Blog Series - A Detailed Request
This blog post proposes why series are a necessary feature and how they might be implemented, but additional contributions will help demonstrate community-wide interest. If you want to play a role in illustrating how important of a feature this it to have in the future, then please leave a comment with your own thoughts as well.
Organization is the concept of taking a variety of smaller components of work and grouping them into a way such that accessing different specific components would be easy to do. Efficiency and user-friendly readability are some of the key aspects here, as organization typically involves categorization that allows things to be viewed in groups, separating content of different topics into as many sections as desired. Whether it is compiling a group of essays into an argumentative book, editing various clips into a video series or single film, or dividing a website into multiple sections so that content can be split into groups, organization is a significantly important concept for any media group that wants to preserve the relevancy and practical accessibility of long-term content.
So where am I going with this and how does it relate to the ScrewAttack website? Well organization has been exercised right here on ScrewAttack in some areas fairly well, and often to the benefit of users with different tastes and interests. News, trailers, and originals for example are split into multiple sections, and while all three of the types can be seen together on the main page, there are also tabs that only display content of a certain type. This lets people of different interests focus on the type of content that they're primarily interested in, and in the future, they can search for specific content by narrowing down the searches.
Those sections are even further grouped into further categories such as with the upper ScrewAttack "Shows" tab which organizes original content into various production areas such as the The Clip and Real Trailers amongst other things. These video categories are hugely helpful for legacy purposes as even ScrewAttack videos that are years old can be found easily even just by casually coming across them; people can find a video from say late 2009 without knowing about it beforehand by exploring the categories, and they don't need to randomly come across it via the search feature either. Even if the content is really old, it can still be discovered for the first time ever; the important ideas of legacy and preservation are again major themes here.
Now video show features were eventually added for community members; these work exceptionally well regarding video content. You can individually edit videos and put them into categories, the format being pretty excellent overall. Categories are custom-named by the user; these could range from personal Let's Play channels to game analysis videos to comedy skits to various other things. There doesn't have to be just a slightly larger group of preset groups like reviews; the user gets to individually run his own shows, and that's definitely awesome. The shows can also hold descriptions which have all the advantages of the detailed blogging system, individual videos can be edited into the groups regardless of how old they are, and the shows can additionally help introduce other people to older forgotten videos based on their personal interests. The ScrewAttack Style Guide further illustrates the convenience of a show system, so you can head over there if you would like more information on how to create your own.
This has been discussed and asked ever since the new community interaction features were added to ScrewAttack around a year ago: The concept of a blog post series which would allow an equally powerful method of organization, with a similar visual structure, for blog posts. Blogging on the newest version of ScrewAttack has been around since the dawn of the site's blogging interface, even longer than there have been videos. Hundreds of people write blog posts on a regular basis, with probably at least thousands having made at least one if not more in total. Just look around the community sections; blogging is a popular activity that has developed a large following due to its various topics, writing styles, and community involvement.
So shouldn't there be something similar in place for blog posts? Don't blog posts have just as large of an importance to be organized as videos? In fact, ScrewAttack already has something kind of like a blog series for one of their own series: The Love/Hate series that is currently linked to in the main "Shows" tab, although this is done by taking advantage of an event feature that only the crew has access to. Anyway, for the sake of explaining what specifically a "Series" feature would be, it would help to give a more specific definition:
A blog series for all intents and purposes would have an almost identical layout to that of the current "Shows" feature for videos, only with the name "Series" and being a separate feature meant for blog posts instead of videos. This would be applicable to any blog posts, including any made in the distant past, through an option in the editing interface similar to that for videos. In short, it's a show-like feature for blog posts.
