25 December, 2015
This is to outline some of the structural problems that I believe the server, community, and staff team in particular are suffering from at the moment. A follow-up post will have some of the suggested solutions. These problems are interrelated and make each other worse. Trying to solve one without solving the others won't do us much good.
For clarity, redactions are mine. The removed information has been made available to Wabbitface.
Staff admin is too powerful a role.
As things are now, staff administrators carry great power. They have the ultimate authority over the staff team, including the ability to remove staff members. They also get to set the broad direction the server goes in, making decisions on things such as events, map updates, plugins, rules, and everything else that impacts how the players experience the server.
Now, this is a major responsibility, and not everyone is suited for that role. But it doesn't seem that difficult. A lot of people would go "oh, I could do that", even though most really can't. This means that the admin has to fear people from trying to oust them from their job, not necessarily because they're doing a bad job, but because they make decisions not everybody happens to agree with. This fear can lead the staff admin to distrust the staff members under them, because they're the candidates to replace them. This distrust then leads the staff to fear the admin, because he can just remove them. In the end, this poisons the entire environment staff operate in.
While things might be worse currently than before, we do have a surprisingly high rate of turnover of our "chiefs of staff", which I suspect to be caused by this.
Contrast this with the technical side of the adminship. Combat_Wombat has had that job since time immemorial. Nobody has ever made an attempt to get rid of him, the whole idea seems ridiculous. Why? There are two parts to that. First, people realise that it's a difficult job, because apparently, technical skills are "real skills", whereas social skills are not. (Which, I guess, says something about the society we live in.) But that's not the only reason. The second part is this: they don't get to make controversial decisions. So no-one feels the need to get rid of them, while they do a good job.
Communication is lacking.
When I first joined the staff team as a guide, a little under a year ago, I assumed, perhaps naively, that I would be given a lot of information on what was going on on the server. Guides are supposed to be the knowledgeable people, so it makes sense, right? I also assumed to be told a couple "secrets", so I would know what not to accidentally reveal to non-staff. Nothing could be further from the truth. Apart from a minimum amount of explanation on staff commands and procedures, we were left in the dark from what was going on, not knowing more than the regular players.
Then, surely, this is because guides aren't fully trusted yet, and the moderators will obviously have all the information, because they are fully trusted, I thought, quite naively. My promotion to moderator quickly dispelled this illusion.
Now, it could be possible that the senior moderators, a rank to which I was never promoted, do have access to significantly more information. But not even I am so naive as to believe that.
This is terrible. It leads to staff giving out incorrect information, confusing players. It leads to staff inadvertently giving out supposedly secret information, because they guessed it correctly, not knowing it was supposed to be secret, frustrating the staff admin. It leads to staff wasting time investigating things they believe might be bugs, only to then be told after "this was an intended change we just didn't tell you about". This in turn leads to staff no longer bothering to investigate things they believe are bugs, causing actual bugs to go unreported.
Then there is the lack of information being given out by the staff team to the players. I fully agree with keeping certain personal information of players private. I also understand the need to not reveal certain server internals to prevent security flaws from becoming apparent and being abused. I accept keeping plans that aren't certain yet secret because players might end up confused or disappointed otherwise. But the vast majority of information falls outside of those three categories. Minecraft as a game is very well documented. Some players prefer to look up things in advance on the wiki. Others prefer to just jump in and find things out as they go along. Both playstyles should have their place on the server. But as things are now, with regards to the extensions the server the second style is forced on everyone. Whatever your personal preference, forcing everyone else to follow one particular style is not something that should be done on a server with a broad audience.
One thing that I hope that nearly everyone can agree on, is that rules should be clear to all players. Yet I distinctly remember being told by [ REDACTED - individual 1 ] at one point something along the lines of "imma go edit the rules, but don't tell them, just ban them if they break them". I hope I will not need to explain why this is bad.
And this hasn't even begun to address the problems with how suggestions and criticism of staff are dealt with, or rather, not dealt with.
Staff isn't properly trained.
When joining, and upon promotion to moderator, we were informed of some of the more common commands we would be using. This was the bare minimum. Many of the commands available to us we were never informed of, even where highly useful for our staff duties, for example the fast way of getting around using [ REDACTED - method A ]. Now, I happened to have been an admin at [ REDACTED - server 1 ] from last autumn, which gave me greater insight in various commands also available to me on Wabbit, as well as allowing me to train myself in the use of [ REDACTED - plugin A ]. I also went through the effort of going through a great number of ancient posts in the staff-only section of the forum, to discover certain custom commands, some of which still worked, and were occasionally useful. Now, this was a fun journey of discovery. But at the same time, the fact this was something I needed to do to properly do my job as moderator is greatly saddening, and as far as I know, no-one else bothered to do this, and I don't blame them.
Then there is the point where staff was actively discouraged from sharing this knowledge with each other. I recall being told off by [ REDACTED - individual 2 ] for sharing [ REDACTED - method A ] with another staff member.
When we went from the second 1.12 map to the current 1.14 map in the autumn, I suggested (and was then promised) that staff would have access to a temporary small world on the server in the week or two preceding the public release of the map, so as to get us all trained with [ REDACTED - plugin A ] , as we had been using [ REDACTED - plugin B ] before. What happened instead was that we were given only a couple days, on the main new world, which was spend playing, setting up our initial bases. This isn't a bad thing by itself, because it allowed staff to be available to help players with the inevitable issues that arise when a new map on a new version goes live. But it failed to allow the staff to train themselves with [ REDACTED - plugin A ].
