Forum:Community building

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This thread was archived on 8 December 2011 by Liquidhelium.

Every day, 100,000 people visit our site. We have nearly 19,000 different pages, we dominate the search results, and for now we are the most complete and up-to-date fansite out there.

What don’t we have?

In my opinion, what we’re really lacking is a community. We have a fair amount of editors (as much as any other wiki), but it’s really a small portion compared to the sheer amount of traffic we get. I’ve considered many times trying to do an editor drive, getting a bunch of new users signed up, but it occurred to me that for most people, editing just isn’t their thing. Besides the ever so slightly complex syntax, a lot of visitors just aren’t interested in writing, and that’s fine.

The challenge is to find ways to get as many people involved in our community as we can. We accomplished a lot with the creation of the Events Team early this year, and we can attract 60 to 80 people to events on a good day, which is actually more than what you see from longer-established event teams on Tip.It or Zybez. We showed ourselves that we have the ability to foster at least part of a community.

This wiki is about as complete as it can get, at least to a point. In a lot of ways that’s a great thing, but in one important way it’s not. When there’s less to do, fewer people will do it, and our community stagnates. In earlier years, there was always work to be done, and it was an absolute team effort. These days whenever there’s a big update, you’ll see more user registration, more edits, and overall a bigger community. What you won’t usually see, though, is a big jump in traffic. This makes me think that, when there’s work to be done (i.e. creating new pages from the update), the existing users see that things are incomplete, take it upon themselves to fix them, and then often stay for the long term. If you look at the join dates of our prolific editors, you’ll find a lot of them coincide with release dates.

The way I see it, there are sort of three ways that we can grow our userbase:

  • Bigger game updates that require more work on our part
  • Finding new, popular content avenues for pages
  • Becoming more than just a content site

The first of these is obviously out of our control, as we’re not the developers. The second is rather interesting, but still problematic: most of the new content ideas I’ve thought of (scenery, individual clue pages, new parameters) would not spur growth from the outside, as most of the work would end up being done by three of four people. Even if we found something that was popular and got lots of people excited to edit, it would still only be a short-term fix.

So, that leaves option three, becoming more than just a content site. I really don’t think we can continue growth without changing what we are and what our goals are. It has always amazed me that every day 30 people are interested in editing so much that they make an account here. If we expand our features beyond content, I have no doubt that many more people will sign up and stay a while, and then that some of them will become integral parts of our wiki. Funnily enough I think this is sort of what Wikia is trying to do by dumbing down features and going social. They’re doing it the wrong way, but once you get past the people foaming at the mouth about Facebook, the concept behind it is one worth considering.

How do we accomplish this? One of the key things is that any new features or activities we add should be able to be easily ignored by people who don’t care for them; that’s one of the main problems with the forthcoming Message Wall. I want us to find ways to be competitive with other related sites, and the single most important thing they have and we don’t is…

Good forums

Yeah, it’s pretty ironic I’m bringing this up so soon after we closed the old forums, but I think we’re missing out. Take a look at any fansite’s forums, and you’ll see that it’s a vibrant active community. On Zybez’s forums they get about 25 signups daily and over 100 posts per hour. We get 5 times as much traffic as they do; we can have very successful forums if we plan them well and advertise enough.

What went wrong with the old forums?

  • The “look” was very basic and often buggy
  • The extension was not actively supported
  • The subforums were not very well thought out for large-scale use
  • They were never heavily advertised to the point that they could sustain a community of their own
  • Down the stretch no one moderated them

Can those problems be addressed if we give ourselves a second shot at forums? I think the answer is yes.

Wikia is developing a forum extension based on Message Wall. While still reserving judgment, I don’t have very high hopes for it, because for forums to succeed I think they will need to be clearly demarcated from the content part of the wiki. MediaWiki works perfectly for encyclopedias, but it’s not meant to be used for social discussion, and it shows. Having page-based comments doesn’t cut it and I fear that if we use these, regular forumers will be confused by the format. I was told that there were problems with integration, bugs and security when trying to use existing forum software on here, but I hope someone will realize that only high-quality forums are good enough for us to use.

