Welcome to the Answers part of the first Program Coordinator Q&A session!
You can find the original questions thread here: https://apps.magicjudges.org/forum/topic/45253/.
From René Oberweger:
After the not so recent changes numbers have shown that, in pretty much in every region, less recognitions are submitted through the Exemplar Program. What are the future plans for Exemplar? Did you expect that the participation would drop that much and are there plans to encourage judges to get numbers back where they were before?
Johanna: “The future plans for Exemplar are in the capable hands of Bryan Prillaman, although the PCs (and RCs) certainly give him feedback. The drop in participation was not surprising, but it’s not necessarily a problem. Part of it is that we now have less abuse of the system and less problematic nominations. Part of it is probably a negative reaction to the changes, and those are the nominations we’ll probably re-gain over time. ”
Riccardo: “I see the Exemplar system as one of the several ways to celebrate judges who are perfoming well at events and between event, and I hope that as many judges as possible use this system to praise other judges. Just think about how you feel when you get nominated. As all nominations are public, it’s easy to analyze how this initiative is going, with its differences depending on the wave and on the region. Some of the past changes caused a decrease of the use of these recognitions; a decrease was expected, as the removal of proxy nominations would automatically decrease the numbers, and also the randomization would give a negative perception to some. Then, there was also the increase in the effort of analysing the nominations, to guarantee a higher quality and the removal of abuse as much as possible. So YES, a decrease was expected, and YES, we will continue to encourage the use of Exemplar (blog posts, reminders at GPS, messages on regional channels of communication) because we believe that it has a great value for judges. You can also read the most recent article from the Exemplar lead HERE (https://blogs.magicjudges.org/exemplar/wave-15-opens/).”
CJ: “To me, Exemplar is about celebrating judges and their achievements. I anticipate the future of Exemplar continues to be a vehicle for these recognitions. I was once told that there are 3 kinds of event judges: 1. theres the judge that will drop a grenade on the event (hopefully due to inexperience rather than maliciousness) 2. the judge that will jump on the grenade and save the event 3. judges that don’t let the grenade fall in the first place. I’ve found this to be true for me and many events I’ve worked. The first two judges get a lot of exposure. The community helps mentor judges to make sure problems don’t continue and the community praises the visible judges who went above and beyond. I believe the same mentalities exist inside much of our program, not just events. As judges, we need to look for the little things that our peers are doing to make the program, project, or event successful. Let’s be sure to recognize those efforts when we can.
The more people doing little things very well, the fewer above and beyond performances exist.”
From Robert Hinrichsen
Do you see any path towards professionalizing the structure of the judge program? It seems to me that, while judges are compensated by TOs for the work we do at events, there is a vast amount of administrative work done behind the scenes which is uncompensated–by the PCs, JCC, PIC, Exemplar team, L3 panels and PEIs, and Judge Apps devs, just to name some of the more prominent ones. Do you think there is merit in the idea of transitioning to a more professional structure, with salaried positions (probably part-time) for those who dedicate so much time to the program itself? If so, do you think there is any way this could feasibly be implemented?
CJ: “Several of the roles mentioned are compensated through agreements with Wizards of the Coast. It’s very likely true that most of the program doesn’t know that is the case. While I believe it would be ideal to fairly compensate everyone for their efforts in building and stregthening the community, I don’t foresee a viable structure to make that happen currently. Some people have raised the idea of judges paying annual dues to fund a similar system. In the United States, my understanding is that would force the program to organize into a 501(c)4 not-for-profit opening directors and officers to significant liability concerns. In an ideal world, I don’t think that would be a large concern. In our current world, by the time we pay for accounting, auditing, insurance, counsel, the fees would outweigh the benefit for most the program. What we need to focus on instead is that money is very rarely someone’s prime motivator. As a program, if we focus on recognizing/thanking/highlighting each others efforts I believe we would have many more people would help with administrative work. In some areas, simply asking for more help from the community would bring in a lot of fresh ideas. ”
Alfonso: “I don’t foresee any transition to a more professionalized structure. Judge program doesn’t have any income source to sustain that structure.”
Riccardo: “Not in the short or medium future.”
