Thursday, April 18, 2013

Exit Interview from FT (re-posted from my old blog)

*Note: This interview was done a while ago, but I was against releasing it because I felt that the events about ten months ago. In any case it was done by a friend online, who does not wish to be named - although I'll reveal his/her name if that person wants it done. Thanks for the help mate! :) *

Q: With many issues hanging around, you resignation from one of Blueserver's regulatory bodies comes as a shock. Can you disclose the reasons as to why you chose to resign?

D: The reason behind my decision is simply one made out of honor. I made a promise when I first decided to retake up a role within the Blueserver Administration, and that was to do the best for the community. At that point in time, I felt that the consensus did not agree to such a view, plus my view was not getting heard, so I had to honor my promise.

Q: Are you saying that you failed the users in what you have done?

D: If you were to look at that one fine point in the big picture, then yes, I did fail the people in that sense. I would like to emphasize though, that when it comes to work, be it my time in Blueserver, or in other matters in life, I would always put my best in to make things work. Naturally in community not everyone will agree with your views, which makes the working environment a challenging one...

Q: You mentioned that "you would put your best to make things work", yet some would argue that some of the initiatives launched by your team has been failures - notably the freedom of speech and enforcing of the Forum Code of Conduct...

D: It's always dangerous territory when you assume the role of a moderator in a forum that occasionally comes up with messages of the questionable sort. It may be the message itself, or the way the message is expressed, but in any case I do admit that mistakes may have been made in the past - though what I believe that as a team, we have exercised our powers to moderate to the fairest that we could; after all, there are certain internal guidelines that strictly regulate the use of such powers in place.

Q: What about the new batch? Many say that it is the first batch of moderators that turned out to be the best, after that it went downhill. Do you agree with that statement?

D: I do not deny that the first batch, which brought in a wealth of not only talented, but committed individuals rank among the finest that I have worked with, aside from the first generation of moderators (that included myself), that went on to lead in important components of the Blueserver mechanism. That said, credit and respect are definitely due to those who came in after - for moderation of forums has no hard rule to it - the challenges change and come in different forms, so for the new batches to be able to hold their own against these, I definitely hold them in high regard.

Q: It is put forward by many that your choice of moderators for handling certain issues is poor. Is it because they lack the vision, or is it simply because you have poor man management skills?

D: As a leader of a dynamic set of people, trust would always be something that you would have to handle delicately, because the fact that we are moderators would definitely put us in the spotlight when it comes to decision making. People will definitely scrutinize your actions, especially as you are part of authority. I believe that trust and respect are two things that should be earned, not given, and because of this there are rather strict recruitment policies put in - we never set a target number to recruit, as we only choose the best, and most suitable. It is not possible for one person to manage everything, so delegating tasks, as you say, is important - what I can say is that whoever we task to handle different jobs are given the full blessings of all their fellow moderators, not only myself, or any of the seniors.

Q: It may be a distasteful thing to discuss, but it seems many disagree with your choice of Scholomance as your successor (Head of Forums) in the Forum Team. May we know why you decided to choose him over the others?

D: I agree that it is not a particularly pleasing topic to discuss, however that said every person has to have an exit strategy. Having monitored his progress over the previous months of work and all, I believed that he possessed the necessary capabilities and qualities to excel in his newly elected role. The fact is that the seniors decided that he was most capable, and we elected him based on that - anything he was to do after that was solely his (and those who decided to retain their positions) responsibility.

Q: Shouldn't you be held accountable should he fail in any of his future undertakings? Let's say if the Forum Team collapses under his management...

D: If you are talking about what happens in the future, then yes, I deny responsibility. As the outgoing Head of Forums, my last request was simply to elect the best replacement for my role, whether the replacement does his or her job, is not within my control. How can one justify it being my responsibility?

Q: Going back to the main issue involved, do you believe a take over by SMM will materialize?

D: I do not believe that I am at liberty to discuss such matters.

Q: Then why was it that you resigned after a meeting held to resolve such a matter?

D: What happened that night will remain behind closed doors. As I answered earlier, it was made out of honor - I resigned as I considered myself a failure in keeping up with my promise to do the best for the community, and that someone who was more capable should take over. I strongly reject the notion that it was some sort of protest vote - I would never resign for a selfish purpose that benefits either myself, or my team, despite burdening others.

Q: How do you see the server progressing beyond these times?

D: I believe that, with capable leadership and vision, it can go far. However, effort and user-relations are very important, even if one has the ideas and knowledge to bring about great improvements, one still has to remember that a gaming server cannot survive without it's userbase, nor can it survive without any effort put in to ensure that whatever projects started are seen to the end.

