All About Merits

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Author: Zandera Sommers

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This holiday season, I had a chance to chat with Kerna Shedrian Sedai and Toral Delvar Gaidin about the Merits system. If you don’t know either of these two lovely people, Kerna Sedai is the new Director of Research of Records, recently raised to her position in early November. She has racked up an impressive record processing Merits and working in other positions for the Tower and is not likely to stop any time soon. Toral Gaidin has been the Director of the Department of Research and Records for many years and has recently taken up the mantle of the prestigious position of Archivist in late September. He continues to be a constant and stabilizing force appreciated by staff and administrators over time. Needless to say, there is some experienced blood driving the Merits system, and we’re looking forward to seeing where it goes!

So what is the Merit system? What would you even call a “merit”? According to the Membership Manual in the library, a Meris is like an award, given in recognition of service for the tower. For example, if you are a member of the site for two and a half years, you are automatically eligible for the Silver Membership Merit. If you are a member for five consecutive years, you are eligible for the Gold Membership Merit. A full list of all the Merits you can earn is described here. There are also Merits for serving in various volunteer positions, such as being a Forum Moderator or Library Editor for a certain period of time.

The Merit system has only been around since 2010. Some Merits may be received automatically (such as the Membership Merits) and others may only be granted by the administration. As it so happens, Merits aren’t around for members to necessarily collect. So handing out Merits is more of a ‘thank you’ to those that have done so much for the community, often times in ways that are not seen on a visible level. Kerna Sedai elaborated that “there are several benefits and privileges available to members that meet certain criteria, including an extra bond and event discounts that may seem attractive to members to work for (and the Merits themselves are attractive badges of honour). The amount of work necessary to receive the Merits proves the system is not used lightly, but the system works in such a way that consistent and continuous service (no matter what contribution that is) is rewarded.” In other words, anyone can earn Merits, but it is only the most involved members who do.

When the Merit system was first developed, a focus group was held to examine the different areas to which people could contribute, different levels of recognition, and other aspects of the program. It’s important to keep in mind that the Merit system is still changing and improving like many other programs at the site. At the present time, the Merit system is organized so that “only 1-5% of people are eligible for Gold Merits (though of course there is flexibility),” said Toral Gaidin. “The Merits were initially conceived to identify and award outstanding achievement, and that it was never expected that people would be able to gain all the Merits.”

Kerna Sedai also wanted to apologize to the membership for the amount of time it’s taken to deal with the backlog of Merits and profess her and Toral Gaidin’s commitment to a routine schedule of Merit award releases. The backlog she’s referring to is the release of over 360 Merits part way through 2015. With a growing membership and so many eligible individuals requesting Merits, sorting out applications and awards can be a lot of work! Thank you to everyone who was patient during the wait.

To receive a Merit for which you believe you are eligible, you may email the Merits team at at any time. In your email, you should include your Tower name, the Merit for which you are applying, and the details describing how you are eligible. For example, “I joined in 2010 and have been a member for 5 years and therefore looking to receive my Gold Membership Merit.” A member of the Merits Team will review your email and cross-check any information regarding staff positions with the appropriate supervisor. In some cases, there may be some back and forth between yourself and the member of the Merits Team as information is exchanged, and all details are reviewed to ensure everything is in order. If you satisfy the requirements for the Merit, you are given a shiny Merit on your Library page! A great example of a large variety of Merits is found on Toral Gaidin’s Library page, where you may scroll down and see all the images of the Merits he has earned. You may even hover over each Merit to learn its name or click on each image to learn more details about the Merit. Kerna Sedai emphasized that emailing the Merits team is an important way “to guarantee members receive any Merit they are entitled to. In particular, there is a gap in our information relating to participation at Events that we rely heavily upon emails to award. All information will then be cross checked by the Merit Team and/or the Archivist.” So make sure you are emailing for each merit you earn!

So what can you use Merits for? Besides the update to your Library page, you may earn a discount on tickets when attending official events. According to the Membership Manual, “once you have the Events Attendance Gold Merit plus one other Gold Merit related to Official Events plus three other Gold Merits of any type (though only one Gold Merit from the Membership Category counts towards your three other), you will receive a 10% discount on tickets to our Winter Euro, Anniversary, Summer Euro, Fall Ball, and South Pacific events for the rest of your membership at TarValon.Net.” Pretty cool!

When you earn a certain number of Gold Merits, you may also get the coveted “plus 1 bond”, also known as an “extra bond”. With your plus 1 bond, you gain the ability to bond an extra person above your current limit. So for a Gaidin who is bonded to an Aes Sedai of the Blue Ajah, he may now gain another bond to an Aes Sedai of the Brown Ajah, for example. Bondmates gain access to the outer chambers of their counterpart’s senior member group and is valued as a huge reward by many for dedication to the site. A common question is whether you earn a plus 1 bond for your current bondmate, and the answer is no. Only those who have earned the required merits may get an extra bond. In other words, each person who is bonding an additional person needs the required Merits.

“The effort that goes into making our community so amazing should be recognised,” Kerna Sedai said. “The saying is that ‘hard work is its own reward’ and this is certainly the case. For many of the Merits awarded, the members did not do it with the intention of earning a Merit. Members should not work hard to ‘get Merits’ but do the work to make our community great. Many Merits are purposefully difficult to achieve. But they are not impossible.”

Sherna Sedai also wanted to thank those that made the awarding of Merits in 2015 possible. “And totally a plug for Library Editors who have been indispensable. Zasha Sedai did many edits this year. Sailea Nerid has also compiled lots of information to award the Reporter Merits too. Also, without the Historians (and other Editors) keeping the Histories and Who's Who up to date, it would be impossible to have the level of information required to award some Merits so a huge thank you there.”

So do you think you are eligible for a Merit? Don’t forget to email! You may also refer others whom you believe are eligible for a Merit by contacting the Merits Team at the same email address and let them know. The Archivist and staff will take it from there.

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