First up, sorry I’m a week late…work happened :) . Also, here’s the first part of the series. Secondly, and far more importantly, what do I mean by ‘what’ in the context of creating a community for your local gamers?
- What do you want to achieve?
- What tools can you afford?
- What time can you spare?
What do you want to achieve? It sounds obvious but it needs said, its one of those things that is only obvious in hindsight. What do you want to achieve with your community? Map out your goals, have a plan. The very act of planning things out should make certain options stand out more than others, should lead you to solutions naturally. By way of example, if you just want somewhere for people to arrange games and feel part of something, a Facebook group does the job perfectly. If you want somewhere that they can do this and explore ideas in-depth, you’re looking at a forum. Add in a one-stop-shop for info…you need a Facebook page and/or a webpage, plus a twitter and RSS feed for your announcements.
What Tools Can You Afford? This is a big point, if you personally pay for web hosting, if you personally pay for assets, you are doing this in addition to the time you are giving up, and you will reach the point of resentment a lot faster. Whats the point of resentment? It’s that moment when a user makes an innocuous request and your first thought is a hostile one. It will happen. It will make you want to throw in the towel. The best solution is to either use free tools, or have your gaming club/store pay for things from club dues. My own club(G3 in Glasgow) spends 1.5% of annual fees on web hosting, but the board gives its time freely. If we were to charge for time at the same rate we do professionally(and we are talking about a Geologist, an IT analyst and a structural engineer),the club would be severely in the red. It is reasonable to recover your costs, but your time is something you gift to the hobby.
Be aware that there are thousands and thousands of free tools you could use, but there are probably 5 or 10 that you should use. A lot of free providers provide a service that is substandard even for the price, and will do you no favours as visitors are bombarded with ads and pop-ups. Tumblr, Facebook, WordPress, blogger, twitter, youtube, and whichever one appeared in the last 5 minutes , are safe bets (in that they rely on you giving them information voluntarily, so are less likely to compromise your security) and great starting places for your fledgling community. Tying them together with a central hub site under a relevant and searchable URL is a great step, you can use ready built CMS (Content management system)software such as Drupal and WordPress to ease the administrative burden once you do, but each CMS comes with its own quirks and learning curves. A CMS that links to Facebook, twitter, and your forum and can be easily updated by more than one person is really the way forward these days, and the best ones are all free. You will need to pay for web hosting, and get a package from that web host that allows php and mysql to run(or even better, get a pre-built WordPress hosting package from a provider), but don’t forget to factor in your time commitment, which segues nicely into…
What time can you spare? This is the easiest thing to get wrong, as you will over commit and you will let yourself down. Take a piece of paper, graph out your work and home commitments, graph out your usual hobby time, and graph out your personal time for a given,average week. Notice how much paper you have filled in and how little is left? The time you have to commit has to come from somewhere else, and you can bet your boss and your spouse are not going to be persuaded…so its your hobby and personal time that will be given up. Are you prepared to give up what time you have?
Don’t commit unless you know 100% that you have a time window you can keep to. Again, from personal experience I have found myself stretched thin due to work commitments. I don’t have a family yet, but I do work for a small company that is asking more and giving less, as will be the case for most of you. Between blogging, prep for games and trying to pull together Facebook, Drupal and phpbb(my PHP is rusty the point of decay), I have no time to paint, and little time for other hobbies, and I have not even started to finish what I had set out to do. Life gets in the way, and it is vital that you plan that into your commitments, otherwise you let people down, and they get the impression that your all blow and no show.
I’ll have a look at where next week, where I’ll look more specifically at the coalface work of starting to pull all the prep together into an actual product. This time next week, you should be able to look at a plan you have, be aware of the thankless, pitfall laden nature of the work you have undertaken and start getting your hands dirty with some actual pages.
Sorry I was late…life gets in the way…