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Thread: Increasing participation

  1. #1
    Esmerilda
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    Increasing participation

    Hi there!

    Firstly, let me say that I do like these forums a great deal and that I believe that they are very creative.

    It's just, when I look at the amount of members vs. the amount of threads and posts, I wonder why so many new members lurk.

    Personally, I believe that the reason for this is two-fold:
    - The creativity found in such abundance, make it a little harder to navigate the forums. It's very overwhelming for new members.
    - Secondly, believe it or not, there isn't much space to post!

    All of the really interesting places like SPEW and the SBBC require a rather large number of posts (75 and 50), or recommendations from existing members (3 and 2) and one only has one thread in the Beta section.

    It's not easy for a newbie to get to know members of specific clubs that are willing to vouch for them.

    A lot of forums don't count towards your post count, so that pretty much leaves the Hospital Wing and Hogwarts (only recently re-opened) to increase your post count.

    So what is my solution?

    Well, it is once again two-fold.

    Firstly, I think that it might help to decrease the required amount of posts to say 30 or so. Getting to 30 posts already requires quite a bit of dedication (I know this from experience).

    Secondly, I think that it would help if the mods and older site members helped to establish various discussion topics, rather than to rely on people asking for help in the Hospital Wing. For instance, in the Character section, there could be threads for Hermione, Prof. Bins, etc, etc. You could also add threads for character pairings. Posters can then give character sketches, essays, analysis, the pros and cons for the particular pairing, etc.

    Instead of just classes, once-off tutorials could be added on various aspects of writing and the HP Universe.

    Instead of just having a space where readers can meet the authors in the Duelling Club, a space could be added for public challenges and / or plotbunny adoption. At the moment, there isn't a Gauntlet running (which is understandable), I don't think the Halloween Drabble Challenge counts towards your post count, challenges in SPEW are limited to members only and the angst challenges are only for students in the DADA class.

    I really hope to hear what you think about these ideas.

    Es

  2. #2
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    Hope I'm not treading on Modly toes here, but I thought I'd reply in my capacity as TTB barmaid.

    The Three Broomsticks (here) is an area of the board that positively encourages writing. There are weekly drabble challenges as well as a monthly challenge. There are also the opportunities there to provide thoughtful commentary on other drabblers work.

    When I first joined the boards, I lurked for a while but found the best source of information came from my house common room, or TTB.

    The post count is there for a reason: SPEW and SBBC, for instance, don't want to admit unvouched for members who will maybe participate once and then disappear. That's not to say that they are closed to people who haven't made the requisite number of posts, but you would need a member who would vouch for you.

    If you want discussion topics then check out Remus Reflections here This could be just the sort of discussions you're looking for.

    I understand how hard it is to navigate the boards at times - believe me I'm a veritable Arthur Weasley when it comes to Muggle technology, but most people here are willing to help out a newbie, and there's always Dumbledore's Navy who can help out if the Mods are busy.




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  3. #3
    Esmerilda
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    Edit: Time warp. This is meant to be post #4.

    I should add that I understand perfectly why the minimum requirements are there and I agree they are necessary. Obviously, a club wants committed individuals. What I'm asking is that you have a look at the Hospital Wing quickly. In the plot section, there's only one page to the forum - one - and half of them are sticky posts and rules. I appreciate the need for the system. I just think that the system can still be in place whilst making some improvements. It's impossible to give that many thoughtful, meaningful answers when there are so few people asking questions, is all that I mean to highlight in this post.

    I've seen Remus' Reflections and it looks interesting. It's not the sort of thing that's available on other message boards. I just wonder whether it has to be limited to drabbles - and only drabbles that are chosen by mods. Mods do give the most time to the improvement of the site and I'm not suggesting that they contribute less. I truly believe that people will be more active if you give them an opportunity to issue challenges in addition to mods. The type of things that I'm suggesting are complementary to the system that is already in place, it's not meant to change it.

    It's just a thought, but I hope you will give it some consideration.

    Es


    Edit 2: To add some extra info (specific examples).

    In the Plot section of the Hospital Wing, there are 10 threads that are not rules or announcements. Of these, 5 are for title help. This makes it difficult for someone (not just me) to offer constructive help - especially since for some of these threads, the author has already made and executed their choice and further participation would thus be spam.

