Site Constitution

NOTE: The Site Constitution and initial Amendments were voted on in Spring 2014 by a majority of active players at the time. Everything here is copied directly from the voted-on proposals which should be on record in the site's archives for comparison.

History

Given the current age and History of the site, we need to start planning for the long-term.

In the many years of Vaxia’s growth, we have had many different approaches to handling site decisions, but we have often relied on memory and convention, or the decision-making of the server owner (or loudest member) of the site. We haven't had much of this written down. While overall this has gotten us along, it hasn’t been without many bumps, pain, and leaps of faith. But where memory is unreliable, open to interpretation, and generally malleable to the personal needs of the most convincing voice in the discussion - words are not. Which is to say:

If it’s not written down, it doesn’t exist.

The goal of this document is to write down a formal structure for vaxia.org’s continued site administration to provide for the coming decades. Ideally we will never have to rely on this document to secure the health and safety of the site - but there’s always the chance and we can’t predict the future.

Guiding principles

Guiding principles should be used as guides to decision-making in the future. These are the overarching principles that take precedence over any department, storyhost or individual decision. If a site decision is in violation of the guiding principles then that decision should be reviewed and adjusted to bring it into agreement. If that is not possible, then the decision should be reversed.

The Three F’s

The “Three F’s” are the goals of our decisions on the site. In order, they are “Fun”, “Freedom” and “Fairness.” Ideally every decision on the site will incorporate some aspect of all three of these principles. Realistically, not every decision is going to be able to do that. Where possible, err on the side of “Fun” for the most people, followed by “Freedom” for the most people, followed by “Fairness” for the most people.It is important to note that the principles of Fun, Freedom, and Fairness are judged based on their impact on the majority of the site - not by the impact on an individual.

Fun

Fun is a measure of the general enjoyment of the site. This is not purely a matter of players enjoying the material produced on the site, but also more measurable aspects such as the overall difficulty to learn and rule the system, the impact of technological limits on play, or the feeling of being safe on the site. What is fun for one person is not necessarily fun for another, nor will it continue to be fun for all time - decisions based on fun need to consider multiple viewpoints and the long-term impacts of decisions made.

Freedom

Freedom is the ability to act on the site as you wish, so long as you don’t unduly impact another’s freedom or fun in the process. Freedom includes the ability to be allowed to fail as well as the ability to be allowed to succeed. Other elements of freedom include being allowed to ask for advice and assistance out of character, and having a minimum baseline of support for the play of characters regardless of the character's specific aspects such as evil alignment or other concept-based choices. Other characters are free to welcome the play of a specific character or not as the case may be. Not every decision is going to be able to avoid impacting an individual, but again multiple viewpoints and the long-term impact are critical.

Fairness

Fairness is the out-of-character understanding that your work and efforts are just as valued as those of any other member of the site. Fairness is found in system mechanics that are overall balanced for cost of experience vs. payoff, observable means of making site decisions, and being able to have the same opportunity to contribute to site efforts. Fairness does not guarantee success though it should guarantee equal opportunities to succeed. Characters may experience IC unfairness, players should not. Again, this principle is best applied with multiple viewpoints and long-term impact.

Transparency Transparency is understanding that, wherever possible, we act and speak in the open. Conversations should be logged and recorded on the site. Verbal meetings should have meeting minutes. Decisions, and what was said during the course of those decisions, should be publicly available for review afterwards wherever possible.

Secrets prevent site members from being able to judge the worthiness of a potential-lead during elections, creates an environment of mistrust around those who have off-site communication, and generally encourages deceptive behavior in both those in power and those not. In order to safeguard the health (both mental and social) of the community and our long-term continuation, we must operate in the open as much as possible.

In general, all concerned parties should be able to participate and review the process of decision making in order to fully understand both the considerations that went into the decision and the choices of the decision makers involved.

Not all discussions are appropriate for a completely open discussion, though the option should always be considered first. For example: A personal dispute between two players may be best held in private, through both players should be involved as they are the concerned parties for the situation.

Origin of Power

Without players we don’t have a site. And we have no right to take from players what they are not interested in giving. They are people and they have rights. To add any new power or privilege for the site, a given department, or site representatives not already described in this document, the players must first agree to give that power through the systems described in this document. Any powers not specifically granted to the site, its departments, or its representatives in this document are assumed to be retained by the individual player.

Roles and Responsibilities

Roles are a defined set of powers and responsibilities that a player on the site may have. They are not considered to be exclusive of each other. Like hats, you can have more than one role on the site. However, at any point where there may be confusion a member who has more than one role should make it explicitly clear which role they are speaking as at that time. You cannot serve in more than one role for the same decision.

For example - if a setting lead is building a major saga, he is doing so in his role as a storyhost, which is why he must get the approval of another setting lead to approve the saga. He cannot serve as both storyhost and lead on the same decision.

The following roles are acknowledged on the site. An individual can hold one or more of these positions simultaneously:

Inactive Player
While there are also inactive and sporadic players with accounts, they don’t often participate in the community IC or OOC. These are accounts that are still on the site but have not been used - players who have left the site, or have not been able to return for an extended period of time. An inactive player cannot also be an active player. An inactive player had not participated in the site community within the last six months.

