2016 Address

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2016 State of the Federation Address


Stardate: 239301.01 (01 January 2016)

To you, our dedicated membership of talented simmers,

Welcome to the beginning of another year! 2016 marks 21 (that’s right -- in the US, the group can finally drink legally!) years of continuous operation. 21 is an important number for another reason this year: 21 members received the 1-Year Service Award at the end of 2015, which means they’ve been with us (either continuously or on and off) for a full year. Another 20 simmers received a 3-, 5- or 10-Year Service Award, which is an incredibly impressive number. Clearly, whether you’ve been around for one month, one year, or ten years, you’ve continued to find Starbase 118 an engaging, enjoyable way to spend your time, and on behalf of the group’s staff, thank you for that!

While we’re racing into 2016 with an amazing Fleetwide Plot Arc on deck, and tons of plans for an exciting year, we’re also tasked with reflecting on 2015 – and recognizing that it was a hard year for both the group as a whole, and some of our members.

The group saw a number of ships decommissioned. But as you’ll see below, we also commissioned several ships, including the Doyle and Invicta – both from noncanon classes, and the Gorkon – the first Starbase 118 ship named for an alien character!

The leadership and dedicated membership that currently comprises our group makes our future especially bright, and each of you have played a part in that success. Read on for a detailed look back on our last year and a look forward to the future. We look forward to making this our best year ever!

-- Tony (FltCapt. Aron Kells/Cassandra Egan Manno)

A Look Back at 2015


Overall, 2015 was a year of many changes and disruptions to the fleet.

We started 2015 with nine ships and installations, and finished with eight. Here are the top-lines:

  • Ships commissioned: USS Apollo-A, USS Doyle-A, USS Darwin, USS Gorkon and the USS Invicta.
  • Ships decommissioned: USS Atlantis, USS Gemini, USS Victory, USS Garuda, USS Avandar, USS Columbia and USS Excalibur-A.
    • The crews of the Atlantis and Gemini were combined to form the USS Apollo-A.
    • The crew of the Excalibur was transferred to other ships in the fleet to help bolster other crews.
    • The crew of the Avandar was transferred to the Invicta and StarBase 118 Ops.
    • The crew of the Victory was transferred to the Gorkon under the leadership of Capt. Quinn Reynolds.
    • The crew of the Garuda transferred to the Invicta under the same leadership.
    • The crew of the USS Columbia transferred to the USS Apollo-A, save for a few exceptions.
  • Executive Council changes: Rear Admiral Andrus Jaxx took a long term LOA, while Fleet Captain Idril Mar went AWOL. Captain Quinn Reynolds took the Captain at Large role. Later, both she and Captain Renos joined the Executive Council as full members. Captain Selene Faranfey took the vacated CaL seat.

We should note right away that last year’s SOTFA was jubilant about the fact that we had added two more ships to the fleet, for a total of 11, between the beginning of the year and the time the SOTFA was published, with 130 active players – the largest fleet size in years.

We also noted that we had decreased our target crew size down to 11. This allowed us to expand the fleet faster than normal by having fewer people on each ship. This was based on the hypothesis that smaller ships would be able to retain new members, as they would come into the ship with less competition for a place in the story and have more to do on a day-to-day basis.

However, we soon found that smaller ship sizes left less of a “cushion” in the event of crew changes. A ship that starts with 11 people on the roster and loses, for example, three people (say one to a transfer, one person goes AWOL, and another takes an LOA) is suddenly in the danger-zone for crew size and simming activity. A ship with just eight simmers has too little activity to keep most of our members engaged, and is at high risk for triggering the “death spiral” of inactivity.

Unfortunately, a number of ships came to understand that fact quite quickly, and it left most of our staff on edge. Any LOA form filed immediately meant that the ship was potentially in danger, and when applications slowed, it was extremely difficult to ensure that each ship had a full crew.

Chalk this up to a lesson learned: We can’t set crew sizes that low going forward. We’ll talk more below about how we’ve made adjustments to placement plans.

However, it would seem that we finished 2015 with a rather tight group of simmers who were all quite committed to simming, and we’re much more optimistic now than we were three months ago. The average sims per month ended on a high note, squarely in the middle of the last seven years worth of numbers.

2015-average-sims-by-month.png


Visits to our website

That huge spike in the middle of 2015 was some kind of traffic mill in Russia – perhaps a well-intentioned member paid for hits to our site? It’s hard to say.

2015-website-visits-by-year.png


The effect was even harder to quantify – a month later, in July, applications spiked to 1.5 times what they normally are, but August was our lowest number of applications for the year. So between the two months, they averaged pretty normal.

