Friday, February 12, 2016

Thoughts on the 2016 Event Holder's Meeting-

I’d like to provide more information and context in relation to the EHC’s decision to bypass customary process and put the arbitration committee in place without an active proposal.  As has been mentioned in the Realms group on facebook many times, it was a unanimous decision made by all Event Holders present because the feeling in the room was that it was an immediate NEED.

The questions that then come to mind for me are, : “why did they feel it was an immediate need?” and, “why did we feel we had the right to bypass the typical process even if there was an immediate need?”

In the administrative portion of the meeting we were talking about cheating charges. To be clear, we weren’t talking about things like rhino-hiding or making an unsafe weapon, we were talking about “acts that would be considered unlawful in the real world”.  Things that jeopardize player’s safety and that could increase Event Holder’s potential liability. In my mind it was important that we were taking appropriate action on these items promptly because if our players couldn’t feel confident in our ability and willingness to do so, it would be more likely to lead to outside law enforcement being involved in these issues or someone getting seriously hurt.  It wasn’t until the conversation was occurring that the ridiculousness of it being handled once a year in that setting was acknowledged by all.

A question has been asked on why if it was so important wasn’t there a prior proposal made in advance.  Frankly I think a lot of people would have said it was a good idea, but didn’t have faith that the room as a whole would see it that way. Consider it like not bothering to nominate a candidate you think is unelectable.

So, once we decided there was a need why did we feel we could do it?  I can’t speak for others, but in my mind it was a change that had minimal impact on players. We weren’t changing what was/wasn’t legal or the potential consequences for breaking rules. We were only changing the way it is  administratively  handled.  Historically the administrative section of the meeting hasn’t required formal proposals and has allowed for more flexibility in how it has run.  While we’ve moved toward more structure in that area, I’ve perceived it as a courtesy not a requirement.

On a historical note, we have bypassed procedure before. Prior to a proposal that we talk about grandfathering every year, there was a year where it wasn’t proposed but due to changes in the omnibus it was obviously needed.  At that point the EHC decided doing something that everyone present agreed was necessary was more important than following the letter of the rules. I believe the time it was phrased as “we had an obligation to”.  There was absolutely no push back or questioning of that decision.

I do think some mistakes were made. First I think that the majority of Event Holders have consistently felt that if something was a strong enough need, we as a body did have the right to override the established practice.  We should have incorporated that into the rules prior to this.

Second, I think we were on a high (and also a little loopy).  We met for 11 hours. Most of us drove at least another 2 that day. We took minimal breaks. We finally came to a consensus on something that we felt was significant and meaningful. It was like not just learning that the candidate you thought was unelectable not only might be, but actually having them elected.  We were excited and proud.

Perhaps if we weren’t, we would have given more consideration to the question of how those outside the room would view it and how to best present it to mitigate that (perhaps we shouldn’t have 11 hour meetings once a year to decide things, but that is a bigger question).  I think we should have started off by saying we understood that we didn’t follow procedure and were sorry that player’s weren’t able to give feedback.  We should have made it clear that it wasn’t done lightly and is not something we anticipate needing to do regularly.

I am also concerned about the marginalizing of complaints of the community members who weren’t at the meeting. I have the unique position of being part of the Senior Leadership for a democratically run company (we win awards and stuff, it’s a pretty cool place). It has taken me many years to learn that if you want an organization where people step up and contribute their time and energy, you have to minimally be willing to let them have a voice and share their opinions and engage in a constructive dialog with them—even when they are expressing their opinions in a way you find unproductive. If you don’t they become disenfranchised, checked out, and stop contributing.  We need contributors. We need people to care.

I’ve also learned that it is dangerous to make assumptions that if there are a few voices there are few opinions.  I’ve heard people say it is a small group of people that are bothered. I do think it is a minority, but I know there are more people that have concerns than are saying it publicly.  I’ve heard it written off to politics and who likes and supports who, and I acknowledge that it is easier for people to critique people they don’t like/get along with. That said, I suspect that while there are possibly people who are being extra critical due to personal feelings related to those involved, there  are likely others who have concerns but  aren’t expressing them out of respect  

The reality is the Event Holder’s Council created expectations from players that they would have an opportunity to give input that we then didn’t meet, questions and even frustrations are logical.  In the same way, those expressing opinions about the decisions, need to understand that Event Holders who are feeling insulted and disappointed have a right to those feelings as well.

At the end of the day I, personally, am proud of the Event Holders for putting the arbitration committee in place. Think about what it means- As a player you get the confidence of knowing that problems will be addressed promptly and efficiently. As an event holder you know you’ll get support in taking care of issues promptly. That is a BIG deal!!

 I am also proud of players for caring enough to express their feelings. I hope that the conversation soon moves from expressions of anger to constructive dialog, and I hope those on both sides of the discussion continue to remember how much we all care about and contribute to our community, we have people that do it differently than we would, but in general we’re all doing the best we can with the tools we have, and we all deserve to get treated with respect.

- Angela Gray

Good afternoon, everyone.

