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Sandbox RP forum for newcomers


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Hello crew. @Adaptus @Gallambria @Iverica @Sunset Sea Islands @Tagmatium Rules @Variota

Earlier today on Discord there was some discussion about writing quality and mentoring new members.

This seems to be a regularly recurring topic of discussion. I may have found a solution which I'd like to share here first for discussion by RP mentors.

ℹ️ A note on transparency. Once we are all satisfied with the proposal, this discussion will be moved to the public help area and become visible to the community.

 

1. Entrance level: what's the difference?

Right now anyone who registers can join the RP forums.

I am proposing that we have two tiers of RP players. The names have not yet been decided.

  1. apprentice / novice / newcomer / starter
  2. adept / capable / proper / standard / intermediate / established

This follows an existing model of skill development: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dreyfus_model_of_skill_acquisition

 

2. Sandbox RP forum: how does it work?

 Members in this 1st level can post in the sandbox forum. Here they can show off their writing skills to the community, while also receiving feedback and guidance.

 Members in the 1st level cannot post or comment in the main RP areas. This is to prevent inexperienced players from jumping into ongoing stories. This should serve as a win-win for everyone involved, since it would prevent any annoyances or backlash. Access to the main RP areas is unlocked by graduating from the sandbox.

 

3. Graduating from the sandbox: what is required?

How long does someone stay in this 1st level? Depending on the quality and feedback they can graduate to become a full member. An already experienced player will have no problem writing their way through this trial. Graduating will grant access to the main RP areas, where more interaction is possible.

How is graduation determined? You will be expected to write your first RP on your own. This should serve as an introduction to your nation. Some examples are listed here. Each RP in the sandbox can be rated using the stars system. Staff and mentors will also share guidance to help you improve.

  • A change in leadership. This can come in many forms: a peaceful election including debates; the death of one and coronation of another monarch; a revolution and overthrow of the government; etc.
  • A tourist visits your nation and describes the sights and experiences. What is there to see? What are the people likes? Which cuisine do they enjoy?

What happens to the RP's in the sandbox? These RP's are not directly part of our canon, but they can be promoted if the community agrees the quality is good enough.

4. About this proposal

To move this idea forward, I'd like to explain the process. This serves as a guideline. We can be flexible if more time is required.

  • 25-30 October: moderator feedback
  • 31 Oct - 27 Nov: community feedback
  • 27 Nov: decide names and labels
  • 27 Nov - present: setup sandbox, create roles, update rules
  • January 21: evaluation
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I don't have anything to add to this except agreement. I do advice some neutral terms for the ranks so established instead of capable or proper, for example, as people might get negative vibes from those titles. As if those in the sandbox are by definition incapable or improper roleplayers, which isn't true. 

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@Variota I agree with your comment about using neutral labels for the ranks and the forum. Earlier you mentioned the name "Proving Grounds" which will also work.

This feels like something that can be settled with a public poll. I can such a poll to this topic if we've passed the community review round is.

I'm moving this topic out into the open now for broader review and feedback.

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I personally don't like this idea because it alienates new players who most of the time are somewhat component roleplayers and just adds another step to the process of joining. The current system of making news posts and Factbook should be enough to keep new people from entering the main RP as you can keep denying them until they're deemed good enough to enter the main RP

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3 hours ago, Rihan said:

I can see how this is helpful but this may be too restrictive and could just deter people. I think there is a way to mold what's been developed here while ensuring quality exists before an individual gets too immersed in the universe. I would make it more essential for a factbook be made from the very beginning before an individual goes about making a news post. I would have people comment and help develop it before the person actually applies it to the universe. We've seen several who've tried to get involved but didn't actually plan the nation. Essentially a cart before the horse situation. 

I second that - forcing people to go through an immigration screening process will make us look like, well, Trump. But at the same time we don't want to be compromising our RPs just to assist these newcomers.

Perhaps, we could make a rule: Factbook and news thread before RP. We'll try to help the newcomers as they write their factbooks and news threads, then once they're all fine, we put them on the map and let them RP.

Another solution would be to strike a compromise between the two. We allow newcomers to RP, but their stories would be subject to improvement as they go along. Then we let them go freely when it's all good.

It should be noted that members should try to have only minimal involvement in newcomers' stories; rather, they should assist OOC then participate IC when everything's fine.

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People here are mentioning that a factbook and a newsroom should come before RP, and I can see that point, but they're also vital parts of our roleplay. We interact and trade with nations depending upon their factbook, and learn about them in their newsroom. I understand that these are requirements for the map to show activity and writing level, but they shouldn't be requirements for outright entering the region. They're RP components, just as diplomatic threads or blockades are.

