Sunday, 8 January 2012

A Community Diminished: The Fall of the EVE Bloggers Portal

The EVE Online Bloggers Portal has long been a resource I have enjoyed and I am ashamed to say, taken for granted. It is singularly one of the best sites to find some up-to-date EVE-related reading material. For years it has quietly been the spine of the EVE blogging community, aggregating the hundreds of individual blogposts and news-feeds. Much gratitude is deserved by Black Claw/Alexia Morgan and Biore for maintaining the site.

It saddens me to read that Black Claw will be shutting down this service, as stated in his latest blogpost here. I can understand completely that he no longer finds value in playing EVE and I respect that he wants to use his time in other ways, but this doesn't explain why he wishes to shut down EVEbloggers.com.

However, he goes on to explain that he is dissatisfied with CCP due to the mishandling of his accounts. Whilst I suspect his treatment may be symptomatic of an understrength community team (I think they were hit as hard as any CCP department in the layoffs late last year), I appreciate that there is no excuse for poor customer service. Nonetheless, I am disappointed that the community is being punished for this by being deprived a valued community asset.

Clique Favouritism?

Personally I have seen other signs that the community team may be operating under a siege mentality, with evidence of a lack of resources or understanding of some areas of EVE's complex society. Some examples that I have recently experienced suggest a bias toward the "cool kids".

For example, Mintchip produced a brief and awkward interview with Lead Designer CCP Soundwave at roughly the same time CCP Dropbear and CCP Headfirst gave an insightful and entertaining interview about EVE's storylines, live events and some exclusive DUST 514 info for Voices from the Void. Which interview got some CCP love in the December newsletter? Yep, you guessed it. The Mintchip/Soundwave non-event.

Another example of lop-sided favour concerns the recent podcast produced by one of CCP's favourite sons, Kil2 (of Alliance Tournament commentary fame). Along with Kovorix they have started a podcast focusing on solo combat. More power to them, however I felt for Arydanika who despondently pointed out the My EVE section of the official forums, where her thread which she regularly updated with the latest podcast episodes and information was vastly overshadowed by Kil2 and Kovarix's new effort. Which one had been tagged by both CCP developers and GMs? Yep, the new one by the cool kids.

A Team Besieged

On both occasions I counselled an attitude of indifference. It didn't matter, we just had to keep our heads down and plug away because we do it for the fun, not the favour. There's different audiences for different products and the real satisfaction comes from hitting the mark with your own listenership or readership. However, as anyone who runs a blog, podcast or other EVE web resource will tell you, knowing that you're being appreciated is what makes the hard work worthwhile. CCP holds huge sway over this traffic. If they play favourites and forget those that are tirelessly promoting their game and running services, I can understand why community contributors like Black Claw or Arydanika might become disillusioned or feel undervalued.

This isn't a criticism of the Community Team, I think under the circumstances they are doing what they can. CCP Guard has been an absolute phenomenon and I'm sure there are others in the engine room who deserve plaudits too, but I can't help feeling that these balls occasionally being dropped are due to the loss of key staff who had an understanding and a relationship with sections of the EVE playerbase that are now going unnoticed. This is perhaps an expected late symptom of the 20% layoffs, the hangover that we're expected to ride out. But even so it is a bitter pill to swallow.

Has anyone else noticed this change? Is the need to focus on the numbers forcing an understrength community team to leave some of us out in the cold? Or is being sensitive to these issues indicative of an over-inflated sense of entitlement?

Please share your thoughts.

31 comments:

  1. I've certainly noticed a change and as you've mentioned, some things have left me scratching my head.

    I think CCP recognition can be like the holy grail. Something to strive for, having the creators of this fine game acknowledge our service and/or product. I have no delusions of ever attaining that though, my blog is mediocre at best and I'm happy with that as it's just a place to practice my untrained writing.

