198: A Tale of Two Fan Sites

A Tale of Two Fan Sites

It doesn't take much to make a passionate community of fans self-destruct, especially when oversized egos are involved. Dan Squire offers a cautionary tale of two videogame music fan sites that competed for the attention of the same group of users - and both lost.

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Forums have life spans. Our own Escapist forums have changed a great deal over the time I've observed and been a part of them. They've grown, they've shifted a little in perspective but there remains a core of people who are on every day (Or as near to as they can.) and really commit to doing what they can to uphold their view of what The Escapist Community should be like.

And hey, it's this community which has Escapist winking at other Webby nominees in a friendly-competition kind of way.

We are a relatively tight-knit group of users, as described in this piece, and while some may bare their spines to new-comers, the rest of us are more accepting. However, The Escapist has something very interesting which differentiates it (or so it sounds) from the fan sites mentioned: a chat room. This may seem superficial, if only because it's not so widely known, but it's a great medium for users to chat to staff and to each other. This helps to breach the post barrier which exists in the semi-uptight nature of writing something for others to read as a post, not a conversation. Debates move faster in an instant chat and this enables people to come to a better consensus. So I encourage people to hop along to the IRC and join in the jovial chatter. It makes this community stronger.

I must concede to many of the ideas postulated in the article, and I would easily summize that if I were to create my own website simply to create a new community, it would result similarly, taking me money, effort, energy and probably years to learn what you just put to words.
Like 2006-YouTube, 2007(Winter-Spring)2008-EscapistForums are never coming back, and I must take that with stride, and do my part to shape and assist in the form and growth of the Escapist community today, not that I have the ability to prune such things as "o rly".

For an example of a really well run fansite you guys should check out www.teamliquid.net

It's a fansite for pro-gaming & Starcraft following the pro scene in korea. One of the reasons I think it succeeds is because how dedicated the staff are to improving the site and following the scene. There's a massive amount of community interaction, with the staff regularly posting on the forums, just normal everyday posts, they're not sitting behind a curtain arbitarily making decisions without finding out what the site's users want. That said, they also do a hell of a lot of stuff without community consultation, and to this date they have never implemented something that the users didn't like. Sure, the staff have regular bitch fights and they ban each other etc etc but in the end they all are so dedicated to starcraft that they can put petty rivalries aside and focus on what they want to do to make their site & ultimately their scene better.

You call it a tale of 2 fan sites, but it reads like the story of any forum or chatsite. From forums dedicated to specific games, to gaming in general, to other specific topics, or with no specific topic to draw the community together at all, the kinds of issues you've related are practically unavoidable and universal.

A forum becomes something separate from its beginnings as a matter of course. The community is what brings people back, moreso than the domain:

"If it relies too heavily on the contributions of its members, the site's ability to function becomes inextricably tied to a core group of users."

What is a forum that doesn't rely on contributions of its members? The core principle of forums is just that. If you want to keep talk purely about the topic at hand and nothing more, never ever ever ever put in a "general" forum.

But you'll likely find that, unless there are regular happenings in the scene your forum is dedicated to, you'll never get people coming back day after day.

Really interesting article. I'd say that as soon as greater chunks of money are involved that don't go to running servers etc, a fansite gets harder to controll. Lack of newsitems or someone who betrays the forums is even more critical. Sad to hear that it turned out that way.

Anarchemitis:
I must concede to many of the ideas postulated in the article, and I would easily summize that if I were to create my own website simply to create a new community, it would result similarly, taking me money, effort, energy and probably years to learn what you just put to words.
Like 2006-YouTube, 2007(Winter-Spring)2008-EscapistForums are never coming back, and I must take that with stride, and do my part to shape and assist in the form and growth of the Escapist community today, not that I have the ability to prune such things as "o rly".

I don't know, I joined the Escapist in late-ish 08, and lurked a lot befor ethan, and I think the site was pretty much the same (bar an influx of slighlty lower brow threads) I still think it's easy to sidestep these and have a good discussion in some of the other posts.

Maybe it's simply because it was easier to maintain a tight-knit community because it was small.

In Germany it's a bit easier but I guess the key is to get in personal contact (face to face) with the other staff. Spent a day first with discussion about the next steps on the site and a party afterwards. You learn to know a lot about the partners you want to work with.

Gah, nothing is ever personal on the internet. I don't say that to people because it's true, it's because it's that or go insane.

