Posted Wed, Apr 13, 2011 by Space Junkie
The sixth election for the Council of Stellar Management (CSM) has concluded, and the results announced at Fanfest in Iceland. Predictably, the forum equivalent of a fire immediately broke out across the regular EVE forums, Scrapheap, and the other communication venues that EVE pilots like to use. The hubbub might be a bit overwhelming for new players unfamiliar with the concept, so a general explanation is first in order.
What The CSM Is
The CSM has evolved over the years since it was first introduced as part watchdog, part public relations gimmick. The focus has evolved since then: currently it is a sort of rarified focus group, with some mild input into CCP's internal task prioritization. EVE developers bounce ideas off them, give them previews or mockups of upcoming projects, and perhaps the occasional reality check.
Sometimes, the CSM can rake CCP over the fires. This has not really happened, by itself, but rather with the CSM as the face on a massive player backlash that took place last summer. By interacting with CCP in person, the CSM can present information in a way that is impossible to ignore. Whereas CCP staff needs to opt into ready criticism in an eighty page threadnaught, it is harder to ignore an angry video CSM pounding his hands on the table about something.
What The CSM Is Not
The CSM can help nudge CCP and give them sanity checks, but they can't make them throw the baby out with the bath water.
Another thing the CSM can't do is cause CCP to change a massive corporate initiative or expend a huge amount of extra resources. This is mostly because CCP can't let a council of video game politicians choose their business plan for them. Something like "cancel Incarna" would never fly, nor would "re-build faction warfare from the ground up" unless it was already CCP's intention. The costs are just too great, and would cripple CCP's ability to pursue plans that keep their company healthy and growing.
The CSM election process is deceptively simple: during the voting period, each account that is subscribed gets a vote. The nine people with the most votes get a seat, the single person with the most votes is chairperson of the council, and the five runner-ups are "alternates" in case the main candidates need to bow out. The CSM votes as a group on issues for CCP to consider, and once a year flies out to Iceland to talk about things in person.
It's a good system, though there are occasional problems. The biggest one: in order to reduce GM workload, CCP now allows people to temporarily reactivate their accounts for the purpose of buying and activating a PLEX. Unfortunately, those accounts are able to vote. The result is that an unknown amount (but I'd bet on a figure in the hundreds) of old accounts temporarily re-subbed for the purpose of piling on the votes. I'm not sure who this state of affairs favors, if anyone, but I am sure that it runs contrary to the spirit of the elections. Some may disagree with me.
Of Majority And Plurality
Another issue that may or may not be a problem (depending on your perspective) is that due to the inherent nature of the game, the scale of the organizations involved, and the type of player attracted to the different segments of the game, null-sec alliances have a huge leg up when it comes to voting. Null-sec alliances already have the messaging and organization required to get out the votes for their candidates, and their players tend to be more plugged in and engaged with things that are happening in EVE Online. Anecdotally, there was a world of difference in the degree of interest between players at Fanfest (predominantly alliance and low-sec players, very partisan CSM opinions) and the players at CCP's PAX East gathering (largely high-sec, little interest or knowledge of CSM).
The reason this could be viewed as a problem is that a well-organized segment of null-sec could potentially edge out high-sec candidates completely. The result is that, though the CSM remains a democracy, the election results reflect a majority rather than a plurality. In fact, this is more or less what has happened with the sixth CSM council.