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wendyw
The Bomb-diggity


Joined: 10 Jul 2008
Posts: 4142
Location: North-East England

PostPosted: Fri Mar 08, 2013 8:21 pm    Post subject: Forum Suggestion Box Reply with quote

You might have noticed that the forum isn't as busy as it used to be, which I think is a shame, so I'm asking you all the following question.

What do you think we can do to get more people around here, both creators and readers?

Fixing the forum bugs is the obvious answer, but what else?
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n9uxu



Joined: 28 Mar 2008
Posts: 587
Location: Michigan

PostPosted: Fri Mar 08, 2013 10:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Forum bugs yes, please.

Honestly, the only reason I don't come around here as often as in the past is that the tube which connects this portion of the internet to ANYWHERE IN ANN ARBOR is painfully congested and doing anything on this forum is slooooooooooowwwww... I have to work up the fortitude to dig through things.

Of course, the new shiny is always calling people away, and a lot of the talk that was here is on G+ and what not.

Dave
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Casual Notice
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 09, 2013 11:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm sure somebody somewhere has a pretty solid outline on the life-cycle of an internet forum that might be germaine, but I also have some ideas that relate directly to this forum in particular.
So back in the forum's hayday (yes, it is "hay" not "hey"; the word refers to the warm-but-not-hot days of early summer when hay is cut and the year is considered to be at its zenith), three things were demonstrably true:
  • The world economy was still at least good enough that people didn't walk around with a constant nagging dread of impending disaster.
  • Webcomics were still fairly new, and we were all learning what we were doing together.
  • Webcomics were a computer thing; cell phone use was prevalent, but there were not useful tablets and by no means were people walking around grafted to the modern equivalent of a magic mirror.

Needless to say, things have changed. The economy has forced a number of our old comrades to take their time more seriously, including not wasting hours screwing around on an internet forum (just plain old life did that for others--I'm pretty sure Oppy's girlfriend is now his wife, and the demands of his (paying) job were starting to turn him from the wacky scrawny hippy we all knew and loved into a polite yet mildly conservative (in the social, not political, sense) Dutch working man even before he mentioned her.

There are Oodles of guides and FAQa on the web that people can refer to without needing to dip into the unsafe waters of forum conversation, which has probably conrtibuted to the lack of new users (that aren't Azerbaijani spyware bots trying to phish personal information under the guise of a knockoff boutique burying its links in semi-random hoohah).

But I think the greatest part of the blame rests with those plastic-and-glass pustules that people cradle in their palms. Internet forums are created for computers, and tablets and phones are not ideal for reading and typing in long rambling threads. This means that the smartphone-addicted mass is less likely to even stroll by here while they google "somethng that might engage my flagging attention span while I wait for my GPS to reload directions to my mother's house which she's had since 1963 and I grew up in".

I honestly can't think of a suggestion to change any of that. So, err, yeah...Forum bugs.
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ttallan
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Joined: 28 Feb 2008
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 09, 2013 2:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It seems to me that the majority of new folk we do see around here are newly-minted webcomic creators looking for a place to talk shop (rather than webcomic readers looking for a place to talk about their favourite strips). Unfortunately, TWCL members have a habit of making them feel like idiots because they're new and making mistakes and they were dumb enough to pick this medium to express themselves. And poof, they're gone.

I remember my experience of going up to a comic artist at a comic con artist alley with my crappy portfolio, and how a few kind and encouraging remarks really helped and gave me something to work towards. I've heard more than a few tales from other wanna-be creators having their dreams utterly crushed by grumps in artists alley. Honestly, I don't see the value in that. It's a much more useful learning experience to try and fail than to be talked out of trying at all.

Which is not to say that sometimes you need to be blunt and tell it like it is. But I think that kind of strong medicine should only be doled out as necessary, not as a first treatment.

To continue my artist alley comparison: a young artist with a portfolio looking for critiques and advice can choose which person to approach-- the friendly-looking up-and-coming artist, or the serious but clearly experienced established artist, depending on what kind of an attitude they're ready for. On the forurm, the newbies don't get to pick, they just get bombarded with opinions from all sides. Perhaps what we need is a forum section like "Gentle Advice for a Newbie" and another one "Gimme the Truth, I Can Take It." So we can ease the newcomers in gently, before we drown them in our collective cynicism. Wink
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mcmasters



Joined: 28 Jun 2012
Posts: 436

PostPosted: Sun Mar 10, 2013 12:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yeah I think a lot of the reasons given so far are valid. Forums meet different needs for different people. I'm looking for a good community as much as a source of information forum. This forum seems to me to be...let's see, not unfriendly but far far from the feeling of walking into a bar, seeing some buddies and feeling comfortable. More like walking into a store with shelves and shelves of expensive glass items lining very narrow aisles. But I'm new so that's to be expected from my perspective. Yet the place still seems kind of serious and business-like. Maybe it had a strong sense of community in the past and that has soured? It happens to forums. And I guess nowadays of lot of social community type needs are being met by the relatively new social media stuff.

