Working Picnic 5 log: Friendly and hostile takeovers (Diuturnal)

Submitted by Elvie on Wed, 2008-03-12 06:26

Sorry that there was no announcement here of last week's picnic. Diuturnal gave an excellent talk with some provocative discussion to follow. Log follows:

Linden Grove(#159RntJ)

Although you can observe oaks, elms, maples, and walnuts, the ~~1~~
linden is clearly the ruler of the grove. Tall silver lindens stretch ~111~
to dizzying heights above the other trees, and shorter, bushier ~1X11
"little lindens" offer a pleasant combination of shade and sunlight 1111~
beneath their many small leaves. ~111~
A babbling brook flows on an easterly course through the grove. To the
west, a dripping sound indicates its source. A light rain falls as the grey
sky darkens in the twilight. The temperature is moderate and there's a
slight wind from the east.

Players here (+glance for short descriptions):
Elvira Javelin Ubasti
Mike Raven Minuet
Giotto Taladan Vadiv
Porthos Mandor Tanaku
Ender Raevnos Cheetah
Judge Dredd Ian Wilco
Molikai Diuturnal
You see:
Tossing Meta Linden treehouse
Streets here:
North leads to Foothills
West leads to Waterfall
East leads to Lakeside
South leads to Omphalos Park

You say, "Ok, a very good evening and welcome to tonight's working picnic. I think we're up to a staggering number 5! Tonight's speaker is Diuturnal from Crossroads MUSH. She's going to be speaking on the subject: 'Friendly and Hostile Takeovers: Acquiring The Management of a Preexisting MU*' so please give her a very warm welcome."

You say, "There'll be time for discussion afterwards so please keep questions during the talk to a minimum. Thank you! Here's Diuturnal."

Êlvïrå steps off the platform and takes her seat on a nearby blanket

Diuturnal says, "Thank you so much, Elvira, and hello everyone, welcome welcome. :) As the illustrious organizer mentioned, the topic for today is the hostile or friendly acquisition of leadership of a mu*. Taking over a game someone else has started can be a rather trying circumstance. There are certainly others in the community who may have more diverse experience than I on this subject, and I hope that any here who have insight will offer their own wisdom and contributions, or tell me I'm full of beans if they disagree.

I can't precisely say I'm proud to have been involved in one instance of forking a database to have two games, one instance of forcibly taking a database, and one of inheriting one. Each instance was surrounded by a certain amount of drama for various reasons, and I think each has had some interesting challenges. Experience is what you get when you don't get what you wanted, which is pretty much the case in every occasion, so I'd like to share the benefit of my experience with everyone.

As I stated before, I'm certain I'm not the only person whose been involved in such changing of the guard, so anyone who has any input is more than welcome to participate. What I'm going to do is lay out what I consider a few basic realities of mu* inheritance, and as Elvira said, have the question/answer session at the end. I hope that works for everyone!"

Diuturnal says, "First and foremost, if you are ever in a position where you have the potential to inherit a game through WHATEVER means, be very, very certain that it's something you've thought through and really want to do. It is a huge investment, and it's got a completely different set of headaches than starting a game yourself. A mu* you step into the management of will already have some sort of tenor and history in place, and likely has its own devoted following. It is inheriting a tapestry half-woven rather than a clean slate, and if you don't like and want to preserve at least a good portion of that tapestry, it's likely something to walk away from. At the very least, be aware that shredding the old tapestry to start a new one will have SIGNIFICANTLY more headaches than more slowly building on what's in place, and will likely find some serious resistance by the people currently on the game. The present players are on it for some reason, after all.

So, step one, make certain you love the game as is, even if there might be some conflict around differing management ideas or whatever else that's leading to the managerial change."

Diuturnal says, "Next! The prior point there leads toward the an obvious one: taking over the spot of headwiz of a game that you didn't start, you're usually not the be-all end-all expert on the game's history. You didn't write it, so there will be other long-term players and staffers who likely know as much of it as you, maybe more. It's very important to respect and rely heavily upon these people, and to make it clear that you do so. Any sort of changing of the guard will entail a certain amount of discomfort and drama for players, and you'll doubtless hear, 'but X did it this way'. If things are handed down with an iron fist or if the previous contributions that players or staff have made to a game are trivialized, this is the time when they're likely to just walk out the door rather than deal with it.

Therefore proverb number two, there's a lot of valuable people with knowledge capital around when you take over a preexisting game. Treasure this and learn from them, and for heaven's sake, don't alienate them."

Diuturnal says, "In regards to making changes (because despite the comment about loving the hgame and the tapestry in place there will certainly be some you want to make), I draw a line between the way you should handle changes in OOC policy and those in IC theme/tenor/plottage. When you take over a game, it's important to make clear and decisive statements of any OOC policy or practices that are changing, in as diplomatic and straightforward a way as possible. The uncertainty around a change in management is most easily dispelled by clear direction. As for changes to theme or large plots, as much as possible I recommend trying to let the IC settle for a while while the OOC shakes out. People need to learn to trust OOCly before they'll be comfortable with mutual storytelling IC.

