Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Weekly Crisis State of the Union

During the Two Years Later anniversary giveaways, we asked several questions to readers as simple measures to make sure no one was a spam bot. One of those requirements for entray was, "Tell us what you love about the Weekly Crisis and/or what we can do to improve the blog". It was a simple question to which I expected mostly 'love this' or 'don't like that' type of one line answers from.

As I should have expected, our readers were more than happy to take the time to tell us, in great detail no less, what we were and were not doing right with the blog. Not wanting to waste the time and effort people put into these responses, we all took a quick study of the responses and have already started rolling out some changes to the blog, such as Ryan's recent addition of images to his reviews and Eric's new Manga Monday column.

However, much like the What is DC Doing Wrong? and What is Marvel Doing Wrong? series of posts, we've taken your praise and criticisms and compiled them into a post where we attempt to address them in a sort of state of the union type of format. Hit the jump for more.

State of the Union

To start, we wanted to thank everyone again for their continued support of the blog. The interactions with the readers is what makes this blog fun to do and is the main driving force behind just about everything we do to improve it. Writing reviews and the various other columns, editorials and think pieces are fun and it's great knowing that people are actually reading what we write, but the best part is that we get to discuss them with you, the readers and commenters, hear your side of the story and what you think about the biggest news and comics that come out. It's also the reason we host contests every so often - to give back to the people that make the blog what it is. Without that interaction, this wouldn't be a blog to me and would just be a void and for that, we thank you all.

The Past

With the Two Year Later contest entry questions asking people what they liked or what we could to do to improve the blog, we received a lot of positive and constructive feedback, far more than just the typical one line answers. We compiled all of these comments and made our way through the huge list, looking at what we're doing right, what could use work and, in general, finding out a lot about what you like and dislike about what we're doing here.

Aside from reviews, the most popular thing people seemed to mention was the Moments of the Week as one of their favourite things about the blog. Other popular posts/formats mentioned were the recent additions of the 'conversation-like' posts, such as our War of Kings Speculation and the monthly Thoughts on Solicitations posts, and primers for big events, like War of Kings and Blackest Night. These and many more were mentioned as favourites for commenters and we're looking into doing more of these types of posts in the future, which I'll touch upon in a moment.

However, our past also had a lot of constructive criticism aimed at what we've been doing, many of which amounted to people simply wanting more of certain things, like Eric's Soapboxes, or lamenting the lack of Top 10 Tuesdays over the past several months. A major omission from the site that people picked up on was our lack of indie coverage.

All these and more were listed as things people would like to see added/remedied and few, if any, were what I would consider outright problems with the blog or our writing - merely a desire for "MORE, MORE, MORE", as Travis Waltz, and others, put it.

The Present

While looking at all of this feedback is good and all, it means nothing if we do nothing with it. As such, we've already begun implementing sublte changes to the blog that you may or may not have noticed. Ryan recently started using images to go along with his Power Ranking reviews each week, Eric began a new column highlighting manga and even the Top 10 Tuesdays posts have started trickling out at a steady rate again.

We're also trying to post more news related articles, with our own opinions and thoughts on them of course, such as the recent Disney/Marvel Buyout. We don't intend on becoming a news outlet, but you can look forward to more of this opinion based posts on the current big news in the future.

The Future

While I've listed a few changes we've already implemented above, that's not all we have in the pipeline. We have several new columns and regular features planned for the blog that are set to go live sometime this month (still working out some details on potential posting schedules and column names/format).

Art Appreciation

One such column is an Art Appreciation post, similar to those found on Robot 6, Major Spoilers and other blogs. These would be short, simple posts with an artist's work spotlighted and some general information on the artist and work in question.

More Moments of the Week

Another column we have planned is something I mentioned on Twitter recently in regards to a Random Moment of the Week-like post. As the MotW proved to be one of the most popular posts, we figured more of it, this time spotlighting older 'moments', think five years or more, in a single image moment post, not unlike the style of the Art Appreciation above, would be a great way to give more moment goodness to people while introducing them to older comics at the same time. One such example of a 'moment' I highlighted on Twitter was Magneto ripping Wolverine's adamantium out back in X-Men #25.

Creator Interviews

The final new feature we were planning to roll out was creator interviews. We're still working this one out and it's tentative, but we feel we've grown to the point that we can start reaching out to the creators we've made contact with and requesting interviews. To differentiate them from the standard event-related interviews on the bigger sites, we were thinking more conversational, get-to-know-them style interviews where we ask them questions related to favourite comics, dream projects and other, non-information sensitive questions that result in non-answers they can't or aren't allowed to answer. This way, people would learn about the creator, their backgrounds, likes/dislikes and other information that gets lost in translation as people typically view creators as faceless machines that either are gods or screw ups that 'ruin their favourite character forever'.

Verdict System Changes

Other related changes in the works include a reworking of the Verdict System we use for reviews. As David Warren (no relation, for reference) put it, with so few ranks to the system, the Must Read verdict is starting to lose it's impact. We're still hammering out the new verdicts, but look for a five tiered system to roll out at some point in time and Must Reads will be held in reserve for true must read books moving forward.