    What I had in mind is in part, an expansion on the Everlasting Elixirs, but in a more interactive format and with a greater variety of topics. Not quite like HP wiki with the bare facts, but more the participant's interpretation of various issues.

    In Remus' Reflections, for example, a single topic is discussed for two weeks. This isn't bad, but maybe it could be a featured topic forum, while a space is provided for more general and less structured participation?

    Hugs,
    Es

  4. #4
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    Speaking as one half of the SBBC moderator duo:

    The reason why we, at SBBC at least, set 50 as the minimum post count is that we want to accept members who are active on the boards, and active at the right places. As you said, only those in forums like Hospital Wing, TTB and Hogwarts do. A user with more than 50 posts to their credit would be one who has contributed to forums which automatically involve discussions.

    Of course, it would be too much to expect a newbie to get recommendations from an existing member of a specific club, but it happens. We recently accepted a brand new Gryffindor into the SBBC because she got recommendations from members for whom she had previously left good reviews. I am not saying that every newbie should do something like this, but it helps to show your aptitude somewhere else for you to be recognized by other people. Maybe, youíre a regular at Remus Reflection, or Excerpts of Murtlap, or the Character Clinic, or Skele-Gro Potion. That is bound to get you noticed. Iím pretty sure that if you have proven yourself there, any member, whether you personally know them or not, would vouch for you. Just as we canít expect a newbie to get to know members of specific clubs within a short space of time, we canít expect groups like the SBBC to just accept any new person who has arrived at the boards but not contributed much.
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  5. #5
    Seventh Year Gryffindor
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    Right, speaking here as a mod and as co-head of Remus' Reflections now. (But still only posting my personal opinion here, not that of any collective.)

    I'm not sure I actually get your problem.

    Do you think there aren't enough places to get your post count up in to fulfil the requirements for joining SPEW and the SBBC? I've never been in either of those clubs, and I don't even post as much as others do, yet my post count would qualify me to join ten times. Admittedly, I've been a member for a while now, but I still have an average of 1.13 posts per day - and that's with a lot of lurking in the busy RL times at some points. If you manage to do two posts per day (more to that in a second), you can apply to the SBBC within a month. And I don't think you even should apply there right after joining the boards, because it's always better to get familiar with the whole environment etc. before making such a commitment.
    Now, about the posts per day: I'm NOT telling you to spam just anywhere (please don't do that, haha), but you have so many places on MNFF here where you can post! You have the Character Clinic with three subforums - and there's always an OC that could use your help - there's always an open question in the Reference Desk... You can comment on people's work in the Excerpts of Murtlap forum.

    Then you can set up a drabble thread and comment on others', you can set up a drawing thread and comment on others'. You can participate in the "General Fanfiction Discussion" subforum to get to know people. [Even if not all of them increase your word count (I'm not sure which do now, I thought they all did, but your post implied differently) they are great places to get in touch with people. Also, if getting to know others - for potential recommendations, for example - is your problem, get out there and PM someone you think you might like to get to know better, or contact them via AIM. No one will bite you for that.] You can participate in the RR discussion....

    That actually brings me to my next point.

    I've seen Remus' Reflections and it looks interesting. It's not the sort of thing that's available on other message boards. I just wonder whether it has to be limited to drabbles - and only drabbles that are chosen by mods. Mods do give the most time to the improvement of the site and I'm not suggesting that they contribute less. I truly believe that people will be more active if you give them an opportunity to issue challenges in addition to mods. The type of things that I'm suggesting are complementary to the system that is already in place, it's not meant to change it.
    Could you clarify what you mean by the part that I bolded? There are two parts of RR - one is the drabbles, and the other is the discussion. You can participate in the discussion as much as you like. What do you mean by "drabbles that are chosen by mods"? Obviously, someone has to pick a winner. The "Best Reflector" is something that's decided by a poll. Did you mean that we choose the topics? Well, someone has to, and trust me, we put a lot of thought into this and try to pick topics that seem to be popular around the boards at the time. And then, every now and then there's a challenge for members to submit topics... And, as with all parts of MNFF, we're always open to suggestions.


