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Of the Exile

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This is the ongoing story of Besim's grab for power, the exile of various members, and the sale of ON and TWC as told through my eyes. -Rob (Professor420)

Total War Center History
The Sale of the Site
October 2006
November 2006
December 2006
January 2007


Chapter One

The Return of Besim

This story begins 4 days ago, when Besim returned to TWC. Since the October crisis, things had been running mostly swimmingly. Despite the unfortunate resignations of Garbarsarbar, Mimirswell, and imb39, things were relatively stable. Simetrical had been doing a load of forum work and upgrades with was desperately needed, the Curia had gained some independence and there were murmurs from some circles above democracy.

Besim's return changed all of this. Things were immediately silenced in the Curia, I was explicitly asked to keep things on the backburner until Besim had left. I obliged, and focused on the Total War Center Wiki and some other projects. Besim said he was there to upgrade the forums and site. The truth was far from that, as I will explain.

The Sale of ON

Two days ago, some members contacted me about pooling funds to purchase TWC from Ogre's Networks. Ogre had openly declared his intent to sell ON, on his blog, [www.fromthecookpot.com]. We found great potential and inspiration in the idea of a community owned board, and when we found out the price was a measly $1500. ZBoard (a company that makes keyboards Link) was Ogre's bidder he had lined up. But the great and generous imb39 stepped forward and offered Ogre £1000, or almost $2000.

Myself and the people who were in on the situation were overjoyed at such an act of selflessness. Feeling confident in our future, we waited.

The next day, Ogre updated his blog.


Things have been long and drawn out in the process of Ogre relinquishing his interests in Ogre’s Network. There have been many hurdles. Some, he admits, have been caused by him, others have been caused by others involved. It all started about five months ago, now.

Two guys from Zboard approached me about buying the network. I won’t say who they are, because that’d be a breech of trust, but let’s just say at the time they had a good offer. So, what did Ogre do?

Well, Ogre was so busy with work and life–so he had somebody else handle it. And, truly, it doesn’t matter who tried to handle it, it was a big task. But, Ogre should have helped more than he did. He gave the deal to Besim. Umm, hmm, a mistake?

I’ll give Besim one thing, he’s a good web designer. We all know that. Yet, I’ll be honest, he tends to be selfish and greedy. That’s just his nature. Otherwise a good guy, don’t get me wrong. Herein lies the problem, though. Everytime I just want to let things go–no matter who’d it be to–Besim gets in the way. Why?

Even though the copyright on the bottom of each site says “copyright 2006 Ogre’s Network”, he claims the site designs are his. What the hell? Yeah. He might have designed them, but they belong to the network as a whole. I mean talk about selfish. I have no problem with him wanting to sell them to others later on, or what not. But, to say right now that he’ll take them away–I mean he’s pretty much talking about defacing the network. That’s troubling.

Of course, I’m trying to be the nice guy, like I usually am. And Besim thinks he’s getting the shaft, but I think I am to be perfectly honest. And I’m fed up with it. I am. This is getting neither of us anywhere.

It’s all giving me a headache. I’m wanting out of Ogre’s Network, just like Mithras is. And he is, now. So, I’m just trying to get things together to sell. That way things can at least go on without us three. Besim is wanting to get onboard with the new guys, which is understandable, but he has to understand that they have their own initiative as well. Also, now, I’ve got some fans from the sites wanting to buy the network as well. It’s getting extremely messy.

I’m wanting the quickest way out, that doesn’t destroy the network. And I believe the guy from Zboard is the best bet. He just seems the right fit for the financing. It takes a lot to run a game network. That’s why so many have fallen into the dust. Only a handful have survived because they took the right actions at the right times.


We were not completely deflated, however. We were all still confident TWC would end up in our hands, owned and run by the community.

So that's where things stood this morning. I returned from breakfast and found a couple very angry and urgent IMs flashing. It turned out Besim has consolidated control of TWC under his fist. Besim's first act as Dictator was to remove the Curia, Symposium, and all Curial ranks (except Artifex). It became clear from his initial plans that Besim was completely out of touch... what can one expect when being gone for a couple years, though?