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  2. This is nothing new. Folks/bloggers have been complaining about lack of attention from CCP for a long time. This sort of complaint comes with the territory. A few years ago there was a big kerfuffle regarding CrazyKinux and who was (and wasn't) included in his blogroll. CCPs community team has never really been in touch with most players. It's a tight-knit, insular and incestuous group. Focus on your audience and don't let jealousy of CCPs favorites get under your skin.
    As far as the Evebloggers site...meh...community sites come and go all of the time. Wouldn't lose any sleep over one less.

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  3. I don't know why Mintchip gets all the attention. Actually I do, maybe if we all screwed Chribba we would get more attention from CCP :p

    I do agree that CCP are currently playing favourites, Kil2's podcast is alright, but Voices, Lost in Eve and Starfleet comms are all better. All deserve way more attention.

    Mintchip, just needs to go away.

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  4. Regarding mintchip vs. VftV being spotlighted, it may have been purely a PR decision, as mintchip has a slightly broader audience in the gaming community. Still, if it had been me, I would have tried to highlight the interview that presented CCP in the best light.

    As for the rest, who knows? Speaking from the outside looking in, I think that getting CCP interviews and other little favors or attention would be sufficient enough to say you aren't being shunned.

    As with all things though there are varying degrees of favor, I'm sure - just part of human nature and probably entirely subconscious or unintentional in nature.

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  5. I really don't know or can't comment a great deal on the CCP part on the issue since i'm not really in the know on some of that. It can be tough in the EVE Universe to be up to date on every single issue as well as have a opinion of everything thats going on. Yet the article is a great piece that highlights certain issues as they are as well the unfortunate soon to close down EVE Bloggers site.

    As a blogger in the community I do consume my share of reading blogs of various interest far and wide on EVE Life and not just the regular EVE Blogs that most people are usually aware of or promote. It is such that I personally have found EVE Bloggers of value with a greater listing of diverse blogs. Many those blogs are dead, some inactive, some semi active, many active and so forth.

    But recently as of over a week ago taking the time to go thru the list of listed EVE Blogs A - Z and mostly skimming thru to find some the more active ones I've been able to find some interesting ones. Some that I've never knew about and hardly many have ever heard of most likely as well. I've only made it so far thru maybe a third the list so far making links of the ones that are active and stood out. Yet its sad also now hearing the site will close soon made even more so while actively going thru the blog listing there.

    I'm not sure if there is a more complete list of EVE Blogs listed elsewhere than there. But it will certainly be a lost to the EVE Community that many blogs that are alive out there flying below a vast majority of EVE blog readers radar will may never be heard of or found and likely loss when the site closes down. That will be a loss. Its true that blogs come and go and in time those voices will be replaced. Yet though small in their voice some may, they are all still part of EVE and the larger community.

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  6. Sage comments all, but please don't misunderstand me, my concern is not from an individual viewpoint, but more with regard to CCP's handling of broad sections of the EVE playerbase beyond the hardcore "cool kids" clique. There seems to be a worrying indifference toward other sub-sections of EVE society.

    Perhaps it's just a subscriber numbers thing, but if the impact of community mishandling results in a diminished community, something is going wrong, yes?

    Also, I bear no above-mentioned individuals any ill will. Mintchip seem like a nice enough girl and she's brilliantly marketing herself by using her best assets - there's a reason she does a videocast rather than a podcast. Kil2's podcast fills a nice podcasting niche and I'm glad he's sharing his knowledge.

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  7. It's all about exposure. And in the geeky world of gaming, girlies are the most effective.

    I know of another lady Eve player that stopped playing Eve and blogging about it as Incarna launched. So that's what? 7 months ago?

    She's been offered some free Fanfest tickets if she comes back o.0

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  8. Thanks for the post. I'll bring this to the attention of (a) myself and (b) the community team and (c) probably some other people at CCP. We've been thrown a bit for a loop with the layoffs and the necessary re-org as you can imagine. We're coming out of those deep dark woods though and things should get better.

    I can assure that assumed "Favoritism" to support specific EVE fans isn't based on a PR decision (as I didn't decide it ;). Mostly it's just weird timing, where we get a request at a certain time that aligns magically when we aren't super busy with all the other stuff we do.

