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[Split from Reliant thread] Busy Admins => More Admins?

PostPosted: Thu May 12, 2022 11:53 am
by Bormiar
Sedgistan wrote:This isn't the thread for a "more admins" discussion. Start a separate thread on that if you want to have it.


I'm not suggesting we go looking for them like Old Hope may be, but if there's someone who can do a good job, I don't see why it shouldn't happen.

However, there does not seem to be a venue to recommend them, like there is for mods.

PostPosted: Thu May 12, 2022 6:36 pm
by SherpDaWerp
If not more admins, at least some sort of revolving door, as is often joked about the Editing team - if the list of admin accurately reflected the people who can actively contribute, it would be a lot easier to understand why things take so long.

PostPosted: Fri May 13, 2022 3:40 am
by Sedgistan
Retiring the inactive Admins doesn't achieve much; they remain connected to the team via Discord, and have shown up in emergencies - even Salusa was around to help out with something not too long ago.

I think you will find everyone on the site can agree that having more active Admins involved in developing the site would be a positive. Having a new Admin join the staff is not a simple process though - the source code isn't just going to be handed over to a newcomer - there is a massive trust barrier, and learning the specifics of NS's code takes considerable amount of Admin time to hand-hold someone through the process, and that takes Admin (most likely Violet - who is the key coder) away from coding new features.

We have had people join as Tech Modlings before, and progress to Admin, but I do not see that as a realistic prospect of happening again (Blaat is different; he was a Mod previously). The best chance for additional Admins is to find someone who would also be a good Moderator (not all Admins would be!) and nominate them for that. They can prove themselves to the team, earning our trust at the same time, and there are opportunities for Mods to have technical involvement in time. Case in point being myself - I have full server access, and have done some limited bits of coding; however, I don't have the time or inclination to progress that to the level of being an Admin; someone else in my position could feel differently.

EDIT: Related, we did look for a GP/SC/Tech experienced Mod late last year, but it didn't work out. If anyone has suggestions in that area, please nominate them in the usual way.

PostPosted: Fri May 13, 2022 4:32 am
by The Blaatschapen
Since I was mentioned, I'll chime in a bit.

For admin there are three things important :

1. coding skills. The game is primarily written in perl, but Javascript is also around. I know not a lot about perl, so it's not the end all of coding skills. What I've seen isn't too difficult.
2. Free time. Yeah, that one is always a bitch. The "inactive" admins are reachable when we need them. But *points at point 1*, developers tend to have demanding jobs. So this one is tricky and variable.
3. And it's what sedge already pointed out, trust. An admin gets access to private data. Not only the code base, but even more as game mods, access to people's private information. It's why, if we look for admins, we probably want to see them as mods first. Trust has to be earned. Be part of the team, etc.

For the record, my access level wrt private information is the same as a game mod (and since I was a game mod before, nothing changed in that regard.)

So what sedge said, nominate people for mod, and we can hopefully go from there.

PostPosted: Fri May 13, 2022 11:04 am
by Refuge Isle
Sedgistan wrote:that takes Admin (most likely Violet - who is the key coder) away from coding new features.


I don't expect anything productive can come from this thread, but I'd thought I'd stop for a moment here because this comment is strange to me, not only from a developmental community admin perspective, but also as from a management perspective.

I understand that the barrier to entry for adminship on NationStates is very high. I understand that it may be difficult to find exceptional candidates who are both competent and trustworthy. However, you're in a situation where systems are failing, whether that be a script investigation going on for three months (damaging the gp community), or a card season being delayed by two years (damaging the card community). In such a situation, if it takes place because there is no available labour, the priority from the executive in charge of that area should absolutely be to increase the available labour -- to perpetuate and ensure the continuity of the admin team -- because no one else can. If the executive is too indisposed to accomplish even that, then you begin to see more systems gradually failing under an increasingly skeleton crew.

That's about where I feel we are.

I would personally love to see more NationStates development, as the entire site is effectively a time capsule from when regular development used to occur. New features would be nice, yes, as would revitalising any number of existing venerable ones. However, neither that nor routine action is occurring. While this admin inattention can be amusing at times, like how the news page (which still features 2021 items as of this mid-may) never got a promised follow-up from the monotonous Z-Day event), we can plainly see other areas where pressing issues where the lethargy is actively harmful to the game the admins are attempting to run, or its sub-communities who depend on those systems. This thread existing at all is good evidence of that.

