Aug 30, 2016

Our EVE Vegas Talk: What Say You?

A few months back, Johnny Splunk and I submitted a proposal for a player talk at EVE Vegas 2016 on "Cultivating a Counter-Culture in New Eden." To our delight (read: terror), we have been granted a speaker's slot. Our plan is to (hopefully humorously) share how Signal Cartel grew from a crazy idea to what it is today, our impact in New Eden, and the factors that have contributed to our success so far. We hope that our talk will inspire others to think outside the box and decide to run with their own crazy ideas in the sandbox.

Prior to submitting our proposal, we started collecting our thoughts and ideas for talk topics and key points in a Google doc. Over the last few weeks, that doc has fleshed out we begin the process of fine-tuning that rambling mess into a something that will be engaging, interesting, and perhaps even useful to those who attend our talk.

That is proving to be an interesting challenge--a lot has happened in the 20 months since Signal Cartel launched! However, two things stand out as I look back:

  • Our foundation is rock-solid. All the decisions we made prior to launch about the corp mission, desired culture, credo, and policies continue to serve us well. Of course, we have tweaked things here and there as incidents or discussions have organically revealed a need to do so. But our vision remains steadfast and continues to guide our hand as corp founders and custodians of the credo. We hope to include in our talk some specifics about what our day-to-day in that role involves and why things have worked so smoothly since the start. 
  • Human behavior is the most fascinating game of all. The way our own members and others navigate and respond to the challenges and benefits of our credo, culture, and reputation is always interesting. The loyalty and commitment of Signaleers in service to our ideals is a constant delight. The reach of our reputation and the completely unexpected interactions we get from outsiders continues to surprise us. The creative ways that Signaleers find to engage in nearly all activities in New Eden and remain within the bounds of the Credo is a treat. We have many fun anecdotes about these things to share in our talk. I hope our audience will be as entertained, delighted, and surprised by them as we have been.

We've gotten a lot of feedback from our own members but we'd also love to include perspectives (whether positive or negative) from other capsuleers in our talk. So, what say you, pilots? What's your take on our play style? Your opinion of our credo? Your expectation when you see one of us in Local or on d-scan? Our impact on your activities in New Eden? What surprising or notable interactions have you had with our Signaleers?

We would greatly appreciate any thoughts, opinions, stories, or chat logs related to Signal Cartel or EvE-Scout...and do let us know if it's okay for us to identify you or whether you'd prefer to remain anonymous. Send feedback to myself or Johnny Splunk via evemail, or email them to me via

May 3, 2016

Get the Balance Right

I commented on Twitter a week or so ago that it felt like so much EVE stuff was going on in the META, it was impossible to keep up. The null sec war, Fanfest, the endless churn of topics on Twitter and r/eve, the Citadels expansion, CSM stuff, the blogs, the news sites, the podcasts, the videos, the books, and on and on. Then there's all the considerable stuff going on in my own alliance...leadership discussions, member initiatives, processing recruits in and departing members out, ops, questions, AFK notices, great stories about experiences, and more.

It's a seductive avalanche of activity, discussion, and engagement. It's so easy to get sucked in and lost amidst the crush and swirl, feeling like you have to keep tuning in to stay afloat, knowing its probably a losing battle, and wondering all the while how EVE has come to dominate every spare moment of your life.

It struck me a few weeks ago that the balance between RL and EVE was getting out of whack. This probably happens to every long-time, engaged EVE player. I went to bed thinking about EVE stuff, woke up thinking about it, checked Reddit and Twitter obsessively every chance I got, got a little twitchy if I didn't log in every day, felt a weird sense of obligation to have an opinion on everything and be in the know about all the stuff going on. You probably know what I'm talking about if you've been in EVE for more than five minutes.

Problem is, my time for EVE is limited. Real life is busy and full of interesting stuff needing doing that has nothing to do with gaming or even computers. And yet, I wasn't getting those things done because I was letting EVE steal so much time and mental energy. In analyzing my habits, I figured out that it wasn't EVE itself that was responsible, it was the META--all those addictive channels of engagement outside the game--that was the issue.

