27
Jun

Listen, we need to talk…

   Posted by: Nicolas   in Admin Stuff, Blog, Bruises, community, HNZ, OOC

Two and a half years ago I left the site – but I stayed connected with Cyndi and Donna, lest they ever needed any help. From time to time they did, and often I heard snippets of their woes about the site – many of these were familiar, and some were far less so.

One thing which I heard again and again that I just didn’t understand was the problem with Skype. Skype, as far as I knew, had been a wonderful way for members to get to know each other more. While it had certainly taken away much of the on-board OOC discussion, that didn’t seem like the worst price to pay.

It took my return to the board, merely six months ago, to fully recognize the problem.

Skype is killing HNZ.

That’s not fair. Skype isn’t doing anything, really. I should rephrase that.

You’re killing HNZ.

At least, the HNZ that we all know and care for is dying a slow and painful death because of how Skype has been used.
The HNZ I know and love is welcoming, and passionate, and diverse! It’s a place where very different people get along because of a common love for writing and a common love for Potter – and more than get along! They collaborate and create beautiful, interesting, engaging works of art together!
That’s the HNZ I love, and I suspect it’s the one you love, too.
How has Skype been used to kill that?
It’s been used to ostracize people. It’s been used to spread lies, and rumours, and sad half-truths.
It’s been used to bully people. To harass, to gang up on, to be children toward, fellow members of the site.
It’s been used in every way possible to evade our board rules and our Netiquette guide.
This is not okay. This is not the HNZ I know.
Skype is being used to get away with things that one would never get away with on the board – and it’s letting some people act like children while others are being abused, hurt, and chased off the site.
I’m sure we can all agree that it’s the people who are being hurt who we’d much rather keep around than the people doing the hurting.

Something’s got to change.

Let’s start here:

  • Block the Bullies
    If you’re in a Skype chat with somebody who’s treating you the above ways. Block them, then talk to us. We can’t punish people for things off the board that we can’t investigate, but you don’t have to endure the abuse.
  • Check Your Facts
    If you hear something that doesn’t make sense, from a person who doesn’t make sense to know/tell you that – talk to a member of the staff or the person who it’s about.
    We’ve had people think the staff has a vendetta against them just because one user told them so, like they knew, when it absolutely wasn’t true – and it created deep tensions until we discovered the problem! Talk to people, and don’t trust nonsense.
  • Offenders Be Warned
    If one name comes up very often as problematic off-site, we’re going to have a chat with that person and their time on the board might come to an abrupt end. Assume that Netiquette applies off site from now on.
    We’re not going to be talking people out of leaving because of your abuse anymore. Instead, we’ll be forcing you off so the board can be legitimately enjoyed again.
  • Site Talk on the Site
    We think it’s awesome that so many people have met in real life, know each other personally, are friends beyond HNZ – but maybe talk to those people only about not-HNZ stuff on Skype.
    Try to keep as much HNZ talk on HNZ as you can. Need to plot? PM. Want to talk to a bunch of people? Spam or shouty (seriously, just treat it like a group chat convo where you know if somebody is a bully they will be dealt with because we have the records).

We can’t resolve this alone. We need all of you to cooperate, especially those of you who aren’t part of the problem but know what we’re talking about.

I know many of you noticed that this year’s birthday celebrations didn’t include a site-wide Skype chat. Not surprisingly, this is why. The staff have no interest in organizing something that is being used to push people further and further away from the board and its community. That’s not okay, and we’re not endorsing it any more in any way – and we’re going to steer clear of Skype and the poison that comes with it until this changes. HNZ should be an escape from this kind of behaviour that many of us have experienced in real life, not a community that repeats those behaviours on our own.

HNZ is a lot better than this.
We’re all a lot better than this.
Let’s do better together.

