MU* Organisation and the Social Contract

Submitted by Impster on Sun, 2008-02-17 17:52

-- Logging started at Sun Feb 17 14:28:36 -0800 2008 --
Êlvïrå says, "Ok, well, welcome everyone to the second in the series of
Managing your MUSH. Logs of the first event were posted on"

Êlvïrå says, "Impster is going to talk about MU* Organisation and the Social
Contract. I don't know any more details than that, so I'm quite excited to
hear what he's going to say. Following his talk, there will be time for
questions and discussion."

Êlvïrå checks everyone's sitting comfortably and has plenty of nice picnic

Êlvïrå fixes the microphone stand in place, looks to the side of the platform
to make sure that Impster is ready.

Êlvïrå says, "Hrm"

Êlvïrå waits :)

Diuturnal whispers to Elvira, "Faulty sellotape."

Raevnos walks in from the park to the south.

Raevnos has arrived.

Êlvïrå says, "Maybe the sellotape stuck somewhere it shouldn't :("

Judge Dredd says, "Or maybe we're about to get deluged in spam?"

Cheetah says, "Hmm.. Or maybe we're stuck with an evil robot twin, except he's
run outta power."

Sariah walks in from the park to the south.

Sariah has arrived.

Diuturnal says, "Wouldn't it be a GOOD robot twin of Impster?"

Êlvïrå says, "while we wait for Impster, I should say I've got several more
speakers lined up (including Javelin!) but I intend to run these events every
Sunday for as long as there is interest. If you have something you'd like to
talk about regarding MUSH management, please let me know. The framework I've
set out for this is Operations, Finance/Resources, People and Marketing. So if
you know anything about one of those areas with regards to MUSHing, you'd be
very, very welcome."

Impster sorries, "The kid need some help.. I'm here now :D

Sariah says, "is there a log for part one?"

Êlvïrå says, "Yes there is, Sariah. It's in my blog on CPO

Êlvïrå says, "Ok! Well, without further ado, I present, Impster! *claps*"

Diuturnal whistles, applauds!

Impster steps up to the microphone and clears his throat, "Thanks Kermit.. :p"

Announcement: Elvira shouts, "Managing your MUSH Picnic 2 starting at Linden
Grove now, guest speaker is Impster and the theme is MU* operations and the
social contract"

Teal walks in from the park to the south.

Teal has arrived.

Ruggs has arrived.

Ruggs waves. :)

Êlvïrå welcomes :)

Impster says, "Thanks for stopping by today's topic is mu* operation and the
social contract. I am not an expert on these type of things but I do play one
on my mu*. I do not pretend to have all the answers and you can find people
with more experience than I have in this very room I'm sure. This is going to
be a fairly short talk followed by a fairly informal Q&A/discussion which was
the same format Elvira used last week that seemed to work fairly well. If
anyone has any questions as I go through what my opinion on the subject is
just page me and I'll try to cover my thoughts or we can wait until I get
through my thoughts and covert hem all at the end. Which every ya prefer ;)."

Ruggs nods, listens. :)

Nymeria walks in from the park to the south.

Nymeria has arrived.

Impster says, "So lets get started. I don't remember who gave me the idea of
the social contract but I'd say more than likely it was Jav who was talking
about it one time and I overheard. So what is a social contract? According to
wikipedia, the term social contract describes a broad class of philosophical
theories whose subjects are the implied agreements by which people form
nations and maintain a social order. It seems like every mu* has it's own
philosophical theory on how a game should be run for me it's nice to be able
to lump them all into a category so everyone knows what you're talking about.
For a lot more information you can checkout"

Impster says, "So in a mu* setting the social contract that you're entering
into with your players is going to be dependent upon the various code of
conduct you have for your staff and players along with any other information
you provide about your setting. Recently I've been on a RP game that after 6
months decided that they were going to change their theme and try to shoehorn
the existing characters into the new theme. For 80 percent of the characters
it wasn't an issue because the theme wasn't that different. The only thing
that really changed was the setting of the game. But for a few this was a
problem because the character hadn't been built to live on Starfleet starship
but had been built to live in a space station and interacting with people
other than Starfleet. The sad part is the staff didn't understand why a
portion of the player base was upset over the change and labeled those who
didn't like the change as troublemakers. Then both parties seemed to feel the
other side was wrong in their reaction and the people involved couldn't quiet
put their finger on where things went wrong until I brought up the concept
that the social contract had been broken. In the end things didn't end well
there because the headwiz took the stance that it was their game and if the
players didn't like it they should leave. Which just broke the contract that
much more."

