Special Permission Summer Review

Discussion in 'Roleplay Discussion' started by MonMarty, Jul 15, 2020.

  1. MonMarty

    MonMarty Thotdodger Staff Member Server Owner

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    As we do every year, come around summer, we take a critical look at how the Permission system is working out for us. While we've done small tinkering here and there to the formula, the rough mechanic of forumapplication to group review to final completion has been around for at least two years now, and perhaps it is time to take a more critical look at what the process does to the staff and the players who moderate/use it.

    Let's examine the good parts first:
    • Putting all Lore Staff in the position of reviewing means there is no gate keeping in permissions. When the information is parsed into the meetings, 13-20 people review an application, meaning there's no blind zones or unfair judgement from an individual.
    • Serializing the procedure helps reduce paperwork, but also keeps the system transparent. While it is true that players don't get to hear what the actual review times are like, the outcomes and approval rates are all public, which is good.
    • The new system had a definite uptick in approvals for a really long time. The expanded freedom afforded some players new ways to acquire Special Permissions previously not possible, which in itself greatly expanded the hypothetical freedom of players.
    Let's examine the shortcomings second:
    • The system is currently still semi-public. While we never really consider Special Perms an elite status, some players do consider it a social status, and as such, consider it humiliating to constantly apply and be rejected in public.
    • While all Lore Staff are permitted input, very few actually end up saying anything, deferring judgement with those who have more to say. This creates a situation where other Lore Staff feel detached emotionally from the concept of Special Permissions.
    • The serialized process that speeds up work, ends up harming the player in an unexpected way. While we can offer personalized responses to some players, many also receive hollow responses that aren't helpful, because we spend on average 2-3 hours a week reviewing apps, and so it's "easier" to slip into laziness and just slap generic responses onto rejections instead of helpful commentary.
    • Because Lore Staff become detached emotionally, they do not build the confidence in the lower ranks to confront a player about misbehavior or misconduct in roleplay, instead slapping a generic "insufficient argumentation" on an app whereas the player should really be coached into becoming a more productive member of the community, instead of being given the wrong problem and no solution plan essentially.
    In summary, the system works insofar the number of applications per week remains low. But it could be argued that the generic rejection messages don't give the players something concrete to work on, so they just keep applying over and other with applications that have no chance of succeeding, thus clogging up the system with more and more applications that drain the staff into giving quick simple responses, creating a cyclical doom train.

    So what to do about the shortcomings?
    Sometimes, a radical solution like a system reset is used to create a new playing field, injecting much needed fresh optimism into a system, and removing the wear and fatigue of doing the same thing week in week out. That being said, the system currently still works too well for a complete reset and throwing out all the old paperwork and making everyone re-apply, which is a really stressful procedure for a lot of the Permission holders. Instead, we're going to do a Form Experiment for 3 weeks (the deadline is currently set at the 9th of August when the previous system will be restored).

    So what is the Form Experiment you ask?
    The Form Experiment is a 3 week lasting period where the old Permission Application System is paused (the thread will be ghost-deleted so it can be restored later) and we implement a new system with new rules and procedures to see what will happen. This Form Experiment is radically different from anything we have ever done on MassiveCraft, and that is not to say that we are testing this system for the sake of the system, but rather what it does to the Staff members and the Players who end up using it/moderating it. It's more of a social experiment to see if these "kinds" of solutions would remove the shortcomings, or whether they would introduce new shortcomings. When the Form Experiment is over, we release a full poll where the players can give us their thoughts, and then we will see if we want to fully restore the old review system, stick with the new one, or combine aspects about both.