I've been a Realms event holder every year since 1999. It's not the longest run in that room, but it's close. Regardless, I have absolutely no standing to speak for the council, no one does. I'm going to, however, go beyond my station and try to do so, because something needs to be said by us. I welcome my fellow event holders who dissent with any part of my opinion to do so, please, in any area where you feel I am not representing your point of view. I'm just one voice among many.

As most of you know, at the recent Event Holders Meeting we heard cheating charges regarding an individual who was involved in what was defined by some as an "assault". It would be improper to go into any specifics about that incident, but suffice it to say the great majority of people there treated the issue with dire seriousness.

As we discussed all sides of the issue in great detail, one of the things that was evident, was discomfort. A good kind of discomfort, though. The kind where you instinctively understand that what is happening is more important than you thought it was going to be. We discussed the circumstances of the cheating charge, but much more as well. We talked passionately about past precedent and future implications, about how to best render this decision for the good of all individuals involved and the good of the community. The arguments from all parties and ensuing discussion took over an hour in which the majority of the room was cast in deafening, grave silence. It wasn't something taken lightly.

There was a thought that developed. Oddly it developed independently in several people but collectively at the same time. The issue we were discussing was bigger than this once incident. We were discussing the implications on life and property, mental and physical health, issues of fear and perception, how our community was going to define itself. It happened organically. This incident of cheating led us to consider much larger issues about how well equipped The Realms is to deal with issues like this one and beyond.

The idea of an "arbitration" group had been brandied about in the past. I had poked around with the idea in the past and other people have too. Let me be clear though, speaking for myself only, I've never had any reasonable expectation that something like that could happen in such a diverse and divisive environment as the EHC. As much as I had thought it was a need, I've dismissed it as a fantasy.

Then, all of a sudden, one individual brought the idea up, rather passionately. I had never spoken to that person before about the idea. To my honest surprise, the idea wasn't immediately rejected by the room as impossible. Shortly thereafter, another individual suggested that the creation of the committee should be part of the action that we take in response to the cheating charges. Again, that suggestion was generally accepted by most of the room. As the conversation continued, it was accepted by all of the room.

I think something special happened at that moment. That diverse and divisive group of people collectively came to the understanding that we had the opportunity to do something that was very important and very necessary. Something that should have been done years ago. Not everyone was comfortable with it, not fully. People knew it was a break from convention. Most did, in any case.

Individuals justified it in different ways, and each person would have to tell you their own way of thinking. Some honestly think that doing so was a normal part of the amendment process - there are no specific guidelines about what amendments are and they change drastically from one year to the next. Some people might have believed that it was fully against established procedure yet thought that the importance of the issue was the greater need. Some people might have believed that the rules do not actually prevent in-meeting proposals and omitting them is a matter of moderator preference. Some people probably believe that the moderators have the power to override procedure as a matter of course. There were about 45 people in that room and I guarantee you would get 45 different answers as to why each individual decided that it was the correct course of action.

I'll pause to insert a personal opinion. Each of those 45 reasons was a valid one. Equally as valid, are all of the voices that are disagreeing. Everyone has a valid perspective here and there is no answer that is objectively correct.

But moving on. As a collective room I think most people were in awe that we had the momentum to make such an important change in that situation. When we cast the first of many votes, the one that would decide if we would go on to create the committee, everyone looked around in awe as they saw it was unanimous assent. That was a very powerful moment. I think, for many of us, it reaffirmed that we were all in that room for a common purpose, and that as much as we argue, sometimes tooth and nail, that the best interests of the Realms was what we all, very deeply, cared about.

What followed were a lot of details about the wording of the text and the selection of the members and I'd be happy to relate it all (in general terms) to those who need me to. But the important part of the story ends there. Again, it was a slow, careful process where each individually was extremely concerned that we were doing everything as correctly as possible. I can't emphasize that enough.

And then, when all is said and done, we had a Facebook conversation about it all. It wasn't the most productive conversation at times, on all sides of the coin, but I agree people needed a forum to express themselves. If anything, I hope that moving forward, people can try to comment in a way that is always respectful of one another and that doesn't lead to being as emotionally charged. Many people did that already, and I thank those who have tried to meter their passion with an appreciation that opposing viewpoints are not wrong viewpoints, just different.

Again this is all just my opinion, and I will leave with a thought that is wholly my own as well. The idea of who is correct and who has the right point of view in this situation won't lead us to a place where everyone can agree. Everyone can't agree. And no one is really "right", in the end, because there is no "right", there are just different perspectives on what is best for us as a community.

For my own part, I think a group of people, acting in good faith and with honorable intentions, did the best they could with what they had. It's not a perfect situation, it's not a perfect outcome. As human beings, we have to work with flaws and imperfections to the best of our ability.

To some of you I seem like an old veteran player, but trust me, compared to many in that room, I am inexperienced and naive, so I probably lack the standing to express this. Nevertheless, I am truly proud that everyone there tried their best and showed one another that they deeply love the Realms and that they deeply care about one another and the community. Expressing it like that, in that moment, was a rare and special thing. I understand the perspective of those of you who can't agree with the decision or the method that came from that meeting, but please, if you can, try to be proud of them too.

- Jason Rosa


  1. Thank you for posting this. This article should of come first, it would of made the impact less jarring.