May 22, 2017

Spotlight: EvE-Scout Rescue Team

In early YC118, (former) Signal Cartel member Forcha Alendare had an idea: What if we sowed caches of probes and launchers in wormholes to help out any pilot who got stranded and was able to use them to probe their way out? Although we recognized that there are limited circumstances in which one might lose probes, it DOES happen. And many folks carry mobile depots so refitting is often possible. We thought it was a grand idea even if it could only serve a few. To those few, it would matter!

Thus the EvE-Scout Rescue Cache (ESRC) program was born.

But RL and other interests pulled Forcha away and the program languished. Until the dynamo that is Thrice Hapus proposed to Johnny Splunk and myself that he take over and manage it. He appeared to have good ideas, a great love for the ideals of the ESRC, and a very clear understanding of our Credo (which must factor into everything our members do).

You never really know what to expect when someone volunteers like this. Will they stay the course or fizzle out after a couple of weeks? Will they make changes for the better or just make a mess? Will they build successfully on the core idea or do a 180 to the original vision? It's always a risk but Johnny and I like to give our entrepreneurial thinkers the chance to shine. So we handed him the keys to the program and stepped out of the way.

That was around November of last year. Since then, the program has grown into a division within Signal Cartel called EvE-Scout Rescue which includes both the Rescue Cache program and the Search and Rescue (SAR) program. Thrice has recruited a great team of Signaleers to assist him, including:
Thrice and his talented team have made great strides in an amazingly short time:
  • Created theEvE-Scout Rescue web site
  • Developed easy to use search and data entry tools for those who sow, tend, and assist others to use our Rescue Caches
  • Developed a robust guide and "cheat sheet" for sowing and tending rescue caches and serving stranded pilots who need them
  • Organized a payout strategy so that those who serve the rescue cache or SAR programs are compensated
  • Brought to life an AI "co-pilot" named Allison who provides verbal and written Rescue Cache info and other helpful system info to our pilots as they move about space, as well as witty banter (not gonna lie, I think Allison is the best thing since sliced bread; she is an amusing and helpful companion)
  • Conducted regular Rescue Cache training fleets
  • Organized two very successful Great Cache Drive competitions
  • An awesome 2+ minute dramatized rescue reenactment trailer for the ESR program that (according to CCP Mimic) will air for the first time in the 15 minutes prior to this Sunday's o7 Show (and available on YouTube afterwards). 
But perhaps the most amazing accomplishment is that we now have Rescue Caches in over 40% of wormholes. That's 1066 active caches at the time of this writing, with new ones being sown and existing ones being tended every day. The ESR program provides a fantastic way for even our newest pilots to be part of something bigger than themselves--and earn ISK for doing it. As the icing on the cake, we have 17 confirmed rescues so far, as well as many contacts from stranded pilots that don't end in a rescue by us (typically because they either choose to self-destruct before we can find them or locals show them the way out to k-space).

I think it's safe to say that Thrice took those keys we handed him and has exceeded and continues to exceed our expectations. Given the energy and creativity of the ESR team, I can only imagine what is to come. So a big shoutout to Thrice and everyone on the ESR team for their dedication and hard work in service to our mission and we like to say, you #cantstopthesignal!

Mar 26, 2017

CEO Rant: Impounded Items

I'm kind of a bad CEO. I haven't looked at Corporation Assets in forever but for whatever reason I checked them last night. And noticed that we had impounded assets in what looked like a couple hundred or so stations. What!? Seems I had forgotten that assets of biomassed characters convey to their (player) corp, and quite a few former members had terminated their characters.

Now, most of the stuff was not worth the effort to travel to get it or pay a courier, and some was inaccessible anyway. So I trashed a lot of it. But there were some goodies in there...7 Geckos in one station, some spendy implants and ships in a couple of others, lots of T2 gear in others. So, I thought...okay, I'll go on a wander and get it all out of Impounds, contract it to a hauler alt, and get it rounded up to put to use for the corp.

Only...I didn't know how to get the impounded stuff released and it was COMPLETELY non-obvious from within the Corporation window or Impounds tab. No useful helpful context menu choices. Hmmm.