In true form, I threw aside the archaeological journal I was supposed to be reading, and got to the bottom of things. I proposed a theory, in a thread ignored by Besim and since lost with the forum database restore, that I will re-propose here.

Conspiracy Theories and Besim's Greed

It is my thesis that Besim has undertaken the actions of the last few days in order to drive the sale of Ogre's Network to ZBoard and gain him his proper share of the cash from the sale. First, let us establish the evidence:

  • Besim and Ogre are in conflict over ownership of the network and who will get paid what from the sale of the network
  • Besim would like to remain a part of the administration with the new owners
  • If imb39 bought TWC it is very unlikely Besim would remain in any capacity
  • Ogre is learning towards ZBoard as the buyers of ON

Besim's plan was simple.

  • First, he would upgrade the TWC skin and software and design, in order to make himself appear more valuable (as opposed to MIA for a year or two). This recent upgrade would also make him, and the network, appear more attractive to Zboard.

I feel that this is as far as his plan had originally gone. That is, until imb39 placed his bid, and Besim found out. Things rapidly spiraled.

  • Besim, feeling threatened by a sale to a TWC community leader, decided to create a crisis, in true TWC fashion. He struck where even he, in his detachment and isolation from the community, knew would cause problems: he removed the Curia and Symposium.
  • Besim anticipated a flood of dissent towards Ogre, about Besim's actions.
  • Such dissent would drive Ogre to sell the network at any cost. Any further holdout or debate would just be cost-inefficient for Ogre, it just wouldn't be worth it to keep up and resolve the problems with Besim.
  • Ogre would turn towards ZBoard to sell to. With the instability, caused by Besim, and Ogre's current favour of Zboard, this would be the logical conclusion, and far more desirable for Besim.

Morning

I had done some minor trolling, according to Staff, referring to Besim's job at Walgreen's/Kohl's as a 'burger-flipper' instead of cashier. Silly me. Anyway, I digress.

With this revelation of motives in hand, I posted it. It was barely even contested by Besim! I continued to press the issue, culminating in a thread asking for donations to pay off Besim to leave TWC alone. Besim didn't like it, and perma-banned me. Anyway, I made for class.

Afternoon

It seems that while I was away, staff had been trying to speak to Besim. He quickly realized that his plan could backfire if he caused too many problems. He slowly made pseudo-concessions, restoring the Curia first to the Common Community, then to the Administrative forums. Besim, though incompetent, is surely crafty. He didn't want to make the same mistake Archer had made when he tried to consolidate the power to himself, and unite the citizens against him. Besim slowly restored the Curia, then the ranks. But privately, in Staff, he was silencing all dissent.

Besim has made up his mind that Ogre will choose Zboards, and Besim will head the administration while control is transferred. He is recreating TWC into his vision. This is a point of tremendous import that I will elaborate on in a bit.

Evening

I returned home from class and found TWC was down, but soon came back up. It seems Besim had decided to restore the database from before his changes this morning. Which means he effectively knocked out all dissent that went on, permanently. Soon after I arrived home, and Besim saw that ugly yellow lightbulb under my name, he contacted me via MSN. Normally, I would never make MSN conversations public, but as I have been banned from TWC for the following exchange, I feel it is only fair. I can only give my word about its unaltered genuineness, and I stake my reputation on it. It has only been cleaned up for slight formatting issues. Not a single word otherwise has been removed.

MSN Convo

11/30/2006 8:16:33 PM Besim: Hello Rob

11/30/2006 8:16:50 PM Besim: You obviously know who I am, so I don't think I need to introduce myself.

11/30/2006 8:17:11 PM Besim: I was going to send you a private message, but decided against it. I figured talking in person is best.

11/30/2006 8:17:24 PM Rob/Professor: well given that the last 15 hours or so from TWC have disappeared perhaps you should remind me... but perhaps not

11/30/2006 8:17:34 PM Besim : hush pleas

11/30/2006 8:17:45 PM Rob/Professor: righty-o

11/30/2006 8:18:09 PM Besim: None of that would have happened if all went to plan, I know what you have done on other sites (strat commander) and that will not be coming here

11/30/2006 8:18:28 PM Besim: I am asking you to cool off, this is an admin issue and there is a small minority of you who feel the need to start an uproar

11/30/2006 8:18:44 PM Besim: if you do not cool off, I will ban your account simple as that

11/30/2006 8:19:25 PM Besim: YOU have no idea what is going on and I have talked to Ogre today, he apologized to me and from what I know selling the network to TWC will not be an option.

