Thursday, 15 August 2013

The burden of democracy

Democracy is a core part of our values as Westerners coming from the cultures we do. TEST alliance, which is based on the grass roots and permissive Reddit forum underlines those values further, as does the largely American base of the alliance with their written constitutional guarantees of free speech.

However there's two obvious prices you pay for operating as a democracy in Eve - 1) slow decision-making and 2) vulnerability to hostile agents.

As The Mittani once put it:

Abhor Democracy, Mistrust Reason: Most of the western world is governed by ‘representative democracies’ of one flavor or another. In practice, most of these are republics or simple plutocracies, but when players come to EVE they often try to recreate democratic governments as their first structures, as they have been taught that ‘democracy is good’ while blind to the fact that their real-world country is not actually a democracy. Similarly, there are some who believe that human behavior is governed by ‘reason’, despite decades of research into cognitive flaws. If you encounter someone so misguided as to actually believe in ‘democracy’ or ‘reason’ in EVE, run. Or, more likely, take them for everything they’re worth.

There's another more insidious evil too: internet arguing.

(With credit to XKCD)

TEST suffered huge burnout during the Fountain War and has a history of burning out its talent. Not only that but when people leave they are often bitter. Kurator, heroic defender of Fountain, who at one point during the campaign put in a 50 hour FCing stint left TEST to gatecamp our exit from Delve and take bitter revenge on the evacuees. (Although to my immense satisfaction I did get to use the words "Kurator is primary" yesterday when we blew up his Slasher).

TEST's next best hope, in my opinion, rests in its stated intent to transition to the campaign commander model used by Pandemic Legion. In this model for the duration of a campaign the FC in charge essentially runs the alliance. I'm given to understand they run it completely - one campaign commander even threatened to disband the alliance recently after people were playing particularly badly.

I'm really not sure TEST quite has prepared for the consequences of this. For example if someone's running a campaign (as Kurator was) and people start getting political, this can't be done, that can't be done, under the new model will the FC be able to sack them and replace them with someone more compliant. Because what a military leader needs is obedience not analysis, he's not telling you to do something because he wants your views on whether it should be done, he's simply telling you to just do it.

TEST has a culture of undermining its leaders. Recently Boodabooda, our CEO, kicked a disruptive player. When he woke up the next day that player was back in TEST, someone had just invited him back in. That led to a storm of argument and mudslinging that seems the main cause of some of our best FCs burning out, notably DingoGS. This kind of internal drama is inevitable when people who are not in charge feel able to exercise executive authority.

So the question for the next few weeks is can Eve's main Reddit guild get over its love of arguing on the internet to focus on playing Eve effectively?


  1. So many comments I would like to make on this post...

    Firstly - there's the hoary old quote from Winston Churchill about democracy being "the worst form of government, apart from all of the others". Democracy keeps people engaged because they feel they have a stake rather than just being ordered about, and it lets people replace bad leaders without having all the mess and fuss of a revolution. The cost of that is a certain amount of inertia and friction, but that might be better than a well-oiled machine that your Master And God drives off a cliff.

    Secondly - representative democracy (as practiced in the modern Western world) is not the same thing as participatory democracy (as practiced in ancient Athens). Representative democracies let the people pick their leaders on a regular basis, and then let those leaders make the decisions until it's time to replace the leader or renew their mandate. Participatory democracies let the electorate as a whole make the call on each and every decision. The reason Rome (representative democracy) put together an empire and Athens (participatory democracy) didn't is that participatory democracies really suck at having a coherent strategy for anything beyond the immediate term. A lot of people who talk about "democracy" don't get the difference - I'm surprised that the Mittani doesn't as he's a bright and educated guy. Then again, Mittens being Mittens, it's more likely he DOES get the difference and was trolling all those people who don't.