To make matters worse, while staff isn't being trained, it is expected to know things as if it had. At some point [ REDACTED - individual 1 ] berated a number of moderators for relying on [ REDACTED - method B ] for finding players who used X-ray, instead of [ REDACTED - method C ] while those moderators had never been trained in the use of [ REDACTED - method C ]!
Current staff ranks are too moderation-focussed.
As things are now, with the sole exception of technical admin, the primary thing needed for all staff roles is social skills. This leaves out a great number of players whose skills are primarily technical from being useful to the staff team.
Guide, while still geared towards social skills, is quite distinct from (senior) moderator, in that it mostly deals with communication, not with moderation. Currently, however, guide is treated as "moderator-in-training", passing by the fact that some people are more suitable to be guides than they are to be moderators. This, with the short time between joining the staff team and promotion to moderator, leads to a top-heavy staff team, serving no-one well. By having so many moderators they have very little moderating to do individually, and don't build up the needed experience.
Finally, when building a new spawn or something similar, that task is typically given to existing staff members, even though being a good builder isn't in the job description.
Genuine ban appeals aren't properly looked into.
Current practice is to have ban appeals handled by the moderator responsible for the ban. For players requesting more information on why they were banned, or who wish to make an apology, this works well. But in cases where the banned player disputes that they broke a rule, it doesn't. Moderators are human, they occasionally make mistakes. It is difficult to accept having made a mistake. The vast majority of people suffer from that in some extent, myself included. But it does mean that you risk staff refusing to revert a wrongly issued ban because they can't accept having made a mistake. This leaves a strong feeling of being treated unfairly with the player, and possibly a conflicted and emotional moderator. Neither of those are good things.
Falling player numbers.
I believe three things are at work here. First is that I believe the popularity of Minecraft itself is falling. This is unfortunate and beyond our control. Second is that the effects of the previous problems has a dampening effect on player numbers. I suspect a number of players would be willing to return if fixed, and that new players would be more likely to stick around.
Thirdly, I have come to understand the importance of being on the current Minecraft version. Personally, I don't really care being (a couple) versions behind. We'll come to the good stuff eventually. But I seem to be the exception, not the rule, here. Apparently, most players have issues with playing servers that are not on the current version. Our update/new map schedule doesn't seem to take this into account at all.
We went to 1.12 around the time 1.13 came out, did our second 1.12 map just after 1.14 came out, went to 1.14 a month and a half before 1.15 came out, and are now preparing to move to a 1.15 map around the time 1.16 will come out. Could we not? I am full well aware of the need to wait for plugins to update, but that doesn't mean having to do things this slowly.
25 December, 2015
This is the follow-up post dealing with solutions.
Get rid of the staff admin role entirely.
Which then leaves the question of what to do with its current powers and responsibilities.
The general decision-making power (on rules, events, map-changes, plugins, and other player-experience things) should be given to the staff team as a whole. If things get controversial, a vote is taken. Is this less efficient than one person deciding everything? Yes! But it prevents people from being forced out just because others disagree with their ideas.
The leadership and training of (the moderation-side of) the staff team will be by the senior moderators. These should be the staff members that the staff itself considers its leaders, and looks to for advice. Senior moderators will always exist, we should find a way to figure out who they are and give those the role.
Deciding on who enters the staff team could be decided (as is mostly the case now) by the staff team as a whole. Promotions to moderator would be by the senior mods, as they're responsible for the training as well.
That leaves removals from the staff team. In case of resignation or inactivity, this is mostly an administrative task, and can be given to the technical admin. Removals from the staff team in cases of misconduct should be exceedingly rare, and I believe it's best to leave decisions on those to Wabbitface himself.
Now, it might be that the current staff team isn't ready for this kind of setup, and that we might need some kind of transition.
Introduce Builder and Junior Admin ranks.
The first new rank to introduce is "Builder", intended for players who are good builders. Like Guide, it's intended to be a role in which one enters the staff team. These Builders would then be tasked with all building tasks the server needs. But they're a full part of the staff team, even though they don't have any moderating responsibilities.
The second new rank I've given the provisional name of "junior admin", if someone comes up with a better idea for a name, please let me know. Like Builder, their primary job wouldn't be moderating, though they'd have limited moderation powers, as a Guide. Instead, these are the people who really know their commands. Does a moderator find some grief that's too complicated for them to roll back? Grab a junior admin, they'll fix it. But also access to the commands of a bunch of other plugins, and probably some custom commands as well. Would likely be best to have about two junior admins. Would also be the role one would have before moving on to become full technical admin (which, if my other suggestion goes through, is the only remaining admin).
Now, I propose having them recruited from the ranks of the Guides and Builders, as well as in some cases, very senior players. Why? Trust. The amount of power these junior admins would have is great, and you need to have trust in them. Their time in the Guide/Builder role would be there to build up that trust, just like time as Guide is needed to build up trust before becoming Moderator. Some people suited for junior admin would also be suited enough for Guide, others would also be good builders, but that still leaves some others, for which there is no trust-building staff role, so those would need to have been around on the server for much longer. A rough overview of this can be found in the diagram, arrows indicate promotions.
