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Cliques, Clicks… Wait! Who started this?

Over the past several months I’ve heard too much about this topic, mostly people complaining to each other, some random discussions over IM, and a few PMs sent to me. It seems to me that there seems to be a deluded sense that HNZ is either “one big clique” or just divided in to a whole bunch of cliques, with no real community.

Define: Clique

Those are the definitions I will work with for the sake of this blog rant, since I feel a well defined definition is better to work with than some vague one different people conjure up in their minds.

Is HNZ a clique?
No is the simple answer. We are a group of people who share interests (Harry Potter, Roleplaying), patterns of behaviour (signing on to the board), but we are not exclusive. Registration is open to everybody and we’re quite welcoming to anybody who looks for help or introduces themselves (I, for instance, encourage new members to PM me and subscribe to the Welcome Forum so that I can say hello to everybody who takes the time to say hi to us). I know that plenty of people who have joined HNZ have felt overwhelmingly welcomed, and this helped dispel some of the overwhelmingness HNZ can hold for people knew to RPing.
So while the site as a whole has some characteristics of a ‘clique’, because it is not exclusive to only a set group of people, it is not one.

Are there cliques on HNZ?
This one is slightly more difficult to answer. I suppose to some it may appear that there are. There are certainly groups on the board who interact with each other more than others, who have developed a strong relationship off of the board as well and that’s great! It’s also human nature. Unfortunately, or perhaps even fortunately, we don’t like everybody equally. We can’t relate to every single person on this planet in the same way, and that’s definitely a blessing. So the simple fact that I am close friends with person X, Y, and Zed doesn’t mean I refuse to speak to, or help, anybody else – and I trust that is true of most people on HNZ.

Community Signature Thus Far

HNZ’s Community Signature – it certainly doesn’t look full of cliques to me. Perhaps I should draw some lines on it to separate me from other people and give the complainers the satisfaction of knowing that they’re right. Hmm. A thought to be considered?

I wish I could stop this blog post there, but I can’t. I wish things were that simple, but they’re not. Not only are some willing to go so far as to say their are cliques and exclusive groups on HNZ – but that unless you are in a certain clique, a certain ‘in-crowd‘ you won’t get anything on the board. Your applications will be denied, your characters will never be given major roles, you’ll never be asked to help out, you’ll be entirely ignored by others, etc.

When I first heard that… it hurt… a lot. I spend a decent amount of time on HNZ. I try pretty hard to interact with as many people as I can, get to know people, and with all that I obviously try to be as fair as possible with things like applications. I’m sure when people say things like that, they don’t think of who might read them, and who it reflects upon or hurts directly, but I rather think they should start. I was in shock completely and wondered how many people thought that of me, of Livvy and I, and if I should even bother continuing to try with things on HNZ.

It’s kind of ironic, too – because the people who I’ve seen say things like that are the same ones that rave about HNZ being their home, and how much they enjoy the site, and how they like everybody in it – but then they got a few applications denied and obviously it was because Livvy and myself don’t like them (not because they didn’t put much thought in to the application or its effects on other areas of the board). Or their character didn’t become prefect/headboy/headgirl and it’s obviously because the head-of-house/admin are just choosing their friends (it’s quite clearly not even conceivable that things like that are largely in-character, where lesson attendance and character behaviour actually matters).

Livvy and I take great care to deal with applications on their own, but we don’t just consider the application, we also consider:

  • Past Requests
  • Warning history of the user (if you’ve caused trouble on HNZ recently, it makes sense for you not to get superb privileges
  • Quantity of requests coming in (if 50 pureblood requests come in one week, it’s likely that most of them will be denied, even if they’re all excellent).

We do not consider ‘Hey, Livvy is my friend, I’ll approve this plot!’ or ‘Oh, Julie is nothing but mean to me, I’ll never accept this!’ – because that’s not what HNZ is. I know, for myself, I have accepted applications for people that I know hate me with all of their being, people who I’ve never gotten along with, people I don’t even know, and yes – even my friends. ;) In fact, when Livvy makes a request for a plot I treat it, or try to treat it, just like I would anybody else’s request (the difference being that she can see my post, my exact response, and reply to it). I also know that were I to make any sort of request, Livvy would handle mine the same way.