So, I decided to dial my engagement in the META way the hell down. Turned off retweets for everyone I followed on Twitter. Stopped Tweeting as much. Unfollowed a bunch of people who added nothing of value to my newsfeed. Stopped looking at Twitter and r/eve every 15 minutes. Stopped feeling obligated to comment on every post in my corp subreddit. Read few to no blogs or news sites on an ongoing basis.

It was tough at first...all those things are highly addicting. But having gained some distance from the META is freeing. There's suddenly more time for what's really important to me in EVE, which is Signal Cartel. In the bargain, the balance with real life obligations has gotten more manageable too.

Cutting back on the META also made me realize that I don't really care all that much about what is going on outside the game. Causes, movements, tirades, witch hunts...not important to me. I log in, I play the game. I focus on my corp responsibilities, fly my ships, join ops when I can, and enjoy bantering with my corpmates and friends in-game. That's enough. EVE is relaxing again, as a recreational activity is meant to be.

None of which is to say that the META is a bad thing. It's just an overwhelming thing. Don't get me wrong. I like being connected to the META, but more and more I prefer to keep it at arm's length. "Get the Balance Right", as an old Depeche Mode song goes. When it comes to EVE, that's always a challenge. Doing it successfully requires a measure of personal discipline and occasionally a good hard chop through the weeds with a sharp axe.

Mar 19, 2016

Ahhhh, Diplomacy...You Make Me Smile

Diplomatic communications is one of a CEO's jobs, maybe the most important job when it comes to a corp like Signal Cartel with our unusual but remarkably widely-known Credo. Those communications can range from the more serious to the more light-hearted. The more serious kind is preferred when responding to inquiries from Providence residents complaining about a Signaleer aggressing someone there, or a worried pilot familiar with our PvP policies who wonders why a Signaleer has combat probes out, or accusations that our EvE-Scout scouts are behaving in questionable ways. Serious diplomatic communications typically need a delicate touch and demand timely, earnest, and respectful responses. 

Although "serious diplomacy" is the most common kind, I sometimes get a chance to have some fun with diplomatic outreach. For example, yesterday, I saw two reports--one from a Signaleer and one from someone else in our EvE-Scout public channel--about a null sec pilot who was posting Signal Cartel killmails in Local along with comments like "Signal Cartel PvP, nice". 

I was curious about this pilot's intent. I'll admit, I had some unfounded preconceived notions about him that weren't necessarily, shall we say, "generous" in spirit. But experience has taught me that in unsure situations, it's almost always better to take a diplomatic tack with a little humor and maybe self-deprecation mixed in rather than letting one's uninformed and probably wrong preconceived notions drive the message. With that in mind, I sent him a mail: 
Subject: Your Pleasantries in Local 
Sent: 2016.03.19 05:42
To: [redacted] 
Hi there, 
I've had word that you've been sharing pleasantries in Local about Signal Cartel PVP, along with linking killmails on which our members appear (for example, this one).  
I admit I'm curious about your intentions.  
Did you notice that I annotate every killmail after its inquiry is complete? Yes...I personally conduct an inquiry of every killmail our members appear on and document the outcome on the killmail. Thank Bob we don't have as many kills as we do losses or I might have had a nervous breakdown by now. But otoh we are at least doing our part to keep the Astero market afloat! 
Anyway, that mail you linked was a perfect example of the timing weirdness in the API that lumps everyone onto the same killmail if they had a same-system aggression timer within a few minutes of an aggressed pilot being killed. In the case of this killmail, our Hugs Fleet rained snowballs and fireworks down upon Mail Lite with extreme prejudice in an effort to get him to smile. I mean, one smile in Local is worth 1,000 words, wouldn't you say? :P When he tickled us with missiles, we tickled him back with ECM in self-defense. Cue aggression timers. It was a separate engagement from the one in which FCON swooped in and killed him but the API said SAME! What does the stupid API know, I ask you?! 
I hope this information helps. Thank you for taking the time to speak with my Signaleers as they go about their business in the vast reaches of space. It can be so difficult to find a friendly face in Local. Please reach out to me if you want more info about our Credo...or if you find yourself with an irresistible urge to become one with the Hugs. 
Snowballs! Fireworks! Hugs!
I wondered what kind of response I'd get. Would it turn out to be an interesting interaction or would the typical EVE Online status quo apply? I smiled when I read the reply:
So...I've got to be honest.