Although the descriptions above give a general reasoning for why blog series would be desirable to have in the future, it may help to also stress some more specific reasons why the current layout for blog posts would benefit from having a series feature. Here are three different situations involving parts of the site:
For one, while the "Community" sections and front page features are really appreciated in helping someone get seen, those posts will not be on the front few pages forever, and in order to avoid being forgotten about, there needs to be a way to easily view them beyond only those sections, especially since the current code only allows pages to be navigated one page to the right or left at a time (as opposed to a numbered selection). These are currently the main ways to find a blog post once the post in question is more than say a week old:
- The search feature allows for a blog post (or a video) to be found by searching specific tags and detecting phrases in a post; this works well for the most part and can even be narrowed down by date or author amongst other things. But this isn't a series per say, just a way to find a specific post that you already know about. You're not likely to come across a post at random if you're just interested in seeing what that person wrote unless knowing about its title specifically in advance, so if a post that you wanted people to still discover for the first time was made say last November, they aren't going to spot that at random. A video show can also be found in the search feature, but again, there isn't an equivalent for blog posts.
- Finding a blog post manually on a person's "Blog" list after finding their profile page is another current method. But because of the single page selection and having to load every single page to get to a later one, there is less incentive for casual users to randomly click on someone's profile and then go through perhaps over ten pages, loading each one sequentially. This isn't organizing the blog posts into groups; this is putting them in a single list with only one-page-flip selection features. And again, if the intent of the writer is to have new people participate in or create discussions on important arguments/explorations of gaming topics even after the period of time when they're first released, then how will someone who has only recently joined the site stumble upon it to add discussion? Shouldn't blog posts and videos be able to have active conversation at any time? Not just during the period of time they're first made?
Second, here's an example of why currently having every single blog post in a single list only could limit the potential categorization and division of topics. (This is just an example but it could apply to other situations as well.) Many people who go on ScrewAttack site like to practice news article writing in addition to making exploratory blog posts about any number of topics. This is a good way to not only briefly write about a current events topic that interests them, but it also gives them writing experience that could eventually lead to more longer analysis posts in the long run. Now here's the thing: Those articles and non-news posts are all grouped together, and because the news posts might outnumber the non-news ones because of the shorter lengths that a journalist news piece might have, there may be an uneven ratio when it comes to categories being displayed. Without a series, all of these types of writing are mixed together into one single list. To add to that:
- If you wanted to show news posts to a friend or someone to demonstrate skills in journalism, then you couldn't give them a link to only that specifically since there isn't a series for say personal news articles.
- Alternatively, if you want some friends to discover older blog posts that aren't news-focused, they would have to go through a number of news posts in order to find things like reviews. If you want someone to discover older content even without it being on the first few "Community" pages, then you would have to assume that they would be willing to go through perhaps ten or more pages to stumble upon it first.
Third, perhaps somebody might want to work on a digital project of theirs, displaying their entries on an organized page to perhaps simulate a fan book or video archive. As an example, you know how the popular g1 Features community project involves a number of series which are organized and run in seasons? The high-quality podcast known as SIDETRACKED for example has its own show page with a description; the content on that page displays all of the archives and progress that the particular project has had, and you don't need to go through numerous pages in an account-wide video list just to find specific podcast episodes. Similar pages exist for the g1 Digital Forecast, an impressions show that has a number of changing participants, and other community shows such as the recently started CinemAttack. But for blog series done by g1 Features, there isn't a similar feature available. Rules and updates about certain shows, such as the detailed questions and answers page which is currently hidden way back on page nine of the account's blog list, cannot be found in a personalized series page. The Indie Shack series, a mini-review project that highlights promising indie games, and Ask the Experts, a community theory analysis series, also cannot receive similar organization groups since their entries are presented as blog posts, not videos. Despite their similar popularity, their methods of organization for specific entries are limited by comparison.
But of course, I can politely talk about the concept of a blog series, but that doesn't necessarily mean that it's easy to code or plan out. ScrewAttack's coding is done through a customized Drupal language, so I'm aware that it isn't something that can be done overnight. So instead, here are a few design suggestions regarding the layout. Thank you very much by the way if anyone involved with the coding team decides to read this.
