Posted on July 6, 2012 by zlasher12
Zelda Informer (ZI) is a community based upon one of the most popular and iconic video game companies of all time, Nintendo. They post columns and articles about upcoming Nintendo news (with the Zelda franchise as a focus), as well as maintain a forum and wiki for all things Zelda. Though there are already tons of communities and fan sites all over the internet about Nintendo, ZI prides themselves in being a central location for professionalism and integrity when it comes to discussing the franchise.
I took some time down with the co-owner and Senior Executive Editor, Nathanial Rumphol-Janc, to talk about his community and Disqus.
Hi Nathanial, thank you for taking the time to answer this interview. Would you like to start off by introducing yourself, and giving a small history of your website?
I’m Nathanial Rumphol-Janc, Co-Owner of ZI. I manage pretty much all aspects of the site, from the news team, to the technical team, PR, and pretty much anything that happens in regards to a website (and there is a lot that happens). ZI has been around since July 16th, 2007 when we were formed from a combination of gaming enthusiasts from a now dead site known as VGRC, as well as some amazing Zelda fans. They simply wanted to have a truly impactful Zelda fan site that could do things in a professional manner, cater to an older audience, and truly appreciate their editorial prowess.
As anyone who has tried before, it’s understandably hard to start any new site. I wasn’t with the site at it’s start, but rather joined up on ZI’s one year anniversary on July 16th, 2008. I came on fully as a co-owner dropping my other projects at the time (I ran my own Zelda fan site for about 8 years prior to joining ZI) because I saw a lot of potential. ZI has always had a bevy of great writers, they simply needed a small push and some direction. ZI has since grown by a large margin. When I came on we were at 200 unique visits a day. Today, we are now serving 16,000 unique visitors daily, and days above 20 to 30,000 are quite common. Our record day is 119,000 set last November. We started as a Zelda fan site, but have since expanded to be one of the premier Nintendo news and editorial websites on the net.
How did the community start off, and what was the growing process of the website? We see a lot of unique and new content being published on the site every day, from several different writers.
Well, we worked diligently to provide the best Zelda news available on the net, while providing insightful Zelda theory editorials. We worked with competing sites, and sites a bit out of our spectrum, to get our material advertised and to get our name out there. I also spent a lot of time messing around with Google and trying to get our SEO rankings to be at a respectable level so people could find us without the aid of other websites. Eventually, we expanded off an experiment week into all things Nintendo, due to the popularity and success of the endeavor. It wasn’t met without complications of course, but we expanded our staff to accommodate the increasing news flow, which is why today you see a lot of content published at the site daily, to the tune of an average of 15 posts a day (sometimes more depending on the flow of news). As we expanded, so did our fan base, and conversely so did the activity in our commenting section. I could probably write a small book on the steps it took for us to rise to our present success. Hopefully we have much more growth in our future.
So moving from the articles to the comments, when did Zelda Informer decide to use Disqus as the commenting platform? Are there any features ZI likes, that Disqus offers?
I don’t recall the exact date off the top of my head, but I believe we started using Disqus in late 2010. We were looking at options to switch to from Intense Debate because there was a bug in their software causing us to have two separate streams of comments on our site. It was frustrating and they didn’t work with us to resolve the issue. However, that’s not to say Intense Debate is terrible. The software is certainly viable, but it wasn’t working out for us. That’s when I discovered Disqus, and it looked intuitive and simple enough to implement. Once we actually got the system up and running, we could not have been more pleased. I noticed it because other top gaming sites at the time were also using the same software, so it enticed me to give it a try.
Some of the biggest features our commenters enjoy (because hey, they use the system more than we as a staff do!) seem to be the quick and easy method to edit a comment without refreshing, the ability to upvote (and now downvote) a comment, collapsible comments, and the ability to register through various methods. They also enjoyed the fact I was able to set guests to have ZI related avatars to make the system truly seem at home. What I always liked was the ease of installation and even the simple conversion in switching from the CMS package of Movable Type to Expression Engine 2.x. Also, the moderation tools are simply fantastic, and seem to be much more intuitive compared to other systems I have tried.
