Unions: Version 2 (Let's keep discussion on topic)

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#1 Posted by Sentinelrv (23386 posts) -

Unions: Version 2: (Thread Created 8/2/06)

NOTE: I'm not updating this thread anymore, because The HeadCrab Union has moved off of GameSpot because of a loss of hope that this project will ever see the light of day. It's up to you what you want to do with your union, but think before you act.

Just to give people some back story, The HeadCrab Union was going to move off of GameSpot, but I was contacted by Greg Kasavin (Read the conversation here) asking us not to leave, and to give the union system one more chance. He told me to provide him with a list of things I thought unions should have, so I took a couple weeks and brainstormed ideas, and tried to put them all together. All my ideas can be found below.

The Inside of a Union:

The first half of this large site enhancement deals with the insides of a union. Everything from what is displayed to how the staff manages their union's content can be found here. I'll start by showing off a concept image of what my vision is for the new union system, and then I'll explain every feature in detail. I'll be using The HeadCrab Union in every example.

Affiliates Bar:

We should have the ability to show off our affiliated sites and unions in a highly visible location, and the best spot for this is the affiliates bar at the top of GameSpot. Affiliating with other sites or unions gains us permanent advertisements on the other end, but we need to be able to display these affiliates in a visible location on our union, or it isn't really worth it for other sites or unions to affiliate with us. There would be a section in the admin tab that allows us to input two pieces of info, the affiliate's name and link for that affiliate. If a union has so many affiliates that they can't include all the names on the bar, then they could input the name "More," and then link it to an article or thread within the union that displays the rest of the info.

Customizable Double Navigation System:

The customizable double navigation system is one of the most important features in this thread. It's the very thing that connects a viewer with the rest of the union. Content driven unions would find this extremely useful. This feature would allow a union to replace GameSpot's navigation system with their own content, allowing visitors a great way to find information on the union, and union leaders the ability to show off their content easily. When you click on a section in the top navigation bar, the bottom navigation bar expands on what you selected with more options. Don't worry about getting back to GameSpot's features, since they'll still all be linked at the bottom of any page on the union.

We'd be able to do other things too, such as arranging the navigation buttons in the order we want them to appear, or separating sets of buttons. For example, the gray buttons in the example image are union pages, and the dark gray buttons are game pages that we could create.

The biggest reason why this is so essential to union leaders is because it takes a massive amount of time to build a navigation system of our own. Take The HeadCrab Union's current navigation system for example. It took me about three months working on it before it was complete. The entire nav system consists of hundreds of images, and replicates GameSpot's nav system. Why not create a system where a union's nav system doesn't have to be created manually with images of all things. Why not take three days to set everything up instead of three months?

Content Pages:

Content pages are exactly what the name implies. They're pages that hold content, whether they're news articles, game guides, previews, interviews, videos, downloads, forums, etc... Content pages can be created the current quick way using the Publish page. I say the quick way, because in this version of the union system, the publish page is a shortcut to creating content pages. The more official way of doing it in Unions: Version 2 would be by using the content page management system in the admin tab. With this content page management system, you'll be able to create content pages, and then take advantage of the new double bar navigation system by naming the page, and putting it somewhere in the navigation system. You can either make it a main content page on the top bar, a sub-content page that goes on the bottom bar, or maybe something even lower, such as an article.

The point here is that this is where you create content pages and choose where they'll go in the navigation system.

When you first start a union, you'll have to setup your navigation system, and that starts with creating content pages and arranging them onto the nav bars. You'll be able to create main content pages such as a Features page (In the example image above) that holds the union's features, and any others that you want. Once you create these main pages, name them and anything else you have to do to them, you can link them onto the top navigation bar. After your main content pages are all setup, you can work on creating the sub-content pages. These will appear in the bottom navigation bar under any of the main content pages that you select. For example, a path that we chose in the HCU's navigation system is Features/Game Guides/ Half-Life 2: Episode One Game Guide. The leader will need to set this whole navigation system up the way they want it.

After we create the content pages and organize them into the navigation system the way we want, we'll need to arrange the content page setups using something I call the widget system. This allows you to alter any content page to make it appear however you want it. I'll explain this widget system in great detail later on.

There's one other option we should be able to have when creating content pages that hold things like previews, interviews or game guides in them. Some of these require more than one page to display all the content, so it should be possible to extend a content page using the previous and next buttons onto another page. I currently use image page buttons. For an example, check one of our game guides here, and look at the page buttons at the bottom.

Permanent Navigation:

Before I go further, let me make it clear that these are the customizable buttons on the union I'm talking about right now. The other set of navigation buttons appear under a union's banner exactly where they do now. These buttons are too important to the union, and need to be there always. Notice that I've added the "Track - Join" buttons there and gave them a different color to increase their importance. Moving those buttons there will make it easier for users to join, since it's more visible. After the join button is clicked, it will disappear unless that member resigns from the union. That's another important part. The only way to resign from a union would be in the member's profile under the Unions tab. I don't agree that members should be able to view the admin tab of the union. Anything in there should be private, and only for the leader or officers to see. Union officers or leaders will also have extra buttons displayed. They are Publish, Upload, and Admin. Publish lets an article writer post an update aka content page. Upload lets them upload images, videos, or files. Admin takes them to the administration section of the union.

