Archive for the ‘OOC’ 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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11
Jan

Explanation & Hopeful Expectation

   Posted by: Nicolas

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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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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