Thursday, September 3, 2009

Is your guild healthy? Check your forums!

How healthy is your guild? One way to find out is to check your guild forum.

Is there a lively conversation going on, covering a wide array of topics? Do a majority of the guild members actively participate in those discussions? Can you rely on that people visit the forums if not daily, at least several times a week and that they'll keep themselves updated on essential information, such as guild policies and tactics for upcoming encounters?

In that case you've got a solid fundament for your internal communication. And that goes a long way if you want to maintain a strongly knitted and well functional guild, with a shared mindset and a common vision about where to go next.

On the other hand: if you have a guild forum where the posts are few and far between, if there are just a few voices that are ever heard, and some people don't even bother to visit it anymore, since they won't miss anything important anyway - well, then you could have a potential problem.

There are exceptions of course. Some guilds do fine without forums - for instance a very small guild of real life friends who have more or less the same gaming hour and will meet online anyway - or a huge and extremely casual/social guild, which basically isn't much of a guild, but rather an extra chat channel in game. But for an average raiding guild I think a well working guild forum is a must.

10 000 posts
The other day my own guild passed 10 000 posts on our internal forum. That's quite impressive after 15 months of existence. It will give an average of over 20 posts per day. And then I still know for sure that there are quite a few outdated posts that have been erased over time.

The posts of our current forum cover every thinkable aspect of the game. There are dead serious posts - deep going, detailed theory crafting discussions that would qualify for EJ, overviews of the tactics for the current bosses we're facing, combining the strategies we've picked up from others with our own experiences and special forums where tanks, healers, ranged and melee dps can discuss their special issues in depth.

Recently we started to not only post the WWS from the most recent raids, but also do an evaluation of it, boss by boss, not fearing to mention individuals, if they have problems they need to work on, as well as if they've excelled and deserve some recognition. It's actually exactly the kind of "rare" constructive discussion that Gevlon says hardly exists anywhere. Well if that is the case' we're the exception.

But we're not only dead serious. We have all sorts of silly threads as well, which is just as essential as the evaluations. They help to keep up the spirit and the fun in the guild. Those threads are like glue - it builds friendship, trust and a sense of belonging.

An example of this is the thread where people publish screenshots with highlights from the guild chat. I don't spy in the healing channel (following the discussions in the mage, ranged, raid and guild channel is enough). But this way I don't miss the sometimes pretty bizarre exchanges that take place there.

Another thread that currently is highly popular, although completely un-wow-related, is a guess-the-movie-thread, where we take turns publishing a photo from an unknown movie, letting people try to find out where it's from. The one who nails it will publish next. If nothing else we can have a laugh at the pretty bizarre taste for movies that some of us have.

Real life pictures
Of course we have a thread where we post pictures of how we look in real life. (NO, I won't post a picture of myself here at the inn. That secret remains within the guild. Join us and you'll get the chance to see it! We still have some dps spots open!)

But most of our topics are about WoW, not unexpectedly. There's a constant exchange of information and ideas about everything from UI:s to macros and the latest patchnotes. We also do a lot of administration and arrangements this way, such as announcing longer absences, organizing runs and other events outside of our ordinary 25 man raids, (which are handled by a special tool) and exchanging trade skill services with each other.

And whenever someone's computer messes up, you can be sure they'll get a ton of good advice if they post about their problems.

Apart from the public guild forum, our officers also have their own protected forums and I don't know what they're discussing there. But they always make sure to involve the guild in the development of the guild. We've had a system where guild applications are posted for everyone to comment on for a while now, and it works remarkably well.

The guild brain
To summarize it: if the raids are the beating heart of the guild, which pumps around the oxygen, the guild forum is the brain that keeps the whole organism running. Without the brain the other parts would soon malfunction, maybe even fall apart.

Adrenaline has hit 10 000 posts and as long as I see people keeping posting those posts of all kinds - useful, crazy, humorous, insightful, provoking, straight-forward, interesting, annoying, cleaver and teambuilding posts, I rest assured that we're at good health, steadily on our way to bravely explore new, unknown territories.