This next chart will give you a better idea of where we stand in terms of website traffic:

2015-website-visits-stats.png


Overall, the numbers are not great. In short, visits were down and people who did visit stayed for less time. However, the percentage of new visitors over returning was up, which is the one ray of light.


Applications

2015-apps-by-month.png

This year, most worryingly, bucked the trend of a strong November, which has been strangely consistent from year-to-year. Normally, December is a bit of slowdown in apps coming off of November, but this year we picked up December from a terrible November, although still tying only for last place with 2014.

Overall, 2015 was our second worst year for new applications since 2009, beating 2010 by just 10 apps to come in at 126.

2015-applications-per-year.png


Training and Placements

2015-graduates-by-year.png

Our second worst year for graduates since we started tracking in 2009, which tracks with our application rate.

Our pass rate went down a bit from 65% last year to 59%. However, considering the small number of applicants, that’s still not bad – just a small difference can throw off the percentage quite a bit. We’ll be looking forward to the numbers in 2016 to see if there’s a trend, but right now we’ll consider this maintaining what we did last year.


Retention of Members

We’re not going to include retention numbers going forward as we’ve decided there’s not really a great way to provide these in a way that’s fair. For example, a ship that has better retention and only needs – let’s say just to keep things simple – three new ensigns in a year, but loses all three, ends up with a 0% retention rate. But a ship with a poorer overall retention rate that needs 12 new ensigns, while keeping only four, ends up with a 33% retention rate. Clearly, this is not a statistic that needs some refinement.

Also to be considered is that the numbers are quite low and therefore it’s hard to glean any specific statistical analysis from them.

We have on the docket a discussion planned around this for the Captains Council to try and decide a better way to calculate this.


Taskforces

We ask each fleet ship and taskforce to report-in with an update on how they did for the year, which includes questions about challenges, accomplishments, and goals for next year. Below, you’ll find the retrospective information for each taskforce in 2015.

While many teams did not meet all of their goals, it’s important to recognize just how long this list of taskforces is, and how much we’re engaging our members and helping our future staff develop skills. It’s quite an accomplishment, and cements the fact that we are a community, and not just a game.

Training Admin Team

  • This team was playing catch-up for much of the year as the commandant, RAdml. Jaxx, took a long-term leave of absence, while RAdml. Turner – a Deputy Commandant for seven years – stepped down, along with Capt. Frazier.
  • Some good progress was made in terms of moving in the right direction, though, as FltAdml. Wolf took interim command of the team and worked to refresh the staff. Capts. Faranfey and Nugra took Deputy Commandant roles, with Cmdr. Kael Thomas joining them at the very tail end of the year.
  • This did not meet any of the goals of last year, although it made good progress on two: While we did not post an Apps & Grads article each month for most of the year, by the end of the year we did set up a process whereby the new Statistician team provides the article; and while the team did not beat the 60% graduation rate – per above – we were quite close.
  • Unfortunately, the team did not begin the “Meet the Trainer” column it had intended, although we’ll put this back on the docket for next year.

Training Operations Team

  • This team struggled, along with the Training Admin Team, with the loss of the Academy Commandant, RAdml. Jaxx. To that end, the only goal that was met was an overhaul of the training tutorials, although that work is ongoing as the Captains Council discusses potential changes to the standard formatting.
  • Constituting training teams for each week’s class was also more difficult than normal as the fleet size shrank and applications were highly variable.
  • Nonetheless, the team managed to get close to the 60% pass rate of 2014 and still ran a class almost every week – and continues to run the most sophisticated and detail-oriented training program of any simming group online today, bar none. The Training Operations Team also continues to be an important step toward command, laying the groundwork for each future Commanding Officer to learn the ins-and-outs of feedback and plotting.

Statisticians Team

  • This new team was formalized in 2015, and gained a number of members who were focused on keeping records up-to-date after each Academy class.
  • Capt. Faranfey took on the role of Chief Statistician, and helped managed onboarding for team members with aplomb.

Top Sims Contest Team

  • This team had a very ambitious goal-set for 2015. Some of the goals were met, while others were not. Judges terms are now being tracked more closely, and judges are being rotated with more efficiency; rounds are being judged in a timely fashion although we’re opening the time-horizon of finalizing each round for the sake of administrative time investment; run-off rounds are being posted on schedule.
  • Goals that were close to being met: Participation did increase in 2015, but not by much; articles were posted on the Community News but not with enough regularity to meet the twice-per-month goal; and a discussion was started on the CC about revamping the contest, but no progress was made.
  • Nonetheless, the Top Sims Contest continues to help us showcase our best sims and remain a cornerstone of our contests.