Have ban appeals dealt with by non-involved staff.
This is a simple one, really. In cases where a player makes a ban appeal genuinely disputing that the ban was correct, have it dealt with by a staff member (probably a senior moderator) who wasn't involved whatsoever in the original issuing of the ban. That way, you get a fresh pair of eyes looking at things. Is it perfect? No. Is it better than what we have now? Absolutely.
Keep up-to-date with the most recent Minecraft version.
This one would require a re-think of when we do new maps. Every time a new Minecraft version comes out, consider three things: how old is this current map? How long is it expected to be until the Minecraft version after this new one comes out? Does the update change map-generation, or otherwise break things? Once you know those three things, you can decide if a new map or keeping the old one with the new version is the best option. Then you upgrade version and possibly release a new map pretty much as soon as the plugins are available to do it. Now, that'll still take a while, allowing time for alerting the players, updating the custom code, and making other preparations as needed.
Now, you might have noticed I had six problems listed, and only four solutions. That's because I don't really have anything useful to bring in on the remaining two.
Well, that's it from me for now. Now it's to you, my dear Wabbit and my dear Wabbits! What do you think of this? Have I gotten it all wrong here? Or might there be useful bits in it? Feel free to respond, even if you feel you can only reply to a part of it. Love to hear some views.
8 December, 2018
Hello all! Some of you may know me as Forest or ForestCam, I used to play on Wabbitface and was quite active. Over time, however, I stopped playing due to a couple of the reasons listed above and more.
1. As dlbuunk mentioned: Genuine ban appeals aren't properly looked into. I was banned twice on the server, both for reasons that I don't believe are valid. I won't get into too much detail, but in one of them, I was banned for glitching by doing a glitch I had never heard of before. I tried explaining this to the moderator who banned me, but he wouldn't even listen to my complaint.
2. Another reason for my leaving was the lack of updates, and, while this was a minor reason, I wanted to play on newer versions and waiting six months to update was not something I was willing to do.
3. Influx of plugins. At the time that I left, several new game modes were coming into the server such as creative and UHC. Yes, yes, I can ignore them and just play survival, but it changed the fact that Wabbit was a survival server and it felt like the server was straying ever further from vanilla.
4. I think this is my last reason, but a lack of listening from the mods. I suggested a couple of ideas I had for the server, and no one else in the community (that I can remember) disliked the idea. It seemed like others supported it, but the moderation team didn't even open it up for consideration, just immediately denied the suggestion. This seemed strange, as there was a suggestion channel in Discord, but it was due to these reasons that I inevitably left Wabbit and started playing on a different server.
Well, these are some reasons from my experience that I've had on the server. As I said, I left quite a while ago which means that some of these may have changed in my absence, but at the time that I played, I found these things to be true. Nonetheless, Wabbit was (and probably is still) a great server to play on, even though everything has room for improvement.
dlbuunk raises many valid concerns, and I've shared the ones that I can reflect from my personal experience on the server. I deeply hope that Wabbit staff and community can consider this post, and help improve the server to help it reach its full potential.
It’s, frankly, about time a post like this was made.
So, a few things before my reply:
- One, this post is most likely going to be viewed as an attack on the staff team. This is based on a recent ban that a well-known player received, for giving some constructive criticism. Now, I get an entire thread to post, and if you know me, I don’t write small threads. This will feature a lot of what I think is constructive criticism; meaning, "attacks", in the eyes of the current staff team. I’ll try my best to avoid mentioning names directly, but if any one of you people goes straight in and starts substituting the names of the people responsible for the behaviors I have outlined, diverting the focus onto those people, you are not helping. I am making it clear that I don’t approve of that kind of behavior, because it’s completely counter-productive. (That is also how staff can gain an excuse to lock this post.) So, don’t do that. The point is that any person doing these things is going to land us at the same place.
- This post details what I have experienced in my time on the server, as well as what others have told me. Now, I left the server in late November of 2019, after being fed up with the way things were being dealt with. After speaking with multiple trust-worthy members of the community, I noticed that I wasn’t alone. So, we ended up voicing some complaints to Wabbitface (through a helpful and understanding intermediary). This is, in part, some old things that I remember, which have been confirmed to either have gotten worse, or remained the same. (And special thanks to DLBuunk for providing this medium to post things like this, because, don’t lie - a lot of you have been wanting to do this, but were in the same predicament as I was.)
This is going to be long, so I have no time for pleasantries. Getting straight into it...
Internal staff problems:
As a player, I don’t get to notice this as much as someone like DLBuunk, but just from the small slivers of insight that I may have gotten, this was pretty clear in itself. The current staff admin, due to his technical ability, has been constantly making updates to the server. And, this wasn’t hard to figure out. Every time I asked staff a question, they seemed to not know, or not be briefed on the new information. Every time I asked the admin a question, he re-directed me to a staff member, even though I had just come from one of them. Just a way to go into circles. I’m sure the main problem was within staff itself, but, as a player, I did feel very much caught up in it.
This makes me wonder what kind of training staff received. This isn’t a problem with the staff members; rather, a problem with the management which trained them. This is a staff team we’re talking about. Not a staff admin managing everything and occasionally briefing staff on changes, which is very much what it felt like, only to be confirmed by DLBuunk. And changing rules and not informing players? Do I even need to start on that?