First Time Visit:

Joined or Tracked:

Leader or Officer:

Customizable Union Invitations:

There is also another button called Invite that is viewable by anyone in the union. It's a more obvious way for people to invite others to come visit the union. It would no longer be hidden this way.The Invite section could allow users to email their friends about the union, or send out a customizable invitation. There should be a place in the admin section where the union leader can attach a message that would be sent out with all automated union invitations, which will give a little preview of the union to the possible new member. The member sending the invitation should also have the ability to enter in a little message to the person they're sending the invitation to.

Living in the Shadow of GameSpot:

Part of the reason why the ability to create a double navigation bar of our own is so important, is because it would would help us stand on our own, and not live in the shadow of GameSpot. Instead, it would allow us to show off our features, and not GameSpot's features. It would help the union members and visitors to feel as if the union wasn't just a tiny feature of GameSpot's, and instead, it was something big that just happens to be located on-site. This would give viewers and outside visitors a bigger reason to respect us. I don't want them to consider us just another forum attached to GameSpot.......We're much bigger than that. I think unions could become as big as GameSpy's planet sites, but GameSpot would need to grant us that freedom by unchaining us from their navigation system, and allowing union leaders to build their own.

Get Rid of the Union Level System:

The union level system has had nothing but a negative impact on unions and their communities. I mentioned this before, but some admins disagreed with me saying that the levels are what make unions different or special. I say that if it has a negative impact this bad then ditch the whole system. Spend time creating union site enhancements instead of constantly fixing the broken level system.

Most people create unions only for the sake of trying to level up and become more popular. They have no plans for the union. People spam unions with game threads all the time in an attempt to try and level up. Every single time they gain a new level, they need to celebrate it with an article, which is spam by the way, and isn't what unions should be about. People overlook other better unions and head only for the higher level unions, not even knowing that a lot of them are spam unions that spammed their way up to the top. Union leaders get frustrated, since their level isn't going up, so then they make the mistake of trying to order around their members to go post on the union board, and then it all falls apart from there.

I want people to have a reason to make a union other than leveling up. With the level system gone, I would imagine only the union leaders that are serious about their unions (delivering quality news and content)would continue with them, and the union leaders that only have a goal to make the level meter go up would stop, and the spam unions would all die out.There wouldn't be anymore reason to spam the union, because it would be accomplishing nothing. All the non-serious union leaders would have no reason to continue. This would hopefully mean we'd have a smaller closer tight knit community of quality unions.

Randomized Horizontal and Vertical Union Banners:

We should have the ability to link as many union banners as we want, and whenever the page is refreshed, the union would randomly pick one out of a selection to display. We could also take this idea further and allow certain pages on the union to show specific banners. For example, the home page could have banners showing off the union's name, and one of our game pages such as Half-Life 2 would feature banners based on that game. There should also be a way to add vertical banners on the left and right columns. Officially Sanctioned unions can do this.

Stats Page:

The stats page could be redone to show off more interesting things, such as the amount of unique daily hits certain pages of the union gets. That's another thing.....instead of us using 3rd party hit counters to track union activity, GameSpot should implement their own stat tracking, so it makes it easier on leaders to make decisions based on the amount of page hits their content gets. Leaders should be able to pick any page out of the union and put it in a tracking list for other members, or only the leader to see. Other things that should be added here are all the union game associations. They shouldn't be located on the front page, because it makes it look cluttered looking. Also, unions such as mine need more slots to add game associations, because we've passed the ten game limit. This gives us advertising on gamespaces since we're endorsed, so it's important to list all our associations.

Article Archive:

The union article archive in its current form is absolutely useless. There are only five categories, and most don't even apply to many unions. What's worse is that putting a union in certain categories don't even allow them to be viewed on the front page, which defeats the purpose of making the article in the first place. The archive needs to have customizable categories, so that a union leader can actually find a use for it. In the admin section, there should be an extra tab called "Archive." First I'll display this new tab's content, and then I'll explain its features.

Instead of having the default article categories Bulletin, Story, Op-Ed, Guide, and Rant, article writers would be able to create their own customizable article categories. We would be able to create as many categories as we want, and even create sub categories, which give us the ability to better organize our articles, so that our members will be able to locate the articles they want with complete ease. Right now nobody uses the archive because there is almost no organization, and it's impossible to find anything. If somebody wanted to look up a certain article on a Half-Life 2 mod in my union, they could do it by following an obvious path: Half-Life 2 Mods > Mod Name > Article. See how easy it is to look up important info? It even gives people a reason to come back to the union, which is to get info whenever they want it.

Article writers would need to select the category when they're creating the article. They'll also need to choose the navigation path, sothe path registers on the double bar navigation system. For example, using my example navigation system, the path of an article I create could be located here: HL2: EPS/Articles. This would highlight the HL2:EPS button on the top nav bar, and it would bold the articles button on the bottom nav bar. This makes it so the article's path is visible.

About the widget template drop down menu. If you remember, I said I'll get to the widget system later on.

There were some things that I thought of after I had already made the images, so I'll list them here. There should be a way to move a category/sub category into another category/sub category,turn a sub category into a main category, make a sub-sub category, etc... There should also be a way to add an article to multiple categories when creating it, since it's definitely possible that an article could relate to multiple categories.