If we get the extension we want (either phpBB or IPB), I think we can take an enormous step towards having a great community. It’ll take lots of minute planning beforehand and commitment in the long run, but it’s something we can surely do.

Communication with anons

At least 98% of the people who visit this site don’t have accounts, and I think most of them don’t realize that there’s much on this site beyond what they read. Based on Quantcast, about half of our visitors make one visit in the period of the month; those people are unlikely to care about our community and aren’t the ones we should be focusing on. The more interesting number is that about 20,000 people make at least 30 visits per month, and a large majority of those aren’t editors. If we find a good way to reach these users, we will not only be able to populate any event or feature that we want, but we’ll have a major leg up on other sites communication-wise.

There are three ways that I’ve looked at for communicating with people, each with advantages and disadvantages.

  • Anon bubble – For a short time we used a bubble similar to [[MediaWiki:Communitymessages-notice-msg]] for anons. It worked very well in attracting attention: we managed to get 60 people to come to a Trouble Brewing event on short notice. Unfortunately the bubble got some negative feedback from people who just wanted to read and not be bothered by what they considered to be a pop-up. There was also a concern with it causing problems in the editor on Firefox 5 or something like that. It’s the most effective but also the most annoying.
  • Sidebar – I tried advertising a survey in the sidebar, but it got so few clicks that I don’t think everyone was seeing it. Wikia did not like it because it pushed ads and content down slightly. It’s hard to see, but it won’t really annoy anyone.
  • Tagline – Burnopedia uses MediaWiki:Tagline and some CSS to put it at the top of every page on the right side. I’m not sure if this is the best option, but it’s a pretty easy one.

Whatever we decide to do, we definitely need to find a way to reach these people.

Relationships with other sites

I suppose this doesn't really fit with the rest of the thread, but I thought I'd add it anyway. We have always been a little bit isolated from related fansites, and it's time for that to change. Beyond a basic link exchange (which is nice but doesn't do much besides helping our PageRank), we should really get to know the people on the other sites. The inter-fansite communication page was a red-tape-palooza and was so successful that exactly one person posted something on it. If we decide to take on larger relationships with fansites, the IFC should probably be abolished and replaced with an informal representative. It's always difficult to have someone represent all of us considering the political system and policies we have, but I'd like it if we could bypass the bureaucracy and have one person (not a group, not a gaggle) coordinate our communication with other sites, if only because it's less confusing to their administrators.

What can we do with other sites? One of the most obvious things is joint events, like the fansite tournament we did last year. If we get forums set up, we can coordinate some things there as well. There's the aforementioned positive effects we get from linking, and initiating these kinds of connections may even help us with Jagex. Just about every site will agree to a partnership of some sort, especially with us.

Miscellaneous
  • We have the community box on the main page, but I'm not sure it's had a measurable effect on any of the things it's advertising. That's always been a problem with main page advertising.
  • I would like to see more in-game involvement from the community as a whole, and would be pushing for greater advertisement of the clan chat if not for the foolish clan member limit. We're doing well with events as of late, but a lot of the attendees may not be regulars.
  • Special:Chat is something I mostly like. it would be better if it was open to anons, because it looks bad to advertise it and then say you have to be logged in. It could be very valuable.
  • We have a lot of Twitter followers: let's see if we can use that to our advantage.

That's about it for my ramble. This isn't much of a support/oppose thread, but I would like to see what people think of:

  • Shifting towards a community approach
  • Whether forums are something we'd be willing to try again and whether you're reather have phpBB/IPB forums or something based on MediaWiki
  • Whether we should target anons, and what the best way to do that is.
  • Connections with other fansites and getting rid of the IFC
  • Anything else.

Peace be upon you,

ʞooɔ 04:04, October 27, 2011 (UTC)

Discussion

Comment - I like the idea of a new forums not based in MediaWiki. I noted in the thread to close the last forums I supported adding some form of new "social" forums, since they really can be helpful to the community. The community is our most important asset, and it can serve us well if we can tap into it, even if the main thing that comes out of it is a more enjoyable experience for RuenScape Wikians. Anons would be a good group to target, since they are the majority of our visitors by a long shot; ultimately as a wiki our goal is to give them the best information possible, and an added bonus would be to give them a more enjoyable RuneScape experience.