The lack of training is something I attribute to the time this current staff admin has spent being staff. I left the server because I was just not interested in the drama associated with the last staff upheaval which ended in late 2018, I believe. Then, I come back, see that the server has gone through two different transitions of staff admins, with the current one not even being the most senior one. How are you supposed to train others if you haven’t been trained yourself? (And, full agreement with what DLBuunk has said: watching staff admins do things for the longest time just doesn’t give you the ability to do those things successfully, yourself. It takes time, training, and even then, it’s not easy to perfect. It’s not an easy role.)
Staff Administrators and their effect on the Staff Team:
This description was taken directly from the Admins section, on the Our Team section of the web-site (and I’m pretty sure this description was added quite recently): "These people run things behind the scenes, as such seeing some of them is the equivalent to seeing a unicorn, just fewer rainbows.”. I don’t think this could be further from the truth. The way things are now, the staff admin is much more like a tyrant looking over every little thing that staff should be doing, while trying to be a famous and popular player at the same time, and also trying to run the technical needs of the server.
And, I feel bad for some of these moderators. Pretty much every staff member I used to prefer (for their dedication to perform their duties), has now resigned (or possibly been removed as well). And some of them have regressed, becoming less proactive. And I can’t even blame them, because they’ve probably seen that the only way to stay on the staff team is by doing that. This leaves us with a team of staff of ever-decreasing will (and skill) to do their jobs. Only the staff admin ever does things. The staff team isn’t even properly trained, and ends up deferring to the admin in all except the most obvious cases related to the immediate well-being of the server. The staff admin is never questioned, certainly not by players, and, as it appears to be the case, not by staff either. He knows that. He exploits that. He goes around doing whatever he wants without check. The server is definitely on the path to become a single-player world for the staff admin (and his friends), if things keep persisting.
So, this is the part where it’s clear that the staff admin has gone too long being uncontrolled. And, if the staff admin can’t even restrain himself from doing things that are absolute no-no’s, like banning a player for suggesting a very much valid point, then he needs to go. So, great, he’s gone! You’ll be saying that for less than a month. Every staff admin we have had, has pretty much gone out in some bad form. And the ones after them, aren’t any better. This ends up being the case even when a staff admin appoints their successor.
So, just imagine what happens if the server is left in ruins in the absence of a dedicated staff team. We can’t have anyone just rise up and try to take his place. No. That would land us right back where we started. That new guy would have a few months of everyone being in denial and overseeing every wrong move, because all that matters is that the previous administration, which they hated, is now gone. They tell themselves that the new staff admin is better than the old one, even when he really isn’t. We need to get rid of the role entirely, and I agree with DLBuunk on this point.
Ban appeals are dealt with the wrong way:
Having read the ban appeals section, there seem to be three different types of appeals being submitted:
- Bans that happened forever ago, where a person just asks for the decision to be reversed
- Apologies (which is the only thing that the official ban appeal guide walks us through)
- Ban appeals disputing the validity of the ban
- (We also seem to have ban appeals saying “I have no clue what this is about; please give more information”, but this just leads into one of the above three)
Bans that happened forever ago: as we currently have it, the staff admin or highest ranking staff seems to pretty much just accept them back. I don’t have any major problems with this, but would hope that records are checked to make sure the ban isn’t linked to anything very controversial. We had a guy hack into the server last year, so I hope this system is at least fool-proof against something like that guy submitting an appeal five years later from now and it being accepted.
Apologies, well, I just don’t believe in them - at least, Wabbitface Network’s definition of them. The point of a ban is to force someone to take time off the server, and let the rest of the server who they might have affected cool down as well. It’s not to punish them. So, even if someone apologizes, you don’t unban them. People don’t apologize for that. They apologize for forgiveness. We’re only forgiving them if we permanently banned a player. In this case, the entire server was affected, and they are just not welcome back on the server, for everyone’s sake. We are upset at them, because we told them not to do something before, and they returned, and they did it again. Or they did something major that warranted being upset upset at them. The only way to get out of this is to prove the ban was invalid, or include a long, hefty apology. And in most cases, that long, hefty apology doesn’t end up being a problem because the apology happens years later, when everyone has cooled down and is ready to accept it anyways. The apology also sounds like it means something. Because, why would someone want back on the server after five or six years, unless they actually want to integrate themselves with the community again? I think that the tutorial should definitely address more than just submitting apologies.
And this is just my personal opinion, but I think apologies are useless unless they are submitted to the person they affected. They just don’t mean anything unless they are submitted that way. The person that they effected has a reason to be upset at them. An apology shouldn’t influence the ban time. It should influence how the person who they affected decides to feel about that person once they’re back. If I have someone grief my base, I don’t want them immediately unbanned, even if they submit an apology. But after they’ve waited out their ban, if they still submit an apology, next time I see their name, I might not have a negative reference in my head. Instead, I will remember that they were humble enough to apologize even after waiting out their ban. An apology should be sincere and honest; not some crude means to avoid facing a punishment (which, again, a temporary ban should not be).
