Meta-discussion: what are our issues and how do we better structure solutions?

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Karl_
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PostMeta-discussion: what are our issues and how do we better structure solutions?
by Karl_ » Wed May 15, 2019 11:33 pm

Just to chime in briefly a few points, in no particular order:

1. I honestly believe everyone's who ever been involved with GRcade has done it all in good faith. No-one wants an idea to fail, but we're busy adults so projects fizzle out.

2. It's made worse by a lot of our projects having a single point of failure. Maybe only I can edit the site's HTML code, or only Gecko can take donations, or only so-and-so can upload to such-and-such. That's asking for trouble. We can fix that.

3. We do suffer from a lack of leadership. Steve only pops in a few times a year; Gecko is busy and has disabilities to worry about; Garth's gone blue as he's busy; I've gone purple because I'm busy and mentally ill; Head Moderator Mockmaster, BLADEFORCE's sword of justice, took an oath of silence and swore to only return when we need him most. So we're down to only a few active greenhats, and they are great and this isn't a dig at them at all, I'm just saying the team could be bigger & more active.

4. I think treating GRcade as some kind of entity/business is a red herring, beyond the minimum legal formality we need to run ads (whatever that is). It's just my opinion, I'm not a business guy, but I don't feel like it's had (or is looking to have) many positives for us. (This isn't a dig at anyone, happy to be corrected if I'm wrong.)

5. For what it's worth Gecko has been a good formal point of contact for the site. We have actually had legal enquiries of various sorts over the years, and he's dealt with them well. Just wanted to mention that.

6. Politics is a solid 10% of what we talk about and politics is increasingly vicious IRL, so those discussions are only going to get nastier. This seems to drive a wedge between people and force them away. (This is part of the reason I can't be a yellowhat again -- I get into too many spirited discussions!) But restricting politics chat will drive even more people away. We've been trying to work around for this for years, but maybe it's worth having another think. All ideas welcome obviously.


tl;dr I'm not an admin any more but I think anyone with an idea should get as much power to make it happen as possible. Winckle, Andrew Mills, Errkal, OrangeRKN, and Pedz have all had "project leader" Mod access at some point or another but maybe we need to do more, maybe some subset of those people (or someone that wants to step up) should partly take over. The flip side of that any new ideas need to be designed pessimistically, with the realistic assumption most of us will be flakey most of the time.


How can we address those points? Let's chat about it.

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PostRe: GRview?
by Errkal » Thu May 16, 2019 8:06 am

Thanks for posting, you make some good points and I think maybe I over react and expect too much from people. It’s a flaw of mine that when I need something but I can’t do it I get trusted wait for people.

I think on reflection for me the biggest issue right now is we don’t have actual direction or aim for the community. It’s kind of humbling along existing but without a target or purpose as it were.

I think job 1 is to work out what we actually want GR to do and be.

We can go a couple ways on this I think, any option is valid if that’s what we want and it’s the chosen “purpose or whatever”

1. Do nothing and continue as we are, a small community of peeps nattering about stuff.
2. Grow the community, do affiliation, social media, buy advertising and push to increase membership
3. Expand the offering, create other content channels (view, twitch, etc) that are integrated to create a brand where people can interact and consume in their way.

I think it would be possible to do all of them, but the level of work is obviously more as you do more ( duur right ).

I think we need to as a community work out what we want to do, then work out what structure is required to achieve that. We will always need the legal rep person to take responsibility for that side right now it’s Gecko I don’t think it “needs” to change but I think he “Director” role isn’t right depending on what we chose to be going forward. If it’s option 1 we are golden, but if we want to grow, do and be more I don’t think he is the right guy for the job, as much he is a nice guy other factors mean that it just doesn’t work.

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PostRe: GRview?
by Errkal » Thu May 16, 2019 8:10 am

For the designing ideas needs to done pessimistically i’m not sure agree, but I think it needs to be done pragmatically.

Take view I think went about wrong, I had a kernel of an idea and ran at it. What I should have done was create a brief, plan what v1 would look like, design and build it offline, then submitted what I need doing in one go. That from a tech perspective there would have been a run book of sorts to implement it.

