Making Uncovery a better server

I have thought a fair bit recently about the server and it’s ‘performance’ if you can call it that. What is a good indicator how well this server is run? What makes people stay? How to measure how good we are?

One part is how many new users we get. And that made me think about the settler test and the application process. While, in the past as well as today, we always had a steady number of users trying to connect to the server, we used the whitelist as well as the settler test to weed out the jerks and griefers. This principle is however nothing else but a bouncer. Instead, we would rather need to have a membership manager at the door. Not someone who kicks out the obvious jerks and possibly also offends some nice people in the process. But someone who kicks out the obvious jerks and helps the others to overcome the obstacles as easily as possible, while being still strict enough.

This is why I have been changing the layout of the settler application recently, and will probably continue to work on it in the future. There are two ways to go: Either we make it so hard that users have to learn all rules by heart before they can even set foot into the server, but then having hardly anybody join, or make it so easy that we get to ban a large percentage of those who join. It will be a challenge to find the right middle.

In order to measure the success of the application process, I added a new chart to the bottom of the Users page. There you can see on a monthly average how many % of users that registered in the respective month converted to Settlers. So the higher the number, the better it is. At the same time it shows how many % of registered users (Settler or Guest) were banned. The less, the better of course. It is a good indicator to see that the Settler ratio climbed in February from 30% to 40%, I attribute this in part to the changes in the settler application.

If anyone has ideas how to make the settler test better to understand while still teaching users the basics about the server, so that they need to read as little as possible and ask as few questions as possible to get their desired lot and not violate and rules, I am always open for suggestions.

[Update] I would love to always hear what new users ask the most so we can add better help for that. I now for example added a message to each settler when they vote that tells them how to do /withdraw @lottery. We can always improve help in-game that allows people to ask fewer questions.[/Update]

22 thoughts on “Making Uncovery a better server

  1. Hmm my ideas may be a lit outlandish but here are some concepts.

    •Make a video highlighting the basics rules and most common reasons users get banned, I think users get a bit overwhelmed at the reading and don’t comprehend it all at once, and it seems that people remember things better when it is a video, because then they can in a graphics sense see what is what.

    You might have the test also have a user practice typing in chat commands (via a text input and some javascript to demonstrate who gets messaged via what commands) so they get a better understanding what regional and global and pm’ing is like, because that is one thing we often explain to new users that’s not really well covered in the new user’s reading I guess.

    I guess I know this is an advanced server for advanced users, but Minecraft is a graphical game, and many of it’s users comprehend by seeing things more than just reading it.

  2. I’m relatively new here myself, but the core chat rules resonate very strongly with me (help yourself before asking for help, read the site before asking questions, etc…). I’ve noticed a pretty large increase in number help vampires hanging around even over the short time I’ve been here; I’m glad I’m not the only one who noticed! During busy times of day the chat is fast paced already even without someone asking how to get their voting rewards or how to get to the nether.

    I don’t think any sort of test will help weed out help vampires, because you can’t ask every question they will encounter on the test, and there’s nothing to stop them from asking in chat every question they think up after the test. I’m not sure exactly what is on the test now, but a few questions focusing on avoiding being a help vampire rather than verbatim rules and information might help (‘Which of these questions are OK to ask in chat?’) — if they can’t get that question right they WILL be asking silly questions in chat later. If there aren’t any questions about /ch r that might be a good one also.

    I also think the website is ‘good’ as far as documentation goes. The type of people I would like to play with would have no problem figuring out how to use every command available to them just by looking at the site when a question pops up in their head (hey, it’s what I did, and I’ve maybe only asked one or two stupid questions).

    I love the server because of the friendly people and the willingness of everyone to help out, critique, and build each other up (if that makes sense). Not sure how you can measure that, but I definitely don’t think ‘what % of people are converting to settler’ is a good measure.

    Just my thoughts, from my own perspective!

    • The number of Settlers is a part of the issue that we cannot ignore. If we do not get new people, the server simply will dry out after some time. We do not advertise the server, because there is no money for that. We have a lot of Guests coming in, but if we cannot convert them to Settlers we are doomed. So the amount of Settlers has to be larger than the amount of people quitting the server. It’s also easier to make it easier for people to join than preventing them from leaving. So measuring that is in my point of view EXTREMELY important. Not 100% the reason for success, but e VERY important part of it.

