What do you like in a Guide/Resource/Workshop?

Discussion in 'THREAD ARCHIVES' started by Minibit, Feb 5, 2015.

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  1. Another discussion feeling out what people prefer in the content forum's resources!

    Please let us know how you feel on the following subjects in regard to resource threads in the Insitute and Guild

    Length: (Do you like long articles, short articles, medium ones, and are there any extra caveats to your length preference such as being padded with fluff, jokes, and/or personal stories, or re-hashing a point that you understood fine ten paragraphs ago, or glossing over/omitting details that seem important)

    Off-Links: (do you resent being flung around Iwaku or the internet by embedded links, or do you find them a helpful resource? Do you feel disappointed when an article spends a bigger chunk of time pointing at other articles than it does making its own original points, or is it a good tie-in/info hub?)

    Tone: (Do you like a casual, conversational tone in an article? Do you like it when the writer addresses the reader (ie: "you are probably wondering why this is an issue") Is it okay to stray into personal anecdotes? Or do you like it to be more to-the-point, professional, or serious? How do you feel about rants?)

    References: (How do you feel when an article references published material such as TV shows, videogames, webcomics, or any other fandom type medium to make examples, points, or comparisons? Is the article often completely lost on you when you don't know the thing being referenced? Or do you extrapolate from context and muddle through with minimal issue? Do you wish more articles would make their point without relying on these references? Or are they a nice add-in for those who get them?)

    Other: (Any other elements of articles you'd like to state your preference on?)
  2. Length: I like long and detailed guides, which may be obvious given my own contributions to the Worldbuilding Guild, but there are some caveats. If the length comes from endless rehashing and rephrasing, it's pretty awful. If the length comes from a bunch of stuff that's not really related to the topic at hand (such as anecdotes or rants that are just sort of related to one detail of the overall picture), then it gets annoying. If it's really long but they only go over what I see as an overview of the topic rather than a deep look at it, it feels like a waste of time. I like long, detailed guides that stay on point and try to cover everything.

    Off-Links: Eh, I'm kind of neutral about this overall. I'm okay with links to other guides or other sites entirely if they're just supplementary rather than replacements for sections of a guide. I can even be okay with someone leaning on other people's guides as a crutch for something they're not very well versed in (such as I did for the map making portion of my overall worldbuilding guide), as long as it's just for one section of the guide. If you can't adequately explain multiple major points of the subject without depending on links, you probably shouldn't be writing a guide on the subject. I opened your guide to get your explanation of a subject, not to read ten different guides to cover the topic.

    Tone: I'm okay with any kind of tone, so long as it's at least somewhat consistent and it's reasonable for the subject and its presentation. If you try to go for a hammy joke-filled tone when making a very detailed guide about how to figure out import/export rates of goods between cities/nations/planets, it's going to come off as really weird. On the other hand, a guide about character tropes that people overuse, or how to avoid making a sex scene painful to read, then it can be totally fine. Some little anecdotes and jokes thrown in as an aside can be fine as long as you return to the serious/formal/whatever tone when it's time to get back to the details. Flopping around from serious to jokes to rants back to jokes to casual informal to totally professional to another rant and then ending it an appeal to emotion using second person pronouns would be pretty freaking awful. I can forgive all sorts of silly things thrown in so long as the guide remains consistent in how it presents the important details. If it ends up feeling like five different people wrote the guide, you've done something very wrong.

    References: Like links, this depends a lot on how they're used. Guides and such are supposed to be accessible resources for everyone on the site, so references should be kept accessible. Sticking to extremely well known pop culture references (Star Wars and Star Trek for sci-fi, Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter for fantasy, and so on) is a good way to go about it. However, even with those kinds of things, any time an important point hinges on familiarity with a reference one of two things should happen: it should either be reworked to not rely on the reference, or the reference should be explained in general terms so everyone can understand it. Using references as a side note for those who happen to be familiar with them can be fine, though it should be done in moderation. Even if the references aren't holding up key points, if there are too many of them that a reader doesn't get then you risk alienating them by making them think they're missing important information.

    Other: Organization is important. There doesn't need to be any crazy formatting stuff, just simple labeling of sections and use of boldface, italics, and lists where appropriate. When I open a guide/workshop/resource and it's just a bunch of paragraphs with no real formatting to organize it (which is a rare thing here, luckily), it makes me sad and disappointed. For very short things this can be fine, but if you're dealing with a topic of any real complexity then there are likely to be distinct sections to the guide/workshop and they should be marked as such. It's better to cut the thing up and serve it to the reader in bite-sized pieces that they can chew on at their leisure rather than throwing a whole slab of meat at their face and telling them to deal with it as is.
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  3. Length should have meaning. If your extra text has a purpose, which can be breaking it up with a joke or using a personal experience as an example, then that's good. Giving people details to help understand your reasons for why you're suggesting to do X. I mean, I like to know why you're telling me to do something. I'm someone who likes to figure things out for himself. If you tell me, "Go do X." I'm not exactly convinced. If you add a reason why to do it, or tell me your thought process, and it makes sense, I'm more likely to explore it.

    Also in a long guide a little rehash is fine, to help show a red line or refer to a more detailed part earlier. In a shorter guide; don't. Please don't.

    @Jorick's answer to a T.

    I like to keep things entertaining to read, but not to the point it makes information harder to find or absorb. If someone writes in a more business tone, it'd better be really well condensed information. Otherwise it becomes troublesome to read. However this is hard, because you have to balance not-boring-people with going in-depth enough. I can deal with both ends of the spectrum, but both styles come with their own challenges when writing a good guide.

    If someone addresses me personally in a guide, they'd better have something good to say. Also they shouldn't tell me "You're probably wondering" when chances are I already damn well know. Using second person means you're putting yourself in a position of knowledge, and if you use that to tell me something mundane like Mary sues suck, then I will think you suck. If you delve into a more complicated subject, even if I already know about it, I'm more tolerant of it. Though, as mentioned before, I like figuring things out for myself, so a suggestive tone works better for me than an authoritative one. Well that and... Try to take your reader and their intellect seriously. Please, pretty please?

    Even if your tone is humorous, I think that at some level there should be respect for the audience. Guides are written to help broaden or elevate understanding, not for a bunch of random people to come in and nod "I already knew this and I agree." Which means you've just written a piece for the sake of circlejerkingsocial interaction instead. This is why we don't need more guides on Mary Sue-avoidance, because you're probably not going to teach people things they didn't already know. Rants have no place in the institute IMO for this very reason.

    References are good, but they shouldn't make a guide inaccessible. Add a quick description in so it make sense within the context of your guide, or don't attach (too much) informative value to it. Or perhaps a quick link to a scene of a TV-show on youtube for people unfamiliar with it to check it out. Though if you throw me seventy hunger games references I will feel alienated, just because I didn't watch the movies. Keep this in mind, there's also people who didn't read/see LotR and Star Wars.

    Coherency, respecting your audience, making your guide easy to read, inform readers of your reasoning or thought process, make sure it's an easy read and people can ctrl+f information easily without digging through fluff. etc. You can probably write a whole guide about writing guides.
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