Upload:

This is a very important addition to the union system, and certain parts of it might be too much to handle for a lot of union leaders, so it might be necessary to make parts of it available to endorsed unions only. It would allow article writers to upload images, videos, and files to the union for redistribution to its members and in articles.

#2 Posted by Sentinelrv (23386 posts) -

Images:

Right now we have to rely on 3rd party websites such as Photobucket to host our images for us. This makes us look less professional as a news site, and it would be much easier to be able to do it directly on the site with unlimited bandwidth and the knowledge that only our article writers can access this content. There's a certain way this image uploading system has to be implemented though. There needs to be a way to organize images so it's very easy to access them. We need to have the ability to create categories and sub categories, just like the archive system. There also needs to be ways to move images around. Something I hate about Photobucket is that if you move an image to another category in your account, the image link will be changed, which will also break that image anywhere you had linked it before. Instead of having it like GameSpot.com/Unions/HCU/Image/Category/Category/Category, where it shows the category, just replace it with a number that doesn't ever change if a category is renamed or an image is moved. For a great example of how the organization of categories and the images should be setup, just visit Photobucket.

There should be an option in the admin tab that allows union leaders to be able to openly display the union's image section to all members. Union leaders could place a link to this image section in the double bar navigation system discussed in the beginning of this thread.

Videos:

Officers and union leaders should be able to upload videos directly to the union, and not in their profiles. The reason for this is that if a member of the union's staff is banned for some reason, all the images in their profile would be deleted, which means all the videos uploaded for the union they're apart of wouldn't be accessible anymore. If they had uploaded the video directly to the union, then they wouldn't suddenly get deleted if the member is banned that uploaded them.

There should be an option in the admin tab that allows union leaders to be able to openly display the union's video section to all members. Union leaders could place a link to this video section in the double bar navigation system discussed in the beginning of this thread. Once a user clicks on our video section, the secondary navigation bar displays a set of customizable video categories, such as top videos, latest, trailers, gameplay, exclusive, etc...

Members of the union should also be able to upload user videos to the union, but that's up to the leader to decide. The leader can set it so anybody can upload videos to the union, they can upload videos, but must be accepted by the union staff first, or no videos can be uploaded.

All video uploading restrictions should be set aside when it comes to uploading to a union. Article writers that can't upload a video to their union due to restrictions creates a problem for union leaders.

Files:

This is the one that should probably be for endorsed unions only, since it could be abused, but that's up to GameSpot to decide. This is also probably the most important thing that could be uploaded, at least for our union. Since Half-Life 2 is a PC game, and the fact that it has the most modded game engine, there's always new files or mods released that we could upload for any one of our members to download. This feature alone could bring in Half-Life fans from all corners of the internet.....and the big thing is that it would continually keep them coming back for more! We would have something they need, and they need to come to us to get it.

There should be an option in the admin tab that allows union leaders to be able to openly display the union's download section to all members. Union leaders could place a link to this download section in the double bar navigation system discussed in the beginning of this thread. Once a user clicks on our downloads section, the secondary navigation bar displays a set of customizable download categories, such as top downloads, latest, patches, mods, exclusive, etc...

As with the videos, people should be able to upload files to us, but it's up to us whether to accept them or not.

Raise the Level to Create a Union:

A lot of people may not agree with this because they may be under the level required to create a union, but I still think it would help an extreme amount. Right now the level you need to be at to create a union is level six. This is much too low, and way too easy to achieve. The union system, especially with the amount of features this whole enhancement offers, is full of responsibility! It's a HUGE undertaking, and I would say that there's a bigger chance that people that are level 15 and up have a better knowledge of the site and unions, since the level is the scale that measures how active they are on the site. Having a higher level doesn't necessarily mean that they're going to create a successful union. A level two might be able to do a better job, but I'd say there's a bigger chance that a higher level user may be able to handle the job better because they have more experience on the site and unions than somebody that hasn't been around as long.

Level six isn't high enough to judge a person's commitment to the site either. Many people join GameSpot and post for a while gaining up to a small level number like six, and then slowly fade away never to return to the community. Somebody that's level 15-20 has showed their commitment to the site, since they're still posting after all that time. There's a lot better chance that a new GameSpot member at level six will create a union and end up abandoning it shortly after than a member that's been participating in the community for a long time.

There's also the fact that most people think that creating a union is the popular thing to do when they reach level six. It's nothing more than a power trip for a lot of people, a way to make them popular, until they see how much work it really is, and then back out of a dying union that was created without direction or purpose. This happens every single day. There are so many unions that people don't even look to see if the union they want to make already exists, and then we end up having 10 duplicate Halo unions, and nine of them end up dead and populating the union list. Level six and the ability to create a union is way too easy to achieve, and a level raise will put up a filter to help prevent a lot of the duplicate/spammy/non-serious unions.

I'd say it would be a lot better to have 100 great unions than 900 spammy/dead/duplicate unions and the good 100 hidden in the giant mess of a union list.

Merging Unions Should be Possible:

There are huge amounts of unions with the same subject, and if a union eventually fails, instead of allowing the union to die completely, the leader may choose to merge their union into another union, preferably with the same subject, that way an even stronger community could be built. There would need to be options to choose from though, such as which union remains, and which is......sucked up.

