Dear Rooster Teeth
There was a moment in the RT Podcast where you discussed the health of the Community site. As a fairly regular member of the Forums, I thought you might like my take on the issue as this site means a lot to me and I want to see it thrive and succeed. So first, a little bit about me and the history of the community site as I know it, then a brief discussion of the points you raised on the podcast, and finally a few ideas and words of encouragement. Note; I'm not expecting y'all to respond back, I'm just tagging you so you can read this if you choose. My hope is that I can add context to your strategic planning and help present a case on why the site has died, and what I believe needs to be done to resurrect it.
My first exposure to RoosterTeeth was in 2005, my senior year of college. My buddy got me hooked on RvB and so I came to the site. At the time, I wasn't terribly active: I spent more time at TheForce.Net, but over the course of time THIS site became my internet home. Sometime after 2010 I became really involved in the site. We tended to congregate in the LvL20 General Welcome thread. It was a grab bag of personalities and we thrived on long form communication and community. To give you an example: in 2011 I announced my wife's pregnancy. This was the FIRST place I thought to do that because the relationships that I had been building here mattered more to me than many other 'real' relationships I had.
There was a group of us that wanted to have more 'structured' dialog, and so we started the Oxford Comma Cafe. In its heyday, the OCC boasted several hundred REAL posts (not just one-line responses, but serious long form thoughts) a day and we talked about ANYTHING. Religion, Politics, Guns, Sexual Orientation, Social Justice...anything was up for grabs. Whats more, we didn't agree on everything. We'd spend weeks holding court with each other, presenting cases and arguments but in such a manner as to protect the integrity of each other and build each other up instead of tearing down. Iron sharpens Iron and so we viewed these discussions as making us better PEOPLE in general. We weren't just bullshitting...we, and I'm speaking for all of us but encourage others in the Cafe to add their two cents, all became better people because of this place.
Then the site died.
I know that there were things behind the scenes. I know that blip going down was hard and you had to rush in new code to keep something. I'm not going to belittle that point; we all know that the situation was not ideal, it was what it was. The one thing that I want to address is the fact that I felt that the support we received during that time was...underwhelming. There was little meaningful communication and I felt like there needed to be some stronger, more personalized actions coming out of RT to ensure that people (like the OCC) felt like the home they had built over years of activity wasn't just going to poop out. It did...we lost our entire history in the lvl 20 forums as that did not pass over; but it was never truly addressed and I believe that was the moment where users felt a breach of trust between RT and the community.
but we moved on. Functionality was still a great hindrance to the site, things worked....okay and we memed things (like the forum yeti which forced us to @LoZelda as tribute at the top of every new page.) In addition to technical issues and the distrust that came with miscommunication, we also began to see an emerging trend where RT talent relied on other forms of social media, pushing YouTube, interacting more on Reddit other than walking through the streets of their own community. Because of that, users flocked out to other social media sites where they felt like they would get more up to date communication than on the site. This is true: Twitter and Reddit consistently get notified about things on the site before the site itself is updated with the communication. This frustrated the user base which fell off even more.
To this point, we have seen little advancement in strategy to engage with the Community side of things. We are bolt on to the overall mission of RoosterTeeth. The store, for example, has had numerous re-launches (two of which I know) and yet when I check the box "open link in new window" putting a link in this very journal...it does not open link in new box. The Search function is terrible and useless. Finding and cross-pollinating between groups has become tedious if not all together impossible. Whats more, the user base has dwindled to the point that I consistently am in the top five users each week with under 100 posts a week and there are really less than 10 active threads in general discussion. As a matter of fact, there are some top level forums that haven't seen activity in over 3 years.
So here we are today, There is an acknowledgement that 'something' has happened to the forums, but I don't know if RoosterTeeth has really acknowledged the root cause, nor placed a lot of effort in resolving it. I get it. You don't owe me anything. Pizza Hut used to be a dine-in restaurant with delivery options, but now its impossible to find a dine-in Pizza Hut because their market changed to focus on delivery. They're not telling me I can't have a pizza...they're just telling me that they're not supplying me with a dining room. RoosterTeeth needs to either acknowledge that the community is not a priority and cut it with the understanding that they will survive it. We all know they would. But, if they are community focused and just haven't figured out how to do it, they need to influx resources into a massive campaign and restore trust and faith with us. I'll get to that in a minute. So with that said, I want to address the points you brought up on the Podcast.