Ruggs raises hand?

Impster says, "So does that mean that you shouldn't change your game if things
aren't working out? Not at all but if the game has been running for a while
you need to realize that not everyone will be rejoicing over the change
especially if they signed up for a star trek game that ends up more along the
lines of a WoD environment. And it would help if more people realized that
without players you're just playing with yourself which no one wants to see in
public ;). Yes Ruggs?"

Êlvïrå thinks we're generally doin questions after the talk. But if Impster
wants to answer it...

Êlvïrå says, "maybe you could page it to him :)"

Ruggs says, "Sorry. I'm just trying to understand what 'social contract' is. I
was a little unclear and wanted to be certain before we went further. :) 'social contract' you're saying, 'mutually agreed upon expectations.'
Sort of an unspoken trust about what players can expect from admins, and vice

Impster nods, "Exactly. And in some cases it's not even unspoken. Sometimes
game spell it out right in the code of conduct ;)

Ruggs says, "Thank you! :) And, sorry for the interruption. ^^;"

Cheetah says, "Or in general, what people expect from one another, if I get
this right, but for this lecture, it's probably mainly players and admin."

WHUFFIE: Looks like you haven't given anyone whuffie! The whuffie system
becomes more powerful and useful as more people assign whuffie. +help whuffie
for information on how.

Impster nods, "Honestly I hadn't even thought about it from the standpoint of
one player to another player. But mainly players vs. admin. That might make
for an interesting talk sometime though.

Impster says, "Ok so moving on. . . :D"

Impster says, "The next part of the "contract" I'd like to cover is the
expectation players have of staff members. Most people have expectations of
staff members whether it is covered in any document. These are the life,
liberty and the pursui . . . oh wait that's the wrong social contract.
Realistically they expect staff to be fair and honest with them. If players
feel like the staff is not obeying these agreements than the players should
find a different game but depending on the player what seems to happen instead
is the player feel like they're fighting the good fight and proceed to bust
the staff's chops over things. I would say this is fairly easy to avoid if
you're honest with the players from the start. If you're running an RP game
where you don't want the vampire characters killing children or you don't want
people TSing on your game then make that known in one of your files don't
spring it on people in the middle of a scene."

Impster says, "I have actually taken to fighting the good fight a few to many
times and I can promise ya in the end most people just look childish over the
drama. Even if people sit there and tell ya you're right. What seems to happen
is what I've said elsewhere people slow down their car to see just how bad the
accident was while some will say, "Excuse me officer but could you bring the
body closer I've never seen one mangled in such a manner before." In the worst
cases it divides the game in factions and things go down hill. You're better
off just walking away and investing that energy elsewhere."

Impster says, "The final part of the contract is going to be on the side of
contract is going to be on the players side. They should have an idea of what
is expected of them and the behavior. If you don't want people to use vulgar
languages then you need to tell them. If you haven't advised your players how
you expect a guest should act in your house AND you then DON't enforce those
wishes fairly across the board how can you expect them to be good children. If
you let player A get away with something and the punish player B. Player B is
going to say "Mom always liked you best!" Unfortunately many of the players
seem to be looking for acceptance from their peers which they may be lacking
in RL. And when they're rejected or treated in a maner that they think is
unfair it seems like some people respond in ways they never would in real
life. One of the biggest flaws I've seen over the year is that staffs expect
people to behave because "we're all adults." Alas if we all were adults and
had social lives we wouldn't spend so much time mu*ing :p."