So I Googled "EVE Online corp assets impounded" and the first hit was a handy support article from CCP, which starts off with:
A corporation may find some of its assets to be "Impounded" inside stations, which CEOs and Directors may release through paying a fee that equals 50% of the current rental price for offices in the respective station.
The article then goes on to explain events that cause items to be impounded plus some industry-related issues, and ends with:
Should a corporation have re-rented an office in a station where it has impounded items, those can be delivered into the corporation hangar without additional fees.
Okaaay. I review the list of items left in the nearest station six jumps away and think, well, I'll just go there and figure this out. So I fly over, dock up and look again at my Corporation window Impounds tab. Nothing new there. Hmmm. I read the support article again. I'm sure not gonna rent an office here to get the stuff, but hey, might as well check what the rents are here. So I click on Offices in the Station Services panel and ... oh...



Now, I've been playing EVE for 10 years and should be used to this kind of thing. But apparently, all the QoL improvements made to the game in the last couple of years have ruined my "old days" EVE UI instincts. These days, I'm just annoyed when things that should take a minute take an hour due to lack of information or non-intuitive design. A simple change to the support article I linked earlier would have saved me that hour:
A corporation may find some of its assets to be "Impounded" inside stations. Using the Release Items button in the Station Services window's Offices tab, CEOs and Directors may release impounded assets by paying a fee equal to 50% of the current rental price for offices in the respective station. 
Sigh, heavy sigh. Now off I go to the next of 35 stations where there are assets impounded of sufficient value to hopefully be worth the trip. Gee, if only there were a MultiRelease button in the Corporation Impounds tab that listed all stations with impounded assets, their estimated value, cost to release, single station Release Items buttons, and one great big Release All button. Hey...a girl can dream, can't she?

Mar 16, 2017

Catching Up and Rebooting

This has been one seriously neglected blog. It's not like there haven't been things to talk about related to my EVE Online activities. It's simply that in the crush of the day to day, I either didn't have time, energy, or motivation. And to be fair, this blog has never enjoyed much in the way of engagement from its few readers so posting often felt like shouting into an echo chamber.

But lately, I find myself wanting to muse more about Signal Cartel, the things our amazing members do, the challenges of leadership in a corp like ours, and my own EVE-related fan art, among other things. Although podcasts and Twitch streaming seem to have trumped blogs in recent times, I still prefer a blog for my own blatherings.

Catching Up

Since my last post, EVE Vegas 2016 came and went and was awesome! Johnny Splunk and I gave our talk "Cultivating a Counter-Culture in New Eden" which was very well received.

In mid-November, the Ascension expansion brought Alpha Clones to New Eden. In anticipation, we ramped up on T1 fitted exploration frigates and new player welcome packages. As expected, we had a huge influx of new members. Our Alliance chat and forums were crazy busy helping new players get a good start in EVE. I wrote "Alpha Positive" for Imperium News to share our own and other new player friendly corps' experiences as a result of Ascension.

On January 20, 2017, Signal Cartel turned two years old. It has been quite an experience watching our little idea bloom and see our culture evolve and mature. I am constantly amazed and delighted by the interesting, smart, engaging, dedicated folks we are fortunate enough to attract to our ranks. To-date, we've received over 3,600 applications from those wishing to join us, with an average of 600-700 members at any given time (I rigorously remove 60+ day inactives in support of our desire that membership count should at least roughly reflect how many members actively log in and play). Our lean management and relatively unstructured organizational style have worked very well so far, both from a security and a "demands on leadership" perspective. Most surprising has been how well our Credo has held up after all this time, with relatively little change.


