Thank you again to everyone for the discussion and feedback thus far. A new draft of the proposal is viewable here.
I think we’re on the right track here and that there’s general support for the overall framework being proposed. With that said, there are a few concerns that have been raised that I’d like to address — in some cases by rearticulating our goals more clearly, and in other cases by modifying the proposal.
Setting clearer goals
In hindsight, I should have been clearer about how I envisioned the role of a ‘welcome dispatch’ when using that terminology. This proposal isn’t intended to create a one-stop shop for everything to do in our region. Rather, it’s intended to appeal to specific interests and provide clear and simple pathways for interested readers to get involved. Those were goals I advocated for in my campaign and remain my goals for this proposal.
To provide some context, here’s the current working draft of the pathways to engagement we’re aiming to create:
A key aspect of these pathways is their directionality. New players who are genuinely curious and eager to explore have plenty of opportunities to do so. The primary challenge behind effective outreach to new players is, in fact, the amount of content available for them to explore. When new players first create their nation, they are simply greeted with their nation’s page. From there, they have dozens of links available to click on. If we’re lucky, they might click on the link to ‘the South Pacific’ in their sidebar, and if we’re even luckier, they might follow a link in the World Factbook Entry or read through our pinned welcome dispatch. Or, they might notice that they have an unread telegram, and if we’re lucky once more, they’ll read through and engage with our regional welcome telegram amidst the barrage of recruitment telegrams flooding their inbox. Those aren’t great odds, but that’s the hand we’re dealt. Fostering a sense of direction in our integration materials increases the chance that for the lucky breaks we do get, we’re able to appeal to a specific interest and identify a clear pathway to pursue that interest within our community.
A promotional focus
One of the interesting dynamics within feedback on the first revision of this proposal was the balance between greater context and greater simplicity. On the surface, these may appear to be conflicting goals. Providing additional context necessarily means offering more information, which only adds to the amount of material a new player must try to understand.
However, many of the concerns about a lack of context were linked to an unclear sense of purpose. In the first revision of this proposal, it wasn’t always clear why a reader should be interested in a particular way to get involved. This revision seeks to embrace a promotional tone more fully, such as with ‘taglines’ for each way to get involved. The real substance of these improvements, however, largely lies with the body text itself. For example, our current welcome dispatch is largely descriptive (“draft […] and vot[e] on laws and leaders that govern the region by becoming a legislator”). Whereas the first revision of this proposal replaced those descriptions with tentative appeals to existing interests (“if you’re looking for political gameplay with other players, then the Assembly is for you”), this revision seeks to more directly and confidently assert what different aspects of our region have to offer (“the Assembly offers rich, lively political debate”).
This promotional focus serves as guidance for balancing clarity and brevity. The details of how legislative procedure works, for example, offer greater clarity on how the Assembly functions at the expense of brevity, but that additional context does not contribute significantly as to why a new player should be interested in the Assembly. By contrast, examples of what topics the Assembly legislates about also offer greater clarity on how the Assembly functions at the expense of brevity, but that additional context provides examples as to the kinds of topics a player could debate as a legislator.
Another aspect of this promotional approach is promoting directionality. Getting involved in our community should be something fun and exciting that newcomers are eager to jump into and not merely learn about. A more promotional tone encourages readers to take the next step and get involved in our region.
The World Assembly
Joining the World Assembly is once again presented as one of a range of different ways to get involved. Encouraging new members to use their World Assembly nation in service to the region is undoubtedly important, but its presentation in a welcome dispatch does not come without costs.
It’s true that joining the World Assembly and endorsing the Delegate and members of the Coral Guard is not an overly complicated process. But compared to other ways to get involved, it’s not overly simple either. If we were to write out the full process in detail, it would look something like this:
- Make sure your nation is linked to an email address. If it’s not, open your settings page and add an email address.
- Navigate to the World Assembly page and click the ‘Apply to Join’ button.
- Open your email inbox and look for an email from
firstname.lastname@example.org. If you can’t find it, check your spam folder.
- Open the link in the email and click the ‘Confirm: Join World Assembly’ button.
- Open the nation pages for Tepertopia, 073 039 109 032 080 111 112 112 121, Aidenfieeld, Amerion, Ebonhand, Farengeto, Land Without Shrimp, PenguinPies, and Tsunamy. On each one, scroll down to the bottom and click the ‘endorse’ button.