Perhaps we could have a two or three person Welcoming Committee? When we get a first-poster we could jump in and make them feel wel- OKAY I SEE YOU ROLLING YOUR EYES THERE MISTER. YES YOU. SEE THAT'S JUST WHAT I'M TALKING ABOUT!!!

---

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Kail



Joined: 10 Feb 2007
Posts: 424

PostPosted: Sun Mar 10, 2013 6:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

mcmasters wrote:
Maybe it had a strong sense of community in the past and that has soured?


I don't know about soured, but a lot of the old "faces" I remember from here are gone, and the new ones tend not to stick around long enough to become familiar. There's not much action, so they don't post, so there's not much action, etc.

I think part of the problem is that the webcomic list itself isn't exactly relevant anymore. It's getting really hard to find good webcomics amid the oceans of discontinued titles, and everyone already knows where to find Penny Arcade or XKCD if they want them. I don't really know why you'd go to TWCL if you were interested in finding a comic rather than, say, Google. The list just doesn't have much functionality.

One thing I remember really liking about this forum were the times when we did those round robin critiques, I thought that was really helpful and a good way to get to know the other forum goers. Then I realized that nowadays it would probably be split off in the "jams" subforum or something, which I rarely check. Maybe more of that kind of thing would be nice, some activities related to webcomics but which are more social than sitting in front of a desk drawing. Like, I dunno, a webcomic themed book club or something.
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nsanelilmunky



Joined: 12 Nov 2012
Posts: 120

PostPosted: Sun Mar 10, 2013 10:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I can't say much because I'm new, but I don't come here as often as other forums I frequent because most of the posts are either "look at my comic," "help me find this comic that I lost," or stuff dealing with ads. For any question about script writing or 'favourite comics', there's already a thread/FAQ that one can read without actually being a member.

Then there's also my personal feelings with the bugs and layout. The bugs are annoying and this forum is very bright. All the other forums I frequent are grey to dark grey/black. Coming here from there tends to burn my eyes a little.
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Marscaleb



Joined: 28 Aug 2012
Posts: 258

PostPosted: Sun Mar 10, 2013 6:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Here's something really simple:
Change the look of the forum.
Not so much with the color scheme, but in the corner you got this big 'ol logo for the site that made the forum software. Then in the middle you have a bland piece of text that says "TWCL"
It just makes the forum seem low-budget and unprofessional. People drop in here, look around, and decide not to stay. You want something more polished so it doesn't feel like a forum someone's running in their garage.
You really ought to put up a graphic with the site's logo.
For that matter you might want to have a real logo for the site.

And if you wanna REALLY get some people involved, make that a contest. Just open up a contest to let people design a new logo for the site, and let people submit their designs. Perhaps even let the community vote on the designs. Then update the header for the forum so it looks more polished and professional, instead of out-of-the-box.

---

Idea number two:
It also looks bad for the site when people can't customize their profile. When they have no capacity to edit their own signature and so forth, it really makes the site feel broken. Newcomers see that and lode interest.
Enable people to edit their own profile.
If there was a restriction that said "you must be a community member for X-duration" or the like that was displayed if they tried to change such things, at least that would be understandable.

I also think it would be great if in the box on the side what shows your avatar also had webcomic-specific info their. In particular, let people specify if they are a webcomic creator, former creator, or just an avid fan. let people click this declaration to take them to their comic's entry on the list, or a list of the comics they read.
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mcmasters



Joined: 28 Jun 2012
Posts: 436

PostPosted: Sun Mar 10, 2013 7:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Marscaleb wrote:
It also looks bad for the site when people can't customize their profile. When they have no capacity to edit their own signature and so forth, it really makes the site feel broken.


Totally agree.

www.mcmasterscomics.com
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wendyw
The Bomb-diggity


Joined: 10 Jul 2008
Posts: 4142
Location: North-East England

PostPosted: Sun Mar 10, 2013 8:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Marscaleb wrote:

It also looks bad for the site when people can't customize their profile. When they have no capacity to edit their own signature and so forth, it really makes the site feel broken.


That's because it kind of is. That's the main thing I meant with the forum bugs. Believe me if it was within my abilities to fix that I would have done a long, long time ago.

Me and oppy can do things like ban users, create new boards, create user groups and so on, but to fix that requires top level access which neither of us has.

Likewise anything that relates to the main site is outside of our control as well, but replacing the phpbb logo should be easy enough.
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JohnK



Joined: 02 May 2006
Posts: 478
Location: Glendale, California

PostPosted: Sun Mar 10, 2013 10:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

If we want a more vibrant and active webcomic community of readers and artists here, we could always mention this forum a little more often on our own sites, even if just in blog posts. It doesn't have to be a big advertising campaign.

Just tell people to come by and hang out.
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vulpeslibertas
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Joined: 19 Dec 2005
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Location: Here and there...mostly there. Sometimes kinda in between.

PostPosted: Mon Mar 11, 2013 1:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think there are a couple of things...

First, on the subject of Webcomic lists being out of date. The appropriate modern equivalent, as I've long felt, is a ranking and sorting system based on the user's profile. For example, if you like artsy B&W comics, then the website will find other artsy B&W comics and suggest them to you.

