Haldis and Thadea have both been hard at work. The Golden Elite switched servers and then decided to give its team managers domains. This was not a bad idea but poor Thadea ended up uploading her team twice. The second time was in the wee hours of this morning, but the team is there! That is a relief. She has yet to tell her fighters but its on her do list.
Haldis has a much longer do list. Her competition has asked her to add a team site map to her team and an activity form for fighters to fill out daily. How do you say extra layer of beaurocracy and annoyance? Playing cop is not pleasant.
She still has to roster a fighter. Note: this page has an annoying but harmless Active X control on it. If your computer wants to block it, let it get blocked. You won't miss anything. Haldis did not and she has to zap the thing every time she brings up the page.
She also has to change her team to fit a new format because The Web Leagues split between vote exchange and nonvote exchange. The Web Leagues also has an automated ballot which means no manual vote counting. That is a good thing. I am more wary about the split. I don't think it will help attract and keep more fighters.
Golden Elite is also a great competition. The staff are gentle and ethical. The teams are intimate and if you want fierce competition and to really learn site fighting and wage an active campaign in the traditional style, there is no better place on the net to do it.
I'll even put in a word for ZOID. We were the first on the block with the best crafted social reforms. We were the second or third nonelimination competition. ZOID has an elegant mathematical way to prevent vote exchange from hurting non voteexchanging fighters. ZOID also has some reforms that are better suited for larger competitions and some good pay attention to fighters reforms and improved communciation.
There has been a lot of reform in site fighting since 1999 when I first got involved. Fighting used to be six days a week and seven days a week at the upper levels. There was one large competition of four hundred (Yes 400!) fighters and several smaller ones, one of which had sixty fighters. Fighting at the main competition was ELIMINATION. A loss at upper levels serpated you from the fights. Since competition for members was light and choice was limited, fighters would return if you eliminated them. Teams at the Site Fights were inconsistent. Ballot pages hard to find and slow to load. Site Fights did have an automated ballot. Vote exchange was legal everywhere except at a very new competition called the Rumbles (Established January 1999) and there were no vote exchange boards (see below on this one). This set me up for a poisonous experience under a mismanaged team that ultimately died.
What happened over time was this got a lot better. The Web Brawls had all ready broken away from the Site Fights in 1998 due to a dispute about neopotism and stacking of votes with team managers getting their staff to back certain fighters. This kind of behavior makes today's version of vote exchange look good. Web Brawls was also far more centralized. Team formats were consistent and fighters were NOT ELIMINATED by an upper level loss. the Rumbles appeared in January 1999, followed by ZOID in June of 1999. These were the second generation web site competitions and all three of them were REFORM SPLITS from the Site Fights. Fighters and lower level administrators left competitions and started their own because they wanted and believed they could do it better than any existing competition.
On June 22, 2000 the site fighting world shook under its first POWER SPLIT A power split happens when low level administrators at a competition and would be administrators want space to do their own thing and don't care if they do it any better. The Site Wars was born and half of the Site Fights' teams disappeared. The Site Fights which had four hundred members and approximately eighty percent of the total website competition membership, plunged to two hundred and fifty members and betweeen twenty and thirty-three percent of total membership. Today there are no competitions larger than two hundred and fifty individuals and few that go over a hundred.
Site fighting suffers from both its own history, a need to do things on the cheap and a decision to do things on the cheap, and an absolute inability to deal with external forces. Now I'll say I'm part of the problem first. I had a job search. I have a new job. I have recently relocated and am trying to get established in a new city and while this is not bad work if you can get it, it leaves me with little time to be part of the solution.
First, site fighting is only in part an intellectual endeavor. It involves getting social through vote exchange or just plain begging. This means that competitions do not always attract the most technically skilled amateur web masters. This meant that technical expertise is nearly always in short supply (The Web Leagues is the current exception to this rule as is the Site Fights) at most comopetitions and the schisms at Site Fights and beyond only made this problem worse. When the Site Fights split in 1998, 1999, and 2000 those who had the know how stayed with the mother competition and at the new competitions, the administrators relied on remotely loaded database and voting scripts (ZOID) or premade form mail to handle votes. This meant that most competitions counted their votes manually. This made for exhausted team managers.