Advanced Permissions System:

The permissions system should be much better than what it is right now. In my version, a union leader would be able to set permissions for every single officer they have. They could restrict board moderation completely, and only let them control the union content. They could disable the control of the union content, and only allow them to be a board moderator. They could give them control to both sides, and even higher controls so they'd really be a co-leader. The permissions could be as small as not letting moderators delete threads, but allowing them to moderate, disabling the ability for one article writer to upload files, but allowing them to upload images and videos. With a permissions system this advanced, leaders could control every single thing their officers can and can't do.

Ban and Suspension List:

I don't agree with the fact that we have to come running to GameSpot's moderators to solve a problem for us. A union leader should have full control over his or her union, and not have to rely on others for help in the moderation department. We should have the ability to add user names to a ban list to keep them out of the union if they're acting up. We could also remove them from the list if we think they learned their lesson. This could act as a permanent ban list, or a way to manually suspend people from the union.

Telegram System:

There needs to be an editing toolbar added to the telegram system. Telegrams need to be sent to both joined and tracked members. When members receive the telegram, the "From" field should say the name of the union, and not the user name of the person that sent it. This will make it clear where this message is coming from. I always get telegrams from people, and wonder why they're sending them to me, only to realize later that they're from a union I joined. Also, the character limit for telegrams needs to be removed or increased by a lot, because I'm tired of having to separate large announcements into two or three PM's. This is annoying for people, and not everybody is going to read the entire message I have sent out, because they're too lazy to open up three separate PM's. Please remove the limit. I don't see what the point of one is anyway.

Member Purge System:

This would need to be optional, or at least I think others would like it to be. There are currently two types of membership. The way I see it, if you track a union, then you don't want to be active in the community, but you'd like to be able to keep track of it and get daily updates. If you join then you want the whole package, and that includes getting union updates as well as the ability to participate in the community by commenting on articles or posting, downloading files, etc... By the way, I'll explain later what I mean by receiving union updates.

Since these two memberships exist, there needs to be a way to keep all the members in the right membership category that's best for them. There needs to be an automatic member purge system created. If a person joins, but doesn't participate in the community, then after a while of inactivity they're sent a warning message telling them that they need to get more active in the union, or they're going to get booted as a community member, and the union will be placed on their tracked list, and they won't be able to participate in the community unless they join again. If they don't get active then this will happen. This may seem harsh, but it's my way to hopefully solve the problem of GameSpot members joining a union and not participating in it. This will either have them added to the tracked list, or they'll get more active in the community. There is no way around the system, and I believe that many more people will become more active than they are now, instead of being removed as an official member. If not, then there's nothing wrong with just tracking the union.

Motivational Emblems:

I think a lot of unions wish they were endorsed, but really have no idea of how to get there. If there were emblems created for the sole purpose of motivating union leaders and officers do better in certain areas, they'd have a better understanding of what makes an endorsed union, and how to get there. Motivational emblems could help leaders and officers push even harder to create better content. It could help to create goals for unions to accomplish, and eventually get better and better at what they do. Here are just some examples that I thought of...

Article Emblem: For unions that have very professional articles, whether it's writing, content, the way it's presented, etc...

Review Emblem: Given out to those unions that feature very nice reviews.

Interview: Given to unions that feature great interviews.

Video Emblem: Given to unions that feature great video coverage.

Info Emblem: This would be given out to unions that hold a lot of information on their games to help their members.

Emblems like these will give unions goals to accomplish other than to try and get endorsed. Many unions just want to get endorsed, but they don't know how to do it. These emblems would give them goals that they can work on, and then they will eventually get up to the point of becoming endorsed. It's the same for a home business or something. You know you want to make a lot of money, but without goals, you'll probably never make it, or lose interest half way through.

Union Deletion Button:

The activity emblems are helping to clean up the dead unions, but why not help it even more by providing a button in the admin section that deletes the union if a union leader doesn't want to continue with it. There is a way to delete them ourselves, but it isn't obvious to people. Just make sure to have a popup that asks if they're sure they want to delete the union. People could send union deletion links to others and trick them into deleting their unions.

The Widget System:

I mentioned this feature back in the beginning of the thread when I was talking about content pages. Well, this is where we can arrange content pages any way we want.

This is the single most important part of this whole union site enhancement list. The widget system is what's going to change unions forever. Look back up to the first image in this thread which displays my vision for what the future of unions should be. As you can see, it's drastically different from what we have now. It looks more like the front page of GameSpot. Most of what's up there takes advantage of a lot of the other things listed in this thread, such as videos, downloads, content pages, etc...so everything works together in this new system.

The current front page of a union consists of a larger left column, and smaller right column. The left column contains the last 20 articles and a place where we can describe the union, or add in links to important information. The right column contains the union level, emblems, game associations, the leader, latest posts, officers, and recruits. We cannot change anything on the front page except writing articles, and the short description. Most of what's on the front page is filler. The different sections take up so much space by including avatars and separator lines, and there are way too many articles shown. It makes you feel as if you could scroll down the page forever.

