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Meta - Fall 2020 Site Chat


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Hi everybody. My name is Tay. I’m the site admin, and I’m writing this post to share a few thoughts and to apologize for what has been a very difficult period for the site (and many of us in the real world, myself included). Please note that I am actively working on the site today (01:26 update: currently waiting on Nayleen’s help on a mysql issue that I don’t know how to solve) and will be available in this thread and on Discord throughout the day.

 

Why did you disappear?

I was overwhelmed by real-world responsibilities and the real-world issues affecting the site. I feel deeply that it’s my responsibility to keep an appropriate baseline amount of support (server, forums fees, forums UI theme subscriptions, front site plugin subscriptions), and have mostly done so, but not being here in a full, active manner means that I was unaware of even large issues, such as Invision losing my auto-pay details. I feel really bad, guys. I'm sorry.

 

Why didn’t you more proactively pass along the keys to other community members instead of just ghosting us?

Dropping torrents caused hundreds of real-world issues that made a site hand-off – even partially – unconscionable until resolved. It makes me happy that they feel like an ancient memory to most of you, but they have been my lived reality for a long time. Only this summer did that chapter fully come to a close. Fuwa is in the clear, for what it’s worth, and for the first time I feel like I have options.

 

What the &$% is going on with site/forums updates?

I’m working to fix some issues in how I access the various databases on the server. Once that’s fixed everything will be updated and troubleshooted. It’s going to be another Fuwapocalypse. But it’s gotta be done. I give you my word that, so long as I can get @Nayleen’s help, this will be done by week’s end.

As regards the forms, specifically, Invision, the software company who made our forums software, deleted the auto-pay credentials I’d given them and the software license lapsed for several months. It’s been renewed and everything will be updated as soon as I get Nay’s assistance and make a bunch of meticulous backups.

 

What is your plan for Fuwanovel going forward?

It may not be appropriate for that to be my call. I need to touch base with all the core users still active and sort out what’s best. I love Fuwanovel. It’s been a work of love spanning more than ten thousand hours (and much more than that in dollars). But my focus and passion -- help bring visual novels into the wider gaming community – has been realized.  I’ve been fortunate enough to facilitate or be part of some major, tectonic shifts in the industry. It’s a different world and I am likely not the best equipped to pick a direction. Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t think so.

What I’m confident about, however, is that the way I went about building Fuwa, while successful, is unsustainable. Palas put it incredibly well last month:

On 7/9/2020 at 8:04 PM, Palas said:

Speaking as someone who disappeared as well - and feel horrible about it, because I was involved with what I believe were the coolest projects Fuwa has ever had - I can say Fuwa's model is very, very exhausting. It's like running a business, but without, well, the business. The main site has to attract viewers and then retain viewership enough to have them interested in becoming part of the community. That, or the community has to be attractive in itself by virtue of being helpful or productive.

Torrents brought a TON of viewers, so low retention rates weren't a problem. Without them, the only alternative was to make much more engaging content. VNTS, Reviews, articles and the reommendation site were all incredible efforts, but engagement didn't improve all that much, while the effort increased exponentially for everyone involved. So everyone I guess just kind of... burn out? And I mean, BunnyAdvocate is an absolute genius, right.

Social media have a lot of advantage over forums on that, really. People can still be around even if they don't participate as much in a specific community anymore. Forums can be difficult to navigate, compared to -- say -- Reddit. People come and go, but joining a community this way when there are so many easier ways to do it nowadays is increasingly counterintuitive, and fostering a community made of people who take counterintuitive actions is an uphill battle.

 

“It’s like running a business, but without, well, the business.” Perfectly said. For better or worse, I’m wholly or largely responsible for the projects he highlights: enormous and technical VNTS posts which took two people 5 or so hours to do every Friday night, an ambitious reviews hub scouring VN reviews from across the net, a VN reviews team, forums projects, etc.

A lot of what I did on Fuwa amounted to spending ungodly amounts of time watching trends in both the industry and site traffic and building ideas around what I thought would bring interest to the community and the VN player base. It worked well: we had huge traffic and played an important role in bringing VNs out of obscurity. But the lived reality was often me researching, designing and proposing these projects, and asking others to step up and either run or contribute to them without compensation. We’d have people putting in 20 hours a week, some weeks, on top of core admin staff working 30-40 hours weekly, and it STILL wasn’t enough. Most pitched in because we liked the cause, and liked hanging out with each other, and liked the dopamine rush of user engagement. Some did it because I asked them. And some did it because they felt like they had to. I’m still working on pulling apart my feelings on this issue.

I don’t know how to fix this part of being a fan site. I do know that it is wrong to ask so much of members without paying them. Fuwa has never made money and I was never able to pay for help. This isn’t going to change anytime soon, so any new site reality is going to have to take into account the need for a lessened human cost.

 

Anything else you want to say?

Tons. But that’s good for now. I’m spamming Nayleen on all the usual channels and mostly just want to get the site fully updated. We can chew on the site’s existential questions in the meantime.

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3 minutes ago, Silvz said:

Isn't it possible to integrate that other site, which I don't remember the address, where people can get VN recommendations according to your preferences, to the main site?

fuwanovel.se ? at the moment i dont think its possible, both uses completly different background structure/code

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I'm very happy to see you back, Tay. I hope you've been well, real life situations aside.