-Nick


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11
Jan

Explanation & Hopeful Expectation

   Posted by: Nicolas   in Admin Stuff, busy, Future, Life, OOC, Positivity

It’s kind of crazy to realize that I’ve been on HNZ for seven years… and an admin for six of those.
Seven years is about a third of my life, it’s almost all of my adolescence and my adult life.
In that time, I’ve changed a lot – and the site has too. I joined the site entering secondary school, fairly quickly became an admin, and remained on the site through my undergraduate degree into my current schooling.
HNZ has been an insane blessing in my life. Being on the site provided me rich opportunities to hone skills that would have remained in their infancy were it not for being thrust into a position like I had on HNZ. Where many users have seen the site improve their English language skills, I received the gifts of learning how to work with CSS, JavaScript, mySQL, PHP and my HTML improved drastically. Where creative writing was the focus of many, my ability to communicate with others well was where most of my growth occurred (which is not to say my creative writing didn’t also improve… because it most certainly didseriously). All of this just to say, my experience on HNZ has been somewhat unique to most people’s. HNZ has been a pretty different thing for me. Like you, HNZ for me has certainly been an exercise in creativity, but often not on the scale of my character(s) – where I never really succeeded in maintaining any – but instead on what could most benefit the site and its growth, and how best to implement such changes. It’s also been an exercise in commitment, and frustration, and realizing that sometimes I really mess up. I’ve been caused to grow in a myriad of ways because of my role on HNZ over these six years, it’s been the only HNZ I’ve really ever known, and I’ve loved every moment of it.

But my life continues to change – I find myself juggling school, an internship, a social life, continued online commitments, family, reading, and some things have dropped… admittedly, HNZ has been one of those things. I’ve been on the receiving end of an admin’s life taking over (the mantra of HNZ from time immemorial being “real life comes first”) and it’s not great to have a dead weight admin around. Knowing this, I’ve had countless conversations with Cyndi over the past year about what my stepping down from being an admin on the site looks like, and over the last semester the necessity of those conversations became even more apparent to me.

Remaining on the site apart from being an admin has never really been something I’ve considered because I can imagine trying to be an active part of the community on the board and just being an awful member… telling staff how to do their jobs, backseat moderating, not applying for the things I’d need to apply for. It wouldn’t be a smooth transition, it’d be pretty rough; I think I’d be banned in a week flat. So I came to realize that I just need to wrap up my character and take a clean move away from the board. My series of blog posts a few months ago were my way of sorting through what HNZ is and has been to me, and I hope the trio of them meant something to you, too. As I’ve made this slow conscious move away from the board, I’ve also remained cognizant that there are certain things for which I’ll need to be available for Cyndi and Donna. If something goes awfully awry: the hosting is still on my shared host, I still own the domains, and I still care about HNZ enough that I’m more than happy to help and fix problems at a moment’s notice (they have my mobile number) and even help make some larger projects a reality (need to keep my skills up to snuff!).

I also have a number of people from HNZ on Skype, and so I know that not checking into the board very regularly or having an official role on the board does not mean that I won’t still talk to the people who I’ve come to know, respect, and enjoy the company of over the last many years. I expect many a harassing Skype messages, saucey emails, drunken rants – I look forward to it. I also continue to volunteer as the support administrator for ZetaBoards & zIFBoards, and will be a continued presence on the Support Board where I’m always a PM or a support ticket away.

I also look forward to what I know is in HNZ’s future with Donna & Cyndi at the helm, free of my imposition. Cyndi having been the indomitable force behind renewing Quidditch on the site (unquestionably the highlight of the last couple of years on the board) and often having had a handful of long-term plans she’d like to see happen (if only the site would get behind them enough to make them happen! *cough*Ministry Elections*cough*) I know that the site is in amazing hands and there will be a wealth of really exciting roleplaying opportunities to come (after all, HNZ is a roleplaying site first and foremost – which is something I confess to forgetting perhaps once too often). Likewise, Donna has a great love for roleplaying and HNZ and even as she continues to learn a lot of the admin-ing basics I know that in very short time she’ll be an incredible force propelling the site forward, too. These ladies, with all the Global Moderators supporting them and the rest of the site participating and enjoying themselves, really do have me wordlessly excited for popping in and hearing what’s been going on, and seeing a place that I’ve known as my home in cyberspace for so many seasons of my life continue to grow and flourish beyond what I could have imagined.