It's likely time to pivot from "taking them away from coding new features" to "taking them away from stopping the bleeding". I understand that the admin staff is a team of volunteers, which is so often turned to as a response to posts like this. What might be underappreciated, however, is that nearly every internet community is supported and managed by a team of volunteers. It's not at all an unusual circumstance, especially on a site where so many of us are given the same responsibilities to make sure our communities (that help to make up your own) do not die through either poor moderation or lack of critical development.

We all have to find ways to get enough contributions out from people who are able to do so, or face the consequences of decline or collapse. It is not a demand that more work be put on [violet]'s plate, it's saying that if [violet] cannot accomplish what needs to be done because she's too tied up, what time there is should be spent asking for and finding help so that we can get a long-term resolution to the increasingly negative effects of deadlock.

PostPosted: Fri May 13, 2022 11:45 am
by Bormiar
I'm not sure that admins are as inactive you say, Refuge. We've gotten some pretty decent API changes (RMB private shard, cards API, and Z-Day API I think) in the past fews years, plus co-authors and declarations. More importantly there's been some pretty badass promises for the new forum and GP changes— I think that implies they might have more time in the future.

That being said, your logic seems pretty strong to me.

I don't think any of the current admins (note especially Elu and Ballo) have ever been mods unless you include Reppy. It would be helpful if you could shed some light on the mysterious forces that allowed them to be elevated to admin.

PostPosted: Fri May 13, 2022 8:41 pm
by PotatoFarmers
I feel that the issue with regards to using mod experience as a "jumping step" to admins is primarily due to how mods are being selected - you require a nomination by someone else to become a mod. It makes mod selection rather passive in the first place anyways. And then, now you need to see if the mod has the technical skills to help with development/admin work - that creates an additional barrier to entry. And like what Refuge said - the barrier to entry for adminship becomes really high.

I am, however, going to argue that there can and should be alternative ways to become admin. Especially if tech skills is the important one here, not moderation skills. A good admin may not be good in moderating discussions, or particularly active on certain aspects of the forums. And this makes absolute sense, because admin work is mostly back-end work required, they aren't the face of the staff team gameside or forumside, unlike the moderators. And if they don't have certain levels of exposure, there is a low chance of anyone thinking about nominating them as moderator in the first place.

I am going to suggest that the staff team consider other avenues of choosing admin helpers. I don't know how feasible this is, but possibly, they can look around in technical, around some of the regions, and then, in different places, and see how some of the admin work in those places are done. It is rather strange that we have developers around and yet we aren't using them. Evidence of developers? look at the amount of new tools being used in gameplay to make R&D better. The number of people working with the API to harvest information & data. The people who worked to create a forum for those regions. Something tells me those people can be tapped, it is just how do we maintain standards while being able to tap on the expertise of these people.

PostPosted: Sat May 14, 2022 12:56 am
by PhilTech
Shallow question: How about let Max/Violet choose an admin/developer close to their circle (that they personally know)? Is this feasible?

The idea of choosing talents, from a bunch of internet strangers whom we can only subjectively and objectively judge his/her skill and character from blocks of texts, to become a moderator first then promoted to an Admin is very noble and I do think the most practical resolution but I reckon this process will take time, a lot of time. Unless, what Sedge said, "there are opportunities for Mods to have technical involvement in time", then I guess there are ways to shortcut the process.

Like everybody said, NS is a breeding ground for tech savvy talents. But none of them are being tapped because of massive trust barriers and of course most of them are unknown for the majority of us. In this thread, I honestly have a few name/s that might actually work and cool to see for us players to worship look up to (even though they're complete strangers to me), regardless if he/she is fit to become the next admin or not.

And yes, can the elders shed some light to this?

Bormiar wrote:I don't think any of the current admins (note especially Elu and Ballo) have ever been mods unless you include Reppy. It would be helpful if you could shed some light on the mysterious forces that allowed them to be elevated to admin.

PostPosted: Sat May 14, 2022 6:36 am
by 9003
I’m curious if you could partition parts of the code off to have admins who are trusted but don’t need to be to the full extremely high level of trust to have full access. For example with the reliant ruling admin could appoint a “tribunal” who review the code and relevant logs and can cast a quicker ruling. Some one in the cards community could handle card changes similar to the community managers but with admins.