    That having been said, I'm taking a few weeks to holistically look at PR and Social Media, the specific places that I'm in charge of (and pretty much run on my own). That includes a lot of community interaction, especially the social media side. So, any suggestions, please send my way. That could be related to CCP interaction with podcasts, blogs, links, how we run Facebook, Twitter etc. nedcoker@ccpgames.com, evemail CCP Manifest or Twitter @CCP_Manifest . Rest assured more attention will be spent on the outside-of-client EVE community by yours truly.

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  9. Cheers! It's great to see creativity appreciated.

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  10. I'll stand by ya. You can count on my steel! I'll offer up my courage. Me sword's by his side! I'm with you! I'll bend my bow you your will, sir! HAIL!

    Seriously, mintchip can suck an egg, and I don't even know who those other guys are.

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  11. Mintchip needs an autocannon round to the head IMO.

    Everytime she speaks I want to stab myself!

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  12. Mintchip has an audience and spends her time providing a service to the EVE Community just like any other contributor. This article was not intended as an anti-Mintchip tubthump. I was simply saying that a more even hand would be welcomed from CCP. With CCP Manifest back in the saddle, I have every faith that will be the case.

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  13. Excellent post and comments. My thoughts echo the expressed intention from Stan, this is most likely unintended fallout from the recent layoffs and re-organizational trials that CCP is currently battling.

    As for Eve Bloggers Portal I am extremely sad to hear that news. It is a great service and one that I rely on almost on a daily basis. My own work has just gotten harder and that is the last thing I need. I am very sad to hear it will be closing down.

    One other word. We should all be careful how we feel about those that suddenly get the "spotlight". That light is always brief and can shine in different directions. One day you might find yourself in its glare and then what will people be saying of you? In my opinion, work hard, have fun and let the rest fall where it may.

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  14. I may actually have an advantage in this. I blog mostly for myself; get ideas on paper, as it were. I suspect most of my "reads" come from people scrolling past my post on their RSS reader that pulls the EVE blog OMPL. I submitted my page to the fansite listing, mostly for lulz and less out of any specific expectation that I'd get my account converted to a media account. I consider a post a resounding success if I get even a single comment. I was surprised as hell when CCP included me on the fansite emailing for free Fanfest tickets. (I'd love to go, but I just don't have the $1.5k-$2k I'd need even WITH free tickets.)

    Maybe my expectations were always just really low. Maybe I'm so used to being the outsider in whatever I do that this treatment you talk about never felt abnormal.

    Or maybe it is just something that comes with the territory, as KaarBaak said.

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  15. Think it's more of a shame how these supposed cool kids are being attacked by what in itself is just another clique. So from your under appreciated clique, someone hours on to attain the recognition you all strive for and the test of you fall on them like dogs? Perhaps this is why they deserve it and you don't.

    Not really at OP, as his were valid points.
    Sorry for poor spelling/wall of text, on mobile

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  16. I wrote to CCP about this last year too as I got quite angry and upset, cross even, for exactly some of the reasons outlined here. I wrote an email to CCP Guard and had a response back.

    In the podcast episode that was produced as a result of that (http://www.starfleetcomms.com/content/starfleet_comms_podcast_episode_8_max_torps_and_noise), CCP Guard stated the best way to receive a community team response for fansites and that changes were to be made. Since then there’s been the layoff of many of the community team. The point being, this has been happening for a lot longer than Crucible.

    But I also think that this needs to be tempered with a wider view. Are we all fair to each other in providing visibility to each others work? Do we need to be to provide a more robust promotion of our own community? Do we need to have our own link sharing system? Do we need to be more vocal in recognising the effort of others ourselves rather than the effort of our own cliques?

    Another thing we need to do is identify why we do this and this is something you have touched on Stan, is it for CCP recognition or is it for fun?

    If it's for CCP recognition then we can be sure there's going to be a lot of butthurt over not getting any or enough because CCP can't be everywhere. If it's for fun then there will be less butthurt over CCP's actions or inactions.