Q: Although something not mentioned in public, it seems that during your time, the Forum Team developed a rivalry with its sister team, the Server Team. What is your comment on that issue?

D: The fact is that under the current system ensures that each team has no power in the other's roles. However it does not guarantee that either team is free from external influences. All I can say here is that as moderators and banlist checkers, most of us are taking the role of a judge - so our decisions, be it actions, verdicts, or statements will be put under a lot of scrutiny by the public. I don't deny that occasionally things can get pretty heated up, but I believe that open conflict is only counterproductive in the long run.

Q: So with the changing of guard, can we expect better relations between the two teams?

D: That is up to whoever who takes control of the top posts in Blueserver, and how you define "relations" in your case. There has to be some sort of measurement before one can compare things, no?

Q: We have seen the fracas where a moderator went around indirectly attacking the Server Team, from your team, just moments after the resignation. Now can you explain that?

D: Although tensions were high during that particular point in time, and people may have been angry, it has to be understood that different people have different views on certain issues. I don't deny that what that moderator has done is wrong, but I would consider that to be an isolated case in the history of Forum Team and Server Team relations.

Q: More importantly, we have touched on most issues except one that has to do with the proprietor of the whole organization, as you put it. How do you feel about Megablue, and his role in the big picture, especially after you leave the server behind?

D: Megablue is a brilliant person with a talent in programming. I believe he has the capability to visualize groundbreaking ideas within the server - he has proven so with initiatives such as anti-hacks, an automated server wide ban system, and such. That said, the only quality I do not agree with in him is that he rarely engages in discussions where it is needed. I believe many of today's unresolved problems would have been solved had there been proper discussions between the different sectors of Blueserver and it's owner. At this point it is like a spiderweb with a hole in the middle. As for the second part of your question, I still believe that he is capable of building on a successful server and realizing his visions of owning the biggest PvPGN around, but he will need to listen to trusted advice and be mature enough to admit where he has failed, and improve on his shortcomings.
Q: Any last messages for your friends, moderators and people who you will leave behind in Blueserver?

D: I believe that we should do what we believe is right, rather than become "yes men". To put things in a more direct manner, my resignation from the Forum Team should not cause a mass resignation, as a I believe that this would be the wrong way to handle things. Take it as a new beginning to things. To my friends and fellow moderators, thank you for the experience and the times shared. May our paths cross sometime soon in life.

Q: Thank you for your time, Denster.

D: You're welcome. Thank for your time too.
There are a number of reasons as to why I put this out:
1. I admit my resignation was done in under very mysterious circumstances, and I believe the public, however late, deserve to know what happened (to the extent possible), and what my views on certain issues are.
2. I always placed discussions and exchanging of views high up in the priority list while serving in the Forum Team - this is simply one way of myself expressing my views, so that my fellow moderator, or ex-colleagues can understand.
3. To not waste my friend's (who wasted his/her time interviewing me) effort and time. Thank you very much for being patient with me during that trying time.


A Jog Down Memory Lane

Today was a rather eventful day for me. A lot of memories from the past were revisited, and a lot of decisions were made with respect to the future. Perhaps it is just the movie that I watched only a few hours ago (The Papaya Sisters), which was rather touching because of the various meanings it carries, or maybe something else. Either way, today I ended up having a long catch up with Death on Wings, one of my fellow clanmates in the good ol' Jabatan Pendidikan Dota (JPD) clan, which was like... two years ago?

Many of us have moved on since then, but speaking to them about the past, I am doubly relieved and joyous that we enjoyed good times back then. The same can be said of the Forum Moderation team (of Blueserver v3), and even the core group of moderators in the first Blueserver (Edenz, Emus, Dennooze, DT8 etc)... those indeed were good times - all the talk cock sessions, the procrastinating, the light-hearted chats - whatever it was, when it was time for work (be it training, replays or such), we would all put our heads down and work. It was a simple, but efficient and (what I thought was) a self sustaining system.

Things have, as you would know, changed a lot since then. The Forum Team is different in it's approach now, and I dare say (via the views of users) the same for the Server Team. Sometimes it's much better to stand behind the scenes and view things as an observer. Being able to do that while you are doing that very job is a skill that not many people possess. We tend to realise mistakes faster that way, rather than when we actually become the executioner of actions. It's thus then, easier to see where things may have gone wrong, where things have improved, and so on; in other words a comparison is much easily made.