11/30/2006 8:19:58 PM Besim: This site will function on a pyramid system, if you do not like how it is run...please leave and find a new place to annoy its member base

11/30/2006 8:20:17 PM Besim: there will be no curia influence in choosing the staff for the site or admin or in this case moderators

11/30/2006 8:20:39 PM Rob/Professor: why are you meddling in TWC suddenly? what gives you any moral authority to dictate how things will be done?

11/30/2006 8:20:50 PM Besim: 50% if not more of the people who have been chosen by the curia are lazy and have done nothing....just rank hungrt

11/30/2006 8:20:57 PM Besim: because this is my network, my site

11/30/2006 8:21:07 PM Besim: I maintain the design and they were asking for a design for the longest time

11/30/2006 8:21:18 PM Besim: the network is due for an update, and I started with the site in need of it the most

11/30/2006 8:21:42 PM Rob/Professor: that doesn't explain why you have suddenly commandeered TWC

11/30/2006 8:21:49 PM Besim: and dictate? Ogre, Mithras, myself Archer and past admins have not liked the democracy that has been running

11/30/2006 8:22:03 PM Besim: why do I need to explain myself....TWC need an update....I am here to work on it

11/30/2006 8:22:15 PM Rob/Professor: if I were going to accuse anyone of being power hungry, it would not be the curia, it would be the administrators that boot TWC around at a whim

11/30/2006 8:22:32 PM Rob/Professor: an update is different from a fundamental restructure on a whim

11/30/2006 8:22:39 PM Besim: look

11/30/2006 8:22:57 PM Rob/Professor: you haven't been part of the community, you have no idea what has made it successful, what has made it unique

11/30/2006 8:23:01 PM Besim: The curia and the democracy is a broken system, you guys want your people in power and want to manage our sites

11/30/2006 8:23:04 PM Besim: that will not be happening

11/30/2006 8:23:17 PM Besim: Rob I suggest you leave the site alone and move on

11/30/2006 8:23:22 PM Rob/Professor: now YOU want to come in and say how things should be and create an image as if TWC was broken and needed fixing

11/30/2006 8:24:05 PM Rob/Professor: I have done far more for the community than you have, I've been a far stronger link to it than you have, and you want me to move on because you've suddenly decided to roost

11/30/2006 8:24:06 PM Besim: We are done, this is a staff issue now. I am just warning you to cool off and that the network is not interested in selling the network to you or TWC

11/30/2006 8:24:32 PM Rob/Professor: and here I thought you wanted to talk, when you just wanted to threaten

11/30/2006 8:24:33 PM Besim: I know I am not part of the community, but I am the one who keeps the site running and have in the past...not recently though

11/30/2006 8:24:58 PM Rob/Professor: no, you haven't kept it running in the past... its realy easy to blame the curia for administrative clashes with it, instead of the admins themselves

11/30/2006 8:25:01 PM Besim: You were causing issues earlier on that did not need to be done....I am just saying to cool off or I will ban you

11/30/2006 8:25:32 PM Besim: Rob find a new website to visit

11/30/2006 8:25:35 PM Rob/Professor: causing issues that didn't need to be done? are you listening to yourself?

11/30/2006 8:26:02 PM Besim: you were making posts and making an uprising

11/30/2006 8:26:04 PM Rob/Professor: you disbanded the curia and syntagma only to be force dto reform it hours later

11/30/2006 8:26:19 PM Rob/Professor: talk abotu things that didn't need to be done... jeez

11/30/2006 8:26:52 PM Besim: the curia needed to be rid off

11/30/2006 8:27:00 PM Rob/Professor: according to whom?

