February 27, 2015

Time to Go!

Today is the day I move! I'm flying first class from Atlanta this evening and arriving in San Francisco after a few hour direct flight. My CEO Alekseyev Kardde will be picking me up from the airport and I'll crash on his floor for a couple of nights while I find my own place. I hope that part goes smoothly. I'm not one to stress at all, very laidback, handle things as they come. But I'm definitely worried about this part. I have a feeling I'm just going to have to put up with a really unenjoyable apartment for a year and then find the place I really want after this lease is up. I'd look at getting roommates but my girlfriend will be joining me in June (although I hope she'll be my fiance by this point). I also have a dog which will be joining me when she comes, so I have to plan in advance for that, but without the luxury of both our incomes.

Still, it's very exciting. I can't wait to get out there and start working with an awesome company and having a lot of fun! Plus, I won't be on horrible internet anymore. It's honestly been since June 2013 that I've had reliable internet. From June '13 to July '14 I was traveling across the country for work, often having access to internet speeds worse than dial up. Currently my internet is DSL, so it's manageable, I can play games, I can watch Youtube, except when I can't which is usually two or three times a day. Surely San Francisco has better infrastructure. Boy I hope so.

No Not Believing is also on the move! We've got our first contract as an alliance and, while it's not glamorous, I think it's a really nice challenge and experience especially for the guys who haven't done a contract yet. I'm just finishing up the last things before I leave later this evening: washing a few more clothes, checking my list, cleaning up. If I can get all that done, I plan on attending this contract, but gotta make sure I don't miss the plane!

I'll write a contract recap once it's over, of course!

In other news over 19,000 people have already voted in CSM X elections! That's over 5,000 more than last year. With more candidates than we've ever seen, I hope we'll also see more votes than ever too. It looks like the last big promotional event for this election season will be this weekend on the Declarations of War podcast. I'll be joining the Townhall session in which all of you are welcome to joi our TS and ask the candidates questions live. I love interacting with people "fact to face" so I'm looking forward to it!  There are still some slots left, so if you know any CSM candidates, encourage them to participate! The DoW format is unique in that it lets candidates speak with one another, which I find is a really nice change of pace to the one on one interviews.

Next time I write a post, I'll be in the sunny West Coast!
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February 25, 2015

Gonna Shed a Tear

Voting is live! 

Here's my recommended ballot:
  1. Psianh Auvyander - Of course! Ensuring that I have enough number one votes is essential to my chances, so be sure and put me there!
  2. June Ting - June's an incredible candidate. The leader of a sov-holding newbie-friendly alliance in a newbie-friendly coalition, she has not only a unique worldview and experience, but the knowledge and intelligence to put it to good use. 
  3. Bam Stroker - Bam has been one of the consistently recommended candidates across the board from every type of person, and that's no coincidence. Bam's done a bang-up job (get it?) on so many community projects, even putting half that dedication into the CSM will mean amazing things. His outreach and voice will go a long way to getting people interested and engaged, too.
  4. Mike Azariah - I had the pleasure of hanging out with a half naked Mike at Fanfest last year (it was in the Blue Lagoon, ok?) and was totally sold on the guy from that point forward. And if that weren't enough for you, just take a look at everything his fellow CSM members say about him (HINT: It's all positive). He's one of the few representatives "carebears" have, and he does a great job at so much more.
  5. Sugar Kyle - Again, one of the candidates that receives nothing but glowing praise from fellow CSM members and is known as the hardest working member. People often forget how much effort goes into being a CSM member, much less being a good one. Sugar knocks it out of the park.
  6. Steve Ronuken - Steve represents a niche of players that are so important, but that I didn't even realize needed representation until he came along. I would hate to see him not be a part of CSM (that means you're in it forever, Steve), and what would happen to the quality of our 3rd party tools if he did. Make sure he stays, whether he's running or not.
  7. Manfred Sideous - Manny is considered one of the most knowledgeable players in the game when it comes to mechanics. I've never dealt with him personally, but I know that when I look at the state of the game now, I want the best and brightest beside me when trying to come up with solid solutions. 
  8. Xander Phoena - Like Bam, Xander is another candidate who has the ability to get people involved. And make no mistake: the CSM's power comes from the players. 
  9. Jayne Fillon - Pretty much the go-to name for NPSI, Jayne would be able to represent another important and rising culture in EVE, and that's what the CSM is for. It's obvious CCP is trying to support these communities from the minutes, and having his voice be directly in the meeting would go a long way to making sure it came out the other end correctly.
  10. Endie - While he probably doesn't need my support, Endie has been an incredibly rational and intelligent voice concerning the woes of nullsec. He's got a really interesting take on the player engagement side of EVE too.
  11. Ashterothi - Ash has been another candidate that has received a lot of praise, especially from the newer player community. I can't agree more.
  12. Corbexx - Not only a wormhole incumbent (and also pretty much the only wormhole candidate you should be voting for), but Corbexx has been lauded by other CSM members as a quiet, but very hard working individual. I've heard stories that he's personally put together information that has helped shape CCP opinion simply because of the loads of data he was able to collect. That's the kind of member you want on the CSM.
And the last two? Well, it's tougher here. There are some good candidates, but no one I'd feel 100% comfortable recommending. Fill those spots with candidates that struck a chord with you, just don't leave them blank. 

