It comes as no surprise that our current community has several problems, most of them due to lack of proper management from our (my) part. What might surprise you, and it's the subject of this post, is that for the past few weeks we've been working internally to detect and fix all these problems. The result of this work is detailed on this post, and at the end we invite you to "rejoin" our community.
Before talking about the solutions we've found, we need first to discuss what issues our community had. More importantly, we need to understand why these problems existed on the first place.
Among the main problems of our community, and if you are a member of it you'll surely understand, is the highly toxic environment. Due to a minority of trolls and people spreading FUD for lack of better things to do, our forums and chats got filled with negativity and toxicity. The result was a community most people feel intimidated to be a part of, and therefore leave it.
The reason why this happened is very clear to me. Lack of proper management and communication with our team (me) led to this situation. If I want to fix these problems, I must first fix myself. Then, and only then, I'd need to come up with a plan to "detox" our community: remove the toxic and non-helpful people and restore faith of the good players on me, my team, the game and the community. Surely, it's not an easy task, but bear with me.
This created a vicious circle: my lack of involvement and management led to a toxic community, and the toxic community totally repelled my participation as a member. And I don't think you can manage something without first being a member of it.
(It's worth noting that only a few individuals behaved on a toxic way, and this toxicity spread like a virus. Our current community is made mostly of good people that do not deserve its current state).
I have ambitious goals with the Hacker Experience 2 project, goals that go way beyond simply building and releasing a great, fun game. I want to raise people's privacy awareness. I want people to learn about, and use, encryption, VPN, HTTPS, GPG. I want people to understand how computers and the Internet works. Ultimately, I want to get players involved on open source projects, giving them the opportunity to contribute for the first time, and spark a dormant interest on Computer Science education. I believe seeing your contribution get deployed to thousands of players of a game you love is an unique experience, one that could completely change your perception of Computer Science, computer programming or open source software.
This is what motivates me and our team.
Building Hacker Experience 2 is well within our team's capabilities. However I know we'll never achieve these noble objectives without having a positive and helpful community. We can't do that alone. We need the synergy of a group of highly-motivated individuals helping each other and ourselves towards one common goal. And there's no room for negativity on such community.
So yes, the task of fighting my biggest fears is extremely frightening, but it's a sacrifice I'm willing to make if that's the only way to achieve these goals. If this motivates you too, what sacrifices are you willing to make?
The Contributor Task Force
Part of this effort of overhauling our community has led to the Contributor Task Force. As you may know, we've started the Let's Build a Game campaign last year, but so far we weren't able to accept a single external contribution, and that's for two reasons. First, specifications and design and architecture have always changed so fast, so only someone with access to our team's meetings would be able to keep up with the changes. Second, we were never able to handle the hundreds of requests from players offering help.
We've reached a point where our specifications and architecture are much more stable, and things are less likely to change. If they do, we plan to always use a public-facing discussing channel, so outsiders can keep up-to-date. This solves one problem. The other problem is related to community handling, and its solution also solves the original community problem.
The plan is simple. In short, we'll redirect all community requests into teams, each responsible for a specific contribution/area. A special team will handle all other teams and have direct communication with me. From there, we'll cultivate the community and have it grow healthy, strong and motivated.
Let's get down to the details.
At first, we'll have 6 base teams. These are the Translation, Design (UI), Game Design, Development, Documentation and Support teams. We have two other ones with "special" roles; the Communication and the Community Management teams.
Each of the 6 base teams have 2 leaders, 3 managers and a pool of contributors. The leaders and managers act on a management/planning level, while the contributors act on the execution level.
The Community Management team is composed of 3 people, one of them being the Lead Community Manager. The Lead Community Manager have direct contact with me 24/7, and can quickly escalate urgent matters to me or our team. (By the way, the new Community Manager is introduced at the end of this post).
We also have another team, the Public one, whose purpose is to have people talking about anything. It has no special roles within it, and it's managed by the Community Managers.
This is a short overview of the plan. For a more detailed explanation on the overall plan and what each team does, see
the Contributor Task Force video the Contributor Task Force documentation. (I've recorded a video explaining the plan but I haven't uploaded it to Youtube yet. Once I do, I'll update this post.)
Before going on, let me point out a few benefits of this model:
- issues can be escalated to me or our team according to urgency.
- Non-urgent stuff will not slow us down, while urgent matters can reach us in minutes.
- the community is self-managed.
- Unacceptable behavior will promptly be noticed and reported by CMs, team leaders, managers or contributors.
- Action can be taken immediately, without having to wait for unresponsive developers (me!).
- the community is democratic.
- Leaders and Managers are elected based on previous activities. If one of them decides to stop contributing to the project, they can gracefully step down while we promote fellow players based on their contributions.
- If someone does not agree with something, the matter can always be escalated. If the Community Management team does not reach a conclusion, it will come to me, where I'll make use of my Self-Appointed Benevolent Dictatorship to judge the matter, always having in mind what is best for the project (well, if it reaches that point it's not so much of a democracy).
- If Leaders are misbehaving or acting unilaterally, reports can be made directly to me or our team.
- the community is transparent.
- Every decision is made openly, with public access to the discussions that led to such decision.
This is a big plan. Me and our team are committed to making it happen, and we belive it could work, but there's always the chance that it won't. Regardless, we'll follow the idea anyway, and for a logical reason: as things are currently, we'll build and release the HE2 we promised, but we'll never be able to achieve our nobler goals. This plan changes it, making these objectives actually possible. So it's a matter of going from "it will never work" to "it could work", and that's definitely worth trying.
A brand new community
Based on the plan described above, we'll create a new community from scratch, just like we are doing with Hacker Experience: throw out what is bad while reusing what is good, and start afresh (I don't always fix things, but when I do, I rebuild from scratch).
This community has a two-word code of conduct: be respectful. Failure to comply with the code of conduct will result in exclusion from the community. We are forgiving and we give people the benefit of the doubt, but sometimes that's not enough and the user must go.
This community is diverse, composed of people all around the world, with all kinds of differences you can imagine. They may have different motivations, but all of them have one goal in common: contributing to the Hacker Experience project.
(Mind you, simply joining the community and talking to other people is totally acceptable and it is a kind of contribution. If anything, you are contributing to a more diverse community. Simply playing is also a kind of contribution: without players we have no game.)
This community accepts and values constructive criticism, discussing them and reporting as feedback, but it absolutely repudiates unsubstantiated claims, intellectual dishonesty and bad faith negativity.
This community is a place you can talk about everyday stuff (on the proper channels) as well as the game and the project. It's a place you can find people whom you can trust and be friends with.
I can personally say this is a community I'd like to be a part of, and a place I'd definitely hang around during my free time.
If these propositions sit well with you, consider yourself invited. We'd love to have you around. Currently Mattermost, a chat application, is our only communication medium. Join here. We also have lengthy discussions at Github.
If you are also interested in joining the Contributor Task Force, please fill the Application form.
The (new) Community Manager
Recently Palatura stepped down as Community Manager of Legacy. I don't think I'll ever be able to thank him enough. I'm glad to say I made a good friend because of Hacker Experience, and I hope our new community can provide more of the same.
I'm thrilled to introduce our new Community Manager,
Andre Ghaleon! Ghaleon is an old friend of mine, it's one of those extremely intelligent people you can have endless chats about anything. Please read Ghaleon's introduction post to know a bit about him. He has also taught Game Design Theory to college students and will definitely improve our own design.
Gobble gobble, one of us! (Kinda ironic that you are pretty much the only person I know who would get this anyway). Welcome to the team!