Thursday, September 4, 2014

4.5. Slay It Forward

The DoD guild forums, displaying the karma leaderboard

Your Name In Lights

Along the top of the forums were a list of names, each paired with a conspicuous number. Every day the numbers changed and the names shifted positions. The first few weeks saw the greatest fluctuation as the guild gradually dipped their toe in the karma pool. As one traversed a forum topic, each entry displayed two new buttons: one labelled +, the other, -. Clicking them produced a message, "Here you can explain, or write a reason why you are increasing or decreasing this user's karma". Most important of all was the public record: clicking a user's name allowed you to access their karma changelog, an audit trail of goodness. All the info you needed to battle your way on to the leaderboard was to see what others were doing, then take the initiative yourself.

I scanned through the list of recent adjustments:

Goldenrod » Dalans: "Because this linked me to the Mega Man hoodie, which I will be buying." 

Jemb » Randyflagg: "Made a very lovely CSI image of me, props to him :D" 

Kedavra » Omaric: "Mad rapping skills"

Klocker » Bheer: "Dear lord cat is funny." 

It was good to see them taking to the tool, playing with it, experimenting in trading karma for cat pictures. But there was so much more potential buried there. The course of action I knew best was to lead by example, so I joined the karma pool party.

I issued my first karma reward on the 8th of July:

Hanzo » Kizmet: "for filling an empty spot in the raid."

In a not-completely-hardcore, not-quite-casual guild, roster backfill was a weekly necessity. A slow, deliberate re-education brought the guild to a point where Raiders just knew to be online at invite time. Standby was their best shot at getting into a raid they couldn't commit to. And while my Elites' competitive drive was the fundamental force in our raids, it was the Raiders that were the unsung heroes of progression. They were the battle tested, loyal members of our guild who waited patiently at the sidelines to fill, not always gaining a spot, nor proclaiming to be entitled to one. Thanks to karma, I was now able to issue a public thank you to those who helped make it possible...and the public record helped remind others of its importance.

The guild wasn't often privy to the level of effort necessary to maintain itself. People gave up their time slaying internet dragons (or the Alliance, depending on your preference) to sit down and work out the kinks with me...and these weren't always officers. Cheeseus and Bheer both spent a hefty amount of time testing the forum karma implementation, coming back with display issues that needed fixing, numbers that needed tweaking, and suggestions that polished off the rough edges. For this work, I issued out karma as well:

Hanzo » Cheeseus: "For contributing QA to me on the Karma implementation."

...and received karma in return:

Bheer » Hanzo: "Yup, the post box and + - buttons all look perfect now. Well done sir!

And... How am I the first person to have given you karma? :p"

It was only a matter of time before those investigating the leaderboard began to get ideas of their own on how to make contributions of value.

The administrative view of forum karma

How Do I Love Thee?

The first signs warmed the cockles of my heart. I found guild members thanking those who gave of their extra time to provide more raiding options to the guild:

t@t » Mangetsu: "for doing the alt run."

There were examples of selflessness between players with regards to loot:

Helmeron » Deathonwing: "For the great action of passing loot on when he could've had it!"

Officers thanked non-officers for officer-like behavior:

Jungard » Joredin: "Doing a good job keeping our 10-man raid information organized here on the forums."

Fellow raiders thanked one another for insight into the wonderful world of theorycrafting...

Bheer » Jemb: "Useful posts are useful."

...as well as acknowledgement of expertise at the wheel:

Drecca » Blain: "For being Blain, a rogue that actually knows how to use tricks of the trade"

This exchange of make-believe points for qualified effort soon reached beyond the confines of the guild. DoD took karma a step further, and used it to thank people for helping with concerns not bound to the guild or even World of Warcraft:

Goldenrod » Omaric: "Help with my computer"

Random acts of support and encouragement:

Riskers » Lexxii: "Good luck with the grant!"

People that had otherwise never met each other before in real life offered their beds up for BlizzCon:

Moo » Goldenrod: "Um, that is such a nice gesture. I have accommodations but i just think it's really nice of you and your girlfriend to be so generous. I look forward to meeting you both!"

The members of DoD laid their feelings bare like never before:

Borken » Larada: "Because I love you."

Jokes aside, it was encouraging to see the guild treating each other with that kindness and respect I had hammered home for so many years. I resisted considering forum karma anything more that a fun toy, but watching those initial exchanges gave me hope that the guild really did consider itself an extended family. It was the bond of family that was going to have to carry us through an approaching storm.

Any opportunity that arose to supply positive feedback, I jumped on it. If players advocated for DoD, I rewarded them for selling the guild. If officers moderated the forums, I thanked them for their work. If I messed up the raid rotations for the week, and players corrected me, their honesty would not be taken for granted. And if they invoked concerns of their class or upcoming changes in Cataclysm with care and insight, rather than blatant whines and complaining, I was certain to reward that good behavior.

Anyone was capable of good behavior, with just a touch of effort:

Hanzo » Ben: "For being passionate and vocal about the Shadow Priest situation. Now, go tell Blizzard."