The problem is that because all of these interactions are going on in your head it's easy to lose all perspective on a situation. 9 times out of 10 if I said something that upset someone, I'd sense it immediately and make some joke or apology to show that, although I said something rude, I don't mean it as some kind of deep personal insult. I'm pissed, or tired, or I'm in a loud cafe, etc.

The first impulse to this is to just assume everyone is an asshole but that can only work for so long. You start to recognize people and the relationship (which is still entirely in your head) continues to evolve until they do something that offends you. And that's the moment of truth for the interwebs: do you take it personally or do you brush it off?

I try to ground myself when I can but it gets harder the deeper you get. Sometimes you just have to turn it off and remind yourself of the world outside your own brain.

This article really hit home for me. I've been a forum administrator for 10 years in various communities, from webcomics to conventions to businesses and now games, and have had the privilege of managing many teams of people. I've went through plenty of what the article has talked about and have been privy to many "drama" fansite wars over the ages.

I don't share the rather bleak outlook that the author puts forth in the last part of the article. In fact it is absolutely possible to have a fansite with forums that have people who can avoid the kind of dramatics that cause schisms, rivalries, and hostility.

Several keys to running a good fansite is not to get into these petty kinds of competitions with other sites of their nature. Tim had it right - don't play the rivalry game. But you still need to put forth effort to make your site viable - and you can do this while playing ball with other sites. Don't make it a competition. If you're the big dog on the market, recognize the value of networking and pulling up the smaller sites out there.

In addition to that, your recruitment of volunteers to help your efforts must be measured and rational. Choose people who are passionate about the hobby you have the site about, but who you know will respect the chain of command. Lay out expectations right from the beginning - your management policies, decisions made, and how everything works - and make sure you keep open communication. The two worst ways that the kind of drama the author writes about can happen are to either manage your teams in a way that end runs your own policies or makes decisions without input, or by not checking in with your teams and communicating properly. Even if you're the end all be all for authority, respecting your staff enough to value their input and even occasionally do things based on their feedback empowers them and makes them feel like they are contributing instead of just following.

A lot of this depends on the fan community proper, too. I serve as a manager for a major Warhammer Online fansite, and the WAR community has been amazingly drama-free. We respect each other and help each other out - for example, we run a cross-promotion program where members promote each other every week and we reward them for doing so. We also frequently have other fansite runners on our podcast and people promote us in return. Even though the game is not doing as well as it could, there are little to no "rivalries" of the sort. So it is possible to have a fan community that doesn't have the pitfalls the author has. You just have to make sure you are forthcoming and honest with your peers.

As a testament to this, our forums for WAR have been around since 2005. Even with the opening of official forums to siphon our traffic, we enjoy millions of unique hits and thousands of posts a day. Key to that? Being humble and knowing that it isn't just you who contributed to that, it was everyone in the community who visits, posts and upholds your standards.

Excellent article and posts- let's hope The Escapist manages to weather the storms.

Heh. A lot of a forum's longevity is owed to its members dedication and maturity. The two forums I've been part of since 2001, both videogame music related (but neither having any relation to the two eluded to in the article), have survived because the members are mature. Turds/trolls/kiddies pop up every now and then but quickly lose interest when no one fuels their need for attention and drama.

The bigger of the two is now struggling with a staff situation as the creator's, who has virtually no interaction with the site save paying the bills, actions are causing conflict with the two or three most dedicated uploaders and maintainers (read: "admin"). One of the staff half-jokingly suggested that they sell the site to OC Remix so they can add yet another subdomain. The reaction to his comment, in jest, was pretty fierce, so I guess the staff would rather suffer than sellout.

Why is Nobuo a hack? All the Final Fantasy hate... it gets to me. He's made some very memorable themes. Unless he took them from another composer... idk why hes a hack.

*frowny face*

fsanch:
This article really hit home for me...

In general, I defer to your longer experience, my own tenure was less than three years before an egomaniac destroyed the site I was attached to in a campaign of irrationally intense drama. However, from my more limited experience, my perspective has been that the single greatest failure for online communities comes from the piece of advice you gave about expanding your staff. In my experience the core of problems, almost across the board comes from either expanding the staff to include people who don't understand that there is no "power" to be had on the internet, or from the staff itself creating rules that conflict with the site's culture.

That said, I think you're advice is excellent across the board, and that you probably should expand it a bit and repost it someplace for prospective administrators to see.

I really only am active on a music site, the article was quite good.

Is this actually a story about OCRemix and VGMix, and why they apparently hate each other? I've been wondering about that story forever, since I go to both of them. I hear that Back In The Day, they were essentially at war?

 

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