Ban appeals disputing the validity of the ban: here’s the major problem. The staff member who banned the player doesn’t want to admit they were wrong. And there is nothing forcing them to do that. Why? Well, because players feel that they are in no position to call staff out like that. And, because other staff are not comfortable with criticizing members of their own team, because I assume they are told against that, so it makes the staff team appear strong. So, this results in these types of bans never being reversed. And, unfortunately, some staff members take advantage of this system by banning people for completely bogus reasons which they know the players will deny the accusations, then rejecting their ban appeal. And, this just causes unnecessary tension.
And, though I personally don’t consider it a fundamental problem; rather, a consequence, I will address DLBuunk’s point about falling player numbers:
Again, I don’t think this is a large problem at all. And that is saying something about what this server has come down to, and what players like myself are seeking to scavenge out of it. For some reason, I doubt that the loss of Minecraft’s popularity is at play here. A lot of servers are packed full, and making money by having a queue to even join, and a donator perk of bypassing that queue. And then we had that whole wave of Fortnite being the most popular game, then a couple of famous YouTubers bringing it back to Minecraft. I try my best to stay out of these things, but Minecraft is pretty popular still, as far as I see.
I’m not a major stickler for being on the current version. It’s just a catastrophic inconvenience when you want to switch between servers. And, in most cases, I like being a few months behind anyways; this way, I have time to figure out all the cool tricks associated with the version, before getting into it. But, I must be a massive outlier here. (Some people seem to like being a few months in front, playing on Snapshots.) Regardless, there are two different points of view here: forget the plugins and the experience; just update, and the second: let’s have a good experience, even if it means waiting a few months for the update.
My final point - the technical and organizational problems:
I had a strong feeling going in that we would be getting a good load of announcements that would confirm my fears, and we have: the staff admin isn’t suited for dealing with bulk technical needs of the server, is he?
Don’t believe me? Check #announcements on Discord. We started off by being told that play-times would randomly start being deleted. And we were told that there was no solution for this until the plug-in developer got around to changing it. I went and talked to my developer acquaintance about this, and he told me that this was not the case. In fact, he had already solved this problem. So, there are viable ways around this issue, which were just not implemented. And now, we have been told that survival will not be resetting for a while (due to time-scales). This post, well, it just doesn’t make any sense.
Here's the logic: it makes absolutely no sense for the current staff admin to have the technical ability to perform the reset, announce the reset along with the date months in advance, let people talk about it without correcting anyone, effectively confirming the reset, have most players who are left go inactive because they are waiting for the reset to happen, then later announce that the reset will be delayed because it has not been long enough. “Long enough" is relative; it has nothing to do with the time-elapsed; it is what players decide. And if no one is online because they are waiting for a reset, it doesn’t matter if the last reset happened three days ago, it still means that it has been “long enough” and it is time for change. So this is obviously a fake reason, at its best. I suspect that the real reason is something to do with a technical difficulty that the current staff admin is not suited to solve.
Of course, the right thing for him to do is make that clear and let someone who knows what they're doing deal with this, or at least help. That's not going to happen. It looks a lot like he will try to hide the truth, and maintain his power. I feel that this logic (which I have developed) is best used when shared with the community. As I stated, the staff admin’s position as head of staff and performance in that role is far too gone to get back. And now we start to see that he doesn’t have the ultimate technical knowledge under his belt either.
I haven’t deferred from what I said in the beginning. This isn’t an attack on the staff team. But, at this point, the staff admin has exaggerated his role too far, and that has resulted in the near-demise of this server (multiple times). At this point, it’s common sense for him to be removed. But, much more importantly, we must stop something like this from happening in the future. And the only way to achieve that is to dig into the fundamental problems the server is facing, and solve those. We just won’t solve this by replacing the current staff admin with the other (active) person who has the role. Enough about my constructive-criticism on the server.
Here are some solutions:
Reorganize staff duties, so they make more sense:
This lack of organization creates most of the problems with staff. This is what gives the staff admin the power to do what he has done. Things like the role of builder and staff aren’t even related to each other, yet staff are regularly told to build things (that are aesthetically pleasing) for the server. Pretty much only staff are able to hold events and competitions. Now, disregarding the technical challenges to achieve these things… The point is that even if I would make a horrible staff member, but I am a great (and trust-worthy) builder, I should be able to help out with building. Because at no point of being a builder do I get to do staff jobs. Because they are two completely different things.
The duty to answer questions, make sure things go smoothly in chat, and call in help from higher authority belongs to guides, currently. The duty to mediate between disputes, and the role to look out for hackers, and perhaps perform some mild technical feats for the server, and dealing with ban appeals, is left to the same person: moderators (and the staff admin). Like DLBuunk said, guides are treated as moderators in training. People who may be suited for guides feel forced to join the role of the moderator, due to this social pressure of moderators being higher than guides. People who would be very much suited to do moderators’ added work: being in vanish all the time, just looking out for hackers, and other issues, never get a chance to join the staff team, because they have to pass the role of guide first. This is my personal example. I never wanted to be staff member (and applied recently only because I saw the unorthodox approach being taken, and thought I could essentially “bypass” the role of guide, as promotions were happening much faster than previous administrations), because I would just not make a good guide under the system. I don’t mind helping the server, but I’m not the person to do that by monitoring chat and answering questions.
