There's an active thread
on the forums at the moment, discussing a topic that's essentially about site policy and enforcement. Specifically speaking how unscheduling of matches work in a practical sense, and how the staff manages these requests.
Since this topic is important, and I don't want to bury the response in a forum thread, I am instead going to respond in a blog (which will be linked in the thread as well). This way, it will be easier to find later down the line, as well as be more visible to everyone.
As a short summary on the situation that triggered this, a staff member was approached by a coach stating they had missed a match being scheduled for them, and was asking to have the match unscheduled to not have teams of both them and the opponent locked into the match in question and needing to deal with finding a time to schedule the game. The staff member unscheduled the match on request.
The complaint here is that the opponent wanted to play the match, and felt that the ability to have matches unscheduled is both against the rules of the site, and undermines the competitive nature of the system (specifically, this was a blackbox scheduled game).
By the rules as written, scheduled matches are intended to be played out. The core intent of the rule is to make the blackbox scheduler meaningful and not let coaches cherry pick their opponents and avoid perceived "hard" matches. In a general sense, this matters not only for meta competitions like the BBT, but also for teams building towards Major tournament participation.
However, the real world is rarely this simple and the staff team has to handle requests to have matches cancelled because of no-shows now and again. On an individual level, this is rare, but from a global site perspective there are a few requests like this every day. To put a number on that, roughly 1% of games being scheduled are unscheduled by staff like this.
Because of the rarity of these events, and the limited number of staff members who perform these unscheduling events, we have in the past not really had technical tracking of how often someone requests this, and simply rely on a collective memory of who requests and who is the coach who no-showed. Anyone who no-shows more than very occasionally have been approached by a staff member to remind them of the policy that matches are expected to be played. This more or less only happens with new coaches to the site, who aren't familiar with how the system works, or the expectations. I can't recall a long-standing coach being approached about this in recent times.
Being extremely literal with the rules, we'd never allow coaches to unschedule, or cancel games and just force everyone to finish the games they started/got scheduled to. However, this would mean that certain teams would simply be locked into a game forever, because someone simply dropped off the site and didn't return or as a more complex example stays on the site but more or less refuses to play, responding to all messages with a "no, I can't play at that time" response.
The disconnection flowchart
that I drew up covers the common situation, where coaches are actually wanting to finish the game, and acts as a general guideline to how the process works. It's incredibly helpful to quickly convey the overall intent, and most of the time there are no issues. It is, however, not a be-all-end-all flowchart that covers every little detail. Staff have to remain flexible enough and take the actual situation into account when dealing with issues like this, and having a flowchart that covers 100% of the situations that can happen is simply not feasible.
In order to not be too strict, FUMBBL simply has to be a little bit flexible and try to take into consideration that people have lives outside the site and sometimes, a family member or some other external event demands attention strongly enough that a scheduled match is forgotten.
While I'm not looking to completely change how staff members deal with unschedule requests I have taken steps to not need to rely on a collective memory of unschedule requests, and for a few days there has been a system in place to technically track unscheduled and forfeited matches. The number of recent unscheduled/forfeited matches is clearly visible to the staff members, and will act as a point of information going forward. I recognize that just relying on the collective "feel" isn't good enough, but it simply has not been a big deal in the past. The vanishingly small number of unscheduled matches hasn't really required this level of technical support. Obviously, I don't expect the number of unscheduled matches to go up, but it doesn't hurt to have technical information available.
To close this off, I also want to mention that me and the staff members are all human who do make mistakes at times. Judging things the wrong way, making the wrong calls, or simply missing information. FUMBBL couldn't exist without the hard, and thankless, work of the staff team, and I am happy to take blame for any mistakes that is made by any member of the staff. If there is a situation where the rules are unclear, or if the information available at the time of a decision being made isn't good enough that's on me and should not reflect badly on the staff member who was asked to make the call.
It's a constant series of decisions to make, and it's absolutely inevitable that some decisions aren't necessarily perfectly correctly made. In the triggering case, the staff member could have approached the opponent before making the decision, but sometimes it's simply not worth dragging things out and it's always going to be a balancing act of allowing some leeway to smooth out how the site works and being strict with the rules.
As always, I'm happy to discuss rules and policies with people, and am absolutely open to suggestions on how to improve them. If you have such ideas or simply want to talk about things, I'll happily do that on Discord to forgo some of the "formality" of a post like this.
I hope this has been at least somewhat coherent and understandable. The intent of this post is to bring up the staff perspective and why things are the way they are. There are always ways to improve things, and hopefully people will be able to maintain their cool overall and talk things through without resorting to pie-throwing on the forums. I'm sure those of you who spent the time reading the linked forum understands what that refers to.
Either way, thanks for taking the time to read this, and I will keep following the discussion both in the responses to this blog and on the forum thread.