[NPC] Cindy Donovinh
- Posted: Fri, 06 Nov 2009 18:58:22 +0000
This month on Gaia Insider, we're proud to present an interview with siskataya, one of Gaia's longest-serving admins. Over the years she's helped thousands of Gaians recover loot stolen by hackers and con artists; along with the rest of the Community and Customer Support team, she spends her days-- and sometimes her nights-- helping out Gaians in need (and occasionally smiting the wicked scammers who put them there). Luckily for us, she was kind enough to set aside some time to answer a bunch of questions from Gaia's curious members.
Q&A from Gaia's Members
AnkashaFlame asks, "How did you get involved with Gaia?"
I'd love to say it was because of a burning love of anime or have some other really snazzy response. The truth is, I was a 50 gold referral. Back in the day, when 50 gold was a *lot* of gold and Devil Tail items cost 60,000 gold, my friend from another website asked me to join Gaia so she could get the 50 gold referral fee as she was questing for a Devil Tail. I said ok, signed up, and here I am XD
Here's one from yoshiko_inori27: "what was your first impression of gaia?"
My first impression of Gaia was that it was massive - back then, there weren't even 300,000 members, but it felt huge. Like this vast, crazy, exciting, creatively insane world where there was always something going on! I admit, I lurked for a long time until I found a place on the site that I could connect with. That would be the C&T forum, which to this day, remains my "home forum". They took me in, accepted me, fed me strawberry muffins (inside joke), and eventually came to be my online friends and family. I always hope that our new users come to find the same sense of joy and community I did.
Gamine asks, "was it weird making the adjustment from user to mod, and then mod to staff?"
Anytime one shifts into a position of more authority, especially authority over friends, it can be a bit unnerving. I remember moving from user to moderator, and not really being sure of what that shift entailed. Once I became a moderator, it changed the way I interacted on site a bit. As a moderator, one has to maintain a professional position when communicating to the public. Moreover, imagine the first time I had to warn a friend… awkward! XD Still, I felt that I could do some good for the site that gave me a great community, so I was happy to make that change.
As for becoming an Admin, that was such a shocking and pleasant surprise. I had progressively moved through the various moderating levels (I’d been a site mod, global mod, and omni mod) so taking the next step and moving to Admin was less unnerving for me, though I still did have concerns about how I would do, and if I would I represent the mod team and community well. I hope I have at least achieved that somewhat in my time here ^^
Another from Gamine: "How was it meeting people like Lanzer and Ling for the first time?"
With regards to meeting people for the first time, I was really excited. I had been volunteering for two years on Gaia, so meeting the staff was something I really wanted to do.
I have a funny story about the first time I went to the Gaia office. I had flown down to sign my work papers and went into do the paperwork. I went to the front desk and asked to speak to Derek (Lanzer). Now, bear in mind, nobody had met me, and most people only call me by me username, not my real name. So I said my real name, and that I was here about my job. Blank stare followed with "Derek is in a meeting - is he expecting you? May I take a message?". So then I said "It is Sisky, I am here about the job." Then I got "OMG, it's Sisky! Hi! Come in!" and they gave me candy and hugs. After that, we figured out my salary and job requirements. Mmmm, candy AND money! To this day, most people still do not call me by my real name XD
Terrok_Hurricane inquires: "What is your favorite moment you've had while working for Gaia?"
Wow, there have been so many moments that have been amazing - how do I even begin to start? My favorite times socially are when the office does fun things or goes on spontaneous outings! Like the time we all went to see "Snakes on a Plane" on opening day. Lanzer bought anyone who wanted to go tickets, and we took off to the theatre and had a blast. I also loved the time we folded up this large paper flow chart, turned it into an oversized novelty paper plane, and all dashed up to the roof to throw it off! I believe things like this bond people as more than co-workers- it makes you friends.
Professionally, I love it when I can get something important accomplished. Whether that is helping get a new tool to help the moderating team or recovering a compromised account for a user - any time I can solve a problem and help someone's work be easier, account be safer, or day a little better, then I am happy and feel like I have done a good job.
Mistaken Life has a bunch of great questions. First up: "Sisky, what is your most favorite thing about the gaian community?"
Your creativity, intelligence, and compassion. Gaia has some of the brightest, most creative, most caring people I have ever have the honor to know. I am always amazed when I see younger people with such talent and ability who care not only about the Gaia world, but the world at large. I am older than most Gaians, and seeing such kindness and talent in the younger generations, it makes me feel good. I feel that with people like you, the world will be in excellent hands after I am long gone.
"What is the best memory you have that is all thanks to Gaians?"
