other than lenience, assuming it was caught after the fact (much as this error was caught only after a post had been made, bringing the character back to active status).

Staff Responsibility/Accountability
I don't think it needs to take until V7 for this to be fixed. In fact, the system as established has prevented such problems for at least six years.

I'm giving this a poke because of a few reasons. First off, I have yet to receive an official response of any sort to my concerns, as expressed either in this thread or through PM (I've received several polite and professional unofficial ones, but this is something that really does require an official response). I understand that these things can take time to discuss and deal with, but I strongly believe such things must take precedence over plowing ahead in ways that serve to compromise the potential for fair decision-making. This leads to the second factor in my renewed discussion of the matter: the posting of rolls using a list excluding the character in question. I contacted two staffers within ten minutes of the rolling list being updated to strongly suggest that any characters in contention remain on the list in the short term. This has been policy for a very long time because it prevents some pretty unfair situations, and I'm disappointed that such preventative measures were not taken, especially since doing so in no way compels staff to change their minds, merely leaves a window open for it to be less of a problem should they choose to do so. The roll system is key to SOTF's functioning, and its integrity really needs to be beyond question.

In this case, if a character is excluded from the list but later restored to good standing, a huge procedural problem emerges. It's unfair to every other handler in the game to wave a restored character through even a single set of rolls, especially so late in the game; getting a free pass represents a huge advantage. It's unfair to the targeted handler to roll ahead in such a way as to put them into this situation, especially if in so doing staff makes it harder to hold a discussion on the situation. Likely the fairest option should an appeal be granted afterwards would be to hold a special set of rolls based on the probability the character in question would have been rolled had they been included in the first place, followed by a separate set of card and death timers as needed should it unfold that they are rolled. Needless to say, this is inelegant and messy in the extreme.

I bring this up primarily because it represents what I feel has been staff's inexplicable and damaging philosophy throughout this issue: a full-speed charge ahead followed by a bullheaded defense of the actions taken sans acknowledgement that they might have been incorrect.

This has manifested further in my private, unofficial communications with staff. I was repeatedly led to believe that a factor in the rescinding of the appeal was that the initial action had been in some fashion coerced or guilt-tripped. I came to suspect, however, that the bulk of staff was not actually particularly aware of the incident prompting this, since my discussions on the matter with various parties produced markedly different summaries of what transpired. This led to the following exchange (also featuring my suggestion about the rolling list--in the interests of full disclosure, the staffer in question stated they were not involved in the rolls, leading me to seek out a second staffer who informed me that it was too late to make any adjustments, and I have no complaints whatsoever with the staffer in question or any aspect of our communications--indeed I greatly valued a chance to bounce ideas and thoughts off a member of the team). I'm the one doing the majority of the talking in this excerpt:

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So I went and got the logs myself. Here they are (with the staffer in question masked for anonymity):

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Note that the only direct request made in the conversation is to check Help's PMs. The staffer in question politely and professionally suggests calm, notes that they are going to talk to other staff, and makes no promises of either resolution or timeframe of response. This is, bluntly, a pretty perfect reply to the situation... except that the staffer in question apparently then made the decision without actually consulting all of staff.

Everything in this exchange suggests that all avenues being pursued are the official ones. There are no untoward requests whatsoever. Indeed, the recent post detailing manners of staff contact agrees:

Emphasis Mine
 
Attention handlers,

Recently we've had a series of instances where handlers have approached individual staffers in regards to appeals, matters of dispute, and other sensitive discussions. We would like to take this moment to direct people towards messaging the SOTF_Help account instead.

Approaching individual staffers for matters that require input from the entire staff team is awkward for the staffer in question, as it puts them on the spot and comes across as pressing them for a speedy answer. It can also cause issues where personal relationships are involved, as whilst we wish to have pleasant interactions with handlers on the site, we also have responsibility to maintain fairness and keep the rules enforced, which can naturally lead to some disappointment. Utilising the impersonal channel of SOTF_Help allows us to avoid awkward conversations between staffers and handlers, and keeps relationships out of the decision-making process.

Please keep this in mind when considering approaching a staffer for matters. Whilst things like questions and requests for information are fine in most instances, sensitive matters or appeals should go through SOTF_Help. It is fine to approach one of us to ask us to check the SOTF_Help mailbox, but please leave it at that.

Thanks and kind regards,
The SOTF Staff team


At no point in the logs is any request made other than to check Help's PM box.

So, having secured these logs and permission from the handler involved to see to it that staff received them, I PMed them to staff with the following note:

Me to staff
 
Heya, staff!

In the interests of full disclosure, I did get hold of the logs of Ciel's initial contact with staff. I think it will pretty well verify that he did not request specific treatment or intervention, was led to believe that his decision was the result of staff team consideration, and at no stage behaved inappropriately. I was pretty disappointed to receive these, honestly, because I'd been hoping there was a lot more going on that I was unaware of.


I received the following reply signed by a single staffer:

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I replied as follows:
Pronouns Changed for Anonymity
 
That requires a willful misreading. He approached [them] to check and bring the matter to staff attention. [They] notified her (should be "him"--what can I say? It was late) that [they] had done so. He thanked [them] for [their] assistance. Individual staffers are thanked for collective actions often.

More than that, what's material here is that there is no inappropriate behavior on his part. I was told there was some pretty major emotional manipulation. That appears to not be the case.


So we are back to square one, and my complaint and request for reply stands. A handler followed every rule, was specifically told that their appeal came as a result of staff consultation, and then had it rescinded after posting.

For all intents and purposes, staff did this:

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I really do think this needs to be addressed and discussed as a matter of serious concern and site health. Mistakes are natural. To grant a mediocre or poor appeal is a minor mistake. To do so without staff discussion is a moderate to severe one. But to then retroactively move the goalposts and steam ahead without proper discussion is the single biggest non-member-safety-related mistake I've seen in my time on the site. Endless V3 Endgame delays coupled with unfulfilled promises? This is worse. That affected everyone evenly and staff by and large owned and apologized for their mistake and did their best to see things handled as fairly as possible given the circumstances. Hero Deal enforcement? This is worse. That was a horrible rule that undermined the very spirit of Hero Cards, but it was one applied evenly and in which there was at least a clear good faith rationale behind it, however misguided. To selectively call backsies on an issue affecting a single handler, one in which the stakes are so lopsided, shows that staff are willing to make exceptions to over a decade of policy and written rule in favor of punishing one member for unclear reasons.