You are here

Neverwinter Vault - Governance & Improvement

23 posts / 0 new
Last post
Proleric
Neverwinter Vault - Governance & Improvement

With the welcome announcement of EE, it seems to me that the time is right to discuss how we're going to ensure that the Vault thrives and improves going forward.

We ought to take note of niv's recent comment about balancing vault admin with working for Beamdog. He's doing an fantastic job, but quite rightly raising a flag.

Likewise, fans of other games are urging Beamdog to move the vault to Steam, Nexus or whatever. Though Trent & co haven't shown any inclination to do so, that's a discussion we ought to nip in the bud.

As I'm not an admin here, I may be speaking in ignorance, for which I apologise, but, to the extent that this is "our" site, it seems appropriate for contributors to express a view. 

There's no point in floating specific enhancement requests here unless the bandwidth is there to review and implement them. 

So, my questions to vault admin, and the community at large, are

  • Who is actively involved in governance / stewardship of the vault right now?
  • Should that be a broader group (a trust, perhaps) to avoid conflict of interest?
  • Is there a continuity plan?
  • Do we have sufficient technical skills and capacity to make improvements to the site?

Let me say immediately that I'm not putting myself forward here. Equally, if there isn't a problem, I'll shut up. I just get the feeling that a few more shoulders to the wheel would not come amiss.

 

NWN and DAO adventures at http://proleric.com/

  • up
    100%
  • down
    0%
Tarot Redhand

I think we need to establish just who is still around from those mentioned when you click About/Who. Now we know that Rolo's away with a non-disclosure thingy (but from what he has uploaded to YouTube I suspect it has to do with a game called Star Citizen). Thanks to that PC Gamer article we also know that Andarian, Niv and FP (Is that Fester Pot?) are now connected to Beamdog one way or another. Also I suspect that The Amethyst Dragon is also involved with them given the comments he has posted here and on the BD boards.

So who does that leave that is still around?

TR

  • up
    50%
  • down
    50%
Vanya Mia

I'm still around operating on an "if it isn't broke don't mess basis" these days, and will freely admit that I don't have the knowledge level of online services required to do anything more technically.

Will also confess that I'm not sure why we might need a change right now unless the more active moderators are finding less time. In which case I can step up a little though under no circumstances would I suggest a big increase in responsibility.

I will say that I don't think we should remove the independant nature of the Vault unless it's absolutely unavoidable. We don't wish to be in the position of having to stage a rescue once more, and the likes of Steam are never going to do anything where there isn't a profit.

"I took Skill Focus: Craft Disturbing Mental Image as my feat last level." Belkar, OOTS

  • up
    100%
  • down
    0%
thirdmouse

I'm trying to understand why we wouldn't want any potential vault admin, who would almost certainly be familiar with various forms of CC and NWN history, giving unpaid opinions/advice to Beamdog to further the interests of the CC community. I get most of the OP, but ruling out people who are interviewed for an article about the NWN community, or are suspected to be advising on matters modding based on their posts, seems kinda counter-productive. My first reaction to learning about the Advisory Council wasn't to pull out the rusty shiv, narrow my eyes, and declare them compromised, but rather to narrow eyes, lower sword from BD throats, and declare them able to live another probationary year ;)

Beamdog can't "move" the vault anywhere, either, though obviously they could put up some official solution that "competes" with it. Personally, I've issues with the Workshop depending on the game, but in NWN's case, absolutely anything anyone can do to put the focus on the moddability of NWN is a plus for me. Workshop support instantly points out for anyone buying a game that it is meant to be modded and has a community devoted to doing so. I don't want the vault to go anywhere, but I don't see why additional locations (such as the Nexus) really hurt anyone automatically. I'd rather be having a discussion about how to handle new problems that arise from it (eg people uploading their "favorite mods" to Workshop or other site), vs a digging in and working to make sure no one will ever be able to download anywhere but the vault :\

(I don't mean to derail already, sorry! And I don't see a bunch of people fighting over volunteer work or minding being "disqualified", haha. There's definitely a lot to do, so I'm not down on the discussion. I just wondered about what really "disqualified' different people.)

  • up
    100%
  • down
    0%
Andarian

"Thanks to that PC Gamer article we also know that Andarian, Niv and FP (Is that Fester Pot?) are now connected to Beamdog one way or another."

