2014 has been a year of significant change both for me personally and in my sphere of the Judge Program.
I moved from the cozy, familiar drought-parched environs my Bay Area upbringing to the drizzly, foreign rainforest of Seattle. I changed jobs, homes, and so much more (all for the better, in the end).
The Judge Program experienced a lot of change, too. We defined our values and made clearer our commitment to safe, welcoming play environments. The Magic Judge Code made its debut after months of development. Judge foil packets at Grand Prix gave way to new models of compensation from organizers. Exemplar and the paradigm shift from reward to recognition began to take hold. The path to the Pro Tour changed, and with it came big changes in how our next corps of leaders (Area Judges at L2) maintain their engagement. We’ve got 10 L3 qualities now instead of 12.
Change is hard. It reeks of uncertainty and discomfort. It presents risks and an unknowable future. It demands our attention and energy. There’s a very real limit to our human capacity to cope with change, too. Fatigue from too much uncertainty wears us out or overwhelms us.
Change isn’t easy, and for that reason we don’t engage in large changes unless they’re truly necessary. Through each of the Judge Program’s changes this year, I’ve tried to assuage fear, anxiety, and hostility with transparency, frequent communication, and setting clear expectations. I think we’ve done a pretty good job of it.
Judge Program faced a lot of transition this year, but we’ve come through it stronger in spite of those challenges. We now number nearly 6,000 across the globe. Organized play is booming, and opportunities abound. We stand just a few short months from our largest event ever, excited for the opportunity and ready for the challenge.
Specific to my “sphere” of the program, here’s an abbreviated list of what I’ve worked on this year. These efforts have been especially meaningful to me personally, and often challenging to accomplish. In all of this, there’s a common refrain: “If you’re doing it alone, you’re doing it wrong.” None of these efforts were achieved by me alone. Every single one involved a team of one sort or another. That’s not coincidence and it’s not just because I like collaborating toward a common goal. It’s because it works.
1. Magic Judge Code and Judge Conduct Committee
The Code‘s been published and revised. The Committee’s blog exists, and its members are ready to begin their work. The Administrative Guide for the Committee was also finalized. If you’ve wondered how you’ll know the Judge Conduct Committee is doing its job, a brief quarterly report similar to what you see in the next two items below is part of how we’ll communicate on those activities.
We created the Magic Judge feedback form, and started using it to make a difference. We’ve received just over two dozen meaningful responses to date. The vast majority messages are positive recognition of judges doing awesome things at events and in their communities. Most others are minor diplomacy issues or other concerns informally addressed with RCs.
3. Regional Coordinators Did Some Heavy Lifting
The Regional Coordinators group handled more than two dozen cases of potential misconduct by judges. These resulted in just over a dozen judges decertified, and a handful each of suspensions 3-6 months in length, warnings and/or serious RC talks, and “no action” decisions.
The Regional Coordinators list workload related to managing misconduct accounted for more than 1,100 messages in the year. Specific case threads included as many as 100 messages, with many more threads devoted to managing the process itself. This is the workload we’re looking to simplify and alleviate with the new Committee.
4. Unsporting Conduct Got a “Major” Revision
If you didn’t catch this change but you’re reading this now, you’re in a very strange little slice of this world. Our update to UC-Major had significant visibility and discussion in the larger community, framing a larger discussion of how we shape the environment of Magic events. This was a huge step in the direction of ensuring welcoming, safe play experiences for all Magic players.
5. This blog kept going!
And I’m glad you’re here to read it. Reddit got a little upset with me at times, but there were also good discussions to lurk through there, too. I’m never ever mentioning GamerGate again. Oh, wait, I just did. Damn. SJW moderator shields up!
Stay tuned in 2015. Change is a constant in all things, but the degree of change for the year to come should be (at least) an order of magnitude smaller (both for me personally and the program at large). We can do better in many respects, of course. And we will. Communication around investigations will get better. Expect more content on the stress and conflict management side of things, too. It’s not all about changing policy at every turn. Sometimes the best change comes from an honest, direct discussion. I’ll look forward to those.
Thanks for reading. Until next time, be excellent to each other.