Again, there are too many to count, but there is one example that sticks out because it was the moment that Gaia became "home" to me. This story is concurrently sad and joyous. When I was a site moderator and still really active in my home forum, the C&T, one of our regulars, Richard-H, died in a terrible car accident. Just before this, I had personally been going through some really tough things, and Richard-H talked me through it. He was an amazing guy - sweet, smart, and friend to everyone. Anyway, this news was devastating to me and many of the forum regulars. So we got together, figured out how to send his family a condolence gift, and made sure they knew he was loved - not just by immediate friends and family, but by people all over the world. That act of coming together, putting aside any squabbles with each other, and reaching out to a grieving family on the other side of the world - I knew this was home in that moment. This is the power of Gaia and our community. And yes, I still miss Richard-H, and he will never be forgotten ^^
"What is a "usual" day at gaia HQ for you?"
Ok, I go in at about 8:30-9:00 am. Have coffee. Talk to my team, login to IM and read email. Have coffee. Smite some hackers, scammers, and botters. Sometimes Simone tells me my shirt is on backwards - go to bathroom to turn it around. Have coffee. Have meetings and discuss site improvements for users and moderators. Around 12:00 pm I have lunch. Have coffee. Have meetings. Talk with team members. Work on various projects tasked to me. Have Diet Coke. Get lovingly mocked by team members. Mock back. Shoot each other with Nerf guns. Have coffee. Continue working on account issues and moderator tool improvements. Have Diet Coke. Around 5:00 pm I lose the plot from lack of sleep the night before and usually start laughing uncontrollably for about 10 mins. Have coffee. Wrap up day's work and go home. Don't have coffee. Work a bit more. Try to sleep and fail.
"How do you stay motivated to keep going through reports coming from people that have been incredibly lax about their account security and making demands of you, despite of the countless warnings throughout the site they must have seen at least a few times?"
Well, I won't lie - it is frustrating to me when people give away their passwords. Account security always starts with the account owner. I stay motivated because I try to think of resolving the matter as an educational process. If I can talk to the person, and tell him/her why sharing passwords is bad, then maybe I they will think twice about doing it again on Gaia or elsewhere. You think losing your Gaia account is bad, imagine if you fell for one of those fake bank account scams, or the 419 scams. You could lose your life savings! My hope is that the information we provide them when we recover the account will translate into a more broad understanding of how not to be conned by anyone - on Gaia or not.
"Do you ever get a feeling of grim satisfaction when you deal with an obvious hacker and smack the banhammer down on them? Is there a special dance or celebration involved?"
I cannot lie here - while 98% of the time I don't like banning people, there are some scammers and hackers that I am happy to ban. Frankly, they deserve it - they have victimized multiple users, stolen their items and gold, turned around and used the hacked account to send more phishing messages, etc. My most satisfying phisher ban ever was on a plane! They have wifi on planes now, and I was working on a report and banned the phisher. Then I thought "Ha! My banhammer fell from 37,500 feet above earth!" Talk about dropping the banhammer! There is no special dance yet, but I do have a compilation of songs on my "Songs to Smite By" mix cd! XD
kungfuchicken89 asks, "What inspires you to do the work that you do?"
Helping our members and our moderators have a safe and positive experience on Gaia. Despite the fact there are scammers, phishers, botters, and account thieves, I do not believe this is the majority of Gaians. I believe that this is a nefarious minority, and that the majority of you are excellent, decent, honest people who, though sometimes naïve, deserve to be helped when you need assistance.
Kori Al-Djin has our safety in mind: "Is there anything we Gaians can do on our side to help make it easier to nail these guys to the virtual plywood?"
If you have the nails, I have the hammer my friend! But yes, doing the following would greatly assist us and yourselves in preventing account loss:
- Keep your password to yourself. Always. It is as simple as that. Do not let friends into your account. Do not enter your information into fake login fields because some scammer promised you gold or items (there are no gold generators or item duplicators!) Also, always remember that real Gaia Online staff and moderators will NEVER ask you for your password. Only you should know your password.
Be certain to check your trade panel before confirming a trade for the last time. Make sure you are getting the items and gold amount you were promised. And for the love of all things orange, if someone is promising you a Winter Rose item, hover your mouse over the item icon in the trade panel and make sure it is not a white rose wristlet corsage item instead.
Regularly read the Terms of Service and Rules and Guidelines - know the rules that you agreed to follow before posting or putting content on site. As well, read the sticky rules of a forum before posting in it.
Avoid checking the "Remember Me" option to save your password if you are using a shared computer. People login in and forget they have this checked then walk away from the computer. If you share a computer, always login each time you go on Gaia, and logout when you leave the computer for any length of time. The hassle of logging back in is nowhere near the hassle of getting your stuff stolen.