11/30/2006 8:27:01 PM Besim: wether you like it or not, it is not my problem

11/30/2006 8:27:15 PM Besim: according to the admins who run the site and the issues it has caused

11/30/2006 8:27:17 PM Rob/Professor: the administrators that neglected the site? you, sulla, archer?

11/30/2006 8:27:23 PM Rob/Professor: YOU have caused the issues

11/30/2006 8:27:27 PM Rob/Professor: ARCHER caused the issues

11/30/2006 8:27:30 PM Besim: you are banned

11/30/2006 8:27:34 PM Rob/Professor: the curia has done nothing wrong

11/30/2006 8:27:34 PM Besim: good day

What does this mean?

What does all this mean? Well for me, it means I'm banned. So that is why I tell you here, on the Wiki, my last contribution to Total War Center, and the last part of the Total War Community where I can still speak. TWC will go on with or without me, that much I am sure of. One thing I am equally sure of, however, is the Curia as the single most important factor to TWC's success. Even if it hasn't had any real power since 2003/2004, there has always been the prospect of influence. The Curia has acted marvelously in member retention. The shelf life of a TWC citizen is far longer, and far more robust, than most other forums, exactly because of the Curia. It allows members who haven't even been in modding or the Commons for many months to stick around, it provides an attachment to the site, it provides a somewhat lower commitment to the site than being on Staff. It is from these members, these citizens, these Curial contributors, that you get much of your great content. This is how you get your Wiki, modding videos, your TW Academy, ideas for forum restructures, council policies, etc. The Curia's great draw is not its roleplaying aspect. It is its democratic potential.

Without the Curia, you'd have a far more bare TWC. It is not the administrators that are responsible for TWC's success, it is its unbelievably devoted member base. The 'crises' that have supposedly threatened TWC are not the Curia's doing, while I have been here at least. The reforms, the October Crisis, and now, the Thanksgiving Crisis (I would say Christmas Crisis but odds are there'll be another one within the next 25 days). They have been instigated by Staff, and taken out on the Curia. Its unfortunate, because most of us want what is best for TWC. But the administrators forget that without the tremendous contribution of the Curial ranks and members, they'd have far less to administrate.

To paraphrase a former admin, "For the general members, TWC will continue on relatively unchanged. But then again, those members could care less where they go for fansite info." It is the unique members who make TWC great, who, though the people in The Basement and Mod Threads may not know them, contribute to the forum as a whole. Their rank has acted as a reward, and their responsibilities have tied them to this site and have spurred continuous contribution. Your M2TW General Discussion is never going to be so different, or much better, than the dotcom's, than the org's, than heavengame's. The same way the Org has its bwains, its Epistolary Richards, its Myddrraals, who are responsible for its popularity and sustainability, you have tenfold that number who contribute to TWC in similar ways. Getting rid of the Curia, and by turning it solely into an RPG you ARE getting rid of it, you take away the hub of these members, their commonality, their ability to find common ground and involvement.

Its no secret that I want to see a true democracy on this "web 2.0" we are experiencing. But at this point, I want things just back how they were. I want the network out, I want the Curia back, I want our hard-working admins back and their fair and functional administrative structure back. What we've been presented with is an alternative from someone who has never been part of the community. He doesn't understand the dynamics, the way the community works, who the faces (or avatars) are, the history, or what has made it popular. Besim returns purely out of selfishness, out of his desire to control his own future with the new owners of TWC. And this is who leads TWC now. If you want to see where the rest of ON's sites have gone, you can check out their links from [1]. But be warned, most of them are dead, or sold. ON has had nothing to do with TWC's success, you have, we all have. Now don't let anyone tell you otherwise, and don't let your contributions, responsibility, and commitment to Total War Center be taken from you, not like this.

UPDATE 12/1/06: New Developments

Besim's takeover continues to be rocky for everyone involved. Staff, both senior and junior, have been dropping, the site has been broken for most of the day. There have, however, been some interesting disclosures made to me from various sources.