From Robert Hinrichsen again:
Is there any way that the judge program’s leadership structure could be made more transparent and accountable? While the selection processes currently in place for PCs, RCs and GPHJs are certainly a great deal more transparent than the process for selecting L4s and L5s a few years ago, I think there is still room for improvement, as the processes are still largely a top-down model, with little input from the grass roots as it were. To give a few examples, in my ideal world I would like to see L2s (at least) given a voice in PC selection, and be eligible for the PIC and JCC. I would like to see judges of all levels in a region be given a voice in the selection of the region’s RC. I would like to see a formal mechanism implemented whereby judges in leadership positions could be subject to a recall vote to remove them from office if they make sufficiently unpopular decisions, thereby making them truly accountable to those whom they serve. I would like to see detailed minutes taken of any meeting of judge leadership (including voting records where any decision is taken by vote) and published so that any judge can review them. While I very much appreciate the efforts already being made (such as this Q&A), it seems to me that, with a few obvious exceptions like the PIC and JCC, the program could still be made a great deal more transparent at the higher levels.
CJ: “Transparency continues to be a goal and I agree there is room for improvement. For the current PC selection process, we decided to make all the first round answers public. Our goal was to help individuals in the program understand who was applying, what were their goals, and what are their ideals. I wouldn’t want to make any advanced role a popularity contest, however I do see a process where all judges could weigh in on the effectiveness of people representating them. I will personally push for detailed minutes (sensative/privilaged information redacted) of leadership meetings to be published. I think thats a great idea.”
Riccardo: “I am a huge fan of transparency, meaning “sharing of information”, as I believe that people having access to information helps them have the correct expectations, while having no access to information has a a high risk of assumptions, incorrect expectations and consequent disappointment (when expectations don’t correspond to reality). In the last years, I saw a much higher transparency, which I believe would be increased even more if more questions were asked; it may seem counterintuitive, but different people want to access different information, and even a very transparent approach from the leadership may not include information that part of the audience desired (not to hide it, but just because it may be considered unnecessary), so please ask, exactly like you are doing here 🙂 I am a fan of accountability too, as it would help all people in leadership position to perform their duties in a more focused way, being also more stimulated, and therefore having a better performance. I believe that all judges who are affected by a selection process should have the opportunity to express their opinion; maybe we should just advertise more that everyone has the possibility to voice their opinion, as it seems to me that it’s unknown. For example, in the PC selection of six months ago, I wrote in the public announcement that any judge could send their opinions about any of the candidates to a specific address (no L2 or L1 send anything). I take the opportunity to inform you that, in the last 9-12 months, we had many more articles than in the past; both the “”Status of the judge program”” and the “”Travel diary”” give information about the topics we work on (that we can speak about publicly). Then, as an extra to help you to see the concept of transparency with its drawbacks too, it’s very important to find the best balance between transparency and efficiency; the more complex the processes are, the less efficient they risk to be. As the judge program is a volunteer based organization, we cannot expect the bureaucratic precision of companies of thousands of members who work full-time; the total amount of hours that the judges dedicate to the judge program is enormous, but cannot be compared to the cumulative time that employees spend in their company.”
Johanna: “Regarding L2 members on the Player Investigations Committee or Judge Conduct Committee – it’s not out of the question. We have already had L2s serve on the PIC because they provided translation capabilities that weren’t otherwise available. However, these L2s were either advanced L3 candidates or former L3s. Members of the PIC and JCC both have access to some very sensitive information, and we need to be able to trust them to handle that information appropriately. They also need (for PIC in particular) a good understanding of investigation skills. All L3s go through several “are they trustworthy and diplomatic” checks during the L3 advancement process – recommendations, PEI, the panel – and I would probably want a similar vetting process for potential L2 members. The L3 advancement process also covers investigation skills. Another thing I have considered (as leader of the PIC) is a player representative on the PIC, but I am not sure how to select and vet them. ”
From Steve Ford:
Following on from Robert on the themes of transparency and accountability, how to you address the concerns from some quarters of the judge programme that some critical decisions effecting the whole programme are made in isolation by a small number of senior judges – who seem increasingly disconnected from the reality of day-to-day judging at lower levels – without engagement/consultation with the majority of those likely to be affected?
CJ: “I would submit that the current group of judge leadership is more attuned to day-to-day judging than ever before. I rarely find an L3 without stories about their FNM or without concern for the current OP structure. The selection process for Regional Coordinators has helped ensure that RCs have a plan of action to better their community. Planar Bridge Meetings at Grand Prix events are effectively bringing new concerns and solutions to the forefront. As for the PCs, our emails are always open.”
