Although a new member of the CPA community I am, as you certainly noticed through the threads and article responses, very interested in the discussions about the current state and evolution of the CPA as a group.
As stated before, my field of expertise is not the rules of Magic, or even Magic itself. I am a very casual player. I started collecting when Mirage was out and started playing on a regular basis only when Urza's Destiny came out.
I am however an older person, at the mere age of 28, certainly not the oldest but on of the few with enough experience in life to see the facts with more objectivity and less heat. I am also by profession a manager within a middle-sized company and graduated an MSC. in management. That is my field of expertise. The "turmoil" taking place the CPA is very common for any profitable and non-profitable organization.
My contribution to the CPA is to make an analysis of the CPA, giving insight on general organization structure explaining how it applies to the CPA and delivering conclusions.
The CPA started with a core of dedicated persons that were united by a common goal. A sudden increase in the number of people involved in the group with most of the newcomers not dedicated to the original mission statement creates a conflict of interests. I call it "Adolescence Crisis."
Due to the size now attained, and with the potential of further growth, the CPA can be seen as an organization. Rules that apply to any organization also apply to the CPA. The focus of such an organization can only be maintained by having the following:
The mission describes the values and expectations of the members of the organization
Those terms are general and indicative of the group philosophy.
In terms of the CPA: being a group of free thinking, casual players that seek to defend the casual play in the Magic environment.
The mission is stated once and should not be changed unless the group is undergoing major changes
The goal is the statement of aim and purpose of the group. In case of the CPA: acquire members and unite them in an orderly fashion to create a counter balance and a recognized entity within the Magic community. Goals are long lasting, but should nevertheless be reassessed on a regular basis. Within a company, it's usually every 5 years.
Objectives are quantified goals: precise statements of what needs to be achieved and in which quatity. For the CPA: be heard by DCI and WOTC, maybe with an official dialog between these entities, have WOTC publish more casual and multiplayer orientated cards etc... The objectives, attained or not, should be reassessed on a regular basis, in normal organization usually on a yearly basis. For the CPA probably on an Expansion schedule basis, so every 4 month or so.
In order to achieve the goal and objectives, the following elements are necessary:
Determination of how a certain objective will be attained. Broad category of types of actions to achieve objectives. In the CPA case, creating the website and message boards etc...
Describes the individual steps necessary to implement a strategy. In the case of the website: determining the different topic headings within the message board, writing and publishing articles, etc...
Monitoring of the action steps. Yes, even within a voluntary, non profitables organization, some people need to monitor the action of others. A good example is Ed monitoring that the threads are in the right topics, etc...
Normally, individual accomplishing the taks assigned should be rewarded to increase commitment. In case of a non profitable organisation like the CPA, we can only pat on each other's shoulder. We have no way to physically reward individuals. Rewards for the whole group would be to be heard by WOTC and have them publish a CPA proposed card for example.
Now in the case of the early stages of the CPA, all those items were not necessary. The people founding the CPA issued the mission and goal statements. Because they all shared the same view, the objectives, strategies and action were evident and did not need to be stated.
With the coming of new member not sharing this, the CPA is drifting away from its goals and original mission statements. The CPA does not need to change its mission, but it is certainly time to re-evaluate the goals, strategies actions, and control.
There is currently a discrepency in the objectives and expectations of the CPA. This creates the folloing effects:
- complicates strategic planning
- creates different "political lobbies"
- renders the delegation of responsability and the decision making less effective (less important for the CPA).
I want to continue by trying to analyse the current state of the CPA.
There are currently 3 distinct groups within the CPA.
Those members are basically the players who joined the CPA at the very beginning, out of the belief that action is necessary. Those are the most commited members who give time and effort to keep the whole thing running.
Probably the biggest amount of newcomers recently. They joined the CPA because of their lack of statisfaction with other sites. The CPA is attractive to them because of its openness, the possibility to ask simple questions and to share their experience as a casual player.
A handfull of "pro" players also joined recently, mainly because some other famous site shut down recently. They might be attracted by the freshness of the boards, motivated by the need to help "younger" players and out of nostalgia of the times when they too, were only casual players.