We've been blessed with a wealth of candidates this year, a lot of them really good choices, so do your small part and vote for people who are going to work hard and do well. I've heard that your voting ballot saves between logins, so for those of you with multiple accounts it should go really smoothly! (Smart move by the way, CCP).

As for the title of this post, I've been absolutely staggered by the amount of support I've received from the community at large. You can see all the ballots that have included me in this post, and it's been absolutely humbling to be included in so many by so many people I respect. I hope that I have the opportunity to do right by them, and to do right by you.
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February 24, 2015

Vote Mercenary, Vote Psianh!

Voting starts tomorrow!

Everything has moved so quickly over the last year. It still feels like I was only in Iceland for Fanfest 2014 a few weeks ago! Isn't that a sign of getting old or something? Well, in any case the polls are upon us and we've got an incredible spread of candidates. I'm still working on the final official ballot that Noir. is going to release, although it's nearly set in stone at this point. It'll be out very soon for those interested. I've had the great pleasure to talk with so many new people this year, it's been great. That was one of the best unexpected side-benefits to running last year, and I'm glad it's held true this year as well.

I'm very thankful for all the positive support I've been getting from all the various bloggers who are putting out their official ballots. It's a good year for me as the mercenary candidate who actually understands the what the career needs and how it intergrates with the game as a whole and I hope that I'll be able to represent that side of the game to CCP. I have a sneaky feeling that mercenaries are going to be in overdrive in the next year or so.

Be sure and put me on your ballots in your #1 position to ensure that the CSM has a good representative of not only mercenaries, but a representative of the seedier sides of EVE that also understands that EVE is a game that is meant to be fun. Like many of the candidates, I'm not from a powerbloc that can essentially ignore all but the members of my own corporation or alliance and rely on solely them for enough votes. I think I stand a fairly solid chance if I can garner enough #1 votes to stay in the voting process for a few rounds.

If you're not comfortable with voting for me as your first pick, putting me as close to that as possible is still a huge deal and can go a long way to making sure that CSM X is an amazing team. I'll be following up once the elections actually open with a link that you can use to vote fairly easily with. Let's get out there and get an amazing group of minds on the CSM this year!

Here are some links to some the comments that have been made about my candidacy so far:
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February 18, 2015

Sweet Tea and California Mercenary

Man, what a crazy time it's been since my last post! At the time I was in the process of being interviewed for a company in San Francisco, but I kept it very close to my chest because I didn't want to jinx it! I didn't even really talk about it with my friends. But, now I can say that I accepted the offer and will be moving from the Atlanta, Georgia area and moving to San Francisco! It's all very exciting and very hectic because it's happening so quickly! I've been spending most of my days trying to figure out what I'm packing, trying to offload things that I'm not (speaking of which, anyone want to buy a gaming laptop?), and scouting out places to live once I get there. The rest of the time I'm trying to spend hanging out with friends and family before I go. I'll certainly visit, but I doubt I'll see my friends in this area more than once or twice a year, so I really want to cram that time in now!

