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A Dialog with a Concerned Citizen

by Maggie Geppert, Vice Chairman

3rd October 2016

The format of this article is question and response.  Tjark wrote headings for each individual topic, which are posted in bold.  His questions are underlined and my responses are in normal text. It should also be noted that Tjark is a Second Edition player, so some of his questions should be understood within the context of that game.

Tjark’s comments begin here:

And it all began with "one" card.

In actual fact, it didn't just begin with one card but many cards and it soon became clear to me [Tjark, that is…] that it wasn't just this or those cards that were my problem. I had a problem with the system as a whole and one question lead to another. So I spoke to various players and managers in order to get more information and to ultimately find a solution. First of all in that respect, thank you for all the critical and constructive feedback. After I had collected enough information I turned to Maggie in order to present my problems. She answered me quickly and in an uncomplicated manner, our conversation was pleasant, informative and constructive. As many of the questions I had, as well as those arising from my conversations, are of general interest, we agreed to make these available to the community in the form of a dialogue. Here is an excerpt:

It may be a typically German problem but it came to my attention the CC has no written statute and many things are not or are insufficiently regulated. This drives my current opinion on many other issues (lack of transparency, lack of legitimacy etc.)

Why does the CC have no statute?

If by statute you mean a constitution, I guess the answer is that we’ve never needed one before.  If you want to know more about who is on the Continuing Committee and how we are organized, you can find that information on the “About Us” link at the top of the homepage.

One of the goals for the Continuing Committee in 2017 is to apply for status as a Limited-Liability Company (LLC), and as I understand it, we will need to write a constitution and bylaws in order to achieve that goal.

Would it not make sense to regulate the mutual competencies in the relationships between various bodies more clearly and transparently? Normally the board and the managers of an "association" are chosen by the General Assembly and legitimised and confirmed after they have been "in office" for one calendar year.

Indirectly, the board publicly represents my legal interests - should I not be able to elect them as well?

The board consists of the Chairman, Vice Chairman, the Director of Organized Play, the Director of Public Relations, the 1st Edition Brand Manager and the 2nd Edition Brand Manager.  A seventh position has been proposed, that of Director of Operations, who would oversee the Chief Financial Officer, Shipping, Achievements, etc.  When a vacancy opens up for any position, a committee is formed to search for a person to fill it.  A call is put out on the front page for volunteers, the search is conducted and the final candidate’s name is forwarded to the Chairman, who approves the selection.  After the selection is made, the public is asked for feedback and after a reasonable period, the selection is finalized.  A Period of Review is scheduled at the end of each calendar year.  The community at large is asked to provide feedback on the performance of all departments.  This is the time of year when committee members can be removed from their position if their performance does not meet the expectations of the public.

Why is there no election for the board members? In the CC, the most important posts are assigned by way of coopting; therefore, positions are awarded without the consultation / co-determination of members. This leads to closed groups which exclude critics / dissenters from the start. Therefore, cooptation is generally regarded as being undemocratic and for this reason is not permitted in elections, for example.

Would it not make more sense to go beyond the mere information from the members when filling important positions and include them in the decision making process and give them a right to vote?

It is felt by the members of the Continuing Committee that electing board members is not in the best interest of the Committee.  Joining the Continuing Committee is more like getting hired for a job than being elected to a government position.  Imagine electing the Art Director, for instance.  I could run for the position, having no graphic design experience, and get elected if I shout the most.  I would be terrible at it.  Would it not be better to have the candidates for Art Director selected by a small group within the CC who know about how Art works for card design?

It is acknowledged that bias against candidates could manifest in selection of candidates.  Committee members should keep this issue in mind when filling positions.  This is true of any sort of implicit bias as well.

It should also be noted that the public does have a say in the selection of a candidate.  The CC is currently in the Request for Comment stage of the appointment of the Second Edition Brand Manager.  This stage is the opportunity for community members to comment on the selection of the Brand Manager, and his appointment is not permanent until this period is over.

The CC's revenue is obtained through donations and the organisation of tournaments. I am not clear on how much revenue we are talking about here and what it is used for.

Should there not be financial controls?

One of the major flaws of the Continuing Committee from the start has been lack of financial transparency.  Up until July of 2016, the Continuing Committee’s finances were mingled with those of the Chairman, Charlie Plaine.  Due to his personal financial issues, it was decided not to make the finances of the Continuing Committee public, because his creditors might try to collect that money for themselves.  In July 2016 an audit of Chairman Plaine’s finances was completed.  He can now separate his finances from those of the Continuing Committee, allowing us to a) post regular financial reports and b) form into an LLC.

The break between the Chairman’s finances and that of the CC is almost complete.  Fairly soon, there will be a new PayPal account in the CC’s name.

As effective financial controls are usually independent from the board, I ask myself who should safeguard this financial control?

The Continuing Committee will shortly begin a search for a Chief Financial Officer.

Will there be an annual report on the finances?

It is hoped that we can provide at least an annual report on finances, and perhaps more often during the year.   The Chairman is searching for a tool that will allow us to show all the Continuing Committee's transactions publicly, but keep the identities of donors private.