That I think will happen better in the future if we have a goal and aim as we can plan our steps to the goal and do it as a group however leadership and admin is structured.

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PostRe: GRview?
by Harry Ellis » Thu May 16, 2019 8:22 am

I would say 3 isn't feasible right now, but 2 with a bit of effort is possible. Obviously we already fulfil 1.

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PostRe: GRview?
by Errkal » Thu May 16, 2019 8:28 am

Drumstick wrote:I would say 3 isn't feasible right now, but 2 with a bit of effort is possible. Obviously we already fulfil 1.


Yeah I think 2 is achievable and kind of leads to 3 potentially.

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PostRe: GRview?
by Karl_ » Thu May 16, 2019 9:12 am

2.

For affiliation, OR does a good job, but we could take someone on to help him and accelerate it.

For ads, we need a surplus of funds: we could take on an extra Linux techie to help me migrate us to a cheaper server; we could take on an extra money person to help set up subscriptions.

3.

This is easier to achieve if it's less centralised. On GRcade's end, we could take on an extra web dev to edit a Discord and Twitch tracker into the header HTML. But when it comes to the community, we already put out great content on Twitch, and the great thing is that's independent of us and seems to grow itself. Maybe all it needs is an official "GRcade Streamer" banner & link to go in people's Twitch profiles.

For text-based content, people naturally post reviews etc. all the time. We can think about diligently cross-posting them to GRview, that would be cool, but maybe that's too complicated? Maybe we just need someone to step up and install a PhpBB mod to let us highlight posts on the index page (it must exist!), and then we'd need a couple of new Mods to use that feature to highlight effortposts as they are made.

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OrangeXMS
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PostRe: GRview?
by OrangeXMS » Thu May 16, 2019 10:01 am

I can weigh in a little, especially on the topic of affiliation and external relations.

On affiliation, our current strategy is one of pursuing communities with a similar history to our own. That's specifically seeking communities (like forums), not websites (like review sites), because that's where the kind of people who may want to use GRcade already exist. The "similar history" is obvious in our current trifecta of GRcade, SONM and GNamer. All grew out of forums of British videogame fans run by Future, with direct (or indirect for GRcade) links to a print magazine.

As these various forums grow older and lose their initial purpose, instead being continued as primarily community efforts, they lose members and become increasingly fragmented. The hope in establishing a "network" is to a) slow this trend, but also b) offer some safety net to communities should their own forum eventually dwindle enough to not be viable. That's exactly what happened with SONM merging into GRcade of course, which I am pretty much nothing but positive about in execution despite the obvious sadness of SONM closing.

I would add that we have tried to expand our affiliation further along these lines (we have reached out to both CVG and gamesTM communities) but, as of course is their prerogative, they have not been open to the idea. Actually affiliating with another community first takes a lot of speculative outreach, in finding the communities to begin with, getting to know them and then talking to them in an "official" capacity.

Our outreach isn't only limited to our affiliation efforts though, which is evidenced by the current global topic following DarkRula representing GRcade at The Mafia Championships. I think this is a really cool thing for us to have been invited to and the forum games side is definitely an area I both really enjoy and think could be leveraged as a USP for GRcade.

Anyway, it's definitely good to have these discussions when they are productive and well intentioned, rather than pessimistic or attributing blame, so I'm glad this is happening :)

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PostRe: GRview?
by OrangeXMS » Thu May 16, 2019 10:59 am

My mental model for the life/activity of a forum is something like this:

Member drains

- People gain more responsibility irl so don't have as much time to invest (There is not much we can do about this!)
- People change and lose interest in the forum's subject (i.e. gaming) (Again, not much can be done about this)
- People migrate to other platforms (We can implement new features to compete, but in general forums are an antiquated medium unfortunately!)
- People leave from dissatisfaction or conflict (Somewhat addressed through moderation)
- Lack of content/discussion dissuades people from contributing (This is a negative feedback loop and can be addressed through concerted effort on the part of the community as a whole, and with initiatives and events organised by the staff)

A point to make here is that even if you do everything right, forums naturally lose members. Retention of the current userbase alone will only ever lead to a managed decline. This isn't necessarily a bad thing even if it is a sad thing - we're primarily here to serve the community that exists, not to replace it with a new one. That's not to say we shouldn't make an effort to reach equilibrium or even break into growth - but either of those options means gaining new members!