    Thirdly - that "campaign commander" thing has been tried before. Go look up the original meaning of the word "dictator". The Roman Republic would hand wide-ranging powers to one man to be supreme leader for the duration of an emergency. It actually worked the first few times. The Roman Republic became the Roman Empire because guys like Julius Caesar and his rivals and successors (and one or two guys before him, to be fair) suck at handing the power back once they've got it.

    Fourthly - the benefits of Western civilisation are arguably down to the rule of law more than directly to democracy. Democracy is probably the best guarantee of the rule of law, however. The problem with applying this to EVE is that I don't think that any corporation or the personalities in it are stable enough to genuinely support the rule of law.

    Fifth - once you get me talking about politics or economics, it's hard to shut me up. I should probably take this essay over and repost it on my own blog at some point :)

    1. That's a very good comment. I believe Mittens is actually an elected dictator, so essentially they use the representative democracy model you refer to if you allow that such a thing could exist without oversight or expiry of term of office.

      We're very much in the participatory democracy model and it should not be underestimated how much the Greater Internet Fuckwad effect or hostile agents distorts the picture.

      Our single strength is how much people like being in such a system, it's always fun to feel involved in our direction rather than a mindless pawn.

    2. If you have no oversight or expiry of term of office, then it's not a democracy - it's an autocracy where the autocrat was popular (at least when he started). If the Goons in the street have no formal way of getting rid of Mittens then he's not a democratic representative (however he may have started - at the risk of invoking Godwin's Law, the Nazis won elections too).

    3. Yup. But he seems wildly popular with the Goons, doesn't seem to be any chance of rebellion.

    4. Charismatic dictatorship then - Government type A in the edition of the Traveller rules on my bookshelf :)

  2. Interesting times indeed. Good blog post too.

    One thing though is that I am not sure TEST has too many campaign commanders at the ready. Jaffinator is doing a squad deployment to provi and everyone else is getting harassed by Infernal Octopus dudes in Aridia.

    TEST are also a good 3 - 4 months away from being able to mount a campaign minimum. In the mean time they need to stop bleeding members.

    Maybe even the first campaign should be to secure their lowsec space. Right now they definitely need someone to lead from the front i.e. by flying spaceships in game and being on comms with the line members.

    I remember the night before Sort Dragon got "dunked" he was leading us into battle and talking about the possible war to come after the handbags at fanfest. On comms that night he had a lot of people shouting "fuck yeah" I will follow you North. He only lost his support because his motive of trying to shaft TEST and take Delve became apparent.

    The rank and file want to fly spacehips, blow things up, make ISK. TEST needs less battles on the forums and more battles in space.

    I remember you yourself saying to me on comms that when shit started Sort's way of dealing with it was to take folks out and give them something to shoot at.

    TEST needs to un-dock from the forums and go shoot at stuff!

    P.S. be sure to come do another roam with me!


    1. Our first campaign is one of vengeful harassment, the pocket unsecured.

      I feel that we've picked the campaign that is the most popular (go make someone's lives hell) over the campaign that, while unglamorous, would have been the most useful. (Hit the low sec neighbours so hard that they permanently relocate).

      I'm thinking I'll take my ratting characters out of Test and do high sec level 4s for now - the notion of turning low sec into an isk-printing machine is flawed without the will to dominate the space.

  3. "So the question for the next few weeks is can Eve's main Reddit guild get over its love of arguing on the internet to focus on playing Eve effectively?"

    Well, past behaviour predicts future performance ;)

    I'd wonder if you have leaders lining up to take over after the last one burned out. There's a reason raid guilds treat their raid leaders like demi gods.

    1. Yup.

      Madness is repeating the same actions and expecting a different outcome and all that.

      For all that it's as interesting a social experiment as any in gaming - what happens when a game guild gets so complex that the raid leaders end up rather low on the leadership chart?

      I'm at the level of FCing now where I'm asking challenging questions and some people seem to feel a bit thrown by it. It's certainly absorbing as a gaming experience though and if I burn out once you have FCed in a large alliance you are kinda "made".