Blog Banter #80: A CSM for All?

Welcome to the continuing monthly EVE Blog Banters and our 80th edition! For more details about what the blog banters are, please visit the Blog Banter page.

CCP Seagull encourages you to get involved in CSM12 and put your name forward to be a Space-Politician. On his blog, Neville Smit noted that CSM11 had done a good job with a minimum of drama. However, he said he'd not be covering CSM12 like he has in previous years as he sees no point. The power-blocs will vote on who they want and unless Steve Ronuken manages to get on CSM12, it is almost certainly going to have every seat taken by the big null-sec blocs.

Is Neville right? Is the CSM moving more and more into just a voice for 0.0? Is this a bad thing? Are the hi-sec, low-sec and WH players going to lose out badly or is it really not an issue as its the same game? Could a totally null-sec dominated CSM 12 give a balanced voice for everyone?

In my previous post, I did indeed thank CSM11 for their good service, which is well deserved. But I also resigned myself to the fact that, under the current election rules, we will never see more than token representation from outside the established null-sec based power blocs on the Council of Stellar Management.

CSM12 will be heavily dominated once again by players who reside in 0.0 space. There is little chance for any other outcome. The null-sec blocs are too well organized, and they should be able to secure a minimum of eight, and very likely nine, of the ten seats on CSM12 - if not all of them. The mathematics of the election make this outcome virtually inevitable.

The reduction of the number of CSM representatives from 14 to ten favors the null-sec blocs even more, as it will make it harder for candidates with smaller constituencies to secure a CSM12 seat. Unless we see a huge, historically unprecedented surge in voting participation, I expect to see only a single representative elected from wormhole space (likely the capable incumbent Noobman). Low-sec and faction warfare will almost certainly not be directly represented, as well as the vast majority of players who reside primarily in high security space.

Even good Steve Ronuken - industrialist, third-party developer and advocate for high-sec residents - who has been an invaluable and hard-working representative since CSM9, may not be returned for another term. His only chance is to secure more than a few high-ranking endorsements on the voting slates of null-sec alliances - and thereby putting him in the potentially difficult position of owing these alliances his favor, if elected.

I have seen nothing that makes me think that the voting turnout for CSM12 will be any more than last year's. It does not appear likely that CCP will launch a heavily concerted marketing effort to get more subscribers to vote. In fact, they seem content to leave such promotion to the candidates themselves, and to EVE community fansites like this one. But we've been promoting voting for the CSM with vigor each year, and yet, participation has continued to diminish. A low voting turnout means an even higher proportion of votes from the null-sec power blocs, strongly favoring their candidates.

Hope for CSM12

Fortunately, this does not spell disaster for the 12th election of the Council of Stellar Management. This is because the majority of the members of CSM11 are running once again. Even though almost all of CSM11 was made up of players from major 0.0 alliances, it was an effective group which represented the interests of many different constituencies in EVE Online. CSM11 worked with CCP during the introduction of significant new features and improvements that affected players in every type of space in New Eden - and on the whole, those changes made a positive and constructive difference in how people play with their Internet spaceships.

For that reason, I am endorsing every incumbent from CSM11 who is running again for a seat on CSM12, and I sincerely hope they are all re-elected. The only one that I am worried about is good Steve Ronuken, who does not hail from a null-sec alliance, and as a result, needs broad-based support to win a seat on CSM12. For that reason, I am putting Steve as my #1 vote on my ballot, and I urge everyone else to do likewise. The rest of my votes will be populated with all the remaining incumbents from CSM11.

Ideally, this will mean re-election of an effective CSM, albeit another extremely 0.0-oriented one, with token representation of w-space and high-sec industry. But this group has demonstrated that they consider the interests of players based in space other than 0.0, even though they may not have in-depth experience playing as such themselves. At least, by re-electing this group, we will retain a known quantity of Council effectiveness and fair-mindedness. This is really the best we can hope for.

Unfortunately, this also means that low-sec and faction warfare will go largely unrepresented in CSM12. This would normally bother me, but based on the minutes from last year's CSM summit meetings, it seems obvious that these are areas of the game that CCP does not have any immediate plans to address, at least in the near future. This is sad, but true - and it means we can sacrifice direct representation of these aspects of the game in CSM12 without severe consequence.

A CSM for All of EVE

I recently exchanged a few tweets on the subject of CSM12 with CCP Guard, and he suggested that the CSM election process should favor those players who "actually play". I think he meant this as a gentle poke in my ribs, as I've admitted that my level of engagement in EVE Online has been at a low ebb recently. The question is: do the current CSM election mechanics actually favor EVE Online's most engaged players?

If you assume that null-sec based players are the most active in the game, then the CSM election process is working as intended, and all is well, even if that means every single seat on the CSM is occupied by a null-sec alliance member. But past history has shown that CSM11 was an aberration. In fact, the least engaged representatives in past CSMs were from 0.0 alliances. Because of their well-organized voting blocs, CSM candidates from 0.0 alliances do not have to campaign for votes, and they will be elected despite any lack of enthusiasm to actually participate and contribute. These candidates' electability have nothing to do with how much they actually play EVE Online, or even if they care about the game at all.

So, while we've been lucky with CSM11, and hopefully will be so again for CSM12, I worry for future Councils. The current election mechanics could easily produce a collection of 0.0 bigots and ne're-do-wells who will not act in the best interests of all player constituencies. If this ever happens, then CCP will be forced to make a hard choice - shun the elected Council (as they have in the past), or take action to reshape it into something useful.

Some argue that the current CSM election process is fair because it represents the interests of those who voted. The potential problem is that sometimes people vote in ways that produce surprisingly bad results - and then everyone has to live with the consequences.

Instead, I reject the notion that the CSM should represent the interests of EVE Online's most engaged and active players. Frankly, I think this is very lazy thinking, designed to justify the current 0.0-favored voting mechanics. Instead, I suggest that the CSM election should represent the interests of CCP's most important customers - all Omega subscribers.

Imagine if the Omega subscriber agreement included a provision requiring a response for each CSM election from each subscription, during the CSM election period. And imagine that once a year, during the CSM election period, the EVE Online client required a key code produced by submitting a CSM ballot, before a player could log in. The CSM ballot could offer an "I abstain" option that still provides a key code, but this would force some sort of decision on the part of every subscriber who wanted to log in during the CSM election period, even if that decision meant choosing not to vote at all.

This would maximize election participation, and produce a more directly representative set of elected Council representatives. Null-sec based alliances would still secure a significant number of seats - probably a majority, in fact - but there would be enough votes from players in every type of space to foster a broader diversity of representative types on the CSM. Most importantly, it would produce a CSM that would be representative of all subscribers, not just those who play mostly in null-sec space.

Alas, I don't think CCP would ever consider such an idea, as it would require programming effort. More importantly, I doubt that the next CSM would do so either. After all, it would dramatically change the status quo, and diminish the power enjoyed by the 0.0 alliances under the current CSM election mechanics.

Still, it would be nice to think that CCP values my CSM vote as a multiple Omega character subscriber, even though I'm a more casual player in high-sec and wormholes, as much as someone who plays in null-sec. After all, are my subscriber fees worth less than someone who operates mostly in 0.0 space? Apparently, CCP seems to think so, based on how the CSM is elected - and this makes me rather sad.

Fly safe! o7