What we need is customization, and a better way to show off our content. The current front page is plain and looks the same as every other union, and it doesn't allow us to show off our content the way we want to. As GameSpot employees should be well aware of, the content of your site is what draws in your viewers, so of course you're going to do everything possible to make sure all kinds of content is easily viewable on the front page. In the current unions we can't do that. We can only write articles and link to threads on the union short description. We need to solve these problems, and the widget system can help us.

Widgets are separate assortments of information and content that can be created, saved, edited, moved around, removed, or deleted. Some widgets in my example image above are the latest news articles widget, latest posts, picture of the day, latest videos, features, downloads, etc... All of these are different pieces of information or content that have been typed up, created, arranged, or uploaded by officers.

With the union widget system, the union leader will be able select from a range of pre-made default widgets that GameSpot created, (and can continue to create as requested from leaders) edit them to their liking, and then arrange them on different parts of any content page on the union. For example, (Look at the image above) let's say I go into the admin tab, and into the widgets section. I select the home page out of a list of all the content pages I have on the union, and I'll arrange the positioning of the widgets on the front page. Every content page in the union will be able to have its own widget setup, so there's plenty of room for variety and customization for each content page you create. The officers will be able to edit the contents of certain widgets, or maybe not. It all depends on how the leader sets up his advanced permissions. They could even set it so certain officers could create widgets.

Anyway, we selected the home page, and that brings up the current widget setup for the home page. (Left and Right Columns) Let's say that we made a new article on Half-Life 2: Episode One, and wanted to show it off on the Image Headline Widget. We'd just look at the existing widgets on the home page on the left column until we find that widget. All we need to do here is fill in the missing information to update that widget. (Image link, article link, video link, etc...) If you need to reposition the widget on the content page then do it and then hit save.

Let's say we didn't have a poll on the page, but wanted it to be there. Just look through the list of new widgets that could be created, select the poll one, and click create widget. Do the same thing here...enter in the widget information and hit save. If you wanted to take it off the page without deleting the widget, then click on the remove button. It will then be stored in the extra widgets section.

#3 Posted by Sentinelrv (23386 posts) -

Every single pre-made widget that we have to choose from will have different ways to edit them. Maybe we wanted the latest news widget to show 3 stories instead of 20. We'd just have to enter that in as one of the options. If I wanted one widget to rank the most visited game pages on our union, I'd just create a rankings widget and enter in all the game page links we have, and the union would order them based on how many hits all those pages had.

There are endless possibilities with a system like this, and it can only expand. GameSpot could just keep creating new kinds of widgets to select from.

Widget Templates:

If you remember in the new article archive system I described, there was something in the image I created of the publish page called widget templates.  It was a drop down menu where you had a selection of different widget templates to use for the article you were creating.

Let me give you an example of a page where I use widgets to customize it. If one of my main content pages was a game page for Half-Life 2: Episode One, (It would be linked in the top nav bar) I could set the article listing on that page only for the Episode One articles. This would take advantage of the new article archive system. I could set the image or video listing only for Episode One Images and Videos. I could set the topics in our forum only for the Episode One board. This would make a complete content page/game page for Half-Life 2: Episode One.

What would happen is that I could save that widget setup on that page as a template to use for writing articles later on. For example, if I was in the publish page creating a new article for Episode One, I could just select the Episode One template I just saved from the drop down menu. This would make it so that when viewing my newly created Episode One article, only Episode One widgets would appear on the page.

Union Forums:

The union forum is not a plain old user created board, so please don't treat it as one. They're supposed to be news sites, and they usually require multiple boards, especially since they have varied subjects. Having only one board makes the whole union seem like it's really small. Every single kind of thread needs to be compacted into one board. It makes the board cluttered, and then there's the chance of people seeing spoilers, so they avoid the forums all together. We should be able to create multiple boards just like regular sites can, and separate the different types of subjects the union contains into different boards.

The latest posts widget on the home page would show the latest posts from all boards, but then if I went into the Half-Life 2: Episode One game page on our union, I could have a widget that only shows the latest posts from the Half-Life 2: Episode One board. This would mean that when creating that latest posts widget for that game page, I'd have to make sure I made it so only posts from a certain board work on it. One more smaller thing is that we should be able to create a forum where only officers and the leader can talk, and no recruit can see the threads or posts. This board could be used for planning things for the union. I'm sure you guys wouldn't want to discuss all your future plans for GameSpot in front of your members, so we should be able to talk to each other in privacy also.

Union Announcements:

The union announcements is something that I've always wanted. It's a way to directly connect with all of your active community members. Sometimes it can be hard for a union leader to get their voice out to their members, and something like this would help us out greatly.

Leader Board and Union Member Levels:

I believe the leader board should be brought back from the dead, but in the form of a union widget. Every recruit would have their own union level that would be visible in any of their posts under their main GameSpot level. To raise it, they'd need to do things on the union such as posting, reading articles, visiting, watching videos, etc... We'd also be able to enter our own customizable union level names. I think that something like this could maybe help to raise the activity of the union. If for some reason it created spam then it's a widget, so we could just remove it from the forums page.

Redirect Members After Joining, and Send out Customizable Welcome PM's:

First of all, I wanted a small change done to the way people join a union. When the join button is selected, instead of the page being reloaded with a hard to find confirmation link, make the confirmation link a popup. People might not even know that there is a second step in joining a union, and end up not joining properly.

