What’s been going on?

October 8, 2009

Dear IGDA Members,

Over the last few weeks, I hope you have noticed a concerted effort to reduce the number of emails coming from IGDA to your email inbox.  I know it seemed like we were sending something out every day, and a few folks voiced complaints about it.

Let me begin by saying the reason for the large amount of email output was threefold: A. We had a number of issues surrounding the special election, Board changes, and decisions that had to get out to the membership to remain within the structure for notifications in the bylaws.  B. When I arrived at the end of June, one of the things that a number of the people whom I spoke with, and which I also saw on the forums and such was a desire for more transparency on what is going on with and at the IGDA.  Finally, C. Since I have arrived, we’ve been instituting a number of new programs and changes to existing ones that were important to bring to your attention BEFORE they went live.  In fact, we’ve had one big project happening each month since that time and likely to continue into the near future.

That said, I hate coming to my inbox and finding a lot of email as much as the next person.  So, in hearing that people felt the pendulum had swung too far in the notification direction, we’ve cut back intentionally.  I hope that you have seen this.  As part of my efforts to keep the quantity of email light, but the quality of information high (signal to noise ratio as is commonly used) I will be sending out semi-regularly emails like this one, which have a large amount of content for you to read and be aware of.

I also will continue to post to my Blog as often as possible, and we will be using twitter and our Facebook account more to allow people to opt in to our messaging. So, there will be a lot of info forthcoming on various items, but I need you to do your part if you want to stay in the loop and actually read these various areas where the content will be.

In this email we will be talking about:
– The New Website
– The Leadership Forum
– The Webinar Series
– Unemployed Members Dues Rate

The new website:

According to the legends I have heard from before my arrival, this website has been in the making for about 4 years.  While not getting into the details of these legends, I am also aware that it seemed like the new site was just over the horizon for a long time.  Having worked for a web developer in a previous life, I understand how sometimes these expectations can lead us to set launch dates that don’t end up working out.  That said, we set a launch date in Sept. of Oct. 19th. At the moment we are still on track to hit that date and go live.

“DO WHAT!!??!!”

Yes, we plan on launching the new website that Jason and Tim and now Mark and Tobi have been spearheading for some time.  Let me share some details for those of you who may not have heard from your SIG or Chapter leaders already.

The new website has a front end based on Drupal, and a Back End that runs via CiviCRM.  Naturally the back end piece is more for the operations of the association, but it also runs the group security aspects of the site.

The new website has some interesting tools and new functions and features that you should find useful.  Specifically the ability for each logged in user to be able to customize some of the display aspects so that you can filter in the content you are regularly accessing more easily.  We’ll also have polling abilities, and elections capacity, and some other new toys that I’ll be creating a tutorial to use with Joseph Sapp who has been our webherd for the duration of this project.

For many of you, the change will be mainly in a little more easily accessed content and some new opportunities to use the site.  But for the SIG & Chapter Leaders and Staff, there is a great deal of added capabilities that we will have.  As the previous site did not actually have an effective content management system, and the pages were being done manually by Joseph Sapp.  There will also be a new member’s only content areas, where various benefits will begin to be placed that are for IGDA members specifically. An example will be the webinar recordings and sign up areas, but that’s the start of what will likely grow to a strong reason to be a member of the IGDA.  This area is the direct result of input from the membership survey in Sept. where the majority of you indicated there should be some member’s only features and programs.

In addition, many of the database tools were not readily adjustable, and the new CiviCRM piece should allow us a great deal more capability, and the ability to reduce expenses associated with processing and maintaining the 12,000 member records we have on file.

Naturally, there will be hiccups.  I don’t know what these will be (if I did I would fix them so they never happened) but we’ll address any challenges as they appear.  I hope you will be kind to the staff and volunteers as we make this migration happen.  As I have said in other communications this project too is an evolution, and even once it’s launched we will continue to grow the website in various directions to offer more capabilities and ease of use.

I have been counseled by some folks that the new website does not have the visual design impact that we, as the IGDA should have.  I accept that and agree.  That said, I think it is important to continue to move forward with the changes that have been accomplished with the new site, and adjust the visual design elements once the site is up and stable.  To that end, if there are any volunteers who would like to be part of the visual design elements of the website, especially those with artistic talent or Drupal experience, please let myself or Joseph Sapp or Mark D. know so that when we are ready to move forward in that area, we know whom to turn to.