How about you? Does your guild forum display signs of health? And how do you keep it that way?

14 comments:

Flex said...

Interesting post. I often look at my own guild's forum and wonder.

We have almost 30,000 posts on the forum, but at the moment there's perhaps only one or two new posts a day (and usually just social things, or the "I'll be late to raid because of work" post).

So how did we get so many in the first place?

The guild was a 40 man raiding guild in the days of vanilla wow. The forum's been there since then and there's a lot of old and archived content. It was a very busy place in those days, where we had ~50 active raiding accounts and another 30 friends and family.

These days, due largely to changes in the game, it's been pruned back to a 10 man raiding guild, with that many raiding members and a half dozen casuals. The raid schedule is well known amongst the members. And as you say - in small guilds you can mostly say everything you need to in-game.

Yet, I do miss the days when the forum would be littered with new posts. Whether the conversations were about WoW, a link to the latest YTMND, or an invite to the pub on our raiding night off, there was community then.

Anonymous said...

What server are you in? I want to join.

Walgierz said...

Good post!

I love guild forums, never saw healthy guild without those. And, forums are extra feature to keep you occupied when you are supposed to be working, so its pretty important perk of guild membership for me:-)

But I wanted to talk about different question - you said, you posted picture of RL yourself on your guild forums. Now, I think I can safely assume, that Adrenaline has fair share of young and very young people, while players being 30+ form small minority (that was case in all raiding guilds I knew). Don't you feel that posting picture revealing your true age will change way others treat you? I must say, seeing my guildies pics from beer parties and dormrooms, I felt very disconnected. Come on, I can post pic with wife and kids, drive permit photo, or at best pic from my publishing house yearly gettogether party.

What I am trying to say, I like RL photo threads, but they made me feel like I don't really belong, shatter my suspension of disbelief. Never had such feeling Larissa?

PS. Everytime I see Adrenaline add I think about transfering my shaman to SR, but I love my paladin in his dysfunctional circle of friends too much to leave him:-)

Shy said...

Furious Pantaloons has been around for over 10 years, and our forum posts are....well to say the least widespread. 3 maybe 4 per day or so.

We have no small guild either, and we're spread over several games abd all loons use the same boards.

I think your theory went wrong somewhere in the process ;)

Larísa said...

@Flex: yeah, I think the forum is a great thing to hold the community together, even though we tend to have quite different schedules when we play outside of raids. If you need to take some time off, for real life issues, you can still keep in touch with what's going on in the guild. A guild is like a living organism. But it requires the connections to be kept alive, otherwise it will turn fragile.

If you run without much activity in the guild forums it requires you to have a very lively guild chat with a large proportion of players coming online about the same hours every night.

@anonymous: Stormrage, EU. There's a link to the guild website if you look down to the right at this blog.

@Walgierz: well... hm... Of course I think about it sometimes. I'm clearly the oldest, but there are a bunch of 25-30-year old people around, so I don't have to feel as if I'm a baby sitter. Then there are some teenagers as well, and yeah, sometimes it occurs to me that it's a bit weird that I'm playing with people who could very well be my kids. But most of the time I don't think about it much. I'm not ashamed of my age and I don't lie about it. I've always been honest about who I am, having a sort of "take it or leave it" attitude. I am who i am. i think the mixture of ages in our guild actually helps to build a great guild atomosphere and an interesting conversation in the guild forums and the chat. I guess we turn into some sort of family, with chldren, sisters, mothers, aunts, cosins and grandmothers...
(No, I won't tell you which category I belong to... :))

Of course it can be a bit scary to be this open. When you leave out your picture you make yourself vulnerable, that's inevitable. But if you show that trust, it's much more likely that you can be included in the community, than if you keep to your corner because you're just too scared to be honest.

@Shy: hm... maybe!
I still insist on that a well working guild forum is brilliant for building good communications within a guild.

Loyal said...

Spot on Larísa. Our guild got 4000 post in the last 4,5 months and got exactly the distribution you describe of everything from deep theorycafting and tactical fight analyzis to the purely silly stuff.