Please fill out hacking and scamming report forms accurately and completely. Do not fill out the forms with answers such as "N/A", "idk", or the like. As well, make sure to answer all questions on the form. We need all the information you can think of in order to assist you in the fastest and best way possible. Help us to help you by giving us the information we need.
Check the URL in the page header to make sure you are logging into Gaia Online. If you get a message that says "You were logged out", exit that page and go back to www.gaiaonline.com to log in again. Odds are that was a fake login page, and you were never logged out.
Report, report, report! We have an extensive reporting system on Gaia, and taking the time to report issues when they arise is one of the best ways of preventing further bad behavior on Gaia. By reporting, you make sure that the inappropriate content id brought to our attention and can be removed from Gaia.
szkamon159 continues in a similar vein: "What would be your most fundamental advice to prevent hacking? (Though I know it's usually to never give out your password.)"
That is, indeed, the most fundamental piece of advice I can give to you all: Never share your password with anyone else. Most hackings on Gaia are the direct result of sharing passwords for one reason or another. Don't make yourself a victim by willingly handing over your account information to anyone else or by entering it into another site's fake information fields.
G as in Godly asks, "What would be, by far the most, ridiculous, and absurd Hacking/Scamming report you have received?"
We get a few as some people abuse the hacking and scamming report forms. Let's see - there was the guy that claimed he had had 9,999,999,999 angelic halos stolen from him along with something like 400,000 Gaia Cash. Then there was the one girl who had her sanity stolen and wanted us to return it. My personal favorites are when people file reports for having been scammed because they were trying to buy a gold generating bot, site hacks, or engaging in other ToS violating activities. I just think "Wow, you really don't realize that you just shot yourself in the foot, do you?"
987cozza wants to know, "What is your most rewarding experience as a moderater?"
As a moderator, I always loved being part of the mod team, and part of such a great group of men and women who bust their collective asses to help the Gaia community. I have such great love and admiration for all the hard work the moderators do, and being able to be part of that team was an amazing experience. I believe we have some of the most caring, honest, capable moderators of any site I have ever been a part of, and every day they do something that makes us proud of them.
Boris_Badenov asks, "Did you have to move far to get to Head Quarters or did you live nearby before you started working for gaia?"
I did have to move - I moved from Canada to the US! In fact, it was a whirlwind move as I was in the middle of preparing to head to Europe for a month on vacation when I got the job offer. So I packed most of my house up, flew down here, got an apartment, signed the work papers, flew back home, packed a bit more, flew to Europe, back home, then down here to start work. Totally worth it though - wouldn't change a thing.
Shaman Phantom is wondering what your hobbies are outside of Gaia.
Wait - there is life outside of Gaia? I work too much - everyone tells me this so even when I am not physically at work, I am usually working! On those rare occasions I am not, I love reading, writing, watching movies, photography, making jewelry, painting, making avatar art for people, playing games on my PS3, having coffee with friends, and going to school. Yes, I love school. I am nerdilicious. I want to take up glass blowing too since that seems very interesting to me. Oh, and I play zOMG! on my mule account. Many of you have probably teamed up with me and never knew it. Funny story about pIaying zOMG!: I got flamed once in-game because my mule avatar looked like a Naruto character, and that person didn't like Naruto. It was funny, because when I asked the kid to stop flaming me, he said "No, just report me to a mod or Admin," and I laughed so hard I almost did a spit take of Diet Coke all over my monitor.
MsJuneBaby has a few questions: "What inspires you to make Gaia a friendly place?"
The good members of Gaia - they inspire me to make Gaia a friendly place. I want you all to have a safe and fun environment in which to connect with others, and express yourselves authentically and creatively. I love that Gaia provides such a wonderful opportunity for everyone from all walks of life to meet, share, and explore. When you have such fabulous members, one cannot help but want to make Gaia better for them.
"Do you sometimes think that there are just too many people out there to stop?"
You know, there are some days when it can feel overwhelming. When I run into a particularly nasty hacking case that is just malicious, or dozens upon dozens of phishing victims, it would be very easy to slip into the mindset of "This is too much - this is never going to change. This will never stop. Why bother" But then, I step back and reframe the issue in my mind, and I say "This is never going to stop so there are always people that need our help. I must be part of the solution to the problem, and work to find an end for this behavior. We cannot become apathetic because the task is difficult. "
"What's the biggest difference you think you've made by doing your job?"
I'd like to think that in some way I have helped shape the community in a positive way. That helping people recover their accounts is more than helping them get items or gold back- that it is helping them not be victimized in life, and restoring to them an account through which they express who they are and what they believe. I also like to think that my going from user to moderator to Admin can be an example to people that anything is possible; that doing something you love and making a living at it is possible. Oh, and that people have learned to NEVER GIVE AWAY THEIR PASSWORDS! (Sorry, had to slip that in again..)
