The site is over 10 years old. It has literally thousands upon thousands of pages and data. Im preety sure its not cheap. I m also preety sure its not just for a doman name and server server, but to help keep this community running and also help to add features and updates.
Help support CA's future and your own art future, and help Fund
Sepulverture: I'm not sure I agree about breaking the site into smaller units. One of the great things about the forum is all the cross-pollination that went on. The sight size junkies could learn a lot from artists who can whip up entire compositions from imagination. The kids who only look at grizzled space marines could stand a lesson from Bill Whitaker about how much beauty you can find in a loaf of bread.
I found this place when I was 15, I'm now 24. Still great stuff on here but the activity has fallen significantly.
If I were to try and get more traffic into this place now I would get rid of the forum clutter, reorganize the forums based on importance to building the community and bring in some contrast and saturation to this drab looking place.
The below image is what I wish this place looked like (don't hurt me). I think it would help first time traffic.
Wardrum that looks really nice. Not to sure about the bar right the top, other than that it looks preety awesome. More exposure of the challenges etc and news about the site at the top like you have layed out would really look nice.
Shut up and give wardrum all my money.
This is by far the best CA.O design mock-up I've seen in the last few years. Great job man!
The main problem here is that such a design is veeeeery hard to do. Being limited to vBulletin gives tons of restrictions and making a whole new design with such "features" would need a very good designer who knows vB like his hometown.
IF there is someone out there you can make such a beautiful design, then he's probably either busy or costs thousands of dollars.
Just to be realistic.
But still, getting a design like this should be priority number 1. Just looking at it makes me want to be active again because it's less cluttering.
I tried to get a handful of friends over to CA.O but most of them stopped trying to figure stuff out after a few days.
It's a way too big mess for a completely new user right now.
@markmaker - I just threw the bar at the top together in ms paint(along with everything else). I would picture it looking more like the toolbar at the top of blogger.
Anyways, the issue here plain and simple is that the forum home page is visually unattractive and not instantly navigable to someone who has never been here. And for someone who has been here a while we realize the design is just a shell of what it used to be. In this digital age we all have ADD and if something looks scattered and unorganized we wont stick around to figure it out. Not everyone is like this, but you have to treat the situation like everyone is like this. We want meat, and we want it hot and right in front of us, not scattered pieces of beef jerky with lint on them. CA.org used to be pure 100% grass fed beef..
I'm not being a hater, but this upgrade thing just seems like a disaster. Sites do this shit all the time, trying to add new features and streamline old ones.
Get back to the basics, back to the foundations. Figure out what it was that made it work. Yes, people are a huge portion of that but so is the place you give them to socialize. Really though, it doesn't seem like whoever owns this site is interested in the community, nearly as much as they are as making money from it.
Last edited by wardrum; December 16th, 2013 at 10:57 AM.
I also understand this costs money, yes. Get some adds on the borders of site - if that improves what's at the core of the site without disrupting the community, do it. I can ignore what's on the borders, I can't ignore what's in the center if I'm trying to use the damn thing.
Just wanted to say a big thank you to Jason for putting together the workshops on composition, colour theory etc. I got a lot out of both of them and I'm really looking forward to the one on character design in January. You're doing a great job!
Originally Posted by wardrum
Really though, it doesn't seem like whoever owns this site is interested in the community, nearly as much as they are as making money from it.
I beg to differ.
Originally Posted by Sidharth Chaturvedi
you improve the quality of that community immeasurably when someone who knows what he/she is doing shows up. I can't count the number of times I've seen threads that were stuffed full of misinformation until someone like dpaint or JeffX99 came in and set the record straight.
I agree. I like the idea of CA as a place where professionals feel comfortable sharing what they know with people who're serious about learning and improving. I'm one of those people and I absolutely appreciate all the advice and information you guys give.
The problem with the internet is, it gives everyone an equal voice so it becomes difficult to know who's worth paying attention to. Especialy when so many people are more interested in making out they know more than they do. Egos are terrible things.
Conceptart.org's strength is in its information library and activities. There are no other sites that provide experts and tutorials that are easy to navigate and in a true "knitting circle" style feel. If you're a reader, like I am, one enjoys this dense style of reading. Navigation does need an update.
I have joined newgrounds, which I like, and I have also liked Saatchi online. both of these provide a gallery feature that is nonexistent on Conceptart.org. it was implemented before (vbulletin supports it) but for some reason it was taken away. I honestly could do without CA's Sketchbook section - it's obtuse for viewing art - sketchbooks or not. I much prefer vbulletin's addon gallery function.