That certainly doesn't mean that I haven't been busy with EVE though! And while I haven't been able to play much because of everything going on, I've been able to get a lot done still! First off, our IT infrastructure is humming along! N'hoj Greb, the legend, has created a custom authorization for us and it's in its final stages. It's pretty nifty and uses a single sign on method which we really like. Now, when I say "single sign on" this may not be the absolutely correct terminology. What I mean is that you don't have to login twice like you do in the Brave Auth, for instance, where you have to login once to the auth and then again into the tool you want to use. For now, our tools are pretty light, consisting of automated Slack invitations for the alliance, Teamspeak authorization, and automatic forum groups. We'll likely look to expand this shortly, and I may actually try and wrangle Greb into doing the Noir. Academy project I've been working on instead of outsourcing it.

Speaking of forums, we're looking at moving over to Discourse from our current vBulletin forum. It's got a very modern feel, and some really nice tools and nifty usage improvements like live comments (the ability to @name), live updates, notifications, and being able to browse the forums while leaving a comment. It takes some getting used to, it really looks different, but I think it'll be a good solution if we can make the forum usergroups work the way we need. We may have an extra surprise for everyone if we end up using Discourse. I wont't say any more than that for now, sorry!

Wacktopia, also a legend, implemented Certificates into Fleet-up the other day, which is an absolute Godsend for me. In Noir. Academy we have a required training plan to ensure that graduating pilots mesh well with the doctrines we have in Noir. We don't want anyone to feel left out, so it helps mitigate that as much as possible for low skill point pilots. Until Certificates, we had to get an eveboard from students and manually compare the skills. Now, I've loaded up the skill plan inside a Certificate and it'll tell me exactly what pilots have completed the plan (and you can load up as many as you want), what percent of the plan they've completed, and how long it will take them to complete it. Saves so much time!

Seriously, if you use Fleet-up and you have an idea for a useful feature, send Wacktopia and EVEmail. He's really good about implementing useful things super quickly. His love and dedication to this platform is so evident in how hard he's worked at it, and I can't commend him enough.

Speaking of Wacktopia, he directed my attention to an article that Scaurus wrote on his blog Just for Crits regarding CSM candidate analyses. I really appreciate his analysis of me, and I hope you'll read his thoughts on my candidacy! I truly hope that I'll have an opportunity to not only work towards making EVE a more fun game, but also to help mercenaries remain a inmportant pillar of EVE. I hope there aren't any snafus this year. Last year my application wasn't processed at the same time as a lot of the other candidates to no fault of my own.

As an alliance, we've spent the last couple of weeks flying with one another, trying to get to know everyone in the alliance better, and Alek thinks we're at a point where we can start to wind that first chapter down and begin to ramp up our contracts again. I have to agree; we're all really excited to take on a new challenge!

On a sidenote, I'm thinking of changing my blog theme. Hrm. Maybe...

Anyway, see ya'll in sunny California soon!
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February 7, 2015

What's in a Name? The Quest for TRUST and George Michaels

It's funny how you can become so invested in something you never expected to care about. Never let anyone tell you that those little things don't matter, because sometimes they really do. Such was the case for me over the last few days. I've been in Noir. since 2011. I like to associate myself with that name; it's part of my persona now. Realizing that, I still was not expecting my reaction to the name of our alliance.

As I stated in my last post, Noir. left Suddenly Spaceships alliance to form our own. When the idea was first brought up, I assumed we would move back to Noir. Mercenary Group, our previous alliance. But I myself had realized and brought up months and months ago that corporations that would join the alliance seemed to lose their own identity and culture. I think a large burden of responsibility lies on us as the alliance leadership for that, but the name didn't help. It's hard, even for me, to articulate the difference between Noir. and Noir. Mercenary Group. For an outsider, I'm sure it's even more difficult to understand the difference. When they would see Noir. Mercenary Group, they would call us Noir. and that sometimes made the other corporations feel like they weren't an invididual entity I think. So, anyway, when the idea was brought up, I immediately thought we'd be going back to Noir. Mercenary Group, but almost as quickly realized that wasn't the best idea. Thankfully Alek had already had the same thought and let us know he planned on making something different, something new.