The main problem in every organization, that stops a potentially critical revamping of the system, is inertia on the side of the management and the users. It is not easy for people to change, especially when they have become content and comfortable with what they have achieved (or the way they are living). It's thus a larger than life job to actually set about a plan to implement changes discussed on the drawing board - for it is much tougher in real life than just on sketches. People all want the good times, people want to enjoy the easy life, people want to experience fun Dota games, depending on their viewpoint of fun. So what can be done? Eventually statistics prove that not everyone will be happy with a change, and the same for a status quo decision (not everyone will be happy to remain the same).

I feel sometimes we as an organization tend to hold too tightly to the past. Even though the statement "The past is the past, the future is what we have to work on" may seem harsh to the contributions of our predecessors, as a person of the "past" in Blueserver, I think there is no problem with how wide scope the management should implement changes. By all means, changes should be done as soon as possible, for dragged down projects tend to face more opposition than smooth ones. We do have to be careful though, for in our hastiness to ensure a change occurs, we have to view things as a neutral, seeing things from both sides. (One only needs to go down memory lane *again* to witness such follies in the past).

Ice breaking sessions were definitely one of the more fun moments in our time as moderators. Forum Team ice breaking sessions were particularly fun because each of us as seniors, myself, Phoenix, Emus, Venus and Silverice would bring our mentees (apprentices) to meet with other seniors and their respective mentees. It may sound daunting to some, but went through beautifully.

Speaking to some of my senior mates also brings those old memories back, the memories of the GM time - where I would go to Blueserver channel and chat with unknown people (and offer them advice at the same time), the time where I argued with 2 others against a proposition to prolong the "ban duration", the time I was asked to stand down when I justifiably banned an "admin's brother" for leaving, all the resumes sent in, each individual one with their own writing style, Forum Central, the one stop for all our activities, as well as Bulu/Cact Server - the training ground. Those were all great moments that I would find hard to trade for anything else. Obviously there are unhappy moments too, but those came and went, with lessons learnt along the way. In any case it's inevitable for the question to be popped to me, as to when I would be returning to rejoin BS3, but I believe at the end of the day, we too, as people, must put our priorities right - and in my list studies, etc come before Blueserver.

Those were old times indeed. At the end of the day though, my mask should be left behind, for the Denster of Blueserver is no more. (It was deleted) -> what do I mean by mask? It's quite simple. Unlike real life environments, where one is more open to the expressions of others, there is big challenge in web meetings and web chats - you have absolutely no idea whether the person is bullshitting you (and showing it via sign language), being online grants you a mask. And it is this mask, the mask with which I used to help many, which is left behind as part of the deal I put in.

I hope everyone continues to move forward in the new year. Take care people!


Take care people,

Future Plans on Things around BS

It has been a terribly long time since we last met up, but when we did, Starry, Edenz, Fieryaeon, Sexbomb, Menzo and myself had a good chat about how things went through the Blueserver days, each person having different (and often fun and candid) views on each part of the administration, from the people, to the policies in place. It reminded me much about the old days, but even more of the people who played such big parts in making Blueserver what it has become today.

My (often imaginative) mind often plays this (recurring) film which resembles something much from the last few episodes of Survivor, where the last two people would journey through often harsh (and beautiful terrain) and pay their last respects to those who have fallen (by vote, or otherwise) along the way. It is sometimes a hair raising experience when I picture two people traveling through beautiful mountains, and passing each stick along the way with a name of a particular moderator (or person who has contributed much to Blueserver) along the way. Some of the names made me seriously think about those people - for indeed they have helped a lot along the way.

Some of the nicknames are of people who many may not remember, but no doubt they influenced myself to a certain degree (or enough that they actually do appear in that mental film) - such as Da3m0n, ExtGamer, SkylineSin, Halcyon, -[Nexous]-, Ribut, Iris, Apple, Spoonkin, 3570, Polarbearz, Aerith, Kyosuke86, Magez, [Neo]Sunny, and more. There are countless many, each nickname etched on a hanging wooden board along the way, and for all I know my memory may be simply recalling all those who I interacted with along the way throughout my time in Blueserver. It is funny though, I don't remember seeing my nickname, perhaps it's because it's deleted XD

Either way, there was an interesting proposition set to me (albeit in a fun manner) - what if we all (referring to my ex-colleagues in both ST and FT) rejoined? Would things work out? It is tough to say, but perhaps the main change should come from the administration itself. As a body that seeks new workers (or in this case a two-time veteran from the past), the offer has to be good enough, with good growth prospects apart from work benefits for one to truly want the job. It could of course, be voluntary, coming from pure motivation to make things better, but these all can be roughly fit into the category of work benefits, for we derive satisfaction from the job we do. In any case, things are really bad at the moment, if one were to compare them with the time we had things in an orderly manner.