The Tagline thing would be something I'd like to try. We could always ask Rappy about how it works for them on Burnopedia. I'd like to avoid the anon bubble if it causes editor issues in certain web browsers, because even though it may help with the community part of our wiki, we should remember we are an encyclopedia first, and that is our first goal.

The IFC is obviously a failure, and because of that should either be highly redesigned or simply abolished. The only downside of having one person in that section would be to decide that one person, and in case of irl issues what would we do about fansite communication? I think it might be best to have a group, not to make decisions, but a group of representatives that can be contacted and contact other fansites for the sake of easier communication. However, that would then create issues of things becoming complicated and them saying one thing and another saying something completely different. This could probably be settled by them keeping in communication with each other and posting what they've decided upon in a public place, but that would basically be similar to the IFC which failed. So.... it might just be best to try having 1 person handle it no matter how much that idea frightens me.

As for the miscellaneous bits, I like Special:Chat too. It is a very nice feature that helps our newer users with accounts chat with established users. I've spoken with several users who have most likely stayed onwiki because of that feature and getting real time advice and the ease of asking for help and getting a response. The only downside is some users refusing to go into Chat and chat with the newer people who are in need of help because of their firm belief that IRC is better which it is and that they can't use Chat because it will mean they can't use IRC, which of course isn't true. I suppose we could do some more advertisement of our facebook page and our twitter ..... thing whatever they are called. They aren't the most used page, and currently mostly used to advertise the ET. This wastes a lot of potential for those items. svco4bY.png3Gf5N2F.png 04:35, October 27, 2011 (UTC)

Just thought I'd also add that Special:Chat is horribly buggy, and annoyingly often servers break. Before I tried today, I was unable to connect to S:C for many weeks. Quest.png Gaz Lloyd 7:^]Events!99s 18:47, October 27, 2011 (UTC)
It remains online for a good majority of the time, so it's still a good thing to have for users who don't know about/don't want to use IRC. svco4bY.png3Gf5N2F.png 21:07, October 27, 2011 (UTC)

Comment - Do we really expect to get more editors so easily? Look at nearly every site in the world: it's always the same. Wikipedia is largely edited by a small group of devoted editors. The rest are usually just occasional editors (which I would fall into), the kind who just fix typos or spelling when they see it, and those who aren't the least bit interested in editing. To the extent of my knowledge, this is seen on pretty much all fan sites, wikis, etc. There's also a difference between wanting to comment on the subject and actually wanting to edit the article about the subject.

With that being said, I do think that forums outside of mediawiki, meant only for a "water cooler", not for proposals (keep the yew grove separate for the serious stuff) would be a good idea. I know the previous forums failed, but the way I see it, they were flawed. But I fail to see how we'd be able to get anything from Wikia, since they are our host. Were we to have a real host, we could simply install a totally independent forum (with the major flaw that we'd be unable to officially link wiki accounts to forum accounts), that would be able to solve some of the issues that the old forum had (which I believe partially stemmed from inability to control the forums properly).

For the most part, though, I don't want to see us try and become facebook too. We are a wiki first and community second. Wikia's changes have largely achieved negative results, and it's quite apparent that many editors think similarly, so I think we should not try and press too much at trying to force people to be more social, nor try and pressure the anons too much (on casual sites that I only visit, I find that being pressured to make an account just annoys me. If a site asks that I make an account to simply see the images in the posts, unless I really need them, I'll be pushing the back button on my browser).

tl;dr version: Forum good idea, but unsure of how well it would really do, especially with the failure of the previous forum; we need to remember that we're an encyclopedia, and not a social site. Hofmic Talk 06:33, October 27, 2011 (UTC)