That third point then, be clear about any changes OOC, and unhurried about any IC. In almost all cases the grid can languish without any significant detriment, but people's OOC perceptions shouldn't be treated in that fashion."

Diuturnal says, "Fourth, a very practical note. Back up everything IMMEDIATELY. Database, web pages, IC lists, anything related to the game. If you took over amicably it's going to be something valuable to have on hand in case of a crash. If it wasn't amicable, it's always a pain to find out the hard way about the one wizard object that was left around with the power to @nuke. Presuming that others will accept the change of leadership in a mature fashion is fairly optomistic, and thinking you've covered all your bases has a tendency to work out very badly.

That's the last of my four principles I wanted to share, the most pragmatic technical one: make sure you really, really own and have everything in hand."

Diuturnal says, "And that's the quartet of things I wanted to lay forth. If anyone has specific questions about stepping into the management of a game you didn't start, or about any of the things I've said, I'm happy to entertain them. Or make Elvira answer them. Whatever. Thanks, brief I know. :)"

Ender says, "Right, I have a point to make."
Diuturnal hands the talking stick over to Ender.
Javelin claps.

Êlvïrå claps for Diuturnal, "Thank you :)"

Giotto stands and applauds, and signs up for a question after Ender is done talking.
Diuturnal writes down the order of talking people.

You say, "Ooh, can I just speak before the questions?"
Diuturnal blush. "You run the show, you get to do whatEVER you want."
Ender nods, "Speak, I have my statement in paste buffer."

You say, "Just a quickie to thank Diuturnal for that fantastic talk. And to thank you all for coming. The series continues weekly. Usually, notices will go up on CPO and M*U*S*H although we were a bit slack this week. Feel free also to invite people from any other MUSHes you happen to be on. Next week, Ender will be speaking on the topic: 'Player Relations: Being a Benevolent Dictator' which should be interesting! Logs will be posted on CPO. On with the discussion :D"

Êlvïrå hands back to Ender

Ender nods. "Also known as, 'My god, he's rambling, but he's letting us ramble too!' Right. Now, on the last point."

Ender says, "If you even think that there is going to be a problem, then you need to do more than back it up. You need to be proactive. You need to set up another copy of the game, and audit that copy. What you are looking for is more than just grepping the outdb for @nuke and @wipe. What you really are looking for are sleeping giants.""

Ender says, "A perfect example is globals systems. If you have a code heavy chargen, look for bug inducing attributes set on the mushcron. Look for things that are out of the ordinary for your system. Why is something suddenly being @triggered on your cron? I've actually seen attribute bombs that don't @nuke anything. What they do is randomly change attributes with edit(). Code starts breaking."
Ender says, "And it will be laid on the new administration's feet as incompetence. Don't just back up, audit it. If you expect trouble, audit it deep."
Ender is one.
Ender is done, too.

You say, "Thanks Ender. I think Giotto had a question next"

Giotto stands up, clears his throat. "Uhm... I was about to ask Diuturnal, 'Did the MU* code sabotage thing actually happen to you?'"
Giotto says, "But then Ender's first-person account of an even worse sabotage basically chilled my blood in my veins."
Giotto says, "But I'm asking that anyway."
Giotto says, "Did the MU* code sabotage thing actually happen to you, Diuturnal?"

Diuturnal says, "Not recently. A bit of trouble about, uh, eight years ago with that? My more recent trouble was losing the entire contents of several years archive of an IC fiction list, back in 2002 or so."
Giotto nods. "Thank you."

You say, "any other questions? Feel free to just chip in at this point, I think :)"

Diuturnal says, "Welcome, Giotto. :)"

Ender notes that I'll be discussing more paranoid ramblings next week, folks, as to me PR includes Human / Systems Interaction.

Raven says, "I have a question."

Taladan notes that, as a whole, MU*'ers are some of the most intelligent, insightful people around. That said, when you pee in their cornflakes (after a fashion) they can be the most childishly devious and destructive forces on the net...disregarding whole groups and subgroups of culture...

Ender says, "Including the topic 'People want to blow my game up, is there really such a thing as Softcode Security Best Practices?' Oooh, a question."

Raven says, "First, thanks to Diuturnal for the info. Secondly... given that this was about taking over MUSHes, how would you *prevent* someone from taking over your MUSH?"

Diuturnal says, "I suppose the most obvious step is to not give them access to your database. Someone CAN go around and try to copy the general grid of a game, try to repilicate its softcode and news files and whatever else, but most people won't put in that much work. If they can't just take a copy or control of the DB, you're usually safe."

Cheetah has some very quick answers, too. "Keep your account and your code secure. Be careful who you give access to anything. And, possibly more useful, minimize the amount of people wanting to get at your DB."

