The dynamic between core staff, volunteer staff, and the community can at times be pure quality dArama.
It's worth noting that for years I've worked pretty hard to remain neutral on community politics. Today, I'm going to shatter that concept.
Needless to say, I am extremely politically aware of the inner workings of the deviantART community. I read *a lot* of journals, comments, forums, chat rooms. I have fake accounts. I spy.
But I don't spend my time talking politics, instead I focus internally at deviantART designing technologies and implementing understandings with core staff to address the issues I see pop up.
It's time to take a moment to be a bit more petty.
In the inner workings of our politics exists the soul of deviantART. What is this place? What was it meant to do? What does it do? What could we do better? And it's the politics that give insight into how well the greater plan is running.
There's $core staff who are employees or contractors and work 8+ hours per day. And there are teams of volunteers in artist relations and community development doing various fun to tedious things to support specific sections of the site - like galleries or chat rooms. Honestly I have far fewer direct interactions with the volunteer staff than I should. I have guilt over that, but my time is insanely structured so I do my best. I spend a lot of time with much of the core staff, that has recently reached 60 people and growing. Did you know that core deviantART staff was made up of 60 people? You're already learning things. Keep reading.
And then there are some fascinating people who fit outside this "box." mikeylove and ekud come to mind. Note that both have staff-like symbols, and aren't really core staff or volunteer staff. They're just old school staff and they have privs that they can use to do stuff when they feel like it just like volunteers can except without real oversight. Volunteers have volunteer leads that they talk to, and if volunteers want to help out with things that require some extra access they get the extra access. They use features that all community members have (like journals or news) to post contests that are officially supported by deviantART with prizes and things. But ekud doesn't do any of this. He simply posts daily deviations.
This capability is a dream held by many deviants. Posting a Daily Deviation has the ability to direct a solid surge of traffic to a deviation, and therefore it is a very powerful privilege that many deviants seek to have, or influence.
I've heard it all.
Now, issues arise with staff all the time. If you think you're having a unique issue with a staff member, you're wrong. I've heard it all. Examples?
* One guy left staff, a bit later we got a note that he died of cancer. We had no idea he had cancer. It was one of the saddest days I can recall at deviantART. I sent out a hot topic to the community (to millions of people!) celebrating his life and who he was to us - a person we deeply cared about - it was a miserable day at deviantART. A year later? He informed us it was a joke.
* Some people have built up profiles at deviantART and have gathered a bit of fame and good faith with the community. They have then turned around and blackmailed me for stock or money, citing that they'll go tell the world I'm a terrible person just like some people have described in the past. My response? Enjoy hell.
* There was a guy that tried to kill me for a while. This turned out to be a good experience. I now have relationships with multiple members of the F.B.I. in various states, along with numerous relationships with various police agencies. Not to mention really great private detectives and a whole rolodex of lawyers. I own guns, I realize this is controversial. But when your life is in danger, the police tell you to buy guns. And lawyers tell you what to do in a situation where you have to use guns. I'm not kidding.
* Countless instances of scuffles between members. The lit community on fire over a gallery director, or political maneuvering to get someone on staff. The stories are countless. If you catch me at a devmeet sometime I'm happy to dish out all the exciting details if you ask, they're usually fun tales that are healing for me to tell as they were quite stressful to go through.
Never the less, there are lessons you learn over the years, like the fact that giving some people privs and different symbols sometimes completely demotivates the good behavior that "earned" them the new status. That's right. Sometimes giving someone staff privs creates an irreversible negative effect in that person, or worse sometimes they literally become ego maniacal crazies. You wouldn't believe.
There's some really bizarre stuff that happens in the inner political society of deviantART that has dumbfounded me from time to time.
But I'm here to tell you, I've heard it all. Yet it's virtually impossible to track everything that happens every day here at deviantART. There are well over 1.5 million comments of all kinds posted per day. Within that there are thousands upon thousands of comments that (believe it or not) are full of insightful, deeply political thoughts on our little society and those comments (specifically) represent a reflection of the status of the culture of deviantART.
I worry about this culture every day of my life.
Back to Ekud.
I haven't spoken to ekud for a while, so it may surprise him to find his mention here. HI EKUD!
ekud recently wrote a journal about daily deviations and his frustrations with them.
About three weeks later he had an altercation with an individual via notes where a work of art was suggested for a daily deviation feature and ekud nothing short of freaking puked on this person. Having reviewed this message, which was escalated to staff by the recipient; it was a pretty sharp, rude response. Of course the reaction by the recipient was crystal clear; they immediately escalated the matter to the help desk, complaining they were being harassed by a staff member. And since ekud doesn't have oversight from another staff member, it was escalated to me since I'm ultimately accountable.
It bothered me for days how ekud reacted to this person. I was convinced it must have been a n00b acting like a fool suggesting a masterpiece created in Microsoft Paint. So I went and I looked, and the person suggesting the DD feature has been active since 2004. Even has some pretty solid design skill if you look closely at her deviations.