I wasn't expecting my local-smack to go that far, however, it's nice and really refreshing to see you guys having fun and living by your own rules and to fight the meta of generating "dank killmails".

Your pilot also told me about your Hugs Fleet, but I was still curious afterwards if he's not hunting for FCON. However, we had a nice talk and he vanished quickly after that. So please bear with me, as it's kind of frightening sitting in an really expensive ship (at least for me) and have a neutral in local. :)

Thanks for the enlightenment, I will keep that letter in mind next time I investigate the killboard of your members! :)

Have a nice day, Mynxee!
What a delightful response--made better because it wasn't what I was expecting! I may never meet this pilot nor hear from him again but I'm betting he has a much different (and better) impression of Signal Cartel than he did before I reached out. If nine years in New Eden have taught me anything, it is that you never know where your friends and supporters will come from down the road and that capsuleers have very long memories. Someone else might have tried to use this situation to harvest tears, intimidate, or insult that fellow. 

But our Credo shows us a different way...a way of building bridges with words rather than burning them with careless, unkind, or mean-spirited communications. Doing an unexpectedly positive thing and getting a surprised and positive response is enormously satisfying in the cold, harsh environment of New Eden. May the ripples spread ever outward.

Feb 6, 2016

EVE Roleplay: Dipped Toe, News Mention, Fun Experience!

tl;dr Roleplaying is an under-appreciated form of gameplay but can be fun, is flexible enough to suit personal preferences, and might just result in cool things happening. It got my corp an official World News mention. This post shares our experience for the benefit of others who might be curious about incorporating roleplaying into their game play.


Note: A version of this post was originally published on r/eve and is cross-posted here for the sake of posterity.

Over the last year, I became very interested in New Eden lore because of Thera and the Drifters story arc. In exploring the lore, I got addicted to the Hydrostatic EVE podcast (thanks, Ashterothi and Phyridean and all your Lore Panel regulars!) and became friends with a few folks who are lore specialists as well as roleplayers, among them Makoto Priano. Mak has graciously served as a lore and RP mentor of sorts, even presenting an excellent Research, Lore, and Roleplay Q&A session for my corp last year.

The upshot is that many in Signal Cartel, including the leadership team, have become quite tuned into lore and some of us have begun to dip our toes into roleplay. So when the Upwell Consortium research race began, the leadership team saw it as a potential opportunity to do a little corp-level roleplaying although we weren't quite sure of how to approach it.

Then OSS attacked Upwell's prototype citadel sites and that gave us an idea. As a serious competitor in their research race, why should we trust Upwell with all these valuable Research Components when their site and supply chain data security seemed to be so poorly managed? Why not hang on to the RCs and encourage other concerned capsuleers to entrust their components to us until our concerns were addressed? Why not conduct our own PLEX giveaway as a way of rewarding those capsuleers' trust and giving them another way to profit from their RC inventory? (And yes, what a perfect way to encourage outsiders to assist us in amassing Research Components!) Thus, our first roleplayed message to Upwell's agent and a related Press Release on the matter.

We crossed our fingers and hoped that Upwell would do something to mitigate our concerns so that our RC inventory could still be applied to the research race...although there was a bit of hand-wringing discussion about what we'd do if they didn't. We did kind of worrisomely wonder what we might have gotten ourselves into, but nothing ventured, nothing gained! And we figured if there was no response, we could just RP our way out of that. I think if we had thought too much about potential consequences up front, it might have stopped us in our tracks so I'm glad we didn't. But we are sensitized for next time because as Upwell's response to OSS' destruction of the prototype citadels demonstrates, things don't always go the way you expect. CCP Affinity, CCP Falcon, and others who are behind the story arcs like to play hardball (which is awesome, imho)!