Active Player
Your average site member. An active player cannot also be an inactive one. A player has created a character and has posted on the site. An active player is a site member who has participated in the site community within the last six months. Some players are not currently able to roleplay due to personal circumstances, so having roleplayed recently is not a requirement, but if they have posted in the OOC rooms or on the forums they are still participating in the site and are active members. An active player may create site proposals and participate in them but has no additional responsibilities on the site.

Apprentice Storyhost
An apprentice storyhost must also be an active player. An apprentice storyhost is a site member currently in the process of training to become a full storyhost. An apprentice storyhost creates content under the mentorship of storyhosts, and actively develops the setting and system to fulfill the needs of the players. An apprentice storyhost is responsible for Running Sessions and proactively developing plotlines for characters. An apprentice storyhost is also responsible for actively attempting to progress through the course to become a full storyhost.

Storyhost
A storyhost must also be an active player. A storyhost is a site member who regularly runs sessions for players every three months and creates content. A storyhost creates content, runs sessions, proactively develops plotlines for characters, provides input on the sagas of other storyhosts, and mentors apprentice storyhosts. They are also responsible for contributing to department projects for their relevant skills and increasing site membership and storyhost membership. Storyhosts actively develop the setting and system to fulfill the needs of the players.

Evaluator
An evaluator must also be a storyhost. An evaluator is a site member who has received the additional training and responsibility to fulfill additional duties for departments, such as the ability to approve content flagged by the system as needing additional review. Training and testing Evaluators is a joint effort by all departments to ensure they have a complete understanding of duties from multiple perspectives.

Lead
A lead must also be an evaluator, this is to ensure the lead has a complete understanding of required tasks. A lead is a leadership position for a department. A lead takes a primarily reactive role, responding to questions, requests for guidance, and assistance as they arise. A lead is responsible for resolving topical disagreements between storyhosts when it comes to questions regarding the topic their department handles. A lead is also responsible for maintaining training and documentation for future leads. All other department work to create and curate content is handled under the storyhost role. A lead can (and should) actively participate in the department in that role.

Technical Admin
A technical admin is not required to be a site member. The technical admin is there to provide technical and logistical services related to the hardware and software of vaxia.org. The technical admin provides technical advice according to site needs as outlined in this document and any future proposals and amendments and is otherwise uninvolved in site governance in this role. This is primarily a reactive role to site requests and a proactive role to server and system security needs.

Departments

Departments are a collection of trained active players, led by two leads, that address specific needs for the site and players within an assigned topic. Individual site members may be members of more than one department, but a lead may only serve as a lead for one department at a time.

Each department is considered a peer and equal to other departments on the site and within their assigned topic the department is allowed to make additional policy and decisions on that topic provided the policies do not violate the guiding principles outlined in this document. Departments do not have authority outside their assigned topic.

Departments are led by two leads, who are responsible for stepping in for each other when the other is unavailable or in a Conflict of Interest position. They are also responsible for resolving topical disputes within the department, defining and providing training for site members who wish to participate in department projects and votes, and defining training and documentation for future leads of their department.

Where a topic bridges two or more departments, the department leads and department members should work together to address their parts of the topic to create policy that addresses the needs and concerns of all involved departments.

Departmental Proposals

Proposals are a formal suggestion to a department to change a departmental policy or ruling and may be put forth by any active player. This proposal is announced to all and must be available for review and voting by all department members for two weeks before it may be considered agreed upon by the department.

During that two week window the proposal may be updated to address specific issues noted by reviewers. If issues are brought up then effort to account for the issue should be made and changes if needed made to the proposal. The two week approval window is automatically extended from the moment of revision for another two weeks to allow voters to change votes in light of new information.

At the end of the two week window, the results of the proposal are made visible. If an objection still exists, mediation by the appropriate lead(s) may be attempted.

Mediating within a Department

This process is meant to address disagreements regarding the department’s assigned topics - disputes of fact not personal disputes between department members. This process is intended to provide a structure for departments to handle the day-to-day needs without overwhelming the department leads with minor requests.

When two department members disagree on a departmental topic matter they should first attempt to discuss the situation between themselves and find a mutually agreeable solution. If that fails, the department members may then turn to others in the department for assistance in coming to a mutual agreement. If that fails, they may turn to the leads for the department for the relevant topic. Before entering mediation, the situation must first be attempted to be resolved and two or more possible outcomes defined for the leads to consider.

Once a lead has been called to make the decision, all affected parties agree to accept the decision of the department lead where the decision is not in violation of guiding principles.

Leads are obligated to consider the available outcomes first before they may create another option to resolve the conflict. They must show their process of thought, and the logic used to determine it should be included in the decision writeup so it may inform any future decisions and ensure that Transparency has been maintained. The decision is only considered finalized once the decision writeup is put into the wiki for record keeping.

Conflict of Interest

Oftentimes, Conflict of Interest is something people do without realizing it out of an instinct to be kind. While it can be dangerous, it is often not malicious, and it is very important to keep that in mind. As a social community, conflict of interest will naturally grow amongst friends.

