Thursday, November 12, 2009

Fronting On The Internet -A Letter to TheWebcomicList.com

Sorry to Byrobot for preempting the review of your comic for this but I got caught up with work. The review will go up next Friday.

I am a man who enjoys webcomics as you 10 or so readers know. I hate the bad ones where people don't realize how bad they are. I enjoy the ones where the creators attempt to improve. What really pisses me off though are websites that list webcomics. Not because they are biased but honestly because they are unbiased. This factor means that a poorly made webcomic is given the same space as Penny Arcade. While it is "fair" and such, webcomics are about quality.
One of the sites that is a major criminal is TheWebcomicList.com. I sent a list of my grievances to the person running the site:

Dear Mr Young,
My name is Luke "Koltreg" H*** and I like to read and write webcomics as well as run a blog where I review webcomics to help people find good ones. In theory your website, The Webcomic List should also help people find quality webcomics. This is based on the idea of what a search site is supposed to do which is to help people find quality content so they don't need to wade through bad content. Instead though, The Webcomic List is a visually abrasive, poorly managed abyss filled with mostly bad webcomics.
Now, as much as I enjoy webcomics through my pursuit of the genre I have come to the revelation that not every comic is good. Not every comic deserves notoriety. Not every comic deserves a chance. Its like how not every Little Leaguer will become a professional baseball player. A majority of the people who make a business of hosting webcomics and following this practice hold little or no care about the genre that you are supposedly supporting. I am talking about DrunkDuck, ComicGenesis and SmackJeeves. These sites are the tools of the desperate and the undedicated comic creators. There is a reason Chris Crosby of Keenspot created Comic Genesis, to keep the name of KeenSpot somewhat untarnished. To show the cream of the crop. You show all of the crop and this is a bad business practice.
What I am suggesting is that you find people who care about the genre of webcomics to fix the site, to provide content and to generally clean up the dead comics, look for actual quality work and elevate it up. Have editors sections. Have weekly suggestions that you make if you care about the genre. Reach out into the online community and find people who are talking up quality work. Invite comic creators to use your website. Invite blog writers to write content for you for extra views. If nothing else, fix the web design.

A small list of things to fix:
- Orange is a poor color to base a site design on. Change it to something more professional. You are a professional web designer and yet the site is ugly and looks unprofessional and this is coming from a 1st year web design student and the opinions of three other students who are in the work field.
- The square links to comics at the top are annoying, there seems to be no quality control and it seems to serve little purpose other than to scare away potential users.
- Fix the ads that you have and hold some tact. Remove the Evony ads if nothing else so that some webcomics can buy space there and even then, don't sell the ads to any webcomic. Hell, you let The Outer Circle post and that is a horrible webcomic composed of pure copy-paste art, misogynistic-humor and cookie cutter characters. One of your ads is just a black and white blur.
- It is hard to tell what are and what are not links. The W3C made web links blue and underlined for a reason, so you could tell what they are. The FAQs have no underlines at the top so for all that I know, they could be simple text.
- Overall it is cluttered, difficult to navigate and it shows a lack of care.
- Check for update patterns on the webcomics that are on. Yes it is unfair for comics that infrequently update but it is a business. If you were to only make a site every few months, you would be out of a job.


Sincerely,
Luke "Koltreg" H***
http://koltreg.blogspot.com/
(1)

I was rather unprofessional I confess. I woke the next morning with this reply:

Not quite sure what the point of this email is, other than to offend?

I’m curious what makes you the expert? J

Regards

Ash Young

Evoluted New Media

(2)


So I replied with this:

