Archive for the ‘community’ Category

27
Jun

Listen, we need to talk…

   Posted by: Nicolas

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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3
Oct

HNZ & All Around the [Real] World

   Posted by: Nicolas

“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

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

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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