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Community Projects and Collaborations (QuackCast 16)

skoolmunkee at 11:34AM, Feb. 28, 2011

Project types, examples, and advice for running

(5 star average out of 1 vote)

This writeup is not so much a tutorial as a guide, and an easier-to-reference version of the topic.

So, to start off with, why do community projects?
This has been brought up in other QuackCasts, but here’s a quick and easy summary:
- great way to network
- a way to get your stuff noticed
- good practice
- can get you out of a rut
- creative and fun
- contribute to cool projects

Types of Projects
There’s a few general categories that community projects fall into, based on the type of involvement they’re promoting. If you’re thinking of starting a project, don’t feel limited to these types! Examples may not be current - they are provided to make it easy to see what that project was about, what it produced, how it was managed, etc. Don’t try and sign up unless you’ve determined that they’re actively running.

One-Off Contributions To A Collection
These are based around a theme, such as “draw something you did today” or “make a valentine” and are added to a collection by the project manager as they are submitted.
Pros: Little commitment required; Anyone of any ability or comic (or even no comic) can participate
Cons: Must have a strong idea for people to be interested; must generally provide some good entries to start with
Examples: Character Desktop Wallpaper, Fusion, One Third of Your Life Is Spent Sleeping…, Supers Illustrated, Starving Artists

Suggestions/Contributions To A Creator
A borderline community project, this is where the creator asks for ideas, designs, etc. which they can respond to or include for themselves (but share communally).
Pros: Very low commitment; opportunity to brainstorm; fun seeing a suggestion/contribution used or an idea realized
Cons: Generally seen as less valuable to participate in; requires some dedication and responsiveness from the creator
Examples: The Adventure of Experiencing Your Perspective, Superheroes

Exchanges or Circles
Essentially, one person does something for another person, and gets something in return. Usually one-on-one but can cycle through in a longer-term group to focus on a given member (i.e. everyone draws X’s character in month Y).
Pros: Usually run in cycles (with some time in between), so can be seen as generally low-commitment (except in the long-term group type); people love getting something; generally seen as festive/positive due to the gifting/trading aspect
Cons: Can lead to disappointment if someone feels they received something inferior; Deadbeats can occur and should be planned for; large groups can be hard to manage; harder for non-artists to participate unless other contribution types are welcome
Examples: Secret Santa, Comic Remix, Quack With The Ducks, V.U.S.

Competitions and Vote-Offs
A core group of people create entries for a themed competition and the community participates in determining the winner (or can be the winner themselves).
Pros: People outside of core group can still participate via voting, ‘support’ works, presenting awards, etc.; not problematic if someone drops out
Cons: Requires some commitment by participants, sometimes a large amount; late submissions drag the project out
Examples: Fightsplosion, Name That Voice, DD Beauty Contest, DD Awards

Collaboration Comics
A smallish group of creators works together to produce a comic/project which benefits and includes them all.
Pros: Development of a larger project; could be a new creation or include individuals’ properties; opportunity to explore different ‘universes,’ versions, etc.
Cons: Generally a long-term commitment, unless “guest spots” and other quick items for late joiners etc. are planned for; can require a great deal from participants
Examples: Lite Bites, Short Stories, Heroes Alliance, Off Hours

Themed Groups or Games
This is kind of an “other” category, where frequent participants end up being included informally in related works, and are encouraged to create things which feature the theme, group, or members.
Pros: Can be open to any type of participation/contribution; very socially-oriented; members can decide their level of commitment
Cons: Generally requires a long-term leader and organizer; can become disorganized or lose steam over time
Examples: Mafia, TD High, DD Civil War, DD Zombies

Management and Organization Advice
If you are thinking about starting a community project- awesome! I hope this guide gave you some ideas. Smaller or informal projects won’t need much in the way of organization, but a lot of big ones experience problems (or fall apart completely) because of management problems. You may not expect the amount of work it takes to keep a project running, but an invested manager can make all the difference in people’s interest, and participation, and dedication. Here’s some advice:

Participate in your own project - Your idea can’t be that great if you don’t even want to do it yourself.

Try to have some “seed” entries - This shows people some examples of how the project works and perhaps what level of participation to expect. And no one likes being the first!

Take notes - this can be a spreadsheet of pair-ups, a checklist of participants and due dates, notes about participants and their communications with you, etc. PQs are not a good way to manage much information, and it can be really helpful to have a record of correspondence in larger projects.

Hold people to their commitments - Generally this means if you give a due date, stick to it! If someone has a week to finish their page, YOU have to follow that up and make sure they do it. It can mean some chasing, but if you don’t remind them they are late then it may just keep getting more late. Serial lateness can kill a project very quickly.

Anticipate trouble spots and plan any intervention - Is it likely that some people will not complete their Secret Santa on time? Yes. What will you do about it? Maybe you should plan to remind individuals you haven’t heard from a few days before the due date to remind them, specifically (and not just a general reminder in a thread they may not check any more) they promised to do something. Is it likely that someone may submit something inappropriate or not up to a standard? Plan a review stage before it goes forward too far. Etc.

And lastly, Don’t under manage, but don’t over-manage either - This can be tough to determine, but it means pay attention to the level of participation, interest, etc. If something’s not working, make the effort to figure out why and address it. Being too demanding or having too many steps can be off-putting, but so can an inattentive manager. Enthusiasm and the joy of participation will get a project far in the beginning, but more nurturing may be needed later.



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