We've been on the Ning site for a while now, and I think it's time to assess if it's doing all we like, and what improvements we can make. I've had a couple of ideas buzzing around in my head for a while, and I'd like to run them by you.
When we started the Ning site, we Moderators were kinda baffled as to what to do with the "Groups" function. They looked to be redundant to the way material would naturally arrange itself in the GENERAL COMICS discussion area, but for all we knew Legionnaires would find some wonderful use for them. So we didn't put any parameters on groups, and just waited to see what would develop.
And some groups developed that seem both necessary and functional, like the one labeled WILD CARDS. The WC gang have a happy, healthy community that doesn't mix much with the comics community, so it stands to reason that they should have a specific place to go without wading through tons of stuff that doesn't interest them. I adjudge the WC group a natural use of the function, and a successful one.
On the other end of the spectrum are the comics-specific ones, which I deem a failed experiment. Take, for example, the WELCOME TO THE (GL) CORPS group. What purpose does it serve? Most people talking about Green Lantern post to the GENERAL COMICS discussion area, and the few that post to the group see their posts gather dust. Worse, what if you're a newbie? The title of the group is misleading ("Hey! I can join the Green Lantern Corps!") and if they went there first, they'd see no activity, and think "this site sucks" and go somewhere else. With all the options available on the Interwebs, we must compete a little for new blood, not turn them away. In my view, groups like WELCOME TO THE (GL) CORPS aren't working -- they're redundant, confusing and may even be damaging to our long-term health.
A group right in the middle is COMICS NEWS. I don't like posting the press releases in groups, because they get so little traffic and it's a lot of flippin' work that I'd like to see get used. It also sometimes results in redundancy, like -- for example -- during this latest DC announcement. I'm putting the press releases up in the COMICS NEWS group, while Legionnaires are posting links to DC's The Source and competing websites in the GENERAL COMICS area. This is redundant, and confusing, for the ordinary Legionnaire. But I can't really post press releases in discussion area, because I post so many a day (on the days I post) that they'd replace everybody else on the "latest postings" feature. The press releases are so numerous, they would simply take over. So groups it is, unless someone has a better solution.
There is one other thing about groups to take into account: the RSS feature. I don't think that appears anywhere else. With it, there's a constant feed of links to stories elsewhere on the web that use the appropriate tags. That's really cool, and I'd hate to lose it ... unless no one's using it. Various Legionnaires have set up feeds in a lot of groups, but is anyone reading them? Would it be better to have all those RSS feeds go into the COMICS NEWS group, and delete all the others? Then it would be one-stop shopping.
2) STANDING STUFF
There are a number of things that need to be up and available at all times, without people having to search for them. Things like Moderator contacts, Rules of the Board and other boilerplate leap to mind. Also posts and columns that answer frequently asked questions or are useful, heavily-researched reference works, like my Roll Call columns for various teams, Chris's CrossGen article, and more columns by the Commander and Mr. Silver Age than I can count. ("When did the Earth-1 Batman start?" "Was it really in the Legion of Super-Heroes Constitution that married Legionnaires had to resign?" "What is a Mopee?" And so forth.)
There doesn't seem to be a mechanism to do that on the home page -- everything rotates off eventually. So once again I'm thinking groups. We could set up a group for REFERENCE or LIBRARY or GO HERE FIRST or BOB'S YOUR UNCLE or -- I don't know, I could use some help naming it. But then any Legionnaire could add something they feel needs to last through the zombie apocalypse, and it would assemble itself more or less organically. And then it would be there for eternity with no time-consuming searches (which I know would help me, and I bet I'm not alone).
Of course with two pages of groups (which seem to arrange themselves randomly), nobody can find anything in the groups if they don't know specifically where to go. Which, again, leads me to the idea of paring them back to -- oh, I dunno, five? 10? Less than a page, anyway, and few enough that you could see ALL of them on an average screen in the groups list on the front page. Nothing that doesn't have a specific need to exist should go away. Then we Mods could close the function's access, only allowing future groups when we all agree to do so.
So those are my thoughts at present. I think paring the groups back would increase utility and decrease confusion, but I'm reluctant to do so without feedback. And also lots of warning, in case there are posts there that the authors wish to save. And it's possible y'all might be using the heck out of the groups, and I just can't tell, because there's no counter feature.
So sound off, everyone. Not only about groups, but about anything you think would improve the board.
So Legionnaires assemble! And chat mightily!