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The QAT Gazette: February 2018

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What's been happening in the Beatmap Nominators and Quality Assurance Team, you ask? Mapping successes, exciting current developments and many new team additions all round, that's what! Read on to find out all the details!

Welcome back everyone!

We last brought news to you at the tail-end of 2017, so hopefully you all had an enjoyable Christmas and New Year period. Having skipped over a relatively calm holiday season for the Beatmap Nominators and Quality Assurance Team, January has been a return to normality, and to that effect I'd like to once again bring everyone up to speed on the current state of affairs, as well as give an indication of future plans.

So with that said, let's crack on!

Within the Beatmap Nominators

Sometimes it can be a drag getting back into the working rhythm, but it seems as though our Beatmap Nominator team didn't even miss a step settling into the new year. Instead, January 2018 saw the highest count of ranked difficulties and mapsets of any single month in osu! history - an impressive feat, as well as a promising start for the year I hope! You can find a breakdown of these impressive statistics courtesy of osu!daily if you're interested.

That said, we're always striving towards future growth and even more impressive accomplishments, so here's a little rundown on recent implementations and future plans for the Beatmap Nominators.

New Beatmap Nominator promotions

A significant part in the above-mentioned success might be attributed to a few new Nominators joining our ranks - and when I say "a few", I mean twenty-one of them. Yes, really. Without further ado, please welcome the newst additions to the Beatmap Nominators for osu!:

- Frontier -, ailv, AyanokoRin, Bubblun, dsco, ezek, Hailie, iYiyo, Kuron-Kun, Lanturn, mancuso_JM_, Namki, Nevo, Noffy, pinataman, Realazy, Sotarks, TheKingHenry, timemon, UndeadCapulet and Wishkey!

Some are returning veterans, some are stepping up for the first time, but all are working towards the same goal of bringing high quality beatmaps to the Ranked section. Many congratulations to you all on the start of another exciting journey in mapping and modding!

Additionally, Electoz and Gabe have joined the ranks of the osu! Beatmap Nominators, after previously demonstrating their proficiency in osu!catch and osu!taiko, respectively. Well done to them both!

Beatmap Nominator retirements

Sadly time waits for no circle, drum, fruit or piano inspector, and whilst many are just beginning their journey, others are taking a well-deserved break. Please offer your appreciation to Bonsai, Monstrata, MrSergio, Rizia, sheela and Zero__wind for the osu! game mode, as well as OzzyOzrock for osu!taiko, Halfsmashed for osu!catch and Litharrale for osu!mania. Their hard work and lasting contributions have ensured players can enjoy a more varied and higher quality osu! experience for years to come.

Changes to Beatmap Nominator applications

A major concern in previous months was how to ensure fairness when balancing the rewards of traditional forum post mods to the more generous Modding Discussions system. Unfortunately, the ability to log kudosu and/or modding activity on the Discussions system isn't yet implemented, so for the near future, we'll be treating each forum mod post and modding discussion with at least one suggestion as as “1 mod”, regardless of the total kudosu obtained. Mod sampling by Quality Assurance Team members will still take place during the evaluation process however to clear up any oddities.

We're still trying to determine an optimal strategy for evaluating aspiring Beatmap Nominators, balancing critical appraisal with accessibility and fairness for all. In the recent application round, the application pool was divided in two, with each half being evaluated by a team of three Quality Assurance Team members. Each team would attempt to come to a consensus on every applicant from their pool, based on experience, behaviour, modding quality, and so on.

In an effort to remove bias, future application cycles will require each QAT to cast a preliminary decision in private, without input from other team members potentially swaying their decision. Only then will the examiners convene to share their opinions, with the QAT members from the second group then cross-examining the final decisions. Previous cycles utilised an "everyone checks everything" styled approach, but this sometimes led to huge workload strain and rushed decisions, so we feel this is an agreeable middle-ground.

