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Activity going down?

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So I've just been coming back to BZP after a couple week break, and I've noticed pretty dramatic decrease in activity, especially being BZP's anniversary and all. I haven't seen over 30 members online, when not too long ago I'd often see 70 or so +. Is there something going with Bionicle right now that's making the activity decline?

 

Edit- Oh, and I've noticed a large fraction of the staff have retired recently. The moderating team is looking pretty small.

Edited by Amirite
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I think a lot of people see drops in activity as the End Of BZP As We Know It, but I think that's probably a little drastic. I know a lot of people (including myself) that were concerned about the long-term future of BZP back when G1 was canceled, and the site soldiered on.  The Internet has evolved in fifteen years away from forum sites, but all that means is that the user base will be smaller.  Anyone who remembers the forums from G1's heyday remembers the massively crowded server and general big-city feeling of being one in a crowd.  Doesn't make it any better or worse than BZP today, just different.
 
G2 has brought in a new group of fans while a lot of the older members are of my age and older, and we've got college/grad school/general life in the way.  Also keep in mind that the staff structure recently changed to eliminate forum assignments, making the staff thinner and more efficient.

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Also keep in mind that the staff structure recently changed to eliminate forum assignments, making the staff thinner and more efficient.

After all those years on the job, the staff needed something to slim down those spare tires, eh?

 

I actually hadn't realized that the staff was so small now. I suppose all of the retirements slowly added up, and there haven't been any new staff additions in a while. Still, I wouldn't worry; our revered IPB Admin can handle anything.

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​(also only like...one person retired recently?)

Who did?

- Gata

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Please don't use my avatar or signature without permission, thanks! ^_^

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​(also only like...one person retired recently?)

Who did?

 

'Twas Wind who retired.

 

And Fishers and Bonseii got fired


Unity, Duty, Destiny

-Toa Ouberry

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​(also only like...one person retired recently?)

Who did?

 

'Twas Wind who retired.

 

And Fishers and Bonseii got fired

 

She wasn't staff. Also banned members are banned members, so we shouldn't talk about Fishers


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I think a lot of people see drops in activity as the End Of BZP As We Know It, but I think that's probably a little drastic. I know a lot of people (including myself) that were concerned about the long-term future of BZP back when G1 was canceled, and the site soldiered on.  The Internet has evolved in fifteen years away from forum sites, but all that means is that the user base will be smaller.  Anyone who remembers the forums from G1's heyday remembers the massively crowded server and general big-city feeling of being one in a crowd.  Doesn't make it any better or worse than BZP today, just different.

 

Sorry if I came off sounding all doom and gloom, I was just curious if something was happening in Bionicle right now that was making activity go down (since I pay little attention to it anymore), like a hiatus or that kind of thing

 

 

it's summer dude

 

​people are out doing things

Yeah, I guess I kinda forgot that it was summer =P... still, though, I thought it seemed a little empty even for summer, especially around BZP's anniversary


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Well, you're not wrong.

There's a lot of factors that go into why BZP's been slowing down the past few years (and the past year or so especially.)  

Some of them are bigger-scale issues.  The straight forum-and-news-page fansite style has been on the decline for a while now; increasingly, people are able to make their own communities on social media, comprised of things they specifically want to talk about and people they specifically want to communicate with.  And though that's got its own downsides, it's not necessarily a bad thing! But it does mean that it's harder and harder for your average forum to grow or maintain a userbase, especially for topics focused at a younger audience (like Bionicle.)  Ten (or maybe even five) years ago people still turned to a "forum" as the main hub of discussion for a topic; these days, that's not so true anymore.

So... what's BZP done to respond to that? Honestly, not as much as we should have.  We've got your obligatory Facebook and Twitter accounts, sure, but those can only do so much to help drive interest to the site itself.  Someone who retweets or likes a post isn't necessarily someone who's gonna then come and spend hours on the forum discussing things in detail.  

What a lot of sites do then is they double down on content creation.  Basically, if you want people to stick around your site, you've gotta have things that really put yourself apart from the crowd.  (That's not to say there are no sites that just function as standard discussion forums for the most part, but most of those that do are focused on much larger or more popular topics than Lego-with-a-focus-on-one-particular-line.)  