Member gains

- New members drawn from the forum's parent e.g. a magazine, news/review site, webcomic (This is how our communities began, and notably this is no longer the case. Now the forum is its own thing this is irrelevant unless we create it ourselves, which is very difficult to do)
- Community migration (Here SONM is most notable as an influx of new members through a community merge, but there are other possible mechanisms. This is not a reliable or even plannable scenario)
- New users "stumble" upon us and decide to stay (This is where SEO and advertising plays its part. Personally I think the success rate here is incredibly small which makes paid advertising a very expensive option for little payoff. I used to play an MMO where the group I was in advertised directly on the MMO itself, and people joining our forum were very few compared to the impressions generated. That's probably the best scenario I could imagine and still it wasn't very effective!)
- Being known for a USP (This is where we can potentially make the most gains through planned initiatives)

We need to think about what we can offer that other places can't. As a forum we are different to social media, and for many people in the modern era that is off-putting. However it is also an opportunity. I would say that being a forum gives us an advantage in bubble-free, chronological, long-form discussion in an online community. It's an unfortunate fact that many people simply don't like that. If we want a USP for the forum though that's what we have to lean into, because that's our inherent strength. I think forum games are a good example here of something that are possible here on GRcade that can't be done the same on reddit or facebook or twitter.

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PostRe: GRview?
by Karl_ » Thu May 16, 2019 11:07 am

^^^ Good analysis.

Small thought I had while checking out the Direct: one thing successful sites do is speculate on new trends. Mario Maker is going to be huge. We could probably pick up a new member or two by all having "GRcade" in our creator profiles / submitted level titles. Mario Maker will be a huge category on Twitch for a while too, and we already have experienced Mario Maker creators with Twitch setups and capture cards, so we could have a bit of a 15 minutes of fame if we're lucky. Larger sites that profit off popularity will be poised to jump on that trend, maybe we can be too.

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PostRe: GRview?
by OrangeXMS » Thu May 16, 2019 11:16 am

Creative output is another forum strength I think and things like AYAMMM and Mario Maker in general are good fits with that. I'm definitely up for doing something like that as we're going to have a pretty active Mario Maker community going anyway by all estimates.

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PostRe: Meta-discussion: what are our issues and how do we better structure solutions?
by Karl_ » Thu May 30, 2019 9:54 am

Errkal wrote:.
Drumstick wrote:.
OrangeRKN wrote:.

I've split this discussion into a new topic and moved it from Feedback to the Committee. Hope this is OK. The discussion was useful and might gain more traction here.

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PostRe: Meta-discussion: what are our issues and how do we better structure solutions?
by kerr9000 » Sat Jun 08, 2019 6:31 pm

I am someone who has sort of thrown my hat in with a few forums but never really been fully in the mix so to speak. So I figure this gives me a unique viewpoint.

I started out on the old sonm forums years and years back as well as being on a few others... There was strife and conflict which pushed me away, I ended up on a forum called onm haven, I was put in charge of producing a podcast for them and I enjoyed it but the place shut suddenly essentially it was running up debts and the person paying them decided enough was enough, this reminds me how lucky we are here with how much of there own cash and time people have put in.

I have seen places tear themselves apart with in fighting and cross purposes and power struggles.. This place does pretty darn well staying as good as it does.

I have a bit to say on politics. I consider myself a mild left winger, at the moment I'm on here and another forum, this forum seems to have people so left they make me look like Hitler the other place is so right wing I look like Karl Marx... Its OK for everyone to have an opinion but it does need remembering that if you push a sort of there's only one true way ideology that really puts people off put them off posting in politics and it effects there forum life.