The idea was fairly simple, if a bit of an official culture shift for Noir. We would create a mercenary organization that had a more lighthearted outward facing profile built around FC empowerment, unique doctrines, and fun, while still maintaining a professional disposition on contracts. Noir. has always had a reputation for being a very serious organization, and there's no doubt that we still very much care about our reputation as mercenaries who get the job done, but over the years I think we've all grown a bit more mellow. Honestly, our personal attitudes within the corp have been shifting towards this type of culture anyway, but it's never been a cornerstone of our persona.

So, once we knew what type of alliance we'd be creating, we needed a name for it. Noir. directors and our initial corporate partner, Unkindness Incorporated, began thinking about names. Unfortunately, the communication here was not very good. Names were batted around, but either they were purposefully troll names that were being suggested, or sometimes they were considered to be troll names when they really weren't. Add to that the fact that we weren't being very organized about our suggestions and Alek, the alliance leader and Noir. CEO, didn't think he had any good options other than his initial name (which I was always adamant about not being a fan of): Disinterested Reptile Cartel.

Now, some of you reading this may look at that name and shrug your shoulders. That's what a lot of other people in the alliance did, and I don't blame them. But me? I couldn't stand that name. It made me so angry! And the thing is, I don't even know why! It's just a name, I kept telling myself. It's not about the name, it's about the people you fly with, and you're flying with some of the greatest pilots in EVE. Just get over it! I kept telling myself that, and others were really trying to give me good advice by telling me the same thing. But I couldn't get over it. I don't know why, I really don't. It bothered me so much more than I ever expected or even understood. But it was done. The alliance was created and both corporations were in it.

I was so embarrassed of that name, and embarrassed about the fact that it made me so angry, I really didn't want to login. I kept trying to get over it, to remind myself of how little it really mattered, but I kept realizing that I didn't want to tell people who I was associated with. "Yes, I fly with the Disinterested Reptile Cartel." I would have to tell people that! 

It got to the point where I was very angrily typing in the leadership channels about it, and finally Alek gave me a phone call, and after we had a little chat (with voices raised sometimes), I was given the go ahead to create a list of 10 names that I thought were better. I put my head together with a few other people to try and curate a list in a few hours and show it to Alek. Finally, after thinking and talking all day, I sent him the list. We're three hours apart in time zones, so I was asleep by the time he actually had time to read it. I went to bed without knowing what he'd pick, or if he'd decide to keep the Bored Lizard Crew name. Regardless, I washed my hands of it and decided that I'd figure things out later if need be. Here's the list I presented:

  1. Pay to Win [VICTRY]
  2. Paid [2WIN]
  3. Paid in Advance
  4. Weapons of Mass Seduction
  5. Slackers (In an attempt to reference our use of the Slack app and a one-word alliance)
  6. Mercenary Playground
  7. Doubloon Diplomacy
  8. No Not Believing
  9. Calamitous Cloaky Congregation
  10. Totally Inept Pacifists

I woke up the next morning to a message from Alek in Slack. "I love No Not Believing." And thus, it was changed, thanks to one of our members, Fayral! Now, No Not Believing is sort of an inside joke, although I think it's also self explanatory. It's basically a phrase we used to say a lot a few years ago, starting with former Noir. director Ninja Turtle. We'd either be about to do something stupid or trying to set up a trap, or whatever it was, and we'd say on comms "No not believing, boys! We're going to do this!"

And so Noir. and Unkindness Incorporated left the Disinterested Reptile Cartel and reformed together as No Not Believing [TRUST]. I'm really happy with the name, and I think it's going to be a lot of fun coming up with a mascot and marketing material for this alliance. My first thought was either a monk of some sort or George Michaels. For some reason, I have a feeling Alek will love a George Michael butt picture for our mascot. He's weird like that.

