Working together for a better community: the Italian Magic Judges website
Find other articles in the Judge Article Index.
|Recommended for Level||all levels|
|Abstract||Matteo discusses the Italian Magic Judges website, its features, and plans for the future.|
The core of any group of people is communication: without communicating there can't be exchange of ideas, teaching, and learning. The judge community is based upon these principles and the Internet made connections easily accessible to many people in many ways. Once we were scattered and far away from each other; now we can discuss all together on a daily basis on any topic.
I want to offer you a real example of how to build, with time and commitment, a strong community of judges and how to offer them the possibility of exposure to other judges, to players, and to TOs. Take this article as a repository of ideas to implement in your own community. We did it, so there is no reason you can't do it, too!
Here follows the list of all main topics of the Italian Magic Judges website (referred as IMJ from now on), with the reasons for how and why it was built, the way it's working now, and some projects and ideas for the future. Here’s the link for the original website in Italian and its English translation (by Google).
Hey, there can't be any community of judges without judges!
A few years ago there was no Judge Center and no public list of active judges. In Italy, Organized Play required a judge for each City Championship; there were around 60 such Championships with a total of more than 1.000 tournaments per year. This meant that we had a lot of local judges working in their championships only and many difficulties knowing who they were. They were totally unknown outside their local communities and there was no way to contact them.
One of the first sections of the IMJ website was the contact form where you may search for all certified judges working in Italy (by name or by city). From there you may reach each judge's personal page, with a picture, contact data (email, phone, messenger ID, etc.), a list of Competitive+ tournament he or she worked, and a list of all content he or she published in the website. Judges may now be found by other judges for discussions and help, by TOs for recruiting staff at their tournaments, and by players to have their questions answered.
Then we published a list of all Italian judges, with their name, level, city, and a small picture. This allows a full glance at the whole family. And it looks quite good! And we finally added a nice interactive map (powered by Google) so that you may easily find the closest judge to you: he or she’s now just a click afar!
Like any other family, we wish to increase our size constantly. In order to help L1 candidates, we published a page full of suggestions on how to prepare for the exam and a form to complete so that the candidate may be followed by his or her examiner during the last days before the exam. Questions to the candidate range from the documents he or she studied to motivations for testing for L1, from where he or she'd like to judge, to when he or she would like to take the exam.
We are planning to add two new sections aimed at promoting the rewards judges receive for their activity soon: a complete list of all Judge promos with pictures included, and a complete list of all special rewards given to Italian judges both locally and internationally. Working as a judge is time and energy-consuming: it's great to let others know that you may get interesting compensation for your work.
As the worldwide community keeps growing, there is always news running across the globe each week. It comes from different sources (DCI mailing lists, Wizards website, Italian mailing lists, etc.) and it can be difficult to catch it all. A community with strong bonds needs to be informed about what happens both inside and outside it.
We gather all the main news and publish it at the top of the IMJ homepage. There are judge level advancements, applications for GPs, PTs, Nationals, document updates, and so on. The most important announcements from the DCI family are translated into Italian and published in a specific section (i.e. Friday Night special initiatives, Magic Online Judge Open, Regional Coordinators, Spheres updates, etc.).
The judge program is based on the exchange of skills and experience between its members. It is important to offer judges the opportunity to share their knowledge and to let them keep learning and updating. The IMJ website allows judges to produce original content and to translate the best articles from the international websites. A lot of articles have been published over time and they have been collected into several columns.
At the beginning of each month, we publish an article about the most used card in the current PTQ season. Starting from the text of the card, we present several possible interactions with other cards and we give an exhaustive analysis of all related rules. In this way it's possible to learn difficult parts of the CR by working on practical cases. For example, we used Gigantiform to present the new layer system, Gideon Jura for attacking planeswalkers, Vengevine and Mimic Vat for triggered abilities and mana costs, etc. Players read this column carefully each month too!
Players use forums to post questions about cards, rules, and policies they should expect in tournaments. Judges spend a great deal of their time browsing through these forums and offering their expertise to answer such questions. We started to collect the best ones from the main Italian forums and publish them on a monthly basis in a new column. It's a great way to understand what players need in your community and to let many judges test their knowledge on practical cases.