As a highly social guild with raiding ambitions (just downed 5/5 in ToC last night) we got lots going on and the forum is a great way to communicate, get feedback and just build understanding and friendship in the guild. As an officer i truly believe that making the running of the guild as transparent as possible to all participants is very important to avoid guild drama. The forum is our main tool in that regard.

River said...

One of the best raiding guilds I know of on our server. Their forum isn't that active. I think they just use it for applications.
Though in Vanilla WoW I agree when dealing with at LEAST 40 people you need more communication.

I think those days are gone, unless your a social guild.

Larísa said...

@Loyal: sounds just like our guild. We're a raiding guild, but still manage to have a well functioning social community. I don't believe in the digital way of seeing guilds as either completely void of social interaction or totally all-social, non-performing, like Gevlon tends to do. We've got both. And much thanks to the guild forums I think.

@River: well, I don't know how you make it, but we've currently got some 35 members and we would need 5 more to be sure that our 25 man raids will take place. And thats certainly enough players to require an active web forum...

But yeah, if you've got a top ranked 10-man guild with 100 percent attendance I can understand you don't need it.

Svenn said...

Given that forum activity is a sign of a healthy guild, how would one go about breathing life back into them if they are flagging?

(My guild is a large casual raid guild (10man content mainly). It is one of the oldest and most established guilds on the server, there are always people on and something to do. However, there is not much happening on the forums.)

Ixobelle said...

wooo! are we posting IRL PIX?

http://www.notaddicted.com/images/isobelle/isohaircutx.jpg

SEXAY!

;)

Larísa said...

@Svenn: There are several ways. Utility is always a good thing. If you arrange instance runs through the forum rather than through the in-game calender, you'll get an incentive to visit the forum. Important news about the guild should be posted in the forum - use the "guild message of the day" to promote the forum, saying, that people should visit it since there's new important information there.

It's really much of a leadership issue. If the officers don't bother to post and engage themselves into the discussions, it's very unlikely that the members will. Someone must start and show the way to go.

Think over the structure of it. If you're very casual there maybe isn't much need for specific class forums. But maybe still your healers want to exchange some thoughts with each other? or make it VERY casual and focus on chit-chat and gossip. As I said: highlights from the guild chat and RL pictures are things that probably will attract a lot of interest.

Be patient. Changing a culture and habit to not look at the forums isn't done over night. But it's doable. See if you can find some other players, preferrably officers, who are up for it. Someone must show the way and start to produce those posts. And don't forget to mention it in the guild chat so people see what they miss. "Haha, Ztyxtis, I loled at your last posting in the forums".
That kind of remarks will make people curios, they'll check out what they're missing...
Good luck!

@Ixobelle: woot! The picture you have posted at your blog is in fact a lie? What a hoax! Who are you, really? Tobold?

Pierre Goldbloom said...

Posted a kinda reply to this over at http://leadingaguild.blogspot.com/2009/08/importance-of-forums.html

I've always been of the opinion that guild forums are pretty useless and can be a waste of time if used ineffectively - if used at all. However, as Larisa mentions, its a great way to see how well your guild is bonding together. Although in the age of in-built game calendars and everyone using Ventrillo, forums have definitely lost their novelty and usefulness. They are definitely more of a social tool than ever, which is why I don't think people like Svenn should be too concerned if people aren't using his forum. If people are in your guild to raid, then anything else (including posting on an outside forum) becomes unnecessary. Forums are no longer the pivotal thing guilds offer players, although they can be a damn useful recruiting tool if used effectively.

Larísa said...

@Pierre Goldbloom: I don't agree, as I also commented on your blogpost. One reason is that the forums offers a possibility to asyncrone communication, which is very valuable unless your raiders are online at the same time more or less every night. If someone doesn't follow the same online hours as everyone else during offnights, he'll soon drift away from the core of the guild unless he has ways to keep in touch, which a guild forum is.

Ixobelle said...

guild forums are also a way to feel connected, even when you can't log in (at work, etc).

that can be judged in a good or bad way, but i think it mostly depends on the person/group.