Teles_SpearShaman asks the age-old question: "Which do you prefer: Kiki or Coco?"
Coco all the way. I always prefer the Nitemare items. I am just not a sparkly shiny light angelic blue kind of gal. I prefer the darker items ^^
yeya500 asks the other age-old question: "what is the most embarrassing thing that has happened to you?"
I used to have a friend who was learning fashion design and she made me this awesome skirt. Anyway, one day I dressed up and put the skirt on and headed out to meet my friend Dave for coffee. I had to take the bus to get to the café. Once we got to my stop, I started walking down the aisle in the middle of the bus to be let out and the skirt basically collapsed- fell right off to the ground. I could not figure out a good way to bend over and pick up the skirt without further flashing people. Finally I just had to bend over and grab it and scurry off the bus holding it up. It was a nightmare x__x
Lady_Vengeance-kazi asks, "What's the reason behind your username?"/b]
I knew one day someone was going to ask me this. I cannot really tell you the origins other than to say it came from a Russian punk song wink
Princess-Orphelia wants to know which three words would best describe your current mood.
Hmmm - I'd say contemplative, caffeinated, and zesty!
Remou asks, "What was the funniest experience you've had working for Gaia?"
There have been so many really - there is always something in the day that makes me laugh. I guess one of the funniest moments was when we all took this group picture in the lobby. I loathe having my picture taken, so I hid behind the giant Grunny in the lobby and gave a "thumbs up" to the camera. It looks like I was attacked by a giant Grunny and still makes me laugh when I see that picture.
Gnarfy is wondering what kind of jobs you had before working at Gaia.
Oh wow, nothing really spectacular. I was a supervisor at a video store, legal secretary, landscaper, house painter, office campaign assistant, house cleaner, street artist, nanny and museum docent. In truth, I have mostly spent my time being a "professional student" and going to school. I just love learning so much - I want to know everything.
Gnarfy also wants to know if there's anything you've always wanted to tell Gaia's users.
Aside from the obvious "Don't share your password!", I would like people to know that:
The mods are excellent - they do a tough job keeping the site safe. Contrary to popular myth, they do not have personal agendas against users, and they do not ban people for fun. Moderators all have similar motivations for helping as I do – they want to ensure Gaia is a safe and fun place for all its members. Cut them some slack and stop the "Mods suck!" statements.
Going into your friend's account and taking items is still hacking - you need to be aware of this. Just because someone trusted you with their password, even though they shouldn't have, doesn't give you the right to go in and steal stuff. If that theft is reported, it will be considered a hacking and you will probably be banned for hacking.
When you are hacked and recovered, you do, in 99% of the cases, get back most if not all of the items that were taken from your account. I know - I have personally been returning items, gold, and cash for years. There are very few circumstances in which recovery is denied and these cases are the outliers.
I love avatar art - keep sending it in! I cannot get enough ^^
brightContinuum asks, "Does Simone really gives you cookies? If so, what flavor?"
She has not, as far as I recall, ever given me cookies! She did bring in Ho Ho snack cakes though on National Ho Ho Day. And she did give me a super pack of Fun Dip Candy though, which was awesome. It was lime flavor - I love lime flavor Fun Dip. Mmmm, candy…
Akito Sohma God wants to know if you have any favorite anime or manga.
Well, I think at this point everyone knows I really like Naruto (go Gaara!), but I also really enjoyed Death Note, Basilisk, Hell Girl, Haibane Renmei, Ergo Proxy, Evangelion, Gunslinger Girl, and absolutely anything by Miyazaki.
Scullylam asks, "What does your office area look like? Or do you really have your own 'secret hideout' so we aren't allowed to know?"
I have a cube by a window and it is currently covered in letters and art from our members. I have some pillows, plants, and Tokidoki toys about. I have my Nerf gun, a Domo, and a platypus plushie and hand puppet. I have a little Lawliet figure that sits on the wall top, and pictures of an angry rabbit, ANBU Itachi, Gaara, the Hell Moose and the "crappy wrapping of doooooooooom" wrapping paper that L0cke and Ling wrapped my birthday present in. I also have avatar art people make for me. In short, by most universal company standards my cube is a mess, though I prefer to think of it as a repository for creative and inspiring objects. I will take a picture soon and post it in my journal.
Scullylam also wonders if you've ever participated in the office Nerf battles
Yes, yes I have, though I am usually shot in the first few minutes. I am not the best Nerf war player I must confess. I will have to improve this!
Next time on Gaia Insider, I'll be talking with beloved Gaia programmer Fleep, best known for his work on many of your favorite Gaia features and events, his dedication to chatting with Gaians in the forums, and his overall general Fleepiness. Head over to this thread to ask him your questions!