Impster says, "So that's my basic ideas. Tell the players what to expect and
how you wish them to behave upfront and then live by those rules. From what I
have seen over the years if you do that then your players will do the same.
The trouble starts when you break the contract. So anyone have any questions?"

Êlvïrå smiles and claps hard for Impster

Ruggs agrees!

Judge Dredd applauds.

Cuiorne joins in the applause.

Ruggs says, "I was very glad to see this brought up. It's such common sense,
it seems few think to really implement it as a tool. Setting examples and firm
social expectations seem to work better than a written ruleset...though the
latter certainly supports the former."

Diuturnal applauds as well, and raises hand. "So would it be safe to say that,
in your experience and wisdom, you recommend that games outline these
expectations very clearly, and if anything new develops, that should be

Cuiorne raise hand "By documented, does that mean add to a existing news

Cheetah also has a question, but will wait until Impster's ready ;)

SAVE: I found these in the dumpster behind the florist. Enjoy.

Teal says, "News file, softcoded COC command, connect screen, whathaveyou. (to

Mike has arrived.

Teal says, "As long as it's openly accessible to the players."

Impster says, "See that's the trick. I think it was last week someone made the
suggestion that code of conduct could be as simple as be excellent to each
other. In my mind there's two rules of thought spell everything out where
there's no wiggle room or be vague. I think you need to find a balance between
the two. If you spell everything out someone like me is going to find
something you forgot and rub your nose in it. But if you're to vague then
people complain when they get in trouble and say I didn't know that's what you
meant. As for news files that's one place to put it. On my game NEWs is for
OOC info about the game, RULEs is for the rules system invovled in game play
and THEME is for IC info about the game. If you lump everything in the news
and mix it all together sometimes it can get confusing ;)"

Impster says, "Go ahead Cheetah :D"

Cheetah says, "When you find something you think needs dealing with (say, the
vampires killing children thing happens, and you'd rather it didn't) but it's
not explicitly codified in the rules (yet?), how do you recommend handling

Sariah has disconnected.

Êlvïrå hear hears the 'not spelling things out' bit. I know it was something
we discussed a lot when coming up with our profanity ruling. Make it too
specific and people will find workarounds. Stick with the spirit of the law.

Judge Dredd says, "Drokk it."

Ruggs might add, if the place doesn't--I don't know what the right word
is?--exemplify what they have written, why should I as a player think they
respect their own rules? I find myself responding to the social atmosphere.

Tyr has arrived.

Êlvïrå nodnods to Ruggs, "Leading by example is a good idea :)"

Ruggs adds a small disagreement, may not be that, really. I think it
parallels some of what Impster's saying: I might suggest that the 'wanting
acceptance' is a human thing, and one MUs can use to their advantage. If to be
'accepted' in a MU then a player knows he or she has to behave within certain
limits, then they're more likely to. That's a slightly different form of
social contract, maybe. ...I'd also like to propose that this technique could
be used on admins. :)

Teal says, "I do agree with much of what was said here. All too often as a MU*
admin myself, I have run into problems where a lack of any sort firm rules,
code of conduct, or player/admin expectations of any sort introduced too many
problems. Mostly it happens with those players who intend to cause trouble, at
least in my experience as long as the admin's are mature and don't instigate
problems themselves."

Ruggs says, "I wouldn't say it's an end-all, but...the 'atomosphere' certainly
guides things. If I 'feel' by a MU's social atmosphere that I can't drag
someone around and call them names, then I'm less likely to. Why? Because then
I have to worry about not only the admins, but the /players also/. So..."

Impster says, "Don't run a vampire game? :p. Ok honestly to me staff needs to
be transparent. Something like that I would put on a +bbpost or have a mush
meeting about it and get a feel from what the players want. You may not like
it. Think it's sick and gross. But if your players want that aspect of the
game I'd think you'd need to leave it alone and let people do it. Now that
being said there's a couple other things I would put in. . First of all I
/hate/ consent games. To many times I've seen people rob a bank and then
refuse to consent to getting caught. If children are dying all over your city
from vampires and you don't want it but the players do. then I would say it's
time to bring the FBI in to deal with a serial killer picking on children and
deal with it from an IC point of view. If your players agree its wrong but
someone still wants to do it. I'd ask the player to treat it like a fade to
black cause you don't want it RPed on your game. And I'd still have some sort
of IC action happen. To often games don't deal with the after effects of
actions like that."