It isn't really anyone's fault in particular, rather that the whole organization, myself included, failed as a whole during the closing stages of the deal that ultimately culminated in the assimilation of Blueserver into the SMM juggernaut. Apparently one of the clauses was that the forum was to be made a strictly Dota-only thing, rather than the community thing that I strove for (I had a long term plan on being able to challenge the bigger players in the Malaysian indie forum market, as well as to strengthen the PvPGN system against newcomes like GG Client), but things didn't work out in the end.

Many people may potentially see this as a reason as to why I resigned now, but it is important that they see it purely from a leadership point of view, which isn't easy but is what I believe what makes a successful leader, and one not so successful - did I accomplish my objectives? I am of the feeling that I didn't, so what does that mean? Think about it. It's not a single issue that causes something as big as the fall of several top leaders in an organization, rather it is a result of a slow rot that ultimately shows it's ugly head as a result of lack of both data collection (finding out about what exactly is agreed upon) and analysis. We all have our faults, and skeletons in our closets, and I do too.

Moving on though, it was recently suggested that I be allowed back into the Administration fold for the first time since my resignation back in 2007, for advisory purposes. While at posting time I have had no reservations regarding this particular proposal, the objective of this exercise still seems rather unclear to me. Either way, we'll see how things work out, before I put in my next move. While indeed I do value and cherish my time back in Blueserver, and BS Forums subsequently, I have to make it absolutely clear though, that I certainly wouldn't want to rejoin the team, after all, as mentioned before, my time is up (as far as it's concerned), and barring extraordinary circumstances, I would very much like to move on with life and occasionally catch up with those (hopefully successful) successors to the very team that made Blueserver what it is today.

The Value of a Team

Perhaps one of the biggest things I learnt from my time at Blueserver, is the value of having a great team around. We all have our own mindsets and ideals when we proceed to work; whether our work encompasses something repetitive and monotonous, or perhaps something more of an ever-changing challenge/problem. Either way, the most important thing that I picked up was that the phrase we were taught to vomit out in every karangan (essay), "bersatu teguh, bercerai roboh" ("Together we stand, divided we fall"). I thought it was a joke, but when I stepped into the Blueserver life, it was anything but.

As a moderator that didn't seek promotion, but rather wanted to learn about workplace culture and all, it was shocking to see that so many times a person would reach the top in record time, then be sent plummeting down after a hot dispute, often because of a divide in opinions against that very person. Or how rival teams (forums / servers / organizations) fell because they lacked the skills in one particular side (notably: technical or people handling skills).

It is precisely the reason above why I feel that systems should be in place, and that teams should recruit people they not only can work with, but will complement the team. After all, it wouldn't make sense to bring a teammate in, just because he has the skills, but will "do things differently" from the team, no? Nor is a person who has very similar approaches and skills to existing people within the team, will be helpful in the long run. Diversity and teamwork here triumphs over normal teams, in my opinion - where to find the right balance between the two will be the challenge of the leader.

The leader, I feel, should have at least three qualities. He, or she, should be alert. Very alert. It is a massive boost for a leader if he or she can identify symptoms of problems before they occur, or even better yet, solve them before they even become a problem. An alert leader should not be confused with a "omnipresent" one, because I think from experience, people want to be given freedom to do the jobs they are given their own way - by appearing all the time, it risks them getting overpressured to do their job (better the word "mindful" and "considerate", than "omnipresent").

The second thing I feel a leader should have is the ability to learn, not only from mistakes, but from the mistakes of others. For it is important for a team to be ever-evolving; adapting from one challenge to another, and keeping competitive all the time (via books maybe?) - the ones left behind in terms of knowledge should engage the help of an able teammate.

The last quality is then the technical knowledge to support their responsibilities - although this takes a backseat compared to the other two before it. I feel that technical knowledge is a must, but only simply because when you discuss things you tend to be able to keep in touch with what is happening. It complements the first quality. Everyday, we "look" at a long of things. For us to actually "see" them, it takes a certain amount of effort, that is no doubt lessened when we learn more. Perhaps it is limited to forum moderation, perhaps not. It will be interesting though, to see what could come out of it should this be practiced in work life.

In any case, I believe that a leader will rise or fall depending on the capability of his team. There is a need to help them if they have trouble, because eventually when the going gets tough, the leader will need to rely on them. Failure to prepare for difficult times is one and the same as preparing to fail then, in my opinion.

I laud the efforts of the many moderators and leaders who graced the organization, Blueserver, that I used to work with, but at the same time think that their current batch can do better with regards to leadership, and common teamwork. In no way are they doing a bad job, I simply think that they can do better.