    It’s also very interesting and in an odd way amusing that we see podcasts and sites complaining about lack of interaction with CCP because I seem to see the other podcasts having a lot of interaction with CCP! I guess it’s all a matter of perception!

    VoV, Fly Reckless, LiE, I’ve seen all of them cc various CCP members into their tweets to garner attention and all of them have had CCP involvement. So the community media producers need to decide why they do stuff and how they can be fairer in promoting each others content and take it from there and CCP need to be fair with their dealings and have some open structure, rather than have us all shouting “me, me, me!” on Twitter.

    So let's step back and ask if it would it not be beneficial for us all to start figuring out how we can fairly promote our own community using our own outlets better and do everything we can to avoid cliques? As much as one may deny it, they certainly exist because at the root of it all, many of us are in competition.

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  17. While community sites are a great idea, they are subject to all kinds of factors that can make them go away. As an alternative, has anyone undertaken to put together a page on the EVE Wiki listing blogs, podcasts, etc? Sure, it would need ongoing maintenance to keep it up to date but since anyone with an active EVE account can edit EVE wiki pages (unless they are locked/protected) that work could be shared.

    While the EVE wiki is not the most attractive of venues and doesn't offer anything like the functionality of a "real" site such as the EVE Blogger's Portal, at least it's a stable place for an archive of community offerings to be maintained ... as long as EVE is alive and kicking, anyway.

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  18. Clearly, Evelopedia could be at least a temporary solution to more recognition and promotion and well, organization of sorts. Not that Evelopedia is some massive player mecca, but more that people are likely to stumble upon it and it's probably the best of the CCP suite of web presences currently to host something like this. I'll talk with Guard, Navigator and Evelopedia's Ginger to see what we can wrassle up for the short term.

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  19. CCP Manifest. I'm not sure if you're aware but based on Carole's comment I went over to take a look at the Evelopedia. There's a page there that links to some community websites: http://wiki.eveonline.com/en/wiki/Category:Websites

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  20. I have tried to stay well the hell away from the drama llamas and just grown my site organically. The results are apparent, my audience is small but it is MY audience. Mintchip made some questionable but effective marketing campaigns (always giving the basement dwellers the impression she was recording without a shirt...) and she is backed (hated and loved) by a large nulsec block.

    Obviously, CCP will gravitate to personalities like hers because she is controversial. New Eden isn't that divorced from the real world when you consider it is always perception > reality and form > content.

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  21. There are many great points that have been made regarding the layoffs and perceived favoritism, one thing however doesn't change. Reader\listener\viewer preference.

    I know that the vast majority of players would be bored out their mind reading my blog. I understand and accept that. Those who like reading the pirate exploits of Helicity Boson or Rixx Javix would run for the hills. The same could be said for people who listen to Ransoms and Roams or Declarations of War vs ISK or Notalotofnews.

    While the number of different sub-groups in the Eve community is great there are only so much resources from CCP to go around.

    Also the size of those communities is also disparate. The nullsec bloc easily is the largest. Though there are significant amounts of high-sec carebears, mercs, pirates and griefers.

    Be that as it may, once CCP gets their feet back on the ground from the restructuring I hope we see more involvement from them in other areas of the Eve experience.

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  22. I am outraged! Outraged, I say, that I have not been properly feted and fawned over as befits my station as Eve Online's premier blog diva.

    Where is my exclusive interview with CCP's inner sanctum? Why haven't they arrived at my offices, cookies in hand (the ones with the little chocolate chip and currents - not the nasty date-filled ones) to lay before me their deepest, darkest secrets?

    I've check my mail every day and my VIP credentials for Fanfest and complementary first class ticket have not arrived. Have they no appreciation for my
    artistic temperament; that my muse must be fed a constant stream of sycophantic adulation.

    I mean ,you'd think they lacked proper respect for the vast intellect I pour freely and with an open hand, like unto a libation, upon the worlds of New Eden. This is a sorry return for my toils.