Secondly, a union leader should be able to enter a link somewhere in the admin tab, and when somebody joins, they are redirected to that link. This could be used to redirect people to an introduction thread to immediately get them familiar with the union and its community. This is a great way of raising the participation of a new member. The most critical point is when people are making the decision to join. Anything that happens at that time can have a lasting appeal on the new member. We want to blow them away so they'll stay and visit regularly!

The last thing is that besides a redirect link, there should also be something that sticks with the new member. This would be a customized PM that is automatically sent out the moment they join. It could be a welcome PM with forum rules, information, etc...


The Outside of a Union:


Now that we have a spectacular new union system that can help leaders to take their unions even farther than before, now it's time to work on something that's one of the most important aspects of unions, and also something that needs serious improvement......Union Advertising! Without this, unions won't get new members, and they won't grow. We've already improved one area of this by putting the Invite tab on the permanent union navigation, but there are plenty of other ways to draw in new members to a union.

Add a "unions button" to the GameSpot Navigation System:

This would be a major step for GameSpot to take, but I think that a lot of these enhancements should be implemented before this one is, because we would want unions looking their best before they're advertised this extreme on GameSpot.

Anyway, I believe that GameSpot should add a unions button to their navigation system, because it should be separate from the forums section of the site. The forums include the main forums and UCB's. They're all boards. Unions are different though. They're a huge part of the site, mini sites that offer non-official news to other members, but the problem is that the unions are too hidden from most of GameSpot's viewers, and many don't even know that they exist. Unions could become a gigantic part of GameSpot if they are taken seriously. The unions would be the center of all unofficial news on GameSpot, but what's good about it is that it would be a main place to go for people to find news that GameSpot doesn't even have the time to cover, as well as main news. This would be the ultimate game news center for GameSpot. It would contain all game news, and not just the limited amount of things that GameSpot has the time to cover.

Like I said though, unions would have to be greatly improved before taking this step, and the page that the unions button leads to would have to be better than the Union Categories Page. The union categories page is mainly a giant list of unions. There's so many unions in each category that it almost doesn't help to have categories at all. There needs to be a better way to sort through them, so people can find unions that they're interested in.

Union Updates, Connecting a Recruit Directly with Their Unions:

On the left side of the union updates page, it would feature all of the latest articles from all the different unions you're a member of or tracking. What would be featured here is the short description of your union article. People can either add the entire article, or a preview so that they'd need to visit the union to view the whole thing. On the right side, endorsed unions would get their own much needed special attention by having all their latest updates shown, and under that every union update would be featured. Maybe under that there could be one for officially sanctioned unions, but they're not as important, since they're not trying to build a community. They're just advertising their games, and will eventually stop updating. Up at the top, I've included links to all the different kinds of unions, that way people have a direct connection with every union on GameSpot. I've also included the union search, and a link to the advanced union search which I'll explain later.

I hope you're seeing how important this enhancement is for the entire union system. This could completely change the activity pattern of unions.

GameSpot's Editors Should Support Endorsed Unions in GameSpot Content:

Something which I hate is the fact that GameSpot could easily help support their own endorsed unions in related GameSpot content, but they don't. They could do this in video reviews, written reviews, articles, interviews, On the Spot, etc...

For example, if there was an article about Half-Life or VALVe, GameSpot's editors should include a sentence in the article such as "If you'd like to receive even more news from our community,  then join GameSpot's endorsed HeadCrab Union." If the union has a short address such as the HCU's www.HCUnion.com, then give that out to better help them find it. If there's a video review on the latest VALVe game, point viewers in the direction of the HCU after everything else is out of the way. As of right now, the opinion of most union leaders is that we're ignored by GameSpot's staff, or maybe they act like we don't exist, so any promotion for GameSpot's endorsed unions on articles or video content would be greatly appreciated by the entire community! Is it really that hard?

Endorsed and Officially Sanctioned Union Updates on GameSpot's Front Page:

You have community related widgets on the front page of GameSpot such as user reviews and user videos, but there is nothing for unions, which is a large feature on the site. I always hear from people that they never knew unions even existed until they noticed them one day, so this feature is taking a back seat ride.....Putting a widget on the front page about unions would guarantee that everybody knows about them. I imagine things like this on the front page are hand selected, but union updates could be done differently. In my opinion, endorsing a union or sanctioning it means that GameSpot trusts that union to deliver quality news to their members, so with this, GameSpot wouldn't need to hand select articles to include on the front page. It would be an automatic process. The widget would be updated every time a new article is created for an endorsed or sanctioned union. The only thing is that GameSpot would need to endorse more unions, because there are currently only three. There are plenty of good ones that could be endorsed, so that wouldn't be a problem.

More Related Unions Widgets:

When you go to a games gamespace, you'll see a widget on the right side of the page called "Related Unions." This widget should be carried on to other pages, such as pages with articles that relate to our unions. This shouldn't be a gamespace exclusive thing.

Forum Redirection:

This would be an endorsed union only feature. If somebody goes into a gamespace that the HCU is associated with such as Half-Life 2, and if they click on the Forums tab, then they'd be given a choice to go to that games real forum, or to The HeadCrab Union's forum, since it's also a community for that game.