I think people need to know the sort of things your wanting and looking for, maybe even think of putting up roles people can apply for be it content creator or ambassador or whatever with actual lists of requirements and responsibilities.

I just want to throw in a massive thank you to OrangeRacoon, I was very much an outsider on ONM for quiet awile and I think I attracted some hatred, the guy helped me settle in there , helped push content I made and then got me settled here, he is a bang up dude and a credit to this place

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PostRe: Meta-discussion: what are our issues and how do we better structure solutions?
by no » Sat Jun 08, 2019 8:38 pm

Way things are with politics as it's so heated if a game is being discussed and then a political chat starts then there should be a political [name of game] chat. It's getting pretty frighing annoying when you're reading a thread and how people like or dislike it and it being derailed by people arguing of politics. Don't get me wrong, I get the importance, but I just feel that it's starting to really negatively impact the place.

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PostRe: Meta-discussion: what are our issues and how do we better structure solutions?
by Partridge Iciclebubbles » Sat Jun 08, 2019 10:39 pm

With regards to this place being run as an entity/business, I agree with Karl that it’s an unhelpful way to run the place. Or at least it is if that’s the public face.

What this place is on a very basic level is a group of friends that are hanging out together. We bicker, fight, laugh and help each other out. That’s the very core of GR, without that GR dies.

But there’s also a problem with that. Over time people will leave, post less and sadly we also know people will die. As we are a group of friends it’s hard to attract new people to join our group, the whole forum is a massive clique full of in-jokes, it’s massively intimidating to any newbie to try and fit in.

How we fix the newbie problem while ensuring we keep the friendship strength is possibly an impossible task.

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PostRe: Meta-discussion: what are our issues and how do we better structure solutions?
by Green Gecko » Sun Jun 09, 2019 3:05 am

Yeah with Karl's point 4. I'm not really looking to run GRcade as a business (even though technically it is a small organisation) just making sure it has some legal grounding in terms of tax/civil liabilities, as it was all a bit made up out of nothing before and some of the legislature has gotten more strict (GDPR, technically we are supposed to register as a data controller and all this stuff); we're living in austerity and it's the small guy getting dicked over with the their every tiny income stream being scrutinised rather than the corporations. I do claim some social security so I want to be able to say, "Oh that is a donation for a non-profit website, that's on my personal assessment, see here with this document the profit/loss for that;" "OK good sir this all looks in good order" etc. I get asked for this sort of thing regularly every couple of months.

We also take ad payments so there's more contracts there and I was never really comfortable running a site with lots of public input with nobody really being a "key stakeholder" for any legal shenanigans or for standpoints for/against us etc. I feel more comfortable that way because I'm taking ownership of the bills at the moment; it's just the way I do things and keep them very clear. I'm perfectly happy keeping it part of my sole tradership (as a non-profit), it just so happens I run a completely unrelated business so I am really very good at this small scale stuff. We can't get charity or government money etc. etc. ever but it is better than being officiated in no way anywhere. We've been around so long I think it's sensible for somebody to stand for this place in terms of any formalities.

Elsewhere (like within this community) it's not really like that; it's not quite the same relationship. I've never been one to lord it over others but I do like taking responsibility for something and putting a name to it, even if just to recognise that it's important and it deserves to have a structure and a name. Obviously people understand I have participated in helping this place chug along for bloody years; if I didn't have an emotional investment in this place absolutely no I would not bother doing any of this stuff. I want GRcade to be available and in "good working order" for as long as I am around, I realise that might not be "forever" but honestly I can't see any reason why that can't be done provided there are still people posting here.

There is essentially a shell company that's not being traded with, it was a good idea to register it in case I went for more specific funding but I didn't in the end, it helps protect the brand because nobody else can register it as a business (similar to trademark but not as powerful and no licensing, just sort of "please don't do that") and it protects me from any serious legal issues for which "the website" is held liable (or it would). This is off-topic but I've thought about splitting out my design business, GRcade and my personal finances by the use of limited companies but that's all academic and really not worth the paperwork, at least not for GRcade (the only thing I can think of is reclaiming VAT on hosting but that's paperwork every 3 months in order to get it so not really worth my time honestly).