    • I agree that we should educate people about not being help vampires. I will come up with a question regarding that.

  3. If I were to attempt to make the settler test more successful, would be to display the information, much simpler, and on the same page. But don’t dumb it down, and really emphasize the things that’ll get you banned, like add a few more questions on the test about stuff that’ll piss people off. “Which one of these is an acceptable way to kill animals on another’s lot?” and “Lying to an Uncovery official is acceptable when?” ~secret option D~ NEVER. But I’ve realized that about 40% of newbies leave because there is “too much to read” so, I think, the best answer would be….to make them read less. Put a couple pictures in there, kids love pictures :3 That’s my advice. Hope it helps.

    • Also, a good way to make people stay, would be to add a few more advantages to being a donator. Nothing that gives them an advantage over other players, in terms of materials, but maybe something more than extended time of absence, and the ability to remove snow. Because if people invest in something, they are likely to stick to it longer, and be more adamant to respect it.

      • Hmm,
        You could try custom vanities like hats, maybe special access to the /firework command because I know not many users will spend their items to watch it blow up in smoke, just some of those odds and ends essentials items. Maybe a unique donor spawn like the master/elders. Just some examples.

        • Maybe access to another type of world? And yeah, hats would be cool. What would be cool would be if you got more abilities as a donator, the higher you ranked up.
          SettlerDonator: Jump 1.5 blocks
          CitizenDonator: Jump 2 blocks
          ArchitectDonator: 2.5
          etc etc
          ElderDonator: 4
          And you would be able to turn it on and off with a /jump command
          that would be really neat, but that’s just an example, so you kinda get what I’m going at. I’m no expert on human psychology, but I do know that people want to support other people, especially if they get something out of it.

  4. Also as far as judging the quality of a server, I encourage you to look around and compare the number of positive comments to the number of negative comments. I hardly see a negative one… You must be doing something right, because you kept me here and happy for over a year. As far as a systematic way of measuring quality, which is probably the way you are going to get a number you want, you should factor in how long it takes a user from being a guest to becoming a settler, and see if you can get yourself a graph, and then keep another calculation and figure out how long after a user becomes a settler does it take for them to become inactive, (you could do this by subtracting the date of a user’s last login from their settler date, and then if you were to output this data to a graph you would most likely see certain point, also if you tracked when a user became each rank, you could also get a sense of direction of when someone gets promoted how long do they last after.

    If you were to plot this data, you would most likely find some areas where you have an increased number of drop-offs than others, some I am sure are:
    – right after a user becomes a settler and they soon forget about this server
    – several months after becoming citizen and not being promoted to architect
    – in the architect(after about 4 months)/designer(after about 6 months)/master ranks (after about 8 months) of not being promoted

    At these points you might consider offering some incentive to keep a user active.
    In a sense, I believe quality is best measured through retention rates.

    • Yes, retention rates is an important measure. I will soon add a graph that measures how many people we lose each day to make sure that we keep growing instead of stagnating or worse, declining in user numbers.
      I think it’s very important to make sure that people stay a long time, but it’s a 5-minute decision when seeing the settler test if someone wants to do it or not, and it’s a month-long process that makes people stay or not, and often this is very very hard to control. For example, some people simply get tired of playing minecraft over all. And if people do not join, we lose 100%.

      So my first point of ‘attack’ on getting more users has to be to make a best-possible settler test.

    • I don’t think using ranks as a reward fr staying is a good thing. I love the voting system that Unc changed to. I think what is so special about this server is that it isnt like so many other servers that hand out ranks for donations, and time on the server. Ranks are earned here through the other players. Its wonderful. Maybe if there was just a way to remind higher ranks when someone hits 90 or 120 days in a rank. IT doesnt mean they should be promoted, but rather remind people that it’s been a long time. We did have a certain someone a few weeks ago that got kind of lost in the shuffle and nobody realized how long they had been on the server without a single promotion. We took care of it that evening by voting them up right then and there because there were enough of us with rank on the server.

