Groups, and other improvements: Everyone please read!

Howdy, Legionnaires!

 

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.

 

1) GROUPS

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!


Views: 162

Comment by Travis Herrick (Modular Mod) on June 3, 2011 at 3:08pm
I wouldn't mind paring back the groups to a bare minimum myself. To maybe the 5 most active, something like that. Yesterday was the first time I poked my head into the groups this year, AND that was only because I clicked on the wrong tab up top.
Comment by John Dunbar on June 3, 2011 at 3:13pm

Heck, I created the group "Welcome to the (GL) Corps", and I don't disagree with a single thing Cap said.

 

I meant well, but now, I am filled with shame.

Comment by Captain Comics on June 3, 2011 at 3:27pm
It was just an example, John!  I am filled with shame that I filled you with shame!
Comment by John Dunbar on June 3, 2011 at 3:30pm
It's okay Cap, it wasn't really shame, just a sense of "Holy moley, Cap's right!"
Comment by Jeff of Earth-J on June 3, 2011 at 4:43pm
GROUPS: I thing the “Wildcards” group is the perfect use for the “groups” function because it doesn’t belong to any other established forum. (The “Recipe” group is good example, too, but that one doesn’t get much traffic.) To may way of thinking, any group that has anything to do with either comics books or television or movies doesn’t need a group because those subjects have their own forums. (I can give further examples of how I’ve seen groups used on other sites, but I think you get the idea.) My time on the board each day is limited, so I don’t want to looking for comic book discussions, nor do I want the comic (or tv) forum cluttered up with non-comics discussions. So my recommendation is to keep the groups, but get rid of all the comic book, movie or TV related ones and move those discussions into the forums.

STANDING STUFF: I don’t know if anything even can be done about it at this late date, but I was disappointed to see the old forums go away. I shouldn’t admit it, but because the traffic here has dwindled to almost nothing, I don’t put nearly as much time or effort into my posts as I used to. Yet not a week goes by that a question or discussion arises which relates to a subject I did research for a discussion on the old board. I didn’t say anything about at the time… well, for a number of reasons, really, but mainly because… well, never mind.

The appearance and functionality of the Ning site frequently (albiet less frequently than it used to) changes for no apparent reason. Questions are raised but never answered. Case in point: just yesterday a question was raised in the “Questions, Suggestions and Request” forum about the new “Merged Forums” (which I hate, BTW). Yes, it’s possible to navigate around the problem by manually changing the view from “discussions” to “categories,” but it’s just one more thing that makes an already difficult to navigate site just that much more difficult.

I don’t want to turn this into an “I miss the old site” bitch session, but I hope you find some of what I had to say constructive. Sorry to be so negative but you did ask, otherwise I would have continued to keep my mouth shut.
Comment by Captain Comics on June 3, 2011 at 5:28pm
I did ask, and I'm glad you answered. Nothing can turn back the clock, but we can surely address some of the things you say.
Comment by Jason Marconnet (Pint sized mod) on June 3, 2011 at 6:45pm

The groups sounded like a good/fun idea at first. But it's true they don't get a whole lot of traffic. I created a lot of them. But hey that's ok. We do talk about a lot of that stuff in the forums anyways.

 

I second Jeff on the old forum. I would tend to go back and search threads. Mostly to get an idea of something to start on this new board to get the discussions back up like they were at the old place. Plus I was curious to see when I first joined this group. I think we're coming up on 4 years since I graced the comic's cave with my presence!

Comment by Captain Comics on June 3, 2011 at 7:14pm

And we're still glad you're here! :)

 

I kept the old forum up for more than a year (albeit locked to new posts) for reference, but it was costing me a fortune and I had to let it go. But two of the Mods have copies, if we can ever find a cheap place to park the database. (Which is HUUUUUGE.)

Comment by Jason Marconnet (Pint sized mod) on June 3, 2011 at 7:51pm
Well if I ever win the lottery I would do my part to fund a new forum or the old one. I've enjoyed the ning site though. Our traffic has dwindled but there seems to be some renewed posting with all of the new DC news.
Comment by Lumbering Jack (M'odd-R8-Tr) on June 3, 2011 at 10:31pm

I was never thrilled with the groups. I couldn't understand the desire to further compartmentalize our discussions. At my work, we talk A LOT about building traffic to our websites, and a move like that just didn't make sense. I would further suggest you do away with all your forum subcategories -- especially the ones about comics. Shut everyone of them down and fuel it all into General Comic Discussions. (This might be what has happened already, as I can't seem to find the listing of Forums By Topics)

Have you (Cap and the Moderators) ever explored other, more successful Ning sites? It might be wise to do so and see what they do, site-design wise, to help their users enjoy their forums. I know Rich Lane designed this site (yay, Rich!), so he must know of some other Ning sites.

Further, I bet you can plug in some RSS feeds in the area that is currently occupied by the group listings. That would help you to be a one-stop shop for comic news -- well an initial stop.

I would also suggest you re-invest in a URL that doesn't carry the Ning name. If CaptainComics.US is still available, switch it over. A lot of search engines will skip over hosted sites because the crawlers have too difficult of a time figuring out the subject matter (<----  trying to avoid the technical terms that I might get wrong). With a "branded" URL, you will likely get more search traffic, more eyes and more members.

Back at your homepage, I would rearrange some furniture.

  • Dump or move the useless "members" box. It provides nothing of value and eats up space.
  • Dump or move the "Latest Activity" box. It too has limited value because all your latest activity is shown right beside it! (There is some utility in it, since it shows Groups activity, but if the Groups are going, it has no use.) Is there something else even better that you can put there?
  • Definitely provide a list of forum rules and moderator contacts. Can moderators automatically be made friends of new members? If that's an option, do it!
  • Perhaps videos could be used to line the left side. That would be helpful and bump up the forum discussions higher.
  • Events is a neat feature. Perhaps someone could start plugging in conventions. Also, the Powerbook Pete could list "this week's new comics" there.
  • Formally invite people to switch their ongoing posts as blogs. I'm looking at "A Comic A Day," "Thoughts While Filling Out Previews" and other indepth discussions (Figserello's reviews, Mark Sullivan on Vertigo, the Grant Morrison threads and so on). These are really good pieces, and making them part of your blog network keeps their visibility.
  • Speaking of Blogs, look at the Blogs page. It's got a neat feature of "Most Popular Blog Posts." That would make a good main-page feature.
  • What's the deal with the Badge feature? I don't understand it a bit. More space for an RSS feed.
  • Load all your press release images into your photo viewer (time consuming, I know) and then move that feature to the top of the page. That keeps you really current and very visual.
  • Remove the logo that says "Home of the Legion of Superflous Heroes." It's funny, sure, but it eats up SOoooo much space. You could put that logo in your left or right rail with no problem.
  • Once you have cleared out all this space, consider what you could add: A longer list of posts from the Comics forums, a separate list of non-comics posts (movies and TV), maybe some RSS feeds from an online comic, a youtube feed.

Also, is there any option to activate "Like" buttons for individual posts? How about a row of buttons that lets you post a thread link to Facebook.

Speaking of Facebook, I noticed Doc Beechler posting some links through the Friends of Captain Comics link. Good idea. Post links there all the time. Better yet, have someone adopt duties as an official Captain Comics ID, and use that to post all the time. Push the Facebook ID in your columns. Facebook can generate a butt-load of traffic here.

OK, I'll stop now. I hope you find some of these comments useful. I don't have any clue what this Ning site can do, so these are just suggestions.

This is a great community, and I want this community to thrive.

 

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