Generally half of all artists, like doctors are a snotty and temperamental lot, so it's impossible to find any open community that is free of all problems. the other half is comprised of silly weirdos, who generally are the people that make art fun for all of us
Also donation buttons are illegal in the US unless you're a nonprofit, and can provide those little tax forms just fyi. I don't know if CA is a non profit now or not. You can change it to "contribute" or "help with server costs".
Last thought - vbulletin is complex, but it is still the only solution for a serious forum. I have seen excellent sites run on proboards - sort of a ghetto version of vbulletin. The forum format isn't going to go away, but quality forums will stand heads and toes above trashy fly by the pants forums like Deviant Art's forums or whatever. When a user gets used to a site, it's not hard to navigate. Vbulletin is excellent forum software. also uses it. (Fuck them, by the way. I hate .) CA has become so simplified compared to what it WAS, I don't think you can simplify it further. I also still like the warm and friendly Gesso color background. You can tell this site is run by artists, and not trying to be another silly information silo like Facebook.
Remember guys, quantity is not quality. I rather enjoy a slower paced enviroment. CA got way too busy for me for a while there. Too many teenagers on school vacation trying to learn how to draw is NOT a good thing.
Last edited by Izi; December 22nd, 2013 at 07:38 PM.
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I think CA just needs to clean up / organize its interface. The site, to a newcomer, is huge and ungainly and a lot of the stickied / official treads are either unprofessionally written or worryingly outdated. Instead of leaving the prompts and challenges to rot, unanswered, they ought to be consolidated into 'active' and 'inactive' categories. Weekly challenges focusing on one area at a time, perhaps.
I'd also recommend opening this place the hell up - excuse the vulgarity, but really. It's exceptionally difficult to get involved in this website - it has much potential still, and for me is a rediscovered gold mine of improvement. If only the userbase was larger, the traffic greater - which means, yes, making things a little bit easier for the lower common denominators. An overhaul, a united format for category rules / stickies, and greater options for user-run (instead of just moderator-run) challenges. Daily sketch prompts, for instance, could do well if they were actually daily - a task easier carried out by a larger group of people instead of a select few.
Uploading. I'm guessing the large part of money-to-hosting ratio is for the image hosting - the thing about Tumblr, for instance, is that you CAN direct-link to your images and they DON'T expire / exceed bandwidth, which is a thing supplanting photobucket or imageshack or other CA vagaries. While it's very generous for CA to offer free image hosting, it'd be easier and simpler to retract the img tag restrictions in certain forums and let users host their own images - maybe even provide tutorials on how to make / upload / link thumbnails to avoid page stretching and other issues.
Basically, organizing, streamlining, and keep on keeping on. I like the idear of this community and love what it's accomplihed in the past, but it NEEDS to evolve or fall the way, say Elfwood fell when DevArt reared up.
A little bit of personal background - I've used genre forums up to this point instead of strictly art ones. High-traffic places like GaiaOnline used to provide great feedback, community and shared interest - and its format was open as far as html could take you. CA is definitely WAY more professional, but would do good with the same free flow and attention.
when all,s said and done the message is clear
it,s lonely as king in the kingdom of fear
"a lot of the stickied / official treads are either unprofessionally written or worryingly outdated."
This is true, gotta keep it simple and high quality. This requires administrators to constantly be grooming the site checking for outdated information, sloppy threads or ones that are just not necessary anymore. Far more than simply more activities, the site needs good grooming.
One of the problems here is that some of the moderators were not well chosen for this site, and no one bothered to weed out the inactive/redundant/bothersome ones after CA grew up that liked to just harass the artists and never make art themselves, until they just decided to up and have tantrums all by themselves and quit. They plenty of damage to the site and the site survived it because it was just big enough to escape from these toxic turds. I have seen what happens when moderators are not managed properly, in example, in not being rewarded when they do good things, or are not given certain powers when they need it, or conversely, not being hired in the first place. All moderators in my opinion need at least 1 year of experience moderating on any kind of board - even if its something silly - before they are allowed to do moderating, with some exceptions to this case being that they are mature people with some managing ability in human resources. There needs to be a structure to the management just like in a corporation, where there is a clear General Manager, Assistant Manager and moderators. Those higher managers with backend access should have professional level experience with the very complex vbulletin system.