It strikes me that this is either a complex matter, or an open shut case of a staff member being rude.
Now for a greater perspective, if you magnify the volume of issues like this by 10,000 you get some insight in to the massive challenge of operating this community in a fashion where everyone can say great things about interactions with staff all the time. Keeping in mind that we don't just do customer service here... we are the customers, and we talk to everyone inside staff or outside pretty candidly. This is an *awesome* differentiation between deviantART and virtually all other companies I can think of.
And just right there, that's where it all came together.
You see, deviantART isn't just an art community service for sharing and interacting with artists. deviantART is actually primarily focused on celebrating, empowering, nurturing and fostering the creative genius.
Lets talk about the side of the story that this person didn't bother to look in to before escalating the matter to staff. A mistake I *know* many of our members make.
ekud is a creative genius. He always has been. Like many of our naturally devious leaders from a variety of genres and all corners of the globe; in the inner mind of a creative genius sometimes lives a "moody little bitch" (to put it crudely) full of emotion and sensitivity. That's often times some of the juice that makes up a good artist!
ekud has stood out in this community since joining in June 2001. Having Co-Founded depthCORE (one of the most awesome art groups I've seen) ekud has exemplified walking the walk, talking the talk, living the joy and hardship of being a digital artist for life. His work is unquestionably top notch in his field.
Having the capacity to feature work is not a privilege that he has at deviantART. No no, see, the privilege is ours that he chooses to do this for us.
And along comes this person, with her bland suggestion for a daily deviation. Citing that it's a "must feature." Using a tool that's been created to virtually spam all people who have daily deviation posting capabilities and target those (in this instance) who feature Digital Art - cramming this suggestion down throats with a sense of entitlement as to the result. Completely not acknowledging WHOM the suggestion is being lunged at and certainly not taking in to account the integrity of the people with access to this very important and powerful function.
What is with this sense of entitlement?
You know damn well that this place isn't like all the rest. It isn't here to be another dumping ground. It's an asylum from the insanity out there, where for once, somewhere, some people decided to actually build a place with values and a direction towards a common goal of bettering one another no matter how big the place got to be. I know there's lots of people who put that in to question here, but that's part of the evolution of the place. And it's posts like this, and the very significant and truly important people who have the dedication to actually read a post this long that truly matter if we intend to change this. That's right, YOU. The reader of this highly political in depth post about the deviantART community. If you've made it this far, you are a very important person at deviantART. You have the capacity and the time to make a difference. And I very much would like for you to do so.
I want you to combat THIS:
Never mind who you are, ekud or what your history here is. Never mind the journal you just wrote addressing just this matter. Never mind what your values are, or the integrity with which you choose daily deviations and the pride that you put in to your career as an artist. Just cram this deviation in your queue and deal with me, deal with this, deal with it. Because here I am, another deviant with the capacity to send you a note and ask you for favors and aimlessly try to get my way.
Here's what ekud actually said in response to this sense of entitlement:
"Thats not a must feature, thats a second rate piece of amateur art, and your poor taste in conjunction with your ignorance in noting several admins will accomplish nothing more than having me ignore you henceforth."
Pissy? Sure. Right? From my perspective, in this greater context I bring to you?Absolutely. Absolutely. Say it again. Say it louder. Just as rudely, maybe even more so if that's what it takes to strikingly correct this dynamic.
I am right behind you, right there to echo this sentiment of frustration with the contradiction to what this place was designed to be, and the cultural misalignment that's occurring that infuriates those of us who know and believe in what being a deviant really means. So I suppose, ekud's response resonates with me, and I understand where he's coming from.
Look, ekud doesn't work for deviantART - he's an artist, he's a deviant, he's just like you. In fact the entirety of the community development teams and the majority of deviantART core staff are also from the community directly. Do you think we hire people from craigslist or something for these positions? These are people from the community, by the community. We are of the same cloth and we come together as equals. You aren't speaking to some corporate empire when you write to suggest deviations, or when you ask questions in the help desk. 100% of those contact points are represented by people who were not only members of the community but in fact long time members before they became staff!
You may take deviantART lightly, but we do not. Daily Deviation privileges, volunteer privileges, staff privileges, etc. are absolutely sacred. They come from a long line of what are now generations of different deviants who hold deviantART itself in the highest of regards and their fellow deviants as well. Each of us aims to improve and enhance our gifts as deviants by bettering our craft and our environment. We all aim. And we hold in high regard those who have aimed high and achieved.
To be truly effective here - in this place - you have to learn to Love. If you Love, if you truly seek depth of thought and depth of interaction with people who themselves are capable of such things you will find great empowerment here. Meeting people is a strategy for popularity that is effective at facebook or myspace. deviantART is a place where the most effective strategy for success is getting to know people. Getting to know someone is an act of Love.
"Love" is the most searched for word on deviantART. A lot of people don't know that.
We're very emotional people here. Quite expressive, too, if you've not noticed.
Know your audience.
Know how to make friends.
Know how to influence people.
Strive to achieve creative genius.
Respect those who have.