The current system makes it feel dishonorable to stay back as a guide while other people obtain the moderator rank. This causes people who really don’t want to do their jobs as moderator to be promoted (and people who really want to be moderators to not join in the first place). Don’t blame people for feeling that way; blame the system. As far as I can see, this system is set up because of trust issues surrounding the fact that moderators receive more power than guides. But, why should they? And, not only that, the roles are also pretty much completely different. The role of guide comes with a wealth of societal power: the ability to solve disputes, influence what players do, by informing them of the rules as a guide sees fit, and the ability to tell players to stop doing something that is against the rules. And moderators, well, they come with all of that, and a great deal of absolute power: the ability to ban players, mute players, deal with ban appeals, use /vanish to investigate players, and so on. I don’t need to be a genius to figure out that a guide is just a moderator without the absolute powers attached. But, the actual powers can be divided into this absolute form of power, and this societal form of power.
I’m going to now outline a different system, which I think will solve these problems. The intention is that solving this problem will eliminate (at least partially) the other problems. The point is that these distributions of powers/duties should determine the separation of roles; not trust. With a system like this, a mechanism to figure out trust can simply be added in later.
- Have your "staff team" roles:
- Have a role for enforcing work - things that warrant being in vanish, and looking for hackers
- Have a role for mediating work - answering questions in chat, and solving disputes
- And, essentially have a role for every other thing that staff end up doing, that would make you wonder “does this role inherently mean that I should be able to solve disputes, catch hackers, have access to the /ban command, and answer questions about the server, as a “staff” member?”. These are just some examples of what I think would be useful now; however, I think new roles can be proposed and carefully, after much thought, implemented if the need ever arises:
- Have a role for building - recruit people who are trustworthy and have a capacity to build
- Have a role for event organizing - people who can help organize lawful events
- Have a role for technical ability - the technical admin seeks out people that could help him expedite his tasks while maintaining quality
- (And here’s a placeholder for technical administration…)
Now, the best part: a consequence of this is that no one person ends up having too much absolute and societal power. This would immediately stop anyone from being the tyrant like the staff admin has been in the past. And these different groups of server management must still work together, which automatically means that the staff team functions as a team, in order for the server to function well. And now we have players interested in helping out with the server, but not wanting to deal with the troubles of being staff, get to help out with the server.
So, now, we’re left with getting experience and training (and developing trust). And instead of having a one-guy-trains-all system, have senior members of the enforcing division train and closely supervise junior members, to iron out trust and practice issues, and get them up to par with standards. And senior members of the mediating division do the same thing with their trainees. This way, it won’t be considered that a mediator is an enforcer with possible trust-issues. That’s how it’s considered now. And that’s part of the reason for the server’s current situation. (And of course, with the whole process of serving staff voting on electing new ones, you would assume that staff only vote for people they think are trustworthy and will carry out the role of staff dutifully.) And with things like builders, the job description is listed before joining anyways, so this whole training process is likely not necessary. (But a long-time builder can always give their advice to incoming ones; there’s nothing wrong with that.)
Modernize the way ban appeals disputing the validity of the ban are dealt with:
Staff don’t want to look bad. Okay. Well, that’s really not being achieved with this current behavior. And, I honestly don’t think it can be achieved, and that any method to try to put an end to this will be counter-productive. Why? If you have the banner dealing with the appeal, then the person being banned will never be happy with the way their appeal was dealt with by the (biased) party that banned them. This is common sense. (Imagine a police officer arrests you and deals with your court case on the spot. It just doesn't make any sense.) Even if the staff member recognizes the fact that they made a mistake, we might have those players who were wrongfully banned gloat and try to defame those staff members for making that mistake, unfortunately. And, for the seemingly better solution of having unbiased parties of staff decide on the ban, you’re getting internal staff tension for that: the banner is upset at the deciding party for voting in favor of the player, not their own fellow staff member. No. In this case, staff are meant to not let those inner tensions get to them. They’re trained to do that. They sign up to be staff because they have what it takes to avoid all that. If they do let that take over their decision-making, well, then they’re not doing their job correctly. You can get rid of them for that, fairly easily. The whole point of staff is that they help the server be free of things like tension. And if that means the staff team has to hold it all within themselves to save the rest of the server from it, then it’s what they should do.
It’s a much larger issue when a significant population of the player-base is upset with how they have been treated by staff. Players have no need to hide that struggle they have been experiencing, and so, we have people talking about bans publicly, other players taking sides, leading to more stress for everyone else. If you aren’t sold on a system like this, just think of how different the world would be if we didn’t have court systems that were independent of the police. (And if you’re living in a country like that, I apologize for your condition.) If an unbiased party knows what to look for, their opinion can then be final. Sure that unbiased party may still be biased to some degree, but it’s automatically a lot lower than the banner dealing with the appeal themselves. In larger servers, there is a specific appeals team that is trained to handle these types of situations, so I think the first step is to better train staff in responding to appeals properly, since we simply don’t have the player-count (yet) to form an individual division of the staff team, which solely handles appeals. In any case, the current system of having the banner handle the appeal is out-dated and just doesn’t make sense.
Encourage suggestions, criticisms, and comments that are meaningful:
While this was not a fundamental problem of the server that I enumerated, I hope it was/became obvious. Postings suggestions, criticisms, and comments are now taken as attacks. There is now no channel purposed to even post suggestions in. But, at least, it stops people from wasting their time, to post suggestions in the first place, because none of them were even taken seriously, while there was a channel for that stuff. (That’s bad.)