I'm not expecting to get editors. I'm expecting to get community members. A wiki is so much different than any other kind of site, but the best example I can give is Tip.It. Content is clearly the main focus of their site, but they have very active forums as well. Very few of the people there play any role in the upkeep of the content (16 crew members and a semi-active forum for non-crew members to request updates. Most of the people who visit Tip.It do so for the content. However, there's a whole bunch of people who are on the forums all the time, but even most of them are not involved in the editing of the site. We have enough editors right now to sustain where we're at content-wise. It's time to move forward. ʞooɔ 07:56, October 27, 2011 (UTC)

Comment - Currently all that twitter is used for is advertising events and the Free Stuff Fridays comp with Runeslayer and Team Penguin. All facebook is used for is advertising events as well. We have over 3000 twitter followers and 600 facebook likes, so using them would probably do something, especially if we promote our facebook page more. If anyone has any ideas of what we can post on either/both of these I'd be more than happy to make these resources more active. Hunter cape (t).png Sentra246Blue hallowe'en mask.png 08:51, October 27, 2011 (UTC)

Comment - Yes, the IFC has been a disaster and I do think other fansites would like more than just link exchanges (increased SEO, anyone?) for fansite affiliation. I honestly didn't care for Wikia's bonehead decision to remove the toolbar and the messages it would give to unregistered users, but I still think there is more room to improve on Bubble.js.

Tagline has issues, specifically with the Wikiaphone skin and the wrapping it deals with against the content of the page. I'm sure we could place the message right above the Contribute button, but it could overlap on some administrative messages that appear after moving, deleting or restoring edits and pages. Not much else to put here as it doesn't seem to be the best approach, but probably one that won't get Wikia mad at us for some reason.

I know for fact that Wikia will never fix the phpBB extension as they gave up on it after placing it on about ten wikis and their attempts to modify it to be like the Monaco skin. It may be possible to link accounts between IPB and Mediawiki depending on how it is structure, but once again, Wikia wants it their way. I think it would be easier for Wikia to place a forum extension in the repository than go and make a forum extension based off of Message Wall which was in-turn based off of ArticleComments and BlogComments. As Cook showed on Community Central, having comments of any sort (whether the non-existent forum idea) by Wikia on this site will make the all pages special page a terrifying place to look at.

While I am tired of hearing comments like "Rune Wiki lacks a community feel which may be a reason it is not platinum.", it makes me think more of how we have lost so many editors over the years and how the active sysops have dropped to twelve in recent months. We do need a more active community and Wikia isn't changing that with their SocialEngagement project they've been working on for almost a year now. They'll be delusional in their attempts to look like every other site while we try to do it the right way against the Wikia Inc. powerhouse. Ryan PM 06:30, October 28, 2011 (UTC)

Comment. Wikia is going to be releasing better forums soon, and when that happens, we need to really push for their use. They need to be advertised, quite simply, and advertised well. ajr 14:42, October 30, 2011 (UTC)

What if they suck? sssSp7p.pngIjLCqFF.png 19:11, October 30, 2011 (UTC)
They will. bad_fetustalk 19:38, October 30, 2011 (UTC)
HEY SUNSHINE --Iiii I I I 10:17, October 31, 2011 (UTC)

Comment - Finally getting around to commenting here. Yes, it's obvious we have a tiny community in proportion to the number of visitors we get. Why's that? Because, honestly, who wants to waste hours of their life editing a gaming wiki. I know I did, and all of you do, but I'm fairly sure the majority of people would rather play the game they enjoy and then do IRL stuff than sit down at a computer longer and edit a wiki. Using the example of the Events Team, I think it's success compared to onsite initiatives is because it is in-game; it does not require people to leave the game and work on another tab, participating in an Events Team event is simply another aspect of RuneScape itself.

The three suggested methods of growing the site, in my opinion, will not create any sort of sustainable growth. As pointed out already, option one is outside our sphere of influence and is clearly pointless to discuss. Option two, while nice in theory, will probably not work, since it is "artificially" created "content": that work simply involves reorganising and redisplaying existing RuneScape content in a different fashion, perhaps with a different extension, or two.