    So what is the Form Experiment /exactly/ you ask?
    The Process goes somewhat like this:
    • There exists a thread on the Application Section detailing a rough manual. It contains all the old familiar "What are you applying for" "How is this going to work for the community" and "Why will this be a good thing". The Form itself will have checkboxes and text boxes, making it easy to know what to fill in where.
    • Lore Staff will be divided over 2 man tag-teams for specific types of Permissions. For example, birdsfoot_violet and Finlaggan will manage the Magicspark Permissions, MonMarty and MantaRey will manage the Primal Powers Permissions, etc.
    • When these applications have been sent in, they are automatically routed to the correct responsible Lore Staff member, who will review the initial pitch. It is up to the Lore Staff then to decide whether to:
      • Reject it with a fully reasoned out reason why it won't work. So no more "Insufficient Argumentation", but more like "I wasn't convinced by the argumentation because you use a lot of buzzwords that don't give me any measurable tasks or activities from which I could tell that you are benefitting the community", etc.
      • Pend it, with a "coaching period", where the Lore Staff member will ask you to perform certain criteria, or improve your behavior. This is essentially a soft-rejection, but a soft-rejection with a clear process to work towards on how to get accepted.
      • Accept it, though not immediately approve it. Because:
    • Every Sunday, instead of coming together to review Apps, all the Lore Staff will come together to discuss their chosen applicants for approval, for a final "check up". This check up can also be used if for example a Staff member gets an application from a player they have never seen in roleplay, and they need a second opinion from Lore Staff.
    • Pending final approval on Sunday, the Lore Staff will get back in contact with the player, and arrange the final necessary details on completion.
    • If at any point the player was unhappy about how the Lore Staff responded to the process, they can file a Complaint Form on the forums for the Server Owner to review. There will be strict guidelines for "helpfulness" among the Lore Staff, and they have a level of accountability, reward vs. effort to ensure good service to the players, instead of just generic rejection messages.
    What are the intrinsic benefits to this system?
    • We hope that such a system would increase the number of actually helpful return messages instead of generic rejection messages and a vague "oh send in a ticket if you need more info".
    • We hope that it will attach a level of accountable responsibility to Lore Staff teams who want to manage a specific Permission. By specializing, the Lore Staff themselves also become more knowledgeable on the subject, and thus able to help players more.
    • By the Server Owner essentially forcing the Lore Staff who are willing to accept this "job" of reviewing to give more constructive responses to the players, we hope that this procedure will become more emotionally engaging to them, which benefits the players in the long run.
    • By attaching specific Staff to this task, we can unburden other staff from having to sit through hours of review procedures, so they can do other worthwhile tasks, like host more events.
    • By making this whole procedure 100% behind closed doors, the relationship between Lore Staff and Player can contribute to a better feedback process. The player isn't exposed to humiliation or embarrassment from the outside, and can take in the response in a levelheaded manner.
    What are the potential downsides to this system?
    • It is essentially producing a process of creating gate keepers for the sake of extra engagement. That might result in situations where if you did not get approved by 2 managers, and the complaint you filed gets you nowhere, that you're tough out of luck. That being said, we will be deploying internal "at gunpoint" benefits to Lore Staff, essentially saying "You get a free Special Perm/reward/whatever, but if you do not work with players to become solution oriented or start acting like this Permission review is your own personal kingdom, we will revoke the perm and remove you from management". Accountability with clear expectations/requirements/failure/success conditions creates a better outcome.
    • Because Permission Management will now be attached to a single individual, if that individual is on holiday or on extended leave, we will /try/ to get a replacement, but you may sometimes not be able to talk about your Permission to said person until they are back. This may slow down the process of permissions from a turnover rate of a few days to 2 weeks, albeit, we reason that sending in 1 app in 2 weeks and then getting "closure" whether it be positive or negative, is better than being beaten around the bush for months with multiple apps and getting emotionally drained in the process.
    • There is a risk of reverse gate keeping where a player might foster unreasonable hatred for a specific staff member for rejecting their app, or refuse to send in an application because they think they will be negatively judged anyway because of how they feel their relationship is with a given staff. This isn't necessarily something we can solve, rather just hope the player gives it a shot anyway, since there's "nothing to lose".
    Overall. We're excited to try out this system for the next 3 weeks. By the end the previous system will be restored. Any applications approved during this experiment will endure into post-experiment review, even if we decide this system will not work for us. Current applications are not affected, besides the fact that some might get a new "Permission Manager" (the person you go to, to see if you can get an upgrade, or if you want to change something). The application thread and instructions will be posted in the course of the day, and should be fully functional in a few hours with an announcement following shortly after. We hope this experiment yields useful results to both Staff and Players, and if it does not end up being the system we want to keep, we hope that anything learned from it might inspire an even better system than both it and its predecessor.
     
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    #1 MonMarty, Jul 15, 2020
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2020

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