(Positive) Open Letter to SSgts, 2018 edition

Since we don’t have a generic "members only" forum section, I’m putting it here. Hopefully, due to the nature of the content, it’s not controversial. :slight_smile: I posted something similar years ago on the Staff forums, but it was probably a bit misunderstood, so let’s try again:


This may seem weird, coming from somebody who criticizes the SSgts from time to time, but I would like to sincerely thank you for the work you’re doing and the work that has been revealed to me now, with the opening of the brainstorming submission forums. This extends to RnD and MMT and other branches as well!

Regardless of how well you’re doing your job (and some people would question that), you show an interest in doing it and that counts for a lot in my book, whatever the motivations are.

Community vs leaders

You see - my fear about leadership roles is always about how leaders approach their responsibilities. Sometimes, leaders lose track of what’s actually important and rather focus on what they personally prefer, going into super defensive mode when somebody presents a new idea. The discussion then becomes a "fight" between the folk trying to come up with new arguments to convince the leader, and the leader coming up with new reasons why their idea (and hence the current state of things) is better. That is when anything constructive ceases to exist and nobody benefits.

Please be wary of this. One thing that helps is to try to disassociate who you are (as a person) from what you believe in - you can then spend less time focusing on defense and more objectively evaluate whether the new idea is in fact better for the community.

Maybe the answer should, instead of "no", be "yes, but …".

On cooperation

One positive thing I see in the brainstorming submissions that I would like to highlight as much as I can is cooperation.

When we go into brainstorming, our goal as community members is to improve the community and the experience of players. And we want leadership that can help us achieve that, not leadership that blocks us on everything we do, not leadership that adds unnecessary levels of bureaucracy for the sake of bureaucracy.
It’s important to realize that we’re all in this together and we’re doing it for the community, not to satisfy the leadership. If some things need to be adjusted, tested, changed, sure - just keep the end goal in clear view.

And the great thing is that I can see this happening, I just want to shout this so you know and don’t lose track!

The power of contribution

This approach is very nicely illustrated by many meritocracy-based OSS (Open Source Software) projects where even seemingly stupid and unuseful contributious are guided, selflessly, by the project managers. Because the goal is not the code. It’s teaching the contributor that - if they’re willing to put in the work - nobody is going to block them. It’s about the approach and people management, not only the end result.
It’s also like the stock market; by contributing, you become a partial owner of the project and, through your contributions, you get to dictate (to a lesser extent) the direction of the project.

It turns out this is very healthy in the unpaid OSS market exactly because the people doing the work are the most valued people, not an arbitrary chosen leader. It is healthy because maintaining respect then comes naturally. It is healthy because it motivates people to do work, to engage, and as long as they are willing to talk and listen to each other, everybody benefits.

Mainly the respect, though - it’s way easier to respect somebody who thinks deeply about their responsibilities and makes sure their duties are met, rather than somebody who "elected" themselves into a position of power.

Where I’m going with this

Leaders, please don’t be afraid. Don’t fear that giving people the power and authority over <something> will destroy all things. I know this won’t happen overnight, it’s just something to think about.

In the past, you created the RnD and MMT departments, but they are really your subordinates. They don’t necessarily have the power to decide on key things in their area of expertise because you hold the keys to the kingdom.

From what I heard, RnD can’t push mod changes without your approval and code review, MMT probably has similar restrictions. That doesn’t make any sense to me as it sounds like overprotective parenting and you just adding more work on your table.

Please consider, in the back of your head and in some future, giving exclusive authority on some things to RnD, MMT, PR and other branches. So that, even if you don’t like the decisions, they have the authority to make them. You can still veto some extreme cases of breaking community ethos, just not everyday work.

If you do this, you stand to gain a LOT of respect because it shows you’re willing to reward, with responsibility and authority, the people that make the things happen. And because you’re willing to risk it, at your own expense, which makes you look really selfless.

Where I’m really going with this

I actually really just wanted to say, from looking at the replies to submissions: Good work!

As long as we’re willing to work together and have a two-way discussion, I don’t fear the future.


Hello Freghar,

Thank you for your positive message I can assure you that it is very much appreciated by all SSgt’s. I can assure you whatever over reasons we may have for stepping up to take on the roles of SSgt’s the core reasons are always the same:

  • To enable the continuation of the community.
  • To keep our members happy and to continue playing with us.
  • To continuously strive to improve the community.

For myself and I believe I can speak for all other SSgt’s as well, we will always put the community first. I have not only done this myself but witnessed it first hand from others and I am constantly surprised how we always play devils advocate for each in order to see anything we do from all sides so we can make an informed decision that will hopefully be right for the community. We some times make mistakes but we are always available to talk even if not active on TS due to other commitments you can always PM us on Enjin or Discord.

