Staff Responsibility/Accountability

MurderWeasel
MW's Private Rank
Joined: February 18th, 2009, 7:01 am

May 30th, 2017, 7:31 pm #1

Hey, staff. It is with a heavy heart that I come to the long-forgotten Support/Suggestions board today, but a matter has been brought to my attention that I feel requires immediate and public acknowledgment and redress.

A member came to me today to ask advice on a situation regarding inactivity. The specifics of the case aren't particularly consequential, but what stirred me to action was when, near the end of our conversation, the member mentioned that their appeal had actually been granted by SOTF Help, they had posted, and then hours later they were informed that their appeal had been granted erroneously and was thus being revoked.

I think it goes without saying that such a turn of events is completely unacceptable from any sort of fairness-based or member-first perspective.

While I am given to understand that the initial appeal was granted by a single staffer acting without authorization or approval of the team, that does not change the fact that an appeal was granted through SOTF Help and that the member posted in accordance with said appeal, constituting a return to activity, prior to the PM rescinding the appeal.

If a mistake was made on the part of a staffer acting unilaterally, that is very much a problem worthy of internal discussion and possibly of some form of appropriate action or reform, but that is an internal situation that should be handled by staff. What is totally unacceptable is for a member operating in accordance with rules and official staff communications to be punished for an internal staff error. The unauthorized granting of the initial appeal was the fault of the staffer who granted it, not the handler who received it. The failure to follow protocol was on the part of the staff team. If a handler is making a request or communication through an unauthorized channel, staff needs to handle that appropriately, shutting it down or redirecting as need be. I've been in that spot, again and again. I know it can be tough to say "My personal opinion is X, but that has no binding until discussed by the whole staff," but that is the only correct action. Once a staffer knowingly uses their authority to grant an appeal, they are wielding the weight of the team, and while this can be repaired (and has been at many points in the past), that repair work must be done with a keen eye towards treating affected members with all possible fairness and leniency.

I was on staff for a long, long time. I remember vividly the difficult and tense situations we've dealt with, and I know that an erroneous ruling can be incredibly frustrating to deal with. At the same time, staff has always prided itself upon fairness and has always accepted the repercussions of its mistakes. No single staffer is perfect, and the collective certainly is not either. Mistakes happen. But part of making mistakes is dealing with them fairly and professionally, and rescinding an appeal—one that had been granted by SOTF Help and acted upon in a timely fashion—due to errors made by staffers and utterly outside the control of the affected handler, is neither professional nor fair.

A key part of staff work has always been weighing costs and rewards. In this case, I see very little reward that could possible be worth the cost to staff's reputation of undoing a ruling to the expense of a handler. I have been, by and large, very proud of the operation of staff since my departure. I consider you all friends and I trust you to do what you think is best. But this is not best. This is a massive staff error, and one that demands immediate corrective action and acknowledgment of the mistake.

If staff going off half-cocked is a problem (and I know it historically has been) then that should be dealt with internally. If that means establishing procedures to prevent similar occurrences (or enforcing existing procedures more carefully), barring certain staffers from handling certain decisions or using certain features (say, SOTF Help) without oversight, or (in the worst case scenario) placing staffers on probation or removing them from the team, then so be it. But a staff mistake should not result in punishment for a handler. A granted appeal must be a granted appeal, unless for some reason something comes to light to suggest that the handler knowingly supplied inaccurate information. Anything else undermines the system we've spent so long honing, and that cannot be allowed to pass without comment.