    And who is this "Mintchip"? And why can these "fanboys" not simply turn off the content filter on their browser and find proper pornography.

    I'm off to sulk like Achilles in his tent.

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  23. Can anyone else hear Brian Blessed again? ;)

    I take your point though Mord.

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  24. The Community Team doesn't have a misunderstanding of the complex society--in fact they are amazingly adept at navigating it--but manpower concerns are the case. Also, Ardent Defender said " It can be tough in the EVE Universe to be up to date on every single issue as well as have a opinion of everything thats going on." Even from the community team level this is certainly the case. The universe is just BIG and our players do soo many amazing things.Bias towards "cool kids" is also a bit offbase as well, as in some cases, elevating certain people is actually just trying to reward them for very specific things and holding them up as strong examples that hopefully others amongst the playerbase will emulate. It's no knock on others who do things equally well or who might be slightly different in their approach.

    Further point of clarification: the newsletter isn't CCPcommunity team created (it's a marketing thing no surprise there--which means that we might miss or forget about some community-esque interviews), although now we're discussing that the "community spotlight" should be determined solely by the community team directly since they know it best. Sometimes deadlines and last minute inclusions means all best practices of vetting things in the newsletter aren't upheld. That having been said, the newsletter guy has been the staunchest advocate of the community section of the newsletter being there in the first place, and he <3 the EVE Community more than almost anyone I know and vehemently believes them to be our best thing to showcase via marketing.

    Kil2 is totally a favorite son, he's earned it and he's undeniably awesome in MY opinion. However, we do need to make sure all quality podcasts do get into CCP orbit more frequently. I'm toying with the idea of talking to CCP Fallout to try to ressurect the official podcast for instance--which would highlight great segments of other podcasts and maybe a smidge more. Of course, there's also the thing where we kinda have to get and support "new" things every once and a while, in order to encourage them to continue.

    Max Torps post: His email communication with us he referenced was actually inspiring. And honestly spot on. He was the beginning of me personally realizing how things were a bit unbalanced in terms of us going back to the same trough as developers and that we needed to diversify. It's kinda hard to realize it until someone directly points it out. Even then, with Incarna then CSM meeting minutes then layoffs and taking on another +1 worth of job and reorg and then Crucible and baby, it's easy to see how even good intentions get lost in the shuffle.

    He does make an excellent point in that the crosslinking would be superhelpful and that's something I'd like to figure out a way if CCP can help out. Getting the community/bloggers/podcasters all talking and working together. Sure everyone has their own thing, but a few guest columns or stars here and there would be pretty sweet.

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  25. Also, I think it's funny you guys mention Mintchip. She's got fans as well as eye-rollers amidst CCP as well (which side am I on?!), but that's A-OK and probably not a surprise to anyone. She clearly likes EVE, does her own thing, and has garnered some fans. "Officially including her" wasn't some sort of expert, scale-weighing or even douchey attention-grabbing PR decision, was just a last minute inclusion and since she talked to a higher profile guy in Soundwave, we tossed it in a newsletter. That having been said, the point is that we should be working to diversify our "megaphone" of your guys voices, and encouraging more people to speak up, to write down and to just revel in their love of EVE. There's plenty of room for drama, but it can be in that good internet spaceship way instead of the frustrated way--which it seems to be a bit recently--and that needs to be fixed. It might take some time though since it's going to be coupled with the aforementioned holistic review of PR/Social Media etc....

    Just a quick aside (and let's PLEASE leave it at that): after talking to a member of the comm team, the "mishandling" Black Claw was talking about... well, that's not exactly representative of the exchange. Regardless, it saddens me as well that he's shutting down his service and I echo what Seismic Stan said "I can understand completely that he no longer finds value in playing EVE and I respect that he wants to use his time in other ways". Heck, I've taken several breaks from EVE since 2006--strangely one of them isn't right now even though I've got a noobie at home.

    Still bookmarked this convo though, so keep it coming.