Over the past year and a half or so I've grown to love this community. The high writing level is one of the reasons why I like it here - there's so much skill present, and so much thought and worldbuilding that goes on behind the scenes. I, as I'm sure many others do, come here to have fun with equally skilled writers to create fun, unique stories and give ourselves a challenge. I don't want to come here and see the forum clogged up with poorly planned, two sentence posts. That adds nothing to the advancement of our stories and just irritates me, as people are just coming here for a place on a cool looking map with minimal effort. I won't name specific names, as this sort of thing has happened multiple times for as long as I've been here. We shouldn't be a community that supports poor writing. 

I've spoken with @Orioni about this idea on Discord and I'm a big supporter of it. Calling it a sandbox seems a bit childish but we can work past that; the main idea is that we're given 'early access' to a newcomer's way of writing. There can be just two or three writing prompts that they have to complete, and for a seasoned writer that will be no issue. Even from the first post, if we see that they have the skill we can speed up the process for them and get them in quick, so as to minimise annoyance on their side for having to complete beginner's challenges, and to bring another great writer into our community. For the writers with less skill or experience, it's a great opportunity for us to seek how they need help and provide them with the assistance that they need. As it currently stands, lacking newcomers are filling the forums with poor writing. We can remedy this before it even becomes a problem through this screening process, as it'll be non-canon if it's not good enough and doesn't hurt our universe.

Sure, perhaps it'll turn a few people away as they won't want to spend time going through customs and showing their visas and whatnot just so they can get onto our forums, but I firmly believe that we're worth it. This is such a historic community that is rich with quality writing and great people. Completing this first step to gain entry into the region not only helps us in seeing if there are any writing problems, but helps the new person in identifying if this region is for them because of the high writing level required. I'm bored of seeing bad writers come along and thinking they run the place because they've met the map requirements with sh*tty posts. We have the opportunity here to not only bring in more skilled writers, but to help those that are lacking a bit and bring them up to a level where they're writing with other great writers, which is so much fun.

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One thing I'd add to this conversation; I think that mentorship has a big place in both welcoming a new member to the region and also in helping a person to reach the standard of writing that the community, myself included, prides itself on. I'd not have found my groove in Europa were it not for more experience, friendly community members helping me in creating my first RP threads like All the Sultan's Men and Breaking the Ice. I think that perhaps making "RP Mentors" available to new members could be very helpful, as well as reduce the strain on the moderation staff in handling new arrivals.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Although I’m new here, I definitely could see this working out if moderated well and maybe the ease of entry made a tad easier to filter out the terrible writers to give us people who are mediocre but can make progress.

 

Another thing: i feel like if the mods cannot decide if a person is ok enough, it should be put up to vote

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On 10/28/2018 at 1:14 AM, Variota said:

I do advice some neutral terms for the ranks so established instead of capable or proper, for example, as people might get negative vibes from those titles.

@Variota As an alternative name, we could call it the 'Academy'. And the entry level could be called 'Candidate'.

On 10/31/2018 at 4:55 PM, Sayf said:

I personally don't like this idea because it alienates new players who most of the time are somewhat component roleplayers and just adds another step to the process of joining.

@Sayf How would you feel about asking newcomers to provide a writing example? I've seen this requirement before in other NS regions. It could be one way to fast-track a new member. If not, then they go through the sandbox / proving grounds / academy / whatever-names-we-settle-upon.

On 11/1/2018 at 1:12 AM, Rihan said:

I would make it more essential for a factbook be made from the very beginning before an individual goes about making a news post. I would have people comment and help develop it before the person actually applies it to the universe. We've seen several who've tried to get involved but didn't actually plan the nation. Essentially a cart before the horse situation. 

@Rihan I'm not completely convinced. A factbook works if you know where you'll be in our world. Borrowing your analogy of cart before the horse, it should be easier to introduce your main characters regardless of a factbook. Here are the leaders, these are their motivations, this is what's happening in the nation. That can be incorporated into a wider story later.

On 11/1/2018 at 5:00 AM, Andalla said:

We'll try to help the newcomers as they write their factbooks and news threads, then once they're all fine, we put them on the map and let them RP.

@Andalla So you would use these 2 existing criteria as a filter for progress.

On 11/1/2018 at 10:37 AM, Prymont said:

the main idea is that we're given 'early access' to a newcomer's way of writing. There can be just two or three writing prompts that they have to complete, and for a seasoned writer that will be no issue. Even from the first post, if we see that they have the skill we can speed up the process for them and get them in quick, so as to minimise annoyance on their side for having to complete beginner's challenges, and to bring another great writer into our community. For the writers with less skill or experience, it's a great opportunity for us to seek how they need help and provide them with the assistance that they need.

