Some weeks ago, I wrote a sarcastic article regarding N4G's hidden rules, how the lack of rules in a community can lend to a false rules dictatorship, how a community does whatever it wants because no one wants to stop it. N4G is not the only one to be under such lack of government, but this site is the one I frequent the most currently so I feel concerned when something is wrong.
This time it wont be sarcasm but highlighting several points that potentially kills N4G from the inside. What's the difference with N4G's hidden rules? The difference is that I don't write that article for humor. Here are non exhaustive points of how N4G is killing itself.
- Rewarding financially big contributors:
N4G is a community-oriented website, where everyone can add their content to participate to the community. So originally, rewarding people that contribute the most to the site was a good idea. The problem is that it rewards quantity, not quality. So big contributors or people wanting to be big contributors tend to mostly submit poor garbage. This is partly related to N4G's hidden rules "The more you submit, the more you have chances to get approved". Since a week, the Pending area is saturating with dozen of pending news, and if you do the experience, only the ones on the first page that got some flamebait potential get approved. The other ones, disregard their quality (or lack of quality) are waiting. And meanwhile, those big contributors feel the need to submit their reviews from Italian, Polish or Russian sites of games that released months ago, which creates an even bigger overload of pending news, definitely killing the ones that are waiting since several hours to be approved.
- The lack of moderating activity:
Being against authority may mean a lot of problems, so not many people would openly admit the inefficiency of moderators on N4G. Yes, they are here, yes we sometimes see them in action, but mostly in very active news and only several hours after the bad is done. N4G's comment section is split in two sections, a "Gamer" section and a "fanboy" section. Yet, when you read comments in the Gamer section, you can only be appalled by some comments. Other people mostly hate N4G because of that retarded community. And as far as moderators will be lax, the community wont change.
- Every upcoming news in the same place:
Like said previously, one of the biggest plague of N4G is that every news people submit lend in the same place: the Pending area. It is logical, as they are pending, but the lack of classification makes everything confusing. As said, big contributors tend to submit many crappy reviews of crappy games from crappy sites, which constantly hide real news, articles or analysis. If N4G's pending section was subdivided in News, Articles, Reviews, Images and Videos categories, it would be easier for other contributors to read and approve stories. So far the Pending section is just a place where everyone vomits without distinction of quality, and as approving contributors feel lazy to browse dozen of pages to approve or not news, such behaviors can only be another factor that kills N4G.
- The lack of willing to be an approver:
How can a so much frequented site like N4G can be so much hungry of contributors? Actually, not exactly contributors but approving contributors. Indeed, that overload of pending news I talked about previously is not only due to the flood of angry contributors, but also a clear lack of approver. Approvers are the ones that have the real power in N4G, they decide of the life and death of news and with such power they decide the community's discussions. But so far, approvers are not enough compared to the number of news submitted every day. Its even worst for blog posts, as very few people actually care about it, so you often have tons of pending blog posts that mostly fail to be approved. It's a two-edged sword. On a side you have contributors that submit tons of -sometimes useless- stories, which generates a big amount of news flood in the pending section, and on the other side you have approvers that don't seem to want to approve stories in order to decongest the overload. At this rate, N4G will be even worse, where only very important news will be submitted in N4G, filtering smaller -yet still interesting- news and feeding N4G only with potential flamebait, as much pointless as making a war only with catapults.
N4G has a forum, you probably never noticed it but there is one. And this forum, disregard N4G's huge community, is pretty poorly frequented. There are several reasons for this, but one of the main reason is Randomicity. Randomicity is a "Your though of the day" thread, where you can post whatever you want because nobody will actually read you or reply, excepted few ones. Randomicity is a plague similar to "Official help thread" in other forums. A forum is set to welcome various subjects but creating a "whatever subject thread" is purely and simply inciting people to focus on a single thread instead of a forum. As a result, Randomicity is the only very active thread, letting the rest of the forum half-dead. As some forum people are begging for activity, we can see some members profiting of that weakness to submit garbage threads, like "Why carrots are orange" or "bananas help you fight against cancer".
- Real fanboys and false fanboys:
It may be weird to say but you'll understand soon enough. Like said previously, some people profit of the lack of moderating activity to start and feed flamebaits. You have flamebait "journalists" like HipHopGamer, Destructoid, GameThirst or VGArabia that degrade the quality of news, and you have the fanboys that love to speak in propaganda language. Usually, those people talk like that because they believe in what they say, they defend their console of choice as much as possible and blind themselves from the hurting reality. But some other N4G members seem to appreciate to pretend being a hard fanboy so they take real fanboys in their war. People like Bungie or Saaking can be one and only person even though their opinion is radically different. But they put so much effort to be ridiculous in their propaganda it simply cannot be possible they don't do it deliberately. Why would they do that? Just like with BIoodmask. For the fun to make angry real fanboys and start poor flamebaits. With such mentality in the community, no doubt other sites bash N4G for being a pathetic fanboy land.