Interaction between the groups activist/casual:
It was the goal of the activists in the first place to attract the casuals. As such some of their original goal has been attained. However the casuals per definition can be frustrating to the activists due to their lack of motivation. They however represent what the CPA stands for.
It is human nature to try to win and be the best. The casual is in most cases attracted by the knowledge of the pro and seeks its counsels. The pro is more than happy to help for its own gratification and might catch some new ideas.
Those two groups are theoretically opposits. However, most activists were probably former pros, not necessarily in playing pro tournaments but for the level of knowledge. The pro can be an ally to the activist.
Population ratio between the groups (out of what I could see within the boards):
25 %65 %10%
Effort to support the CPA mission (in % of the actual population):
Effort to support the CPA activities (like supporting the board etc):
It is then easy to understand the frustration of original members and activists, as a few support the many without much gratification.
The current state is that the majority of members tend to be passive as compared to the small group of activists. Right now the activists still "run the show." If the activist are to reaffirm their grip on the CPA in a forcefull way, the CPA will survive but might lose its causal players and as such the CPA will have failed its mission: to unite the casual players. If the casuals win with their passive influence, the activists might lose motivation. The CPA will die slowly but surely, as it is the activists that physically support the activities. If the pro attendance becomes too big, the casuals will dissappear and the activists might dissolve the site or create a schism.
In each case if there is struggle between the groups and one become dominant to the others, the CPA is doomed.
How to avoid the risks
The mission of the CPA is to unite the casual players. As in every groups, some are active but most passive. Within the actual CPA, only the interaction between the activist and casual groups is important. The pros are a valuable asset, the cherry on the cake, but not necessary to fulfill the CPA's goal.
The activists must accept the casuals lack of motivation. This is the basis of any non-profit organization. A few sacrifice for the greater good of unthankful many. What the CPA is lacking however, is a strategy, concrete objectives, and delegation of the tasks. Those must be defined in order to create a synergy between the activists and the casual. The activists can only have power toward the outside if they have a pool of casual. The casuals give them the power of representation, which is the goal of the CPA.
Because of its growing size and the different movements within it, the CPA can be more and more compared with a political body. It is then easy to look around at the real life on how flocks of sheep (we) can actually be organized and wield power(democracy anybody?).
Of course, because of the structure and size of the CPA, we do not need a body of elected representatives, direct elcetion can take place. Some position are automatically granted, Ed is the Web Guy, some other founders have enough authorization to move threads and so on... If the CPA becomes bigger, big enough to hold meetings or causal play activities, there will have to be organizers, coordinators and so on. All this will take place automatically as people will volunteer for the spot and job to be done.
What need to be voted on is the position of the CPA on certain issues: rulings, bannings, new sets... Whatever might influence casual and multiplayer play.
Structure & Efficiency
In order to be efficient a certain structure and rules must be applied to the CPA. There might be a thread with 200 postings on one subject. What does it bring in the end if there is no summarizing conclusion???
Issues should be discussed and voted on.
I would not pretend to say I have the perfect solution, but here is what I would propose:
Do not change anything about existing aspects of the CPA: it is great to have a casual place to speak.
Become more effective and IMPLEMENT an efficient discussion and voting system for Magic-related issues. Once a vote take place, the CPA can issue official statements of its position and wield an active power instead of having the hope that WotC and DCI might look in and by themselves decide to change.
How to implement an effiicient system:
New topics should be created for the important issues. This might be the intent the Voting and CPA issues topics at the beginning, but they are not like this anymore.
Subjects to be discussed on should be posted and open for discussion with a time limit. One week or two. Maybe more for very important issues. Once the discussion is closed, an objective person should summarise the different views and subject them to vote in the voting section. The vote should be delimited to a handful of choices and the voting restricted to those choices. Opinions can only be given during the discussion period. The voting should also have a time limit of max one week. After the vote has taken place, the results are announced and published in an official statement rubric. If neccessary, the statement can be forwarded to other sites or to the corresponding body and entity.
I am certain that such a structure would respect the democracy principles of the CPA while helping fulfilling its mission, giving it the power of representation and as such a certain recognition.
Of course many smaller details would need to be resolved, but it is vital for the CPA to have a structure, objective and activities to support its mission.
If not it will wither and die.
I am open to any question concerning organization or structure definition, if you think I can be some help.
Thank you for reading.