      Maybe a way to do reminders to Designers and above when someone is sitting at citizen after 90 – 120 days? Designer and above shouldn’t need a reminder, but sometimes we forget when someone has been citizen for a while.

  5. These are difficult issues from different perspectives. I have thought about these things for quite some time actually. I’ll go through my opinions and observations angle by angle.

    When a guest logs in for the first time, they have to interact with the site for a bit (registering/logging in, settler test). There are (very) roughly three types of players trying to join this server.

    Now, the kind of new players we want to join the most (“group 1”), will look up the most important stuff themselves right away, without asking people a thing. They wont complain whether the test is one question or 150. Then there are those (“group 2”) who hurry to get playing and ask something, and when someone tells them to read the site, they will, and no longer bother anyone with “stupid” questions. Then there are those (“group 3”) that arent just mature and reasonable enough to play here, and get annoyed with all the reading and rules and commands.

    Group 1 people join and stay if they like it here, no matter what. The larger number of group 2 people join and stay depending on how well the test works and is compact, and also how well we help them when they need help. Group 3 players may occasionally join and stay, but most of them wont get through the quiz, or get banned after a while.

    So from guests angle we should consider making the test shorter to read while still stating the important stuff and asking the right questions even more effectively. Maybe making the important sections shorter to read while keeping the same substance would help. Also I think we could put the summarized version of the most important stuff under the access tab, and more “encourage” i.e. on the building rights tab to read said part thoroughly. As unc put it, make the best-possible out of it.

    Existing players:
    We dont like to be asked tons of questions people already should know answers to. It is annoying and takes our time and concentration off playing. On the other hand we answer those questions because we dont want to come off as rude or unwelcoming.

    We should find a way to make those questions be asked more rarely. I think the update part of this post is a wonderful start, the withdraw issue is by miles the most asked question I’ve encountered. More of that kind of things, please.

    Regarding new players, we would like to have join us as many group 1 and 2 people, and as few group 3 people, as possible. More apples, but less of the bad apples.

    Uncovery and the server:
    For unc, and all of us in the end, it is important to have enough active players on the server at all times and even grow the number slowly and steadily. I also think it would be important to keep as many good players and members of the community here as long as possible.

    The means for that could for example be something like Akium proposed, but some like salad some like ham, there is absolutely no single way to keep us all here. The most important singular thing for many, many players is the community and the atmosphere, and frankly I don’t think there is much room for improvement there. So we’re pretty good on keeping people here I think.

    We also need new players all the time, as stated above. We don’t want new players just for the number of players, no. We want players who actually fit in here and give something (awesome builds, friendliness, critique, help/support) for the community, not take something (nerves, energy, concentration, joy) from it. As I said more apples, but less of the bad apples.

    If we stagnate for a while but don’t get any partypoopers join us, I think we’re better off than by getting huge numbers of annoying and unmature players and grow that way. In that sense I don’t think we should make too big changes to anything, because what we have now works well on that regard.

    These are my inputs, and I only speak for myself, but I think some of you agree. I will also try to think about more concrete ways to improve said things for the rest of the long, boring workday :)

  6. How about on the trivia that you add some of the rules?
    Have designated activities on different days? Such as a trivia night once a week. Make Dark Lands safe to be in a few hours on one night a week. Group field trips to the Dark Lands one night a week. A few hours one night a week make it help day, where it was ok to ask a lot of questions or get help without getting in trouble or fussed at, with in reason.
    I must take my daughter to school but will bran storm more.

    • Yeah, I really would like to have regular activities like that. As long as we can automate something like this it’s really easy. Where it is not possible, we need someone to organize it. Let me think about it.

  7. What do you think of adding a “Help Channel” that we can direct needful players to and players that want to help can join? The problem with “Global Chat” is that it is the catch all for discussion and you cannot leave it. Creating an individual channel for help could alleviate some of this.

    There may be other topics for channels as well, for example a channel for each world.

    • Yeah that’s one option. I still have the option of creating custom temporary channels. Let me think about the best way.

    • Being able to leave Global chat sometimes would be nice. But I like this Help Channel.

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