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Planting the Interstellar Grove: Training Pilots for NRDS Nullsec, from Scratch to Academy

July 3, 2019

Lesson Two: Best Practices

This term is usually loathed when it’s used as business-world jargon, but I happen to believe rather strongly in the idea of “best practices” if it’s meant in good faith. The principle is bone-simple, and in our case works like this: roll an alpha alt or three, dump them each into one of the big noob corps, and see what the experience is like there, first-hand. When those corps do things that click for you, do those things, too. Do some research, across several corps, and just pick the stuff that seems like it would help you do what you want to do.
And remember: some of your pilots might not even know what warping is, or how to jump through a gate, or that there are other modules they can fit to their ship, so expect to do a lot of hands-on teaching yourself. At the start, your corp is likely going to be you, and one or two other veterans if you started the venture with some friends, and then the new recruits who might be fresh out of the tutorial. So if that’s your target recruit, present yourself to the noob corps as that, and see how they handle you. What resources do they provide? How do they walk you through things? How do they integrate you into the corp, or not? Learn how they do ithow they handle a week-old player who only barely understands the most rudimentary game mechanics learned through the tutorial, what tools they bring to bearand then use the best version of those tools yourself.
“Best practices” is a good principle to the extent that you follow it sincerely, and without ego. Be critical about how you do things, and honest about whether somebody else is doing them better. Don’t be so attached to your own habits that you can’t toss them in favor of something better. Remember: these noob corps are enormous, with a wealth of experience and skills that you don’t have, so exploit them ruthlessly.

In my case, my first real lesson actually running my new corp, as opposed to just setting it up, was this: you need to put a lot of work into how you recruit, because you’re going to be plugging away at that a lot. Thus:

The second thing I learned: how2 words good.

Let’s be honest here: my very first recruitment ad, which I posted to reddit at a frequency contrary to their guidelines? It suuuuuuucked. I wrote it using the same tone I’m using here, which is something of a dry, academic style with a couple memes thrown in for The Kids. That works fine for a teaching manual, but it’s not at all the kind of tone that’s going to stand out (or even be interesting to read) compared to all the other ads pouring into the EVE recruitment forum, or reddit, or any of the other places where people recruit (more on that in a moment).

Part of this is defining your corp. What’s your corp “ethos”? Are you trying to create a fun school, focused on low-involvement gameplay with light-hearted meme-generation? Then write for that. Are you going to fill your corp with weebs and furries? Then you’d better serve up that anime, and have your “uwu” emoji at the ready. Are you hardcore roleplayers who are creating a subsidiary of the Ishukone Corporation to develop the drug market around Intaki? Then you’d best read up on Caldari-Intaki diplomatic/economic relations, and write for that (and probably learn some Napanii while you’re at it. RP4eva).
The term for this is “code switching,” and it simply means that you speak the language of your audience. Good public speakers do this all the time, because listeners naturally respond to language that matches their own better than to some other language. Figure out your corp’s “voice,” write in that, and you’ll get recruits who match your corp from the start.
Make sure your recruitment ad is well-written, free of unintended grammar or spelling errors,1 and matches the style of the corp you want to build. In my case,2 apparently the tone that works for me is something like an over-caffeinated teenager who’s spent too much time snarking on social media. Yours might be different (probably!), but figure whatever it is, whatever works best, and do that.
So on the advice of friends, I ditched that first ad and re-wrote it from the ground up, fixing the tone to match what I wanted to be the mood for new players coming into the corp.

Once you have that, be diligent about posting that ad on whatever forums and servers you can (consistent with their guidelines! Sorry /r/EveJobs!). There’s a bunch of these that are good. The in-game recruitment channel sorta works, but you’re fighting a chat interface with limited space. The EVE forum is great; I’ve gotten most of my recruits from there. There’s also an unofficial EVE Discord with a recruitment channel, EVE Uni has a jobs market, etc. If you’re active on social media, use those as well.
But one of the other avenues that’s worked well for me is also just to help new players. Hang out in the new-player help channel in-game, or #newbie-help on the EVE Discord, and answer questions from noobs. It’s almost inevitable that some of them, finding that you’re a helpful person who can give them good advice, will convo you directly. Build up a rapport with them, get to know them. Eventually, some of them will want to join you in your corp, and then you don’t even have to recruit them with an ad. They’ ll ask to join you.
All of this, by the way, is a huge investment of time and energy (remember I said this would be a slog?). It’s hard to think of ways, day after day, to make your bump posts interesting, or to keep answering the same questions on the help channels, but 1) you were trying to start a school, right? This is what running a school means, and 2) this will help teach you what kind of help new players are going to need. I spend a lot of time myself looking things up or reading other players’ advice, because I don’t know everything about EVE—in fact, as I’m going to keep repeating, I know very little about any of this, but for some reason I decided to attack this challenge with rather unearned confidence—and learning this helps later on as you get better as a teacher.