Tyr has reconnected.

Cheetah says, "Well, there's two kindsa things there. Rules that can be
implied from other rules, like swearing extending or not extending to certain
issues, and things that are 'bad', but aren't covered under any current rule.
I like Impster's answer, since it deals with the second case, which is what I
was interested in ;)"

Teal says, "Completely agreed with the point of dealing with things from an IC
point of view Imp. It just makes completely sense rather than pulling a player
away OOC and lecturing them about the matter especially when from their side
of the situation, it was just normal activity IC."

Teal says, "*complete"

Diuturnal pops up hand for another q.

Impster says, "Go ahead Diuturnal :D"

Êlvïrå says, "I think staff should retain the right to intervene should they
feel the need to. Especially if something threatens the server security or
legality. But they shouldn't exercise that right frivolously"

Tyr has reconnected.

Teal says, "Oh. No doubt Elvira. That just comes with the job. If it comes
right down to server security, you reserve every right to take the most
extreme disciplinary action required. But honestly, and thankfully, these
situations are few and far between it seems as long as you keep on your toes
and your softcode well managed."

Diuturnal says, "I've been in a situation at one point-- on a consent game,
Impster-- where staff generally were called upon to exemplify the notion that
people reasonably pay for their actions. One staff member was in a situation
where something that was NOT spelled out as wrong, but which was often
considered a squick topic, ended up being the logical outcome of an IC
situation with them. The staffer blew a gasket and immediately said that X was
wrong, and proceeded to post that on the boards for future reference. It left
the players feeling as if they were some sort of social dysfunctional scum
with the way it was handled. Anyone have some general opinion on how you
handle that as a headwiz?"

Diuturnal says, "Because that violates social contract in my mind more because
it was staff, but we didn't have codified to other staff that it was really
expected to deal with IC, even if it went unpleasant for them... huge mess."
Judge Dredd reckons that falls more under 'diplomacy' than 'social contract'.
Ruggs hrm's. Does it? I could see it touching on expectations of how staff are
expected to respond and handle things. Also staff respect of said player.
Blowing a gasket then making a public post sounds like it could tread on alot
of that. Respectfully disagreeing, of course, JD.

Teal says, "Aye. In my own opinion, since it came down to one of your staff
treating players so harshly for something that made sense in the moment, I'd
take said admin aside and discuss with them their reasoning and try to rectify
the situation from there."

Judge Dredd says, "Diplomacy is about not treading on toes and not leaving
people feeling like socially disfunctional scum."

Êlvïrå says, "One of the things staff on a RP MUSH come up against is that
they can't predict everything a player might do. They may say 'No rape, no
paedophilia, no torture' but then something may come up that upsets a
particular staffer or player. It's very hard to rule against everything. So
that's where trust comes in, and hand in hand with that, good communication on
both sides."

Teal nod violently.

Judge Dredd nods to Elvira.

Impster nods, "Yeah, that's a lot of fun. The first thing I'd suggest is when
something like happens regardless of it violate the rules or not is if you're
not going to be objective about the issue is let another staffer handle the
issue. It's hard to say that I can't be objective about this subject but
sometimes that's exactly what you have to do. If there's not another staffer
on to deal with the issue I hate timestops but that may be the best answer.
And posting a message when your angry usually results in you coming back in a
couple of hours going I'm a jerk sorry guys. Or ya make matters worse by not
coming back and going i'm a jerk. Normally when I've seen that happen it's
some softcode staffer trying to change things he shouldn't be invovled in. Not
that I've done that myself .

