With any change to an existing system, your opinion on it tends to fall in any one of three categories. Either you like it, you don't, or you don't know or care enough about it to be anything but neutral.
Usually, the changes made to a system are made for the better, at least in the long run. So it shouldn't surprise you that many, if not all people fall into the "agree" category when asked about their opinion. But they're not always asked.
It is in fact the reverse, and it is everywhere. Turn on the news, watch the coverage of a story on how your country is doing certain things different from now on, and then wait till they get to interview some people in the crowd that have a strong opinion about it. They were against it, weren't they?
Funny isn't it? By far the most vocal group of people are almost always the ones who are against certain changes? I'm barely resisting the urge here to make a joke about the difference between protesters and contesters, but why are the "I agree" people so silent? Are they that complacent?
Well, partly. First of all, the pro-something people tend to rally only when the policy makers still have to decide whether or not to address an issue, and the con-something people will rally when the course has been laid in. The second cause is, in most cases, a lack of platform.
The Healthcare Reform debate in the United States is a prime example, as it dominated the news for long enough. For years it needed change, and people petitioned, protested, rallied and argued until finally someone (President Obama in this case) said "let's do it". And from that moment on the pro group got complacent, and the con group became vocal one and started petitioning, protesting, rallying and arguing.
Believe it or not, it is exactly the same in RuneScape.
The debate on the requirement of the Fire Cape to slay some Ice Strykewyrms is a recent example. It couldn't have overloaded the forums faster then any other DDoS attack, even though for years people have been requesting some awesome high-requirement slayer monsters.
And when the massive amount of single-post threads flooded the forum (I lost a 40 page, 3 month old thread that day), they completely drowned out any rational constructive arguments, both pro and con. Quality lost to quantity that day, and changes were made the very next month without a proper representative consultation.
This is where platform failed miserably in conjunction with complacency. I'm quite sure there we're at least as many people who liked needing the Fire Cape. And since they saw nothing wrong with the update, they did not see the need to head down to the forums and defend their opinion on the matter. And the handful of people that DID attempt to properly argue for the update got drowned out.
What was wrong with running a poll on the subject for a week or two? It is well within the capabilities of Jagex. They could even have the Slayer Masters tell players in-game about the poll, just to get the right audience.
But no. However uncharacteristic and however so slightly, Jagex did bow to the loud side and now you can replace the Fire Cape requirement with 2000 Slayer Points.
But then I still do not get the decision making process. By now a lot more people have expressed their concern about the PVP Statue-infused inflation (a problem recognized by Jagex) than there ever had complained about the Fire Cape issue. More than that, ample sensible ideas have been presented to them over time to finally have decided on a course of action.
But I digress.
Recently in an interview with massively.com (link), Jagex has talked about how it is simply impossible to listen to everyone. Apparently, even polls don't do it for them. And while the article was a good three pages long, I did not find anything that would settle my nerve on this. The solutions offered still required you to log on and seek out what was going on.
Comparing this problem with some solutions in the real world, it is easy to come up with a few random ideas. In the real world you have newspapers, news sites and television through which people can inform themselves on what is going on. In the real world, people have proper representation, so you don't need a referendum or poll on everything. And in the real world, you have special interest groups for just about everything that have the ability to influence said representation.
Now, if you translate this back to RuneScape, you come up with a few basic ideas.
To inform people on what is going to happen is easy, but I doubt enough people are alive to remember it. The "Behind the Scenes" was a monthly issue in which Jagex announced the upcoming updates for that month, so people could prepare themselves in game by buying some materials in advance (the markets will like this). On top of that, the Future Updates forum was a place of debate, rather then speculation.
Special interest groups in RuneScape already exist. They are called clans and communities and consist of mostly like-minded people. The benefit that these clans have, is that if one person in such a clan learns of something that could affect their main activity, it does not take a week to inform everyone else. Votes are clearly influenced by clans, and as you can tell, rightly so.
So the only really 'new' idea is representation. I've talked about it in the past, but never worked out the idea for you. So here goes.
Imagine a new type of Jagex rank, the bronze crown, just as visible as the gold. The people with this rank would be a selection of not only high level players (such a private forum already exists), but also clan leaders, active forum posters (both fansite and official), and other public figures. With a little more scrutiny then P-mods, they would be hand picked by Jagex from both F2P and P2P, and you'd need around 500 of these.
These 500 bronze crowns have their own forum section that only they and the J-mods themselves can post in, but it would be visible to everyone. And in it they would discuss future and recent updates, how those have, or have had an impact, and finally if and how it needs a change, basing their suggestions on what they've seen around the communities. Next to the polling, it would be a perfect way for Jagex to take the temperature of the RuneScape population on what they want, without having to sift through thousands of threads.
So will this solve the problem of quality being drowned out by quantity? It does, but the risk is that it will overshoot its purpose. Having a group of people discuss ideas on what change to a certain system is needed may in fact be brilliant, but lack popular support. To name one example; Trouble Brewing is a brilliant game, but only a handful of people actually bother to play it.
But what about the problem that players feel like a number in the crowd? There is no solution for this, other then to somehow reduce the crowd.
Of course, Jagex is not going to cut away a portion of their customers. So despite all of the efforts on their side, it is us, the average Joe Pack Yak, that has to accept sometimes not being heard, no matter the effort put into it (riotting and ranting does not help). Odd enough, this adds another use for clans to last weeks article. Joining a group of like-minded people, or even starting one, is the perfect way to make yourself heard, even though your original ideas may become slightly diluted.
So the solution for us players is to become the crowd. And when your ideas are popular enough, your particular crowd will grow in size and soon enough you'll attract the attention of the right people. And if not, perhaps your ideas need more work?