Within the Quality Assurance Team

Aside from continuing to develop Beatmap Nominator evaluations, there have been ongoing, small-scale developments in a number of other working fields such as the mode-specific Ranking Criteria rework, metadata checking, and mapping contests (the latter of which we'll address in a bit). What I'd like to focus on this month however, are two areas of recently increased significance that are long overdue some attention.

Acceptable content rule clarification

A current hot topic in the osu! Ranking Criteria has been the unclear ruling on what we deem to be "inappropriate or not-safe-for-work content". With the recent allowance/removal of some potentially borderline cases, it has become necessary to clarify and expand upon the current rule wording. This will aim to satisfy both mappers who wish to continue creating more mature-themed content, as well as players and moderators who wish to ensure osu! remains a safe and enjoyable environment for all.

To this effect, there has been a recent Ranking Criteria amendment covering the recent changes and clarifications. Included are guidelines on how to better decide if a song is appropriate for osu!, as well as an explanation on what happens if a track is deemed to be unacceptable.

Reporting misconduct

Almost two years ago, it was decided that the community should have a greater say in which maps should reach Ranked status, putting more control in the hands of modders and players rather than being solely at the mercy of the Quality Assurance Team. With the ability to report Qualified mapsets they feel contain errors, are lacking in quality, or where nomination rules were broken, any user can influence the future content of the Ranked section.

Whilst that's all well and good for beatmaps, there's never been a clear way to report the people overseeing them. Since we've received a few complaints in recent weeks regarding alleged misconduct of people in positions of responsibility, these events need to be looked into. To monitor this, we will be trialling a Google form where users can anonymously report inappropriate and/or unwanted behaviour by Beatmap Nominators and Quality Assurance Team members. Hopefully this form won't see significant use, but if you feel the need to speak up, please make use of it.

Mapping with Rewards

To those of you who have participated in the recent Mapping With Rewards event that ended recently, you might be wondering where the results are at. Due to a slightly lower than expected turnout, a collective decision was made between organizers and judges to re-open submissions for an additional period of time. To that effect, results will be dealyed slightly whilst we (hopefully) gather new entries; though we will obviously endeavour not to take two years this time!

New Quality Assurance Team additions

I'd like to start off by offering a huge thank you to Feerum and Blocko for their services to the Quality Assurance Team and osu!mania in particular. The dynamic pianist duo have contributed greatly to numerous projects during their time with us, including Beatmap Nominator tests and evaluation, the Ranking Criteria rework, and of course, this humble blog itself! We hope you enjoy some deserved rest and relaxation from the comfort of your new osu!alumni roles!

With the recent departure of our long standing osu!mania Quality Assurance Team members, a changing of the guard was necessitated to keep everything running smoothly. Therefore it is my great pleasure to introduce Asherz007 to the QAT! Asherz will be focusing primarily on checking Qualified maps and evaluating new Beatmap Nominator applications, but has also expressed interest in the continued renovation of the Ranking Criteria. Alongside fellow newcomer Protastic101, we hope to see a renewed growth as the next chapter of osu!mania history awaits!

That's not all however, as I have also had the pleasure of welcoming two returning members back to the QAT in recent weeks: Myxomatosis and Fycho! The pair share a combined total of over four years' worth of prior experience in the Quality Assurance Team, and will undoubtably be of significant assistance as the osu! mapping and modding communities continue their current rapid expansion.

Myxomatosis (who may be better known to some of you by his former alias Desperate-kun) has returned to take up an active role in checking Qualified osu! maps, whilst Fycho will provide a wealth of assistance to Doyak, Kurai and the now 10-person strong Metadata Helper team, in addition to helping out with checking Qualified map reports and evaluating Beatmap Nominator applications, also in the osu! game mode. Many thanks to both on their decision to return!

Summary

Thus brings us to the end of another month's worth of updates, detailing the important goings-on in and around the Beatmap Nominators and Quality Assurance Team. 2018 has already brought much success (which I hope to continue!), but also new problems and challenges for us to tackle. Let's continue improving osu! and see what the rest of the year holds together!

Thanks for reading!

—JBHyperion