Option three sounds disturbingly like another line of spin from our dear friends at Wikia Inc., who have spent much of this year dumbing down and socialising everything MediaWiki into a content based social networking site. While I'm sure Cook doesn't harbour the same misguided aims, again I'm sceptical of whether we can make a difference community-wise with our currently utilised resources, which essentially amount to... nothing. What I do believe will work are non-MediaWiki based forums; if we could design an efficient structure, find willing moderators, and advertise the hell out of them, I do think we could quickly catch up to the other fansites in terms of forum activity.

We have always been quite crap when it came to communicating with anons. We need to advertise the fact that we do have a community new editors can join, and make it much more inviting for anons to make an account, current half-hearted teaser links to join [[Special:Chat]] aren't working. While annoying for some, anon bubble is clearly a powerful tool we can utilise to sparingly advertise to anons, a possible example being immediately after a new content release, we could suggest that readers make an account so that they can more easily contribute to this new content. Nobody likes the rail so let's not use it, however, Tagline sounds like a decent idea. If we could put a nice one-liner before any reader could view content, that would be quite effective, limited only by what we could fit in such a limited space.

Relationships with other fansites. This is really the only area that we can immediately make concrete actions, I'm glad this was included in the thread. Simply put, IFC should be redirected to the Events Team page and they can immediately assume responsibilities for inter-fansite discussions. I dislike the idea of an "informal representative" because ad hoc things never work long-term, will probably lead to bickering, and why bother when we already have a trusted, experienced and avaliable-around-the-clock team who have shown great co-ordination since they were created?

Enjoy my very late, counter-textwall, 222 talk 11:17, November 7, 2011 (UTC)

The first two ideas were mostly theoretical (for obvious reasons that you pointed out). However, the third option, as weird as it sounds, is really the best option if we look past how similar it appears to what Wikia is trying to do. The whole point is to expand our existing resources, because there's no way we can build forums based on MediaWiki. I stated in the thread that I would prefer something like phpBB or IPB, the two leading forum softwares. I'm not stupid enough to think that we could manage with something MediaWiki based (although the product people seem to think that will work.) Option three, if done cautiously, could most certainly lead to sustainable growth. I'm not sure what you're saying here.
I don't think it's a good idea to advertise account creation after big updates, for the reasons you pointed out earlier; most people aren't interested in editing, and it would be a waste of resources to try and lure that small percentage in. We should use it when it's actually useful, such as when/if we get usable forums.
I hate to put down the events team, but I think it would be a bad idea to give them responsibility to liaise with other fansites. Besides the fact that it's a completely different job description than they currently have (it was hard enough to contact other fansites the few times when they did events together), it's a bad idea to have a group do a job better suited for a single person. I also am worried about the solvency of the group, as one person recently quit, another no longer plays RuneScape, and we have struggled to attract any takers for RfETs. ʞooɔ 19:07, November 7, 2011 (UTC)
I would definitely support a separate phpBB forum, as wiki is an encyclopedia and not a discussion board (even thought it supports it) and vastly inadequate in hosting a forum. http://img534.imageshack.us/img534/5156/aithr.png 23:09, November 9, 2011 (UTC)
We tried that before. It sucked and we just recently closed them. Hofmic Talk 06:49, November 10, 2011 (UTC)
What? Tried what? The forums? Those were made by Wikia, of course they sucked. sssSp7p.pngIjLCqFF.png 15:42, November 10, 2011 (UTC)

Comment - Personally I think that the wiki has an excellent community as is. Of course we could do to add some new features (If we could get forums, that'd be great) but between the IRC, the Clan Chat, and other wiki-based activities (usually userspace) I feel that I've come to know and love the wiki for it's community above anything else. Basically, we have a great, albeit small community now, but if we want to expand, I suppose we need more stuff.--Cheers, Off-hand ascension crossbow.pngYodaAscension crossbow.png 21:39, November 11, 2011 (UTC)

Request for closure - This thread hasn't been posted on for nearly a month. I think anyone who wanted to voice their opinions on it has by now. --Touhou FTW Zaros symbol.png 05:10, December 7, 2011 (UTC)

Closed - Peace be upon ye. --LiquidTalk 03:29, December 8, 2011 (UTC)