I'd consider it if approached about a suitable role (and I could find the time), but I haven't been. A BD connected third party just put me in touch with the article's author about an interview, and I gave him a lot of material to work with. :)

  • up
    100%
  • down
    0%
Proleric

As I see it, the most urgent issue is that this site is not really improving. What we have is really good, especially for old hands, but the new forum is still in beta, and (arguably) the site could be more friendly / accessible / searchable for newbies. I imagine (perhaps wrongly) that this is because there are very few active site admins, and even fewer (only one?) with the skills to enhance it, whose time is now even more limited owing to EE work.

I'm not personally worried about the Advisory Council (though niv did well to flag his potential conflict of interest as site owner and Beamdog employee).

As I see it, improving the vault reduces the risk that Beamdog is tempted to endorse a different site, or make a commercial bid for this one. While that might not be the end of the world, it would be disruptive. Gone are the days when Bioware "owned" the community. They certainly burned their bridges (the last communication I had from them was "find another hobby"). So personally I care about remaining independent. Maybe Beamdog are wise enough to see that you can't put that genie back in the bottle, but it remains a risk.

My secondary concern is about continuity and responsiveness. Professionally, I know that thinking about risk is disturbing for many people, but of course the experience is that groups that manage risk thrive best. 

This community does a great job. However, we do seem to end up firefighting, when fire prevention might have been wiser. For example (no criticism of anyone involved), the Lexicon went pear-shaped, as there was no continuity plan. It was adopted by the vault (hurrah) but it took a long time to fix it (even now many pages are broken). This makes me wonder what would happen to the vault if there were hosting problems or (perish the thought) one or two key people were taken ill. Of course, we would survive somehow, but we wouldn't want another IGN migration scenario, would we?

So I reiterate the questions in my first post. 

  • up
    100%
  • down
    0%
The Amethyst Dragon

My involvement with BD is/was in a voluntary "advisory" capacity. Gave my thoughts and input, but I mostly stayed silent when a lot of the discussion turned to technology/programming, since most of my experience is on the PW and custom content side of things.

So, I am still around. :)

- The Amethyst Dragon
---------------
World of Aenea (The origin of almost all my works.)
My NWN Works: The Complete List (120+ entries...You want this stuff.)
CEP 2.63 (Oh, this? Just a little something I've been working on since 2014.)
------ Neverwinter Nights Community Site: The Unofficial Homepage for NWN ------

  • up
    100%
  • down
    0%
TheBarbarian

I doubt we need to worry about the Vault being abandoned or handed over to anybody. Niv's already made a fairly definitive-sounding statement on that one.

I think I'm more worried about the change to the climate if we do modernize the site to attract and retain the kind of people who don't care about anything other than getting free stuff. The Vault's more than a free-content-factory and -storehouse. We don't just produce content, we produce content creators - which is something that'd be at risk with things like game-integrated one-click-downloading, since that reduces newcomers' exposure to the means of creation. I'm not very fond of the thought of contributing to the spread of a cherry-picking sort of mentality where broad masses of people across the world grow more and more accustomed to picking out the things they like with the least amount of effort, while never learning how to build anything themselves. People learning how to build is about three quarters of what makes NWN great in the first place.

Some improvements to the site search really would be nice to have, though, yeah. And we could finally switch over to the new forum; we could just set it as the default forum from now on, and leave the old one in the back somewhere to search through it if needed. Maybe PHoD would be around more then, too. There aren't enough friendly hyena pictures in this place these days. I've got some fruit bat pictures I kept meaning to use in response, and have had no occasion to do so. This is unacceptable.

We could also give the Wiki some more love, set up a beginner-friendly cookbook where we collect different solutions on specific topics, like making NPCs surrender or crafting, with detailed explanations for what the code does. We've had some pretty fantastic answers to help requests by newbies in the forums that could be "immortalized" in a place like that, like the recent crafting system thread. Doing that kind of stuff wouldn't even need web design knowhow.

How's the Lexicon doing these days anyway? Is it safe from further vandalism?

  • up
    100%
  • down
    0%
Mecheon

Some of the things brought up on the other board would be nice, like the subscribe to a project thing (So I get a notification if a project updates)

I also think my ah, post over on said other forum has well swept away most any idea of people moving to the Nexus

  • up
    100%
  • down
    0%
Proleric

niv's comment here reinforces the questions that opened this thread. 

Who is in a position to propose solutions?

