RFC: Simplified Welcome Dispatch

Ministry of Engagement

The Ministry of Engagement has been working on a new welcome dispatch to replace our existing dispatch system. This request for comments (RFC) outlines the changes being proposed and the motivation behind them in order to provide an opportunity for public input.

Any and all questions, comments, or concerns from members of the public are welcome. We’re excited to share what we’ve been working on and we look forward to working with the community.

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This is super neat! Thank you Pronoun and the MoE for spearheading work on this, it’s needed to happen for a long time

I assume the broken syntax in the “Securing our region” section will be fixed when it is hosted on the main Coalition of the South Pacific account? (or wherever it is going)

Yep — it’s something we’re aware of and will be formatted correctly when the dispatch goes live.

I don’t think there’s any need to advertise “diplomacy with other regions” and it may actually be counter-productive. FA isn’t a jobs program.

This is an encouraging start. I do worry that the dispatch might still be difficult in the sense that it mostly shows text descriptions but doesn’t actually show to newcomers what’s in store for them. To give two examples:

Strengthening the region

To help make our region more secure and give your nation a bigger voice on international (and interregional) law, please join the World Assembly and then endorse our Delegate, {{ gov_officials.delegate|nation }}, and members of our Coral Guard, who help keep our region safe: {{ gov_officials.spcg|gen_personnel_list(print_format=‘{nation}’) }}.

Other ways to get involved

This is definitely an important issue, but I’m not sure it gives much context to a newcomer, or helps them along the way of getting involved. Why not turn it into a “Step 1” of their introduction to the region, rather than making it one of several options where it would likely get lost or ignored?


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LinkJoin the forums | Other ways to get involved

This is provides certain sign-up links, but it doesn’t do the following:

  1. Show to the reader why roleplay would be a good option for them; for example, provide a copy of the map, or a timeline of major world events, or some information that catches the eye and shows why roleplay is the way to go.

  2. Provide links specifically to roleplay resources, such as the maps for Pacifica and A1-0, the signup topics, or some other resource that takes the prospective roleplayer to the door.

I think that it would be worth tying this dispatch to a broader discussion about how we approach newcomer engagement and staff recruitment. Do we really want to recruit for our staff from total newcomers? Is there a better way to involve them so that they already know a bit more about the region and what options exist, before they actually join the executive? How, if at all, do we balance playing a government simulation with recruiting new talent?

I’m not sure I understand. I can see how making it a first step could make it more prominent, but how would it, in your view, provide more context?

Those are questions I’m happy to leave to individual ministers or government officials. This proposal isn’t intended to answer those questions one way or another. Do you feel it should?

I do agree with Kris that we should be making clear to our new members there are two ways for them to use their WA Nation to serve the region: endorsing the Delegate and Coral Guard or joining the South Pacific Special Forces. Ultimately, we want everyone to pick one and then follow through on that.

The proposal in its current form already makes note of both endorsing the Delegate and Coral Guard and joining the South Pacific Special Forces. If our goal is to make doing one of those two things a prerequisite for further participation in our community, that’s something that can and should be legislated; but as our laws currently stand, I do think both are more analogous to being one of several different ways to get more involved in our region.

Perhaps it wouldn’t, but regardless of what exactly we do I still think that either adding more context or making the explanations simpler would be a step in the right direction.

Strengthening the region
To help make our region more secure and give your nation a bigger voice on international (and interregional) law, please join the World Assembly and then endorse our Delegate, {{ gov_officials.delegate}}, and members of our Coral Guard, who help keep our region safe: {{gov_officials.spcg}}.

If you read the above from the perspective of someone who just joined NationStates and knows nothing about gameplay mechanics or even what regions are, this tells you little about what “strengthening the region” means, what is meant by “World Assembly”, “Delegate”, and “Coral Guard”, or why they should care about this.

I think that the dispatch, and the activities within it, should be presented in such a way that they are more personal to the reader, as if trying to recruit them: how do we present the region, not as a large and established bureaucracy, but as a community worth their time?

Thanks — I think that helps me better understand your point of view and what you’re suggesting, so I appreciate your patience in bearing with me.

