The MRT celebrated the sixth anniversary of the New World’s opening over the weekend. Six years ago, what was a single (albeit cluttered) Minecraft world split into five, which introduced the rank structure we have today and a significant increase in available terrain. We as a community have built quite a lot since then, both in terms of in-game construction, and in the intangible social aspects that have been vital to our collective well-being in 2020.
Recently we have become increasingly aware of a sizable group within our community who have felt excluded or otherwise treated as second-class community members, often because they either infrequently or never join our Mumble voice chat server. These community members have long believed that, because they are not in this group of regular Mumble participants, they are therefore less important when it comes to event participation or in-game requests like WorldEdits – or they are less qualified when it comes to being nominated for a moderator position. Furthermore, several community members have historically hesitated in either intervening in or reporting potential rule violations to staff, especially when it has been staff members committing the infraction in question, either out of fear of retribution or out of fear of being ignored. This same hesitation comes up in all sorts of other areas of feedback to staff. These beliefs and the hesitation in coming forward do not reflect how we intend our community to work, and they are now widespread enough that we as a staff team can no longer ignore them.
These are things that we, collectively as a community, need to change. We need to put in the work to actively reach out and listen to each other and build a more inclusive and welcoming community. We need to reform some of our processes so that access to staff assistance and staff positions does not depend on how comfortable someone is participating in voice chat. We need to open upward lines of communication to ensure that ideas and complaints can be heard and acted upon. And we need to rebuild trust in each other so that when something happens, calling it out won’t bring any negative consequences to the person who noticed that something is wrong. All of us have an important role to play in facilitating these changes, from prospective guests to senior staff members and everyone in between. These changes will be hard, and they won’t come easily.
Most of the need for this change was brought to our attention through an investigation we’ve been conducting over the past month to gauge general community sentiment and feedback on some specific areas. When we asked participants if they had suggestions or complaints about processes and even individual staff members, we heard several recurring themes, and several repeated complaints about a few particular incidents and staff members. Even though many of these complaints were brought to us under the condition of anonymity, the fact that multiple people have complained about the same things – some with more concrete evidence and allegations than others – is enough to suggest a worrying pattern that we need to act on.
As a result of this investigation and an emergency Administrative Staff Meeting that was held on October 4, we have taken some specific actions and issued sanctions against a few specific individuals. These are:
- woorich999 has been issued a double warning, charged under Most Important Rule One (“Be kind and respectful to other players”) and General Rule 9 (“Do not reveal personally identifiable information about others”). We received complaints and evidence to suggest that woorich999 was involved in finding, spreading, and using personal information of another MRT member to mock them behind their back (and, specifically, using personal information beyond what this MRT member had previously released to the public). We typically don’t post double warnings on the website, but because this was decided at the ASM and is in response to the complaints we received, we feel the need to post it here.
- _Kastle has been terminated from Moderator and issued a double warning. This decision arises from the multiple complaints that we received from community members about _Kastle’s attitude towards members and general performance as a moderator. Several of these complaints alleged incidents where _Kastle had made belittling comments in voice channels about members while they were offline, including some members who have mental illnesses. The evidence we received is also enough to suggest that _Kastle was online during the incident that woorich999 received a double warning for, and that _Kastle either actively participated in the incident, or at the very least did not intervene as we expect moderators to do.
- Echohue has been suspended from Moderator for 3 months. We received complaints and concrete evidence to confirm that Echohue actively sought out moderator nominations back in July and August 2019. As our policy has long been that nominations should be earned organically, this casts doubts on the authenticity of the nominations, and therefore we need to suspend Echohue’s staff position. Echohue will be eligible to return to the staff at or after the January 2021 GSM, and will need to go through the moderator nomination process to be reinstated.
- _Mossie has been suspended from Moderator for 3 months. We received information to confirm that, during the September GSM, _Mossie provided live updates to a non-staff member while a moderator candidate was under consideration. We interpret this as a serious breach of trust as private portion topics are generally assumed to be sealed until announced through existing processes. _Mossie, like Echohue, will be eligible to return to the staff as of the January 2021 GSM and will need to go through the nomination process.