Also the best web designers are usually not site fighters. I used to love to write about lack fo imagination in team design and just plain bad team design in general. Sorry, I'm not going to give any examples. Going from doing personal web sites to public ones is a huge leap and not everyone makes it gracefully. This made site fighting unattractive to the geek faction out there and alienated any intellectual types who might run across a web site competition.
But don't worry, those types usually never find site fighters. The reasons for that are viral advertising and vote exchange. Both of these are two edged swords. Fighters need votes consistently and for weeks to months on end. Outsiders whine when asked to vote every day. It only takes a short amount of time to vote for just one web site, but people will not even do that for themselves consistently a lot of the time, much to the frustration of team managers every where. In fact, outsiders asked to consistently vote for a campaigning fighter soon start to whine: "how much longer do I have to do this?" It is much easier and far more pleasent and definitely more profitable to the fighter to rely on vote exchange. This means that he or she (and it is usually a she) asks other fighters to vote for her in exchange for voting for them. She gets her votes. They get their votes. She may spend one to two hours a day voting. They will not be a hundred percent compliant but they will be more compliant than whiney outsiders so she still comes out ahead.
Viral advertising is word of mouth or word of guestbook or email. Fighters bring in their friends and relatiaves and these become fighters too. The problem is that a person's social networks only extend so far and site fighters who are very successful tend to associate mainly with other site fighters due to vote exchange. Vote exchange is time consuming. In its traditional form, fighters need to send out emails called reminders every night. They can use a Yahoogroup for this but it still takes time. The reminders need to go out between 8pm and 3am on the east coast to reap the most benefit. Fighters have to keep their reminder lists clean. Fighters have to keep a listing of where to vote and when. Different competitions run on different schedules. The URL's particularly for team voting pages are often Byzantine. On a twenty-eight eight modem, it can take two to three hours to cast all votes. Also voting takes place primarily in the day and early evening and can conflict with work. Fighters who are most deeply involved are busy people and do not have time to make new friends that are nonfighters. Their value for viral advertising is thus limited, and vote exchange only gets the word out among other fighters. Multicomping gets fighters in to several competitions, but fighters stretched thin are not new fighters. Advertising takes time and money that nobody has.
Moreover, vote exchange burns out the best fighters. They get tired. They quit. They become administrators. Administrating is easier at least for me since it is done at night and takes less time, even when I have to count someone else' votes. I don't mind following a schedule and have a taste for routine work that is common to experienced site fighters. There is no good way to protect the best fighters from themselves. They are a few very dedicated individuals, approxmiately seventy or so at any one time for as long as they can stand it.
By the way, all of this would be fine, if that was all that was &qut;wrong" with site fighting. There is NOTHING WRONG with having a small subculture and community of people of like minds enjoying a hobby. The problem is site fighting is threatened and it is doing nothing about those threats.
The first threat was COPPA. This cut a swath through half the site fighting demographic. Site fighting competes with real life, with work, entertainment, other hobbies, and family. This is why prior to COPPA most fighters were either mature women in flyover country (I fit a lot of this demographic) or just not in big cities, or American adolescents under the age of FOURTEEN. At fourteen or ninth grade the adolescents tended to leave the field because they became high school students who could work for pay on the books and pursue real life extracurricular activities. COPPA eliminated the middle school age fighters. This meant fewer potential recruits and it also meant that campaigning got tougher because the best fighters were always the adults.
The second major threat are vote exchange boards. The first of these ironically was the creation of an adolescent called Kween Klawz and it got her booted out of the Site Fights. It took adult ladies with more social status to make vote exchange boards stick. A vote exchange board allows the wholesale trading of votes. You agree to vote for everyone on the board and they agree to vote for you. Of course in a board with sixty to seventy sites on it (The typical number which is how I know how many serious vote exchanging fighters there are out there) a fighter will not have seen all the sites and vote for at least some of them blind at least for a short time. After a fighter votes, he or she must either find a hidden item or go to a web board or both and state that she voted. This adds an extra layer of beaurocarcy, enforcement, stress, and committment to fighting.