PostPosted: Sat May 14, 2022 10:32 am
by Vincent Drake
I also think that mod to admin is not a long term sustainable pathway. Those who are good with code tend to not be good with people - moderation and admin are completely different skillsets, different temperaments even. Many attributes a mod absolutely must have are completely unnecessary for an admin to have.

So, I would recommend putting more effort into making the Tech Modling to admin pathway an actual thing rather than a "what even is this label?" joke only suitable for a signature. If you need people to earn your trust, they should be given the opportunity to gradually earn it in such a junior admin style program that develops NS-specific admin skills. Promising admins may fail in the mod pathway because again, different skillsets. If you want to cultivate admins, train them to be admins, not mods.

The obvious problem with pulling from player tech developer circles is that active players, especially gameplayers, have biases. That's not viable unless a player has stepped away from the scene and carries no bias for or against regions, factions, individuals, etc. Many players I could think of who have the technical skill to at least enter an admin pipeline are also...let's say...not impartial, and will not be impartial as long as they are active in various elements of R/D or GCRs. That's a really bad idea just begging for admin and the rules to get further weaponized for in-game advantages.

Obviously, NS can do what it wants, but I don't think what it currently does for the admin process is working and the game is falling apart because of it.

PostPosted: Sat May 14, 2022 11:03 am
by Wallenburg
I think it's beyond question that, since the current set of admins is either unwilling or incapable of doing the work assigned to them, more/different admins are necessary. Random players recommending folks to the position of admin, however, is not the way to go. Popularity and activity in the community are great, but have rather little to do with available time and the necessary skills to support the nightmare that is NationStates code. Probably the most ideal solution would be to bring on paid developers to fix/maintain the site, but since the site is anemic to any sort of effort which does not produce greater profits, I wouldn't hold out for that.

I'm afraid the most likely "solution" is to ignore the problem of inactive admins and just work within the system as-is.

PostPosted: Sat May 14, 2022 11:09 am
by Czardas
I'm not entirely sure where the perspective that NS is dying due to lack of admin attention comes from, to a degree where urgent remedies are needed—perhaps this is the perspective in the gameplay world, though. As far as I can recall the pace of development here has always been slow; apart from the introduction of trading cards (which were what, 2018?) I think the last major new feature update was 2015/2016. Prior to that it would have been... 2010/2011. An admin interview/job application process has been used in the past, but was always time-consuming and presumably has good reasons for not being used again. In general new features and bug fixes just happen whenever they happen, even if it takes years, and for most of the time I've been here that was broadly accepted as an aspect we'd have to live with.

I don't believe (correct me if I'm wrong) that there's any way to separate users' private data from code access, which is the main reason mod to admin is the only feasible pathway; it doesn't really have anything to do with "people skills". (edit: but obviously, I'm speaking here as a longtime player, who's forgotten any insider knowledge I may have ever had. Point was more to try to understand the "NS is dying" viewpoint. Remove if inappropriate.)

PostPosted: Sat May 14, 2022 12:17 pm
by Vleerian
Vincent Drake wrote:I also think that mod to admin is not a long term sustainable pathway. Those who are good with code tend to not be good with people - moderation and admin are completely different skillsets, different temperaments even. Many attributes a mod absolutely must have are completely unnecessary for an admin to have.


No to nitpick because the rest of what you're saying makes sense - tarring anyone who programs as "tending not to be good with people" is a pretty dated stereotype, and with how common programming proficiency is these days, it's an increasingly wide brush.

Vincent Drake wrote:The obvious problem with pulling from player tech developer circles is that active players, especially gameplayers, have biases. That's not viable unless a player has stepped away from the scene and carries no bias for or against regions, factions, individuals, etc. Many players I could think of who have the technical skill to at least enter an admin pipeline are also...let's say...not impartial, and will not be impartial as long as they are active in various elements of R/D or GCRs. That's a really bad idea just begging for admin and the rules to get further weaponized for in-game advantages.


I don't think anyone is going to argue that GPers are biased. However there will never be someone who is completely free of bias, or is totally impartial. The entire point of an admin pipeline is to find and address those biases, and to set expectations for impartiality and behavior.