In the interests of full disclosure, and with permission of the handler involved, the PMs that provoked my ire with dates and times included may be found here. I understand that there have been further communications, but that really falls outside my sphere of concern; I'm only getting involved in this due to what I see as a tremendous mistake on the part of the staff team, one which causes me serious concern for the site's well-being.
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1245
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1245
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Joined: June 29th, 2013, 5:06 pm

May 30th, 2017, 8:46 pm #2

Staff has a board to decide things. Why would they single-handedly just 'ok' stuff?
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MurderWeasel
MW's Private Rank
Joined: February 18th, 2009, 7:01 am

May 30th, 2017, 9:03 pm #3

birthday kid wrote:Staff has a board to decide things. Why would they single-handedly just 'ok' stuff?
It's caused a lot of trouble historically (and was something I talked a lot about prior to stepping down), and I certainly can't speak for anyone involved. In the three occurrences in V6 Pregame of unilateral staff action, the staffer(s) who acted erroneously was/were talked to about it and the most lenient option among those proposed/enacted was the one allowed to stand. This has also been the precedent in prior versions and a change from that represents a notable departure from established handling of such situations.
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Ciel
Mr. Danya
Joined: May 26th, 2007, 12:17 am

May 30th, 2017, 10:18 pm #4

I'm going to throw my two cents in here.

As you might have gathered from the logs Toben posted, staff marked my character Scout Pfeiffer as inactive. A pm was sent through SOTF_Help as I was in the middle of writing a post. I was distraught about the situation, and I sent the response without really thinking. The response was short and panicked. If I were given the chance to do it again, I would have chosen my words better, but I can't change what's in the past.

However, regardless of the circumstances or the wording, there is no requirement for what your appeal should say. It just says that you have to respond in three days, or seventy-two hours. So by the written rules of the site, my appeal is considered an 'official' appeal. So I do not understand why staff is making the distinction between my appeal and an 'official appeal'.

I also do not know what lead to the decision of accepting my appeal. I certainly have no clue how many members were involved in the decision. But the fact that staff feels they are allowed to just up and decide to repeal a decision made through SOTF_Help, the mediary that represents staff as a whole, is just plain wrong.

My big thing about this is that staff has taken the stance that the decision was made without any 'staff deliberation', effectively distancing themselves from any responsibility in the mistake. Before proceeding to lump the blame onto me by bringing up the fact that I approached a staff member asking them to check Help and insinuating that I was putting 'pressure' on them. That claim is laughable, frankly. It's been my habit to poke a staff member whenever I send help a message. I've been doing it since V4 and not once have I been reprimanded for it. In fact, staff has gone out of its way to make an announcement denouncing inappropriate conduct with staff, and yet they make the point of mentioning 'it's fine to approach us to ask us to check the SOTF_Help mailbox'.

And yet I am being punished for following the rules and expectations of the board? It's my fault that staff made a mistake?

Now you could make the argument that my opinion should not matter, not only because I am not staff but because this deals directly with one of my characters and that is a pretty biased position to be in. I can understand that line of logic. However, even if I had no part in this, if I were instead a third party who was just learning about this, I know my opinion would be the same. This sets an unfair and quite frankly scummy precedent. I do not think staff realizes the severity of this situation.
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Ruggahissy
Mr. Danya
Joined: June 10th, 2010, 2:07 am

May 30th, 2017, 10:49 pm #5

I think the staff is within their rights to correct an error. The notice was given in error, staff cops to it, and says that Ciel can appeal now that staff is on the same page about how to handle it, that being as a group.
[+] spoiler
[+] spoiler
- Today at 8:38 PM
imagine this happening in life
and you pissed off a cop and he made you live with some incontinent sodafreak

05:57 NotAFlyingToyYou would not kill a policeman
05:57 NotAFlyingToyYou would not steal his helmet
05:57 NotAFlyingToyYou would not defecate in his helmet and mail it to his grieving family.
05:57 NotAFlyingToyYou would not steal it again

17:06 Ruggawork An orison is a prayer
17:07 trash i don't know why i thought it was a bird
17:07 trash who looks at random ass words and thinks "huh what does that mean? whatever it's probably a bird"

14:11 Kalopsia I HEARD FURRIES AND I CAME AS FAST AS I COULD.
14:11 Imehal Lovely.
14:11 Imehal Read that again.