  • up
    50%
  • down
    50%
niv
My part, as far as it is non-negotiable at the moment (because of knowledge, and also because this safeguards against abuse or negligience): I run the hardware, I pay for it, I make sure we have active, working, and complete backups that at least allow a full cold recovery (=with downtime and no data loss). That's pretty much all you can expect from me, because most my time is taken up elsewhere, Now moreso than ever.
 
 
The rest - I always figured the vault is community-run. I am very much hands-off, apart from the occasional PR activity or intevention like pasting full screen presentations or running giveaways. If The Consensus agrees on something, I figure it will happen. So far, it seems to work out? Maybe there could be a process for that (ugh).
 
 
I have no issues, no particular opinion, on who runs the moderation, as long as it is up to the very high standards that have been kept thus far. I think FP deserves a lot of credit for taking care of daily chores and spam management, but so does everyone else who volunteers in moderation.
 
 
Proleric has a very good point in that there is no "bus" plan.  If I die tomorrow, there's a bit of an issue for the vault.
 
I can think of a couple of options to solve the bus problem:
 
- Give trusted community members access now.  I don't know who would have the technical clout and the sensitivity to handle this; to not break anything, to not corrupt anything, to not sell out, and so on.  I'm not saying they don't exist; just that I don't know anyone who would volunteer for this.
 
- Imnplement a dead mans switch service, that sends all relevant access data to a pre-defined other contact if I fail to press a button once a month.  I could think of a few people, who then can think of people, etc; and quite frankly, once I'm dead, it's not really a concern of mine anymore. ;)
 
As to the maintenance/non-tech admin stuff, all I ask that modifications made to Drupal and the other parts of our software are as tested as possible before putting them live.  We have a lot of users and breaking stuff for those is poor form. We certainly need to work on that, both the testability and the actual improvements!  This position needs someone who can handle Drupal both live and when in trouble.
 
I'll give this some more thought in the coming days and hope to come up with something that will ensure continuity with no immediate disruption.
 
 
Thirdly, the new forums:  I wanted to write a script to migrate the existing forum into Discourse.  Right now, that's not happening either.  I'm fine with flipping these here boards r/o immediately and set up Discourse as the new default.  We can put more mods in charge and edit the categories until such time that it fits what we want.  I think at this point it's probably the best option, but everyone(-ish) needs to agree with it.
 
Fourthly, the wiki/lexicon mess: We've strangled some of the spam and added more superadmins, but I don't know what to do about that beyond it.  The initial idea was to import it into wiki.nwv to have a central place. I don't know if the wiki is really something people want to use (the software, that is).  It's a bit cumbersome, but it's still better than mediawiki.  It also needs more config and categorisation, as you say.
 
  • up
    100%
  • down
    0%
TheBarbarian
Life's too complicated.
 
My inner Machiavelli would like to complain that a dead man's switch setup with a fixed successor creates valid reason for the successor or supporters of the successor to murder the current monarch, and just giving more people access and officially "involving" them in The Government(TM) usually leads to infighting until somebody tries to completely fuck things up for everybody else and leaves in a huff. Maybe a dead man's switch setup going to a designated "kingmaker" who's tasked with holding elections in case of your demise could work.
 
As usual, ironically, this kind of task needs to go to someone who wouldn't volunteer for it, and who'll be perfectly happy just sort of standing behind the metaphorical chair not doing much of anything. Same reason why Proleric and I should keep a safe distance from this kind of thing. Having strong opinions we're willing to stand up for and causes we're willing to try to advance makes us fairly strong chesspieces that can contribute to keeping a board stable and keeping "corruption" in check, but when people like us grow too powerful in relation to everybody else, it more or less fucks up the board for everyone. And nobody is more susceptible to being corrupted by power than people that have things we'd want *everyone else* to do. I'll stand beside Proleric on the line of people not putting themselves forward.
 
::jokingly:: We should nab one of the infrequent talkers who're too busy building things to plot and scheme and crusade. Put a bag over their head, drag them into a van, shine a light in their face and go "You have been called upon to serve The Greater Good(TM)!"
 
There might be viable candidates among the existing admin team/moderation. Or we could make Zwerkules do it. It doesn't get more "good-aligned-rulership" than gardening. ^^
 
I've set up a poll in the Discourse forum for clarity on the "what do we do about the forums" matter. Somebody shout if I've missed or misphrased an option.
  • up
    50%
  • down
    50%
niv

I've added a header block right at the top so people will see it.  The giveaway one will drop today anyways, so hopefully the vault doesn't look like Grandmas Internet Explorer with all the toolbars.

