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Weblogs and online diaries for corporate settings

By Midnight Ryder in Internet
Tue Nov 14, 2000 at 06:16:28 PM EST
Tags: Software (all tags)

MidnightRyder.Com is my pride and joy - my night-time game development company that is slowly moving closer and closer to becoming my "day job". Only one problem - my pride and joy looks like hell. Since I'm getting close to becoming a "professional" at game development, it's time to do something about that problem - but it leaves me with some questions.

One of the things I LOVE about the Open Source community and the communities that have grown up around places like /. and Kuro5hin.org is the feeling of, well, community. Everyone gets a chance to have thier say on the subject (sometimes good, sometimes bad). I'd like to capture that feeling in for MidnightRyder.Com in quite a few areas that I present below.

One of the things I have to point out - this is really a two part question and discussion subject. First, there's the obvious quesion of what software everyone likes for doing Scoop-like and /.-like things. But the second question, and one that's a bit more interesting, is there really room for a 'community feel' on a corporate webpage?

Someone is probably going to ask WHY I would want MidnightRyder.Com's web site to be a 'community'. Here's the reasons:

  • Corporate Greed: If people can have discussions there, feel like a part of what's going on, and feel thier opinons count, then they come back more often. Since the plan is to sometime soon start releasing a new game every two months (some online only sales, some real-world sales) buying people's eyeballs with the community feel is a good thing, since I get them to see new releases quicker.
  • Communication: While getting people to comment on what's going on is partially a gimic, it also can give me a good edge - I would never propose to develop a game based on EVERYONE's comments, developing them based off of some of the feedback people give about the games and proposed releases keeps the company in touch with people's feelings. If people see others posting thier opinions, they are more likely to give thiers too. (Not that I don't get enough opinions through email from time to time.)
  • Enjoyment: I've grown to love talking with the people that play the games I create. I've already got a pretty good fan base, and most of them are great people to talk with from time to time. I'd love to be able to discuss what's going on with them, and make the company news posts feel like a letter to the community - and discuss it with them.
  • Of course, the downside is that I do have to monitor them for profanity, etc. I have no intention of taking down negative opinions of MidnightRyder.Com products - everyone has opinions, and I'm quite honest in the fact that both negative and positive opinions would be accepted.

    As for implementation, I intend to make it site-wide - people will be able to comment publicly on anything from the anouncements on the front page, to the support pages that appear for different products (which seems like a great idea too - people can share thier problems, and they can sometimes be quickly solved publicly. In theory. ;-)

    Is this a wise thing to do? Should people be able to comment in a very public way on the newest game I just released, or the doggy update that I just put out (not that I would EVER mess up like that ;-) It seems to me to be a great idea, both from a money-making standpoint, and from a more human standpoint. Of course, just because I think it's a great idea doesn't mean I'm blind - does anyone else see problems? Or is this really just a great idea?

    The second part of this is - what software? I'm not on a dedicated box - so it's a REAL PITA to setup SlashCode, and Scoop doesn't quite seem right for the job. What else is out there for WebLogs, online diaries, etc. that would be a perfect match for this? I've also taken a look at some of the web BBS software out there, and while they handle the discussion part alright, I'd like it to be more 'integrated' (IE, similar to creating a new article in SlashCode or Scoop - thus also encouraging myself to update it MUCH more often.) Any opinons? Has anyone else done something similar with a corporate site, or, have a piece of software that would be a perfect fit?


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    Using a weblog for corporate site / discussion:
    o Cool idea! 31%
    o Buchanon. 23%
    o Why in the world...? 9%
    o Risky 23%
    o Lame 11%

    Votes: 51
    Results | Other Polls

    Related Links
    o Kuro5hin
    o Scoop
    o MidnightRy der.Com
    o /.
    o Kuro5hin.o rg
    o MidnightRy der.Com [2]
    o Also by Midnight Ryder

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    Weblogs and online diaries for corporate settings | 18 comments (13 topical, 5 editorial, 0 hidden)
    My first Kuro5hin item (3.66 / 3) (#1)
    by Midnight Ryder on Tue Nov 14, 2000 at 04:32:58 PM EST

    This is the first time that I've written a story for Kuro5hin - if there are any obvious errors, or if you happen to think it's in the wrong section, or just not the type of thing for Kuro5hin, tell me :-)

    Davis Ray Sickmon, Jr

    Owner / President

    MidnightRyder.Com - game developer, among other things

    great, but (4.00 / 1) (#3)
    by ooch on Tue Nov 14, 2000 at 04:47:54 PM EST

    The opening contained three paragraphs, should be only one. For the rest: great article!
    A +1 front page fom me!

