Archive for December, 2010

28
Dec

Posi-Blawg

   Posted by: Nicolas    in Uncategorized

Note: I started writing this blog on Christmas Eve, but am only finishing it now – on December the 28th. So that should explain some of the time shifting between the content of the post and the date it actually gets posted. Enjoy!



This blog post was inspired by another blog which I tumbled across recently, when I heard a TEDx talk from the creator of the blog. The blog is 1000 Awesome Things in which the author identifies the small, awesome, things that happen now and then which we might not notice, but when we do we really appreciate just how great they are.

I must admit that I do have a knack for getting annoyed with things on HNZ. It’s often the small things, and those small things being repeated over and over and over again, which really get me – and then I blog. Normally it’s some insane rant, where even I have to wonder if I’ve finally lost my mind, then I get a handful of supportive messages from various members of HNZ, nothing really changes, life moves on… until the next blog.

With inspiration from 1000 Awesome Things, and the Holiday Season fully upon us, I figured I would take a break from the usual type of rant, and mix things up a bit. ^_^

Now, I know identifying 1000 Awesome Things about HNZ would be quite ambitious of me – especially considering that this is Christmas Eve and I fully plan on having this blog post up shortly. It could be done, undoubtedly, but it’d be a little much for me to just sit down and do right now – so instead I’ve resolved to do 10 awesome things. 10 awesome things about HNZ, big or small, that I often take for granted but truly appreciate, and they make me feel happy when I take a moment to stop and realize how truly awesome they are.