Anyway, the first thing Upwell did was secure the prototype citadel sites so that capsuleers couldn't shoot at them--a fact confirmed by a couple of our pilots. That was a promising move to mitigate our expressed concerns. Then they [held a press conference]( where their agent Lee Brinalle addressed specific concerns and rival capsuleer RC acquisition programs (e.g., ours):

Asked to comment on rival capsuleer component acquisition programs, such as that being operated by the well-known surveying outfit Signal Cartel, Lee Brinalle urged co-operation with Upwell. "I would like to say to those with concerns as to the security of the prototype sites that we have addressed the previous vulnerabilities and it is a major concern that large numbers of research components may not be released for use in our efforts. The Upwell Department of Friendship and Mutual Assistance is monitoring the situation and we hope that our capsuleer friends will see the benefits of placing any recovered components under our control."

I won't lie, we were giddy here at Signal upon seeing our corp mentioned! After discussing Ms. Brinalle's statements, leadership decided that we could feasibly roleplay that our concerns had been addressed and that there were good reasons for us to not continue withholding Research Components from Upwell. And that continuing with our alternative RC deposit service made sense because it simply gives capsuleers another opportunity to profit from their own inventory of RCs. So we issued another Press Release to address all that.

Fortunately all of this RP stuff meshed very nicely with our desire to be competitive in Upwell's research race. It was fun for our members to see it roll out, too, since they knew nothing about it until our first Press Releases was in the wild. And now we are looking forward to seeing if our competitive efforts were enough to be a top contributor in Upwell's research race, which I guess we'll find out next week. However that turns out, we are seriously enjoying the ride.

Again, thanks to Mak and other roleplayers and lore geniuses who have answered our questions and served as fine examples to follow! While we are noobs at doing this kind of thing, it is fun. The thought, planning, and creativity required to engage in the game at that level of immersion is remarkably satisfying--not least of which when it is acknowledged from the NPC side of things as in this circumstance! In any event, I'm certain there will be more dipping of our toes into the RP side of the game in the future.

Jan 14, 2016

CSM Season *yawn*

In the past, I have been an enthusiastic advocate of the CSM. As a CSM 5 alumni, I always felt a certain sense of obligation when it came to CSM advocacy. But alas, I find myself feeling indifferent about the CSM this year as the CSM 11 election cycle spins up. Some things just take more energy than seems worth it to invest.

Oh sure, I will cast a scant handful of votes for a few friends who are running. Mostly because they still care and I care about them. I'll probably listen to the candidate interviews as part of my EVE podcast addiction. Regardless of who gets elected, maybe CSM XI will turn out to be the term that is the exception to the drama, leaks, deadbeats, burn-out, communications issues, and disillusionment which have so tediously recurred over the last 10 terms. Not holding my breath on that one, though.

I recognize that a lot of good people have done a lot of hard work on behalf of the CSM and as CSM members, despite the obstacles. They certainly deserve our appreciation. Been there done that myself in CSM 5; it's no easy job when you take it seriously. And I recognize that a lot of folks are still optimistic about the CSM's potential. I believe there is potential there, too, but not without some kind of reform. After 10 terms fraught with the same old issues, I'd like to see someone capable at CCP engage with sitting and former CSM members to do a root cause problem analysis, identify practical and useful reform solutions, and implement them. Not holding my breath on that one either.

Anyway, as things stand, it's freeing to let go of that "because I was on the CSM once, I should care" feeling. To those running, good luck. To those pouring energy into candidate interviews, CSM reform advocacy, and CSM work, more power to ya.

As for me...I'll be out in space, scanning for sigs...

