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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

spinning up some goodies for subscribers and donors…

Have you subscribed yet? Just a buck per month to help keep one of the oldest and most vibrant film-criticism Web sites viable. (That would be this one, silly.)

I’m working on some things that I can offer to donors/subscribers as part of the site experience in return for their support — in addition to everything you’re already getting here, that is. Depending on how the various options I’m looking at play out, among these could be:

• an option to have your comments highlighted as coming from a donor/subscriber (sort of like how mine now stand out in the comments threads)

• option to add an avatar image to your comments

• ability to get tagged by me as a “trusted” commenter, so that your comments never get accidentally labeled as spam (like if you post more than a couple of links, for instance)

• a private forum for donors and subscribers, possibly with secret content from me that doesn’t appear in the public blog (like maybe the leftover links, DVD recs, stuff like that).

Got any other suggestions along these lines?



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  • RogerBW

    I think a private forum might detract from the site, in that donors/subscribers would be splitting their output between the public site and the private one – and at least some of the benefit of this site is the contributions of the regular users. That said, making some of your posts members-only might work well; they’d still appear in the lists of recent posts, but there’d be a login required to see them.

    With that set up, one might do something time-based too – subscribers get access to (a subset of articles) (a number of hours) before they go public. Might be worth it for some reviews.

  • Ryan H

    I agree that a private forum is a poor way to go. Even at its best it will split the discussion and make it less likely for new people to join the community since they can’t participate fully.

    I think the idea of colour coding subscriber’s comments is brilliant. It doesn’t clutter up the page or require user participation like avatars do. It does provide a visible distinction and group feel. An easily identifiable and joinable in-crowd. There is nothing like subtle peer pressure look-at-the-cool-kids methods for driving subscriptions.

    Something else you might want to look at is giving subscribers first access to new posts. Say, an hour or two delay between when it goes visible for subscribers vs. everyone else. Another subtle way to build desire for casual viewers to take the step and become a (paying!) member of the community.

  • nyjm

    Another thumbs up for different colored text.

    I also really like that “trusted commenter” idea. I love to lace my posts with links, which trips your spam alarm.

  • MaryAnn

    I’m not crazy about the idea of a private forum, either. I’m just tossing ideas out.

    Private posts or password-access posts isn’t a bad idea, and it looks like there might be a tricky workaround to make that work in Movable Type. I’ll look into it and see how feasible it is.

  • oo, personal icons would be fabu.

  • I really like the idea of being able to post more links.

    As for differently-colored text, I don’t know. Could we turn the option on or off? Could it subtly affect the conversation in some way, like people giving more or less weight to comments because of the poster’s subscriber status? Just wondering, not adamantly opposed.

    Slightly off-topic, but I was wondering: As part of your eventual site redesign, would it be possible to have the “most recent comments” box be displayed on every page, perhaps at the bottom? It would make it easier to hop from thread to thread, without always having to back-button to the home page.

  • MaryAnn

    As for differently-colored text, I don’t know. Could we turn the option on or off?

    It would be more like a highlight of the commenter’s name, not the entire text of their comment.

    would it be possible to have the “most recent comments” box be displayed on every page, perhaps at the bottom?

    That’s an interesting idea. I’ll think about it.

  • Nina

    Me, a recent donor, I don’t need any special goodies or avatars ( makes sites WAY too cluttered). I was just happy to support an intelligent Who,cat,film & male gazing site is good enough for me.

  • Nina

    Me, a recent donor, I don’t need any special goodies or avatars ( makes sites WAY too cluttered). I was just happy to support an intelligent Who,cat,film & male gazing site. That is good enough for me.

  • Victor Plenty

    It would be more like a highlight of the commenter’s name, not the entire text of their comment.

    Yes, that sounds better than highlighting all the text of every subscriber’s comments, which could lead to all sorts of undesired results.

    Adding extra features and functionality specifically to subscribers is a better inducement than offering to remove the advertisements (at least, for me it is). But ideally, the new features should fit into the clean, uncluttered style you’ve always managed to maintain here, even as you’ve steadily increased the richness of the content offered.

    One reason I keep coming back, when I stop to think about it, is your consistent focus on the ideas and conversations, with just the right mix of entertaining videos and photos and such, but without excessive distractions from flashing lights and swirling colors.

    Highlighting just the subscriber’s name is an effective way to give recognition to those who support the site, without detracting from what you’ve achieved with your overall visual style.

    If you decide to allow avatar images, I hope you can keep them small enough to minimize their visual disruption.

    And the “trusted commenter” status is a definite plus for those of us who like to occasionally supply supporting references for our assertions. :)

  • Alice

    I don’t need any special favors. I subscribed because I like the site just as it is.

    I think you will just have to face it MaryAnn. Getting some people to contribute is a losing battle, no matter what you offer.

  • nyjm

    Yeah, double-post – but an idea just struck me. I would like an easy way to identify the original speaker in a block quote. Something simple like:

    MaryAnn said:

    something awesome and intriguing

    And I totally agree.

    I’ve participated on other forums that have a link/button that allow users to easily “Quote this post” and the code automatically appears in the response box. This makes exchanges a lot easier, instead of having to scroll back up the page to verify either the poster or what what said in the post itself.