  • up
    100%
  • down
    0%
Proleric

A few points:

Stewardship - the ethos that administrators hold assets in trust for the whole community, tempering their own agenda responsibly. That spirit is evident in all the best community initiatives here. While not enforcable, it guides. Even partisans like me try to observe that when entrusted with minor community tasks.

Checks & Balances - something firmer is also needed to guard against both mischief and misguided good intentions. For example, peer review of changes, major and minor, in open forum or by trustees. Segregation of Duties - maybe create different roles for site design, technical implementation and finance, so no one has all the keys or needs to be Jack/Jill of all trades. Just thinking aloud with that one.

Democratic Management - a style of administration that solicits & listens to the community but is empowered to make decisions slightly at odds with it. We all have opinions and need to feel heard, but, pragmatically, those with the practical responsibility for making it work must have the last word.

Hot backup - with something as technically complex as this site, I doubt whether a "cold" succession plan would work. Could niv train up a couple of volunteers in Drupal to get regular hands on experience, even if the keys to the kingdom weren't handed over except in extremis?

I exclude myself from this owing to RL pressures, though I would be willing to help in less critical roles, such as Lexicon repair.

  • up
    50%
  • down
    50%
PLUSH HYENA of DOOM

I hereby put myself forward as someone who is faintly and nebulously confused by the entire proceedings...

And whilst I qualify on grounds of being too busy building stuff to post in Forums much, just be damn sure nobody tries putting me forward for ANY position of authority whatsoever because, having remained inert for a moment or two I WILL then rant about being the Supreme Being of the Cosmos, foam at the mouth and likely accidentally blow the site up.

You have been warned. It's not my fault.

  • up
    100%
  • down
    0%
TheBarbarian

::laughter::

Y'know what, forget Neutral Neutral or Neutral Good governance. Chaotic Chaotic governance would at least make everybody too damn confused trying to figure out what on earth the Rargh Very Serious Business Head Honcho is even trying to say to get upset about it one way or another. That would be amazing. Can you picture the twitter posts?

10/10 would vote for putting rabid hyenas in charge of government for the entertainment value alone.

  • up
    100%
  • down
    0%
PLUSH HYENA of DOOM

As of now, I am in control...

And my first decree as your new High Godhead and Supreme Leader shall be...

Ffnurrrgh!

  • up
    100%
  • down
    0%
Proleric

@TheBarbarian lol...

... if your poll calls for change, how will you do it?

That's the tedious-but-necessary sort of practical question this thread is about.

  • up
    50%
  • down
    50%
TheBarbarian

Quite simply - not at all, since I'm not in charge of making the final decisions or implementing the changes. I'm neither a web designer nor experienced with Drupal, and I strongly dislike having to represent things other than my own personal opinions as that forces me to be more neutral and taciturn than I enjoy being. I'd certainly attempt to argue and convince people in favor of the solution I prefer, though.

As things are, we still have Niv doing the website work, but he's fairly busy. Until we get another hapless volunteer with the necessary skills whom we can bribe/threaten/cheer into doing the work, or Niv drops out of the picture for some reason or another, that's the situation we've got to work with. I'd been under the impression that he's on board with doing something about the dual forum situation, but didn't want to go ahead without knowing what people's positions on the matter were. That seemed an easy enough problem to fix.

Y'know, users can put up all kinds of polls without site administration being bound to do anything in response. I'd probably be the first to argue against elevating people to be authority figures in rigid hierarchies outside of military circumstances if anybody got the impression that I was acting in some kind of official capacity. I could rant about that stuff a lot.

  • up
    50%
  • down
    50%
PLUSH HYENA of DOOM

With regards the purely practical side of Forum Transition, as I understood the matter (and I could easily be dribblingly and hideously wrong) but, as I understood it from what Niv's said pretty much all along, shifting this site's primary Forums to those nice new ones that actually have functionality that works, even for Mad Hyenas no less, is a (relatively) simple and straightforward thing to do, if you know what you're doing.

The problem, assuming I've got the chart the right way up, has been the task of migrating the existing Forums over into the new Forums. That's the kicker. So, to my mind, just shutting them down and keeping a Read-Only Version somewhere is no big deal. Yes, it'll probably be a blow to one or two individuals with a current ongoing thread, there's always going to be someone with such at any given time, but in general, what the hell? So long as any useful, interesting information on the existing Forums is still there to be seen as an Archive.

