We are losing our platform.
The media always called it a “ghost town”, and that was true in the sense that it never rivalled the omnipresence of Facebook. But it was very much alive in our niche: Google Plus was the main hub for roleplaying aficionados, for those who presented new RPG modules and game systems, for the OSR-community, and for tangential creative endeavours, like character art, mapmaking (Dyson maps! Micro maps!) and so forth.
FATE Core and FAE would not have bloomed the way they did without Google Plus. Fiasco, many indie games and even DnD 5e, despite the Wizards’ marketing budget, would have taken longer to take off. And although there was the occasional social meltdown, when this person or that was declared persona non grata and people cut ties with them and declared that everyone who still talked with them would be ostracized as well, in general it was – and is – a wonderful and welcoming community full of creative people who loved games and art and literature and, well, being creative.
Whenever we read once more about the “ghost town” and about rumors that Google would close us down, we laughed. We were sure Google could measure our activity and know we were here, using, creating, filling their servers with content every day. We were used to setbacks (changes in the UI, additions or subtractions to the features, relocating our most important tool for online games, the Hangouts, etc), but we were sure our digital town was here to stay.
And yet, there ist is: Out of the blue they said it was over, with some strange far-fetched reasons (A data breach half a year ago) that can only be a smokescreen for the real reason (no desire to keep it going).
The second big betrayal after the murder of the Google Reader, the best RSS reader of its time, that was shut down because it was “not our core business”.
And like after the Google Reader, the most important question that popped up after the initial shockwave that travelled through the roleplaying community was: “What now?”
A New Home
One of the first options mulled around was Discord, but Discord is pretty quick and in the moment, and while it does lend itself well to discussions, it does not work so well for long form.
Facebook was an obvious idea, but Facebook is even more capricious than Google in terms of unilateral changes imposed on unsuspecting communities and 30-day-bans for reasons habitually left unexplained.
Others were Mastodon and Minds, but they didn’t get much traction. Tumblr was talked about, but Tumblr is more one-way publishing with a lot of agreements, less discussion-friendly. Diaspora reared its head again with a special “Pluspora“, and Reddit was discussed as a central social RPG hub.
Then there was the idea of MeWe. I thought I had never heard of it, but then found out that I already had an account there since 2017, unused. There were warnings against MeWe based on political reasons, but someone went so far as to check out said founder’s social media profiles on several networks and looked for problematic content in the past 18 months without finding any. The man is an outspoken capitalist and doesn’t like communism – that is all. Problematic political content has to be looked for and its proponents have to be added on purpose, so the danger of mixing with difficult non-gaming characters is not great.
What’s more, MeWe immediately declared willingness to take in the displaced G+ roleplaying people, and to accomodate them with new features – not unlike feedly did after the death of the Reader.
Result: A steady stream of people migrating from G+ to MeWe and filling it with life – and with new groups, like this G+ migration group. MeWe has some shortcomings, like a daily maximum of 50 new contacts, the necessity of reciprocal adding á la Facebook, and invisibility of a person’s profile page until mutual adding is done. Sharing just shares the content, not the source – like a quick copy/paste – which is awkward for sharing other peoples’ original creations.
Those are serious limitations for a community that relies so much on publishing and visibility. But MeWe seems to understand that and may provide new options soon-ish. There are also open groups on MeWe, which are searchable. MeWe Groups look, at first glance at least, like a viable option to continue the community that developed and grew on Google Plus – although they are still, like G+, a service provided by a company looking after a bottom line.
Losing a platform as active as the roleplaying community of G+ casts doubt on any service hosted by outsiders. So there was a strong sentiment to revive the old ways, like blogging, and blogrolls, to remain more independent of social providers.
Ironically, in light of the official reason “data breach”, that led to people sharing their names, email, and blog URLs on lists – a voluntary data breach.
Chris McDowall of Into the Odd and Bastionland fame was one of the first to state it – “Back to Blogs“. James Young of TenFootPolemic and Luka Rejec of WizardThiefFighter set up and shared a list for Google Plus gamers to orient themselves in the network.
A blog is yours. One can go down, five can go down, but (barring Google closing down Blogger) it will remain a relatively stable scene, diversified through different servers, collected at various places like this blogroll here. Or this one.
So, apart from staying in contact on Discord, MeWe and other necks of the digital woods,
- Collect blog addresses.
- Blog yourselves.
- Share other blogs and link to them.
It doesn’t have to be perfect. But it is yours. Unlike social media profiles, which, even after 7, 10 or 12 years of tending them, will always belong to someone else.
Go forth and blog.