My experiences as Thadea have not left me a big fan of vote exchange boards, but what these boards do is make fighting less a social experience (We were supposed to be out there fighting for friendship, fun, and attention) and more competitive. Boards are impersonal. If a fellow board member does not vote, he or she is gone and you have no personal reminders to continue to vote for her. Boards mean that one must make a committment to sixty to seventy fighters rather than the twenty or thirty a beginning fighter might be able to handle. There is no longer a middle ground for vote exchange. Finally, vote exchange boards contribute to site fighting's incestuous nature. If a fighter uses a vote exchange board, a lot of her interaction on the net is going to be with ballots and with the board with the board owner and the fighters on the board, an universe of seventy like minded committed and almost fanatical individuals. Vote exchange boards are not good for competition advertising to the outside world.
The reaction to vote exchange boards has been to split the competitions in to vote exchange and nonvote exchange halves. This will not work. The nonvote exchange side will attract fighters who want to keep their hand in (Only fighters understand other fighters and if you have site fought a lot and been around competitions walking away completely is lonely. Outsiders do not share the site fighting subculture.) and administrators who run sites to fill out the ranks. Nonvote exchange fighting is NOT attractive to new fighters because they are left with the "whiney outsider problem" and no way to solve it. On a nonvote exchange team they have no way of beginning a campaign, since ALL vote exchange is forbidden. Unfortunately, if these new fighters switch to a vote exchange team, they face the behemoths on the boards and find themselves with a choice: be beaten consistently or join a vote exchange board. What was once a seductive snare is now an all or nothing proposition that may be far less attractive.
The third external threat is a bunch of large commercial virtual pet and large social networking sites: MySpace, Neopets, Friendster, Ringo, Hi5, Face Book, etc... In the words of site fighting experts: "Bloggers don't fight." People often have Neopet pages (Actually very few Neopians build pet pages but that is another story) MySpaces, Blogs etc... instead of personal pages. These sites offer the hope for community and do not clutter inboxes that are frequently poisoned (See below.) They also offer their membership a chance to be somewhat picky in their choice of associates. If you are a Christian, you don't have to vote for Wiccan sites or visit them. If you are a forty something SAHM, you can avoid the twenty-something army officer with a site about heavy metal music. Site fighting on its good days (and it has plenty of those) involves embracing diversity. Finally, the social networking sites offer their membership a chance that someone other than God or themselves will read what they say. If you build a personal web page you are out there all alone and chances are no one other than friends and relatives will ever come to visit. You have to make peace with the fact that self expression is important in and of itself and is more important than "community." I've done that because I've been kicked out of a number of communities, but it takes some scars before one wakes up to a truth like that.
Fourth, and perhaps most important, site fighting requires that fighters have access to a number of basic amenities and a certain kind of benign net environment that are now in large part things of the past. Fighting requires: space for a web site, an email account to give and send reminders, and place to leave cheers or vote exchange notices. Spam is enemy number one. When a team manager's inbox, a cheer book, a guestbook at a competition, a web board for vote exchange (as happened at the Site Fights incidentally) gets over run with ads for pills, home refinancing, 419 pleas, and worse, communication required for site fighting breaks down and the competition feels cheap and dirty. When team managers have to change their email addresses to avoid spam, they risk losing touch with their fighters and colleagues. Good cheap web space is now in short supply. Homestead closed its doors as did Fortune City (are they still around?). This leaves mainly Geocities which puts a huge grey stripe on web pages, several smaller companise that let you upload one page at a time, and MSN Groups which also requires crippled code and has a big stripe on the left side of the page. Free web space is a degraded resource, but it is often the first space available for those starting out building personal web sites. Once they get comfortable, they can rent space and acquire a domain name, but free space is a great training ground. Too bad that training ground which is also a training ground for site fighters is so degraded.
So what can we do? First, we can decide that site fighting should always stay small. It is us two hundred to five hundred individuals who make it happen and the rest are all "whiney outsiders." This means retention of existing fighters is a top proiroty. If we decide this, then we need to tackle burnout and find a way for the stars to keep their hands in when they can not run campaigns. Nonvote exchange fighting may have a place here, but also attacking the root causes of burnout may help. I know that Thadea got so she could see the shape and color of the pain of voting for several hours a night. Would better web design of ballot areas have helped? Being off the boards on the second campaign helped Thadea as well. Thadea used the boards to recruit individual vote exchange partners, but vote exchange board membership also contributed to burn out. Being beholden to the board owner to prove compliance canceled out the speed of having all the votes in one place. A lot of productivity aids also forstalled Thadea's pain and kept her fighting while hurting. Voting on a large scale for a long time is just impersonal and cold and nasty. What was once fun becomes a chore. That is burn out to me. Is there any way to prevent that from happening to others?
