Captain’s log – May 2018

Welcome to the second report from the Planar Bridge project. This article should cover what happened during April and May. We had meetings at 8 different GPs, including Sydney and Birmingham, for our first European GP ever. It was greatly received by judges that came to the meeting, so we’re currently trying to expand the project in new areas, so you’re more than welcome to approach any of us, especially during a GP, if you’re interested in coordinating a meeting, giving a hand or just giving us feedback.

All Staff meeting

During these months, we’ve been trying to go back to an all-staff meeting, at least for a portion of the session. We feel it’s no longer that useful to keep the L3s out of the meeting, since the idea has always been to have an open stage for discussing program relevant issues. This was discussed in the meetings, and there were concerns about L3 stealing too much of the spotlight during the meeting, L1/2 not speaking up for fear of “retribution” and some sort of censorship (“this is already being discussed”). An option would be to have only a couple of L3s present, but then it loses most of the intention and it’s easy for the L3s to feel overwhelmed. In the end, the consensus ended up in having an all-staff section and then a L1/2 section.

This originated the discussion about the chance for L2s to participate of the Leadership meetings (L3s only). The answer was that L3s need a space to share information regarding policy, program structure, etc, and that there are some topics that are classified. It was asked if there was a chance of having some sort of report (like this very one) from what’s being discussed at these meetings, and the different action items agreed upon.

Various people made the point that while L3s don’t look “scary”, they do seem inaccessible or unapproachable, and that Regional Coordinators do not seem approachable outside of structured events. This sentiment was echoed by various judges about various RCs and was not specific to a particular RC. Also, there was some doubts and inconsistency when L1/2 were asked “What do you think L3s do?”. So, there was a lot of talking about making L3s look more accessible, and more “human”. For example, trying to publish specific L3’s roles and responsibilities to better identify the opportunities for mentorship. When someone advances to L3, have the announcement talk about what that person does, projects and activities they are part of.

L3 Mentorship at events is something that has been mentioned at the last Captain’s Log, and there’s been some development. For example, there were talks about expanding the Flash feedback tokens availability, and right now the project is trying to get tokens to every GP.

As part of the discussion, the L3s have mentioned back and again that L1/2 should strive to request feedback from our potential mentors, specially before the event; asking at the event (or worse, after) makes it much more difficult. Being specific in what we’re working on helps. HJ/TLs should do an effort in opening windows in pre event communications to facilitate this interactions, even asking feedback themselves.

Channel Fireball Events

Specially in North America, the CFBE section is starting to lose relevance, since most doubts have already been discussed multiple times. This doesn’t seem to apply to other regions, where CFBE meetings have been really useful. For example, there were new details about staff selection, like the fact that RC have many instances to input feedback about applicants, but CFBE doesn’t always follow this comments, and in case of someone already known, it’s probable they don’t even read the comments or even the cover letter. RC input is welcomed and listened to, but that doesn’t mean that everyone the RC recommends will be hired or that anyone of whom the RC speaks poorly won’t be.

CFBE stated that they’re analyzing the option of doing special compensation or sponsorship for judges traveling a long distance to a GP, as a way to promote “cross-pollinization” of judges across regions. This mostly means incentivizing Asia, Australia and South American judges to spread out and get more experienced; and to a lesser extent European/US judges to go to more “remote” GPs.

There was feedback given about trying to publish staff selection at least 2 months prior to the event, and is something that is being applied right now.

Team Lead Certification

One of the most discussed topics this couple of months was the role of the TLC. Many judges raised the concern that the standards do not align with the roles and responsibilities. For example, TLC are Team leads that still usually get a L3 in their team, and can’t confirm HCE, backups, etc. We were lucky enough to have Dustin De Leeuw, who’s leading the TLC project, at GP Birmingham, and he confirmed that this limitations are part of the nature of the role. In order to change that, the whole process would need to change, and something like a mini-panel would need to be implemented. That’s something being analyzed, so there is a chance, but not right now. Also, he highlighted the difficulties on staffing L2 TLC as Team Lead at GPs, since there are about 60 GPs each year, and 60 judges with TLC; plus all the candidates attempting to certify. CFBE seems open to have more TLC leading, but there are limits.

Levels redefinition

Another hot topic, it’s been clarified that almost all the work is right now focused on the L1 evaluation. Other levels will go through evaluation after the L1 project comes to a conclusion about the need to redefine it. Bryan Prillaman is in charge of that project and here are L1s involved in it. Alfonso Bueno is leading the L2 project (there are no L2s currently, but that’s going to change once the time to evaluate the level arrives); and Matteo Callegari is leading the L3 project.

Many judges asked for some window for open comments and feedback before making the final decision. This helps feel the process more inclusive, and judges’ opinions more valuable. The counterpoint is that making these statements public early, later limits options, since it set expectations. The current idea is to have some sort of preview late in the process, so anyone who wants to give feedback about it has the chance to do so, even if through the PCs mail (the possibility of having an open form is still open).

Lack of engagement in GP’s Side events

While this topic was also discussed briefly in the last Captain’s log, during this couple of months we saw a resurgence in concerns about it. Aside from the usual problems with judges feeling less valued for being staffed at side events, we had some new issues and perspectives.

First, there was a discussion about whether the existence of the Kickstart team aggravates this problem. For those who don’t know, the Kickstart team facilitates the initial logistics of the tournament, including product, promotional items, staging of tables space and pairing boards, etc. For some, this removes responsibilities from the different events HJs, to a level that hinders opportunities of learning and growth and removes a sense of “ownership” of the event.

On the other hand, some argued that now that Kickstart carries a lot of the burden that used to be on the Schedule Manager, the sides leads can start focusing a lot more on opportunities for mentorship, team building exercises, and more; since they don’t have to be so focused on the different events launching. This is something that need to happen to be able to evaluate its impact.

Aside of the different views, when discussing how to have a better Side events experience, some stated that judges should use the time saved by the kick-start team to maximize player interaction and engagement. Also, that we should strive to seize every opportunity we have to interact with other judges: ask your TL if they have folks to spare, even if the event doesn’t require it; engage other judges that you run into or that are attending nearby events, asking or requesting interesting questions; etc.

There were some potential action items mentioned, like creating some Blog to highlight side events interactions, cool stuff, as well as best practices. And using engagement tools like puzzles (like this one from Toronto).

Another possible solution discussed while talking about the role of L1s at the GP, was to have L1s head judge all Scheduled side events, and having some L2/3 “floating” to support and mentor them.


Last but not least, I’d like to quickly share some other topics that were discussed:

  • Since April, in all GPs, every L3 can authorize backups and HCE
  • There were many critics at the new randomness introduced in the Exemplar program. We’re expecting some article by the project evaluating the first wave with the new system.
  • It was noted at some meeting that the sole individual in charge of determining if an RC is accomplishing their tasks satisfactorily is the RC themself. While there is some true to that statement, we want to remind everyone that Sebastian Pekala is the acting RC Coordinator (although he is himself RC of his region).