- Useless report system:
This is directly related to the N4G's hidden rules, as an article, no matter its quality or its content, can be approved even if it has 50 reports. "This console stinks because I say so", even if it get one hundred reports, as long as it gets 10 approvals it's published and can appear on the front page. As a result, some people exploit that weakness in N4G to get approved by their friends in 2 minutes, whatever is the content, generating mostly hard flamebaits. And as flamebaits reveal the worst side of a community, the more there are flamebaits, the more external people will find that community retarded. Usually, moderators delete lame stories several hours they have been published, but this represent less than 10% the number of reported stories that get approved nonetheless.
- No longer reward quantity over quality:
If you delete the contribution point system, if you stop reward every month the most active contributor or if you reward quality and not quantity (with a quality average, for example), spamming contributors will certainly post far less articles. Yes, it will certainly hurt the post frequency in N4G, but not enough to kill the site and make running away the community.
- Do not authorize non-English-speaking reviews:
If news can still hold its importance, it's not the case for reviews. Eurogamer for example belongs to an European network, with Eurogamer UK, Eurogamer France, Eurogamer Spain, Eurogamer Italy, etc... But is it necessary to submit each Eurogamers' review of a same game? Certainly not. There are hundreds of gaming sites that are already available only in English, it's a fair enough number for reviews, we do not need to eat Google translated reviews that nobody will read (we all know how accurate is an automatic translation, right?).
- Do not authorize reviews of games that released more than one month ago:
Not necessarily one month, it's an arbitrary number I took myself, but at least we should define a time limit in which we can submit reviews of a game. Some contributors seem to appreciate to post Bayonetta, Saboteur or Dark Void reviews whereas they released a bunch of time ago and their reviews are no longer newsworthy.
- Hire moderators. Active moderators:
It's simple. So far we can only note how much trolling we see in the comment section, how many spam threads are created every day on the forums, yet we have to wait several hours to possibly see a moderating action. I don't know how much are N4G's revenues but it wouldn't hurt to see more moderators, and more effective ones. I'm pretty sure there are even some active N4G members that would fulfill the role for free.
- Divide the Pending section by type of story:
Right now every submitted article lands in the Pending section. The site can deal with a hundred news per day and the Pending section becomes quickly a big tote bag. The division of the Pending section in several categories can control the flood and gain in readability. We can separate it in 4 sections for example, the News and Rumors section, the Articles section, the Medias (screenshots, images and trailers) section and the Review and Preview section.
- Kill Randomicity, be tolerant with newly created threads:
It's rather simple, Randomicity is where we talk about anything and it represents the half of the forum activity. I'd even dare to say it prevents some forum members to create threads, and then provide a more perceptible activity on the forum. Closing it and allowing members to create general discussions may not drastically boost the forum activity, but it's certainly not a good thing to keep Randomicity alive.
- Be ruder regarding fanboys, create a "Go to the Open zone" report:
So far many PS3 and Xbox 360 fanboys infest the Gamer Zone, a zone where we're supposed to talk neutrally about video games. The Open Zone only seem to exist for very extreme cases, letting more subtle trolls raging in the Gamer Zone. People showing explicitly a bias and feeding flamebaits should be thrown to the Open Zone, where their place belongs. And to help moderators in such task, we should be able to report comments to suggest the member to be banned from the Gamer Zone.
- A veto must exist:
Flamebait articles are constantly making the front page disregard how they violate the rules, and most of the time no moderator feels the need to intervene. High-ranked contributors should be able to prevent the approval of an article with a veto system. To avoid abuses, we may for example fix rules to have access to the veto (like seniority, number of articles approved, number of bubbles,...) and only give a limited amount of vetos per month for each high-ranked member.
- Create a blacklist for low quality websites:
Some sites use the N4G community to gain hits, and for this the best thing is to start flamebaits or to show boobs even if it's not related in any way to video games. Those sites feed the trolls in the comment sections and softly corrupt the community with their garbage. So there should be a blacklist to prevent those sites to be submitted on N4G, like Loot-Ninja and its weekly cosplay spam or GameThirst, formerly a poor N4G member blog that received a domain name to look more legitimate. I know HipHopGamer can afford to change his submissions to follow a more quality feedback so I won't blame him, and GamesRadar's quality increased few months ago, but other sites still need to be banned from here.
- Create a Reply option to reports and make anonymous the reports:
When someone reports your story but you think he's wrong, you have three options: either you report your own story as an answer to the report and explain why the previous report is wrong, either you wait for the approval of your article disregard the report (which once again proves the inefficiency of the report system), either you send a PM to the guy that reported it to explain why he's wrong. In any way, that system is weak and should be reinforced. There should be a way to reply to the report directly through the report system, without being counted as a report and automatically sending a notification to the one who reported it. And if this is done, reports should be rendered anonymous in order to prevent "personal revenges" from people that got reported.
- Force contributors to approve stories:
Yes, force them. There are many contributors on N4G, yet we still have 10 to 15 pages of pending stories that still need to be approved. Contributors don't seem to feel the need to approve stories, they submit and submit all over again and wait to be approved. We should force them to approve, for example blaming them if they don't fulfill a certain approval quota, this quota increasing with the contributor rank. A basic contributor should for example approve 10 stories a week while contributors with a higher rank should approve 25 stories a week. If he doesn't, either he temporarily loses his contribution privilege, either his contributor rank decreases and he loses his contribution importance. It's certainly a big measure but it is necessary if we don't want the Pending section to struggle in a constant flood.