  • Banner Makers & Graphics Requests
    These are superbly awesome, but so often taken for granted. We’re a Harry Potter RPG – not a graphics community at all, but there are members in our community who have talents the rest of us severely lack and are willing to share their abilities openly, with anybody who asks, in a formal system like the Graphics Requests Forum. If it weren’t for people like the banner makers, HNZ would probably be a lot uglier of a place… or be filled with all of those dolls from ’07. *shivers* Banner makers are definitely something awesome which I fear many of us take for granted.
  • There’s always an open roleplay
    Plenty of roleplaying boards are full to the brim with “experienced” roleplayers who have strict plot maps for their characters, and very closed ideas for what is to happen to them. The fact that HNZ isn’t like that, and hopefully will never be like that, is pretty awesome when I stop to think about it. New members always have the option of joining a plethora of roleplays with established members. Not only that, but this also means that a certain amount of the roleplays on the site are somewhat spontaneous – and it’s these spontaneous roleplays which often turn out some of the most enjoyable results. I don’t like to imagine how stiff HNZ might be without those roleplays.
  • We welcome new people excitedly!
    Most welcome topics that are posted on HNZ, get three or more welcomes from various members. There are a handful that only have one or two – the ones that slipped through, I call them, but on the whole – we make sure new members know what to do, where to go, who to talk to, and most importantly: that we love that they’re on the site. As basic as this principle is, welcoming new members, it’s actually in short supply on many other forums. Even the most popular of forums, with tens of thousands of members, seem to have serious trouble welcoming new ones. On one forum, I posted a welcome topic and waited a week before even one person welcomed me. :( I then got a lot more attention when I pointed out how absurd that was. :tut: . So we’re doing pretty well (though there is always room to improve! ).
  • We’re not just a HP RPG Forum
    Some days, it seems like we’re not an RPG at all when the off topic board and the forum games area are getting much more attention than any roleplaying at all. But that’s kind of awesome, that despite the focus of the board being something else, we all make sure to get connected to one another, get to know the people behind the characters we’ve roleplayed with, and real friendships are forged. The community has evolved from the somewhat tenuous one of 2007, to one where 800 to 1000 page “spam” topics are ripped through regularly, we all seem to have each other on messenger and Facebook, many of us have met up with others and had a grand time, and the community continues to grow. While the growth of a community might seem natural on forums, I think HNZ does it in a way which still truly awes me. The fact that members have met on HNZ, then gone out of their way to meet in real life and their friendships have continued on, stronger than ever – that’s awesome. I can’t say I’ve ever actually considered meeting somebody from the board, but I’ve made tonnes of good friends, and met tonnes of amazing people on HNZ – and I think that’s something that I don’t always realize: how awesome the people on the board actually are, and how close-knit many of us have become.
  • If something is amiss… chances are somebody knows and eventually I’ll know
    As much as I may complain about being PM-spammed for things I already know, there are times when I don’t have a clue about things. Or when I genuinely forget and just need a gentle poke. Or when members pick up on something and do it before I even get that far down on my to-do list. If it weren’t for PMs like times like those, I think HNZ quite possibly would have drowned a long time ago. So never fear to PM me if you think something might have been legitimately forgotten (and you’re up to date on all the announcements, FAQ posts, and blog entries – where I might have admitted to knowing and being a bit late on things) – because such messages are really helpful, even if I don’t reply to you right away, and truthfully – quite awesome.
  • A thank you is never too far away.
    Even the simplest of things, like changing a new account’s group from “unsorted” to “member” seems to get a thank you. While it annoys me sometimes (because I’ve cleared out my PM inbox then suddenly I get 10 more PMs with a simple ‘thanks’), it’s really pretty awesome that gratitude is acknowledged and these things not just always taken for granted. If I had to choose between not getting any thank you replies, so my PM inbox could always be neat and tidy, and getting replies which might mess up my inbox, I think I’d take the thank you replies, for sure. Even though I often get annoyed by them, or take them for granted, they’re really nice, and I think I’d be more annoyed thinking nobody cared at all.
  • Everybody is ready and willing to congratulate other’s on their accomplishments
    This is really exemplified in how the latest character spotlight has more replies to it than the latest Bi-Weekly Update does. In fact, it currently has twice as many replies. It’s really cool, I think, that despite the spotlight being chosen every two weeks (or whenever we remember, whichever comes later), and despite it only being one person, everybody acknowledges how deserving that person is and takes the time out to congratulate them. Every member of HNZ is probably deserving of the character spotlight for one reason or another, but getting around to every member with only so many spotlights in a year will take a while, so it’s pretty great that while it may not be them for a while, everybody’s a great sport about it.
  • Inside Jokes
    While I may bemoan their uses in spam between two members who know each other outside of the forum, I think that inside jokes from HNZ itself are quite awesome. While they may make some newer members feel excluded, they also present an opportunity for those members to become a part of the community and help to crank out some of our future inside jokes. From alpha-bites to Kingy being – what is it? 700 years old? – to the Nicktator and Slaves to the Nicktator – these are just a few thing that I’ve been a part of (or the butt of) and always make me happy to think of. I know, too, that there are many more which I’ve forgotten, or was never a part of, but are just as much a part of HNZ’s community. I think jokes like these, and the ones that will surely come in the future, are something which I often just take for granted, but are really quite great.
  • People are interested, and take part in decision-making when they can
    While it seems to be the trend of democracy for people to take no interest in government, and HNZ is by no means a democracy… we do have a Nicktator, after all – but when a vote is posted (whether it be a giant site poll that we do once a year, or a poll about a major change/upgrade to the site, or just a poll added to a suggestion which we’d like to know the whole site’s take on) tonnes of people get involved and take the time to cast their vote. I trust that people are honest in their voting, and don’t use a plethora of accounts to rig the results in their favour. HNZ could be in a spot where, despite being active, absolutely nobody took an interest in the operations of the board or future changes to it, entrusting all such decisions solely up to the staff (decisions which they might later begrudge). Fortunately, we’re not. We have a community that is ready to take part in keeping the site together, and influencing the site’s directions for the future.
  • People don’t ask to become staff.
    Ok, so I’m not ending on the biggest one imaginable – but this is something I don’t normally think about, but when I do I reallllyyy appreciate it. I can’t care to count how many forums I’m a part of, or I know about, where people continuously request to become an administrator, or a member of the moderating team, or anything like that. Doing that often just eliminates people from being considered at all, and it’s pretty frustrating for the people who are staff. (Note: I must admit at this time, that I am guilty of having offered to be staff on HNZ in the very beginning – but it was more of a “You obviously need help, and you say nobody is willing, but I would be if you wanted…” sort of deal and totally got shot down. ;) ) So the fact that we don’t have that problem, at all, on HNZ is super awesome amazing sweet. It lets us worry about other things, and hand-pick staff whenever we think it’s time for another promotion. (Speaking of which… :r … I jest.)