It frustrates me to know end, knowing personally the efforts I go to in order to ensure I’m not seen as ignoring any one person or their ‘group’, I talk to as many people as possible, will just quote any random person’s post in a ‘spam’ topic and work with it, try to be almost super-human in how I look at and handle applications – then I feel like people just look at it all and slap me in the face by saying that the site staff/admin are just as biased/clique-based as could be.

I’d like to give a concluding example of how wrong this assumption on the part of some users is. Six months ago, I barely talked to Kaitlyn. I mean, I talked to her in GD, I had already given her her nickname of Sir Kaitlyn, but I thought she rather disliked me/was pretty mean to me at times, and barely considered her to be a GM. Other members of the site staff who did know her vouched for her, and brought to light some excellent points (how well she knew the board rules, how often she reported topics, etc. All things which would be useful in a GM). So I trusted the opinions of the others and Kaitlyn was made a GM in January. Before her promotion many of her applications had been approved (though I was rather neutral on her as a person, again, thinking she didn’t like me much) and after her promotion some of her applications have been amended/tweaked/denied – just like anybody else. Since her promotion I have gotten to know her quite well, and see her very differently then I did before – I’d even go so far as to say she and I are pretty good friends now. I think that’s a fairly good example of how un-cliquey I myself am, and how un-cliquey I see most of HNZ to be.

As I admitted before, it is human nature to group off, find people you’re close to, and talk to them the most – but to think that HNZ has an ‘in-crowd’ where if you’re not a part of it you don’t get anything from anybody is simply absurd, and, quite frankly, insulting.

I present to you, once more, our community signature:

Community Signature Thus Far

No sign of cliques there for me. Just a bunch of people who are enjoying HNZ and how great it is, hoping that it will last out another five years. Am I missing something that you see there, somehow?


P.S: Additional plug… HNZ’s birthday is awesome and ongoing! Be sure to check it outtttt!

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Blog General Discussions HNZ Names Rants Shakespeare Spam

That which we call a rose…

General Discussions VIII was closed today and a new topic was opened: Spam Again… Again!” This change, even in topic title style, has sparked considerable discussion and I feel I should share my entire thoughts on the topic. Give the history of the topic we’re using, my reasoning behind the change, and my own thoughts on all the feedback I’m getting so it’s all out there once and for all.

General Discussions has, for the past eleven months, been Hogwarts New Zealand’s general/random chatter topic. Where members can go to get to know each other, talk about anything and everything, and just truly enjoy each other’s company. Now, prior to March of 2009 HNZ still had topics that were, in fact, exactly the same as “General Discussions”. These topics, however, had been called “Spam”. This “Spam” topic had first been started by Bellatrix Green with a first post that included “Pee in to the wind!” It was, truly, a topic to do pretty much anything and everything. This topic was started in 2007, my first year on HNZ, and was the first topic in the board to reach 50 pages. It was then deleted and Spam 2 began. This, too, reached a certain number of pages before being deleted. This pattern continued up to Spam 7, with Spam 6 being revived and a Spam 6 part 2 having been begun at one point.

Then the titles for these topics started to get even more creative, with such titles as “§pam for the Ages“, “Spam, Egg, Bacon and SPAM“, and even things as random as “Exploding Penguin“. It simply became a fun tradition on HNZ. Starting ‘spam’ topics once they reached a set number of pages, making a fun name for it, and having the same awesome chats with the same (and new) awesome people. The memories were, and are, all priceless and they really do deserve the mention they receive from members who were around for such events.