What better way to share skills than to have judges talk about them? We added a new column where we interview two judges about technical or tournament or community topics. The results are quite funny and very interesting to read. Interviews may be made with judges with similar or different experience in order to present similar or different points of views on the topic so that most readers may identify themselves with one or the other. The latest interviews are about investigations, role and expectations in the community, and how to be prepared for a PTQ.
In order to help judges increase their confidence when working in a PTQ and players to understand the format better, we publish each PTQ season an article with all the most recent updates in the documents and all the main interactions among cards played in the format. It's a sort of FAQ for anyone going to a PTQ. We publish a portable version with picture of the cards to be printed and posted in the PTQ venue. A lot of players spend their spare time in between rounds reading those pages!
Many judges work in translating articles from the Judge Archives, so that judges may have a second chance to read and think about them. It is a tremendous exercise in making this exceptional material available to everybody: reading a document in English (i.e. IPG or MTR) may be almost easy for a non-native English speaker because of its technical language, but reading a whole article is much more difficult because of its more colloquial language.
Judges want to talk about rulings and see how rules and cards interact. It's easy to understand: rulings are our job! For this reason we recently started translating articles from the Cranial Insertion column to the great delight of judges, candidates, and players. After some weeks of testing, the authors of this famous column let us access the latest article a few days before the official release, so that it may be translated into Italian and published on IMJ website at the same time as the original article.
Many more articles are published and they are collected into sections as "Rules," "Policy and Tournaments," and "Community." Always remember to pay attention to updates in the documents (Magic 2010 anybody?) because you may need to spend some time into updating your articles too!
The new column we are working on is something about the Wizards Event Reporter software. We plan to write guides full of examples and exercises on how to solve possible problems during the tournament: dropping the wrong player, making manual pairings, changing results, enrolling late players—we all have nightmares about them!
The first step in building the Italian community was putting all judges together. We gathered the contact info of all certified judges in the country and we registered them in a common mailing list to let the discussions happen. The Italian Magic Judges mailing list was born in 2003 and it soon reached an average of 150 messages per month and more than 200 people joined it (judges, candidates, some players, and TOs). The whole Magic community started to talk together for the first time about rulings, tournaments, and policies.
The huge amount of content needed some kind of organization and we decided to publish monthly summaries for all people who wanted to keep updated but had no time to read all the emails. Each month, one summary is published (including rulings, policy, and community) and we require a maximum length of about 2 pages in order to be easily read. The best email of the month is also selected and published on the IMJ website both as recognition for a good contribution and to pinpoint important topics.
Many interesting discussions happen also in the international mailing lists (DCIJUDGE-L and MTGRULES-L). We publish a monthly summary of both lists in Italian language, so that the language barrier is not an issue. Summarizing topics of the DCIJUDGE-L list is a very challenging task, because the discussions may be quite long and many valid ideas may be found within. It is a perfect opportunity for any judge willing to increase his knowledge of policies and philosophy.
Judges work hard to be ready for tournaments, where they may use their skills and knowledge to run a great event. The judging experience would be quite diminished if tournaments were not easily accessible to judges.
The IMJ website keeps an updated list of all Competitive+ tournaments running in Italy (i.e. PTQs, Regionals, Nationals), offering info on location, preregistration, schedule, all judges on staff, and letting candidates know if there will be the possibility to test for L1.
The Head Judge of each PTQ is required to write a report of the tournament so that judges may discuss particular situations, strange card interactions, or complex fixes. This report is submitted for discussion on the Italian L2+ mailing list and it is finally published on the Italian L1 mailing list and on the IMJ website. Having so many reports of tournaments running in different parts of Italy is a tremendous help in reaching consistency among all Head Judges so that players and judges may be sure of what to expect in any event.
Each sponsored judge for an international event (PTs, GPs, etc.) is asked to write a report of the event. These reports are particularly interesting because the event usually takes place over multiple days and there are many more interesting stories to be told. When a judge is exposed to experiences from different countries, there is always a huge opportunity to learn and to adopt new ideas. Sharing them with your community will help the growth of each judge.