  • Archer had initially attempted to purchase TWC in March 2006.
  • The sale fell through when two technical administrators from ZBoard contacted Ogre about purchasing the site.
  • These bidders are under the assumption that everything stored on the Network servers is the property of the network. This would includes all mods hosted on TWC. Fortunately, this is not the case, as I will explain later, but what is important is to understand what ZBoard thinks.
  • I urge you to read the above point again.
  • Besim is seeking a paid position with the new owners.
  • Besim has been openly hostile to all dissent, and threatened to ban anyone who disagrees or dissents.

If the plot hasn't become clear to you, I elaborate from where I left off in "Conspiracy Theories."

  • Besim has increased incentive to make sure zBoard, and not imb39, purchases ON and TWC.
  • Besim is pulling out all the stops to silence TWC opposition, no matter how it damages the community. Because he doesn't care about the community. Mark my words, the day the sale is finished, Besim will move on.
  • When Besim moves on, guess who will take over TWC? Archer. Besim's only defender, Besim's only ally, the only voice Besim will listen to. And we've seen what Archer will do when he's given hegemony over the site.
  • Besim will move on, Archer will take over TWC, and he will likely allow all the banned members back, appease them by giving their citizen ranks back, but mark my words, the fundamental change of having, for the first time in TWC history that I know, a sustained and recognized autocrat, with no checks to his powers (as weak as the checks of the Triumvirate and Hex provided), will strip TWC of its culture. A hamstrung Curia that is part of the Common Community instead of the Administrative forums in all except forum location will be little better than what we have now.

And then the community, once again, will be left to pick up the pieces from the meddling of administrators. After they molest us, rape us, it is on our shoulders to fix things. Besim will have ravaged TWC, Archer will have fundamentally changed it, and it will be up to us to 'accept it or get out.'

Besim is now threatening permabans left and right.

Besim: at this point I am willing to ban anyone if you guys are trying to come across our way and making accusations

You've been warned.

I for one will not accept this. If there were ANY questions, ANY reservations, about the selfishness of Besim, of ZBoard, of Archer, they've been laid bare now. ZBoard gets its supposed ownership of the mods, Besim gets his job as a webdesigner, and Archer gets his absolute control of TWC. And what does the community get? Hurt members, changed structure, banned patrons.

The Folly of ZBoard

ZBoard is making a big mistake, legally and socially.

Legally, ZBoard will NEVER get ownership of the mods, even if they were entirely developed on ZBoard's servers and space and bandwidth. When someone creates something, whether an asset, a line of code, or even a written idea, it is the property of the creator. For it not to be, requires one of two things:

  • An assignment of rights: Every modder would have to sign/agree to a contract that states he assigns the rights of all of his mod work over to ZBoard. Otherwise, the creators retain the rights, no matter where they're stored.
  • A Work for Hire contract: Work for Hire essentially states that a certain individual is not an employee, but all the work produced by that person in a certain arena (for example, the mod they are working on) belongs to the contractor. Every member would need to agree to a work for hire contract in order for ZBoard to own their work, no matter where they are stored.

Neither of these things matter, however. The TWC community is multinational, and the laws of the US may not apply to many countries, meaning the contract may be nullified. In addition, many members are under legal age and cannot legally enter into any contract.

Are these the new owners you want? By staying silent, by letting Besim have his way, these are the new owners you are going to get! Owners who think they own your mod work, who will create a EULA or ToS to subversively try and gain control of that work. The amount of selfishness here is sickening, the damage it is doing to the community is sickening. And goddamn it, don't sit by and not do anything about it.

The Folly of the Citizens

In the immortal words of WBK, I am spent. Pending a miraculous sale, it looks like things will go back to the way they were, almost. And citizens have no one to blame but themselves. We have been naive. The structures we put in place, let remain in place, and, sometimes, even fight to keep in place, are our creation. I had hoped, that since the Staff crisis in October, citizens would wake up, and to a large extent, they have. Perhaps the idea of a single unchecked administrator isn't such a good idea. Perhaps Ogre's Network doesn't deserve unchecked say over the site. Perhaps it should be the community who is responsible for the site, who can be depended upon to help the site, not a disassociated network and their appointed sovereign.