    [ Parent ]
    Why not? (3.50 / 4) (#2)
    by slambo on Tue Nov 14, 2000 at 04:46:06 PM EST

    We've always been big fans of Sierra games at our house, and one of the first things that we like to do when we get a game is to check out the fan sites. Sites for The Incredible Machine, for example, offer solutions to the prepackaged puzzles, homemade puzzles, news and sightings and opinions. The same goes for all of the Railroad Tycoon II fan sites.

    However, what I've found is sorely lacking in these sites is technical support. Unfortunately, the same can be said of many corporate sites. If a corporate site could offer all of this discussion plus good technical support, then the site will be of high value to the product's fans.

    I say, do it; just be sure to state your censorship policies up front (i.e. no swearing or libel).
    Sean Lamb
    "A day without laughter is a day wasted." -- Groucho Marx

    the Community (4.00 / 2) (#10)
    by Andrew Dvorak on Tue Nov 14, 2000 at 05:23:36 PM EST

    I find that such corporately-sanctioned sites actually remove the sense of community. Such a site might be maintained by the corporation with the hopes of increasing odds of gaining revenue, where sites maintained by fans generally have more flexability as to the direction their site would go (ie. less overhead generally means increased productivity).

    Many users might frown upon becoming a product of the corporation -- bought by corporatism, if you will, but I imagine it happens all the time. When users band together, they can relate to each other. When users unite with the corporation, often there is nothing they can relate to with the corporation. The corporation is not a person. On the otherhand, where a "company" is a lone developer, a community site might be more welcomed because, as I've already suggested, people have a name to place on a person with whom they can relate to.

    [ Parent ]
    Warm and fuzzy feeling (2.50 / 2) (#4)
    by Nickus on Tue Nov 14, 2000 at 04:49:18 PM EST

    People like to feel that they are part of things, although it is a small part. Often when you create a product you easily fall in love with your own concepts and ideas and has a hard time to let them go. But if you get a lot of feedback and good arguments you will perhaps create an even better product.
    Bottom line, I think it is worth a try.

    Due to budget cuts, light at end of tunnel will be out. --Unknown
    WikiWikiWeb (3.50 / 2) (#11)
    by Ledge Kindred on Tue Nov 14, 2000 at 06:21:55 PM EST

    Something I've really grown to love lately, but probably not entirely appropriate for what would be a general-release website like this, is the WikiWikiWeb concept. I've been playing with ZWiki on Zope lately but there are any number of implementations in all sorts of languages.

    The reason this wouldn't be appropriate for a general-release website is that *any* user is able to modify *any* page on the site. It's better for places where you have a select number of people interested in a particular topic who you can guarantee won't do something like change the front page to display teen pr0n for all your visitors to see.

    The example I like to hold up when I talk about Wikis is the Handhelds Wiki. The amount of high-quality user-contributed data that's in their Wiki astounds me.

    You might not get the kind of comments you want (4.25 / 4) (#12)
    by Broco on Tue Nov 14, 2000 at 06:45:26 PM EST

    I wouldn't do this; the vast majority of the web discussion boards I've seen have almost no comments of value. What they do have is dozens of 2-line questions that are answered in the FAQ, childish statements and flaming, along with spelling mistakes and gross overuse of punctuation for good measure. Kuro5hin isn't like this for reasons that aren't entirely clear to me, but it's the exception, not the rule.

    I don't know about other people, but when I see that sort of garbage, it repels me and I don't want to visit the site again. By putting up a discussion board on your site, you risk associating yourself with the idiotic messages that are posted on it.

    This might not apply if you personally know most of your most enthusiastic fans and they are mature enough to post intelligently. But you might find there's a legion of 12-year-olds you haven't met yet that are just waiting for a chance to ruin your discussion board ...

    Klingon function calls do not have "parameters" - they have "arguments" - and they ALWAYS WIN THEM.

    Why ask why? (none / 0) (#15)
    by aphrael on Tue Nov 14, 2000 at 10:27:30 PM EST

    Kuro5hin isn't like this for reasons that aren't entirely clear to me, but it's the exception, not the rule

    Because people are willing to put time and energy into ensuring that it isn't --- a lot of message boards don't have that, and an even greater number fail to achieve critical mass needed to have a conversation.