And finally, there can't be a tournament without players. They are the real main characters of the event and judges happen to exist but to help them. We collected interesting topics for players that want to improve their knowledge of the rules and policies and we published them on the IMJ website (i.e. suggestions on how to avoid penalties at tournaments, how byes work, why prize splits may be dangerous, intentional draws, and more). You may think of this section as an expanded version of the Magic Tournament Rules, with more examples and explanations targeted for a player audience.
We are looking now for a new collection of articles that may help the TOs run their first events. Judges are often the TO’s closest link to the DCI and they look to us for suggestions on how to sanction an event, on how to run the reporting software, on how to handle difficult players, and so on. Building a solid relationship of reciprocal trust and collaboration between TOs and judges is a fundamental step in offering the best service possible to players at the events we judge.
Each judge always needs a few documents for his activity and the IMJ website has a whole section where the most useful ones are readily available. We publish both English and Italian version of all the documents, so that they may be read and studied by all Italian judges and players.
Documents range from the official DCI documents (CR, MTR, IPG, PEIP) to FAQs from all sets, to checklists for limited tournaments, to Oracle text collected by format, and software for PDAs and cellular phones.
We also shared the main bookmarks for other interesting judge websites: there are the official ones (both international like www.thedci.com and www.wizards.com, and local like the City Championship website and the DCI Italian office website), player related websites and forums, and unofficial resources websites (like www.yawgatog.com and www.crystalkeep.com).
We are planning to add a site map section, in order to help navigate the IMJ website. You may have the greatest content, but if nobody is able to read it, it’s lost in the Internet.
The latest technical improvement of the IMJ website is a new Wiki system. A Wiki is a website that allows the easy creation and editing of any number of pages using a simple text editor. Wikis are often used to create and power community websites because they allow any user to edit the content of the pages. We used this system to launch two big projects in English to get as many people involved as possible (and to improve our English skills as well!). The first project launched is the “Rules by Example” document. It’s a manual for explaining the rules to L1 candidates who want to study for the exam. Reading the Comprehensive Rules may be a daunting and scary task, mostly because of its high technical language and sheer size. We split the document in different pages, simplified part of its language and added lots of illustrated examples that may help people in understanding the rules by analyzing practical applications. The original Italian document has been completely translated in English and it’s now being updated to the latest rules. The second project is the “Policy by Example” document: it’s a manual for explaining the philosophy and its practical application into the policies to any judges. The Infraction Procedure Guide is a very nice and compact document that carefully explains how to identify infractions and how to fix them. It is difficult sometimes to fit a particular situation into a specific infraction, so we commented the document with many specific examples involving common cards and familiar tournament scenarios.
This is the IMJ website: a collection of projects and ideas that helped to strengthen the bonds within our community and that allowed many judges to grow in the program. The IMJ website has become, over time, the core of the Italian community—a place where all judges, candidates, TOs, and players look for information. Many judges worked on it and this common work helped grow friendships that have lasted over the years.
This model may be replicated in your own community. Don't be scared about its dimensions: you may start with a small project and let it grow in time. All you need is some technical system to publish articles (a blog may be fine to begin with) and some people to be responsible for writing the content. The website may be mapped on your own community, giving you opportunities to let all expert judges have some responsibility and mentorship roles, and all other judges the opportunity to teach and learn from each other.
At this moment in the IMJ website, there are 12 judges who work regularly to be responsible for one or two sections, and 12 more judges who work on it on a voluntary base. Their combined efforts result in about 10 new articles each month (both original material and translations of English articles) and regularly updated information on tournaments and judges—a strong signal that the community is as vital as never before.
I want to thank all the judges that contributed over the years to this project and particularly the people that made the magic happen: Riccardo Tessitori put his will into ideating something unheard before, Simone Zanella used his technical skills to give life to such ideas, and Mirko Console put great effort into spreading the work among the community.
Yes, your dedication, your enthusiasm, and your creativity will make a difference into building a better community!