I think that reporting players and staff should be designed to make it more of a secure (for lack of a better term) situation. I don’t think anyone should ever “fear” making a post like this when they know their intentions are for the good of the server. I don’t think anyone should have to hesitate to report a staff member to a higher authority in fear of being punished themselves, and the person dealing with the report always siding with staff no matter what. (In fact, I distinctly remember being told by the staff admin that he was fine with staff members committing infractions on purpose, and that he would not reprimand them for it, which is just insane to me.) We should never have to fear anything if we know we are doing things for the good of the server. Staff should never have to question whether they will be scolded for just doing their jobs or not. Everyone should have clear access to what “protections” they have against people/staff “harassing” them (think: Bill of Rights). (I know that’s a stretch for a Minecraft server, but it’s what this one has come down to recently.) Staff should be specially trained to have some resilience to any influences that go against their duties to better the server - such as the fear of an admin who will remove them for doing their jobs as staff. (And I know this has probably been heard a billion times on Minecraft servers before, but being a friend of a staff member/admin shouldn’t absolve you of being banned/removed for doing the same thing as someone else, and should certainly not aid in you becoming staff.)
This brings me onto (the beginnings of) a solution: have a suggestions page, where people are encouraged to post “positive” suggestions (things to add) for the server which are genuinely reviewed (by the entire staff team to be submitted to the technical admin for his insight). Then, have a misgivings section, where people can submit meaningful criticisms about the server (things that should be removed, or fixed) which are seen by the whole staff team (and presented to the technical admin) for review. Finally, have a report section, where a certain member of the community can be rightfully criticized for their actions against the server, where a higher authority reviews the report, thoroughly and without bias, then makes a fair, uninfluenced, decision, and where the reporting party has nothing to fear in submitting a meritorious report.
Ultimately, the only reasons I see posts suggesting an addition or removal to the server, not being implemented is because: it is technically damaging to the server, or impossible to implement from a technical standpoint (in both cases, which the technical admin should be responsible for explaining his reasons - without giving away information that would put the security of the server at risk), or because it is out of favor throughout the entire community (as in, not just staff). Other than this, I think, pretty much, any suggestion that is popular enough should be implemented. And one minor suggestion I have is to get rid of both ban appeals and player reporting on the public forums, and make them private threads. This stops a banned player from ever submitting an appeal, where they might feel embarrassed to let everyone see that they were banned; especially if they feel their ban was invalid. I’m not sure why this is even a thing; however, I think it should be acceptable for both staff and the banned parties to be permitted to allow another member to testify in favor or against the person being banned. (And the security against someone abusing that is common sense. New Survivors just coming onto cause chaos don’t know anyone anyways, and people have to choose trust-worthy members to help their case, just like the old staff application system used to ask for support from another member.)
Role out resets faster:
This can be easily solved if we have an active technical administrator who is comfortable with doing bulk code, do that full time. If I know anything about code, it’s that it takes a lot of time and effort to get right (and that applies for people who can be thorough with it, even). In any case, I don’t believe the full-time technical administrator should do anything else (maybe even, play the game). (That is also why I had a place-holder in the roles section above - because it simply cannot be part of another.) In my opinion, this should be an obvious step.
Here is another idea that I had: just cater to both tastes. Some of you reading this may recall this idea which the previous administration proposed. To put it crudely, the idea was to have two different survival worlds with different resetting schedules. This interested me, so I spoke with a developer on another server just to get knowledge of how this might work, and they explained that it would be technically feasible to have a newer version with some scavenged, crude, plug-ins working, as well as another IP address with the current, more refined version, in which all plug-ins work as intended.
These are the issues I can see: we would still have to sort out some plug-in related issues, because moderation might be different when staff might not have their hands on every plug-in that they do on the “main” world. Maybe make this world available only to higher-ranked players, calling it a “test-world” to make sure the next map starts out without many problems. Lower-ranked players seem less susceptible to going inactive right before resets anyways (maybe because they don’t know about them), and it would ease the work staff have to do with less refined plug-ins. Secondly, communication-related problems. People on one IP might still need to communicate with others, especially staff. (This would be a possible trade-off: if you really want to play on the most recent version, you might have to give up being able to chat with players who are not on the same version as you are.) Not sure how this communication would work, and if I tried designing it, it would involve a lot of complicated and useless parts (not to mention, I don’t know code), so I must leave this to the technical admin to decide. I think this idea can be workable, at the very least, if the technical admin is willing to try this out and briefs staff on the changes to how they would be working in this environment. But again, I’m not sure of this idea myself, and it’ll need some more thinking on everyone’s part.
As will all of this. So please respond, and don’t hold back.
I’ll end it there.
Post-Script: Like I stated, this post is not intended to spark an attack on the current staff administrator (or the staff team). But, I would like to personally request that Wabbitface or a higher authority explain how to best and comfortably submit complaints, concerns, and misgivings about any current staff member/admin. I feel that to some extent, this is unavoidable, but at least this way, inappropriate methods are not seeked.
22 December, 2015
Im going to try and keep this as brief and concise as possible because it's late at night and I don't care to spend hours discussing this. I agree with some of the afformentioned (except dlbuuuuuuunk who stated a lot of the things I felt and others that I didn't think of but dont oppose). That being said, to avoid redundency I will try to only introduce unmentioned issues. Also, if you read this Flare, I apologize in advance for how it sounds like Im discussing you behind your back, this is meant for you to read and discuss too but including you within the pronouns is a grammatical nightmare.