By comparison, the process for joining the forums looks something like this:
- Open the account creation page.*
- Create an account with Discord, or fill out an email, username, and password.
* If you’re currently logged in, this link will just take you to the forum homepage; try opening it in an incognito window.
Navigation away from content
When we encourage a reader to join the World Assembly, we also encourage them to navigate away from our welcome dispatch. (Unlike links to external websites, links to NationStates pages open in the same tab unless the user specifically opens the link in a new tab.) We’re directing readers away from content we can control and into content that we can’t. It’s content that is no more relevant to our region than it is to any other region. Most importantly, we’re left just hoping that they’ll come back to the welcome dispatch. If they lose interest partway through, we’ve lost contact. And even if they complete their endorsements, there’s no guarantee they’ll specifically come back to the welcome dispatch to see what else our region has to offer.
When we encourage a new player to join the forums, we’re inviting them into a space where we can also welcome them personally,
Weighing the trade-offs
I’ve glossed over the benefits of promoting World Assembly membership because they generally go without saying. The important question here is not whether it’s something good to promote in general, but rather whether it’s worth the trade-offs for our welcome dispatch specifically.
A natural place to begin answering that question is by looking at the state of our World Assembly outreach. On balance, we’re doing pretty well. Here’s a history of the percentage of nations in our region who are in the World Assembly and the percentage endorsing the Delegate since April 2016:
Not everyone would consider this to be tremendous growth, but there are clear signs of gradual progress. For instance, in April 2016, just over half of the World Assembly nations in the region were endorsing the delegate; today, that number is around 70%.
If you’re curious, the data from SWAN doesn’t go back quite as far, but it’s more comprehensive and more readily available in chart format. Do let me know if you feel there’s a trend in the data that I’ve overlooked.
It’s also worth considering the importance of our welcome dispatch in encouraging players to endorse the Delegate and members of the Coral Guard. Hard numbers in this area aren’t as readily available, but here’s a brief comparison of our current welcome dispatch to the SWAN dispatches pinned on the WFE (excluding the temporarily pinned awards dispatch):
Of course, not every SWAN dispatch is outperforming our current welcome dispatch, just as not every integration dispatch is currently performing well. Nevertheless, it’s telling how the SWAN dispatches pinned long-term to the WFE have fared noticeably better than our current welcome dispatch.
If we look at the big picture of our outreach, endorsements are one of the areas where we conduct the most intensive outreach. We have monthly SWAN awards sent out by regional telegram to every nation in the region, occasional endorsement days complete with regional telegrams and winners mentioned on the WFE, and dispatches that ping nations every several days if they’re not in the World Assembly or they haven’t endorsed the Delegate and members of the Coral Guard. Arguably, our most effective means of outreach are already focused on promoting endorsements, not integration. For instance, consider the dispatch that pings nations not in the World Assembly: in the 1,530 days since it was first published, it’s averaged 18.75 views per day.
Aligning with our goals
With all this said, it’s not clear that we need our welcome dispatch to prominently feature joining the World Assembly as a first step before getting more meaningfully involved in our community. Given that the reach of our endotarting program has greatly exceeded that of our welcome dispatch, the impact one way or another of advertising the World Assembly in our welcome dispatch is limited. We have other well-established and more effective means of promoting endorsements than our welcome dispatch.
I haven’t made much mention of the SPSF, because results there are harder to measure, but we’ve seen that pinned dispatches such as our welcome dispatch have limited effectiveness for promoting World Assembly participation. If, as a community, we decide to promote the SPSF as one way for players to use their World Assembly nation in service to the region, on par with endorsing the Delegate and members of the Coral Guard, that arguably could and should be done through our existing outreach to non-World Assembly members.
Improved mobile support
Mobile support isn’t something that came up in this discussion so far, but it’s something that’s often been overlooked, so I wanted to briefly highlight it before I wrap this up.
The two-column layout featured in the first revision of this proposal has been replaced by a more standard single-column layout. Unfortunately, the styling needed to achieve two columns of content used up a sizable portion of screen real estate on mobile and produced an inconsistent order of content between the mobile and desktop sites. The new design increases the width of the area available for content by around 25% on mobile phones and around 10% on tablets, although some variance from device to device is expected.