But what DOES strike me as a problem, a Huge Slavering Gangrenous Rubbery Spleen Creature Problem, is having a Site with TWO active Forums. TWO - doing the same job. Causes confusion, division, splits and fragments an already reduced Community and will certainly perplex the onion-soup-mix out of newly arriving members. Probably encourages mould to grow in the damp, moist corners between the two Forums as well, which is just gross.

We need a single Active Forum. There will never be total agreement on which of the two choices it should be (or a third, or a fourth...) but neverthless, sooner or later, preferably sooner, a choice has to be made... and the Poll so far seems to indicate pretty solidly that the New Forums are the preferred choice by far...

THERE CAN BE ONLY ONE.

  • up
    100%
  • down
    0%
Proleric

We agree on the forum issue, but you're missing the point.

It's good that anyone can start a poll, and fine by me that admins can decide whether or not to accept the recommendation (see above).

My concern is that the resources are not there to implement change or provide continuity.

Are the outcomes of the poll deliverable - if not, what's the point of the poll?

Perhaps niv will have time to deal with the specific issue of the forum, perhaps not. Certainly not much more, from what we've heard.

People who don't administer websites may not fully appreciate that we are at war, on a daily basis. For that reason, quite rightly, only a few people have the keys. Obviously, that means that there are limits to what ordinary community members can do. Hence, to achieve what the community needs, we evidently need more admin bandwidth.

The good news is that the issue has been recognised by the admins. However, nothing will change unless they act on it. As a stakeholder, I'm simply asking them what the plan is.

  • up
    50%
  • down
    50%
TheBarbarian

I think in this particular case you needn't worry, Proleric. Take a look back up in the thread, to niv's post #11. Plus, if one of the options in the poll was altogether unacceptable, he could just have told me to take it down or change it. Amending a "(Niv doesn't have the time to implement this)" to some of the options would've taken about ten seconds - and, in case a solution was in extremely high demand but we don't have someone who can do it, that might still have inspired some people to try to acquire the skills necessary to implement it. We've got a lot of extremely crafty programmer types around here, after all, who've demonstrated plenty of drive to take things apart, figure out how they work, and try to improve them. If people are never informed of what there is and isn't a demand for, we're flying blind in deciding which skills to grind.

But yeah, training or recruiting somebody to be able to do site maintenance work in the future sounds like a very good idea to me too, as is making sure that the login data isn't lost in case something happens to Niv IRL, <Deity> forbid.

Since I've fairly little experience as I've only ever played support roles to people doing site maintenance and web hosting work, I'd like to ask - what threats are we facing? Spambots, ruination of the interpersonal climate, and irrelevance, occur to me, personally. In the fight against irrelevance, we've got some other underutilized resources to work with, too, like the Wiki pages.

Or maybe taking up the old idea of introducing small, informal contests, isn't a bad idea at this time either. We could use some of the existing tutorials as a basis; give people a shoe-in on new skills, like scripting, 3d modeling, texturing, modulebuilding. If we put up a notice about the contest on the Beamdog boards, we might attract new players and get new content creators/builders out of it to boot. ::chinscratch::

Try sending Niv a PM asking for clarification regarding the means of implementing the poll options. It'll be faster and easier for him than if he had to read through everything we debate in every forum thread.

  • up
    100%
  • down
    0%
niv

So this forum doesn't actually send me notifications for this thread, great.

I can totally implement the outcome of the poll. My current plan looks like this:

- Watch the votes for some more days. Don't know what a good cutoff is, but the way the votes look now, the majority wants the new forums and these ones preserved for posterity. This comes as no surprise to me.

- Once consensus has been reached and assuming consensus asks for option A), I will be

- swapping the header links, and making the new forum the only one listed eventually.

- List the old forums in an archive post on the new forum, stickied somewhere.

- Add a header for these forums that explains the situation.

- Turn these forums read-only (or at least response-only?).

- Watch another week or so and wait for the fallout to settle, then fix what breaks. The new forum needs a few tweaks to user permissions, needs background images, etc. It will certainly much easier to admin and maintain than this charming mess.

I hope no one is thinking I'm abandoning the vault. I'll certainly follow through on all initiatives started. I just don't have the time to do a theme revamp myself, or mess with Drupals organisation, and so on. I also don't want to break anything.

  • up
    100%
  • down
    0%