I am excited about getting this site up and running.  There is a great deal of effort that has gone into this project, and Jason and Tim should really be given a hearty thank you for their time on this project.  While we will continue to evolve this application to our needs, the foundation is strong and they are largely responsible for it getting to where it is.

Many of you may be wondering about the current website, the content, the wiki, the forums, etc. We will be maintaining the original site as is, and have an archival link to it.  The purpose here is to allow for any content that was missed during the migration to be gathered and moved over after the official launch, and also to maintain the original site as a back up in the event that some point of failure prevents the anticipated launch.  (Again, I don’t expect this, or I would have fixed it, but as game developers, I am sure you all understand that sometimes things happen beyond our control.)  The wiki will remain as is for the immediate future.  We have received a great deal of positive feedback on the wiki, and I prefer not to tamper with a “good thing” when I have one.  We will also be looking at moving the forum content over, but that is a stage 2 endeavor.  For the time being our main focus is getting up some new member’s only forums as well as public ones.  Finally, the SIGs and Chapters have been given some heads up warning that this change is coming, and some options for keeping or moving their content over.

Again, this launch is officially scheduled for Oct. 19th, with a soft target of Oct. 16th.  Your positive thoughts and gentle indications when you find any errors will go a long way towards making this a great experience for everyone.

The Leadership Forum:

In the event that you may not know, we are running an IGDA Leadership forum: http://www.igda.org/leadership/

Times are tight for everyone these days, and that has made many associations cancel or limit their meetings.  The IGDA suggests that because of the fact that the economy is down, this is the perfect time for you and your team to attend the IGDA Leadership Forum.  Get away from the gamer events, and come and spend 2 days with professionals just like yourself, who are facing the same problems.  Sure none of us can talk about the projects we are working on, but we CAN talk about the problems we’re facing and share ideas and solutions to challenges we’ve been dealing with.

The IGDA has offered a number of discount codes, if you don’t have one, contact your favorite Board member and get theirs.  We are firmly behind the notion that the more game developers we can bring together in a meaningful discussion, the better an event we will have.  Thus the promotional codes are extended, and we are actively encouraging you to come, and listen to some high powered speakers who have been in the trenches alongside you.  Ask them the hard questions and see if they have some solutions that might not have occurred to you yet. Then talk to other folks who might be able to offer you some thoughts and resources to look at later on when you’re working in the middle of the night and you just need a little help.

We’ve got over 100 folks attending already, and we are expecting 200 or so.  A small, high powered meeting, with plenty of time built in to network, so you don’t need to stand in the hall during a session to chat with people about the issues you’re facing.

Register on-line with your promo code: http://www.igda.org/leadership/registration/

SCRUM Certification:

In conjunction with our leadership forum, we are partnering with Clinton Keith on offering a SCRUM Master Certification course.  If you’ve used Agile or your team needs a little more effective means of being efficient to prevent crunch or reworking projects, this is an awesome opportunity to send one or two folks and then bring the program back and get the whole team up to speed.  Information on the course is here: http://www.agilegamedevelopment.com/CKC/CSM4VG_Brochure.pdf

We’ve limited the seating to 35 participants, and we are selling out, so please register now to reserve your seat.  If you attend both the certification and the Leadership forum, we’re offering you 10% off both in addition to your discount code for the Leadership Forum.

Register Here:  http://www.igda.org/leadership/registration/

IGDA Members Only Webinar:

One of the things that came out of the member satisfaction survey was the desire to see more practical benefits for your membership dues.  To that end, we have begun a year round series of webinars for IGDA members only.  Instead of asking you to always come to the conference, we’re bringing some of the conference materials to you.

Our first webinar was on the fundamentals of SCRUM, Lean and Agile with Clinton Keith, and we had over 200 folks register for the event and over 150 stay for the full hour and a half.  We’ve recorded the session, and the recording should go live for everyone to see as early as today.

We are lining up speakers in all topic areas now for the next 6 months, and my goal is to bring you a new webinar every 2-3 weeks.  If we have more content than that, we’ll ramp up the number of presentations, but to start I’d like to space it out as we all (members, presenters and staff) get comfortable with the concept, the expectations and the technology.

Our next Scheduled Webinar will be Tom Buscaglia, The Game Attorney, presenting: Indie Gold: Downloadable Content Models for Core Casual Games.  Which will take place at 12:00 noon eastern/9am Pacific on Oct. 27th.  Of course if you know Tom, you know you need to attend this webinar, because NO ONE knows what he might say!