So now our alliance is working on getting our legs underneath us. It's going to be an amazing time, and our FCs are going to have a blast. Noir. has always been a very FC heavy corporation, but we've never been in an organization that's going to give so much freedom and support. We're also incredibly lucky to have Wacktopia part of the team, who has helped support this vision with some Fleet-up changes that will allow for personal doctrines and doctrine folders. 

Off contract, we're going to be really letting people go in interesting and unique ways with doctrines and using that time to test and hone them. Those that really turn out well will be integrated into our contract doctrines, and those that don't can continue to be flown off contract if people are having fun with them. It's going to be a complete blast, and if any of you guys want to get involved, I'll be more than happy to talk with you. This is going to be one of the best times I've ever had in EVE, a chapter in my personal history book that's going to have a very memorable name.
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February 3, 2015

From Gearing Up to Switching Gears

Some pretty major changes have happened since my last post which was all about getting ready to move out for our first of two back-to-back contracts. I was very excited for them both, despite many misgivings - especially in regards to that first contract I mentioned. Neither of these contracts actually came to pass, however. For me, that was one of the final straws. For reasons such as this, Noir. has decided to leave the Suddenly Spaceships alliance. Before I continue, let me say that I have enjoyed practically every moment in Suddenly Spaceships, and I have a great respect for all the members. No one in Noir. leaves the alliance feeling bitter or upset, and we all come away happy with our time spent. Having said that, it was an unsustainable situation, and I'm glad we're moving on. I'm not going to be naming names, and I'm not trying to make anyone look bad, but I think it's important to be very open and honest about why we're leaving.

Let me first start with our most recent contract. Noir. has, for a long time, avoided taking large tower contracts. They're horribly boring and we burnt ourselves out doing them. We really don't enjoy them; an eight hour tower bash will do that to you. With Suddenly Spaceships we did have the firepower to theoritically take them on again, but we've been unimpressed with both our own experience flying capitals in Noir. (we rarely, if ever use them historically) and Suddenly Spaceships capital fleet FCs. That combination doesn't lead to a confident large tower contract. Nevertheless, despite direct warnings not to do so, we accepted a contract for four medium towers and one large one.

Things started well enough. We deployed smoothly and began hitting towers. The large tower was reinforced without much trouble, in fact, and we reinforced a few of the mediun towers the same day we did the large one - all in the first day of the contract. When we formed up to take the large tower down we were met by a fleet of Easily Excited Ishtars double our fleet size. The night's operations were called off right then and there. Disappointing, but what can you do.

At this point, the Contract Organizer (proper noun, as we'll be coming back to him), who is not a member of Noir., mailed the employer to give an update on the situation. The employer agreed to reenegotiate the contract based on Easily Excited's involvment and agreed that the large tower was no longer on the table. After a few days of no response however, Contract Organizer decided to call the whole thing off then and there. Uh, what? The only time Noir. has ever left a contract early is when we finish it early. That really pissed me off.

Unfortunately, that wasn't the first red flag. This had happened once before, but the leadership in Noir. chalked it up to inexperience and excitement to get started on a contract from Contract Organizer's part. We were assured by Contract Organizer that we were all set up, that all interested parties were involved and on board, and that we'd be paid very handsomely. We deployed the whole alliance (fortunately this was before Phoebe, unlike the most recent contract), only to find out within a few days that nothing was actually in place. The "employer" didn't even know what we were doing there.

Two strikes.

Then we have an alliance leadership meeting in which Contract Organizer informs us all that the second contract we had lined up (which I had been led to believe was bought and paid for) was also being canned because the alliance was going to move staging areas from Taff to Placid to hang out with Cynosorul Field Theory. Really? Three contracts don't pan out because of poor execution? That's unnaceptable in my book.

Luckily we had already decided to leave the alliance by this time, so canceling the upcoming contract didn't even count as strike three for us. Coupled with all these contract snafus were a handful of mindblogging leadership decisions and the unwillingness to take responsibility for leadership errors, instead trying to dump that off on the line members who acted exactly as they were told by the leadership. That's another really big issue for me. A good leader should accept the blame and deflect the praise onto those who help them. There's no way I could do what I do with Noir. Academy if it wasn't for my instructors, and when I make a call that doesn't pan out? It's not their fault; it's mine. Own your mistakes.