PostPosted: Sat May 14, 2022 3:03 pm
by Bormiar
Ballotonia could not be more biased but they seem pretty great and I doubt it's ever become an issue. Plus, we've had a lot of moderators who still play. If NS were to take on more volunteer programmers, they could simply not be the deciding vote on new game changes until they've reached a higher level of trust.

I'm also not sure I believe that most of NS' source code can't be segregated from the source code dealing with personal data. With the way people describe it, you'd think that NS' backend was one single file :P.

PostPosted: Sat May 14, 2022 6:07 pm
by SherpDaWerp
Vleerian wrote:
Vincent Drake wrote:I also think that mod to admin is not a long term sustainable pathway. Those who are good with code tend to not be good with people - moderation and admin are completely different skillsets, different temperaments even. Many attributes a mod absolutely must have are completely unnecessary for an admin to have.

No to nitpick because the rest of what you're saying makes sense - tarring anyone who programs as "tending not to be good with people" is a pretty dated stereotype, and with how common programming proficiency is these days, it's an increasingly wide brush.

It's not necessarily just "good with people" that cuts candidates out - John Q. Developer who programs for a living and occasionally extends that interest to NS isn't likely to want to invest $x many years into modding to gain trust. The mods perpetually comment on how hard and high-effort their job is; why would John, who just wants to write code, commit himself to easily 3-4 years of modding just to get a chance at engaging in what he actually wants to do?

Sedge mentions himself as an example - but from what I've heard, you have to be an SGM to get server access. How often does a new SGM position open up? How many years did Sedge mod (and be a good mod, too) before being considered for the role?

EDIT: Also, a point here for those who might not be in tech; the job market for tech is absolutely insane rn. In Australia, you'd be pressed to hire a graduated software dev under $70k, and in some places you're looking at >$100k. Not sure how that's looking in other countries, but thanks to labor laws I don't imagine Max would want to deal with the hassle of hiring someone outside the country. Hiring a dev would be an expensive exercise.

PostPosted: Sat May 14, 2022 7:13 pm
by Bears Armed
PhilTech wrote:Like everybody said, NS is a breeding ground for tech savvy talents. But none of them are being tapped because of massive trust barriers and of course most of them are unknown for the majority of us. In this thread, I honestly have a few name/s that might actually work and cool to see for us players to worship look up to (even though they're complete strangers to me), regardless if he/she is fit to become the next admin or not.

And yes, can the elders shed some light to this?

IIRC at least two players who obviously were "tech-savvy talents" have had to be made DOS for [differing] reasons. I can see why that might make the management even more wary than otherwise might have been the case about giving any players access to the game's code without a lengthy probationary period.

PostPosted: Sat May 14, 2022 7:58 pm
by Morover
Honestly, I agree with Wally that paying someone is probably the best solution. I'm not overly familiar with the finances behind NationStates and if it makes even remotely enough to support a full-time salary that could recruit a decently competitive programmer, but if it does or the model can be easily-enough adjusted, recruiting outside talent to be a full-time developer or even just commission them for certain projects as needed would be the best-case scenario in my opinion. It could really open up the innovation on the website. Even if they aren't involved in the moderator-aspect of being an admin (which, of course, is what spurred this conversation in the first place), by being able to trust that other development of new features etc. will get done, hopefully [v] and the other admins in this aspect can spend more time dedicated to it, when it comes up.

PostPosted: Sat May 14, 2022 9:06 pm
by Dabarastan
It seems to be a very difficult and thankless task to be a NS admin, so it's not hard for me to see why there are difficulties in finding new competent, trustworthy and available volunteers. I am even guilty of getting annoyed and hotheaded towards one of these volunteers in the past. As suggested above, offering a small pay (even if it's on a casual basis and not a salary) would certainly increase the pool of applicants, but the question is, how does NS raise further revenues without moving to a pay-to-play model? Any form of microtransactions or payment requests for gameplay/nation perks would ruin one of the things that makes NS so great.

But, I do think there would be a number of people who would be willing to pay a small monthly subscription fee just for the virtue of supporting the site (like a recurring Postmaster option) - maybe they could get a different coloured supporter badge. I would certainly opt into this and I think quite a few others would, too.