I really believe we are very approachable individuals that really do want to hear your thoughts and we will listen. It is good to remember though that we can not implement all ideas pitched to us at all times. I personally believe the brainstorming system can work really well as seen by the amount of submissions compared to the amount implemented. The whole process is there to empower the community and allow you to push change hence why when as a collective you support an idea we listen and try our best to initiate that change as soon as possible.

I could go on about the virtues of brainstorming all day but I will not instead I will comment of the power of contribution. I think we show that if you submit an idea or mod suggestion we will always listen and we will always help you develop it hopefully into something we can implement.

I would say that when it comes to devolving power it is very easy to get it wrong and very hard to get it right. I would not say that the branch managers have no power to effect change, I say this speaking from experience as both the training manager and mission making manager but even when at the time I was not happy with running every simple idea past the SSgt’s as soon as I became one I instantly knew why it was done. We are not stopping progress or hoarding power we are merely here for assurance and to ensure quality of service.

When we ask to review code changes etc it is so we are kept in the loop with all changes so we stay up to date and can pass on this information to the rest of the community it is not so we can stop any changes in it’s track. The SSgt’s also only review code for 3 of the GitHub repos Additions, Assets and Compositions all the rest are directly under the R&D manager he merges and commits code when he wants.

The Interviewing Manager now has full control over who is granted interviews and membership including ruling on exceptions to our age limit.

The Mission Making Manager is free to admit those he deems worthy of the Mission Maker title, he controls the event calendar and schedules events. He has final say as mission reviewer on which missions are accepted or not.

I believe we empower all our staff and show a lot of trust in them. The problem we have is we have Three SSgt’s to ensure that all decisions are agreed and informed, it is also a safeguard to protect the community from an individuals whims. If we give Branch Managers ultimate power over their branches then who safeguards the community from there whims, we are just putting in place the same safeguards we put on ourselves in order to ensure what is best for the community is what comes out of decision making. I have never told someone with a good idea as a branch manager not to pursue it.

Anyway I do not want to go on an on as I could do but I believe that we always try to do what is best for the community and we are always fair. I would not ask anybody to do anything I would not be willing to do in order to effect change in the community.

Kind Regards,

Hey [user avatar=“https://assets-cloud.enjin.com/users/13633351/avatar/small.1434890353.jpeg” name=“Freghar”]13633351[/user],

Thank you for the very extensive letter.
I take it as a message of good faith and trust.

I’ve read it few hours after you posted it and was thinking a bit.

There’s always a fine balance in sharing responsibilities, good coordination and information flow.

Community consists of ~70 members, some of them being major contributors, while others simply enjoying the atmosphere one in a while. Long time ago we agreed that delegation of tasks is the only way we can ensure that we’re not bottle-necked and that we don’t burn out.

SSgt (back in the day - SNCO’s) were administrators, leaders and maintainers of every single aspect of the community.

Nowadays we have multiple branches, managers, specialists. We have automated systems and workflows saving our time and effort. We came a long way to make our life much easier and minimize the bureaucracy.

SSgt’s became more of enablers, coordinators and guardians.

Whatever the role is of anyone in this community - be it SSgt, SPC, branch member or just player - what’s important to remember is that we are just humans who sacrifice their own personal time to be part of this family and contribute to its growth and development. Part of being human is that mistakes will happen.

I’ve been here for the past 3,5 years, been a JrNCO, NCO, SNCO, then SSgt.
Fact being - I’m the longest acting "leader" in CNTO. I’ve learned a lot.

While we had some tough times in the Community, you wouldn’t believe the amount of times I just wanted to flip the table and walk out of the door.

I never did. Not because I liked being in power or having control (no one with that should ever become a leader) - it’s because I cared for the everyone here and things we managed to do together more than I was angry or overloaded.

This comes with constant self-verification - am I still able to fulfill my duties well or should I free up my slot for someone else (and if so, who would it be)?

The hard part of being SSgt is getting over the fact you might not like to deal with certain situations, people or ideas, but you do it because it needs to be done, and it needs to be done in respectful way that benefits everyone or prevents harm.

I’m confident we will last long, as we have now plenty of active and awesome people. Our structure also allows fast replacement of people who can’t fulfill their duties due to their personal life or motivation, so the tasks can be re-delegated.

I can only assure we’re always watching and listening, trying to do what we can - with the most limited resource we have at our hands - time.

If there’s anything we can do better, let’s do it, together.