1. Is the decline because of all the social media that RT uses? YES. Think about the movie Cars. Radiator Springs used to be a booming town on RT66, but when the highway bypasses the town only those who live there and have a sustainability that is attached to the community are able to thrive; everyone else moves on. That is what has happened here. You create fast-lanes prioritizing access to content that doesn't involve interacting here, and in fact you actually incentivize people to use other paths by interacting through those mediums and providing more value there. If I want to know immediately what is up, I go to Twitter, not to roosterteeth.com. There is no value in coming to the community, because the road completely bypasses us.
2.Is the decline because users do not get gratification by interaction (from RT Staff/Cast) because it isn't there? YES. This is also a bit of an issue. Now keep in mind, I am more of an adult than some of the people around here, and I understand that it takes an incredible amount of energy to engage with people on the level that you would have to engage with them on. I can't imagine you responding to every single summons (which is why I'm not expecting you to respond to this) as you have a life. You can't kiss every baby, and community members who expect you to be at their beckon call to satisfy their validation need to re-evaluate their priorities. Still, being active and present should be a priority in SOME capacity. We feel like this was a town you built, and then moved out of.
3. People are intimidated by long form communication. That's so pessimistic Gus!! Seriously, though, you do have a point. Many people today have been taught to communicate online through Twitter. As such, things like this journal entry are far too much of an investment in time for them. Still, I believe that this behavior can be learned, and I think that there is explicit value in maintaining the art of online communication in this form. That's why we have the OCC.
4. This place is for discussions (on Gaming or movies, or anything you want to discuss.) I paraphrased you Burnie. While I partially agree with you I want to point out the flaw: It is a community, not just a place to discuss stuff. This is a place where we come to meet people and then exchange ideas. Some of the best people in my life are here. I met @Desayjin because of this site, and our families have had dinner together several times (we need to do that again, James before bambina tres comes along.) It's not just about discussions...its about a thriving cohort of PEOPLE. It's the interaction that happens when people know they have a voice and are able to connect with each other. Discussions are better the more you know the person.
So finally, let me lay out a few things that I think could help you in your discussions.
First, RoosterTeeth needs to re-earn the trust of the community. It has come to the point where we feel like the community is irrelevant. Heck, even a link to the Forum was overlooked with the site update.
Second, we need more interaction. Social interaction is necessary for community. I suggest that RT staff and cast take to their other outlets and try to funnel people back to the community. Have RT do some large, heavily promoted community events that are only discussed on the site. Link from Twitter and FB and Reddit BACK to the Forum. Draw people in.
Third, don't waste time in starting the refresh of the community: Prioritize it. Its...not ideal right now. As far as I know, the OCC is the largest, most dedicated posting body on the Forums other than RWBY (I'd love to see metrics on that btw.) Also, please don't destroy our homes. It took over a month before we could re-create the OCC, and it really never was the same. If we lose everything we have, I don't foresee us staying on the site. We'd most likely end up in Discord, which really doesn't achieve the Forum like communication that we champion.
Fourth, communicate. We need to know what and why. We need timelines. We need to be able to give feedback and know it's being heard. We need to know that RT values our input and our desires. Again, I am not delusional...you are a for profit organization and I'm sure that you have tables that show the amount of revenue to expenditure that the forum represents, and I guarantee that even including FIRST (god I hate that, go back to subscribers) members it doesn't pay for itself. I get it. If we really are not a priority, then just cut the line and stop pulling the bait. But if we are; please make good on your promises.
Again, I love this site, and I appreciate all of you. Burnie, I want you to know that my wife was pissed off when you guys didn't win the Amazing Race; She has no time for RoosterTeeth and thinks I'm an incredible nerd...but she loved the way you and Ashley ran. Barbara, I thank you for the number of times that you have come and talked with us at the OCC, and still think that you could give Margot Robbie a run for her money playing Harleyquinn. Gus, You are my spirit animal. If you ever get to Memphis, I'll try to see if I can get you a ride in our simulators. Becca, I don't know you very well, but I appreciate your dedication to this site and Chelsea...You rock. Thanks for putting up with us in the Old Person's Home, and thanks for always being willing to listen.
Sincerely and with respect,
Jared "Priest" C