Union Preview Descriptions:

If we go to a game's gamespace, we'll see a related unions section.

If we click on the All Related Unions link, then we'll be brought to a page like this...

As you can see, this page features the union's current short description, but since the short description isn't going to be a main part of the union anymore because of the widget system, we're going to need a place in the union to type out a description. That's not really what this is about though. If you go to the union categories page, where all unions are featured, then you'll see a similar page, but it looks like this...

Since the union categories section is probably one of the main places for people to look up unions, it would only make sense to put the union descriptions on these pages also. People aren't going to click on every single union to see what it is, so that's why the union description is needed. It gives a little preview to people searching through the lists, instead of making them guess by looking at the title.

The Advanced Union Search:

The current union search is hidden. It's not even located in the regular seach in the forum index, and that's a big problem. The current union search is also bad. The only thing that it picks up is the name of the union, so if you don't already know the name of the union, then you're out of luck. There needs to be an advanced union search which will help us find unions we'd be interested in. We'd be able to type in the name of a game, and if a union is associated with that game, then it would be listed in the search results.

Connecting with Gamespaces:

I'm not sure if this should be an endorsed only feature, but unions should be connected with their associated game's gamespaces somehow. I'm not sure how it would work with unions that cover entire consoles though. They wouldn't be able to use something like this, since they have all different kinds of articles.

#4 Posted by Dutch_Mix (29266 posts) -
I don't know who in their right mind wouldn't support this. Great work, Sent.
#5 Posted by shanman31 (1511 posts) -
Awesome! I think these ideas are great!
#6 Posted by srraven (524 posts) -
Totally agree,really good Post.And now I know what the Headcrab Union is about,I always thought it was some Random name with a lot of good Reviews and Articles.Or of course a Genji 2 Union. So yeah,I agree in every Aspect and personally think that Gamespot should hire you because you got the Visions that Gamespot needs.
#7 Posted by Disgaeamad (19316 posts) -
As I stated in the thread over at the HCU, this is the perfect plan for Gamespot Union's. Great work in making all the mock-up's, Sent :)
#8 Posted by lunaticsynapse (2731 posts) -
That is amazing.  I completely agree with all of that.  Let's hope Gamespot see's the potential you want to give the union's in as much light as we do.
#9 Posted by LTomlinson21 (24423 posts) -

Sentinel you have done a fantastic job on this, and I have been very pleased watching you create it over time in the SE union!

#10 Posted by nuttybar (9624 posts) -
this would possibly be the greatest improvement gamespot has ever done, and they would be crazy not to do this.
#11 Posted by Sentinelrv (23386 posts) -
Just so you guys know, I'm sick of waiting for a reply on this, so I just decided to post it here and gain support.
#12 Posted by Disgaeamad (19316 posts) -
Just so you guys know, I'm sick of waiting for a reply on this, so I just decided to post it here and gain support.Sentinelrv
You still didn't get a reply from Greg?
#13 Posted by xoverkillx (3320 posts) -
Awesome! I don't think many people could of done it better.. This will make unions so much better, and more useful.. Great Job
#14 Posted by maa4208 (14543 posts) -
That sucks about no reply yet, but I've supported this when I first heard about it. Don't expect me to back down now.
#15 Posted by Sentinelrv (23386 posts) -
The union system has the potential of becoming as large as GameSpy's Planet Sites, something which would help gain GameSpot a lot more viewers. They would only need to implement ideas such as these so a large fan site could function properly on GameSpot. Right now it's very hard to function properly.
#16 Posted by Wallace_Green (1778 posts) -
It looks out standing I really hope this follows through.
#17 Posted by dbz345 (17980 posts) -
The sheer amount of work put into this "mega-suggestion" makes even the most optimistic people wonder... will GameSpot really put most of this into unions? Its just so much that I can't see it ALL making it into unions. But well, it helps to hope. If even half the things stated above comes true... then I'm sure unions will at last shine. Thats great work there, though I'm surprised there STILL hasn't been a response.
#18 Posted by peregrine93 (919 posts) -
That...looks...AWSOME! That should be done.
#19 Posted by LTomlinson21 (24423 posts) -

Remember, if this doesn't happen, unions will fall, and they will eventually be replaced.  Right now unions are so basic and every union, is literally, the same, for the most part.  This is what could separate the best from the others, and if the leader and it's officers choose to customize, they could make a union very powerful and really attractive.  Thus, your union could be one of the best, and quite active.

As of now, you can't really do anything to your union to make it worth visiting again, or make people wanting to look for updates on your union.