@Prymont I like the idea of writing prompts.

On 11/3/2018 at 1:30 AM, Fulgistan said:

I think that mentorship has a big place in both welcoming a new member to the region and also in helping a person to reach the standard of writing that the community, myself included, prides itself on. I'd not have found my groove in Europa were it not for more experience, friendly community members helping me in creating my first RP threads like All the Sultan's Men and Breaking the Ice. I think that perhaps making "RP Mentors" available to new members could be very helpful, as well as reduce the strain on the moderation staff in handling new arrivals.

@Fulgistan Expanding the available mentions is certainly high on the wishlist. Many players who've been around the block are already providing advice and feedback. Additionally, an expansion of our existing guides. Loads of advice keeps getting repeated. We can use our time in a better way by gathering all this knowledge for the next person who asks the question.

On 11/3/2018 at 2:53 AM, Rihan said:

Perhaps to ease the strain, @Fulgistan and I could take on this mentoring capacity

@Rihan Do you have a specific topic in mind about which you feel you can guide new members? Or more a general role?

On 11/13/2018 at 12:47 AM, Sancti Imperii Catholico said:

i feel like if the mods cannot decide if a person is ok enough, it should be put up to vote

@Sancti Imperii Catholico  That would make sense. When it comes to graduating, getting the support of at least 2 mentors would be a strong enough signal.

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Alright. I've set up the sandbox. Several people voted to use the name Academy. The functionality is still being developed; making it up as we go along.

With this also come 3 user roles, instead of the current single role of Citizen

  • RP Candidate. Anyone who registers will start out here. You can see the RP area, but can only post in the Academy.
  • RP Member. Those who've graduated into the general population.
  • RP Mentor. Members who go the extra mile to help others. We'll discuss the areas of expertise for each mentor.
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  • 1 month later...

Since this experiment began, it looks like @Rhodellia is the first member to successfully go through the application process. He'll be upgraded from candidate to full member.

The theory behind the idea was logical, but it wasn't clear at first how this would work in reality. Our RP mentors all did an excellent job providing behind the scenes feedback. We'll take what we learned here and improve the application process. In particular:

  • For the candidate: what exactly is required, which feedback can you expect, how long does it take?
  • For the community: how to deal with trial topics that don't yet fit the canon.
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  • 3 years later...

Three years later, it would seem that the introduction of an Academy for all RP candidates to go through was a good idea.

I was reviewing the comments and hypothetical fears we discussed in advance. Some of these proved valid, while others didn't.

A reflection on our own way of working:

  1. Recruitment. The efforts by @Tagmatium Rules to attract new players via telegram have proved immensely effective. Eurth grew to >200 nations on NationStates. And the forum activity grew from ±15 active players to nearly ±30 regular players.
  2. Naming. The name "Candidate" seems to have stuck as a name. This seems to be neutral enough that it never really offended anyone. Good point of @Variota to pick a different name.
  3. Sandboxing. Limiting candidates to the Academy until after graduation also works rather well. But few candidates actually continue their academy RP, or ask for it to be moved into the main RP forums. There is room to improve here.
  4. Mentoring. The role of mentors has proven exceptionally valuable, as predicted by @Fulgistan and Rihan. More mentors were added. An availability agenda was added. We also (try to) keep better track of which candidate is in what phase.
  5. Quality control. The valid suggestions of @Prymont were taken to heart. His way of defining what makes Eurth attractive continues to be echoed by the new people who join. It's clear where our strengths lie, and the values we must continue to uphold.
  6. Academy process. Many candidates were asking the same question. Within the forum, we've tried to add clear instructions about what to expect and how to move forward. Both for new candidates, and recent graduates. The way we present this information continues to evolve. The addition of a FAQ by @Iverica is very helpful. I see this becoming ever more clear and centralised.
  7. Graduation rules. The requirements for graduating have changed quite a bit since the academy was introduced. At first, the bar was set rather high when it came to writing samples. Later on, the requirement of a vision statement was introduced. It's tough to predict how these criteria will continue to evolve.
  8. Graduation vote. We figured out a way to vote on candidate graduation, as suggested by @Salvia. This process is becoming more clear.
  9. Post-graduation. After a long discussion and many tests, we introduced the points system. This system seems to work rather well. With @Xio (Metztli) leading the cartography department, the map updates have also become much more regular and frequent.
  10. Integration. Both @Sayf, Rihan, and @Andalla feared the Academy would create a barrier between candidates and members. Afterwards, I would conclude that fortunately, this fear seems to have been unfounded. The integration of candidates seems to go quite well. There are many daily interactions via Discord. I think most if not all players are very welcoming when it comes to their new neighbours.
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