Anyway, I should mention that a lot of people were surprised when we announced it in our corporation meeting and I can understand that. All of Noir.'s leadership put a lot of effort into trying to bandage these problems and keep them from affecting the membership. Multiple conversations about these problems had occurred and we had been assured that these issues would be resolved, that things were going to change. Unfortunately they never did.

 The timing did seemed a bit strange from the outside, and I think we may have done a poor job of explaining to people why things were happening now and not later. The order of events was like so:

  1. Planned leadership meeting in which alliance move was brought up. 
  2. Noir. announcing the intent to leave the corporation so that the alliance wouldn't take us into consideration when planning the move. 
  3. Noir. announcing the intent to remain with the alliance to finish out the second contract since it was already in the pipe.
  4. Contract Organizer informing us that the contract had vanished.
  5. Noir. corporation meeting in which it was announced that Noir. would be leaving after the current contract.
  6. Contract Organizer announcing that the current contract had vanished.
From some of our membership's perspective, it looked like we were jumping ship on the alliance and leaving them in a lurch. In reality, if we had delayed informing them any longer, we would have risked causing a severe negative consequence had they made decisions assuming we were going to be there in the next few months.

So what's next for Noir.? Well, we've got some cool things happening as I write this. We're still mercenaries of course, and we always will be. We're still Noir., and we always will be. But something new is coming, something that's going to be a ton of fun. Something I can't wait to be a part of. Something I'll write about soon. 
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January 20, 2015

Gearing Up and Moving Out

My alliance has been buzzing with activity lately, and it's definitely wearing off on me! We had an alliance meeting on Sunday and directly after that I took the initiative and created a channel in our Slack for developers. A lot of alliances have this, and honestly doing this is just us playing catch up. Regardless, it was nice to finally have.

I've taken on the responsibility of managing director, so to speak. I'm coordinating all the projects we've now started to make sure they integrate effectively with one another and to keep each developer on task. This is the kind of stuff I really enjoy, so I'm having a blast setting it all up and pointing each guy in the right direction.

As you can expect, initially the group was all over the place with wild ideas of what they would do and what they wanted to do. In the end, I've focused everyone's work onto a handful of things which we've desperately needed for a while but have been able to make due without. It would have eventually caught up with us, so it's good that we're finally working on these things. Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, we're getting a modern authorization service set up to manage all our tools. We're creating a contract payment calculator that will ensure as fair a payout method as possible. We're also working on a new killboard that will work with our payment calculator as well as adding the ability to add a pilot to a kill as a scout or logistics. I'm also trying to get a website made still, but we really just don't seem to have any experienced web developers, so it's a struggle. I hope to be able to write more about this website soon, but I don't want to reveal my hand too early. It's a big project and I can't rush it. It has to be just right!

We've still got a long way to go, I'm sure, and I don't know if we're going to be able to use the current auth services that are out there or not, but it's really nice to see us beginning to move into this type of coordinated era.

More importantly, the alliance is deploying for the first of a series of upcoming contracts. This one is going to be a pretty standard event, but it's always nice to get out there and do some work. Obviously I'll write more about this once it's over.

The second one is going to be a lot more fun. Clearly I can't say anything now, but this is going to be an awesome contract. It's an amazing contract type, one of my favorites in fact, and it's in a really promising area. I can't wait for this one to start, and I'm sure I'm going to have a lot of really great stories to tell from it.

Of course, the moving part of deployment is annoying these days. It takes a long time to get everything done, and we can't carry nearly as much as we used to. But as I've said before, it's a price I'll happily pay for living in a post-Phoebe universe. Having a carrier of my own makes this much easier. Our deployment loadout for a single pilot almost fills up a single carrier, so it's quite a task to get ships out there for the guys who don't have carriers yet. I've been trying to brainstorm interesting ideas for moving ships that isn't overpowered, but there's really no easy solution to that problem, and I honestly don't believe there is a solution. Moving a lot of ships rapidly is overpowered, and despite how much I may complain, I'm really happy to struggle through our deployments.
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