20:16Outfoxd I SAID I'M TAKIN IT BACK FROM THE SALTINE ESTABLISHMENT
20:16Meeemz Half the drag queens on Drag Race would beg to differ.
20:16Outfoxd EVERYONE KNOWS ALL DANCE CAME FROM AFRICA
20:17Outfoxd YOU CRACKAS NEED TO PUT SOME CHEESE ON YOSELF AND GO SIT ON A SNACK TRAY SOMEWHERE

21:07craft i
21:07craft am a fan of blowjbs.
21:07craft nods sagely
21:07Rugga ?
21:07Rugga Does that mean you get a lot of them or give a lot?
21:07craft yes
21:07craft wait
21:07Rugga ....



22:31Mimi THATS WHAT I THPGUTH
22:31Mimi THOUGHTU
22:31mudkip MIMI'S TURN
22:31Ruggahissy Thougt
22:31Ruggahissy THOUGHT
22:31Mimi HOUGHT
22:31Ruggahissy We got it
22:31Mimi THOUGHT
22:31Ruggahissy WE GOT IT
22:31Mimi we did good
22:32Mimi we're a good team

22:46 Meeemz I love dicks, though
22:46 Meeemz er
22:46 Rugga Sig quote
22:46 NaftUm
22:46 Meeemz dicky characters
22:46 Meeemz GOD NO

19:45 BikrikiI am pretty sure we can built a bridge to jerking off

00:11 Mimi DOESN'T FOAM BREAK EASILY
00:11 Ruggahissy Not if you wrap it in duct tape
00:11 MurderWeasel There's a fiberglass core.
00:12 MurderWeasel And the foam is some special sort you buy directly from another dimension using souls as currency or something.
00:12 Ruggahissy.........

14:42 Bikriki JA! Stick it in ze boot!
14:43 Rugga I LOVE THIS KID
14:43 Bikriki adds that to list of sexual euphemisms
14:43 Skyler_Phone You have a list?
14:43 Bikriki <.<
14:43 Bikriki >.>
14:43 Bikriki No...

Victoria says:
Oh wait, I totally forgot to tell you last night because I was busy whoring
Mimi says:
STORY
OF
MY
LIFE

16:42 KamiKaze I've always wondered what using a fleshlight feels like.
16:42 KamiKaze Too bad I'm not special because God didn't give me a penis. ):

17:46 Dom LET JESUS INTO YOUR HEART, NOT YOUR VAGOO

Ruggahissy this dress makes me feel like I should be having tea with the mad hatter. Not getting felt up by drunk Germans
Dom don't let them go down the rab-
Ruggahissy BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
Dom SO WORTH IT

09:51 Vicky We did a good job, didn't we, Meemz?
09:51 Mimi not really, no

03:19 GeneralGoose*BUT HE'S GONNA THINK IT'S A SPOON. OR MY PENIS. WHICH IT ISN'T*

23:15 Cluevara ICE CREAM MAKES YOU FAT YOU LARDY LARD BUTT.


[+] spoiler
Jonah Heartsgrave: If you need to talk I'll listen.
Lori Martin: You're so stuck up.
Tirzah Foss: Let's have some fun.
[+] spoiler

v6
Caleb Diamond: Silly sacrificer
Hazel Jung: Abandoned actress
v5
Amaranta Montalvo: Pageant Winner
Michelle Wexler: Vegetarian sweetheart
Paris Ardennes : Scheming holy man

v4
Ethan Kent : The smartest jerk
Sally Connelley: Dainty meanie
Nick LeMonde : Eternal optimist
Isabel Guerra: Sad little girl
Autumn O'Leary: Lonely redhead
Mary-Ann Warren: Crumbling romantic
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MurderWeasel
MW's Private Rank
Joined: February 18th, 2009, 7:01 am

May 30th, 2017, 11:14 pm #6

Ruggahissy wrote:I think the staff is within their rights to correct an error. The notice was given in error, staff cops to it, and says that Ciel can appeal now that staff is on the same page about to handle it, that being as a group.
I think it is incorrect and unjust for a handler to be punished due to what you are saying is an acknowledged staff error. If the error is staff's, then so must be the fallout.
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Ciel
Mr. Danya
Joined: May 26th, 2007, 12:17 am

May 30th, 2017, 11:24 pm #7

Ruggahissy wrote:I think the staff is within their rights to correct an error. The notice was given in error, staff cops to it, and says that Ciel can appeal now that staff is on the same page about to handle it, that being as a group.
I would concede to your point if we were talking about a known staffer or subset of staffers making the call on their own. But this was funneled through SOTF_Help, an account that was made as an anonymous middleman between staff and the regular members.