However, during Spam Light, I started to notice a trend of true spam; that is to say, a trend of pointless and annoying posts about nothing. Breaking board rules was becoming the normal. I recall going away for a time, coming back, and finding the topic a mess. So, after dealing with said mess I was tired of ‘spam’ (in the true sense) and thusly was tired of general chat topics which opened the doors to ‘spam’. I discussed this with Livvy, who felt similarly, and Spam Light was closed until we decided what to do next.

We decided that the best course of action, however poorly received was to open a topic with a new name, but the same meaning at heart. We felt that “spam”, as a title, was confusing newer members – telling them that it was okay to literally spam the topic named spam. So we opened General Discussions. This topic had firmly laid out rules, and a very obvious threat attached to it: if spam appeared, the topic would be gone for good. We still wanted the atmosphere and the heart of the original ‘spams’, but didn’t want to run the risk of confusing new members. This seemed, to us, a logical alternative.

Immediately the community reacted. Admin were the bad guys who wanted to destroy HNZ and its OOC Community. Of course we did not, but that was how we were received. Members, generally, didn’t see the point of the name change and disapproved of it. They felt that the new topic format had to be entirely formal and serious, and that we had taken away a part of what the experience of HNZ was to them. Others simply viewed this “General Discussions” idea as “Spam with a fancy name” and so General Discussions, the first, by its end, had turned out just as poorly as Spam Light. It was closed for a time, and General Discussions II was opened with even more defined guidelines, a netiquette guide to accompany it, and the hopes of things turning out differently.

They did, very fortunately. There were the odd members who tried to spam the topic, but they were dealt on an individual basis and the topics continued. GD III, GD IV, GD V, GD VI, GD VII and GD VIII – which brought us in to 2010. 2010. The new year. A new decade (some think) and new years always mean new, fresh, starts. New chances. New goals. New everything. So, today, on February the sixth of that new year, and almost a whole year since the original falling out in Spam Light, I decided it was time to give GD VIII its rest and open a new topic. That new topic, I felt, could be brought back to its ‘Spam’ origins, if not just for the nostalgia of old members but also for the enjoyment of new members and maybe even a little bit as an experiment on my end of things, to see if continuing “General Discussions” for eight instalments was wise or necessary. (In addition to this reformatting of the topic title, I also recovered many older Spam/GD topics to be viewed by members of HNZ at their leisure here)

As I stated above, this was met with mixed reviews. Older members seemed to appreciate the change back, the fond memories of their earlier days on the site, the ability to access some of those long lost topics, and hope for newer members of the board to have similar experiences as they did in the series of general chat topics to come. Newer members, however, have seemed to disapprove of the topic title change immensely. Stating they “Miss General Discussions” and other such statements. Of course, both the topic and the people are still precisely the same – but the title has changed and therefore nothing is the same any longer.

In this situation, it is clearly impossible to please both parties – and both options have a positive and a negative. I feel that opening up the older topics for viewing, and giving members another shot at the fun times of being able to start their own general chat topic as one dies, choose their own title, and give the first post of the new (soon to be eight hundred page) topic their own spice, is worth the possible trouble of a few members trying to legitimately spam. Of course, that is the sad truth: with this change of style back, members will be more likely to attempt to spam. With three global moderators (who are all amazing), I felt like that was a manageable consequence/risk, but it definitely is a downside to the change.

I can understand new member’s and their comfort being in “General Discussions” and not anything “Spam” related, however does it make that much of a difference? Need I fight another war and taking all the beatings people wish to give me through their words over a name change once more? Does the name change the type of topic it is? The type of conversations it holds, or the type of people who are in it? I would argue not. The only thing this name change does is offer sentimental value to older users, and allow for more opportunities and involvement of members in the creation of future random chatter-type topics. I didn’t expect this kind of adverse reaction when I created the new topic. Not at all.

So does it change that much? The name? I don’t think so. It changes a bit – but the essence of the topic itself is still the same, is it not?

What’s in a name? That which we call a rose / By any other name would smell as sweet.
Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2)

Shakespeare got it right, there, I think. But it seems HNZ disagrees.

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