I'm calling this a reboot but it's still my same old EVE blog. I'm just focusing my content going forward:

  • Signaleer Spotlight. Our folks have come up with some great programs to serve the community, such as the EvE-Scout Rescue Cache program, Signal Converter program, Johnny Splunk's amazing Twitch stream The Life Galactic, and more. Besides that, the stories of their encounters with other players are often delightful, with amusing or unexpected outcomes. I aim to give these things more public attention here.
  • Wanderings Illustrated. I started something like this before using the hashtag #podjournal; you can find those posts in the archive. Then the puppy LITERALLY chewed up my work and I stopped. But as an artist who is addicted to sketchbooking in real life, I am itching to create another illustrated journal of my wanderings, written in-character.
  • EVE Portraits. I'm going to start accepting character portrait commissions again on a limited basis but haven't decided on how to structure that nor how much to charge. Stay tuned for those details. Meanwhile, I'm going to do a narrated speed painting of the portrait for Illectroculus Defined. His commissioned portrait has lingered in my queue since last year. I got a good start on it, then things went wobbly and I trashed it, intending to start over. Then life got super busy with a book illustration project that went on forever and Signal consumed all the time I was able to allot to EVE. But things are calmer now, so I am ready to revisit this portrait and produce the video of its creation as a bit of a thank you to Illectro for his legendary patience. 
  • Leadership Musings. My co-leader Johnny Splunk and I spend a considerable amount of time discussing various questions and challenges related to Signal Cartel organization, policies, security, programs, culture cultivation, serving our players well, managing reputation in New Eden, and more. In the interest of inspiring or helping those contemplating or involved in their own leadership adventures in New Eden, I will share some of our insights  and lessons learned here.
  • In-Character Fiction. I love writing this stuff, spinning out the history and stories of Mynxee's life in character, in game.
  • Just EVE Things. This is a grab bag category for thoughts and opinions about game changes, community related stuff, or whatever I want to talk about that doesn't quite fit anywhere else.
  • Real Life. Because sometimes it's fun to get to know the person behind the avatar a little better.
My new goal is to post at least twice a month. And as part of the reboot, I've tweaked font size and color in posts for better readability and updated the sidebar with links related to Signal Cartel stuff.

So that's that for now, I hope you'll share your thoughts on upcoming posts and add a link to this blog on your own EVE media site.

Edited on 3/26/2017 to add In-Character Fiction to the content list above. How could I have forgotten it before?!

Aug 30, 2016

Our EVE Vegas Talk: What Say You?

A few months back, Johnny Splunk and I submitted a proposal for a player talk at EVE Vegas 2016 on "Cultivating a Counter-Culture in New Eden." To our delight (read: terror), we have been granted a speaker's slot. Our plan is to (hopefully humorously) share how Signal Cartel grew from a crazy idea to what it is today, our impact in New Eden, and the factors that have contributed to our success so far. We hope that our talk will inspire others to think outside the box and decide to run with their own crazy ideas in the sandbox.

Prior to submitting our proposal, we started collecting our thoughts and ideas for talk topics and key points in a Google doc. Over the last few weeks, that doc has fleshed out we begin the process of fine-tuning that rambling mess into a something that will be engaging, interesting, and perhaps even useful to those who attend our talk.

That is proving to be an interesting challenge--a lot has happened in the 20 months since Signal Cartel launched! However, two things stand out as I look back:

  • Our foundation is rock-solid. All the decisions we made prior to launch about the corp mission, desired culture, credo, and policies continue to serve us well. Of course, we have tweaked things here and there as incidents or discussions have organically revealed a need to do so. But our vision remains steadfast and continues to guide our hand as corp founders and custodians of the credo. We hope to include in our talk some specifics about what our day-to-day in that role involves and why things have worked so smoothly since the start. 
  • Human behavior is the most fascinating game of all. The way our own members and others navigate and respond to the challenges and benefits of our credo, culture, and reputation is always interesting. The loyalty and commitment of Signaleers in service to our ideals is a constant delight. The reach of our reputation and the completely unexpected interactions we get from outsiders continues to surprise us. The creative ways that Signaleers find to engage in nearly all activities in New Eden and remain within the bounds of the Credo is a treat. We have many fun anecdotes about these things to share in our talk. I hope our audience will be as entertained, delighted, and surprised by them as we have been.