I don't know how many people were involved in this decision and I really don't care. Names and numbers do not matter in this case. Isn't the entire point of having SOTF_Help is to avoid this sort of thing?
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1245
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1245
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Joined: June 29th, 2013, 5:06 pm

May 31st, 2017, 6:54 am #8

Well, we can all agree that this situation is stupid and we should fix this kind of problem for v7.
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MurderWeasel
MW's Private Rank
Joined: February 18th, 2009, 7:01 am

June 2nd, 2017, 5:53 am #9

I don't think it needs to take until V7 for this to be fixed. In fact, the system as established has prevented such problems for at least six years.

I'm giving this a poke because of a few reasons. First off, I have yet to receive an official response of any sort to my concerns, as expressed either in this thread or through PM (I've received several polite and professional unofficial ones, but this is something that really does require an official response). I understand that these things can take time to discuss and deal with, but I strongly believe such things must take precedence over plowing ahead in ways that serve to compromise the potential for fair decision-making. This leads to the second factor in my renewed discussion of the matter: the posting of rolls using a list excluding the character in question. I contacted two staffers within ten minutes of the rolling list being updated to strongly suggest that any characters in contention remain on the list in the short term. This has been policy for a very long time because it prevents some pretty unfair situations, and I'm disappointed that such preventative measures were not taken, especially since doing so in no way compels staff to change their minds, merely leaves a window open for it to be less of a problem should they choose to do so. The roll system is key to SOTF's functioning, and its integrity really needs to be beyond question.

In this case, if a character is excluded from the list but later restored to good standing, a huge procedural problem emerges. It's unfair to every other handler in the game to wave a restored character through even a single set of rolls, especially so late in the game; getting a free pass represents a huge advantage. It's unfair to the targeted handler to roll ahead in such a way as to put them into this situation, especially if in so doing staff makes it harder to hold a discussion on the situation. Likely the fairest option should an appeal be granted afterwards would be to hold a special set of rolls based on the probability the character in question would have been rolled had they been included in the first place, followed by a separate set of card and death timers as needed should it unfold that they are rolled. Needless to say, this is inelegant and messy in the extreme.

I bring this up primarily because it represents what I feel has been staff's inexplicable and damaging philosophy throughout this issue: a full-speed charge ahead followed by a bullheaded defense of the actions taken sans acknowledgement that they might have been incorrect.

This has manifested further in my private, unofficial communications with staff. I was repeatedly led to believe that a factor in the rescinding of the appeal was that the initial action had been in some fashion coerced or guilt-tripped. I came to suspect, however, that the bulk of staff was not actually particularly aware of the incident prompting this, since my discussions on the matter with various parties produced markedly different summaries of what transpired. This led to the following exchange (also featuring my suggestion about the rolling list--in the interests of full disclosure, the staffer in question stated they were not involved in the rolls, leading me to seek out a second staffer who informed me that it was too late to make any adjustments, and I have no complaints whatsoever with the staffer in question or any aspect of our communications--indeed I greatly valued a chance to bounce ideas and thoughts off a member of the team). I'm the one doing the majority of the talking in this excerpt:



So I went and got the logs myself. Here they are (with the staffer in question masked for anonymity):





Note that the only direct request made in the conversation is to check Help's PMs. The staffer in question politely and professionally suggests calm, notes that they are going to talk to other staff, and makes no promises of either resolution or timeframe of response. This is, bluntly, a pretty perfect reply to the situation... except that the staffer in question apparently then made the decision without actually consulting all of staff.