    What I'm asking is that you have a look at the Hospital Wing quickly. In the plot section, there's only one page to the forum - one - and half of them are sticky posts and rules. I appreciate the need for the system. I just think that the system can still be in place whilst making some improvements. It's impossible to give that many thoughtful, meaningful answers when there are so few people asking questions, is all that I mean to highlight in this post.
    So what exactly is your suggestion on improvements? It's really not that anyone is opposed to change or anything, I'm just not sure I'm following you. Do you want members to ask more questions? You do know that old threads (where no further help is required) are locked and graved, right?


    For instance, in the Character section, there could be threads for Hermione, Prof. Bins, etc, etc. You could also add threads for character pairings. Posters can then give character sketches, essays, analysis, the pros and cons for the particular pairing, etc.
    Again, I don't entirely understand your problem. We HAVE threads for individual characters. If you think there's a character missing, you can always add the thread in the appropriate subforum. The main aim of those threads is to ask questions, of course, but if you want to post your opinion on something and leave it for discussion, as long as it is on topic, I don't see the harm in that. Most people just ask questions about what interests them at the time or what is relevant for their stories - which is the main purpose of those threads.


    Instead of just classes, once-off tutorials could be added on various aspects of writing and the HP Universe.
    If you look at Hogwarts right now, you'll see that we do have workshops. Currently, the one offered is on drawing. I think you mean tutorials that remain on the site as one post, with no student/teacher thing, but more like a single lecture, yeah?
    I actually doubt that would make sense. People are much more sure to read (and actually find) things when they're enrolled in a class or workshop. And it's much easier to learn and remember when you get the professor's feedback on the work you do. And then what would you include in those tutorials to make them not unreadably long, but still useful?

    Maybe you should have another (closer) look at all the forums and subforums. I feel like a number of the things you suggested are things we already have/do around here.

    I'm sorry, I'm probably misunderstanding most of what you said... I'm sure you have a couple of great ideas though, so maybe you could clarify what exactly you are suggesting.
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  6. #6
    Esmerilda
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    I think that the problem might be that I'm not choosing exactly the right words to convey the concept that I have in mind.

    With the section that you bolded, I mean that there is one drabble challenge running at a time, in a formal manner. What I would like to suggest is adding informal challenges where a member creates a thread and posts various prompts or characters of their choosing. That way, one could participate in more than one challenge at a time. The informal challenge can relate to stories that users would like to see posted on the archives. That's what I meant by not just drabbles. Also, these informal challenges don't count for House points, so it's not extra admin for the mods. The informal challenge-giver may offer incentives like reviews or banners and may set a deadline for submissions. They are also to allowed to set up rules for their challenge, as long as those rules do not contradict the forum rules.

    What I meant by the 'once-off classes' is to have tutorials on an informal basis. You don't have to sign up for these and they don't count towards House points. There is a reading and then some questions, aimed at promoting critical thinking. For example, let's say a tutorial on imagery is created... The tutorial provides some tips and hints and then there can be excerpts featuring examples of excellent and of poor imagery. Then the person completing the tutorial can respond in that same thread answering questions like how did the imagery impact on them and how do they feel that the examples of poor imagery can be improved. These don't have to be without feedback - other forum users can politely disagree with you or point out aspects that you may have missed. I'm taking part in the intertextuality class already. I think these are excellent workshops. I just don't think that lots of people can commit themselves for such a long period. That's why I suggested short tutorials. The tutorial author can always check back once in a while and offer advice if they want, but the main idea that I'm suggesting here is learning simply by thinking about something you haven't thought about before and learning from the feedback from your peers.

    In essence, I am not suggesting wholly new features at all. It's more of a suggestion to create informal features to compliment the formal ones already in existence.

    I hope that this is making more sense. I'll come back and edit later on. I think this migrane is interfering with my ability to express myself properly.

  7. #7
    Seventh Year Gryffindor
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    With the section that you bolded, I mean that there is one drabble challenge running at a time, in a formal manner. What I would like to suggest is adding informal challenges where a member creates a thread and posts various prompts or characters of their choosing. That way, one could participate in more than one challenge at a time.
    Well, the concept behind Remus' Reflections is to discuss one topic per two weeks, and then write a drabble about the things that were most important to you in the discussion. So having just random drabble challenges in there would miss the point completely. Around the forums, there are a lot more drabble challenges... If you look at TTB alone, you have one new challenge every week, and additionally, a new one every month.

    The informal challenge can relate to stories that users would like to see posted on the archives. That's what I meant by not just drabbles
    You can offer and adopt plot bunnies here, and we even have a What I'd Like to See forum where you can ask about certain stories that you haven't found yet.