---

Forum Karma was a great addition to the DoD boards. It was fun, inspired the guild to spend more time participating in discussions, and acted as self-perpetuating conduit of positive guild culture. But forum karma had one other unintended benefit buried in its use: it gave me a window into the guild's state of mind.

Lexxii and Immortalus prepare to run
 down Dirty, while Rainaterror looks on,
Dalaran

Cake and Eating It

When Bonechatters approached me with the option of bringing in Rainaterror's shaman for a solitary achievement, I hesitated. What was intended as a gesture of kindness could easily be perceived as selfishness by others. A loose set of attendance restrictions was already a courtesy DoD extended to Raiders that couldn't...or wouldn't...re-arrange their real-life schedules around our raid times. Fair enough, that was their choice. But to duck out of raids, yet still want help to wrap up an achievement felt very much like the proverbial cake, complete with a layer of entitlement-flavored icing. DoD's mission was to go above and beyond for one another, so this decision teetered dangerously between helping out a guildy and supporting lazy selfishness. I deliberated briefly, then told Bonechatters that I was fine with allowing it, but that there were no guarantees we could fit her in. Secretly, I suspected this wouldn't go over well.

I wasn't too far off.

Neps, an officer known for sardonic yet lighthearted wit, pulled no punches in his criticism of Bonechatters' request,

"Aight, I'll be the assholedickpieceofshit again. I love you, Bone, but there's no way in Hell you're bringing her toon. I hate being mean and shit, but we can't be carrying peeps to get drakes. I know a bunch of raiders will agree with this too. If people miss runs or are just bad and don't get to come again, then we shouldn't be going out of our way to get them some drakes that the rest of us put in a shit load of time to get. I just don't like giving peeps free stuff that we we're working so hard to get. Sorry."

Drecca was next to respond, "I don't really want to raid normal modes for people who were/are too busy to raid with us most of the time, or got rotated out for whatever reason. It's completely unfair to the people who've spent months, nonstop, in ICC and still continue to do so."

Pulling back the curtain mirrored these sentiments. A flow of karma issued to Neps reflected that same mentality:

Bheer » Neps: "Karma for this. Holy shit, you're always the nice guy Neps!"

Ben » Neps: "I think you know why."

Jungard » Neps: "Good point. We aren't exactly worried about the status of players like Raina and aether on drakes lol."

Randyflagg » Neps: "FATALITY!"

Klocker » Neps: "For bringing sexy back."

All doubt on which side of the fence this issue fell was obliterated in that moment. The reason why didn't come to me until I chatted with Jungard on the subject later.

"Yeah, I wasn't too keen on the idea, but I also felt the guild had a bit of an obligation to at least extend Boney the option. Seeing your response in Neps' karma history lumped in with everyone else helped set the record straight."

"Oh, that's public?"

"...uh, yeah. Didn't I show you this part? See, you can list Neps' entire history from his profile."

"Hm, I don't think so. This is a pretty cool feature. So...you can see all the karma changes and reasons and such?"

It appeared that some people still thought their karma exchanges were private.

In "public", out on the forums, guildies would be more inclined to edit themselves, or often just go with the flow. If they had a mechanism to keep their opinions private, however, they might be more inclined to speak the truth, without fear of repercussion. And if by chance, it wasn't entirely well known that every guildy's history was accessible, then taking the guild's temperature via karma carried a lot more weight.

I kept further announcements about the karma mod on the down-low, watching and waiting to see what they would do next, while I brainstormed other ways to take the guild's pulse. Knowing where their heads were at was vitally important to a decision I was giving serious consideration to: excising the 10-Man teams from the guild completely.

6 comments:

kizmet said...

Orly I was first? What! ?

Shawn Holmes said...

@Kizmet,

#truestory

Anonymous said...

I was expecting a bunch of nagative Karma to come flowing in, and none did.

>Impressed

But that was a MIGHTY large foot in the mouth there at the end, holy crap.

"Good point. We aren't exactly worried about the status of players like Raina and aether on drakes lol."

Oof, that could have exploded well and truely.

-Catelina, Wishing my comp could handle WoD, looks like I won't be getting back to WoW anytime soon... over a year now

Aedilhild said...

Our firewall was to require participation in the midweek 25-man.

With T11's 10-man regarded as tougher, our main event was initially spared but the loss of an intermediate-difficulty source of gear -- to say nothing of the 180 from Naxx on introductory raids -- was too far from expectations and by early 2011, 40% of the roster had left. We ended up clearing pre-nerf normals on 10 before rebuilding the 25-man for T12.

I imagine the difficulty was slightly less of an issue for DoD than other factors. I'm very interested to see how your edict turned out.

Shawn Holmes said...

@Catelina,

Oh, c'mon now. You *know* we're only just getting started with Karma, right? ;)

@Aedilhild,

There's a bit of back-and-forth on the subject coming up. Hopefully it'll paint a clearer picture on why I eventually decided to do what I did, without boring readers to tears in the process.

Zyr said...

Well clearly the best karma message in there has to be "Kadrok >> Taba I think you need this because your mother is a whore"