A separate invitation to register for the webinar will follow, as will a full schedule of the webinars lined up for the rest of the year.

REQUEST:  If you, yes you, IGDA member reading this, know of someone who has an interesting topic and wants to speak via webinar to the group, please email me joshua@igda.org, and we’ll get you on the schedule.  Highly specific and technical presentations are welcome.  This is the perfect format for a session that might only appeal to 20 people, because we can fit you in and get you in front of the 20 people who will care about what you have to say.  All disciplines are welcome!  We have members in almost every area related to Game Development, so whether your topic is visual, code, business, or humanity related, let us put you in front of the people.  We want to build content for our members, and this is a wonderful way to be able to accommodate that.  (We are also looking for presentations in languages besides English, specifically Japanese, French, Spanish and German.  Let us know if you have that type of capacity and interest in presenting at a time convenient to a chapter across the globe.)

Chapters: If you are having some trouble getting speakers for your local chapter meetings, we can use this technology to find you a great speaker that you can project up for your group.

Unemployed Member Dues Rate:

This also has been announced before, but I think it is important enough to make note of again.  The Board of Directors of the IGDA understands that many of our members may currently be between assignments, and when the dues renewal comes at such a time, it becomes a question of personal resources.  In order to attempt to support these efforts, the Board has approved an Unemployed renewal rate of $25 for any member whose dues renewal comes up at a time when they are between jobs.  This is an honor system program, and is done with the intention of supporting our members who want to stay involved in the IGDA, yet may be concerned about their own finances.

We have a number of new initiatives coming as well.  We are looking into a career center, some insurance opportunities, lifetime membership, and more.  As these come closer to launch, I’ll be filling you in.

Regards,

Joshua

Joshua Caulfield
Executive Director

IGDA


New Board Members

September 29, 2009

Dear IGDA members who attended the Austin GDC,

I had an excellent time meeting many of you throughout the week, and look forward to doing so again in the future.  It is clear to me that you understand the power of your chapters is in your volunteers and their willingness and desire to make the organization into something greater than the sum of its parts.

As you know, I have been working diligently since July 1st to increase the value of the central organization. Being developers, I am also confident that you understand nothing is achieved overnight or by one’s self.  The IGDA Board of Directors has been integrally involved in all of the changes you have seen in the last 3 months, and there are MANY more to come.

It is because the need is so great that the Board, upon reviewing the departure of 3 elected members, decided that additional volunteers were needed.  The full Board reviewed and discussed a number of candidates, specifically focusing in on those who had expressed interest previously, and who had skill sets that the organization needs in this critical period of transition.

We have challenges ahead, which should not be news to you.  But we also have solid plans to rebuild membership, increase participation, and bring increased value to each individual member.  We also have the administrative issues that any organization servicing 12,000 people worldwide faces.  So it was that we needed some help, and could not wait for the election cycle to roll about. This is exactly why the ability for the Board to appoint members was placed into the by-laws in the first place.  These folks have agreed to serve for shortened 2 year terms specifically to support the association in this time of transition. There is work to be done, and they agreed to help get on with the jobs at hand.

I ask each of you to support these new Board members as well as the existing ones.  For without them, the IGDA as an international organization would not exist.  I also ask you to consider volunteering to run for the Board yourself.  It is not an easy task, and it requires more than a little of your time, but if you want to make a difference in the IGDA, that is the best place to be.

Sincerely,

Joshua


New Website Update

September 23, 2009

Dear Members,

I recently sent out an update to the chapter and SIG leadership about the website status.  While there are still likely to be challenges ahead, and timelines do change for various reasons, I wanted to let everyone know what was happening for the sake of transparency.  Here was the email I sent:

Good Morning Folks,

I know you’ve all been waiting for nearly 4 years, and I also know that there always seems to be a “it’s almost ready” answer coming to you.  So in order to give you all the best info, I’m going to give you more info than you really need, to provide some insight into where things are, what’s recently been going on, and where we’re headed. (Sorry this email is long and focused, I am open to any questions that you might have, but wanted to be as tight as possible below.)

1.  You should all as chapter or SIG coordinators have someone who can access the website for you.  If not please email myself (joshua@igda.org) or Joseph Sapp (joda@igda.org) so we can make sure that happens.

