Some Thoughts on Recruiting

UPDATE: All future WoW-related posts will be directed to guild.davidseah.com.

As I mentioned a few days ago, I’ve been recruiting players for a World of Warcraft Guild, ostensibly as a business networking experiment. This is not a new idea, of course, but I’m still astonished at how well this might actually work.

As I mulled this over, it occurred to me that this was just the latest in a series of networking activities related to my freelancing efforts. Read on!

DEVELOPING A PRESENCE

As a freelancer, one of the greatest challenges is finding new work. Before I had a website, I relied on word of mouth through my previous work contacts, and this kept me fed but not much more. After I started blogging, word of mouth gave way to “I found you on the Internet and I like your stuff”, which is a great way to get business contacts. It works because I write in the blog everyday frequently A LOT, and as a result I’ve amassed a collection of useful articles. This adds to my credibility as an individual who is serious about communication, design, and organization.

I think the credibility aspect of the blog works in three ways:

  • Appearance — The initial surface impression is that it looks clean and that I can put two sentences together.

  • Personality — I write plainly and conversationally, and my writing tends to mirror the way I present myself. The friendly emphasis on productivity, empowerment, and practical insight-making creates an environment that draws like-minded people.

  • Content — If I’m lucky, visitors stumble upon a post or photograph that strikes a chord with them on some level, and they explore further.

The main draw is, if I were to guess, Content and Personality. The main weakness in my website, however, is the poor organization that doesn’t do a good job of channeling new guests to the content they will find interesting. It doesn’t even do a good job of channeling people to the various useful bits of design I’ve already made available. I need to address this soon…the easier I can make it for people and search engines to casually explore the content I’ve created, the better the chances for creating a meaningful collision of interests that will lead to fruitful collaboration and co-scheming.

EXPANDING THE PRESENCE

While the blog is starting to work well for generating contacts, the other way of drawing people is by doing it in person at a festival like SXSW. I’ve also toyed with forums and Wikis, but the great problem with these tools is that they’re not very good at providing real-time interaction the way you get at an actual event. Without that back-and-forth interplay, it’s a lot more difficult to maintain a conversational groove.
  • The Forum is good for lengthy discussion, but if reading the forum is not a regular habit for the reading audience, it dies out. It takes a lot of effort to keep a forum going, and it’s mandatory that you have a few key contributors other than yourself. The forum has been great for meeting new people, but I feel bad for not keeping it as a nice, active place. I tend to concentrate on creating new content over reading websites and bulletin boards, which means I don’t put the energy into the forum that it deserves.

  • The Wiki, based on DokuWiki, has the potential to be a fun participatory project, but in practice it suffers from the need for someone to constantly say “It’s OK to edit”. Again, it comes down to having the momentum of someone other than the Wiki owner creating new content. I think a lot of people feel that they are a “guest” and shouldn’t edit other people’s work willy-nilly. Plus, editing a wiki isn’t exactly a pleasant experience unless you’re comfortable learning and working with embedded formatting codes. This limits the audience considerably. The Wiki is turning out to be more as a supplementary “content development” zone for me, where people can make requests and additions. I think it could be developed into an interesting site in its own right, as a kind of “co-development” zone, but that’s a lot of work also. I don’t think it’s what I need to focus on.

WELL, WHY HAVE A FORUM OR A WIKI IN THE FIRST PLACE?

Taking a step back, I need to ask myself why I started the Forum and the Wiki. Both of them were experimental forms of reaching out, but as I like to focus on new writing and new ideas, they end up being a kind of drain. However, I can see a pattern:

  • With the Forum, the idea was to share our personal histories and dreams to find kindred spirits. People who were interested in both (1) writing the background story and (2) talking about the subjects I laid out would be, I reasoned, more likely to be kindred. This worked to an extent, and several interesting side projects blossomed developed. However, it’s been difficult to maintain for me, because of the time involved. It’s been backburnered.

  • With the Wiki, the idea is to allow group shaping of ideas, together. There are a LOT of great ideas, some inspired by my work. Ideas, articles, and other content could be the binding agent of a community. With the Forum, it was more about our personal stories, but with the Wiki, it’s about co-creating ideas. That may not seem obvious yet, as I haven’t laid down any rules, but should I open source some components of the Printable CEO series it will be in some free-for-all form like this. Or, a more streamlined content management system.

