Interview: Chris Mullican & Brent Jans (PathfinderSociety.net)

The Pathfinder Society is a world-spanning organization with thousands of members all over the globe. In order to facilitate a union between the different countries, several of our outstanding venture-officers have come together to start PathfinderSociety.net, a website dedicated to all things PFS run by a select few coordinators and done for the fans. While I could go into vivid detail about some of the things one can expect from the Society’s newest form of media, it was just as easy to let PFS.net’s site administrator, Chris Mullican, and lead blog developer, Brent Jans, explain it all to you themselves. That’s why I called them up and sat down with them for an interview.

[Robert] First, I’d like to congratulate the each of you and your fellow staff members on the successful launch of the website. If we could just start with a brief explanation of what exactly the website is all about and how the idea of a digitized hub for Pathfinder Society Organized Play – beyond that of Paizo’s own website – came to be?

[Chris] I think the site is meant to get players both old and new in touch with local lodges so that they can find friendly places to play. When we were discussing the site, someone brought up that it would be nice to have something to bring people back to the site and thus was the blog section born. As we continued setting things up, we had suggestions from other members of the team to turn the site into more than just a blog and that’s when we decided to add the other sections as well. There were some things that were brought like forums, but that was one thing we all agreed that we wanted to avoid. The site’s not meant to take anything away from anything in Paizo’s toolbox, but to add to and work with what Paizo’s already established.

[Brent] When Chris brought me onboard and we talked about what the site was going to be, I knew we wanted something to compliment, not compete with, both Paizo’s site and the PathfinderWiki, among other community resources. Since I was brought on to manage the blog side, I knew I wanted to do something with it that reflected the wide variety of talent we had among our own Pathfinders and Venture-Officers. One of my first steps was to put the word out among our VOs, asking for article submissions. We also added a Submissions area to the site so that any member can propose or submit an article for consideration.

[Robert] On launch day, how much traffic did the site receive and has traffic remained as steady as it did during that first ‘boom’ or has it begun to taper off? What are some of the things you’re doing to ensure traffic stays consistent and what are some of the things you’re doing to help grow it for the site?

[Chris] On launch day, the site had well over 3,000 hits, which was great, but since then traffic has tapered off to about 1,000-1,500 hits a day. On Wednesdays, when we launch a new blog, we generally see a spike in that traffic. We are still brainstorming ways to attract new people to the site and I think that lies in the power and quality of our blog posts.

[Brent] Out of those initial hits came a good number of submission inquiries as well, which is what I was hoping for. Nothing would have been worse for the blog side than to have all those people visit the site, but show no interest in contributing. But we’ve had a great response, and I’ve received many good article ideas and submissions. We’re always looking for more, of course.

[Robert] With so many resources already out there for PFS, what are some of the things people can expect to find on the website that they probably couldn’t see on Paizo’s website?

[Chris] The ability to find a lodge and how they communicate are our strongest pull. If you’re a new player or even a veteran player visiting from a different area, you can easily go to PFS.net and find a friendly local gaming spot near you to play. One of the coolest things we created for navigation in doing this is our interactive map. We’d also like to build more community-use items on our ‘Downloads’ page that includes those items people have made that help enhance running or playing in the PFS campaign.

[Brent] I wanted this to be by Pathfinders as much as it’s for Pathfinders. So for the foreseeable future, all blog articles will come from the membership. We have a core group of bloggers, each with a specialty: Golarion lore, rules, and so on. Those posts will be supplemented by a variety of posts, which come from other VOs, Pathfinders, and regional lodge sites. That last one is important; a lot of really good articles get posted on regional sites, and may not be read by anyone outside that region. We plan on reposting some of the best ones to help them reach a wider audience.

[Robert] As a continuation from the last question, what sort of topics can we expect to see discussed on the website’s blog and how often cane we expect to see the blog updated with the latest discussions? You’ve already introduced quite a few blog topics as is. What are some other ideas you’ve had for topics that maybe e we haven’t seen yet?

