Feedback and Help as Key Ingredients for an Active Peer-Supported Community
May 31, 2013
PROJECTS: Leveling Up
TAGS: Feedback and Help
The Wrestling Boards is an online community based around a set of forums that discusses all things related to wrestling. There are sub-forums for fans to discuss wrestling companies and shows, like General WWE, RAW, Smackdown, NXT, Payback, and TNA impact. There are also sub-forums for members to introduce themselves, give suggestions, and discuss off topic, games, sports, and fantasy wrestling. The members of this site are big fans of wrestling and avid participants in the community. It is built on interest and peer support and is a very active and growing community. A major reason for its continued activity is the community’s desire to offer help and feedback to each other in a peer-supported environment.
Maria, a 17-year-old from the Philippines who I mentioned in my earlier post, went looking for a community to discuss wrestling on the internet because of lack of local community. She said of her participation in the Wrestling Boards, “It’s really awesome. It was different from the other e-feds, especially because they were open to suggestions. I give my opinion about their work/ideas, and I try to do requests.” E-feds are fantasy wrestling federations. The Wrestling Boards runs a fantasy wrestling federation, or e-fed, called Over the Ropes, which Maria participates in. Unlike other fantasy sports, fantasy wrestling is not played using real professional wrestlers; instead, it is a text-based role-playing game (RPG) where players create their own characters, including wrestlers, managers, interviewers, etc., and participate in matches against each other as they work their way up to championship matches. The willingness of the community to accept Maria’s feedback was a marked difference for her and a major factor in why she felt that it was better than other options she had found.
The participants of the forums create posts, write long-form stories, make video and audio files, and design images and gifs. Zach, a 17-year-old from Europe, also participates in the fantasy wrestling federation. “I’d like to think that I work a comedian/snarky personality but I will get serious as well. I really look into Over the Ropes and try to help them improve it by writing reviews of their work so they can improve.” For Zach, his participation in creating meaningful action is important. Beyond helping to improve the writing and story creation in the fantasy wrestling federation, members of the community discuss wrestling on the forum and offer help to those who need it.
For many participants on the Wrestling Boards, the discussion in the community is one of their main reasons for participation. Jose, an 18-year-old living in Europe, describes his use of the community:
It is a great way to discuss and talk about the WWE product. As a member of WWEForums.net myself I really could recommend wrestling fans to join a forum if they are interested. It gives you news updates, it helps you understand the full ‘’WWE Product,’’ getting info about wrestlers, their backgrounds, etc. I joined in February, so I’ve been there for a while, and when people have questions about the forum, wrestling, WWE or anything else, I’m happy to help them out.
The interest in peer-support through discussion and helping others is a common sentiment by members of the community. Jonathan, a 16-year-old from the UK, describes how his involvement with the community has helped him. “It has helped me to communicate more with fellow WWE fans as I didn’t have that chance before. It’s certainly helped me to become more up to date with things that are going on in WWE.” The Noob, a 17-year-old from the UK, also talks about discussion and help. “I participate in discussions and help new members who need it. I try to help people but a lot are more experienced than me anyway.” Looking for a community to discuss wrestling brings the members of the Wrestling Boards together, and then through the discussion an atmosphere of peer-to-peer help becomes a norm for the community.
The members of the community also spend time sharing digital media skills. Jonathan uses his video editing ability to help the community:
Well, I upload short WWE clips for members, often like ‘best of’ videos and such. I give and get feedback often about what I do.
I often help/mentor new members of the forum to the best of my ability. At the end of the day, we’re all alike and we’re like a family on Wrestling Boards.
Zach also uses his digital media skills to help the community. “I enjoy helping as well. Members often need help with graphics and I’m great with Photoshop so I offer a helping hand if needed.” The help goes beyond the sharing of information about wrestling and instead share skills and help which enhance the enjoyment of the community on the wrestling forum. Danny, a 24-year-old from the US, sums it up this way, “Everyone in our community has general understanding of the product and knows the terms. The ones that are misinformed are usually taught the ins and outs of the business by more knowledgeable users. It’s great.”
The community members take pride in helping others within the community. Lacky, a very active member and moderator for the community says, “I haven’t been there particularly long, only since July, but I’m the second highest poster on the board. I like to be active to help create discussions from different people. I tend to help the forum and its users whenever I can. I’m currently being considered a moderator on the forum.” For Lacky, his high level of participation, both in terms of quantity of posts and helping others, directly ties to being made a moderator. Cloud gives help and advice both to the members of the Wrestling Boards and to Crayo who is the site’s top administrator and co-founder. “My participation on here is just general. I read what others have written and join in the threads and topics. I enjoy the debates and arguments we can all have about the latest happenings. It’s interesting to see the different age ranges of people and talk with like minded people about the subject. We all try and help each other on here. It’s a friendly community and we constantly give feedback and advice to each other and I know a lot of us give feedback and advice to Crayo about the site and things we would like to see.” Intergenerational support is prevalent on the site, as wrestling fans ranging roughly from age 15 into at least their late 40s participate together on the forum. The forum owner, systems administrator, and two other high level admins are between 18 and 21. Intergenerational interaction is also a part of wrestling culture, with many members of the community being introduced to wrestling through family members. This time the feedback and help moves beyond helping an individual with a problem and toward improving the site as a whole.
Crayo is 19-years-old, the co-founder, owner, and main administrator of the site. He is extremely dedicated to his fandom and to his site.
Well I own it, so I run it. I discuss almost everything with the members, I help the members if they need it, I educate the “marks” about the business and how professional wrestling works, as it’s near-impossible to participate in the IWC if you don’t know about the business, as everyone around you is more in the know.
Educating marks into what he called “smarks” is important to Crayo and others in the community because as Crayo puts it, “we are just the ‘smarter’ WWE Universe.” Hank, another administrator and co-founder, is less active in the content on the site but is very active in the backend of the site.
I mainly help out behind the scenes with a small update or a change here and there. Crayo follows wrestling much more than I do so he does much more of the posting on the site. I try and help people when they get stuck or when they have a suggestion. Some suggestions I try to implement.
Hank is trying to create a better site and experience for members of the community by making changes to the site and by responding to feedback from the members.
To the community, helping and giving feedback to members creates a more educated fandom. This is important at all levels of expertise and participation.They use their peer-supported environment to achieve through their shared purpose a more educated community. The dynamic of feedback and help also produces higher-quality cultural products through quality control, which is implemented through helpful behavior. The community members’ willingness to both give and get feedback shows the openness of the community. The community members become closer to each other and more tied to the community because of their participation in the community’s culture of help and feedback. This culture enables learning for both novice and expert members. The help and feedback are an enculturated value of the community. The investment of the members in helping and offering feedback not only helps the individuals to which the assistance is offered but also improves the quality of the community as a whole.