The Best Idea in the World. The Idea So Good No One Could Possibly Resist Implementing It. We come across such ideas every so often; the very mention of them must naturally, automatically result in perfect, working solutions without any undue effort. Sometimes, once in awhile, that happens. But more often than not, surprising resistance encounters our efforts to Make the World A Better Place. Disappointed, we write people off as myopic, narrow-minded fools who simply are unable to see our Visionary Ideals. And the world moves on, another idea trampled into the dust before it even has the chance to grow. Maybe you really liked that idea. Maybe you got a second or third or fourth chance to try the idea again, Higurashi-style, and this time you really want it to work. How do you get there? How do you give your idea the best chance it has at succeeding?
Consider 4 sets of questions for any idea that comes to mind:
What does this idea require? Would it need more bandwidth? Storage? Maintenance? Are the increased requirements worth it?
Say you thought about having BakaBT do image-hosting. Do you have any idea how much bandwidth an imagehost requires? Ask around, figure out a ballpark estimate. What about storage? Count the number of torrent descriptions on the site, multiply it by an estimate of each torrent description’s size (based on image and screenshot filesizes). Make an effort to find out these things, but leave enough of an error margin; things tend to cost much more than they seem. If the idea is seen to be feasible, you’ll have an easier sell ahead of you.
Ultimately, the admins and mods are the ones who’ll have to do the backend work to maintain it. If they say they can’t do it, it means they can’t do it—or perhaps it means they don’t want to do it, which basically means they can’t do it. Grumble about laziness and incompetence, move on with life. Or start your own imagehost, whatever. The last thing you want to do while trying to get an idea accepted is pick a fight with site staff.
Whose effort will this require? On a daily basis? Monthly? One-off? Why would they be willing to do so?
Here’s an open secret: people do not like doing things if there is nothing in it for them. Here on BakaBT, nobody is paid to do what they do, so you have to find other means to motivate people. Some truly enjoy what they do. Others perceive that their efforts help improve the site, in content, quality and efficacy. Yet others enjoy the sense of community that comes from joining in on ideas.
Maybe you want uploaders to include short biographies of directors/authors on each torrent page; well, why should they? Convince them that people should and do care about this feature. Convince people that they should and would love to care about this feature. Most importantly, convince them that you care about this feature.
That’s not the end of your struggle. Who is going to write these biographies? Why should uploaders be forced to write these biographies? Where should they take these biographies from? Why should moderators enforce this rule, were it implemented? Are you willing to start writing the first biography, and keep trying to pull people into the bio-writing effort?
Is there an existing alternative already? Why shouldn’t I use that instead?
Maybe you want a metadata management system on BBT. How would this be better than what AniDB, a community centred around fansub metadata management, has already come up with? Is it worth duplicating effort that another community has already refined?
If there’s one thing people dislike more than effort without self-interest, it’s duplicated effort without self-interest. If you’re not willing to build on what other communities have done, you will have to try that much harder to convince people of your idea’s soundness.
How can I help make it easier to put the idea in place?
“Whoa, hold it right there. ‘I’? since when did I get pulled into—” and just who were you waiting for to sell your idea for you? Ideas are transient, and the efforts inspired by ideas are even more transient. Keep waiting for someone to take that first step for you, and you will wait until the idea fizzles out.
There is much to be done. Do you know a good VPS that can be used for image-hosting? Try passing that on to an admin. What about those biographies? Start a forum thread discussing writing styles, submitting writeups to willing uploaders for inclusion in their descriptions, and selling your idea to effort-makers. And metadata? Think up a sensible format for the file, post in in the Wiki and ask for help in refining it. Suggest the idea to willing uploaders for inclusion in their torrent offers. Make your own torrent offers (once you’re Power User) and attach these metadata files yourself. It is easier for people to gauge the usefulness of an idea if they have a working example to try out. If they like the idea, they’ll suggest it to other uploaders, and back you up in the forums when you suggest it. And if the uploaders like the idea, your idea is almost as good as sold.
Many of these things do not even need moderator or admin intervention. Only call in an admin if it requires changes to server setup or site code. Only bother moderators if it will require access privileges that they have. An insider tip: the less effort it takes on their part, the more likely the idea will be accepted. If your support system is established, most people are already writing bios and metadata files and including them in torrents, there are wiki guides to writing these bios and for formatting metadata, people have written parsing tools for these metadata files and entire management systems have been built around them, and the community resounds with songs of your brilliance, it probably will not need much convincing to get those ideas included in the rules, for consistency across torrents.
Now, guess what kind of response you’re likely to get if you try to do it the other way and get it enforced as yet another site rule before drumming up support for it.
And one last thing.
Reputation. Complain all you like about people being biased in their perceptions, but if you’re pushing for an idea, a good reputation can only help you. How many would care about a suggestion made by a user who just joined a week ago, hasn’t made Power User, hardly contributes to goings-on about the site, in the torrent offers, uploader discussions, error reports, Wiki articles, and tech support, and suddenly decides his idea can only be for the good of the community?
Hang around the site and forum more often. Help out new uploaders with descriptions and information, or provide screenshots for upload comparisons. Offer qualified help to people seeking it in the help boards. Report torrent errors, or perhaps mis-categorised torrents, wherever you spot them. Edit Wiki articles that are outdated or need touching up, or a complete rewrite; add newly licensed anime to the blacklist when you spot them. Participate in community activities; the mahjong tournament maybe, or holiday banner submissions, or Mystery Blogger posts.
The effect this produces is twofold; the regulars know you as a regular, one who knows his way around the site, who is familiar enough with the oft-enforced rules, and who knows who’s who in the various parts of the site; they also see you as one who contributes, who understands the effort of contribution, and who will not seek that same effort from others without good cause.
Be careful not to overdo this though; you might find yourself being recruited as staff … 😉