Your website actually is one of the higher comment-traffic sites out there, in your opinion what is it about the Zelda/Nintendo community that may attribute to this?
First off, the Nintendo community, especially Zelda fans, are very vocal. We love them, and Nintendo loves them too. Many gamers are avid talkers, but the Nintendo fans are just something special and unique. We have a lot of rather intelligent conversations that break out in our comment section daily, along with the natural slew of confusion, and yes, occasional hate that every site gets. Another thing is that we are very interactive with our fans. A lot of sites sort of ignore the comment area - we instead read and respond to the commenters in a very personal manner. We feel maintaining that connection with the fans is important. A combination of having a very vocal fan base in general, combined with our own interactivity, helps keep the comment area and the entire community booming.
The fans of Nintendo series and platforms simply love to have their voices heard. It also helps that Nintendo apparently listens. They may not read the comments, but we do, and sometimes we create articles based on the user demand, and then sometimes Nintendo happens to respond. Take Operation Moonfall, which we started and Eiji Aonuma has recognized already. All based on fan demands and the words of Eiji himself. It’s nice knowing as a community that sometimes what you say could help have an impact.
Recently, Disqus 2012 became publicly available, and ZI switched over right away. What did you guys see in Disqus 2012 that made you want to switch and support our new version?
There were some things I didn’t like about the old Disqus system. One of them was the nesting, and how it was never ending. Meaning, you could nest and re-nest as much as you want until the comments start people one line per letter. In fact, we had some fans poke fun at it over the years. Disqus 2012 completely eliminated that problem, allowing a combination of nesting and twitter/facebook style @replies to keep the comment area in a respectable reading range. That’s the real reason we upgraded right away.
After updating, I noticed a lot of added features that made we wish this was available much sooner. Related content as an example. The tabs at the top switching between community, comments, statistics. There is also the ability to follow registered users so you get updated when they comment. It’s very in-tune with the social media aspect that has become popular lately. There is a lot more we like too, but I can be here all day singing the praises of Disqus 2012. It feels like you took an already good commenting system, and went all Assassin’s Creed II on us. Taking what worked, eliminating what didn’t, and providing us the best possible user experience we could have.
Do you feel that you get a combination of people that comment once, along with users who are regulars, and consistently provide high quality posts? Are there any specific users that you really enjoy their opinions or insights when they comment on an article?
We do get a pretty decent combination of one time commenters and regulars who provide very insightful material. We even have regulars who posts as guests. I wish they would register so they could take full advantage of the system, but to each their own. In particular, I think masterthatsword as a registered member always has insightful things to say, and the_voice, who I don’t believe has registered yet, always adds great depth to the conversation. The truth of the matter is we have so many different commenters, many of which are regulars, that it’s hard to point out any one person in particular. They are all fantastic, even the trolls! haha
Lastly, we love the community you guys have grown based around a common love for a franchise and company. Do you have any last comments about Disqus, or any shoutouts or plugs you would like to give?
We appreciate the fact you guys chose us and recognizes our success as a website both commercially and as a community. It’s always nice knowing that our hard work is being noticed, and more importantly it’s a big thumbs up to our fan base who keeps expanding and sticking with us over the years. Disqus has helped us increase user interactivity to a level that even some forums can’t achieve, and for that we are thankful. We don’t have any plans to switch from the Disqus platform in the near future, or possibly ever if it keeps improving the way it has to this point. A big thanks goes out to Damir Halilovic, one of our Senior Editors and Technical Administrators, and Dennis Wyman, who helped transition our entire commenting system into our new layout and new CMS a couple months ago. It was a great achievement. Also, we would like to thank the entire Disqus team for providing excellent customer support, and clearly listening to the demands of its users in creating Disqus 2012. Oh, and the one button simple upgrade? Please keep doing that.
Again, I want to thank our guest, Nathanial of Zelda Informer. Please take some time to follow Zelda Informer on their social media websites:
And as always, follow us as well, for news and announcements relating to Disqus and online commenting all over.
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