Dear @Slaz, @Fiona, @Malkazoid and @Nuno Moreiras...
While your discussion about the nature of downvote button is really good and inspiring, I should just remind you one thing. The main problem here isn't even downvoting abuse... It's the big ignorance of Narrative team about any problem with that...
If it even comes to changes, there will be some problems again. As long as Narrative team ignores these issues we will face lots of things like this. So maybe we should first ask them to hear members and then try to change!
We have a rule of ABC in emergency situations, you have to check Airway before Breathing before Circulation (blood circulation). So I think before talking about existence of downvote we should check that Airway (which is having someone care about members demands!)
The Team is aware of the importance of feedback. I think the problem is more in their workflow.
They spend 8+ hours together every day of the week, meeting and working in sync with each other, reinforcing their reality centred around a vision they haven't had much luxury to question or adapt since the Alpha began.
During that time, they've devoted some energy to interfacing with the Community through the Community Support site, and very occasionally, in platform comments - so they might feel that our assessment is too harsh. But the reality is, a live, face to face component to the Beta interaction phase, can build a bridge to the ivory tower of their command centre, making the issues more real inside their reality bubble.
They understand this in theory: they've designed the Committee as a bridge between the Narrative Company and the Community with regularly scheduled, live meetings. But that is far in the future of the roadmap. It will be formed after the Tribunal is elected, so probably no sooner than May 2020, 8 months from now. By then, they'll have completed 12 months of Alpha, and 12 months of Beta, for a total of 2 years of development, without ever speaking face to face with representatives of the Community.
So though they understand the importance of communication with the Community, they have severely underestimated the benefits of this for early development.
The roots of appreciation
Part of the problem is that human beings have less appreciation for things they do not pay for. They don't pay us, their Beta-testers, a salary for Beta-testing. When a company pays a real salary to have asses in seats evaluating their project, they tend to then want to milk every bit of information from them and make sure regularly scheduled interfacing takes place - in turn they benefit from the feedback being truly integrated into the vision and schedule of their project.
The same is true for software development when there is a valued outside client with drop-dead deadlines on a contract. This makes things real. The company servicing this contract knows:
a) if they miss deadlines, they will lose the client which can mean big losses to their bottom line, and perhaps bankruptcy
b) their code being used in the production of the service is being used daily to try to meet those deadlines, so the requests of the operators for fixes and new functionality are taken extremely seriously: this helps the leadership to keep things real. They might secretly dream of their software being supremely automated and elegant, and they may have long term visions of adding big new packages to it, but they have a clear and present requirement to not indulge in those dreams in a way that damages the demands of keeping their current projects viable and on schedule.
c) the operators who use the code are on site, or at the very least have regular meetings with their project leaders, so the feedback loop is super tight, and the developers can be optimally responsive. Working as a technical director at a multitude of visual effects companies gave me an appreciation for the efficiency of this high pressure environment: there is no room for getting lost in the woods, and the users of the code are listened to avidly, with sometimes multiple updates per day pushed out for them.
None of these factors are present with Narrative. The Narrative Company, as far as I know, answers to nobody for their development of the platform, and has no pressure, except for the muted fish voices coming from this virtual aquarium, and the vague notion that there is a competition out there they need to not fall behind. They can and do tune out the fish voices whenever they want to, and the real people behind those voices are not real to them, the way people you meet with regularly are. We are virtual, in their reality.
Cognisant of these factors, I suggested to them that they pick some Community members to interface with live, perhaps monthly. A 1 hour skype call per month perhaps. They ignored it.
One cannot underestimate the power of carving out a space of time that is dedicated to making something your sole focus, and giving it substance within your reality. When this is not done, it is impossible to allow new intelligence to be properly integrated into the great momentum of your operations.
Along the way, I've suggested repeatedly that the sooner the feedback loop is tightened between the Team and their Beta-testers/customers/Community, the better Narrative will perform as a project.
Incidentally, it is the only way that trust and respect can truly be built, and those things also play a big role in successful collaborations. Some of the rude treatment received by long time Community members from Narrative Staff would never have happened if we interfaced in a way in which we saw each other's faces, even infrequently.
Quite honestly, I don't have any beyond what I've been trying to do all along. The culture at Narrative HQ is what it is. Something might come along to make them feel like they need to make a change, but that is completely up to their individual psychologies, and from within the fishbowl, we can only hope... And if we run out of hope, we can go belly up and float to the top of the fishbowl, and hope for a better fishbowl in our next digital incarnations.
With their small team and very long development cycle, the odds are quite high that their current way of operating will be unsustainable.
Long development cycles with insufficient incremental feedback leave VERY little room for error, and budget is more likely to become a limiting factor, requiring cash injections.
There is a fairly high chance they will run low on funds before the project starts to earn external revenue in sufficient amounts, in which case outside capital, and with it perhaps outside leadership influence, might change the situation. Perhaps for the better, from a work flow perspective, but who knows what it might do to the spirit of the project? That's anyone's guess.