Too much E-Peen is bad, m'kay?

I tell ya, there are times that things just don’t work they way you want them.  I will explain, but first, some back story.

A long time ago, in another land, there was a man named E-Peen.  E-Peen was a magical creature who would bestow upon people pride in what they have accomplished.  Now, E-Peen was rather bored one afternoon back in 2002 and while he was simply “E-peening” about, he heard about a new game called EVE Online.  E-Peen was very happy.  Here was something that was rather new in the gaming world and had so much potential for E-Peen that he could hardly wait.  Over the pas few years, E-Peen has been all over the universe of EVE, spreading joy to all.  Armed with his new tool, the Kill Board, E-Peen waved about all over the citizens EVE and there was much awe at what had been done.

Yeah, I’m talking about kill boards.  I have spent a lot of time maintaining my own kill board that spans my entire time playing EVE.  I like to see how well or how poorly my Yarr-ing lifestyle has been over the weeks, months and years.  Statistics can be fun and they do show you how well you are doing.  It can be a sense of pride for a capsuleer and that’s why kill boards exist.

Over the past 4 days, I have been helping a corp. that is friendly to Neo Spartans get their kill board all straightened out as the person who was doing it for them has dropped off the planet.

A word of advice to all CEO’s of a corp. and/or an alliance.  Make sure that you more than one person in your organization that knows and understands how to maintain your internet presence in way of kill boards and forums.  Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

That being said, I felt bad for this corp. and it’s members as they are a great bunch of people, so I took on the challenge of getting them all setup with a new kill board on a new domain with a new set of forums.

The first challenge was getting all their kill board data copied from the existing kill board and that’s where the REAL fun began.  The issue here?  In a word, corruption. Data is stored in the kill mail format that existed at the time of the posting.  As EVE expansions have come along, so have subtly changes to the kill mail formats, formatting bugs and item changes.  As a result, you have old data that simply can not be moved into the new database formats for the current versions of the kill boards.

There is a way to get around this issue, you have to manually work with each individual kill mail that will not copy over, correct for the formatting/content changes and manually post the kill mail.

At this point, you have to decide.  Do you want all that old data or do you cut your losses and just move forward.  To be honest, in this case with over 10,000 kills that would have to be corrected, it’s just time to call it quits and move forward.

So, how do you keep such a potential loss of kill mail data from happening?  There are several things you can do to ensure that your kill board stays healthy.

First, plan where you are going to put your kill board and what software is going to run that kill board.  I maintain 3 kill boards right now using the EVE-Dev (http://www.eve-dev.net) kill board.  I do recommend this one if you are going to host your own kill board.  If you can’t host your own kill board, you can use one of the kill board providers that are out there, but be warned.  If you ever want to move your kill board from one of those providers, you will encounter data loss and it’s NOT, I repeat, NOT the fault of the kill board providers.  To understand this, read on.

Second, plan for that kill board to exist forever.  I know, that sounds a bit crazy and in reality it may not be possible, but moving a kill board from one hosting provider to another can result in a loss of data to various reasons, mainly item number three.

Three, NEVER EDIT YOUR KILL MAILS.  I know, you had that awesome fight and you want to post that kill right away since it was your first kill post expansion and/or patch.  Never compensate for kill mails not posting due to an expansion or patch to EVE Online.

I can’t stress this enough.  When EVE expansions and or patches come out, there is always a gap from when the new items in game or changes to the kill mail formats get upgraded into your kill boards.  Never, NEVER, edit a kill mail to get it to post.  Always wait for the kill board application to get upgraded first.  Save those kill mails in a text file on your computer and wait until it’s safe to post them.

Why should you wait?  Well, when you post an altered kill mail, you are creating a situation for data corruption on an epic scale.  Many kill board providers use what is called the “shared database” operating model.  They setup kill boards all using a central database.  While this works well in reducing the amount of disk space the server will end up using, it also creates the potential for massive data corruption and flawed statistics regardless of the many tools that are in place to prevent such things from happening.  These tools that they have work very well in dealing with random corruption that can occur during a the normal operations of the database, but they simply can’t account for the one thing that causes the most problems, E-Peen and the pilot posting an altered kill mail.  I will use the following example.

Say Little Johnny here was successful in his PvP encounter and he goes to post his kill mail.  He can’t post it because of the recent expansion that was deployed, so he edits his kill mail to make it post.  Now Little Johnny’s victim, Honest Abe, always posts his loss mails.  He sees that he can’t post the kill due to the recent expansion, so, he waits until the kill board has been upgraded, then posts his loss on his corp’s kill board.  Please note that both Johnny and Abe’s respective corps host their kill boards with the same kill board provider.  Now you have two different kill mails for the same encounter.  Which one is valid?  Well, that depends on which of the two kill boards you look and more.

So, to take this further, Bobby, one of Johnny’s corp. mates, hosts his own kill board to keep track of his statistics.  He uses the feed syndication tool and pulls kills from his corp’s kill board.  Another corp pulls kills from that Bobby’s kill board and that kill board pulls from that kill board and so on.  Now, you have spread that edited kill mail across three, may be four different kill board providers that all use shared databases.

To make matters worse, several other kill boards are pulling data from Abe’s corporate kill board.  Now, you have two copies of a kill mail existing in many other databases for that one encounter, the edited kill mail and the correct kill mail.  The corruption has now spread like a virus, with altered and correct kill mails out there for both Johnny and Abe, causing statistics to show increased kill numbers for the single encounter due to kill mail duplication.

Now, fast forward about 4 months, Johnny’s corp. decides to host their own kill board.  As the data export is pulling the kill mails, the process encounters a kill mail that was edited.  As the current kill board his corp. is using is up to date, the error in how Johnny edited his kill mail makes that kill now appear as “malformed” and it does not import into the new kill board.  Johnny is upset because his statistics don’t match the numbers he see for himself on other kill boards such as Griefwatch and Battleclinic.

This example may sound severe, but I would be willing to wager that everyone who has their kills posted on a kill board has encountered this problem.  The integrity of kill mails existing in the “Kill board sphere” can not be guaranteed as a result of this kind of thing happening.  I am willing to wager a fair amount of isk that this is one of the reasons “veracity of kill mails can not be confirmed and are not allowed to be posted to the EVE Forums”.

So what is the ultimate cause of kill board data corruption?  It’s the one thing that technology can’t truly overcome.  Excessive E-Peen, plain and simple.  Too much pride or desire to “show off” is what motivated Johnny to alter his kill mail and post it.  “Look at me, I am so uber!!!1111”.

E-Peen is something that every EVE PvP pilot has to some degree.  We like to celebrate our wins and many of us use kill boards to “wave that E-Peen around”, myself included.  I’m not saying that you should never wave your E-Peen about. Take pride in your accomplishments but always remember, E-Peen must be tempered with a sense of integrity.  You are only “uber” when others recognize you for your accomplishements and integrity of character, not when you try to proclaim your status by editing your kill mails.

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~ by J. Riley Castine on November 25, 2008.

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