We've gotten a lot of feedback from our own members but we'd also love to include perspectives (whether positive or negative) from other capsuleers in our talk. So, what say you, pilots? What's your take on our play style? Your opinion of our credo? Your expectation when you see one of us in Local or on d-scan? Our impact on your activities in New Eden? What surprising or notable interactions have you had with our Signaleers?

We would greatly appreciate any thoughts, opinions, stories, or chat logs related to Signal Cartel or EvE-Scout...and do let us know if it's okay for us to identify you or whether you'd prefer to remain anonymous. Send feedback to myself or Johnny Splunk via evemail, or email them to me via

May 3, 2016

Get the Balance Right

I commented on Twitter a week or so ago that it felt like so much EVE stuff was going on in the META, it was impossible to keep up. The null sec war, Fanfest, the endless churn of topics on Twitter and r/eve, the Citadels expansion, CSM stuff, the blogs, the news sites, the podcasts, the videos, the books, and on and on. Then there's all the considerable stuff going on in my own alliance...leadership discussions, member initiatives, processing recruits in and departing members out, ops, questions, AFK notices, great stories about experiences, and more.

It's a seductive avalanche of activity, discussion, and engagement. It's so easy to get sucked in and lost amidst the crush and swirl, feeling like you have to keep tuning in to stay afloat, knowing its probably a losing battle, and wondering all the while how EVE has come to dominate every spare moment of your life.

It struck me a few weeks ago that the balance between RL and EVE was getting out of whack. This probably happens to every long-time, engaged EVE player. I went to bed thinking about EVE stuff, woke up thinking about it, checked Reddit and Twitter obsessively every chance I got, got a little twitchy if I didn't log in every day, felt a weird sense of obligation to have an opinion on everything and be in the know about all the stuff going on. You probably know what I'm talking about if you've been in EVE for more than five minutes.

Problem is, my time for EVE is limited. Real life is busy and full of interesting stuff needing doing that has nothing to do with gaming or even computers. And yet, I wasn't getting those things done because I was letting EVE steal so much time and mental energy. In analyzing my habits, I figured out that it wasn't EVE itself that was responsible, it was the META--all those addictive channels of engagement outside the game--that was the issue.

So, I decided to dial my engagement in the META way the hell down. Turned off retweets for everyone I followed on Twitter. Stopped Tweeting as much. Unfollowed a bunch of people who added nothing of value to my newsfeed. Stopped looking at Twitter and r/eve every 15 minutes. Stopped feeling obligated to comment on every post in my corp subreddit. Read few to no blogs or news sites on an ongoing basis.

It was tough at first...all those things are highly addicting. But having gained some distance from the META is freeing. There's suddenly more time for what's really important to me in EVE, which is Signal Cartel. In the bargain, the balance with real life obligations has gotten more manageable too.

Cutting back on the META also made me realize that I don't really care all that much about what is going on outside the game. Causes, movements, tirades, witch hunts...not important to me. I log in, I play the game. I focus on my corp responsibilities, fly my ships, join ops when I can, and enjoy bantering with my corpmates and friends in-game. That's enough. EVE is relaxing again, as a recreational activity is meant to be.

None of which is to say that the META is a bad thing. It's just an overwhelming thing. Don't get me wrong. I like being connected to the META, but more and more I prefer to keep it at arm's length. "Get the Balance Right", as an old Depeche Mode song goes. When it comes to EVE, that's always a challenge. Doing it successfully requires a measure of personal discipline and occasionally a good hard chop through the weeds with a sharp axe.

Mar 19, 2016

Ahhhh, Diplomacy...You Make Me Smile

Diplomatic communications is one of a CEO's jobs, maybe the most important job when it comes to a corp like Signal Cartel with our unusual but remarkably widely-known Credo. Those communications can range from the more serious to the more light-hearted. The more serious kind is preferred when responding to inquiries from Providence residents complaining about a Signaleer aggressing someone there, or a worried pilot familiar with our PvP policies who wonders why a Signaleer has combat probes out, or accusations that our EvE-Scout scouts are behaving in questionable ways. Serious diplomatic communications typically need a delicate touch and demand timely, earnest, and respectful responses. 

