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Webforums In The Time Of Facebook: Dead or Alive?

When we started out with our webcomic at Onezumi.com one of the first companion sites we set up was a phpbb based forum site. Back in those days (wow, is it really going on 10 years soon?) there wasn’t many central places where people could talk about your work–unless you set one up yourself. So we set up the forum and it went well for a few years. We built up a nice but small community. Eventually as LiveJournal, MySpace, and Facebook arrived we noticed the traffic and discussion was eroding away. We eventually shut the forum down and moved on to a very open commenting policy on all of our sites.

So, is this experience just limited to us? I don’t think so. I think that the rise in “Massive Social Networking” sites has lead to the idea that there isn’t a need for a million little places to discuss each of your hobbies or fandoms. There are definitely many independent forums still out there–most of which had very large traffic before things changed, but I really can’t imagine many new ones coming into existence now–though if you want to disassociate your “real life” from a fandom (i.e. furry, kinky, or other things you don’t want people to know you are into) then I can see why that would be a possible successful development.

In some cases a “support forum” seems to be a valid usage for a site specific forum, but they are a real problem to keep spam free and on topic (which was another reason we eventually killed our forum–it was getting too difficult to maintain).

People have always valued convenience–remembering one login is way easier than a million–and going to one website is better than having to follow many. The insidious Facebook login feature they rolled out for web developers–to allow them to be your authentication system–keeps them even more as the central location.

Do I think this is a good thing or a bad thing? I’m not sure. It’s definitely annoying to have to maintain fanpages and other elements that aren’t on our own sites–and we have very little control over changes they decide to make to their sites. And I think that the top reigning sites will change over time, which means constant roving for where to find your fans and community.

Ironically it seems that with convenience we’ve lost some measure of focused fandom with the collapse of site specific forums. It’s easy to “Like” something on Facebook, but the depth of discussion seems to have become much more shallow and diluted. Maybe the harmonic will pull back the other direction if people start to become suspect of the MSN types of sites.

Even The Mouse Uses WordPress

According to a report on hwork.org, Disney is now a proud supporter of the WordPress blogging platform at their new blog site. It’s not just for webcomics and cranks anymore kids! Seriously though, it’s good to see that even the largest companies out there are realizing the power of the WordPress platform.

Now if only I can get them to see the power of the AWSOM set of plugins life would be perfect. And yes guys, I’ll consider trading some work for some free park tickets :)

AWSOM Pixgallery performance tuning

WordPress is a very powerful content management system. The cost of this power can sometimes be at your server’s CPU and memory resources. One tip for anyone using AWSOM Pixgallery, and NOT using it’s built in lightbox effects, is to simply turn off it’s usage of the built in effects library. This setting is in the Pixgallery admin settings/options page and is listed as “If you want to use a 3rd party javascript plugin and turn off the built in system, set the following setting to “custom” and input the custom rel code needed to add the effect to your images in the following box.”

What you are doing is turning off the loading of pixgallery.js.php, which can easily cut down on your file transfer amounts as well as overall server cpu/memory resources.

I’ll post more tuning tips over time for my plugins, as well as general ideas for overall speed/resource tuning for WordPress.

AWSOM News Announcement Plugin Updated to Version 1.5.0

Hi Everyone, The AWSOM News Announcement Plugin for WordPress has been updated to version 1.5.0 and is available for immediate download from the AWSOM.org website. This new version now has support for date based display of News posts (so only have the post display during certain dates, or starting until/after a certain date) as well as display tracking of posts (So you can see how many times a post has been viewed–great for when you set posts to be displayed only for certain groups of users). One other important update is the change of the Plugin folder to be compatible with the WordPress auto-update/installer function–So if you already have the plugin installed please note that you will need to remove the older folder called awsomnews and replace it with the new folder called awsom-news-announcement.

How to Compel Your Readers to Support You

Moving traffic is an extremely important component to marketing your work online. If you can’t move traffic, you can’t compel people to buy your products, come out to your live events, or otherwise support you. In addition to this, you won’t be able to share traffic with your professional friends to shore up your networking goodwill.

The bottom line is that it is extremely important to get your readers to click the links that you post., buy your stuff, and to come out and see you if you tour.

A surprising thing that I have observed in my organizing of webcomic programming is that it does not appear that website traffic has as much of a relation between your ability to influence your readers as you might think.

I have met people with very large estimated monthly readership who are absolutely unable to compel their readers to do anything, and I have met people with tiny readerships who can command a small but powerful army.

Size does matter, but the degree that it matters depends on how good you are in speaking to your existing readers.

Your blog posts matter just as much if not more than your work. It is all part of the packaging.

Here is a handy translation guide for some common poorly-chosen themes and what they are really telling their readers:

– “Here’s a comic.”

You might be busy, but it it happens more than a couple of times, you are saying that you don’t care. If you don’t care, why should your readers? Repetition and consistency are the things that train your readers to watch your blog for important things. You are teaching them not to find anything you say to be important.

The way I’d do it: “Hey guys, I am super busy right now. I have (x and y and z) just about ready for you guys. I’m really excited about it. Here’s a photo of (something I’m working on or something random from online that is amusing). Talk to you guys again on Tuesday! :D”

– “My art sucks.. But whatever, here’s some art.”

You’ve just communicated to people that you hope will buy your work that you aren’t worth it. Yeah, I guess your art does suck. I believe you.

The way I’d do it: “Hey what’s goin’ on? I have some new kikass concept art up in here. Clicky the link and check it!”

I find that a rule of thumb is to imagine how the people reading you think. It is just like being friends with someone. If you want them to get to know you and care about what you do, you have to let them in a little bit, but try and remain as positive as you can. Negative talk really irks a lot of people.

Above all, be honest and be yourself The rest will fall into place over many years. Your readers are coming to see you to be entertained. Your job is to fulfill that. If you hope to make money off of it, you need to also keep them listening to you.

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