    [ Parent ]
    Less popular (none / 0) (#16)
    by Nickus on Wed Nov 15, 2000 at 10:15:45 AM EST

    Kuro5hin is not as big as for example slashdot. That is one of the main reason the signal to noise ration is better here. When you add a lot of people to a crowd you can't calculate the average IQ anymore. It falls very rapidly for some reason ;-)

    Due to budget cuts, light at end of tunnel will be out. --Unknown
    [ Parent ]
    how popular is good? (none / 0) (#18)
    by Delirium on Tue Nov 21, 2000 at 05:15:26 PM EST

    Kuro5hin is not as big as for example slashdot. That is one of the main reason the signal to noise ration is better here. When you add a lot of people to a crowd you can't calculate the average IQ anymore. It falls very rapidly for some reason ;-)

    That's an odd feature of online discussions - you need a certain size for them to be useful, but once they get to another certain size they start getting noisy. How do you ensure one remains at a "good size" without either gaining runaway popularity or withering from disuse? I used to discuss this problem on and off back in the mid-90s when I frequented local dial-up BBSs and their accompanying FidoNET feeds (I was a latecomer to the dial-up BBS scene, got in right around when it was dying around 1996-97, but it was an excellent two years). It hasn't applied to the internet as much - this has been one of my main complaints about internet psuedo-social interaction, but sites like k5 seem to be filling the BBS void at least partially.

    "I have daemons in my mind and they refuse to set me free" - Covenant

    Just out of curiousity, is this the Covenant that plays EBM (electronic music) or the Covenant that plays black metal? I like the EBM Covenant but don't recognize this particular quote...

    [ Parent ]

    Think carefully about this (3.66 / 3) (#13)
    by sl4ck0ff on Tue Nov 14, 2000 at 08:15:56 PM EST

    I think you should think very hard about your idea to use web diaries and weblogs on a corporate site. I don't think that you will get the type of stream that you want. I don't know for certain, but I have a premonition that the attitude of the site as bussiness, with a community related design will not produce the results your fantasies demand.
    /me has returned to slacking
    In an earlier era ... (4.00 / 1) (#14)
    by aphrael on Tue Nov 14, 2000 at 10:26:29 PM EST

    I used to have a job whose primary responsibility was overseeing technical support fora on compuserve, which moved briefly to a badly implemented web log, and then settled on NNTP-style newsgroups run off of a corporate server.

    In general, I think having a corporate-sponsored community around [insert name of item here] can be a *great* idea --- nothing helps build loyalty, or a sense of being listened to and understood, like participation in a community; and if it's software you're into, providing a place for developers and users to talk to each other, and exchange ideas, can be critical to the success of the product.

    However, some warnings:

    The largest use of such a discussion site is going to be for technical support. If your company charges for technical support, your techies can't be out giving away free answers on the discussion board; their time will get drained away to nothing, and so will your revenue. A system has to be set up to encourage the users of the board to help each other; while this sounds easy, in practice it's hideously difficult.

    Having members of the company participate in the discussion is touchy, too. A lot of customers, and upper managers (how big a difference is there?), will assume that company people posting in public do so as official representatives; establishing the demarcation that these people are posting as individuals who happen to work in this company takes a fair amount of work, and the work is ongoing --- you constantly have to remind people, in a friendly fashion.

    In addition to profanity and spam control (we have to do both), you also need to perform leak control --- every company has secrets that shouldn't be splayed across the boards --- and misguided flame control; that is to say, people who think they know one of the company's secrets (and don't) may mislead the rest of the community into believing them.

    You really shouldn't be doing this unless you're (a) really small or (b) willing to have the company devote a full time person --- not to maintaining the code, but to maintaining the atmosphere of the community, stamping out flames and spam, and the like.

    Just some things to think about --- if you want to talk, drop me a line: aphrael@misanthrope.NOSPAM.discontent.NOSPAM.com

    Ambrosia Software (none / 0) (#17)
    by Denor on Wed Nov 15, 2000 at 01:40:01 PM EST

    Ambrosia Software makes shareware games for the mac (including my personal favorite, Escape Velocity and its ilk) and has, among other things, a web board on its EV site.

    The feeling I get is that (and my experience is with Escape Velocity only) Ambrosia has quite a fervent user community - not only do they talk on the message boards to each other about the game, there's also sections set up for people to upload their plugins. Escape Velocity has it's own mod scene, and it's being hosted by the company itself.

    I think this kind of community may be what you're striving for in your games company. If your game lends itself toward mods or plugins, you might want to try starting a community of people who are interested in adding things on to the game.

    At least, I'm hoping this kind of approach works, otherwise my game won't be very popular :)


    Weblogs and online diaries for corporate settings | 18 comments (13 topical, 5 editorial, 0 hidden)
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