Indie Coverage

There's also the increased indie coverage in the works, although we're still working out details on this. We all read indie books, but mostly in trades. This is where I'd like some more input from everyone. You all want more indie coverage, but how would you like it implemented? Picking it up in singles is a tough proposition for most of us since we trade wait them. Would you like more trade reviews? A series overview/primer-like look at older/established books, like a Y: The Last Man or Fables? Let us know in the comments so we have a better idea of what you'd like for this. As it stands, we have some more reviews in the pipeline, but no concrete plans that wouldn't involve shifting of funds/priorities in trade/singles buying.

Site Redsign

This is a longterm goal of my own and it would include paid hosting and a proper database backend that would allow for so much more functionality to be added to the site, from rotating banners (currently have to manually change), user profiles/friends lists/nested commenting with Digg-like promoting, a proper archives that automatically updates with new posts, a Danbooru-like image board and faster loading with a sleaker design. Again, this is longterm, but I've already begun working on some designs and backend stuff with an offline server. I'm hesitant to mention it, as this is at least a year's way away, but archives and redesigns were mentioned in the things people wanted addressed, so I just wanted to let everyone know that these are concerns we're looking into and that they aren't being ignored.


There it is, everything we've got planned moving forward, all based on feedback from you, the readers. These are some exciting times for us and I haven't seen everyone this fired up since they first joined the blog. I hope the enthusiasm and this little State of the Union address have properly conveyed that excitement to you while giving you a solid outlook on what to expect from us moving forward.

Also, please note that we're going to continue delivering the same quality content we've always been giving you, from reviews, previews and MotW, to the various OP/ED posts, like Eric's Soapbox and Matt's weekly editorials. The only thing changing is that you'll be getting more of everything you liked about the blog.

Related Posts


Ethereal said...

as long as you can keep it accessible to both new and old visitors, I think it'll be great. I've had a few ideas for articles that I've wanted to run by you or Ryan but haven't found the time to actually hammer them out. Thoughts?

Ryan Schrodt said...

We are always open to suggestions, Ethereal! You are better off shooting them over to Kirk. He's the brains behind this Crisis!

The Dangster said...

you know what i miss? Character spotlights. it gave me incentive to check them out.

I hope you get rid of "mildly recommended" that irritates me so much.

I think a lot of readers would like to voice their favorite books not covered by the site, perhaps more guests posts?

Lansan Johnson said...

You guys never cease to amaze me. I love this blog and it is probably my favorite one to read on the whole web. I just got into comics a year ago, but have loved superheroes starting with BTAS, all the Timverse stuff and movies, Smallville and finally got into comics last year.

This site has been a great resource in helping me truly get a grasp of the comic book scene and whats going on in the comic universe so thank you very much. And the new ideas sound great.

Anonymous said...

Although I'm a bit late to the party...I wonder if you might consider making your images enlarge-able. It's always a bother when I have to get my nose 1" from the screen to see the tiny details the poster is sometimes writing about :)


brandon said...

The Indy void doesnt seem like an easy one to solve. Especially if you dont want to change your spending habits (and I dont blame you).

The TPB review is a good idea and will serve some of the population but its always after the fact.

Tough call.

Maybe bring on another person who only deals with Indy titles? Even then you wont get *complete* coverage.

Maybe create an Indy thread of what looks good for the week regardless of whether or not you guys read it and turn into a discussion in the comments section. Could work.

EDP said...

I remain in awe of what you guys accomplish on a daily basis, because you must have day jobs! I always look forward to the commentary, and more than once, it has influenced my choice of what to buy/skip.

M├ędard said...

I applaud your take on interviews. I'm tired of reading interviews where the creator can't give full answers in order to risk spoiling future stories.

In regard reviewing indie comics; reviewing trades is just fine. There are a lot of readers who wait for the trade, I am being one of them, and not only with indie comics.

I'm looking forward to the changes, tough I have to say I'm enjoying the current Weekly Crisis already a lot. :)

Ryan Schrodt said...

@Dangster - Can I ask why "Mildly Recommended" irritates you? Is it the wording or just the idea of that rating?

My verdicts run on a 5-point recommendation system, which I think is something similar to what Eric and Kirk are going to move to.

They are:
Permission to Avoid - Books that you shouldn't bother with.
Read with Caution - Books that have some merit, but are mostly subpar.
Mildly Recommend - Good books that are entertaining, but aren't very sharp on their craft. You probably won't be disappointed, but you might not love it.
Strongly Recommended - Books that excell in terms of both enjoyment value and craft, but still have glaring errors. For example the art might blow me away, but the dialogue is very stiff and repetitive. This may also apply to extremely well done books that may only appeal to a niche audience.
Don't Miss This Issue - Books with very few flaws of any kind, most of which are minor. These are books that generally most readers will really enjoy.

The Dangster said...

Just the wording, I feel like there must be a better phrase to denote what you just wrote. Don't get me wrong, I like your rating system.

off topic- i really love this site and the work you guys do on this.

Matt Ampersand said...

@EDP, oh yeah, we all have day jobs. For every post I make, there's two more I don't have time to write.

Radlum said...

I started reading this blog two weeks ago so I'm not fully aware of changes or improvements needed. I love this site as it is but I will welcome any interesting improvements (also, I love Spider-Fail, I hope that site lasts)

Henry said...

I like the idea of more indie coverage and love the idea of creator interviews. Been following this site for a while and I gotta say I like the way things are done around here.

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