Graphic Contest Team

  • This team met two of its four goals: It held one contest a quarter plus a Halloween mini-contest and advertised itself on the Community News every month. It missed a goal of getting five entries per round by just one entry in one contest, so we’ll give that to them as being pretty darn close!
  • The one goal it did not meet was sending a fleetwide email at least once a quarter about the contest. We hope to see more emails to the fleet, which will hopefully increase participation, in 2016.
  • The team had difficulties finding themes that would engage the full community membership and drawing attention to the contest.

Featured Bio Contest Team

  • This team met three of its goals solidly: Maintaining a judges roster of at least three people, ensuring that it’s publicized on the Community News each month, and getting at least six entries for each round. They did not send out a fleetwide email to the fleet at least once a quarter, unfortunately, but it doesn’t seem to have hurt them much.
  • The biggest challenge has been judge retention, as with the year before. We’ll talk more about OOC engagement below as we look ahead to 2016.
  • Members who went above and beyond expectations in 2015: Roshanara Rahman

Publicity Team

  • Publicity is one of our most challenging areas, requiring both high activity and high creativity, a bit like simming itself! Most challenging for this team was keeping the members active and engaged, and on that front, the results were not entirely successful.
  • However, Capt. Renos – the current facilitator – has proven to be a resilient and diligent leader for the team, and did manage to keep our advertisements on PBEM sites up-to-date with the help of team members, and keep a steady stream of member-accessible activities posted on the Community News, which met some of the goals in a roundabout way.
  • The Publicity Articles team, which had been split out into its own in 2014, came back to the fold at the end of 2015 as we ended the task that team focused on.
  • Members who went above and beyond expectations in 2015: Eerie, and Nugra.

Community News

  • This team managed to meet two of its three goals, in posting an average of at least one article per day (some days were skipped accidentally due to technical issues, but there was always at least 30 posts a month), and refocusing on fleet-based activities and personnel foremost above Science and Trek articles.
  • As with other teams, this team struggled with maintaining a roster of active members. The goal was six, but the active members per month (if you don’t include members who were submitting solely for their Team and not contributing feature articles) was more like 3-5 people throughout the year.
  • Nonetheless, the team has settled into a routine with monthly activity requests, and has managed to hit its primary goals.
  • Members who went above and beyond expectations in 2015: Roshanara Rahman, and Sal Taybrim.

The (Image) Collective

  • This team met all of its goals from 2015, and went far beyond, designing our new Badge system, adding images for new awards, creating video tutorials for new members, and continuing to expand graphics on the wiki.
  • The biggest issue the team faced was activity among members, finding it difficult to keep members engaged or proactive in terms of what projects needed to be done.
  • Nonetheless, this team solidified itself as one of the most active teams which is vital to helping our members present their characters to the group.
  • Members who went above-and-beyond expectations in 2015: Lan Riel, Iniko Mpeba, Paul Sharpe, Talia Kaji, and Alana Larson.

Federation News Service

  • This new team really came out of the gate running. After starting as a way to create a more colorful backdrop story for our simming, it also took on the proofing and editing of ship reports for the Community News, with an eye on making them more exciting to read. This led to a change in the way ship reports were submitted.
  • The group also created a storyline regarding a Federation presidential election, which included a showcase FallFest 2015 event in which the candidates participated in a live chat debate.
  • And near the end of the year, FNS launched onto its own spinoff website with the intention of continuing its work with UFOP: SB118, but also helping create a shared universe of stories for simming groups across the web.
  • Members who went above and beyond expectations in 2015: Roshanara Rahman (founder and current facilitator), Didrik Stennes, Tristam Core, Tsuki Kazeyama, Aron Kells, and Brek.

Weekly Newsletter Team

  • This team met both of its goals this year, which included sending out at least 50 weekly newsletters and training a second participant for the team.
  • Cmdr. Alex Blair joined Capt. Raj Blueheart to ensure that there is always coverage to assemble the newsletter.
  • In addition, the format of the newsletter was improved a bit, as FNS articles/ship reports were split from other news just to give people a sense of what’s going on around the fleet.

Department of Veterans Affairs

  • As with most other teams, this team reported difficulty finding willing volunteers to assist with projects.
  • Last year’s goal was simply to engage in a discussion of membership retention and subsequent creation of at least three action items for the community staff. The team did engage in a discussion, but action items were not created.
  • However, the team did suggest a staff lounge “safe space,” for casual discussion among community staff, which was implemented. Another discussion about improvement of the decommissioning process was also facilitated.