Unfortunately, it turns out that creating that kind of content at a level of high quality - and a website that can support and promote it - takes a lot of time, energy, and skill in certain areas.  And the blunt, somewhat depressing fact is that pretty much all of the BZP staff lacks some or all of those things these days.  AFAIK, everyone on active staff is either in or has graduated college (long since graduated, in quite a few cases) and many (myself included!) are working full-time, usually in fields that have nothing to do with what you'd want to get a website kicking (video creation, design, etc.)  

I don't want to undersell the effort that the staff has put into this site.  Bossman's dedicated years and years of his life to this place, and Wind (until she stepped down recently) was as good a mod as they come.  I'm proud to have worked among them and many others.  But the hard fact is that dedication isn't necessarily going to be enough to turn things around if you haven't got the right skillsets and mindsets.

Let's take a concrete example.  It's practically a running joke at this point how out-of-date the front page of the site is.  Since being introduced in the early 2000s, it's seen virtually no changes, give or take the addition of a few social feeds and the removal of a few forum features that are no longer supported.  So for years now, there've been attempts at overhauling the thing.  But here's the problem: we just didn't have staff with actual web design expertise.  I wound up taking a pretty significant crack at it last year myself, having basically 0 experience with web design.  What I came up with was a design that was pretty much functional, that interfaced with IPB's forum software and the news feed better, and which ultimately kind of looked like if Fisher-Price ran a forum and was still pretty much just a meat-and-potatoes forum front page.  Maybe it was better than what we have now, but when we showed it to most of the staff, the reaction was pretty much what I had had a gut feeling about all along: it wasn't really what we needed.

In a perfect world I could've taken all that feedback, gone and spent a lot of time learning website design and iterating and making something really up-to-par for 2016 - but it's not a perfect world and I'm not a perfect person.  I'm at a point in my life where I don't have the time or energy to throw myself into a pretty much entirely new field from scratch and get myself to the level of polish that a project like this would've deserved.  So now the front page is, unfortunately, back in limbo until we can get someone who has the experience, skill, and opportunity to do better.

Then there's the member base itself.  Time passes, BZPers get older, and the same issues that hit the staff hit the rest of the members sooner or later too.  For the most part, the older you get the less time you have to spend on whatever you like - or your interests change, or your views change, or what have you.  That's fine and totally natural! But it also translates to a general drag on activity.  And the thing about drags on forum activity is that they echo off each other.  If Alice is posting less, her friend Bob is gonna be less inclined to post, and if neither of them are around Charlie might wander off... you see what I mean.  Many BZP members have moved on.  Now, if we had a strong influx of new members, that wouldn't be so much of an issue.  But refer to the past several paragraphs - these days, "a strong influx of new forum members" is a heck of a lot easier said than done.  :P

Finally, let's talk about subject matter.  I don't wanna put too much emphasis here, because if there's anything spending darn near 15 years trawling forums and the like has taught me, it's that there can be an internet community for anything.  That said - Bionicle G2 really doesn't feel like it's taken off as much as G1 did.  Some of that is due to the format - whereas G1 snowballed into a very interleaved story/world with who knows how much media to back it up, G2's been comparatively low-key, with only a few novels/graphic novels/episodes.  It's not a terrible amount of content, but it's also just not as much to chew through as in G1.  That makes it harder for discussion to flourish, especially given BZP had a history in G1 of being very story-focused.

So! I realize I just gave you a fire hose when you asked for a glass of water.  But hey, what better way to celebrate the 15th anniversary with a bit of honesty?

I also realize that the response to the above might be "so what do we do?"/"that's depressing."  I don't mean for the above to be taken as "BZP is doomed, it's the end of the world, etc. etc. etc." But I do feel like these are issues with the site that often get papered over more than they really should be, and I hope folks who navigated that wall of text come away with a better understanding of what's going on and what we would need to start driving activity again.

Edited by GSR
  • Upvote 8

Hey: I'm not very active around BZP right now.  However, you can always contact me through PM (I have email notifications set up) and I will reply as soon as I can.


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Thanks for that long insightful post, GSR. As someone who's never joined any social media beyond parts of Flickr's Lego segment (and maybe that counts after a fashion), I didn't really have any idea how social media was affecting forums like BZP, and I really appreciate the extra insight you gave there.

 

Would recruiting more staff be something that would help, in your opinion? You mention the skillsets of current staff as seeming to be a limiting factor.

 

If Alice is posting less, her friend Bob is gonna be less inclined to post, and if neither of them are around Charlie might wander off... you see what I mean.

Alice and Bob as placeholder names? We've found the computer scientist!
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