Riccardo: “Your question makes me think that you believe that the senior judges are quite isolated from the daily judging activity. I have a different opinion, as I see the judge program as a network, where each person has a number of connections, which may also be a very high number and with a big variety. For example, I regularly judge international events, I contribute to my regional community like other dozens of people, I judge regionals and pPTQs (I don’t judge regular events), I am in both regional and a few area chats, I participate to local conferences and I speak with many judges. This is not to say that everyone is in the same position, but it’s to say that a person may seem disconnected because they are known for their international activity, while they may also have an intense local activity. When PCs or sphere leaders or RCs have to take a decision, they consult their colleagues, sometimes even many other judges; then, each of them is connected to others, resulting in a system where everyone (especialy in the higher positions) is very well connected. I wish I could have a specific topic to discuss, as it would allow me to be more precise and more focused. Generally, I can tell you that all the decisions that can be considered critical and affecting the entire program are pondered, discussed with. colleagues from different regions and with a communication that is reviewed by several people. My impression is that some of the decision may give the feeliision or not discussing the reasons for the decisions. I take again the opportunity to invite you all to ask questions and clarification; when a topic is not confidential or covered by non discolsure agreement, we do want to give information.”
From Georgi Benev:
I really enjoyed the recent publication of the applications for the new class of PCs. Is there an option to make past such applications public? Personally, I’d love to see more about the applicants, their thoughts on the program and the issues it is/was facing, etc. (I can also volunteer to help with formatting them in a blog post, if the option exists.)
Riccardo: “The only option I see to make PC application public is by asking the applicants to publish them. Publishing a document that was written with the unspoken agreement that it would have been seen only by the selection committee would be inapproriate. The style of writing changes depending on the audience; also the topics discussed change.”
Alfonso: “It would be unfair publishing now something a person wrote with a promise of confidentiality. Past PC evaluations can speak about confidential topics or provide judgement about specific people or issues. However, each applicant is owner of their writing and can share them as they with.”
CJ: “If the applicants would like to share their applications, I agree it could make for interesting reading. However, I don’t believe any group should share writings the author was told would be private. If the applicants would like to share their applications, I agree it could make for interesting reading. However, I don’t believe any group should share writings the author was told would be private.”
Johanna: “I did not write my application with publication in mind. If I was going to publish it, I would want to go back and edit it, which means it’s not the same application that got me selected.”
Georgi Benev again:
Is there a process for “evaluation” of a PC at the end of their term? I’m fairly certain that they get feedback on the day-to-day activities, but I mean a more general review of their whole work in the position. Of course, this does not need to be public, but knowing that someone is taking a longer look at the performance of people would be encouraging.
Riccardo: “I wish! Personally, being fairly evaluated and receiving concrete information about how I am performing is very important in all my activities.
I believe that it would increase the quality of my results, and I imagine it would be useful for other people too, not only in the PC positions, but also in all judge roles.”
Alfonso: “I don’t see the point of investing a significant amount of resources evaluating someone who is leaving. I believe is important periodical evaluation and feedback during our term, so we can improve our performance. As well, as evaluation of the entire term when someone is reapplying, but this will happen during the evaluation process. ”
CJ: “I’ll be brutually honest; apart from Alfonso (who in fairness started his first term a little late) no one has reapplied for a second term. There should be an evaluation process, but so far none has been needed. I expect we will work on an evaluation process before the next selection committee assembles. ”
Johanna: “To-do list intensifies”
Georgi yet again:
What happens if the selection committee is not unanimous / has a hard time reaching a decision? Do people vote in the end, or is there a different method of reaching a compromise?
Johanna: In such a situation, we try to discuss and reach consensus. If that doesn’t work, we take a vote.
Riccardo: “The ideal in a selection committee is to have consensus, which is a sign that everyone agreed on he best solution. In case of not unanimous decision, yes, there is a vote. I can offer you some details of how the PC selection worked in SPRING 2018 (https://blogs.magicjudges.org/coordinators/2018/03/31/program-coordinator-class-of-spring-2018/)”
From Milan Majerčík:
What are the reasons for having “Sphere Allocations” of Judge promo cards not public? Is it because there is a concern about disclosing some confidential information? I would personally love to see those recognitions in a similar way as Exemplar recognitions. Alternatively, in case there are some strong reasons to have a Sphere recognition private, would it be possible to offer to the recognizing judge a simple yes/no choice to make the recognition public or private?
Alfonso: “Those recognitions are designed to be private, only for the receiver from their creation. They aim a different goal than the Exemplar Program, the Exemplar Program is designed to highlight exemplar behaviors anyone can emulate. However the Sphere recognitions are aimed to exemplar behaviors only people in certain positions can have and that are visible only to a very little number of individuals. If we made them public, we would undermine the propose of the Exemplar Program and we’ll create some feel-bad because readers won’t be able to emulate that behavior (and the whole point of making recognitions public, is improving the judge program by showing judges behaviors they can emulate). Also, as a matter of fact, Sphere Allocations are approximately 3% of the Exemplar’s.”