I’ll note that adopting a more promotional tone was one of the design goals shaping this proposal. Laying out (some of) what our region has to offer is one of the primary purposes behind the introductory section, and appealing directly to readers’ potential personal interests was the guiding principle behind the overall structure of the dispatch.

That said, we do appreciate getting some perspective from someone not involved in the drafting process. I’m sure we can appeal to the reader more personally and effectively.

With that said, I’ll go ahead and make the call that we’ll be taking some time to refine our proposal a bit further. Thanks to everyone for the comments so far — both for the positive reception and the constructive criticism. Do feel free to voice further thoughts pending a revision of the proposal, but just keep in mind that we may not respond as readily and those comments might not be directly reflected in our next revision.

I disagree with this rather strongly. First, the Ministry of Engagement should not wait for legislation to direct it how to set its engagement priorities. Engagement priorities are the definition of something under the MoE’s executive purview. Changing this Dispatch also isn’t saying “you must endorse the Coral Guard or join SPSF or else” it’s saying “we ask that people do one of two things to get involved with the region: option A or option B”.

Second, I don’t think it’s that absurd of something to say to our new members. Ultimately, each unique player in NationStates has a WA nation to offer in service to their region at a base level. Here, we actually have two ways you can do that: either by endorsing the Delegate and Coral Guard or joining the SPSF. Then in addition you can consider other “choose your own adventure”-style pathways.

I’ll respond to your concerns in more detail with the next revision of the proposal, but deferring to legislation does not reflect a lack of engagement priorities. It does reflect the fact that one of our priorities is integrating new players in a way that meshes with our existing government and community structure, that you may perhaps hold different priorities (which I’m glad you’re voicing!), and that the most direct way to align these priorities would be through legislation that refines our government and community structure in the way you envision.

Clapping :clap:

I’m not sure where there is legislation that defines the MoE’s “engagement priorities”, nor do I think there needs to be. The only thing I can identify is this from the Charter:

Which…doesn’t say much. So, essentially our engagement priorities are whatever you want them to be and have never been defined in legislation. The reason I think the Delegate/CG or SPSF choice should be foregrounded is:

  1. These are the most concrete actions a nation can take that is designed to bolsters regional power, security, and prestige
  2. Each player is permitted one WA nation, if people want to be in the South Pacific then their WA nation should serve the South Pacific in some way, and
  3. Frankly, if someone isn’t able to (when prodded to do so) click the buttons to join the WA, endorse the Delegate, and endorse the Coral Guard, then they’re not going to turn out to be some rockstar event planner or roleplayer either. They’re just disengaged.

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.

Relative complexity

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:

  1. Make sure your nation is linked to an email address. If it’s not, open your settings page and add an email address.
  2. Navigate to the World Assembly page and click the ‘Apply to Join’ button.
  3. Open your email inbox and look for an email from no-reply@nationstates.net. If you can’t find it, check your spam folder.
  4. Open the link in the email and click the ‘Confirm: Join World Assembly’ button.
  5. 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:

  1. Open the account creation page.*
  2. 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:

History of resident nations in the WA and resident nations endorsing the Delegate
Source: InfoEurope

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):

Dispatch Days Published Total Views Average Daily Views
Current Welcome Dispatch 1,376 9,520 6.92
SWAN Home Dispatch 1,676 57,451 34.28
SWAN Endotarting List 1,610 23,561 14.63

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.

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I love this, and as a quick note, I’m a mobile user, and the design is much more appealing to the eyes, so congrats to that as well.

With my term coming to an end, I’ll share a few brief updates about the status of this RFC to offer some context to the public as my successor takes office.

The current draft of the new welcome dispatch is now live here, integrated into our existing dispatch software. We’ve made a few tweaks, but there aren’t any major updates to the content. (Shout-out to Viet for their work in this area!)

I suspect my successor may want to make some updates to the content, but for now, I’ll share one last feature now that integration with our dispatch software is working: anchor links to specific sections of the dispatch.

The particular sections of the dispatch may still change depending on the plans of my successor, but now that integration with the dispatch software is working, the link to the dispatch as a whole should remain stable.

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