[Chris] Brent is the real expert on this. I think his team is aiming for at least two blog posts a week, possibly more. When the initial idea of the site was being discussed and blogs were brought up, I felt that we needed someone with the experience to help manage the blog posts. I tend to not be the most articulate of people and find sometimes what I mean to say and what people think I meant have turned out to be two totally different things, so finding someone that was more eloquent with their words was a good choice. I do know that we have some awesome bloggers for the site and we will have some guest bloggers from time to time that will discuss topics they are passionate about.

[Brent] As Chris said, right now the blog updates twice a week. My goal, once I’m sure we have a good flow of articles, is to move to three times a week. As for articles yet to come, we’ll have post highlighting individual PFS regions, reviews of Paizo publications with an eye toward PFS usefulness, articles about exceptional PFS volunteers, reports from conventions around the world, and many things we haven’t seen or even thought up yet. We’re open to any ideas the members come up with, so I expect them to surprise me.

[Robert] Auguste Rodin, a French sculptor often considered the progenitor of modern sculpture, once said,” Nothing is a waste of time if you use the experience wisely.” What are you hoping people experience when they come to the site and what sort of wisdom do you think they’ll take away from their visit to the page?

[Chris] I hope people find the site useful and can learn something from the wide range of topics that are going to be discussed.

[Brent] If the site and blog achieve on thing, I hope it’s to bring our global community closer together. I want Pathfinders to feel connected to each other, finding other lodges through us and reading articles from around the world. Pathfinder Society has really grown into a global community and I want the blog to represent that. While we post in English, I’m happy to consider posting articles in other languages as well; assuming we have Pathfinders interested in translating.

[Robert] On the subject of experience, your staff brings quite a breadth of it to the table. Have there been any experiences either of you has had that you brought with you during the conceptualization of this grandiose project and would you be willing to share that with us today?

[Chris] In the very early stages of the site we had an idea, but the way to establish it and get it off the ground was our biggest obstacle. While I have a background in tech, making a website is not among that experience. With the suggestions of more experienced people, we settled on WordPress as the platform. Once we had WordPress installed on the domain, I purchased a few books on the subject as well as on CSS, HTML, and other areas. Then I started work on the site with the others. We did have some technical problems with the site that actually delayed the launch of the site but fortunately for us there were other members of our team like Royce Thigpen that were able to help get the issues ironed out and get us to launch.

[Brent] I’ve never done content management for a website before, beyond posting to my own blog, but I have an editing background and I work with a great group of editors at On Spec Magazine. So I tapped into that wealth of experience to help me organize the blog side. The rest of the learning has come “on the job,” from talking and working with the bloggers. We’re all open to learning as we go, which makes the whole experience really positive and fun.

[Robert] Before we go would you be willing to let us into your minds for one moment and share what we can expect from the website in the coming months as the community grows and expands?

[Chris] We have a couple interviews like this that we are excited about. One is from a Paizo staff member about an upcoming project and we are working on getting a couple more interviews we think people involved with PFS will enjoy. We always entertain ideas from the community on how to make the site a better place to visit or things people might like to see. While not every idea will get implemented, we do put serious thought into site enhancements and expansions. We really want this to be a great community resource that people find useful and come back to frequently.

[Brent] More and more blogs! I’m hoping we’re up to three posts a week before GenCon. I’d love to have the ‘problem’ of having to schedule months in advance. I’m also excited to connect our readers with bloggers from around the global community.

[Robert] Well, I think that about covers everything I can think of. Again, I want to extend my sincerest thanks to you and all the members of the PFS.net crew who’ve made it their mission to bring this amazing resource to the PFS community. Thank you very much for the chance to interview and help establish a background on the site. To everyone reading, don’t forget to go check out PathfinderSociety.net and get a look at one of the best new resources out there for PFS.

 

Written by Robert Beasley

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