Archive for September, 2014

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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19
Sep

HNZ’s Lovely Community: Welcoming

   Posted by: Nicolas    in Admin Stuff, community, Positivity

There’s no doubt in my mind that the community is what makes HNZ great. Our last site poll indicated that fairly well: with the community (and its constant activity) coming in second to “the roleplaying” for people’s favourite aspects of HNZ – and, if we’re honest, we know the roleplaying wouldn’t be nearly as fun without a great community participating in it. Roleplaying, after all, is a dynamic and collaborative mode of creative writing (like I talked about in this blog post) and if your collaborators suck I imagine you don’t enjoy the process very much, either.

Sometimes it’s difficult for us to pinpoint what it is, exactly, that makes HNZ’s community so unique and fun to be a part of. Did we just luck out and win the personality lottery? Is it a shared love of Harry Potter that unites us so inexplicably? Maybe, but I like to think that it’s a lot more than all that, too.

The first thing any new member should learn about our community is just how welcoming we are. With over 70% of our “welcome” topics having at least five replies, and many having a couple pages of discussion and welcome, it’s pretty clear that the community on HNZ loves to welcome people. We can all remember being that fresh face on the site that didn’t have a clue what was going on and needed a little help; or maybe a very well experienced roleplayer taking the plunge into a new and uncertain site that does things a bit differently than what you had experienced elsewhere. I have often recounted that, when I joined HNZ, I had no clue what I was signing up for. I found a link on Facebook and thought I’d found like a Harry Potter flash game. An excellent way for me to waste away an evening in ninth grade – registering with the username cedric_diggs I was prepared to take the site by storm! If it weren’t for the patient and welcoming community (mostly newcomers themselves) that existed on HNZ already, it would have just be a mistaken registration and an awful disappointment before moving on with life. Seven years and a couple of major life changes later, I’m still on HNZ (probably the longest night of playing a flash game in recorded history 😉 ) – and that’s because of the culture of the community that existed then, and continues to exist today.

HNZ’s assault of welcome is an amazing first impression for newcomers, no matter their level of comfort, and helps keep everybody grounded. It’s easy to become elitist, to have cliques, to snub the newcomer and favour the people we already know over those we don’t. That’s kind of human nature. It’s all the more impressive, then, that HNZ hasn’t succumbed to that. Instead, even the most prolific roleplayers can be found offering to start a fresh topic (maybe even a whole new character!) to get the newest person involved. Before I can even get to a welcome topic (a forum I have subscribed to so nobody falls through the cracks) I often find somebody else has already posted a whole message including a link to the site documentation, who the staff are that they can contact for help, and a personal offer of any help or roleplay as well. Then five more members also offer personal help and joining in roleplays. And soon enough the person we’re welcoming has no excuse to not feel included and participate in what’s going on, to become just as integral a member of the site as everybody else and has a positive experience of welcome that he or she can pass on to the next person who joins the board.

Maybe it’s the warm welcomes we received ourselves, and the love and support we find in other members of the site even today, that encourages people in our community to take time to pass on that experience to other people. It can certainly be scary joining a website like HNZ. I am not unaware of how overwhelming it can be, and with a tight-knit community it can often seem like a futile task to penetrate the existing fortress and truly feel like a member of the community: but I think we do a great job of disabusing people of those notions. It would be pretty easy to laugh off a person who joined as cedric_diggs but instead we let him become a professor, and endured him breaking into open roleplays he really had no place in, and godmodding characters, and replying to roleplays he wasn’t in with out of character comments – and forgave all of these egregious offences where perhaps a more serious community would have eschewed him or taken the ban hammer to him already. This is likely why we allow for so many chances before we take action against people who are breaking the rules – because we assume they’re not malicious and want people to just be able to learn the ropes like we got to, and experience how forgiving HNZ can be, as well, and be welcoming of differences, despite not necessarily having the most amazing past on the board; but I think I’m getting off to a whole other part of why HNZ’s community is so lovely.

It’s definitely hard to express why HNZ, as a community, is so special – but there’s no doubt in my mind that at least part of the reason is how welcoming we have been, and continue to be, to new people who join our community such that they actually can join in and don’t forever feel like an outsider. That’s no easy task, and so it’s all the more impressive that it’s the reality of our board.