If I had more funds and it wasn't a bother to do (you can get people to do this sort of thing for you etc) I might still do that in the future if it makes things easier but at the moment it doesn't really make sense, it costs money to set up and annual fees to confirm to company's house etc, not much money but it is something, and there might never be a return on that. I would be better off focusing my resources on other things like small web & design tasks. I really ought to wind it down or make my mind mind up which direction to go on, so I guess I should go and do that... One can always set up a ltd, society etc again (and under the same name) if it makes sense in the future.

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PostRe: Meta-discussion: what are our issues and how do we better structure solutions?
by Partridge Iciclebubbles » Sun Jun 09, 2019 8:11 am

TL;DR

;)

It wasn’t supposed to be a criticism of you GG (and I don’t think you took it that way), just a reply to one of Karl’s points.

Behind the scenes making things businesslike is fine and making sure you’re covered for tax or legal issues is obviously important.

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PostRe: Meta-discussion: what are our issues and how do we better structure solutions?
by Green Gecko » Sun Jun 09, 2019 11:48 am

Sure, I just never really felt I explained this to the community and explained that at one point I was going to do more, so there it is, it's really very humdrum :)

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PostRe: Meta-discussion: what are our issues and how do we better structure solutions?
by Nun » Mon Jun 10, 2019 12:40 pm

Moggy wrote:As we are a group of friends it’s hard to attract new people to join our group, the whole forum is a massive clique full of in-jokes, it’s massively intimidating to any newbie to try and fit in.

How we fix the newbie problem while ensuring we keep the friendship strength is possibly an impossible task.

As an outsider looking in, this is the big one honestly.

One thing I did find helpful to get to know people when I was new to GRcade was forum games like mafia, it's hard to jump into politics and discussion threads and integrate yourself into the community as a member when you guys have so many years of shared history that I am never really going to catch up on. Mafia gives a good excuse to get to know members outside of just general discussion or politics threads and was how I got chatting to folks like Karl, Hexx and Staydead in various chaotic AYA games.

I always used to say on S/ONM that forum games are one of the major advantages forums have over the likes of reddit and other social media and if you can build a reputation for running fun events and games then it could be used to attract new members, but obviously who has time to organise that (not me, as i'm still sitting on that Wild West Mafia setup!). So yeah, I know it's easy to say all this when i'm not contributing myself but i've only just looked back in on GRcade recently after a lengthy hiatus because I noticed Darkrula in the mafia universe games and thought i'd see if any of the SONM guys were still lurking around. Honestly, doesn't look like more than maybe a dozen or so actually made the transition in the end.

Up The Senate.

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PostRe: Meta-discussion: what are our issues and how do we better structure solutions?
by OrangeXMS » Mon Jun 10, 2019 12:46 pm

Nun wrote:One thing I did find helpful to get to know people when I was new to GRcade was forum games like mafia, it's hard to jump into politics and discussion threads and integrate yourself into the community as a member when you guys have so many years of shared history that I am never really going to catch up on. Mafia gives a good excuse to get to know members outside of just general discussion or politics threads and was how I got chatting to folks like Karl, Hexx and Staydead in various chaotic AYA games.

I always used to say on S/ONM that forum games are one of the major advantages forums have over the likes of reddit and other social media and if you can build a reputation for running fun events and games then it could be used to attract new members


Upvote!

You're missing out on a forum game running RIGHT NOW (probably my bad for not asking for senate approval)

But yes you should run that mafia at some point!

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PostRe: Meta-discussion: what are our issues and how do we better structure solutions?
by Karl_ » Mon Jun 10, 2019 12:48 pm

Nun :wub:

Please do run that Mafia you were planning.

FWIW I definitely think of you and other occasional-ex-SONM-visitors as an important part of this community. I think a kind of molten core of SONM people made the switch pretty successfully, but lots of big names did disappear (Reggie for instance I think got exhausted by politics arguments and kind of faded away) and that's a shame. I wish we could have done more to make the forum feel welcoming for you all.


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