So there’s my ten things about HNZ which I often take for granted, but think are super-awesome.
As I said above, there are obviously tonnes more, but I’ll leave those to your own imagining. ;)

I hope everybody has had a very awesome Holiday season, and will have a safe and happy New Year!

~Nick


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I’m sure that many of you have read, or were at some point aware of, my absence post in which I informed HNZ of my impending leave of absence, attempted to assure users of the fact that they did not force me out, and reminisced to some degree about my three years on the site.

I also know that some of you were very disheartened with my post, while others rejoiced. So, the fact that I was only ever ‘gone’ for about a week was both a relief, and a let-down. Not only did I once more lurk the forums, I took up half of my duties again, personally coded some of HNZ’s largest code updates to date, and spent a fair amount of time ensuring users could not count to 10 before staff post. (See here)

Why such a severe post for an absence that really didn’t entail much of an absence?

Well, as far as I knew, I would be gone from HNZ for a very long time. All I knew was that I had to ‘leave’ and ‘leave’ was the only word I knew. I didn’t know if it was an absence, or a vacation, or forever. So, I took my initial week of being off and didn’t lurk HNZ except for my absence thread, only posted to let staff know what had to be done that I wouldn’t be doing, and that was about it.

I enjoyed my week from HNZ. In about 10 months of being HNZ’s sole administrator, I’d been fed up with a lot of things, and just couldn’t manage it anymore. HNZ was becoming a chore, not a hobby. I didn’t see any light at the end of the tunnel for me, either.

Now, I know some of you have been around as long as I have, some of you longer than I have, and many of you at least long enough to be familiar with Alicia Barker who was more-or-less HNZ’s sole administrator for several months, as well (before I was made an administrator, then Livvy grew active as an administrator once more). She managed it, just promoted new admin, and still remained the ‘Head Administrator’ for several more months before having to leave the site in the fall of 2008 for familial and educational reasons. However, there are some key differences between Alicia’s ability to manage the site alone, how she handled it when it was getting too much, and my situation. The first is the size of the site. From the fall of 2008 to the fall of 2010 HNZ has gained more than 4,000 user accounts. The site’s expansion was not limited to the member base, however. HNZ expanded in what was possible for users to do, what is expected from the staff, the community’s activities, etc. Being the sole admin of HNZ meant doing a lot more through 2010 than it had in 2008. Why not just promote another admin or two from the GMs? Well, this really ends up being mostly due to the fact that Livvy and I have become a team. We’re so used to just quickly running an idea by the other then going with it that adding another person would make them feel like a third-wheel, something I’ve said numerous times I wouldn’t do to one of our awesome GMs. It would also delay processing applications in that a third person would have to read them over and add their thoughts (during normal times). Outside of normal times (like during Livvy’s prolonged absence, or whenever I go away) – Livvy and I have been a two-person-duo-of-amazingness for long enough that we trust each other to make the right call for applications and just do it solo. Achieving that level of trust once more with a third admin could prove difficult, and time consuming for the first several months. So, if ever a time comes when a third admin is needed on HNZ, she (yes, I’ll say she since all our GMs have been women) should be added during a time when HNZ is running smoothly, that way a little delay while we get used to things can be handled. Throwing the person in to a wild whirlwind of chaos while one admin is away would probably be a very bad idea.

After that first week of being really away from HNZ, I realized that Livvy still wasn’t around, the staff didn’t have the means to change what needed to be changed, and things were piling up. HNZ would quite literally drown itself and (or, more optimistically, just stall) without some things happening. So I took to coding a few things. First, I coded the house points board information to be changeable by staff. Then I coded the character spotlight area to be changeable by staff. These two main things let the staff do most of what Livvy would have been responsible, which I normally handled myself. However, the problem of applications persisted.