Such a dream, I think, has followed a downward slope, only upturning very recently. Clearly, the Curia started out with such an ideal. However, we slowly lost sight of that dream, resigning itself to be some sort of subservient advisory body. Such is the common perception of property in general, and the Curia on the TWC. It took something as severe as the Staff crisis for people to wake up. Look back at the opponents of the Passport and Protection bills. And now look at the proponents of Curial sovereignty. Many people have switched their views. The Crisis proved that the ideas we had held as common law were potentially very harmful.

And the wheels began turning. The whispers were spoken amongst the Councilors de Civitates... then the Patricians... and then the citizens at large. And there was support. There was agreement. There was a change in general perception that could hardly be expected, it could barely be explained, but it was there, it was clear, it was undeniable. It was threatening. And it caused another crisis.

The history of crisis in the Curia is interesting. Each 'crisis,' and there have been many, further and further diminished the Curia's power and role. This is not because of more Curial radicalness; quite the opposite, this is because of more administrative conservatism. In each crisis, whether initiated by the Curia or not, the results have been taken out on the Curia, and have resulted in another Curial hamstringing. In each crisis, the grip of the administration squeezes the Curia's balls tighter. Its eyes have been bulging, its face has been turning blue, it can manage little more than whimper. And now its balls have been cut off. The Curia has been castrated. And though it may exist, it only does so in name. But I cannot tell the difference between a dead man and a eunuch.

The Curia cannot function in an autocracy. Democracy cannot function in an autocracy. There can be no hope to achieve democracy in an autocracy. The knife was at the Curia's throat two days ago. And now it is merely an inch away. The Curial leaders want to move it backwards a bit more, they want to 'save' the Curia. But the knife is there, and the next time the Curia tries to do something important, it will scratch its neck yet again. And it will bleed, yet again. And it will recoil in pain, begging for it to stop, and the knife will move forward, and the Curia's neck, backward. And another couple inches will separate them again. And so on and so on.

And each time a crisis comes, there will be discussion about overhauling the entire system. About destroying the entire system. And about starting another entire system somewhere else. And each time, the Curial "moderates" will step in, and say, "Those who fight and run away, live to fight another day." They will 'save' the Curia, and yet continue suffocating it. This situation presented a unique situation to us, in that there WAS a clear possibility to actually change things, by buying the network. To drive Besim away, to insurrect. We faced a crossroads, from which there was no turning back. On the one side, we have appeasement, and complacency. Wait for Besim to become content, leave Archer in his place, and fade into the background. And we can work to regroup, and regrow, and, if we are wise, prepare for the next crisis. And then after the next crisis, we can repeat this all again. The other road is foggy, where it leads unclear. The road itself is a massive insurrection. Where it leads is either the dark forest of the destruction of TWC in near-totality, and a broken TWC to any banned members that would have chosen to return, or, the prospect of success, of a truly democratic TWC that is owned and controlled by the community. I do not know what would have happened, I would have hoped for the latter. But I prefer death to slavery, though perhaps that is not the way of the wiser. It certainly is not the way of the eldest.

And this entry will end my only brief chapter of my life at TWC. I came here as an exile, and I leave as an exile. I brought with me great contributions, skills, ideas, energy, and inspiration, and now I pack them up, like a hobo and his bindle. My shelf life is short, and my ingredients are volatile. Total War Center will continue on without each of us, and it will be worse off for it. I do not have any pretenses of importance for the individual member, and for myself. I will be back in April, when I graduate from university, after TWC has graduated from another one or two crises. I will be expect to see the Curia's skin, and I shall hope its heart will still be beating (I know TWC's will). And I hope the tree of liberty and democracy will be in flower, if not bearing fruit, yet. Anyone that wishes to email or MSN me, my information is in my profile at TWC.

You win Besim, there will be no insurrection, there will be no open rebellion. I would have taken pleasure in your suffering, the same way you take pleasure in ours, or at best are indifferent to it. But these Curial 'moderates,' these chronic sufferers of Archer-Syndrome, make sense, because they require no real sacrifice. It is far easier to sacrifice one's soul, one's integrity, than it is to sacrifice one's time and energy. This is the easy way out, and this has been the way of the Curia. Do not blame our ignorance. We knew what could happen, what would happen. And for these problems we have only ourselves to blame.

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