  • Bill

    ditto all the “dont need special favors stuff”, but if you’re passing them out and you think they could help keep this thing afloat…

    i’d like to be able to opine quickly via a mouse click on your reviews: “agree” or “disagree” or “who gives a shit i’m never going to see this piece of garbage” and then see a tally of all reader responses. actually, this shouldnt just be for subscribers, it should be available to everyone.

    you could also make the site support users and we could all create our own favorites lists for other readers to check out…cuz i’m sure you have time to implement those little changes;)

  • MaryAnn

    ideally, the new features should fit into the clean, uncluttered style you’ve always managed to maintain here

    I agree. I don’t want to sacrifice the look of the site anymore than I want to sacrifice the quality of the content.

    Which makes it all the more disheartening to look around the Web and see ugly sites with idiotic content getting the number of pageviews in a day that I get in a month.

    Getting some people to contribute is a losing battle, no matter what you offer.

    That’s gonna be a big problem, then. Because if advertising can’t support even a moderately well-trafficked site like this one, and there aren’t enough readers who’ll support it, what’s left?

    I’ve mentioned this more than once before, but I think many people do not realize this: I don’t have a trust fund or a wealthy spouse. There is no venture-capital backing for this site (and it’s preposterous to imagine there ever could be). This isn’t a hobby that I do for fun in my spare time.

    I’m bitching again. I’ll stop now.

    I’ve participated on other forums that have a link/button that allow users to easily “Quote this post” and the code automatically appears in the response box. This makes exchanges a lot easier, instead of having to scroll back up the page to verify either the poster or what what said in the post itself.

    Yes, that would be easier. And that functionality is available in Movable Type 4 (the next newer version of the blogging software I’m using). I really want to migrate the site to MT4, but it’s a ridiculously enormous job because it involves reimplementing the site design in a different scheme (behind the scenes, that is — that site wouldn’t look terribly different from the user’s end) — as well as migrating a database that is enormous, what with 13 years of content and four or five years worth of user comments (since I initally moved to a blogging platform). I was up the other night all night working on it, and every time I put out some little programming fire, another one would crop up.

    I would love it if an insane amount of money came in from the subscription drive and I could hire an MT expert to handle the nitty-gritty. That doesn’t look likely to happen, though. So I’m left to do it on my own. There might be a way to cheat this in the current implementation of the site. I’ll look into it.

    i’d like to be able to opine quickly via a mouse click on your reviews: “agree” or “disagree” or “who gives a shit i’m never going to see this piece of garbage” and then see a tally of all reader responses. actually, this shouldnt just be for subscribers, it should be available to everyone.

    That I think is doable relatively easily with a plugin. Adding it to the list…

    you could also make the site support users and we could all create our own favorites lists for other readers to check out…cuz i’m sure you have time to implement those little changes;)

    I think that might be beyond the capabilities of MT in any iteration. But I’ll look into that one, too.

    I think one of the most distinctive things about this site is the community, and I would love to enhance it in any way possible without detracting from everything that’s already here.

    Here’s a thought: Instead of a private forum, how about one that’s open to everyone, but in which only donors/subscribers can start a conversation? Anyone could reply, but only supporters could start a new thread?

    I don’t even know if that’s possible, but it sounds like it should be. Like the idea?

  • bitchen frizzy

    I don’t even know if that’s possible, but it sounds like it should be. Like the idea?

    Mixed feelings. You might end up doing a lot more policing, unless you’re willing to have a forum where anything goes.

    BTW, this discussion of privileges for donors begs the question, how are you able to track who the donors are?

  • I would be perfectly content simply with the ability to go back and edit prior posts, as I seem to be prone to typos and HTML gaffes. :-) I’m guessing this is another MT4 transition thing . . .

  • MaryAnn

    BTW, this discussion of privileges for donors begs the question, how are you able to track who the donors are?

    By email address.

    I would be perfectly content simply with the ability to go back and edit prior posts

    Actually, I *think* I can do think very soon. Though you’ll be limited to editing posts within a short limit — perhaps 30 minutes — after you initially post.

  • By email address.

    Hmm. I donated using a different address than what I use to post comments. Should I be consistent?

  • MaryAnn

    Don’t worry about it yet, Bluejay. We’ll figure it out.

  • Ryan H

    Doesn’t really matter. It’s not like the posting address is ever seen my anyone, including MaryAnn (unless she has WAY too much time on her hands and just likes reading e-mail addresses). Easy enough to switch up the e-mail you use for FF.

  • Bill

    “Here’s a thought: Instead of a private forum, how about one that’s open to everyone, but in which only donors/subscribers can start a conversation? Anyone could reply, but only supporters could start a new thread?” -maj

    i like the idea a lot.

  • Laura

    A lot of the ideas sound really interesting. I like the idea of a forum which is open to everybody – it sounds like a good way to foster the community here even further.

    I was wondering though – how many of the regular readers actively participate in the community? I could be wrong but I imagine it would be a fairly small percentage. I say that because a lot of the ideas do seem to be targeted towards that community, but maybe we need more ideas that might encourage more lurkers like me to contribute? Not that I have many ideas – I signed up after the first subscription drive. :)

  • MaryAnn

    There’s no easy way to count the number of distinct commenters here, so I can’t say for sure how many regular commenters there are.

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