It’s a new year, HNZ – and a new season for us all.
I’ll miss all the bi-weekly madness, spam silliness, shouty shouting, countless Kaitlyn characters, sorting confusion, April fools jokes, Werewolf incredulity, and of course all the creativity and laughter and love that the site has to offer.
In short, I’ll miss you.
I trust that I’ll always be a welcome visitor and, should it ever be reasonable or possible, find a home with HNZ on the Internet again.

As ever: all the best,

Nick


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3
Oct

HNZ & All Around the [Real] World

   Posted by: Nicolas   in Admin Stuff, community, HNZ, Positivity

“All Around the Wizarding World” is a familiar enough phrase to those of us who have been a part of HNZ for any period of time. It’s been on our banner for forever – we have always roleplayed well beyond the bounds of New Zealand and had characters coming from all kinds of walks of life.

Far more interesting to me, however, is just how far reaching the site has been in the real world. We’re not a bunch of Kiwis. It often surprises people that it was an American who started HNZ, or that I am a Canadian who has never set foot in Aotearoa. But North American people are mundane to me: there’s no excitement in knowing I’m on a website with Canadians and Americans. The fact that we have actual Kiwis, though, that excites me. Despite having a very specific geographic niche to the site, its reach has never been limited.

In fact, HNZ has been accessed (and frequented) by people all over the world. In far flung countries and exotic lands I could only imagine, that the Internet brings far closer to me, and that HNZ has enabled me to get to share a passion with the natives of. In fact, in the past three years on the site we’ve reached people in all these places:

Map of the world, most of the world coloured in by visitors

Click for the full image!

While we certainly have a larger presence in certain places, the fact that we’ve been seen and shared in so many different places amazes me.
“Now Nick,” I can hear you starting to say – “just because HNZ has been visited in all those places over three years doesn’t mean very much – it could just have been one-off random flukes!”
And I say to you: fair enough – but look at this map from just the last three months:

A map of the world, with almost all the same places shaded in - some noticeable gaps.

Click for the full image!

Definitely fewer places, but still mightily impressive in my books.

It’s not just that people from Australia and Tanzania, India and France, Texas and the UK, have all visited HNZ that staggers me; it’s that HNZ has impacted lives, been shared, chattered about in an excited tone. People have met because of this site! We have frequently joked of a giant HNZ meet up or convention, but smaller versions of this happen frequently! People in the same country find ways to meet, peoples in the same area but might require crossing an international border have had annual get togethers, and when travelling there’s often a quick HNZ connection to be made if you want it. Friendships that would never have existed do now because of HNZ.

Even more powerfully, classrooms in the Philippines and in the Netherlands have been abuzz with chat about this character or that all while, seemingly a world away, a school teacher in Canada desperately hopes his students never find the site he has come to enjoy so much, but uses a similar concept as a teaching tool so they, too, can enjoy a piece of what he has so come to appreciate.

In places I’ll probably never have the privilege to visit, friends share the site with each other and the community we’ve all come to know and love, that has become a piece of who we are and that we’ve left a bit of ourselves with, travels the globe, a person at a time, a web search and a click at a time, little by little, making itself known and loved. In fact, we were even submitted to TotalGirl Magazine, which I’ve always thought was the coolest.

HNZ featured in a 2011 issue of "TotalGirl Magazine"

Click for the full image!

I really am frequently amazed at the impact HNZ has had on people, and how powerful a tool it has been in so many lives. People who have struggled with depression and belonging find a safe space on HNZ where they’re warmly welcomed and they most certainly belong. People for whom English is not their native language, HNZ has been a kind and patient teacher, giving them a leg up above classmates and helping them in their goal of bi- (or sometimes tri- or even quadri-) lingualism. Even people for whom English may have been the only language they have ever known credit HNZ for the improvements they have seen in their own writing, giving them a safe space to practise, have feedback, enjoy their art.

HNZ is art. Art that has been collaboratively accomplished by hundreds of people in scores of countries around the world, with a diversity of lived experience that boggles my mind. Art that is still being made, lovingly, passionately, sometimes painstakingly, a post at a time, creating something beautiful that none of us has known before, and that would not at all be the thing it is, if it weren’t for the incredible breadth and mixture of people taking part. If it weren’t for the Kiwis and Aussies who called us to account for the seasons being distinctly Northern-Hemisphere and not at all representative of the reality, if it weren’t for Europeans who speak a wealth of languages from which they can draw and enrich their characters, if it weren’t for schoolchildren in all kinds of countries in Africa and Asia for whom the site has perhaps held the most excitement, drawing them into a whole new world, and encouraging them forward even as they deal with the realities of their education and life beyond.

