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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23
Jul

Starting a New Era: College Life

   Posted by: Kaitlyn   in Changes, HNZ, Life, OOC, Rants

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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Anybody who was part of a conversation in Shouty tonight likely spied a seemingly random outburst on my behalf – raging against something which many probably see as a non-issue.

Excerpts from my glorious rantings included such gems as:

Neville also didn’t fit the Gryffindor image. Lesson: Stop ‘yer cryin’. Sorting hat did it right. Make it work. Develop a character. Dare to have your plans be dynamic.

The point is the sorting hat gets it right. A roleplayer would put Neville in Hufflepuff and say he has his brave moments but is mostly a Hufflepuff.

My point is that roleplayers are dumb. They plan a whole character’s life and have a tantrum if their character’s life is interrupted in its idealistic perfection at all by actually interacting with other characters or responding to situations

and

It defeats the purpose of an interactive RPG if we all define our character’s paths and have them go down them in a straight shot without room for deviation or error.

I’d like to preface the following by stating that it’s not directed at anybody in particular. The conversation in shouty definitely brought it back to mind, but this has been something that has bothered me for some time (as you’ll see in my rant to follow).

My point is a simple one, and I think it ties tightly back in to what Amanda posted nearly a year ago in her post Open Says Me – the fun of roleplaying (to me, at least) is the insane things that just happen. How two people in the real world, with very different lives, writing styles, and ideas, come together in collaboration to create something epic – each controlling a character and writing in half of a story, all the while actively enjoying and reacting to the half that they have no power over. Influencing their own half of the story. Veering off course wildly – perhaps never to return.

Ever since Sorting on HNZ began people have gamed the form. I’m no fool: I know it’s done, and it frustrates me. Not because we suddenly have 1000000 stereotypical Slytherins demanding Slytherin or death to all (though, don’t get me wrong, that’s absolutely dumb) – but because it steals some of the excitement away from the sorting process and the actual roleplay. You, as a roleplayer, have developed a character with certain hopes and dreams you have – but you’re a roleplayer in a text-based, play by post, RPG. You’re not an author of a fanfiction. You, perhaps unfortunately (though, in my view, quite fortunately), have merely 50% of the control. Sometimes less. You can shape your character. You can mould your character. You can put your character in the right place at the right time. You can’t determine their fate in every respect. Because you need to work with other people. When we refuse to do that, or we game the system, we rob not only others of a proper and full experience – but I think we rob ourselves of some of the excitement of roleplaying, as well.

Fanfictions are great. Novellas, and literature: can’t get enough of it. But HNZ isn’t for those things. HNZ is for coming together as a community and crafting something brilliant and unique. Bringing our own ideas to the table and compromising with other people to see what new and exciting things will come out of it.

My case-in-point for this argument is a topic I had when HNZ was perhaps the most fun it ever has been for me. It’s a roleplay which, while I cringe to link to it now after so many years, still makes it in every reminiscing sufficiently veteraned members of the site makes. Countless lists of favourite roleplays include this thread. A Brotherhood Sized Bet. If you haven’t read it: do.

That thread, an icon of HNZ’s past and of what is great about roleplaying, happened almost entirely spontaneously. My entering it, unplanned. What happened to my character: grossly unexpected. I had no idea. And I had to react to it as I read the post. No preparation, no planning ahead, no avoiding the topic lest it should change something key about my character, no shutting down the roleplay as soon as I didn’t like where it was heading.

We all have plans and goals for our characters. That’s natural and to be expected. But, as in life, it’s the journey that our characters go on that counts. Fast tracking and pre-planning everything, while ensuring it happens, steals something gravely important about the experience that HNZ offers from you. Something that definitely should never be stolen away. I miss it severely and I don’t want to see others never having experienced it at all.

“Make it work. Develop a character. Dare to have your plans be dynamic.” I think that’s a fair summary of what it is that needs to be done. Developing a character should be an active process, ongoing and changing as roleplays happen and partners in the roleplay throw in unexpected, amazing, surprises – like life offers to us each and every day. Have plans be organic, not static – make the roleplay interesting, not scripted and entirely two dimensional. Boring. When somebody offers you something in a roleplay that didn’t quite fit the master plan, or the sorting hat puts your blood supremacist sadist in Hufflepuff: make it work. It’s an opportunity to have a lot of fun, not a sentence to death and destruction for your character (though that could be fun too, couldn’t it?).

Hoping you’ll soon find your characters entirely out of control, developing whole new lives of their own, and surprising and surpassing even your wildest thoughts and plans for them,

~Nick


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