Chat Team

  • This team had a number of goals for 2015, most of which were met, including maintaining participation of at least 25 per chat, maintaining participation of at least three COs per chat, ensuring events are publicized on the Community News each month, and requesting participation via OOC lists through COs each month.
  • Goals that were not met include scheduling three special subject-focused chats and sending a fleetwide email before each chat.
  • The special “watch-along” chat was very successful and will be repeated in 2016.
  • Members who went above and beyond expectations in 2015: Anora Manar.

Wiki Admin Team

  • This was not formally a team until 2015, simply a list of people who had admin access. But as of this past year, we’ve created an email list for this team and they are now working more formally on deciding some policy and figuring out how it can be useful in terms of ongoing janitorial tasks for the wiki.

Wiki Operations Team

  • One of the primary goals of the Wiki Ops Team for 2015 was expanding the awareness of the many templates available on the wiki and increasing their user-friendliness where available. We’re very happy to report that this goal has definitely been accomplished – more members are using more sophisticated templates on character and user pages.
  • A secondary goal was implementing a wiki etiquette and editing guidelines document, which was also completed and is linked-to from the front page of the wiki and other locations where new users will find it.
  • The main challenges this team faced was testing the boundaries of the team to see what members were comfortable with. While we will continue to push members to accept that the wiki is open for all to edit, there are continued sensitivities to face.
  • The team also phased-out the original character naming convention of [Last name, First name], making it easier for team members and wiki users to create new templates and less confusing for new members.
  • A number of new areas were launched or updated, to the surprise and delight of many.
  • Members who went above and beyond expectations in 2015: Roshanara Rahman and Tsuki Kazeyama.

Community History Team

  • This team accomplished its goal of completing historical research on at least five entities, but struggled – as with other teams – in sustaining active participation.
  • Nonetheless, this team continued its slow and steady unearthing of historical information, drudging the sims archive and other sources for tidbits that can help build wiki areas for later reference.
  • Members who went above and beyond expectations in 2015: T'Mar and Tsuki Kazeyama.

Podcast Team

  • This team met all goals for this year, but unfortunately lost its leadership near the end of the year.
  • Nonetheless, a special tribute to Leonard Nimoy and more accessible podcasts were some highlights for the year.
  • Members who went above and beyond expectations in 2015: T'Mar and Chythar Skyfire.


Looking ahead to 2016


As we begin the year, we are nursing our wounds. For the moment, the main goal is recentering the fleet on our goals and values. Secondarily, we need to maintain the current roster of leadership as much as possible, and bring as much stability to the fleet as we can. This will put us in a good place for retention and growth.

Following-up on the discussion above, we’ve increased the target size for rosters to 14, with the goal of opening more “specialized” positions. This includes allowing science-oriented ships to have more science officers and so forth. The hope is that this will allow us to build rosters to a larger size for flexibility, so that we don’t have to open new ships without having an extremely solid foundation for them in terms of fleet size.

The staff is beginning the year with a conversation about how we can pull back on OOC work somewhat, lowering the administrative time involved with commanding and leadership, to give everyone more time to focus on simming and ensure that we have good focus. That will be an ongoing discussion and effort throughout the year.

That said, our attrition in the latter-half of 2015 left us with a very strong group of simmers who seem very dedicated to our community and simming. We will be conducting a survey in the first few months of the year on how we can best serve these members and work on implementing any suggestions we receive.

Following up on last year’s mention of our hosting costs: We’ve had another small increase but we seem to be maintaining at the moment. We tested a Christmas-time donations drive, based on the trend of such appeals from non-profits and while the initial response was tepid, we’ve seen more people get involved over the course of the month as we posted thanks on the Community News. We may want to test this again for next year, considering our large costs. That said, we’ve recently received a donation for over $700 to close out the 2016 donation drive – our largest donation ever, and an incredibly generous contribution that has left us all in awe. Many thanks to the anonymous donor!


Taskforce Goals

Training Admin Team

With so much disarray in 2015, the Training Admin Team needs to solidify a solid team of Deputy Commandants and get back on track with Training Team development and growth.

  • Ensure each active trainer receives feedback at least twice per year;
  • Add a “Meet the Trainer” column for the news team feed, featuring one trainer per quarter;
  • Write and implement a Statistician manual for the Statistician Team;
  • Create a set of "small class" plans for weeks when there's only one applicant to train.

Training Operations Team

  • Meet or exceed the 60% graduation rate;
  • Expand volunteer scope to have more members volunteering for more roles;
  • Open a discussion about training incentives.

Statisticians Team

  • Maintain the Apps & Graduates article on the Community News each month;
  • Assist the Training Admin Team with creating a Statistician manual;
  • Ensure data integrity across our tracking documents with regular audits.

