“I wouldn’t try to trick you.” – BOLOGNA! (AKA: A rather present absence)

I’m sure that many of you have read, or were at some point aware of, my absence post in which I informed HNZ of my impending leave of absence, attempted to assure users of the fact that they did not force me out, and reminisced to some degree about my three years on the site.

I also know that some of you were very disheartened with my post, while others rejoiced. So, the fact that I was only ever ‘gone’ for about a week was both a relief, and a let-down. Not only did I once more lurk the forums, I took up half of my duties again, personally coded some of HNZ’s largest code updates to date, and spent a fair amount of time ensuring users could not count to 10 before staff post. (See here)

Why such a severe post for an absence that really didn’t entail much of an absence?

Well, as far as I knew, I would be gone from HNZ for a very long time. All I knew was that I had to ‘leave’ and ‘leave’ was the only word I knew. I didn’t know if it was an absence, or a vacation, or forever. So, I took my initial week of being off and didn’t lurk HNZ except for my absence thread, only posted to let staff know what had to be done that I wouldn’t be doing, and that was about it.

I enjoyed my week from HNZ. In about 10 months of being HNZ’s sole administrator, I’d been fed up with a lot of things, and just couldn’t manage it anymore. HNZ was becoming a chore, not a hobby. I didn’t see any light at the end of the tunnel for me, either.

Now, I know some of you have been around as long as I have, some of you longer than I have, and many of you at least long enough to be familiar with Alicia Barker who was more-or-less HNZ’s sole administrator for several months, as well (before I was made an administrator, then Livvy grew active as an administrator once more). She managed it, just promoted new admin, and still remained the ‘Head Administrator’ for several more months before having to leave the site in the fall of 2008 for familial and educational reasons. However, there are some key differences between Alicia’s ability to manage the site alone, how she handled it when it was getting too much, and my situation. The first is the size of the site. From the fall of 2008 to the fall of 2010 HNZ has gained more than 4,000 user accounts. The site’s expansion was not limited to the member base, however. HNZ expanded in what was possible for users to do, what is expected from the staff, the community’s activities, etc. Being the sole admin of HNZ meant doing a lot more through 2010 than it had in 2008. Why not just promote another admin or two from the GMs? Well, this really ends up being mostly due to the fact that Livvy and I have become a team. We’re so used to just quickly running an idea by the other then going with it that adding another person would make them feel like a third-wheel, something I’ve said numerous times I wouldn’t do to one of our awesome GMs. It would also delay processing applications in that a third person would have to read them over and add their thoughts (during normal times). Outside of normal times (like during Livvy’s prolonged absence, or whenever I go away) – Livvy and I have been a two-person-duo-of-amazingness for long enough that we trust each other to make the right call for applications and just do it solo. Achieving that level of trust once more with a third admin could prove difficult, and time consuming for the first several months. So, if ever a time comes when a third admin is needed on HNZ, she (yes, I’ll say she since all our GMs have been women) should be added during a time when HNZ is running smoothly, that way a little delay while we get used to things can be handled. Throwing the person in to a wild whirlwind of chaos while one admin is away would probably be a very bad idea.

After that first week of being really away from HNZ, I realized that Livvy still wasn’t around, the staff didn’t have the means to change what needed to be changed, and things were piling up. HNZ would quite literally drown itself and (or, more optimistically, just stall) without some things happening. So I took to coding a few things. First, I coded the house points board information to be changeable by staff. Then I coded the character spotlight area to be changeable by staff. These two main things let the staff do most of what Livvy would have been responsible, which I normally handled myself. However, the problem of applications persisted.

At first I refused to touch them at all, then I realized just how far behind they were and that they would only be getting worse. So, in a few hours spare time over a couple of days I started processing the applications, using the system message feature of ZetaBoards to inform people of the status of their applications without messaging them from my account, where they might think I’d fully returned.

As midterms passed and I gained more free time, I started to socialize in the Off-Topic board again, something I hadn’t been able to do very much when I was doing everything admin-wise for HNZ before my ‘absence’. I offered new members welcome to HNZ, something I always enjoy doing, and I helped out a few members with peculiar account problems. At this point, the personal messages started pouring in. Despite technically being ‘gone’ from the board I was once more receiving countless group change requests, general questions, requests to roleplay, etc. These messages immediately stressed me out. I was relaxing, even if that relaxation was on HNZ! Why did I need to be spammed? I decided to ignore the messages. In the time it would take to reply to them all and explain why I wouldn’t help them, I could have just done what they wanted me to. This, however, proved even worse for my sanity. As I ignored PMs people started to grow impatient. They PMed as many as three times about the same issue, they bumped messages ‘reminding’ me of their presence, and one FAQ Topic was posted asking why an issue hadn’t been dealt with. It was at the FAQ topic that my sanity dissipated, and I posted explaining the situation. I could have easily dealt with the user’s group change several times over in the amount of time it took to explain everything, but now there was a principle at stake. For a time I even disabled my PM inbox, however I had to re-enable it to ensure new Professors could get the information they needed and I could be reached in the event of a true emergency on the board.

As time rolled on I continued to grow more active on the board. I processed applications openly, sending out messages from my own account, I coded more and more features as ideas came or complaints were lodged, I ensured forums opened and closed (mostly) on time, all because I knew if I wasn’t doing it, it wouldn’t be able to be done. Livvy’s real life took priority to HNZ, which is concept of that refrain which has really defined HNZ for the past 3.3ish years. “Real Life comes first”, the problem with this refrain in the context of site staff, however, is that if real life hits hard for enough of us simultaneously, the site is crippled. Fortunately, I have become adept at juggling HNZ and real life. I had rested well enough with the idea of leaving HNZ for a long while, and I couldn’t bear to see a site which I had poured countless hours or work in to, which I’ve seen and helped to grow, and where I have met so many great people, people I can call friends, and friends who enjoy their time on HNZ so dearly – I couldn’t see that type of site just slowly fall apart because I was tired of certain things.

So I did more than I said I was growing to, and gradually I came out of the absence which I had imposed on myself. Now, with my first set of University final exams looming, I know that my time is precious and I still may not be doing every little thing on HNZ, but I expect after finals I will be returning to HNZ in a fuller force. Rested, to some degree. Frustrated with some people for their ignorance and decision that it’s better to harass me than to let me rest, and with a lot of great ideas in mind for HNZ’s future.

Hopefully, Livvy will be back soon enough. Unfortunately, in the past 10 months we have seen her ‘return’ countless times only to leave again; so I am cautiously optimistic. I know Livvy misses the site, but real life really does have to come first, and juggling her life and the site also means effecting her child’s life, which is not something that should be done lightly. So her absences are understandable, but her return will be most anticipated. Hopefully, as well, HNZ will continue to grow at break-neck speeds which may well require an addition to HNZ’s admin team, who we can them bring on board with Livvy around so things are done properly. I’d love if HNZ became so large that eventually a whole team of admin are necessary. We’ll see. Hopefully everybody celebrating Hanukkah this year is enjoying themselves, everybody celebrating something else will enjoy themselves, we’ll all have a safe and happy end of 2010 and look forward to an amazing 2011. ^_^ (Any year that includes the conclusion of the Harry Potter series in film will undoubtedly be uber-awesome, amirite?)

Finally, I hope that anybody who reads this post can understand where I’m coming from. Why my post was so severe, how worn out I was, and how much I truly need the support of HNZ’s community in order to do the things I do.


P.S: Excuse all grammar and spelling errors, please. I refuse to reread this rant, even if it is just to proof read it. =P

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