Second, I'm not sure if the webcomic list and this forum are all that closely linked. I think webcomic readers use the list, and writers tend to use the forum. We've lost a lot of community characters over the years and may not have fully replaced them. We may not be very good at introducing new members into the inner circle, and that may be a little put-offish. Also, at some point, everything that needs to be said about making webcomics has been said. How many times do we need to mention Scott McCloud, or argue where to put your First/Previous/Next/Last buttons? At some point, we stop making new discussions, and become librarians of the old discussions.

We really need to liven things up with the kind of fire we used to have which was based on friendly community banter and topical discussion of how to make webcomics.

IMO.
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Spencey



Joined: 16 May 2008
Posts: 640
Location: Scotland

PostPosted: Tue Mar 12, 2013 2:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It feels like the owner of the TWCL forum has given up on us. He either doesn't have the time or the inclination to fix the bugs which have been around here for so so long. Frankly, if it wasn't for the great contributors here I would be thinking about jumping ship and looking at other forums.

For what it's worth, here's what I, personally, feel would help:

1. Review of the main categories

Webcomic Gubbins? It feels weird that there is just one topic of 'Webcomic Gubbins' to capture *all* the discussions around the principal reason for us being here. Because almost everything is grouped under such a big umbrella nobody wants to post in other threads such as "How-to" because they fear it will be missed. As such some have not been updated in years.

...but imagine, if you will, if you came to the forum and were greeting with:

Introductions
General Ramblings
Webcomic Creators Discussion:
----- Webcomic News
----- Tutorials
----------- Art and Drawing
----------- Writing for Comics
----------- Round-robin Critiques
----- Promotion and Advertising
----- Monetising a Webcomic
----- Conventions
----- Looking for Writer / Artist
----- Statistics
----- Podcasts
----- Webcomic Gubbins (<-- With threads moved as appropriate)
Webcomic Readers Discussion:
----- Looking for a Comic
----- Check Out My Comic (<-- note it is in a webcomic readers area)
Forum Community:
----- Jams and Competitions
----- Crossovers
----- Seasonal Comics (ie everyone posts their Valentines day comic etc)
Site Problems etc


2. More consistent use of 'Sticky' threads. At present Some threads go into 50 pages and don't get stickied, other threads happen to catch the eye of a moderator and get stickied (ie Funny things in webcomics?) or are completely out of date (TWCL Chat? Aren't we all tweeting these days?).


3. It would be better if the Webcomic List itself was better linked to the Forum. Imagine if your Profile page showed your comic's rank. Or showed which comics were run by forum contributors and it gave them better visibility on the main site. Imagine if the owner of the forum offered up advertising slots on the main site to the winner of a monthly contest?


4. Fix those pesky bugs! We wouldn't need threads for "Massive list of Stumbleupon/Reddit/Twitter/DeviantArt/Facebook/Skype" if you could customise your profile to include these things.

This is such a good community. I would hate for more people to leave because of technical frustrations.
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Casual Notice
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 12, 2013 6:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Spencey wrote:
1. Review of the main categories

...but imagine, if you will, if you came to the forum and were greeting with:

General Ramblings
Webcomic Creators Discussion:
----- Tutorials
----- Round-robin Critiques
----- The Business of Webcomics
----- Looking for Writer / Artist
----- Webcomic Gubbins (<-- With threads moved as appropriate)
Webcomic Readers Discussion:
----- Looking for a Comic
----- Check Out My Comic (<-- note it is in a webcomic readers area)
Forum Community:
----- Jams and Competitions
----- Crossovers
----- Seasonal Comics (ie everyone posts their Valentines day comic etc)
Site Problems etc

While I agree that we could use a little more organization here, I have been to a few sites that had long lists of multi-layered forums, and it seems to me that over-layering tends to dissuade people from entering at all for fear of posting a new thread in the wrong place.

Above is my edited version of your list. Note all forms of advertising (podcasts, conventions, etc.) are included as part of the Business of Webcomics ("monetizing" is a made-up word for people who think "business" is a profanity). Likewise all of the tutorials would be in a single forum, and Introductions are fine in the General forum.

Quote:
4. Fix those pesky bugs! We wouldn't need threads for "Massive list of Stumbleupon/Reddit/Twitter/DeviantArt/Facebook/Skype" if you could customise your profile to include these things.

Most of the bugs are related to a plain-bread install of phpBB 2.x and its multiple conflicts with the main site's database handling. Only Ash can fix them, and Ash lost interest in the forum a long time ago.

Assuming that Ash doesn't want to be arsed to rewrite his cutom code for the list, I can offer space on my server to host an updated messageboard; however, if Ash doesn't change the "messageboard" link on the main site sidebar, it will just go the way of the test board that Wendy and Jess set up a couple of years ago.
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mcmasters



Joined: 28 Jun 2012
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 13, 2013 3:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

What is all this buggy something I'm hearing about? For me, forum loads up, goes quickly to where I click.
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