Jan 3, 2016

A Look Back, A Look Ahead

At the start of a new year, it's nice to take stock in the past year's accomplishments and think about what's next. You may notice that this blog has a new name, a new URL, and a new look. Given how comfortably I've settled into my role as a peaceful explorer and CEO of Signal Cartel, it seemed fitting.

A Look Back 

The most notable event of the past year for me was the launch of Signal Cartel. A lot of the reasons why are touched upon in the end-of-year State of the Signal recording from the Signal Cartel leadership team. The summary of topics addressed is here and the audio (about 50 minutes) is here.

Fostering a peaceful exploration-based service corporation with an upbeat, friendly, and nice corp culture may be a counter-culture idea for New Eden but it has succeeded beyond all expectations. It is a delightful home for not only myself but many, many other like-minded folks including LOTS of new players. The first several months were intense in terms of the leadership effort required but Signal Cartel now runs like a fairly well-oiled machine so the burden is minimal these days. We are blessed with so many awesome members who step up to welcome and help new players, run fleets, fill Staff Positions, assist leadership with various tasks, and initiate their own ideas as programs that benefit the corp. It's been amazing to see what our members come up with and pour energy into to help their fellow Signaleers and the wider EVE community.

With Signal Cartel ticking along nicely, it means I get to do more of what I love best: wandering and exploring in New Eden's more dangerous places. Late in the year, I bought and fit up my first cloaky Loki, "Okie Dokie". I am not sure why I never flew a strategic cruiser before; I've had the skills trained for literally years. This is fast becoming my favorite exploration ship. While I still love the beauty and nimbleness of the Astero, the Loki offers more versatility plus bubble immunity so it's become my ship of choice in Venal where I have a null sec exploration base.

Over the last year, I began to use reddit since our leadership team collectively decided that a private corp subreddit was an easier start-up option than installing and administering traditional forum software. The experience has not endeared me to reddit. I generally dislike how it is structured and how posts are automatically archived. Reddit was an okay option when Signal Cartel was just starting but its inherent limitations are unacceptably constraining now. I'll be glad when we launch Signal Cartel's official forums and wiki, which is in the works.

Otto Bismarck Portrait
To earn some ISK, I offered a character portrait service and ended up painting 18 character portraits over the year. I'm pretty proud of this body of work. It earned me a nice pile of ISK but commissions are closed for now while I catch up on RL work. Unless I find myself in need of ISK, I suppose...but one of the nice things about being a peaceful explorer is that my ISK needs are low--I pay for my account subscription with real money and only rarely have to replace a ship.

(Edited to Add) In October, I attended EVE Vegas. It was my extreme pleasure to meet and hang out with Johnny Splunk, several other Signaleers, and many other EVE players. The details are in this post so I won't repeat myself here but it was definitely a fantastic time and one of my year's most memorable events (EVE-related or otherwise).

Without reservation, I can say that 2015 has been the most rewarding and satisfying time I have spent as an EVE Online player.

A Look Ahead

My head is full of ideas and projects for Signal; it would be easy to dive in and lose myself in them. However, the amount of time I choose to invest in EVE Online activities has to be balanced realistically against the demands and enjoyments of real life. I try (and usually fail) to do EVE stuff no more than a couple of hours a day. So in prioritizing the possibilities, I must limit myself to the things I feel will most benefit the corp and still permit me to enjoy time in my spaceships.

With that in mind, I expect to focus my EVE time this year on:

  • In-space activities (solo exploration, Signal Cartel Birthday Treasure Hunt, Hugs Fleets, Dark Hugs Ops, and tag-along mentoring)
  • Development of a corp LP program for mentoring activities
  • Supporting the launch of our corp forums and wiki, including repurposing a lot of content from the corp subreddit to the new venue
  • Forming a Training Content Team tasked with producing a series of infographics on topics that are most asked about by our new players 
  • Ongoing corp admin stuff
  • Maybe a limited number of EVE character portraits
I can't wait to see what interesting challenges Signal Cartel faces this year and the creative ways we discover to address them!