Recently, rock band Pearl Jam released a single entitled "The Fixer." Two particular lyrics from this song serve as the inspiration for this article:
- When something's broke, I wanna put a bit of fixin' on it.
- When something's lost, I wanna fight to get it back again.
More than a few years ago, I reflected on whether or not Terrouge had lost the focal point of their e-zine, Redwall.
I was proven correct when in 2007, Terrouge effectively admitted this and changed into a general literature publication, Firebird.
When Terrouge announced a return to Redwall in early 2009, I was intrigued: would they really be returning to form like in the early Aughts?
My enthusiasm was short-lived after the following issues still really had little to say in terms of Redwall content. Including a few fan fiction chapters each month doesn't count as a Redwall-focused publication.
People often state the Redwall Online Community is in a state of decline, or that it has declined. Yet here at the Redwall Wiki, we are booming with life. Every day I see fan artists showing off new artwork, fan fiction writers are contributing new stories, and the average Redwall fan is writing or editing an article for the database. I am inspired by all of this activity and Redwall fandom.
Arguably, we are the largest and most active Redwall site, so you would think a Redwall webmaster or staffer interested in rejuvenating their own website might seek out my counsel on how to attract more traffic and rise from their casket. Unfortunately, this hasn't happened, which is why I'm writing this editorial. I'm going to provide Terrouge with a bit of unsolicited advice, in the hopes that they heed these words if they have any interest in getting 'it' back again. I share this with only the best intentions in mind, because Terrouge was one of the most important Redwall websites to me when I was younger.
- Step One: The leadership needs to stop apologizing. Just for 2010, I've counted at least six apologizes  
for publication issues and errors. This doesn't include the numerous apologies for the year before that, or the year before that. You wanted to lead an online website, you made the decision to take control. Therefore, you are to be held accountable for any problems that occur. If you have school, and grades are important to you, great; don't volunteer to manage a website if you can't handle the load of both. Absolutely no one is interested in frequenting a media-styled website that isn't regularly updated on some sort of schedule. And when you've announced a schedule (either monthly or bi-monthly) and you fail to keep that schedule, that only drives away the average reader. Stop apologizing for your faults and actually commit to fixing them. Publish on time, every time. If this is too much, let someone who can handle this take charge, or just shut down entirely.
- Step Two: Dramatic changes to your website are pretty much mandatory. First, things need to be kept up to date. The staff page hasn't been updated since 2009 so I have no idea who the current staff actually is. The archives haven't been kept accurate since last June.
Second, you need to actually change your publishing format into something more modern. Every article should have commenting on the actual article, and anonymous readers should be allowed to comment and discuss. Article discussion should be eliminated on the site forums altogether and just left for the commenting section. Additionally, all forums from previous issue discussion should be available for browsing and historical context.
- Step Three: Specificity is needed just about everywhere. The site needs to clearly define on the 'About' page what sort of content belongs in an issue, what doesn't, and the recommended age level for someone browsing the site. What can readers expect to find inside? Is Redwall really a focus of the e-zine? If yes, have the staff members read all the books? If they haven't read all the books, why are they on the staff? Who is allowed to influence Terrouge content? The readership community? Only staff members? Does the general public have a say in what gets published? Be clear.
- Step Four: If you decide to keep the Terrouge Forums as part of the site, there needs to be clear direction in terms of policy and how it is different from the e-zine itself, if it is different. Do the rules that govern what is acceptable in terms of forum content also apply to the e-zine? Why/why not? This needs to be publicly announced, stickied, and made open for community questions/discussion.
If the Terrouge Forums are a separate entity from the e-zine, why are Terrouge staffers also moderators on the forum? Wouldn't that indicate a conflict of interest? Explain this. Ideally, there should not be overlap here.
All forum policies and procedures, including moderator and administrative policies, should be made public, transparent, and somewhere prominent. Universal definitions for things like 'trolling', 'flaming', etc. should be included in this, and not left up to the moderator-of-the-day, as this leads to double standards when disciplining some users and not others. Moderators should also be prepared to publicize all decisions with clear reasoning, and explain these decisions in detail. Telling users to "just accept" things is unprofessional and discourteous. Who wants to visit a place where there are no clear rules and they can't even learn the right ones? Debate should not be prohibited.
- Step Five: Fresh content is needed. Publishing antiquated files from years ago as new Terrouge content is not the way to attract new readers. And if you are publishing old content (which again, I'm not advising whatsoever), this needs to be specified in the article itself.
Stronger reporter recruitment efforts are needed; much more than simple volunteer requests when criticism is made. New voices packaged together with new content is a winning solution.
Terrouge writer Tiberuvsky stepped up to the plate a few days ago, outlining some articles he would be exploring in the near future, however his efforts alone are not enough. The Terrouge administrative staff needs to completely follow through if they ever expect to experience another period of growth in this new decade.
I have plenty of other advice, this is just the beginning. I'm open for questions from anyone wishing to learn more.
Please keep the comments section civil, thank you.
June 2010 Update
And, as expected (to my amusement now), June's issue has been announced with a "delay" . This means that since Ashen Fox was announced as lead editor in November 2009, she has failed to get an issue up for January, failed to get one up on time for February, failed to get one up on time for April, and failed to get one up on time for June.
This has gone from beyond pitiful to simply embarrassing. You have a month and a half to get everything together, you've been in charge for approximately 7 months and every publication has had some sort of problem. Either you can't handle the pressure of being a leader, or you just don't care. The question is, which is it?