The beauty of the Internet has provided this safe space and opportunity, this welcoming and passionate community, to people from all kinds of walks of life all over the world, has allowed us all to make wonderful art together, and I love it for that.

HNZ & All Around the Wizarding World only exists because our people are from All Around the [Real] World. And it’s a magical thing.

I hope you find it as magical as I do.

~Nick


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26
Sep

HNZ’s Lovely Community: Passionate

   Posted by: Nicolas   in Admin Stuff, community, Positivity

Last week, I regaled you with an account of how great the community on Hogwarts New Zealand is because of just how welcoming it has been for years, and continues to be to this day.
The other thing that springs to mind when I try to consider what makes HNZ’s community so special is how passionate you, the members, are.

Passionate about Harry Potter, yes.
Passionate about writing, naturally.
Passionate about a whole lot of things unique to your individual lives, undoubtedly.
More importantly than all of these things for our context, however, is that the people on HNZ are also quite passionate about HNZ.

Perhaps this is why we’re as welcoming as we are: we care about HNZ a lot, and we want to help others see how special it can be. If ten seconds of our time will make the difference between somebody throwing themselves head-first into the beautiful quagmire that we call HNZ or them turning away and missing out on something we’ve all come to know and love, then it’s worth our ten seconds to share just a little piece of the magic!

It’s easy to participate in something and not really care about it at all: to do something because it does something for us, or is a way to kill time, or because our friends are part of it, or because it’s what we’ve always done… and that shows, it’s quite transparent. But when somebody genuinely cares about what they do, when they’re excited about what they take part in, that shows too – and it’s attractive to other people. It’s exciting to be in a place where other people are excited! HNZ provides that space for us. Even when we’re maybe not as excited as we used to be, we have friends on the board who are and who quite easily reignite a fire of excitement within us. A new plot! A new character! A new forum game! Something catches our eye and we’re back at it – all of us, passionate for a community and an experience – all of us, ready and willing to share that excitement with everybody else.

Cyndi can attest to the fact that, over the past little while, I’ve been digging through old topics and posts. Most long forgotten, almost all of them hidden away. One of the topics I found was a topic where a user had joined HNZ for the express purpose of putting it down, of talking about all the things they didn’t like about it and how awful they felt the people were. Apparently no staff were near at hand when this occurred, because it soon became three pages of users coming to HNZ’s defence. This anecdote makes clear that while maybe not particularly wise in their decision to feed the troll, the community on HNZ is undoubtedly devoted to this board. No matter its flaws or failings, we love the site and want others to, as well.

We’ve all poured something into the board and left our mark on it – HNZ is different for our having been a part of it. It sometimes amazes me how many people I can recall from our community who spent, in the grand scheme of things, a fairly short amount of time with us – but they were excited when they did! They participated, they were noticed, they shared their passion with other people: and that’s what stuck around. Even they left HNZ changed. It’s no wonder that so many users from ages of the site long gone return so often – a piece of them is with us on HNZ. It was a part of their lives, and for however long they were on the board they were a part of ours and that doesn’t change, even though the site does. So many users remark on how different HNZ is from what they remember and knew: and it is different, because as each member of our community comes and goes the site itself changes with that flow – but I think they’d all agree something recognizable and true to the HNZ they loved remains. The mark our enthusiasm left on the site is still there. Perhaps a little faded with time, or difficult to recognize at first glance, but there nevertheless, and that’s special.

“Crackwarts” was a name for HNZ almost from the very beginning – people recognized the site as addictive. In reality, though, there’s nothing unique or addictive about a forum on the internet. Topics and posts in themselves are quite mundane. Even roleplaying sites themselves can be something easily passed by. I think what makes “crackwarts” truly into “crackwarts” is that we’ve made it our own, we care about it deeply and that keeps us coming back.

You’ve cared about HNZ, and it’s crackwarts because of you.

Thanks for all your passion, it keeps us all going!

~Nick


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