    Also, these informal challenges don't count for House points, so it's not extra admin for the mods. The informal challenge-giver may offer incentives like reviews or banners and may set a deadline for submissions.
    Sometimes, for certain events, we have "I Challenge Thee" threads. You could also suggest something like that as an in-house activity, for example. Having a permanently open thread for the whole forum would, I think, result in chaos after a while. Members would accept challenges but never write them, or the bannermaker would disappear... Or (if you're saying that this should be like the regular challenges) the entries are never judged. I'm not sure you're aware of this, but judging entries for a competition is always work, too.

    There's nothing keeping you from exchanging challenges with people you know via PM or AIM, for example, or to challenge people in their drawing threads. In Gryffindor, we have a "Truth or Dare" game, in which people dare each other, for example, to write drabbles about a pairing they dislike.

    I personally (and this is really just my own opinion) think that an open thread or even (as you seem to be suggesting) a multitude of threads, one for each challenge, would be a bad idea, as it would result in a huge chaos.


    Apart from everything that in my opinion speaks against this, there's also the question of whether there's even a demand for this. We do have regular challenges, and I think in the short time you've been here, you haven't witnessed half of the things we sometimes have going on here. Depending on the time of year, there are specific character-challenges, or seasonal challenges. If members want more challenges, they can always PM the mod responsible for a certain subforum and ask whether it would be possible to have one.

    Actually, I just checked your profile, and I noticed that you haven't participated in any of the current drabble challenges so far. There's two challenges in TTB, there's the one in RR, the Halloween one in Hogsmeade, and you might want to check your own house, too. What I don't get is why you feel the need to add MORE drabble challenges to that right now. If you're looking for a way to stretch your writing fingers, try them at the ones already in place. I think adding new challenges right now would just lead to more threads with less average participation.


    What I meant by the 'once-off classes' is to have tutorials on an informal basis. You don't have to sign up for these and they don't count towards House points. There is a reading and then some questions, aimed at promoting critical thinking. For example, let's say a tutorial on imagery is created... The tutorial provides some tips and hints and then there can be excerpts featuring examples of excellent and of poor imagery. Then the person completing the tutorial can respond in that same thread answering questions like how did the imagery impact on them and how do they feel that the examples of poor imagery can be improved. These don't have to be without feedback - other forum users can politely disagree with you or point out aspects that you may have missed. I'm taking part in the intertextuality class already. I think these are excellent workshops. I just don't think that lots of people can commit themselves for such a long period. That's why I suggested short tutorials. The tutorial author can always check back once in a while and offer advice if they want, but the main idea that I'm suggesting here is learning simply by thinking about something you haven't thought about before and learning from the feedback from your peers.
    Well, if you put it that way, it sounds a lot like the workshops we have at Hogwarts now... How does your suggestion differ from them?
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  8. #8
    Vorona
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    "What I meant by the 'once-off classes' is to have tutorials on an informal basis. You don't have to sign up for these and they don't count towards House points. There is a reading and then some questions, aimed at promoting critical thinking. For example, let's say a tutorial on imagery is created... The tutorial provides some tips and hints and then there can be excerpts featuring examples of excellent and of poor imagery. Then the person completing the tutorial can respond in that same thread answering questions like how did the imagery impact on them and how do they feel that the examples of poor imagery can be improved. These don't have to be without feedback - other forum users can politely disagree with you or point out aspects that you may have missed. I'm taking part in the intertextuality class already. I think these are excellent workshops. I just don't think that lots of people can commit themselves for such a long period. That's why I suggested short tutorials. The tutorial author can always check back once in a while and offer advice if they want, but the main idea that I'm suggesting here is learning simply by thinking about something you haven't thought about before and learning from the feedback from your peers."

    Well, if you put it that way, it sounds a lot like the workshops we have at Hogwarts now... How does your suggestion differ from them?
    No, what Esmerilda is suggesting is different from the workshops we have at Hogwarts now. I just looked at the signups for the 2 fan art workshops, and this is what I saw:

    1. You have to sign up for them in advance.

    2. The people who sign up are expected to do all the assignments (I'm assuming this is the point of explaining what the work load is like).