This is an idea I’m going to explore a little more over the coming weeks – so look back for more excitement!

Thanks for being welcoming, HNZ, and make sure to keep it up!

~Nick


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12
Sep

What goes into implementing a suggestion?

   Posted by: Nicolas    in Admin Stuff, Future, HNZ, OOC

Suggestions are something I care very deeply about, but I know that from a user’s perspective it can seem like they’re not very often considered, or the answer is “no” far too often than it’s “yes”.

Lately, James has taken to making suggestions fairly frequently; which is great. I like having ideas thrown around, and implemented one of his suggestions, pointed out that another suggestion has been an ongoing discussion on HNZ for a while now, and had to say ‘no’ to at least one major idea. I don’t like saying no without explaining myself, but I also decided to seize the opportunity to explain what goes into a ‘no’ response most of the time. You can read my original post here, but I know that not everybody reads every suggestion topic or reply and that specific topic will be buried soon enough: so why not immortalize the process in a blog post?!

Why not, indeed. So that’s what this is!
Boiled down, when we consider a suggestion we ask three main questions:

  • How hard is it to do?
    This can be the most difficult question for people outside of the staff team to answer, so I don’t want it to be something that dissuades people from making suggestions. Sometimes you’ll think something is quite hard but it’s simple enough, and other times you’ll imagine something to be quite simple (because the concept is simple) but it’ll be very involved to implement.
    This is also never the sole determining factor in a decision. I don’t shy away from difficult projects, but each question is considered in relationship to all the others. Our first consideration is simply getting a sense for how big of an undertaking something might be. What would it take to do it, assuming we do?
    I will say, though, that it can be incredibly frustrating when users assume things about whatever they’re suggesting and how simple it really should be to just do, without having any sense for things behind the curtain, as it were.
    So suggest freely, please! But also please remember that this isn’t something you can gauge, and trust us to be able to determine what a suggestion will take to make a reality.
  • How useful is it? To how many people?
    Plenty of ideas are neat and creative, but maybe not particularly useful. Sometimes neat things are done just for the sake of something cool being around even if nobody will ever really need it and it won’t make anybody’s life easier on the site. Once again, this will never be the sole determining factor in if we act on an idea but already you can see how these questions interact with each other. If the suggestion would be a colossal task to implement, but isn’t going to change anything tangible on the board, it doesn’t seem like a great idea to pour time and energy into something like that.
  • What impact will it have on site activity?
    We care about HNZ and its general health and activity, so when we make changes we need to be mindful of how it will influence the activity on the board: both positively and perhaps negatively. Sometimes a major change is suggested that we know may upset some users, and so trying to gauge what the risk of such a change is and if it’s worth doing despite that risk is important. Alternatively, some changes may promote increased activity and still others might be a net-neutral change.
    Obviously this factor, too, is never the sole determining factor in the fate of a suggestion – but it is weighed against the others. Perhaps a suggestion would slightly increase activity (great!) but would be a lot of hard work for the staff to make happen – we might feel that the staff time could be better spent doing something else that might encourage user participation on the site even more.

In my original post on this matter, I provided a few tangible case-studies for applying these criteria.
First, the Quidditch System was a fairly large amount of work (and, truth be told, work is still ongoing!) and while it’s highly useful, it’s only useful to set of users with active student characters on house Quidditch teams. At this point, it would seem adding it isn’t worth the effort. But Quidditch was always very popular on the site and spurred plenty of discussion and followup RPs – this knowledge allowed us to determine that it would be worthwhile because it’d let us have Quidditch played more easily and so more often.

Even small suggestions like being able to clear more than one notification at once work well with these questions: It’s not much work, it’s pretty handy, and it won’t really impact site activity either way – so why not implement it?

These questions are by no means a law, and there’s plenty of wiggle room for considering what people just want, or what might be an interesting project for us to work on (or a new opportunity for the site to grow, even if it’s risky), but it’s been a helpful guide and I think knowing about it will help people better understand where we come from when we approach suggestion topics.

Keep your ideas coming – even if they’re not all adopted, the ones that are make it all worthwhile!

~Nick


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