So I read a bunch of recruitment posts, tweaked my ad, bumped it on the forum, all the while adding stuff into my corp hangars. Finally, after a few weeks of this, I got a recruit. Some guy said he saw my reddit post, liked it (which… what? This was still the old ad, and it sucked, but whatever I ain’t picky), felt lost in his current noob corp (make a note of this; it’s important in a moment), and wanted to move to something smaller where he’d get more hands-on training.
Great! I had my first new recruit, who’d responded to my ad (an ad which, again and I can’t emphasize this enough, sucked), and wanted to join. OP SUCCESS. I brought him into the corp after a couple days of chatting, escorted him into our space and gave a quick tour, settled in for the night, and told him we’d start training the next day: with personal, hands-on guidance through some alliance doctrines. Can’t wait!

The next morning, I bricked my computer.
Like, couldn’t boot the OS or read from the hard drives.
Well, shit.

Second lesson, part b: You don’t get breaks (or, the consequences of going AWOL)

I can honestly say that, in real-life terms, the week I spent trying to recover my hard drives—on which I had my entire adult life’s work, which I thought I’d protected by using a RAID array that turned out not to function when one drive fails and a second one desyncs because you unplugged the wrong drive like an idiot—was one of the most stressful weeks of my life.
Did you know? There’s a disk recovery program, called ddrescue, that will mercilessly plough through a file system, trying over and over to read data from a bad sector, sometimes spending days to read a single kilobyte of data. You’re supposed to turn your drive to lie on each of its six sides while it’s reading to maybe help the read heads catch those sectors, and sometimes recovering even a few hundred kb can take a month or longer.
That’s what I was staring down, with my partner on the road without phone service and thus unable to provide emotional support, for a week. I did my very best to descend into an extra-dramatic meltdown, spending every day hunched over my computer’s guts, willing ddrescue to recover what it could so I could get back to normal.3
Did you also know? The people who walked me through that recovery were computer nerds from the EVE community. Seriously. This game has the very best people.

But for that week my new recruit, brought in straight from another noob corp (which we regarded as hostile) was on his own, with nobody keeping tabs on him.
Not entirely surprisingly, he turned out to be there to read our mining schedules (a brand new recruit saying, “hey, I’m really into mining ops, sure! Put me on the mining mailing list!” is maybe a red flag I should have noted) and send them straight back to his friends in his former corp.

As I was slowly getting my computer back to working, I got a bunch of pings from another CEO in my alliance, and then from the alliance exec. My guy had been somewhere he shouldn’t have been, and five minutes after he left, a mining op got hotdropped.

There were some awkward questions.

So the lesson here is this: you don’t get to take time off, at least at the start when you’re the only person there who can watch over a new pilot. I would have seen that my recruit was in systems where he had no business being, and might have caught him.4 This means that you first have to invest a lot of time in recruiting new members, but second, for the time being, you don’t get to take any breaks from managing them once they’re in, either. You have to keep watch over them, both because that’s your job running a school, and also for your corp’s and your alliance’s security.

Part of this, too, is that you are going to need some tools and skills that you can use to protect your corp against these sorts of espionage attacks, and that will be the topic of our next column.


1 I’m something of a stickler about this because I write professionally, but it makes a big difference to your readers if you can avoid making common mistakes that mark your writing as subpar. I think nearly every recruit I’ve had has said that reading a well-written ad was one of the things that sold them on the corp. And not to put too fine a point on it: if you aren’t a native speaker of the language you’re writing the ad, get a native speaker to proofread it. Seriously. Hell, if it’s in English (or you write German and need it translated, as I do that as well[d.h., wenn Du es lieber auf Deutsch schreibst, und es gerne übersetzen lässt, kann ich dies auch machen]), you can hit me up. I’ll do that shit for free, or some ISK, or whatever.
3 “Normal” means “EVE.”
4 To be fair, it’s entirely possible that my first recruit had wholly honorable intentions, and actually meant it when he said he was bored and lost in his current noob corp. It’s entirely possible that he was looking for just what I had to offer, but then I disappeared, he got bored, and he figured, “fuckit, this corp sucks, I’m going to call in some sweet hotdrops” before peacing out.