If a possible concern is trying to integrate it into the personal tabs on a profile page, then why not replace the "Edit" tab with "Series" and then shift the order slightly? Editing a profile can already be accessed through the top right button on the site, and it's something that rarely needs to be done at the moment, so leaving it as a top right option should be enough. By doing this and having a "Series" tab be directly to the right of the "Blog" tab, it would allow room without having to dramatically do too much in size alternation. This would also be user-friendly to casual users of the site; it would clearly illustrate shows being associated with videos, and series being associated with blog posts. A "Community Series" page would also be added under the "Community" tab on the top of the site, again, being identical to shows but targeting blog posts instead.
A new link type would exist for series containing the address phrase "/series/", similar to how blog posts contain "/news/" in their link names, videos without a show association contain "/video/", and how videos with a show association contain "/shows/" and then the show name following that. I don't know if memory would be a concern, but the site didn't seem to have problems when shows were added as a user feature, and there is such an extremely high amount of community content already that I would estimate that simply adding a different folder type wouldn't kill the site.
Apart from these smaller aspects, how exactly would blog series appear regarding their editing interface and their mentions at the bottom of posts? Well here's the thing: It would be almost exactly the same as video shows. The show interface from my experiences with it doesn't involve any video links during the creation process; it just needs a title, description, tags, and thumbnail images, something which is already not that dramatically different from a blog post despite the added listing feature. A blog series, not the individual blog posts, would have a similar editing interface. Blog posts would need a new editing option that allows for a series association, but this would be similar to what videos currently have. Finally, there would be a "Create a New Series" rectangular button next to the other creation buttons on the right side of a profile page; this would go right above the "Write a Blog Post" button using the same folder icon as the show button.
I figure some basic illustrations would additionally help illustrate the ideas of what I mean by a blog series, so here is an example I made of what Ask the Experts, a g1 Features blog post community project, would look like. This was made in Microsoft Paint, but the main idea should still be apparent; this would be almost exactly what the first page of the series page would look like. Above it would be the description and a banner image.
This would only be one of the many possible series pages that could be created. Multiple series would be listed under a "Series" tab accessible via the person's profile page, and its format again would work very similarly, if not near identically, to the current Show feature. Isn't it nice how the blog posts (in the above image) are organized just as effectively as posted videos? It also would hopefully cooperate with any potential problems or ideas that I explored earlier throughout this blog post. This may just be my opinion, but I can think of many other bloggers who have personal blog series of their own that would benefit from this. If you have additional thoughts to add, you can (and I highly encourage you to) leave those in the comments below this blog post.
Thank you very much for reading through this blog post of mine, and I hope that my exploration, suggestions, and illustrations helped show why the blog series feature would be an extremely useful one to have sometime in the near future. I want to thank the ScrewAttack staff for as always making this website a great place full of unique original content, strong news analysis, sharing of trailer content, varied community content, and a general gathering place for people with common interests and diverse opinions to come together to interact with one another in a friendly manner. I also want to thank Designzillas again for putting hard work into coding the website; I realize that the coding is not an easy thing to do with lots of work probably going into it.
I also want to stress that this post was not meant to offend or be rude at all; I just wanted to organize some thoughts, including why the feature would be very useful as well as detail some ideas on how the design would work for it. A few site members said it would be alright to blog about this, and I wanted to try to be formal and polite with how I worded things. The blog series feature would have numerous benefits to overall organization, a feature that if added would help hundreds to thousands of writers help them organize their own content in a similar way to the already really well-designed show feature that currently exists for video content.
Lastly, the blog series feature needs a large community-wide level of support in order to be seen as something of a priority. I personally have a number of friends that have wanted to see something like this, and I know there are plenty of other people out there. If you want to see a blog series feature sometime in the future, please don't only read this blog post; leave in the comments your interest and possibly add some additional thoughts of your own. Please share this around if you can, even politely asking a staff member to give it a look. Thank you again for reading this, and I hope I raised interest in a formal manner. Please leave your thoughts!