2.  When I came on at the beginning of July, we had a number of “serious” blockers.  Things that just really needed to be finished so that the site would work, and we wouldn’t look like complete idiots for putting it out there.  Tim L. (please hold the comments) did a good job in moving through those with Tobi and Myself and Joseph backing him up.  (Also mad props to the QA folks and sig and chapter leaders who provided testing and bugs and the like.  Thank you all.)

2a.  With Tim’s resignation, Mark D. has stepped up as a technically proficient Board member to take this project to the final steps.

2b.  Because of the email exploit during the previous month, it was clear that we needed to do a security audit to ensure that the site was not open to similar shenanigans.  At this time, while no site is impervious, all reasonable steps have been taken to ensure we are as secure as possible with the resources we have available.

3. This week at GDC Austin, Tobi, Mark, Joseph and Myself had a brief conversation about what is going on with the website, the migration plan, blockers, etc.

3a.  There are no “major” blockers at this time.  i.e.  There are still a number of minor issues here and there, and I am well aware that the visual design is not what the group would like, but we don’t feel it’s worth waiting another 6 months to fix these lesser items.

3b. I am committing to you that this release of the website will not be the end of the project.  We WILL work to fix bugs and other items as they appear.  We will also work on reworking the visual design to be a more effective, engaging and exciting visitor experience.  But these items will need to wait a bit (likely a review in the first quarter of 2010.)

4. We have a migration plan in place, as well as back up plans for the current site, transfers of forums and wiki content, and list swap-overs.  This will not be an easy process, and I am sure we will have a few mistakes during the process.  I am counting on your help to review the site and let me know where issues occur.

4a. Part of the migration process is to ensure that all of the content you folks want transferred over to the new site for your chapter areas is moved.  So please keep an eye on the migration date and let myself or Joseph know ASAP if that date is not going to work for you.

4b.  I have been clearly informed by the community, that the previous site info is critical to have.  So for a period of time we will retain the old site, it simply won’t be directly accessible to the public.  Please do not plan on having access to it regularly, as we will need to take it down after a period.

5. I would very much like to have the new site go live on Oct. 19th (arranging for a soft transition in the evening of Oct. 16th, with the weekend to work out any initial kinks).  However let me be clear, we have not confirmed that will be doable yet.  I am letting you in on the discussion phase.  We may need to do it earlier in the day, or on a different day altogether.  But I will keep you apprised.

OK, that’s the plan as it stands.  I will get more info out to you as we get into a more realistic stance.  Please move any content you have over, and again, if you haven’t had access, let me know.

There are other things going on also:
– We can set up chapter groups for specific reserved content to your chapters. (Sigs as well)
– Elections can be done via the site.
– We have need for a users guide, which the writer’s sig generously agreed to create for us, and I am approaching them on now.

Sincerely,
Joshua


Recent Forum Moderation

August 26, 2009

Dear IGDA Members,

Last week we made an unfortunate mistake in our execution of the IGDA Terms of Use policies.  While taking down a large number of reported posts for review, we did not effectively communicate that these posts had been reported (for a variety of reasons) and that the IGDA was reviewing them and determining if they needed to be edited or restored in full.

There was no intent to censor anyone’s speech, and many were restored quickly and many more were restored today.  The IGDA is about free speech, as long as they are within our terms of use. (Terms that are not particularly restrictive, have been posted for several years, and may be found here: http://www.igda.org/terms.php)

There is no reason why the IGDA leadership seeks to suppress posts that have been on-line and readily available for over a month.  Also, great care was taken to hold the positions and maintain the threads so as to make it possible to restore posts as they were reviewed.  The root of this issue was really the volume of reports and an attempt to make final decisions based on these older posts in light of the announcement of the special meeting, which will undoubtedly spark further forum discussions and reports.

In light of the concerns, Tobi Saulnier has asked Coray Seifert to put together a small group to rapidly review these posts and determine their adherence to our terms of use.  You should begin seeing some of the posts being restored as early as today, though any determined to violate the terms will remain down.

There are a lot of things going on at the IGDA right now, and a relatively new set of folks handling the majority of them.  Myself, David, Shelby and Alex have all been with the IGDA for less that 3 months.  Unfortunately, this led to a mistake that created an unfortunate level of controversy, as we were attempting to resolve a backlog of requests before new ones came in.  Rather than censorship, this was an error in communication, and a lack of ability to speedily resolve the post reports.

Sincerely,

Joshua Caulfield
Executive Director