Êlvïrå has an addition to that. Whether it's possible to 'takeover' a MUSH? Who actually owns a MUSH? The god or the players?
You say, "Is copying the game and taking the players a 'takeover'?"

Raven says, "I'm thinking that this is probably more related to next week's topic, since the takeover looks to be 'political' in nature. And I'm one of the three or so people with access to the MUSH account. I back up the databases weekly, archive one copy per month."

Ender hmms. "It really depends on the model."

Mike would be curious to hear what happened with the database you mentioned taking over forcibly.

Ender says, "If its a 'buck stops here I am the freaking GOD,' then there's always shutting the game down."

Cheetah says, "It could be a takeover or a 'hostile fork', if you did that, Elv."

Ender has seen that happen before.
Ender says, "If your shell access people want the game, its theirs."

Cheetah nods to Ender, has seen waaay too many instances of that happening with, basically, the same MUD (not MUSH).

Diuturnal mmms. "Alright, Mike. The game was on a site that was a bit erratic, and we also had a headwiz who the rest of staff really had issues with. When the site went down again, I told the headwiz I'd pay for a new and more stable site. He moved the game there, I paid, and I... uh... changed all the passwords on him."

Taladan nods, "I would, if it came to that, limit the number of people with shell access to the game to preferably you and the site owner."

Ender says, "Like I said. WHoever has shell, has the game. Period."

Taladan says, "That's about all you can do. If you get a crazed diaper-wearing astronaut situation on your hands though, you may be SOL."

You say, "Really, Ender? Whoever has shell has database. That's not the same thing ;)"

Ender says, "No, Elvira, they have the entire game."

Cheetah says, "Whoever can access the shell at moment X can get the DB as it is on moment X. Plus or minus some time for last save."

Petra says, "But they don't have the players."

Porthos says, "Elvira's not talking about the 1's and 0's."

You say, "I don't think so. If all the players leave because the god is an idiot, and they build a new game that's similar in idea. Then who has the game? Not the original god. He has an empty database. That's not a game."

Porthos says, "Yah."

Cheetah says, "Also, with MUDs this is trickier since all the coding was done in straight C, not any kind of softcode, so coders had access to the shell or couldn't do anything."

Taladan shrugs, "It's a fine hair to split: The God owns the game, the players control whether it lives or dies to an extent."

Êlvïrå would happily sit in a one-room database with the right people :)

Diuturnal grins. "Alright, Taladan, I like that distinction."

Taladan bets I'm not one of the right people ;) :P

Giotto says, "You're a friend of mine."
Giotto says, "So, no, you're not one of the right people."

Raven says, "Harsh. ;)"

Giotto says, "We're on the internet. What were you expecting, tact?!"

Petra is too new to be one of the right people. :)

Diuturnal is too insular to be one of the right people.

Petra says, "But I'll win you over one day!"

Taladan is too plain damned mean to be one of the right people

Giotto says, "Don't believe Diuturnal. She is one of the right people."

Cheetah says, "But yes, the DB does not make the game. It's half of it, at best. But, without the DB doing a.. 'manual copy' is tricky. And separately, games have died due to DB loss and no backup."

Ender hmms. "Mandate of Heaven, basically."

Taladan nods to Cheetah - "There's more magic & balancing act in the care and feeding of a mush than having a good DB or having a good group of players."

Ender says, "WHoever controls the DB, without the Mandate of Heaven, won't keep the players. Whoever has the Mandate of Heaven, and gets the DB, the players will follow."

Mike suspects that's more moral more than anything else, Chee.
Mike says, "People tend to get very pissed off when they have worked on a grid and stuff and it disappears b/c noone kept a good backup."
Mike says, "Or even morale."

Raven has monthly database backups starting in late 2001. Is probably *too* anal-retentive about 'em.

Taladan snerk

Diuturnal laughs. "I don't know about this right people thing. I just paid for the site, stole a meal ticket. And this is sucky, but I have to run, everyone. RL hard stop. I'm going to stay here and idle, thanks everyone for listening!"

Taladan does twice-daily incremental backups & one overall monthly backup.
Mike says, "Thanks, Di :)"

Cheetah says, "Right. But my point is that having the DB does not top having the players, nor is it guarantee for /anything/, but to draw players after a fork, you'll really want the DB, or a /very/ good 'manual copy', unless the players are terribly tight and likely to follow you for other reasons."
Cheetah says, "Take care Di."

Mike nods.
Raven waves to Di.
Taladan waves to Di
Giotto says, "Thanks to /you/ for the talk, Di!"

Ender nods, "Backups are important. I know one game, prior to being hosted by my firm, had no back ups."

Giotto says, "See you again!"
Ender says, "Now, they only have our weekly complete and daily incremental."
Raëvnos has been thinking about new backup and restore scripts that uses xdelta to generate binary diffs of the database to save space. But then again, in this day and age of 200+ GB drives...

You say, "cheers Di :)"