Top Sims Contest Team

  • Maintain an up-to-date judges roster;
  • Maintain run-off round posting in a timely fashion;
  • Maintain participation in run-off rounds of at least 20% of the fleet;
  • Ensure that at least two articles are posted on the Community News each month;
  • Ensure that a fleetwide email is sent at least once a quarter about the contest;
  • Complete CC-led overhaul of the Top Sims Contest process to increase participation overall, considering the retirement of the Writing Challenge.

Graphic Contest Team

2016 will be a year of decision for the contest – with enough time under consideration, we'll need to decide by the end of the year whether or not to continue this contest. Most importantly, we need to understand whether the team is helping expand graphic skills in the fleet and engaging members appropriately.

  • Maintain a pace of four rounds per year;
  • Maintain a minimum of at least five entries per round;
  • Maintain a judges panel of at least three people;
  • Maintain record of posting two articles each month on the Community News to publicize the contest;
  • Ensure a fleetwide email is sent at least once a quarter about the contest;
  • Track participation of members throughout the year and at least one new participant to each contest.

Featured Bio Contest Team

  • Maintain a judging roster of at least three;
  • Maintain a minimum of six entries per round;
  • Maintain record of posting two articles are posted on the Community News each month;
  • Ensure a fleetwide email is sent at least once a quarter about the contest;
  • Increase bio feedback by 5% through the Community News.

Publicity Team

  • Maintain Facebook activity of at least a dozen posts a month;
  • Maintain Twitter activity of at least 40 posts a month;
  • Maintain posting on PBEM email lists, Facebook groups, and websites for publicity purposes;
  • Maintain links and relationships with outside organizations such as Ongoing Worlds;
  • Investigate and implement a plan to increase link-building outside of forums.

Community News

  • Maintain a posting rate of at least one article per day;
  • Maintain a focus on fleet-based activities foremost;
  • Establish a system to automatically count the number of contributions each month on the News Cycle spreadsheet;
  • Increase praise/recognition of good work submitted;
  • Implement a method of delivering news posts to the Community News Team email list each day so the team is more aware of what's on the news each day.

The (Image) Collective

  • Maintain a focus on providing character images;
  • Maintain record of assisting with new species images;
  • Release three new tutorials in either text or video format;
  • Add a new co-facilitator to help with workload and wiki updates.

Federation News Service

  • Maintain assistance with monthly ship report editing and posting to the Community News;
  • Establish a one-article-per-month minimum for team members;
  • Establish relationship with two other RPGs to encourage participation;
  • Work with FWPA facilitators to integrate FNS into plot arc creation.

Weekly Newsletter Team

  • Maintain 50 weekly newsletter pace;
  • Train a third team member;
  • Work with the Graphics Contest/Image Collective on ways to enhance the newsletter.

Department of Veterans Affairs

  • Create a summary article/report from the retention discussion;
  • Create a summary article/report from the decommissioning discussion;
  • Create a rules page to make it clear to members 118's rules and code of conduct;
  • Examine staff promotion process and ways to increase participation and investment of long term members who are at Lt. Commander rank.

Chat Team

  • Maintain monthly chats;
  • Hold at least three special chat events;
  • Add an additional team member;
  • Establish a consistent chat log creation process.

Wiki Admin Team

With the formalizing of this team and the acceptance of some "janitorial" wiki tasks, this team will need to focus on intentions and plans that make sense for the team. To that end, these goals will be tentative and subject to change.

  • Discuss shared goals and plans for 2016;
  • Implement a plan for "janitorial" tasks;
  • Discuss possible ways to bolster the Wiki Ops Team.

Wiki Operations Team

With the formalizing of the Wiki Admin Team, the Wiki Ops Team will need to refocus on intentions and plans that make sense for the team. To that end, these goals will be tentative and may be subject to change.

  • Discuss shared goals and plans for 2016 considering the formalizing of the Wiki Admin Team which is taking over some "janitorial" roles;
  • Implement at least three area improvements or overhauls.

Community History Team

  • Maintain an active roster of at least 4 people;
  • Implement a roll call/check-in system;
  • Complete 1 full ship history (crew history, awards history, mission history, mission summary) research project;
  • Complete 10 other history projects (awards, mission history, crew history);

Podcast Team

  • Release four podcasts;
  • Establish a plan to post on the Community News at least once a month with podcast news, recruitment, or previous podcast segment highlights;
  • Ensure a fleetwide email is sent at least once a quarter about the podcast or team.


Fleet Stats


At present, the fleet consists of the following vessels:

The Executive Council

The Captain’s Council

Active Commanding Officers

Inactive Commanding Officers

Captain’s Council Non-Voting Observers



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