Bad Communication- Yes, yes, this was brought up already, but I feel like this could be clarified and expanded upon. As a mod, I felt like I was just a unit under the admins. That being said I only ever saw or heard from Flare.. I never had any major issues with Flare like some other players although there are a few things he did that I very heavily disagreed with that there were problematic, in my opinion, to the server.
*edit 2* also I'm still a mod on the forums even though I got kicked from staff a while ago. Sooooooo..... great management.
A few months back, Flare made the decision to promote some mods to Senior mod. Although this in itself wasn't problematic, the decision to make the staff team specialize on specific nodes of the server was a terrible idea. Although I believe this was voted on in a staff meeting, there was no checkup to go "Hey, this was an awful idea". So this system stayed. Additionally, I requested to be on the Survival team as I had spent less than a day on any other game mode combined however the positions were randomized. I got stuck on heights. Heights, I had less than an hour of playtime on heights... So the two major concerns here are, why were the positions randomized instead of based off of how much the staff spends on each node and why were the slots split evenly. NO ONE PLAYS CREATIVE SO WHY IS 1/4 OF THE STAFF TEAM DEVOTED TO IT. This splitting was an awful idea and going back on it would be greatly beneficial to the staff's ability to enjoy the server AND staff it.
*edit*(I'm sticking this here as I don't know where else to stick it) I chose to spend 6 months as a Guide (3 additional months to the usual) as I didn't feel comfortable moving up to mod without being proficient at the commands that Flare briefly ran through in my training session. Although the session was incredibly useful, the lack of this same training for mod lead to many staff that weren't as proficient with logblock and other staff tools being moderators when they really didn't know what they were doing. Nothing against these people personally, I love them they're awesome, but they certainly needed more practice.
Aside from the meeting times being generally at a sucky time for me, which is understandable since non-American players need to attend the meetings too, in more recent times Flare was way too strict about attending staff meetings (However I do acknowledge the efforts made to fix this issue). Practically every meeting had a threat of demotion to Guide attached to it. If you want staff to attend the meetings don't threaten them EVERY SINGLE TIME. On a side note, I was kicked off the staff team entirely instead of being demoted to guide. This follows me announcing I may not be able to make the meeting beforehand and offering to meet with Flare afterwards to catch-up and participate in his "Mystery Test". This request was never acknowledged. Although this was almost certainly not intentional, it still demonstrates a lack of communication. Furthermore, this test, aside from being a ridiculous source of stress and a needless scare tactic, required no knowledge of commands to pass... WHY. Since the server switched to 1.14 and therefore switched to new plugins, almost none of the staff were proficient with the new commands and staffing features. A training session would have been incredibly helpful to resolve this.
The two biggest takeaways from this paragraph are stop using petty scare tactics and LISTEN TO AND ENCOURAGE THE MODS, there is no I in team.
Next, now that I've got my half rant and half advice segment out of the way, a few general tips and observations.
90% of the player base quits after 3-4 months on a new map. This leads to the server becoming the equivalent of a Single Player World under a players Server tab. This could be fixed with more enthusiasm from the staff team and events of many varieties such as spleef events, scavenger hunts, pvp competitions, and a variety of other things besides the approximately biannual build competitions. Although they don't need to be 3 times a week like those youtuber servers, even once or twice a month is a lot more helpful.
Another issue that contributed to player loss was spreading the server too thin. Creative wasn't too much of an attraction after the first few weeks meaning it didn't make much of an issue. The same applies to Doomsday as once you die you can't play for a while. Heights was the issue. around a third of the players decided to grind heights. Although not the majority, the sense of community and activity on survival took a massive hit because of it. I think heights was pretty well executed but it was too much too soon for this server. By dividing the player base in this way both communities felt more alone and ultimately quit sooner.
Staff interactions were also pretty garbage. The staff rarely talk to each other off the server outside of the few friend groups and the occasional factions that form such as Blitz, Dark Hounds, and The Allegiance. This means that overall the staff are less engaged. If the staff had hangout days or something organized through the server that would improve staff dynamics drastically.
*edit 3* Due to these issues, I'm not disappointed about being kicked from the staff team however I would love to reapply in the future if these issues get fixed.
That is all for now, if I think of anything else important I will edit it in or reply. Thank you for reading :3.
*I hold nothing against anyone even if I sound like it, I still appreciate and respect anyone I bickered about.
21 May, 2015
It's late and I'm tired so I won't post much right now. I might add thoughts later though.
I did want to say that the idea of a builder role is a good one in my opinion. There is another server I like to play on and they have a builder role. It works pretty well on there. I will add that there should be a head/lead builder that sets up the permissions for the areas where the builders are to build and coordinates what is to be done. I suppose the technical admin could handle this but it would be good to take this off his/her plate.
I hope this is allowed to be a meaningful discussion. Nice posts by all so far.
Thank you for bringing this to our attention.
We have read through and discussed all the topics raised in this thread. The staff team is currently being re-organised and a plan for the future of the server is being arranged.
This will be posted on the forum when it is formalised in order to receive feedback.
13 January, 2015
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