Everything in this exchange suggests that all avenues being pursued are the official ones. There are no untoward requests whatsoever. Indeed, the recent post detailing manners of staff contact agrees:
Emphasis Mine wrote:Attention handlers,

Recently we've had a series of instances where handlers have approached individual staffers in regards to appeals, matters of dispute, and other sensitive discussions. We would like to take this moment to direct people towards messaging the SOTF_Help account instead.

Approaching individual staffers for matters that require input from the entire staff team is awkward for the staffer in question, as it puts them on the spot and comes across as pressing them for a speedy answer. It can also cause issues where personal relationships are involved, as whilst we wish to have pleasant interactions with handlers on the site, we also have responsibility to maintain fairness and keep the rules enforced, which can naturally lead to some disappointment. Utilising the impersonal channel of SOTF_Help allows us to avoid awkward conversations between staffers and handlers, and keeps relationships out of the decision-making process.

Please keep this in mind when considering approaching a staffer for matters. Whilst things like questions and requests for information are fine in most instances, sensitive matters or appeals should go through SOTF_Help. It is fine to approach one of us to ask us to check the SOTF_Help mailbox, but please leave it at that.

Thanks and kind regards,
The SOTF Staff team
At no point in the logs is any request made other than to check Help's PM box.

So, having secured these logs and permission from the handler involved to see to it that staff received them, I PMed them to staff with the following note:
Me to staff wrote:Heya, staff!

In the interests of full disclosure, I did get hold of the logs of Ciel's initial contact with staff. I think it will pretty well verify that he did not request specific treatment or intervention, was led to believe that his decision was the result of staff team consideration, and at no stage behaved inappropriately. I was pretty disappointed to receive these, honestly, because I'd been hoping there was a lot more going on that I was unaware of.
I received the following reply signed by a single staffer:



I replied as follows:
Pronouns Changed for Anonymity wrote:That requires a willful misreading. He approached [them] to check and bring the matter to staff attention. [They] notified her (should be "him"--what can I say? It was late) that [they] had done so. He thanked [them] for [their] assistance. Individual staffers are thanked for collective actions often.

More than that, what's material here is that there is no inappropriate behavior on his part. I was told there was some pretty major emotional manipulation. That appears to not be the case.
So we are back to square one, and my complaint and request for reply stands. A handler followed every rule, was specifically told that their appeal came as a result of staff consultation, and then had it rescinded after posting.

For all intents and purposes, staff did this:



I really do think this needs to be addressed and discussed as a matter of serious concern and site health. Mistakes are natural. To grant a mediocre or poor appeal is a minor mistake. To do so without staff discussion is a moderate to severe one. But to then retroactively move the goalposts and steam ahead without proper discussion is the single biggest non-member-safety-related mistake I've seen in my time on the site. Endless V3 Endgame delays coupled with unfulfilled promises? This is worse. That affected everyone evenly and staff by and large owned and apologized for their mistake and did their best to see things handled as fairly as possible given the circumstances. Hero Deal enforcement? This is worse. That was a horrible rule that undermined the very spirit of Hero Cards, but it was one applied evenly and in which there was at least a clear good faith rationale behind it, however misguided. To selectively call backsies on an issue affecting a single handler, one in which the stakes are so lopsided, shows that staff are willing to make exceptions to over a decade of policy and written rule in favor of punishing one member for unclear reasons.
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Ciel
Mr. Danya
Joined: May 26th, 2007, 12:17 am

June 2nd, 2017, 12:19 pm #10

MurderWeasel wrote:
... What the hell does this even mean?

I was just saying thank you. Because I was relieved to still have my character and I assumed the person I contacted was the one who broached the subject to the rest of staff. That's all.

I was fucking upset. I was frantic and scared. I thought staff would gather that from my original appeal and these logs. I thought they would understand because I have directly told them as such.

Is giving thanks and apologizing for one's behavior normally congruous with shady dealings? It must be. I don't even want to consider the alternative; that staff thinks so little of me that they could dismiss a former administrator's claim like this, and through Help of all places.

I don't know how to feel about any of this.
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