At first I refused to touch them at all, then I realized just how far behind they were and that they would only be getting worse. So, in a few hours spare time over a couple of days I started processing the applications, using the system message feature of ZetaBoards to inform people of the status of their applications without messaging them from my account, where they might think I’d fully returned.

As midterms passed and I gained more free time, I started to socialize in the Off-Topic board again, something I hadn’t been able to do very much when I was doing everything admin-wise for HNZ before my ‘absence’. I offered new members welcome to HNZ, something I always enjoy doing, and I helped out a few members with peculiar account problems. At this point, the personal messages started pouring in. Despite technically being ‘gone’ from the board I was once more receiving countless group change requests, general questions, requests to roleplay, etc. These messages immediately stressed me out. I was relaxing, even if that relaxation was on HNZ! Why did I need to be spammed? I decided to ignore the messages. In the time it would take to reply to them all and explain why I wouldn’t help them, I could have just done what they wanted me to. This, however, proved even worse for my sanity. As I ignored PMs people started to grow impatient. They PMed as many as three times about the same issue, they bumped messages ‘reminding’ me of their presence, and one FAQ Topic was posted asking why an issue hadn’t been dealt with. It was at the FAQ topic that my sanity dissipated, and I posted explaining the situation. I could have easily dealt with the user’s group change several times over in the amount of time it took to explain everything, but now there was a principle at stake. For a time I even disabled my PM inbox, however I had to re-enable it to ensure new Professors could get the information they needed and I could be reached in the event of a true emergency on the board.

As time rolled on I continued to grow more active on the board. I processed applications openly, sending out messages from my own account, I coded more and more features as ideas came or complaints were lodged, I ensured forums opened and closed (mostly) on time, all because I knew if I wasn’t doing it, it wouldn’t be able to be done. Livvy’s real life took priority to HNZ, which is concept of that refrain which has really defined HNZ for the past 3.3ish years. “Real Life comes first”, the problem with this refrain in the context of site staff, however, is that if real life hits hard for enough of us simultaneously, the site is crippled. Fortunately, I have become adept at juggling HNZ and real life. I had rested well enough with the idea of leaving HNZ for a long while, and I couldn’t bear to see a site which I had poured countless hours or work in to, which I’ve seen and helped to grow, and where I have met so many great people, people I can call friends, and friends who enjoy their time on HNZ so dearly – I couldn’t see that type of site just slowly fall apart because I was tired of certain things.

So I did more than I said I was growing to, and gradually I came out of the absence which I had imposed on myself. Now, with my first set of University final exams looming, I know that my time is precious and I still may not be doing every little thing on HNZ, but I expect after finals I will be returning to HNZ in a fuller force. Rested, to some degree. Frustrated with some people for their ignorance and decision that it’s better to harass me than to let me rest, and with a lot of great ideas in mind for HNZ’s future.

Hopefully, Livvy will be back soon enough. Unfortunately, in the past 10 months we have seen her ‘return’ countless times only to leave again; so I am cautiously optimistic. I know Livvy misses the site, but real life really does have to come first, and juggling her life and the site also means effecting her child’s life, which is not something that should be done lightly. So her absences are understandable, but her return will be most anticipated. Hopefully, as well, HNZ will continue to grow at break-neck speeds which may well require an addition to HNZ’s admin team, who we can them bring on board with Livvy around so things are done properly. I’d love if HNZ became so large that eventually a whole team of admin are necessary. We’ll see. Hopefully everybody celebrating Hanukkah this year is enjoying themselves, everybody celebrating something else will enjoy themselves, we’ll all have a safe and happy end of 2010 and look forward to an amazing 2011. ^_^ (Any year that includes the conclusion of the Harry Potter series in film will undoubtedly be uber-awesome, amirite?)

Finally, I hope that anybody who reads this post can understand where I’m coming from. Why my post was so severe, how worn out I was, and how much I truly need the support of HNZ’s community in order to do the things I do.

~Nick

P.S: Excuse all grammar and spelling errors, please. I refuse to reread this rant, even if it is just to proof read it. =P


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