Generally speaking, the recommendation site has in itself a somewhat easier model to run than main Fuwanovel. Fuwa as a hub of VN-related services that can exist without much human oversight and updates (automatically locating VN deals and discounts, automatically aggregating reviews, quiz-based recommendations etc., keyword here being "automatic") might be more sustainable. I have no idea how technically difficult that might be, and I'm sure it's incredibly difficult. But manually updating content is very difficult as well, so.

Or Fuwanovel can go full Crunchyroll and become a VN publisher, imagine that.

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As I was one of the members that burned out a while back (too many VNs played for the sake of my blog on the site), I know something of where you are coming from.  I was spending something like 50 hours a week playing VNs, many of them I didn't like or whose concept I found boring and pedestrian, to be able to be fair when doing my VN of the Month column.  I was using a tiny scoop to try to get through the piles of hot steaming brown stuff to get to the stuff that shone regardless of genre, and my satisfaction levels kept falling until I just fell apart.  I was even working on one screen while playing on another at times, while using meal times as a time to get caught up on a VN.  

To this day, I have to be careful not to play too much in the way of VNs, or my trauma comes back, despite the fact that I am loving what I'm reading.  Heck, I'm currently recovering from another bout of that while doing something else to put myself back together.

More recently, I was becoming increasingly depressed that the only community I still enjoyed being a part of was doomed.  With the increased rl stress that hits every time I leave the house over the last four  months, I was on the verge of collapse when I decided to get online and do my latest scan of the forums... and saw this.

To be honest, just the fact that you are getting involved in the site again at all eased a lot of the pent-up stress that has been weighing on me every time I come online of late, so thanks for coming back.

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On 8/14/2020 at 12:37 PM, Zalor said:

This, but 100% unironically

We would probably have all the success of Sol Press in that regard. Unless we go all Sekai and poach freeware doujins to translate and sell. 😛

Anyway, wow... Not sure how much this changes in the broader picture, but it'll be nice to test Forums updates and ponder what can be done thanks to them when I get back to civilisation (of course this happens when I'm in the middle of nowhere and conserving phone battery). Glad to see you back @Tay. :)

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On 8/14/2020 at 7:37 AM, Zalor said:

This, but 100% unironically

 

3 hours ago, Plk_Lesiak said:

We would probably have all the success of Sol Press in that regard. Unless we go all Sekai and poach freeware doujins to translate and sell. 😛

There was an optimal time for Fuwanovel to make such a move -- when torrents went down, but Sekai/Mangagamer/JAST hadn't dominated "the market". We're talking late 2013 (after If My Heart Had Wings), early 2014 (before Sakura Spirit). But, of course, it realistically couldn't for many, many reasons.

I do believe it could happen somewhere in the future though, and achieve moderately good results to boot, especially if production and distribution were verticalized alongside Fuwa's usual routine.

But is it feasible? That's another story.

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20 hours ago, Plk_Lesiak said:

We would probably have all the success of Sol Press in that regard. Unless we go all Sekai and poach freeware doujins to translate and sell. 😛

 

14 hours ago, Palas said:

I do believe it could happen somewhere in the future though, and achieve moderately good results to boot, especially if production and distribution were verticalized alongside Fuwa's usual routine.

But is it feasible? That's another story.

 

Hmm, maybe distributor wasn't quite the right word to use, but I don't know what would be a better word to describe it with. VN publishing platform, maybe? Fuwanovel as far as I can tell is the only VN site where the EVN crowd and the JVN crowd mix even a little bit. And the Original VN Projects board sees a decent amount of threads of EVN creators marketing their stuff here. Why not take that a step further and let them upload their projects to Fuwanovel itself. Similar to how Steam is a platform where indie game devs can easily publish their stuff, and gamers can easily find and discover new content. I know that Steam already has a category for VNs, but I think VNs as a medium would benefit if they had their own version of that for just VNs. A place where creators can upload their projects directly to a site where a prospective audience is. And likewise, a site where users can easily download/purchase said uploaded VNs. Certainly it would emphasize that VNs are a medium itself and not just a genre.

Furthermore, I think it would be very beneficial for both the EVN scene, and for casual VN readers. Having all of this in one site might encourage some people to make more EVNs that caters more to the tastes of JVN fans, and JVN fans by getting more exposure to EVNs might become more adventurous with their own tastes. 

Realistically, I realize there would be serious hurdles to overcome. Affording the server space alone is a realistic concern. But theoretically, I don't know... I think its an idea with decent potential.  

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I haven been around for a short time, But congrats on coming back. I hope that all the issues regarding the torrents have been resolved once and for all.

As for how the site should move ahead, i think as a first step you could ask the people in r/visualnovels to keep a pinned link to the forums. I was only able to find the forums (and the site) by specifically searching for how script extraction was done. The forums and site have enough content to warrant the attention, it just needs more exposure. Also, while reddit, discord and twitter do beat forums in terms of short term engagements, the forum has more information in one place than all three combined. I haven't yet gone through all the threads yet, but just reading through a few under fan translation shows hows much of a treasure trove of info this website is.(Not to mention the civil interactions)

Another one you could try to do is get interviews and stuff from studio's here in the west, for example there is 3 year old article about Nekonyan's yearly days. Considering they are starting to establish themselves as a somewhat major company in VN, you could try to contact them. Or you could contact makers of english VNs and do the same. Or you could also try to make Fuwanovel into a site exclusively centered on VN news.

Edited by Haoren
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