- We will be introducing a new moderator nomination process at the October GSM, effective at the November GSM, and scrubbing all current and deferred moderator candidates. One of the most common and actionable complaints we received was that our current system of moderator nominations is not working. We are therefore proposing changing the system entirely and replacing it with a much more open forum where all community opinions, nominations, and even the vote itself are held publicly (though only staff will be able to cast votes). The text of the proposal itself can be found here.
- Separately from the actions taken at the ASM, cal76 has been demoted from Moderator due to inactivity. This action was taken the day before the ASM, and was done as cal76’s Minecraft activity levels have decreased significantly over the past several months even though he remains active in Discord. However, if he chooses to become more active in the future, we will certainly welcome his consideration as a moderator again.
More information about each of these actions is available in the #announcements channel in Discord.
Additionally, we have three voluntary departures from the staff team that we need to announce: daltdisneyland, hvt2011, and Valkorion314 have all stepped down from their moderator positions. For Dalt specifically, we received several complaints that called his moderator nominations and the underlying process into question, and Dalt has agreed to step down for the time being and be re-evaluated by the community under our new process when the time is right.
In response to some of the most common complaints and suggestions we received, we want to reiterate our stance on two key items, which will not be changing:
- Mumble will remain an option for voice chat, and will not be shutting down. Discord and Mumble each have their pros and cons that make them great in some circumstances and unreliable or difficult in others. We also know that everyone has different opinions about the stability, features, and even some of the privacy and legal implications of using these platforms, so we want to accommodate those preferences.
- WorldEdit will never be available to anyone other than active staff members. The primary reason for this is the need for community stewardship and service. Providing WorldEdit to other players opens the door for abuse (even with low block limits), permanent damage beyond what admins can repair, and staff members enjoying the perks of WorldEdit without providing the service or assistance to the rest of the community that a staff position requires. Additional information is on the FAQ page here.
We do acknowledge that the investigation that we conducted and process that we went about with handing out punishments was not perfect by any means. We the admins can say that Vulpicula was the lead person in reaching out to several current and former “disillusioned” MRT members, and we did make efforts to ensure that his approach was as objective as possible. This included adjusting his initial questions to be less biased and leading, and having 1-on-1 conversations with some of those he interviewed and independently verifying their information. There were certainly more things we could’ve improved here here, but we do think that the overall outcome (at least in terms of demotions) would’ve still have been the same regardless. We also have to acknowledge that the only likely way we would’ve been able to get this information from these disillusioned members is by guaranteeing their anonymity, and having someone like Vulpicula to conduct those interviews. Keep in mind that many of these members simply did not feel comfortable bringing up these issues with other staff, admins, or even Frumple, because of the social atmosphere described previously. There have been calls from some members for us to reveal the evidence that led us to our decision, but we will not violate our promise to protect the anonymity of those who submitted this information. Suffice to say, we hope that from this process that our community can learn to be more open and honest with each other about their concerns, and we hope that we do not have to employ the use of anonymous feedback in this manner ever again.
In closing, we want to acknowledge the impact these changes will have on the community. For many of you, your social web has been significantly altered, perhaps permanently, by these changes and the ripple effects they have had. For some of you, this may change how and how much you decide to play on the server, if at all. We hope, however, that the community as a whole is able to work together to rebuild trust in each other and reopen lines of communication that have historically been closed (whether intentionally or not). Conducting this investigation and hearing this critical feedback was something we needed to do, albeit not the way we would have liked to hear this feedback; we would much rather everyone be open and honest with each other and with us in addressing problems. We believe that many of these issues could have had less severe sanctions or less of a community impact had we known about them and addressed them earlier. We apologize for not doing so sooner.
Please take the time you need to take care of yourself and process all of this information, and know that things will continue to change in the coming months. For those who plan to stay active or increase their activity, please be patient when working with staff in-game, as there are several fewer of us than there were a week ago. For those taking a break, the community will be here with open arms if and when you choose to return.