Following on Robert Hinrichsen’s first question, would it be possible to outline what would need to happen in the Program (and in the interface between the Program and WotC) in order to switch the inner driving economic dynamics from grey economy towards more clean and transparent ways?
CJ: I hope I gave some clarity in my earlier response about the difficulties to create a viable organization with funded positions.
Alfonso: This is not possible because we don’t have anywhere to get the founds from.
Milan once more:
What is your opinion on the future of high level organized play with regards to “digitisation”? Do you think it is likely that tournaments of the highest level (PTs? Worlds?) will at least partially switch into digital, for example will be run in Magic Arena? Honestly, although running a digital tournament has it own challenges, it also has some positive aspects: cheating strategies that we can experience in tournaments with physical cards are completely impossible (card manipulation, counterfeit cards, decklist issues…) and broadcasting the tournament is much more convenient (and meaningful also for broader audience that can finally see/read the cards in the game, including a simple replay etc.).
Johanna: “I don’t have any great insights into this matter. I won’t be surprised if we see more digital-based high level events, but I also don’t think paper-based high level play is going away anytime soon.”
Riccardo: “Let’s imagine for a moment I am “”Mr. Wizards”” and I can choose where to invest my funds. First, I would explore the digital games market, then I would ask to a huge amount of people, and only at the end I would make a choice. If you asked me to make a choice today, I would keep investing on the tabletop version of the game for high level tournaments, probably highlighting more the game by broadcasting, interviews, articles, bios… I would explore the digital game world as a parallel series of high level tournaments, keeping the tabletop version as the main one (let’s simplify it with “”90% of invitations to the Pro Tour are tournaments played in person, 10% online””). Luckily for the game, it’s not my choice, and the people who will make choices for the future of the game are much much much better than me for it.”
CJ: “As a PC, I have no insight or information on the future plans of WotC and their organized play strategy. As a person with a Masters Degree in Business Administration, I would be very surprised if we didn’t continue to see a dedication of resources toward “”digitisation”” as you put it.”
Alfonso: “We can’t speak for Wizards, but I can share my personal opinion: I believe the biggest strength of Magic, in the paper game. Surely, there is space for the digital game to expand and Wizards should explore it. But the more it moves away from physical paper cards, the more it becomes “just another game”. Moving from being the head of an market, to being just another medium player of another market seems like a poor strategy to me. If it were my decision I would keep all my investment in the market I rule, while investing in newer markets.”
From Chuanjie Seow:
Will we ever get an Asian Program Coordinator? A lot of the stuff happening from the program leadership has always been focusing on the individual, no doubt from the individualistic culture of western cultures. When I read the applications of the PCs here, all I felt was very strong individuals selling themselves. Wouldn’t it be a great if we have an Asian PC whose background is that of collectivism to not only provide a greater diversity of ideas into the leadership but also look into ways to bring the community closer?
Johanna: I hope that we will, some day. There was an Asian candidate in the last wave, but I’m not in a position to say whether other Asian candidates have applied for the role. I do think that it would be useful to have PCs from different cultural backgrounds – Latin America as well as Asia.
Riccardo: “Diversity, meaning “”a mix of different experiences, cultures and points of view””, is a huge added value in many aspects of life, and it is an added value in the group of Program Coordinators too. There is no “”share”” of PCs per continent (on any other aspect) and I believe it would not be appropriate, as I believe that everybody should be treated the same way. When there will be a PC candidate from Asia who will be considered a good fit for the role, we will have an Asian PC. Personal extra: and I will be delighted, as I am sure you know how dear Asia is for me :)”
Alfonso: “This depends if Asian candidates apply. Historically there have been very few PC applications from Asia. It would be great to have as much diversity as possible amongst PCs, but this doesn’t mean a candidate should be appointed as PC “just because the candidate is [quality]”. ”
CJ: I am very proud of the fact that during the last selection wave, the program selected its first previously non-L4/L5 Program Coordinators. The program also selected its first female Program Coordinator through a formal application process during that wave. More firsts will definitely happen and I’m excited for the future of the program.
From Zohar Finkel:
For the past 8 months or so, GPs – a staple competitive event for L2s and many L3s – have been run solely by CFBE. I only hear bits here and there, but how has this change affected the judge program as a whole considering work procedures, selection process (amount and quality), compensation method, and so on?
CJ: “I am employed by CFBE and that fact was a large concern during my selection process. There are several judges on the leadership team of CFBE and each works to balance the needs of the program with the needs of running a business. I believe it is easier for the RCs to only have to deal with one selection process compared to processes from multiple companies. RCs may disagree. CFBE employs a full-time staffing manager to help interface with the program. During its first year, CFBE continues to learn and work with the program to resolve problems as they arise. I am always happy to bring feedback to the management team to see how we can improve everyone’s experience.”