    3. The people who sign up would be able to earn up to a maximum of 15 house points.

    What Esmerilda is suggesting:

    1. No sign-ups. The teacher would post the topic/lesson/etc. and anyone who happened by could take part.

    2. Practice, assignments, etc. would be optional, and people could post stuff if they wanted feedback, but it wouldn't be a specific requirement.

    3. Since it would be more informal, there would be no house points earned by any of the participants.

    I get her point. As someone who is extremely busy right now, I have not signed up for ANY workshops or classes, because I just can't guarantee, in advance, that I will have the time available to complete all the assignments, even for something as light as the workshops. Plus: There is a big post up in Hogwarts specifically warning against signing up for classes you aren't sure you'll be able to commit to. Having a more informal learning center, where you don't sign up and can just post once to offer thoughts on a specific topic might be nice. I know we have that in the General Fanfiction Discussion, but ages go by between responses over there, since no one is specifically assigned the task of creating discussion threads. If there were specific people hosting a kind of informal learning center, you could focus the topics more and have them come out in a more regular fashion (i.e. timing). And it would be a good way to get involved in the type of serious discussion that is required for post count. And unlike Remus' Reflections, it could be writing-based rather than canon-based. Plus, as a verbose writer (obvious in this post), I would find it almost impossible to have any enjoyment in RR -- I'd write a post and then have to spend hours cutting it down to the right size: tedious. That's a personal opinion, of course, but I think it illustrates the fact that RR isn't for everyone. These discussions Esmerilda is thinking of wouldn't be either, but they'd be another option. Maybe there, the requirement would be that you had to post *more* than 300 words per post.

    That said . . .

    I'm in SPEW. I went and got my 75 posts the way things are now, and although I found it irritating at the time (yes, I did), I'm really glad I had to. A lot of the stuff I was doing then (mostly posting in the OC thread of the Hospital Wing, but also duelling a lot) is stuff I wish I had time for now. I got into a rhythm, and I learned a lot more about the writing process -- naturally, both what works for other people (i.e. duels) and issues of character creation. I really liked the requirement, in the end.

  9. #9
    Seventh Year Gryffindor
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vorona
    If there were specific people hosting a kind of informal learning center, you could focus the topics more and have them come out in a more regular fashion (i.e. timing).
    Right, I get the point a bit better now that you explained what those tutorials would look like... I don't think it's a bad idea per se, but I'm still not in agreement with the whole "informal" character. And you yourself say that we would need "specific people hosting" that - so it wouldn't be all that informal, would it? I'm just really struggling to imagine an unsupervised, informal discussion forum where everyone can just post their lectures, whether they're qualified or not.

    But from the basic idea, I think it might be good for people who don't have the time to commit to a class. We're definitely more on the same page now.
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  10. #10
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    *This post follows Vorona's on the next page*

    Not all classes in Hogwarts are so strict.

    As someone who teaches a very informal class where people can do as much or as little as they want, I must say that it is sometimes incredibly irritating to lead. The simple fact is that if you don't give people a deadline or an incentive to take part - they just don't post. Even my classes which are run as an optional discussion and task each week can vary from 30 posts to 3 and it just feels like I'm wasting my time when people feel they can't post because others are being too academic. Most classes are run with sign ups and levels so that the professors can pick out the people who will be able to feel comfortable in discussions with others who are similar to them.

    In my opinion, Hogwarts has been very well run as an informal online school. If people want real education, there are plenty of actual online writing courses. If people want a place to chat about things, then we have the help forums. If people want a mix, then Hogwarts is perfect.

    People who want the informality have the help forums, those who want more structure have Hogwarts. If we were to create a middle ground between these we would be spreading ourselves thinner for very little extra participation.

    The moderators are attempting to create site specific lectures for Hogwarts which will be optional and designed to aid readers of all abilities around the site.

    Outside of the school, there are plenty of informal challenges around the site. We've got the Gauntlet, we've got in house challenges, we've got poetry, art, and plenty of other competitions. They don't run all the time because we want the participation and if we ran everything at once we'd have about two people in each challenge.

    We have been criticised plenty of times for having too many challenges and not enough focus on improving writing. The simple fact is, we can't win, so we do our best to please everyone. If there's something specific that you'd like to see and you know where you would put it, PM the mod in charge and they'll consider setting it up. Otherwise, I really do think there's plenty on the site to do already.



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