I am aware that some of my wording was rather harsh and obtuse in my previous email and I partially apologize for my unprofessional tone. I am not a professional or an expert though and I am far from being an self entitled official reviewer of the genre, I still love webcomics. As much as I want the webcomic genre to grow into something respectable, I know it can't be done through equality for comics. There is a need for echelons of quality in any free and growing media. The comics like Achewood, Penny Arcade and PVP made their way to being profitable by being the best, by dedicating themselves to the art and while some bad webcomics even made it, these popular webcomics earned the fact that they entertain thousands of people. As the owner and manager of the website you have an opportunity.
You can help create something that people want to actually use to find new and quality webcomics. I see that the way to do this is by making is harder to be featured. If a person pays the $15 fee and then stops updating you have the money but you also have a dead webcomic. The lists themselves are hard to navigate and unless you know the exact name of what you are searching for it is a hassle to find it. If this is what the visitors to the site are doing then they normally have their own link to the webcomic and then your site serves no purpose.
I spent my time looking at other webcomic websites where people at least make somewhat of a profit. These writers and managers do things different and while not perfect, they do something that I see is better. Other webcomic sites reduce what they advertise to what they see as being worth it, not to any site waving a stick (and most use Project Wonderful created by a webcomic creator supporting the genre). Other webcomic sites hold actual reviews and create a sense of community by having recognizable names and personas for the people who work on the site. Other webcomic sites have been able to get actual webcomic artists to create content for them for free and for more than just being a publicity stunt.
Like I said though, I am not an expert at all. I am an amateur (which is what any reviewer is until they are paid). I am still an art student learning a lot of the generic stuff. It is my love of the genre that gives me a reason to send these emails though. It is the fact that when I used your site to find new comics randomly, 18 out of 20 that I found had not updated in over at least a year. It is the fact that I showed the site to web and graphic designers, they said that the site look unprofessional. It is the fact that you are the third site that comes up when I google "webcomic" and this should mean it is a useful site.
I really have no strength though. I have no power and nothing of value that makes me right or that means you have to listen to me. I am just one person on the Internet trying to improve a site on something that he loves and love is worth fighting an impossible fight.

Sincerely,
Luke H***
(3)

It has been about a week without a reply. In discussions on the topic and the site friend of the blog Chris Jeffrey commented
"Well when it was launched (which was at least 5 or 6 years ago) it kicked the shit out of other comic list sites. (4) However, the only things added since then have been the Twitter links and the forum user-run awards. (5)"
which says a lot about the website and how it is being run.

I doubt anything will come from my single email but if you agree, feel free to send him an email or 12.

1) "Koltreg" H, Luke. "The Webcomic List." Message to Ash Young. 7 Nov. 2009. E-mail.
2) Ash Young. "RE: The Webcomic List." Message to "Koltreg" H, Luke. 7 Nov. 2009. E-mail.
3 "Koltreg" H, Luke. "RE:RE:The Webcomic List." Message to Ash Young. 7 Nov. 2009. E-mail.
4) Jeffery, Chris. Twitter. 7 Nov. 2009. Web. 13 Nov. 2009.
5) Jeffery, Chris. Twitter. 7 Nov. 2009. Web. 13 Nov. 2009.

2 comments:

Russ said...

Honestly, I am surprised you got a first response. You made the mistake mentioning that your a first year web student for starters.

First, you need to really specify who you are and why you are contacting them. Are you contacting them as a Web Designer or as a Comic Reviewer?

As a comic reviewer you may have some clout, but understand that by offering fair access to advertising on their top pages, they are giving new comics a chance to get their start.

Lets face it, just because you don't like it, doesn't mean it doesn't/can't have a fan base that does/will. No product will ever appease everyone, and they aren't supposed to. Its called Demographics.

Quality is something that is hard to assess. Do you mean quality of story or quality of Art?

But at the same time it seems like the webmaster could easily find a few members to make moderators to at least clean out the dead comics.


As a Web Designer you made two mistakes. First you admitted that your a student, discrediting you.

Second you attacked someones design unprovoked. No professional would do that. A web designer/developer may offer a few suggestions about how to help the site perform better, but must do so in a way as to not offend. Only when asked, is it ok for a Web Designer to tell another Designer that their web page sucks.

Honestly, all I see happening from this is people who support thewebcomiclist.com will find out about this post and troll it.

Koltreg said...

Decent points on both ends. Probably mentioning I was a student was my bad point.
As a web designer though, is it not your duty to improve when you are 1- making money off of the site and 2- hosting a site that you don't even link on your portfolio.
While quality is hard to assess for some comics, MS Paint squares telling jokes (if you can call then that) is not quality.
Also the people who support it, based on people I talked to, use the forums and generally do not support the main site.