Êlvïrå says, "I've always been fairly lucky that people I've RPed with have
been like, "Ok, this might be a consequence of this. My character isn't a nice
person. Are you ok with this?" before things go too far. There's a way of
negotiating things reasonably OOC."

Diuturnal listens and nods and nods. "I'd go on a bit with this, but I don't
want to get insanely far off topic. Thanks for those points, everyone."
Ruggs hrm's, and has a related question. :)

Impster grins, "ok Ruggs hit me :D

Ruggs says, "An issue somewhat similar to the one Di mentioned came up on a MU
I was on, and the admins handled it well. However...a new problem sprang up,
one that ended up not being with any of the original parties involved.
Question is: How do you handle drama-ists from a staff PoV? Someone who
thrives on a situation like Di mentioned, but works socially to make it worse?
Perhaps not because they have a stake, but...they like drama. So they'll
spread word in pages, gossip, etc. at the very point you're trying to calm it

Judge Dredd would suggest being open, Ruggs. If everyone knows what's going
on, it's a bit more difficult to stir things into trouble.

Ruggs says, "Not a bad idea. Being open sounds as though it could solve quite
a few issues like that."

Diuturnal says, "Even being open, there can still be people who will imply
that a ruling was made because of OOC favoritism, or some other unfair means,
and continue to tell people something like that in pages or private
conversations. If it gets back to you that someone's doing that, should it be

Impster chuckles, "Did I play on that game? To me it kind of gets back to the
rules. One of the things from our code of conduct on my game is: When players
have a problem in the game, either with another player, with the theme, with
the rules, or with an admin, they should go to an admin to discuss it. If
there are issues that require a decision, the admin will try to make the best
decision for the game first, and the best decision for the player second.
Hopefully, what is best for the game and the player is the same decision. If a
player disagrees with an admin decision, he or she may appeal to the admin
body. That decision will be final, and the player is expected to accept the
decision gracefully. This means there will be no complaining about it on
channel, or subverting the decision through a whisper campaign among the

Tyr has partially disconnected.

Impster says, "if they're not doing that and causing drama then Staff would be
dealing with that like any other issue."

Êlvïrå nods to JD, "Really good answer"

Tyr has partially disconnected.

Judge Dredd also notes that on a game with a social contract understood by
all, it's a lot more difficult to get people to believe player X over staff,
especially if the place has been solid for a while.

Ruggs says, "Whisper campaigns sound about right. I suppose a good analogy
would be high school gossip chains. It's possible being open is the only way
to deflect that."

Ruggs would have to agree with JD on that one.

Êlvïrå says, "Ok, that's the end of the 'official' talk and discussion and I'm
going to be closing the log now. Of course you're all welcome to hang around
as long as you like and keep talking..."

Diuturnal says, "Thanks, Impster. Great topic!"

Mike nods at JD, "Having things written down, even if you don't go into a huge
amount of detail, tends to create more trust with players, IMHO. Because if
something is handled wrong, you can call the staff out on it, and staff can
easily explain why they've done things."

Êlvïrå says, "I want to thank all of you for coming and for the very
impressive contributions. And I really want to thank Impster for a very
thought-provoking and illuminating talk..."

Ruggs nods. Likewise. :)

Impster nods, "Give me a chance to talk about myself and I'll always show up

Êlvïrå says, "We'll be back next week with another talk from Nymeria. I
haven't got confirmation on a title yet, but it'll be posted on M*U*S*H, CPO
and elseMUSH. If you have a MUSH you'd like an advert on, let me know."
Nymeria says, "I am horribly indecisive, but its about running MU*s based on
pre-existing themes and the advantages and disadvantages that can involve."

Ruggs says, "Sounds like a great topic, Nymeria."

Êlvïrå says, "Thanks Nymeria :) I particularly want to also say hi to any
newbies who've come along for the picnic and to welcome them to M*U*S*H. And a
reminder that whuffie is a great tool for showing appreciation! (+help
whuffie) Have a lovely day/evening and enjoy your stay on M*U*S*H ;)"

-- Logging stopped at Sun Feb 17 15:49:22 -0800 2008 --