Although "serious diplomacy" is the most common kind, I sometimes get a chance to have some fun with diplomatic outreach. For example, yesterday, I saw two reports--one from a Signaleer and one from someone else in our EvE-Scout public channel--about a null sec pilot who was posting Signal Cartel killmails in Local along with comments like "Signal Cartel PvP, nice". 

I was curious about this pilot's intent. I'll admit, I had some unfounded preconceived notions about him that weren't necessarily, shall we say, "generous" in spirit. But experience has taught me that in unsure situations, it's almost always better to take a diplomatic tack with a little humor and maybe self-deprecation mixed in rather than letting one's uninformed and probably wrong preconceived notions drive the message. With that in mind, I sent him a mail: 
Subject: Your Pleasantries in Local 
Sent: 2016.03.19 05:42
To: [redacted] 
Hi there, 
I've had word that you've been sharing pleasantries in Local about Signal Cartel PVP, along with linking killmails on which our members appear (for example, this one).  
I admit I'm curious about your intentions.  
Did you notice that I annotate every killmail after its inquiry is complete? Yes...I personally conduct an inquiry of every killmail our members appear on and document the outcome on the killmail. Thank Bob we don't have as many kills as we do losses or I might have had a nervous breakdown by now. But otoh we are at least doing our part to keep the Astero market afloat! 
Anyway, that mail you linked was a perfect example of the timing weirdness in the API that lumps everyone onto the same killmail if they had a same-system aggression timer within a few minutes of an aggressed pilot being killed. In the case of this killmail, our Hugs Fleet rained snowballs and fireworks down upon Mail Lite with extreme prejudice in an effort to get him to smile. I mean, one smile in Local is worth 1,000 words, wouldn't you say? :P When he tickled us with missiles, we tickled him back with ECM in self-defense. Cue aggression timers. It was a separate engagement from the one in which FCON swooped in and killed him but the API said SAME! What does the stupid API know, I ask you?! 
I hope this information helps. Thank you for taking the time to speak with my Signaleers as they go about their business in the vast reaches of space. It can be so difficult to find a friendly face in Local. Please reach out to me if you want more info about our Credo...or if you find yourself with an irresistible urge to become one with the Hugs. 
Snowballs! Fireworks! Hugs!
I wondered what kind of response I'd get. Would it turn out to be an interesting interaction or would the typical EVE Online status quo apply? I smiled when I read the reply:
So...I've got to be honest.

I wasn't expecting my local-smack to go that far, however, it's nice and really refreshing to see you guys having fun and living by your own rules and to fight the meta of generating "dank killmails".

Your pilot also told me about your Hugs Fleet, but I was still curious afterwards if he's not hunting for FCON. However, we had a nice talk and he vanished quickly after that. So please bear with me, as it's kind of frightening sitting in an really expensive ship (at least for me) and have a neutral in local. :)

Thanks for the enlightenment, I will keep that letter in mind next time I investigate the killboard of your members! :)

Have a nice day, Mynxee!
What a delightful response--made better because it wasn't what I was expecting! I may never meet this pilot nor hear from him again but I'm betting he has a much different (and better) impression of Signal Cartel than he did before I reached out. If nine years in New Eden have taught me anything, it is that you never know where your friends and supporters will come from down the road and that capsuleers have very long memories. Someone else might have tried to use this situation to harvest tears, intimidate, or insult that fellow. 

But our Credo shows us a different way...a way of building bridges with words rather than burning them with careless, unkind, or mean-spirited communications. Doing an unexpectedly positive thing and getting a surprised and positive response is enormously satisfying in the cold, harsh environment of New Eden. May the ripples spread ever outward.

Feb 6, 2016

EVE Roleplay: Dipped Toe, News Mention, Fun Experience!

tl;dr Roleplaying is an under-appreciated form of gameplay but can be fun, is flexible enough to suit personal preferences, and might just result in cool things happening. It got my corp an official World News mention. This post shares our experience for the benefit of others who might be curious about incorporating roleplaying into their game play.


Note: A version of this post was originally published on r/eve and is cross-posted here for the sake of posterity.

