Archive for the ‘HNZ’ 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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12
Sep

What goes into implementing a suggestion?

   Posted by: Nicolas

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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23
Jul

Starting a New Era: College Life

   Posted by: Kaitlyn

Not many know that I’m actually going to college now. Not much of a surprise but whatever. After two years of trying to find a permanent home to settle down and start college, somehow I got in last year and went to classes online. This year is different. I fought to get In-State Tuition because I feel like this is my home now. I’ve never lived in this part of the county, but Cohutta is amazing on so many levels. Small, quiet, but lots of bugs out in the country. Can’t expect more in the south though. Anyway I am going to classes in 16 days. I’m counting down in my head because I’m excited. My classes are as followed:

  • Calculus and Analytical Geometry I
  • Principles of Programming I
  • English I
  • Fundamentals of Speech
  • American Government

I am a Sophomore and it is hilarious that according to this college, I’ve taken English II before English I. I needed English I for my major. Anyway, that is what I have, and I go to school all weekdays. I begged for five classes, and that was what I wanted. What can I say, I really wanted it. This will bring about some changes to my life though. One thing, never been in a campus classroom before so that will be an exciting change.

Changes for HNZ though? I might not be on for like 24 hours a day. Probably a similar schedule for what I had when I was working a full time job, or a part-time one. All of the pages of Accio! that I do will be closing earlier, which was why it was in the BWU several times. Bringing out a new set of pages so keep a look out on that! But with that in mind, anyone that is not pictured at all, won’t be. Not even the seventh years. I used to spend a good two to three hours looking for pictures and the full name for those that did not post pictures. Not anymore. I just wish that some people would take like a couple minutes out of their lives to post a picture for their student and answer to the PM if there was one. It makes the pages really worth while! It makes them bigger and fuller! But I guess it isn’t that big, which is why there isn’t going to be IC Superlatives for a while. That itself takes sooo long to do. It isn’t worth counting the votes if only 4 OOC people voted.

I might not be able to do lessons for my students anymore, especially my third years. Less to grade I suppose but eh. I liked it. I want to focus on school, but I am going to have fun in the meantime. It might take some time, I’m sure that this will be easy to balance out after a couple of weeks. I am superb at time management. When I want to be that is.

Sigh. I’ll just wrap this up then.
~ Kaitlyn


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