  • With the WoW Guild, I think the idea is this: build relationships by sharing virtual experiences with people of similar interests and background. The people who are going to join the guild will only have heard about it through this blog or through a related person; if you are a regular visitor you’re likely to be compatible with other regular visitors. Add “business and social networking” to the raison d’etre of the guild, and I think we have the foundation of something that could be pretty darn cool.

SHARING EXPERIENCES

Skeptical? Here’s some stories from this weekend:

  • I was out exploring Stranglethorn Vale, a lush tropical jungle area teeming with giant gorillas, raptors, and panthers. Not only that, but the entire land is infested with surly trolls and pirates, and they make moving around off the main road quite dangerous. I teamed up with “Lansun”, a Level 38 Night Elf Druid, and some dwarf hunter we came across named “Ironhorse” or something like that, to help collect some magical liquid from a particularly virulent group of mystic trolls…very nasty! Now, a group of three mid-level characters can, individually, handle one or even two trolls by themselves easily; it’s when you have to deal with clusters of trolls and the roving patrols that things go all pear-shaped. It takes discipline, speed, and coordination to not get your party destroyed. Over the next hour or so, we figured out a strategy that made best use of our strengths while covering our weaknesses, creeping our way through the thickets and ruins trying not to take on too many opponents at once. There was one bad moment when the entire camp seemed to descend upon us, and we were wiped out. However, there were also two glorious moments when our careful planning gave way to a free-for-all. We covered each other magnificently, healing each other and handling the unexpected monster rush by the seat of our pants. When it was all over, we were drained but victorious. Just barely. There was certainly room for improvement (I blew a few spells myself), but we had bonded as a team. It kicked ass. I also learned a bit more about Lansun aka Jonathan, a Flash and ColdFusion developer. From that shared experience, I’ve come to know Jonathan a little better and recognize that he’s a good guy to have in a fight. I certainly would consider him when I had a ColdFusion job come up now, just based on this positive in-game experience.

  • Earlier in the weekend, I spent some time helping “Dirk Gently”, a newly-minted Paladin, through the game. This is Hornbeck’s character, a developer out in Oklahoma I think (I still haven’t gotten everyone’s name and real life profession straight…my apologies). It also happened to be Hornbeck’s first time playing World of Warcraft, so I spent a couple hours exploring the icy mountains of Dun Morogh, frigid home of the Alliance Dwarves and teaching him what I knew of the basics of WoW combat and questing. We chatted a bit about work, and I enjoyed reliving those earlier levels through him. It was a good opportunity to remember how to play also, since it has been a couple years since I’ve played. Hornbeck picked up the basics quickly, and he’s quickly rising in level. He also is having a good time.

  • On Monday night, there were 3 or 4 of us online at the same time, and we hopped on the same IRC channel (WoW has an IRC system built-in) and met everyone for the first time. “Beetlebum” was helping “Rendellini”, my Level 24 Mage, through the tedious and spooky quests in Duskwood. It’s a dark, haunted place where ancient trees stand in a cold fog, the landscape crawling with giant black wolves, man-sized spiders and the shambling Undead. It is a desperate place under siege from the creeping infestation of dark magic, so I was glad to have the help of a friend to power-level me through the rather depressing sequence of quests. Having a few people on the IRC channel chatting about work and meta-interests was fantastic too; when my kitchen timer went off to announce the end of my play session, I was sad to go.

NEXT STEPS

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p>Starting a guild is, as many people have told me, a lot of work. However, it has a huge advantage over the Wiki: it’s interactive in real time, and you can talk to people in real time. This is hugely energizing; it doesn’t hurt that WoW is a highly-polished and refined game, so it does not get in the way of having a good time. And remember: you can learn a lot just a few hours of sharing the same game quests. My challenge, with the help of guild offers that I appoint, will be to create an organization that creates more energy than it consumes for every one of the intelligent and friendly people who choose to join and stay.

Sign our Charter! We still need two more signatures before the Charter can be submitted and our Guild comes into existence. We’re maintaining a temporary guild page where you can list yourself so I can find you online to get your signature. From the way things are shaping up, I’m feeling very positive about the direction and the possibilities behind doing this. I’m looking forward to see how this experiment unfolds. As I said in my earlier post, starting a guild in a game as deep as World of Warcraft is quite similar to recruiting people for a new company; the lessons learned here should be quite valuable.

I’ll be on the Echo Isles server Tuesday May 29 from 8PM to 10PM Boston time as “Rendeihl” for signups. You can also jump in on the temporary chatroom by typing /join ddochat to say hello. Feel free to say “hi” to each other, and find out a bit about what you do…it is networking, after all :-)