Over the last year, I became very interested in New Eden lore because of Thera and the Drifters story arc. In exploring the lore, I got addicted to the Hydrostatic EVE podcast (thanks, Ashterothi and Phyridean and all your Lore Panel regulars!) and became friends with a few folks who are lore specialists as well as roleplayers, among them Makoto Priano. Mak has graciously served as a lore and RP mentor of sorts, even presenting an excellent Research, Lore, and Roleplay Q&A session for my corp last year.

The upshot is that many in Signal Cartel, including the leadership team, have become quite tuned into lore and some of us have begun to dip our toes into roleplay. So when the Upwell Consortium research race began, the leadership team saw it as a potential opportunity to do a little corp-level roleplaying although we weren't quite sure of how to approach it.

Then OSS attacked Upwell's prototype citadel sites and that gave us an idea. As a serious competitor in their research race, why should we trust Upwell with all these valuable Research Components when their site and supply chain data security seemed to be so poorly managed? Why not hang on to the RCs and encourage other concerned capsuleers to entrust their components to us until our concerns were addressed? Why not conduct our own PLEX giveaway as a way of rewarding those capsuleers' trust and giving them another way to profit from their RC inventory? (And yes, what a perfect way to encourage outsiders to assist us in amassing Research Components!) Thus, our first roleplayed message to Upwell's agent and a related Press Release on the matter.

We crossed our fingers and hoped that Upwell would do something to mitigate our concerns so that our RC inventory could still be applied to the research race...although there was a bit of hand-wringing discussion about what we'd do if they didn't. We did kind of worrisomely wonder what we might have gotten ourselves into, but nothing ventured, nothing gained! And we figured if there was no response, we could just RP our way out of that. I think if we had thought too much about potential consequences up front, it might have stopped us in our tracks so I'm glad we didn't. But we are sensitized for next time because as Upwell's response to OSS' destruction of the prototype citadels demonstrates, things don't always go the way you expect. CCP Affinity, CCP Falcon, and others who are behind the story arcs like to play hardball (which is awesome, imho)!

Anyway, the first thing Upwell did was secure the prototype citadel sites so that capsuleers couldn't shoot at them--a fact confirmed by a couple of our pilots. That was a promising move to mitigate our expressed concerns. Then they [held a press conference]( where their agent Lee Brinalle addressed specific concerns and rival capsuleer RC acquisition programs (e.g., ours):

Asked to comment on rival capsuleer component acquisition programs, such as that being operated by the well-known surveying outfit Signal Cartel, Lee Brinalle urged co-operation with Upwell. "I would like to say to those with concerns as to the security of the prototype sites that we have addressed the previous vulnerabilities and it is a major concern that large numbers of research components may not be released for use in our efforts. The Upwell Department of Friendship and Mutual Assistance is monitoring the situation and we hope that our capsuleer friends will see the benefits of placing any recovered components under our control."

I won't lie, we were giddy here at Signal upon seeing our corp mentioned! After discussing Ms. Brinalle's statements, leadership decided that we could feasibly roleplay that our concerns had been addressed and that there were good reasons for us to not continue withholding Research Components from Upwell. And that continuing with our alternative RC deposit service made sense because it simply gives capsuleers another opportunity to profit from their own inventory of RCs. So we issued another Press Release to address all that.

Fortunately all of this RP stuff meshed very nicely with our desire to be competitive in Upwell's research race. It was fun for our members to see it roll out, too, since they knew nothing about it until our first Press Releases was in the wild. And now we are looking forward to seeing if our competitive efforts were enough to be a top contributor in Upwell's research race, which I guess we'll find out next week. However that turns out, we are seriously enjoying the ride.

Again, thanks to Mak and other roleplayers and lore geniuses who have answered our questions and served as fine examples to follow! While we are noobs at doing this kind of thing, it is fun. The thought, planning, and creativity required to engage in the game at that level of immersion is remarkably satisfying--not least of which when it is acknowledged from the NPC side of things as in this circumstance! In any event, I'm certain there will be more dipping of our toes into the RP side of the game in the future.