What will happen if irregularities are found?

Irregularities will be investigated and if it is found that a person is committing fraud, they will be held liable for the return of the finances and asked to leave the CC.

The CC represents many players from different countries but many key positions are held by Americans.

What is the CC doing in order to selectively fill these positions with internationals?

It is true that there is a significant Anglo/American presence in the staffing of the Continuing Committee.  However, we can only fill positions with people who volunteer for them. We would welcome the addition of more people from all over the World.  I would caution that due to time difference from continent to continent, collaboration between team members can be quite difficult.  I felt so bad for Smiley when I ran the First Edition Period of Review in 2015 because the chosen time was something like 04:00 for him in Sweden.  He was little sleepy.  I’m not trying to use this as an excuse to not collaborate with people in far-flung time zones.  I just want to note that it can be a challenge for a team.

Are American members not specifically promoted and lead to becoming a future Lead Designer or Chairman for example?

There is no truth to this statement.  People are not promoted or passed over because or despite of their country of origin.

Often critical cards are recorded differently in each region.  Is the statement "We in America have no problem with it" an appropriate statement with which to reply to critics?

No.  And this underscores your earlier point about needing diverse perspectives within the Continuing Committee. With regards to Five Space Voyager (5SV), you may notice that the Continuing Committee did listen to the concerns of Europe, and issued errata to a number of cards that are considered above the curve in a 5SV deck. 

Often new cards lead to resentment in the community - I have several questions related to this.

The game relies heavily on new sets.  Does it not make sense to significantly limit the number of new sets?

This topic is under discussion with the Continuing Committee right now.  A poll went up a couple of weeks ago, and has generated a HUGE number of responses.  I’m going to leave the poll up for a couple of weeks and then report the results to the public.

How many new sets can be effectively managed by the Playtest Team every year?

Please see the above statement.

The Playtest Team provides guidance on any new cards and answers specific questions.

Does the Playtest Team receive feedback on their respective reports?

They are supposed to.

Note: the next set of questions required me to range a bit farther afield, as I have not worked on design or playtest before.  I am paraphrasing a few of the members of 2E staff for the next section.

As far as I am aware the Lead Designer has an important role to play in the development of new cards. What happens if the Playtest Team and the Design Team cannot find an amicable solution?

From what I understand, cut cards could live in the cut file to be resurrected at a later date.  Designers use Playtester feedback to help revise cards, and that process will go through several iterations before the final product is made.  However, Design ultimately has the final say in how a card is made.  That means that Design can keep a card in a file despite the data provided by Playtesters.  If that card then becomes a problem when the set is released, we have an Errata team to fix that.

If the Lead Designer is the deciding factor in these cases, then is the Playtest not absurd?

Playtest is not absurd.  It is one of the hardest jobs anyone in the CC does, especially because it is anonymous, so no one gets public credit. 

One member of the CC who has worked in Design says that this question leads from a false premise, that Playtest drives Design.  Playtesters can describe situations in which things can go badly for a particular card, but they do not suggest revisions to designers.  Designers weigh the data and come up with revisions based on the data from Playtesters as well as the current metagame, desired card effect and its impact on play in a variety of tournament formats. 

This doesn’t mean that there aren’t other Playtesters who feel as you do.  Sometimes a Designer really wants to make a particular card “Damn the torpedoes and full speed ahead!”  This seems to be a rare occurrence.  I, personally, can only recall the Teero Anaydis incident in recent years (for those of you who don’t remember, he gives Maquis access to Bajoran discard retrieval as he is the third Maquis Bajoran.)  Errata quickly made adjustments to some of the Maquis lockout cards to make sure he didn’t become a problem.

Are there other conceivable/feasible solutions for this?

Apparently Design is discussing other possible Playtest models.

Often cards land on the watch list. However, there are no time limits on the period in which a decision must be made on an erratum.

Should there not be guidelines governing the time in which a decision must be made on an erratum?

Of course.  2nd Edition has suffered from a lack of leadership, since the Brand Manager position has been vacant for some time.  In this case, this has led to a backlog of errata in the recent past.  This lack of leadership is being remedied now with the selection of Ross Fertel as Brand Manager.

If cards are on the watch list, should the TD not be allowed in standard tournaments, to introduce house rulings or to exclude the corresponding card? At least in cases where no reply from the Errata Team has been received within a reasonable time frame.

House rules are discouraged at tournaments for good reason.  Imagine that you are a casual player.  You decide to come to a tournament for the first time in a long time.  However, you fail to notice that the TD has banned cards that are critical to your deck.  If you do all that work to build a new deck and then show up only to find out that you won’t be able to play, how are you going to feel about that?  Will you be willing to come the next time?  On the other hand, what if the TD allows that person to play anyway?  How will the rest of the players feel about the advantage that person has over them because they didn’t use those cards?  It’s a bad idea all around.  That being said, we can't stop people from using house rules in tournaments.

So, I hope that this article helped clear up some things people have been wondering about The Continuing Committee.


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