Johanna: “Some things I’ve noticed (as RC and former judge manager for another GP TO): the average number of applications has dropped slightly, and it’s probably easier now to get your foot in the door as a new judge, especially if you’re willing to take non-judge roles. At the same time, the “Core” system and the role-based compensation system have definitely caused some disappointments to individual judges, including Level 3 judges. However, I think it’s too early to speculate about how this will might affect the program as a whole.”
Alfonso: “This has affected almost every GP regular judge in a different way. Those who had being working with CFBE for years experimented smaller changes, judges from areas with TOs who use to run GPs in a different way than CFBE do, saw more differences. I believe the most significant effects are the following:
-What use to be ‘Level 3 compensation’ is now available to any level judge. This means some L2s are receiving Leadership Compensation and some L3s receive non-leader compensation.
-Non judge roles are covered with judges. Roles like dismantling, prize wall, customer service and spec ops. This means the judges has more chances to attend a GP, but in non-judge roles.”
“I remember that in 2017 there was a great worry of “”help! How will the future of GP be? I am scared””, which is natural (you can read my article about it HERE, https://blogs.magicjudges.org/riccardotessitori/2017/03/23/my-view-on-grand-prix-events-in-2018/).
I am a fan of the compensation system by role and not by level, as I see that:
– high profile L3s get staffed and compensated as lead
– low profile L3s get staffed, while previously they were declined often
– very high profile L2s can get staffed and compensated as lead
I don’t know if it’s just an impression, but it seems to me that the best performing event judges get more opportunities than in the past, with lower performing event judges getting to judge more events than in the past. Regarding changes to the entire program, I don’t see any connection between having a single GP organizer and any change that happened in the last months or any change that we discussed privately, as GPs are an important part of organized play, but not the only one.”
From Rebecca Lawrence
There have been several instances of senior judges who blatantly and repeatedly disrespect their peers and have demonstrated no interest in course correction, particularly when it comes to gender identity. These instances have often been reported to leadership, but seldom seem to be acted upon or responded to, and worse yet, the people whom these complaints are levied against are repeatedly being promoted.
Are the PCs aware of these sorts of issues? If so, why aren’t the complainants believed over the people who are ultimately promoted in spite of the complaint? If not, where do you think your blindspot lies, and how would you propose correcting it?
While we’re on the subject of gender identity and white-hot nuclear posts: while gender is conceptually already covered in the IPG under Unsporting Conduct – Major, there is a glaring hole in the USC policy block that many trans individuals can fall through, especially as they undergo transition…names and pronouns. At present, neither of these things seems to be interpreted in any serious way under the USC guidelines, even though most trans individuals would agree that being misgendered is in fact disruptive to their tournament participation(USC-Minor), and being “deadnamed” (that is, addressed by an old personal name after explicitly and often repeatedly telling people their new post-transition one) can feel directly harassing and/or threatening (USC-Major). Combined with all of this, the USC guidelines specifically state that people’s actions do not require malice for them to fall afoul of these guidelines.
I would like to hear the PCs thoughts/assessment on this matter, and to appeal to have additional examples that explicitly illustrate these behaviors in order to reinforce to both judges and the Magic community at large that this is a serious matter to be vigilant about, and not simply paid lip service through the broad-strokes definition of “gender” in USC-Major.
“It’s fundamental (to me, at least) that serious issues are reported to the PCs, if people expect the PCs to know about them and to act on them. The e-mail address firstname.lastname@example.org is the best way to let us know what is important to you; ALL messages are handled and answered. As you didn’t mention any specific situation, I can only answer generally that we had never been reported any severely inappropriate behavior of any of the judges in advanced roles, at least before their advancement. We heard about one or two afterwards, and all the cases reported to the JCC have been or are being handled. I believe that senior judges should be hold to even higher standards, and I invite you all to contact us for any situation that you believe should be improved or corrected. I have always seen a promotion (be it to a higher level or to a certification) as an event that has a positive impact on the entire system (because “”X got promoted, it was deserved, my trust in the system is higher, I am proud of being part of this system””), therefore I am sensitive to your words, and I am interested in making an effort to prevent that a promotion is met with disappointment and frustration.”
Johanna: Sometimes we hear rumors about serious issues and everyone seems to think they have been reported to the JCC (or PCs), but when we follow up with the JCC lead, nothing has actually been reported through official channels, for whatever reason. Please, if you believe there is a serious issue, report it through the official channels – the Feedback Form, the email@example.com e-mail address, or the PC e-mail address mentioned by Riccardo. Otherwise it’s difficult for us to take any action.