In addition, we can provide ammenities that protect committed fighters from the insults of a dirty net. Information about spam filtering or spam filtering for competition web site email are musts. Cheer boards and vote exchange message boards that require membership to post and where membership requires approval of those running the competition can keep spammers out. And competitions can provide free web space to committed fighters perhaps as a reward and do so more freely than they do now, perhaps for time spent fighting rather than for ultimate success.
Alternatively, we can as site fighters decide to expand. This one takes time and money. We need to advertise to the world of "whiney outsiders." Then we have to turn them in to insiders. This is the hard part. We need to be able to socialize them to some moderate form of vote exchange or make voting daily not a whiney chore. That means barriers to voting and finding supporters initially need to be down. Fighters need to be able to try these things without penalty. Second, we need to foster the fine art of personal web site creation. Building personal web sites allows you full control over look and feel, the safety from community censure that is the downside of having all your web work in a community rather than at your own site, and an affirmation of your own self worth. Third, we have to remember what site fighting offers that our competitors don't: a chance to meet diverse people with varying ages, life histories, and occupations and a chance to work towards a common purpose with others. We are also noncommercial and for the most part, competitions are small and intimate (even if they grow to several thousand, teams will still be small or should be). I love site fighting or I would not have written this essay. I wish we weren't t hreatened but we are and we need to do more than we are doing now if we want site fighting to be here in ten years.
Here it is and it is nearly noon and I am writing, but I believe in self expression and I believe in me and I believe in this blog where no one ever tells me to shut up (or at least I do not have to listen!). I just wrote a big essay on site fighting. I also realized this apartment was a mess. I need to clean it up but probably won't today. Today is July 4th and that means fireworks tonight and I may go out to dinner. The question is where I'll go. I may go up to Lennox in Buckhead or I may stick around Decatur. I want to see the biggest and best show. I also want to go swimming. Cleaning the apartment can wait.
There is still schul swag on my living room floor. I walk by it and know I have to put it away somewhere and out of the way. I shouldn't have to look at it. It will be easier if I don't. I did mail the letter to Moses. I told my colleagues about it at work and they were supportive and shocked. People have the fine art of going where they are welcome and most comfortable down to a t. Sorry, it's true. Separatism is not just endemic to Toco Hills. It is just more flagrant there because the folks you meet are different enough for you to notice.
All over any city are churches, restaurants, bars, night spots, and recreational venues where you would never set foot. Some folks like me do not own television sets. We read a lot and write a lot on the net instead. Think about all the things that simply "don't interest you" and you will find you are a separatist too. I'm a bit less of a one than most people or at least I try to be. I am on two Christian mailing lists. I like to see what other people think and write about and the Christians don't mind observers. I joined ladies groups. I ate lunch and dinner at random houses found by the schul Hospitality Committee.
You get the idea. Sunday night I was singing this song. You can put any tune you want to it.... It's called Brave Thing
Here is the chorus...
Oh you're going to do the brave thing, though Friday night you're on your own.
Only you know how much it hurt to spend Friday nights alone.
Oh you're going to do the brave thing, though you know when,
Friday night rolls around you'll be in a world of hurt again.
Sometimes it takes a day.
Sometimes it takes a year.
You can call it a matter of conscience
How hard it is to get that conscience in to gear.
You wrote out the letter.
And now you can't take it back.
You stand by what you said
Though your feet will get tired and that's a fact.
I like the singing in an orthodox schul.
I don't like singing this song.
Homophobia and racism
Are very clearly just so wrong
Words heard in someone's home.
Words heard without a doubt,
Ugly words of laughing hate,
Forced me to clearly speak out.
Don't ask me about my orientation
Or "some of my best friends."
Any way I say it's tacky
Don't even ask me where or when this ends.
I'll be back for services only
Come this Friday night.
I'll learn if "The Community" has teeth?
And are they going to take a bite?
You don't have to feel my pain.
You don't have to sympathize.
Tell me to stay with like thinking minds
Tell me where I went was just unwise.
I wanted prayer, fellowship, and praise.
I still want to worship as a Jew.
Last weekend I had to live my faith.
Such a brave and painful thing to do.
OK, I have to go learn about fireworks in Atlanta.