On an anarchy site like Wikipedia for example, it's a different situation, because the entire community can pitch in with assume-good-faith contributions, and the whole thing updates itself practically. Here it is not the case. Have you ever tried to get a thread moved or a discussion moderatored here? It's completely impossible. no one will get back to you and they never do proper investigations. There is a huge moderator team that is almost a figurehead. There is no way to tell who is really in charge or even active mods. This hands off approach is really not a great way to improve the site. One has to rely on the unpaid contributions of a handful of seemingly arbitrarily picked moderators.
And as you can see, the proof is in the pudding. the site has not experienced growth in the past year, instead it has suffered a rather sharp decline.
Why in the world do you have administrators who have not logged on in nearly a year?
Why do you have moderators who havn't posted for over 6 months? It's insane is what it is.
I have to ask myself, do I stay here for the anarchy or the good management? It seems like we never get the best of either so I'd have to say it's because I like the vbulletin program and have good memories here.
For starters, you need to audit the forum leaders periodically, preferably every 3 months. 3 months of inactivity is well beyond acceptable for even a volunteer moderator or admin. What if their account gets hacked? They can always reapply. And there should be an application process, not some fly by the seat of your pants method of employment. Even volunteers need to meet a certain standard. Reward your moderators with special access of some kind, its easy to burn yourself out on volunteer work. there is a need for CLEAr well defined jobs. You need a thread grooming team and a activity team, a backend site-wide changes team and a conversation mediator. Most people will not be good candidates for all of these jobs. Clearly defining the jobs of the management, web administrator and moderator team is key to success.
About the image hosting:
Yes this does take up a lot of bandwidth. That's not the only thing, hits can be trouble, too I dealt with this on a forum by blocking a problem country, going to approved members only (later this became pay-to-talk) and we now do not recieve faux account applications (rarely). The next thing I did was make attached imgs viewable only to registered users, not the whole www. You don't want to waste an img upload to someone who is not interested enough to register, they can get the idea from the forum-native images for that. (banner, etc) next we used a cloud server in Seattle to augment our US capabilities. Our site gets a million hits per month and we only pay $80 or something for hosting. There was a time when we got a million hits per day, and that really sucked. The enviroment on the forum sucked, all of these trolls and window shoppers just sucked so bad. It's not all about hits. Bigger is never better unless you're in retail or advertising. And I suppose the job forums and sales havnt paid off or you wouldn't be asking for a wiki-donate bar to be filled.
As a small business owner let me tell you I understand having too many pans on the fire, but really with all of these potential volunteers if you just spent a day managing the moderators better you'd be working smarter, not harder.
So to summarize:
Pay attention to your bandwidth - who is coming from where, why and are they a problem? This requires careful attention on a monthly basis.
Make sure moderators know their job, and are doing it. Occasional monitoring of what someone is up to is necessary to avoid disaster. Just because someone is a volunteer doesn't mean they are helping.
Make sure moderators know who to go to for support, and that they have the tools they need.
Make sure moderators know what they are doing.
Make sure managers/admins know what they are doing - you can really wreck a site in the backend.
Do not allow moderators/admins to be absent for more than 3 months (I say 1 month) without permission before revoking their access - this is a hacker safeguard.
Don't allow nepotism to cloud your better judgement. Just because someone is a friend doesn't mean you need to have them managing your baby, especially if they are damaging its reputation.I have revoked access of enough friends and family to tell you - if they are really your friend, they'll understand - especially if your VP is doing it for you, after they've made several mistakes.
Don't ignore member complaints.
Recognize good service in a good timely manner. (IF William B. Hand wasn't a Taurus, I'm sure he would have ragequit by the time he was finally publically recognized for his service.)
Regular editing of content is necessary.
Regular meetings are necessary if you are a site experiencing more than 50 posts a day.
Don't hang out in the mod/admin lounge, for xst's sakes (if you have one). It's incestuous and breeds contempt. Use it for business purposes only.
If you see a problem, fix it right away if you can.
Don't allow mods/admins (even yourself) to perma-delete, except during special purges. Everyone makes mistakes. You can have them move the posts/threads to a special archive for review by someone appointed to the perma-delete job. (I don't reccomend perma deleting anything for legal purposes)
CA isn't going to die unless someone pulls the plug. All communities have the potential to bounce back, with careful tending, just like any other garden or aquarium. (you may have to replace the plants or fish) And especially with places that have a storied history, you do such improvement from a position of strength, relatively. It's so hard starting a site from scratch.
Last edited by Izi; December 29th, 2013 at 02:39 PM.
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