Because site members may have more than one role, they may easily find themselves in a position where they are making a judgement on a situations which will affect their role on the site or affect one of their characters, or the players or characters of a close friend, family member, or relationship. Likewise, bias good or ill may exist between site members for past actions, decisions or rulings that need to be accounted for.

In those situations, the site member is considered to be in conflict of interest. Being in conflict of interest does not automatically render the site member unable to voice opinion or observe the ruling on the decision, but it does mean their bias needs to be taken into account when it comes to making a decision on the situation.

In these cases, a separate neutral party should be involved to assist in the situation even if under normal circumstances they would not be called on. For example: A departmental policy that does not normally call for outside department input, or a lead decision in which one of the leads is in conflict of interest may require another member to step in. The neutral party should be agreed on by the members in conflict, but if that is not possible they may be requested by members of the department not including those in conflict of interest.

Grievances

Sometimes problems are just too large to handle within a single department, the department leads may not be trusted with the decision or other signs of significant leadership problems may exist. While a department may have authority over the topic involved - in some (hopefully rare) cases - a significant grievance must be addressed on a level outside the department to handle issues of Conflict of Interest or abuse of position.

Process of Resolving Grievances

When a situation has risen to the point where a grievance needs to be addressed outside of the department, there is a process any site member may follow to request the situation be addressed and resolved.

1) The site member with a grievance that falls under violation of guiding principles should go to the Anonymous Mailer
2) At the mailer they may freely describe the grievance and must give specific evidence.
3) Wherever possible, citation of department policy and violations of the systems outlined in this document should be provided.
4) Any violations of the guiding principles should be specifically noted when the grievance is lodged.

Conversation about the grievance should be held in public, any question of the credibility of a site member’s position on the site innately involves the entire site and thus the entire site is an "involved party." Site members in conflict of interest situations (including any specifically named members) are allowed to contribute to discussion but not vote on the resolution of the issue itself.

After discussion, when a solution to the situation is presented then a standard proposal, including the two week window for voting will be used to resolve the conflict. Voters may choose from the paths of resolution provided during the discussion, with an option to fill in an optional resolution of their own if none of those provided are satisfactory. It is possible for a solution to simply be a statement that the grievance is not valid - and this solution should be included as an option on all grievance votes.

At the end of the two week window, the results of the vote are made public. In order for the solution to be accepted, a simple majority of players active within the last two weeks must particulate in the vote to ensure the vote reflects the opinion of enough people on the site to be trusted as a valid opinion.

In order to approve a solution, after participation requirements are met, the solution must be approved with a 3/4ths majority of the votes cast with the following exception: When votes cast are below 10 (after accounting for participation requirements), then simple majority is used instead due to the small population size involved.

In the case of an unclear result further discussion and additional proposals will be required until the situation is resolved. While under review, the subjects of the original grievance (as well as anyone in a conflict of interest situation with them) may continue to act as a member of their position.

However, if the voting results in a removal of a role or limitation of power, decisions made by the involved parties during the span of time since the original grievance was entered may be reviewed with further scrutiny or rolled back entirely under the judgement of the department or as a secondary proposal.

Role Removal

If a site member holding a role of authority (apprentice storyhost, storyhost, evaluator or lead) does not abide by the decision of grievance vote or if the site votes to have them removed from position, they will immediately lose the role in question and associated powers. Related roles may also be reviewed and potentially revoked as well depending on the nature of the original grievance. In such a case, if the site member held a critical position on the site - such as a lead - a special election will be held for the new position.

Starvation Mode

Vaxia relies on it’s population of players and storyhosts to keep alive. Sometimes both can be hard to locate. In thin times, the site will operate under an extraordinary circumstances mode called “starvation mode”. While in starvation mode efforts to increase the population of available site members to address a need for storyhosts, Evaluators or leads are a priority - the sooner critical positions are filled, the sooner the site may return to standard behavior.

Amendments

The members of the current site cannot hope to imagine the needs of the future site, be it in a time of strong growth or dormancy. With that in mind, this document may be updated at any time with amendments. Amendments are a type of proposal that is a formal suggestion to active site members to change the behavior of the governing structure as outlined in this document and it's amendments at the time of making the proposal.

The new amendment is announced to all players on the site and may be put forth by any player. It must be available for review for two weeks for feedback, review and updates. If updated, the two week window is extended from the moment of revision for another two weeks. During the two week span, all active site members may vote on the new amendment.

At the end of the two week window, the results of the vote are made public. In order for the amendment results to be accepted, a simple majority of players active within the last two weeks must particulate in the vote to ensure the vote reflects the opinion of enough people on the site to be trusted as a valid opinion.

In order to approve an amendment, after participation requirements are met, the amendment must be approved with a 3/4ths majority of the votes cast with the following exception: When votes cast are below 10 (after accounting for participation requirements), then simple majority is used instead due to the small population size involved. This is to ensure that the system described in this document can continue to operate at critically low membership levels - effectively 'starvation mode'.

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Continue to our Amendments list for updates to this constitution

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