#20 Posted by _Sam_ (31483 posts) -
I completely support this. If the GameSpot administrators care about the survival of Unions, this is the answer
#21 Posted by yellosnolvr (19302 posts) -
100% supported
#22 Posted by Sentinelrv (23386 posts) -
I should probably mention that the tracked union updates in the top right corner of the screen is the most important thing on this list, and should be done first. If anything is to be done, please do this!
#23 Posted by Philz20 (2091 posts) -
As a leader and officer of a few struggling unions, these features would benefit us a lot. Those features will make people join up, and will guarantee a union's success for a long time. If GameSpot decides to implement this, I hope this takes weeks to implement, not months. Making unions better should be a very high priority of theirs.
#24 Posted by Narasil (923 posts) -
wow, this is very well put together. its a whole package of great ideas. i completely support this and agree with everything written
#25 Posted by billjakybob (14574 posts) -
The union system has the potential of becoming as large as GameSpy's Planet Sites, something which would help gain GameSpot a lot more viewers. They would only need to implement ideas such as these so a large fan site could function properly on GameSpot. Right now it's very hard to function properly.Sentinelrv
i totally agree with you and i like your version 2 of the unions i would bring a lot more people to them and that union update at the top should be a must, you always have good ideas Sentinelrv i love this one as well
#26 Posted by billjakybob (14574 posts) -
I should probably mention that the tracked union updates in the top right corner of the screen is the most important thing on this list, and should be done first. If anything is to be done, please do this!Sentinelrv
agreed once again it will bring more people to your union
#27 Posted by sonicmj1 (9130 posts) -
I'm not a big union person, but this would be totally sweet if it happened, and it doesn't even sound tremendously hard to implement.

Do it!
#28 Posted by ClayMeow (3694 posts) -
I support most of those suggestions.  Great job!  Why only most, and not all?  Well, I think at times you were focusing on separating yourself from gamespot rather than integrating.  For example, I don't think Gamespot wants you to get rid of their "double navigation bar" as you call it.

Also, I'm not sure if you considered the ability to have co-leaders in your suggestion about being able to set permissions, but if not, I'd suggest that ability as well.
#29 Posted by GFreeman1998 (3436 posts) -
You're a hero to us all, Sentinel. I'd say it's only a matter of time until your unbelievably slick vision comes true.
#30 Posted by Sentinelrv (23386 posts) -

I support most of those suggestions.  Great job!  Why only most, and not all?  Well, I think at times you were focusing on separating yourself from gamespot rather than integrating.  For example, I don't think Gamespot wants you to get rid of their "double navigation bar" as you call it.ClayMeow

I asked Greg if this would be impossible, and he said that it could probably be done. I'm not sure about all unions though. We can hope.

Also, I'm not sure if you considered the ability to have co-leaders in your suggestion about being able to set permissions, but if not, I'd suggest that ability as well.
ClayMeow

With the advanced permissions system, you don't need to set somebody as the co-leader. You would just give them all of the permissions that you as a leader have, with the exception of changing the permissions that is, and whatever else you set.

#31 Posted by Legend_O_Dragon (7029 posts) -
I read this at the HCU and I completely support this. Go Sent! ;)
#32 Posted by Einhanderkiller (13250 posts) -
Excellent job, sentinelrv. Hopefully Gamespot will be able to implement most, if not all, of these ideas in the near future into Gamespot.
#33 Posted by 75_cent (256 posts) -
sent, ur amazing
gamespot, support this now
#34 Posted by comander_chad (1230 posts) -
I support this completely.
#35 Posted by Juvenal1234 (275 posts) -
This is amazing Sentinel. I fully support this idea. This is a great thing that should be really appreciated (sry bout the spelling). Great job.
#36 Posted by NuclearDruid (2812 posts) -
I am loving this! If the HCU could change how unions would look, I will love you!!!!!!!!
#37 Posted by Sentinelrv (23386 posts) -
Wow, I didn't expect so many posts in such a short amount of time. :? :P
#38 Posted by ice_radon (70341 posts) -
Awesome. This would be great. All except the whole revolving main top story thing...I dont like that cause it takes longer to load than just a small image. I am not on 56k anymore, but that doesnt mean we have to pimp out broadband connections to the limit. I would also love to see GS being more lax on unions. Its hard to talk about one game...all the time without ever going off topic or whatever. Just make it so that they stay around longer without going AWOL.
#39 Posted by GrimMonkey (36 posts) -
Sounds interesting. Hope everything goes smoothly.
#40 Posted by Fear2Itself (203 posts) -
I support this.
#41 Posted by Goldeneyemaster (6906 posts) -

All of those ideas look amazing.  I am in full support of you Sentinel :D

#42 Posted by Eddyramos (3616 posts) -
I hope this will be implemented in the future I support this 100% !
#43 Posted by truassasin (2013 posts) -
Very nicely done i support you 
#44 Posted by Koeht (125 posts) -
This looks real good.  I am all for it.  I sincerely hope that this pulls through.
#45 Posted by orangeillini14 (10608 posts) -
I agree with Sentinel 500%... :)
#46 Posted by neocow5 (3706 posts) -
This idea's been complete for how long and nothing's happened? We'll see if Greg pulls through, because all of your ideas are brilliant.
#47 Posted by doonbuggy17 (1251 posts) -
Great job man i read through every one of those things realy looks good i hope they do this it would improve the union alot.
#48 Posted by doonbuggy17 (1251 posts) -
Great job man i read through every one of those things realy looks good i hope they do this it would improve the union alot.doonbuggy17
so I support it all the way.
#49 Posted by _Sam_ (31483 posts) -
[QUOTE="doonbuggy17"]Great job man i read through every one of those things realy looks good i hope they do this it would improve the union alot.doonbuggy17
so I support it all the way.



just use the edit button
#50 Posted by mullerer (24 posts) -
HEAD CRAB UNION FTW!!!!!!!!!!!!!