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  26. When I started blogging I was jealous of the bloggers like Winterblink and Crazy Kinux who came before me and got attention. So I blogger more.

    When I was a "known" blogger I was jealous of the accolades the fiction writers got so i wrote more fiction.

    When I got pats on the back for my fiction, I was jealous of how the podcasters seemed bigger and even more well know, so I started podcasting.

    When Mintchip came along with videocasting and got an even bigger audience, I finally realized my deep character flaws were the problem and finally became happy with what I was doing and not what people thought of it. (Plus I am too old and ugly for video.)

    More seriously, I suspect that there is not so much a "cool kids club" as there is circles of people who know each other for various reasons (in game relations, announcers at tournaments, CSM) and as such unintentionally have easier access to people in power. Not favoritism so much as connections. The best thing to do if you want official CCP notice is to whack CCP community guys when you think you have something worth showing off. I've never been disappointed (well once, but I'm willing to overlook that).

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  27. Concerns like this were expressed at last year's fanfest community roundtable, and tbh I think that one feature a month is just not enough and thus we get unintended favouritism. Make it flexible, with a max limit of five or so. If there isn't enough to fill that month, so be it, but make more room for everyone.

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  28. CCP is a business. They will promote the things that promote their message primarily, and gap fill otherwise. I posted for 18 months, and was heavily interactive with story elements. But the post that got recognition was the one where I did an in depth preview of upcoming CCP nebulae on Sisi that was largely positive with some critical elements. While for me it was just a long forum post I hoped might get read, CCP Manifest & co likely saw an honest yet positive plug for a release they very much needed to go well. Mintchip interviewed a Dev, of course they plug that.

    Post lots, do it for yourself and your readers, and occasionally say something nice along with your bitching. :) If you want to talk to a dev, follow the right processes and take a unique angle with a unique person the community hasn't heard from in a while.

    If you want to make news, you have to post news. :)

    PS As I said on my post at end of November, I don't really expect to get that recognition again - it was a nice fluke.

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  29. Just to follow up on my post and to clarify in case incorrect assumptions are being made.

    My issue was not about promotion of my site or it's content.

    In the opening discussion I did suggest improvements in the general direction of fairness for all fansites and some other suggestions that I had also taken by proxy to the Fanfest Roundtable discussion.

    I am very happy with "my lot" as it were and think CCP Guard and CCP Manifest are excellent in what they do. They both helped with resolving my particular issue.

    All I was doing really was mentioning that I'd spotted similar issues before and I still think we can all do a bit better to help each other too. Even mentioning each others work is something that can have a great effect.

    So if anyone wants a mention or inclusion in any of our shows then you know what to do - email podcast[at]starfleetcomms[dot]com :-)

    p.s. Why can't I edit my comment? :-(

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  30. Max, I can't edit comments and it's my blog. Limitations of Blogger.com I suppose.

    And who're you calling a proxy? ;)

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  31. Thank you for putting so eloquently what I think a lot of the community has been feeling for some time now.

    With all due respect to Mintchip et al; harried videos of a gamer-chick rattling off tl;dr versions of EN24 or Kugu news are hardly at the same level of time commitment, loving brow-sweat, or for that matter entertainment return to the community that is clearly put forth in every single episode of Voices or any random post on Tech4.

    At the end of the day, I get that CCP is a business, and a growing one at that, and one could make the pretty educated connection that aligning your support with a "fan production" that garners thousands of views a day is nothing but good for business and exposure. Of course the argument could also be made that those thousands of hits a day are a RESULT of the above-mentioned CPP alignment, and the cycle continues.

    I don't in any way mean to dismiss or diminish the accomplishments of CCP favorites like Mintchip or Kil2 (they've certainly worked for the position of golden-children they currently have), and Kiriths point of "blog more, write more" is certainly valid. However, I think a generally more encompassing and acknowledging recognition from the powers-that-be to other corners of this community that truly goes above and beyond to shower them with praise and attention would be more than appreciated.

    Again, well spoken sir.

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Lay it on me.