PostPosted: Sat May 14, 2022 10:27 pm
by Panagouge
If we must scrape to support new coders, a NationStates patreon or such similar wouldn't go amiss either

PostPosted: Sat May 14, 2022 11:13 pm
by Wallenburg
I cannot speculate with any degree of competence on the amount of support the website actually requires, but hiring a full employee developer isn't the only option outside of recruiting volunteers. Plenty of websites get by with consultants who come in and do a bit of work on a regular basis. It seems possible that, for all of NS's issues, it does not quite need an additional 40 people-hours a week of professional service.

PostPosted: Sun May 15, 2022 7:07 am
by PotatoFarmers
Panagouge wrote:If we must scrape to support new coders, a NationStates patreon or such similar wouldn't go amiss either

We have a donations store. Enough for you to support them.

Wallenburg wrote:Plenty of websites get by with consultants who come in and do a bit of work on a regular basis. It seems possible that, for all of NS's issues, it does not quite need an additional 40 people-hours a week of professional service.

This. I am pretty sure some voluntary experience working on code is something aspiring developers would love for, and I know a number of small websites who are just using small-time developers and admin to manage the work. I think we can start from there.

PostPosted: Sun May 15, 2022 8:22 am
by Sedgistan
SherpDaWerp wrote:It's not necessarily just "good with people" that cuts candidates out - John Q. Developer who programs for a living and occasionally extends that interest to NS isn't likely to want to invest $x many years into modding to gain trust. The mods perpetually comment on how hard and high-effort their job is; why would John, who just wants to write code, commit himself to easily 3-4 years of modding just to get a chance at engaging in what he actually wants to do?

Sedge mentions himself as an example - but from what I've heard, you have to be an SGM to get server access. How often does a new SGM position open up? How many years did Sedge mod (and be a good mod, too) before being considered for the role?

EDIT: Also, a point here for those who might not be in tech; the job market for tech is absolutely insane rn. In Australia, you'd be pressed to hire a graduated software dev under $70k, and in some places you're looking at >$100k. Not sure how that's looking in other countries, but thanks to labor laws I don't imagine Max would want to deal with the hassle of hiring someone outside the country. Hiring a dev would be an expensive exercise.

3-4 years is an overestimate. Likewise, it's not a SGM only thing; other GMs have had or been offered access to the NS3 Playground server in the past. Forum Mods have made it to GM in 6-12 months in recent years.

Only Max and Violet know the full financials of the site, but I think hiring a developer is completely unrealistic.

As per my post above, the "player -> Tech Modling -> Admin" route I think is not going to happen again. The "player -> Mod -> Tech Modling -> Admin" route sounds much more realistic to me, and where I would suggest people focus their thoughts. If know you someone with the technical skills and interest in helping the site, nominate them. Sure, some might not be suitable for Mod for various reasons, personality included, but bear in mind there's a wide range of personalities on the mod team already.

PostPosted: Sun May 15, 2022 9:29 am
by Eksarcheia
PotatoFarmers wrote:
Panagouge wrote:If we must scrape to support new coders, a NationStates patreon or such similar wouldn't go amiss either

We have a donations store. Enough for you to support them.


Thanks for linking this! Never knew this was a thing. :)

PostPosted: Sun May 15, 2022 9:44 am
by Frisbeeteria
For everyone who's suggesting the paid professional route, let me point out that we've already done that once. The result was NationStates 2. Max and [v] handed control to a group of supposed pros who completed ignored everything that was suggested, tried to turn it into a pay-to-play site, and effectively ran the name NationStates into the ground.

There was slightly more (and less) to it - the name was actually sold to the other guys, and there was some expectation of oversight that never materialized. NS1 was left intact, but the forums moved to the new guys, who wrecked that too. Our mods were downgraded and new mods were handed to us without any vetting on our part. They too were disasters.

I believe the phrase "never again" was spoken more than once.

PostPosted: Sun May 15, 2022 9:51 am
by Refuge Isle
Frisbeeteria wrote:There was slightly more (and less) to it - the name was actually sold to the other guys, and there was some expectation of oversight that never materialized. NS1 was left intact, but the forums moved to the new guys, who wrecked that too. Our mods were downgraded and new mods were handed to us without any vetting on our part. They too were disasters.

I believe the phrase "never again" was spoken more than once.

There's a subtle difference between selling control of NS, surrendering direction over its development, and hiring someone who works as an assistant to supplement the existing team.

I also do not expect that hiring a full or part time developer of NS is financially feasible, but your response is an incredibly straw man refutation.