A Day in the Life of the Modteam
One thing that we've noticed in many emails and discussions about the framework of the game and how our processes work is that people don't seem to have a clear idea about how the mod team actually works. Since we have a number of newer players and more potentially on the way, we thought this would be a good time to re-introduce to everyone what an X-Project mod is, our duties, how the team works, and how all the various functions of the modlist are carried out.
We call it 'A Day in the Life of the Mod Team'. Quick spoiler; yes, Dex ends up drunk at the end. You don't even have to wait until after the credits.
The mod team is composed of (as of June 2014) five mods: Rossi, Twiller, Eva, Frito, and Sam. Each mod was nominated and then elected by the player base, and serves an undefined term. Basically, after we're elected, we're here until we decide to step down or we're removed.
Can a mod be removed? Absolutely. A mod that has lost the confidence of the player base can be made to step down. So far, that has happened only once, and usually the mod can see the writing on the wall before it gets that far and leaves voluntarily.
The mods' day, so to speak, starts with the mod list - the mailing list that you email the mods at and where most of our business is conducted. The goals of the mods is to review the list at least once a day and try to make sure all business on it is touched on regularly. To help us, we also post a "to do list", a summary of business to the list twice a week - on Monday to set out our obligations for the week, and on Friday to touch base on where we are and what is outstanding.
So, when something comes into the mod list, the first thing we do is add it to our google document "To Do" list, and we see what category it fits into. Our categories are: Plots, Applications, Drafts in Progress, Complaints, and Miscellaneous. We also have a running tally of behind the scenes elements to monitor like hiatuses, polls, scheduling commitments, and what we accomplished the last week.
The mods have split up the duties of the modlist into jobs suited for our individual strengths, but we're all responsible for making sure things get done. Twiller does the bulk of our drafting, Frito does the bulk of our sending, Eva does the bulk of our updating, Sam is social media and Rossi alternates between the four jobs to make sure everyone has a week off every month from the administrative requirements of the list. We do bounce around jobs when needed to accommodate for life getting in the way, or when a mod is either unavailable or ineligible for an assignment, such as when the request is something they have submitted.
When we receive something and have classified it, the very first step is to acknowledge the receipt of the email to the sender. So if you ever send something into the mod list and don't get confirmation within 24 hours, make sure you contact us in case it didn't make it in. Normally, the confirmation will be sent by Frito.
Once we've classified it, the mods review the submission individually, and then start a discussion. Our normal timeframe is a week for plots and characters, and 3 days on general inquiries. Complaints are always addressed immediately and take priority over all other business. If we can't finish discussion on a piece of business inside of that timeframe, an update email is sent out to re-assure the players that their submission is being reviewed.
When we're reviewing submissions, there are several areas that we look at and discuss. First of all, does the submission meet our policies? Does it follow the rules regarding respecting other players? Does it fit in properly with the gameworld? Is it a balanced element or will it affect play outside of the intended participants? Have the players effected by it been contacted and properly made part of the development process?
Now, you'll notice something very important that seems to be missing here; the question 'do we like it or not?'. It's not a mistake. Whether or not the mods individually or as a team like or dislike a submission is not a material factor in the review process. The point of the review process is to make sure that elements fit into the game, not to decide whether or not they should be there in the first place. Now, don't get me wrong. The mods have strong feelings about what are good ideas and bad ideas, but our job very clearly states that our roles as a mod is to be facilitators for the player's ideas, and not editors deciding which ones we will accept and which ones we won't. The mod team does not have the authority to reject a plot out of hand. We can demand changes before we're willing to approve one, but we can never at any point tell you that you can't do a plot. We can (and do) reject applications that don't meet our standards.
During these discussions, in most cases, a consensus emerges. The odd time, three of the mods will agree on an issue while the fourth doesn't, and we're required to move forward. Very very rarely, the mods will be split down the centre and a negotiation takes place to try and remedy the contrasting views. However, at some point, the mods will finally close conversation and move to the draft stage.
The draft, usually written by Twiller, incorporates all of the various elements and points raised by the mod team that they feel need more information from the player to move forward in the approval process. The draft is then edited by the other mods and eventually approved. The 'Mod Team' or 'X-Mods', as we call ourselves, is when the mod team operates and speaks as a single entity. Which is why when you receive a reply from the mods, often there's no singular mod listed. At the end of the day, regardless of what our individual positions might have been, all mods are equally responsible for the decisions of the mod team.
Once the draft is approved, Frito usually sends it out and we wait for a reply as required; once we get a reply, the discussion/draft/response process continues again, until we have a final decision. The entire point of these process is to try and make the evaluations and responses from the mods as impartial and objective as possible. It is also to ensure that the mods in general own their decisions, and that we're all equally responsible for the outcomes. It's not always a perfect system; we're human and we all have our own likes and dislikes, but for a voluntary group, we have had a lot of success keeping the process fair for everyone.
So, what else do we do? Well, we have a list of concerns or discussions brought up by the players that we try to space out and give people their say regarding. Rossi runs our advertising side, linking the game to various promotional comms as well as various updating tasks, including the Wiki. Frito handles all of our technical concerns, including the wiki and website admin, chatroom, and other elements. We regularly take a look at parts of the game's structure and gameworld, making sure that we're taking into account feedback and performance when deciding what is fine and what needs review. An example is our application form, which is being tweaked to reflect what the mods really look for in an app and what information is most valuable to us when assessing a new character.
And, when things are quiet, we talk. A lot. Both game stuff and just general conversation, which will no doubt puzzle future mods trying to figure out how a hundred posts on cooking fits into a discussion about mutant superheros.
Generally, the mod list take about 5 solid hours of attention per week. Some weeks, that can double or triple, so it is not an insignificant commitment. There's also a lot of what I like to call 'scut work', which means tweaking settings, prepping new journals, editing official forms, etc. It's half negotiator and half administrator, which always comes as a surprise to the people who think we run the game. The reality is that the players run the game, and we do the equivalent of fetching coffee, doing the filing, and occasionally arguing with the delivery guy. Tres glamourous, I know.
Now, it's also important to know that unless we specify that we're speaking as a mod, anything we say individually should be taken as our opinions or ideas as players and participants in the game. Plot submissions, apps, and other business submitted to the mod list by mods are handled in the same way as any other player, with the submitting mod recusing themselves from the discussion and answering a summary of responses identically as any other player. In fact, we're likely harder on each other's submissions, much like the guy who coaches his son's baseball team is harder on his son to avoid the appearance of favouritism.
When we don our mod hats to talk to people, you'll either say that mentioned in the context of the discussion, or it will be ended with 'for the X-Mods' under our name. Otherwise, it is not official. It's important to separate the two sides of the mod players, both for our sanity and to avoid confusion between what is the opinion of a player who is also a mod, and what is an official statement that represents the views of the mod team.
In a nutshell, that's sort of the general day/week as a mod. If you have any questions, or something doesn't make sense to you, please feel free to add them below and we'll answer the best we can. Like the game, the mod position evolves, and we're always looking to see how we can improve. Which means we want to hear both the positive and the negative from the players.