Hello, I would like to tell you a little about something I am doing called the Mecha Lounge, it’s history, and a bit more detail as to why I think it’s better for modellers than Facebook groups.
The Mecha Lounge is an old-school style forum, originally started back in 2012 as an offshoot from the MAC forums by the modellers Sneeper, Harry, Mr. Zinc and Kamm (perhaps more, my memory is a little foggy and I was just a member back then so forgive me if anyone reading was instrumental in this) with the support of many prominent and very skilled modellers. The idea was to build up a strong membership sharing tips, works in progress and showcases as well as engaging in quality banter – without restriction. After several hugely successful competitions with entries from all over the globe, popularity of the Mecha Lounge was at it’s peak. Sadly though, the administrators of the Mecha Lounge started to drop out to take breaks from the scene and to pursue other interests, leaving only myself and a handful of others in charge to keep it going, and to keep up the level of interaction required to maintain people’s interest.
With the huge popularity of Facebook groups and the ability to quickly and easily share or discuss anything, the Mecha Lounge seemed to be obsolete, so the decision was made to shut it down.
Now, after a couple of years working with Facebook groups I started to get pretty disenfranchised with the format. Facebook groups are very much here-and-now, and as such anyone new to the hobby is going to ask basic questions – and people already in the hobby are going to react either with nonchalance or sarcasm having seen that same question being asked for the 50th time in one of the numerous groups. I’ve also witnessed some of these questions being publicly screen-shot for the amusement and pretty unfair mockery of others.
It occurred to me too that it was very rare to see any actual, valuable feedback. As memberships are so large in number, posts would either get lost in the noise or only ever be seen by people who don’t have as strong an interest in modelling, or just don’t know how to feedback in a way that’s helpful. I even found myself just commenting now and then with “that’s great” for brevity. It’s this state of instant interaction that I think, is not helping modellers much at all.
The consistent repetition of the same arguments too was getting boring. The mixing of collectors and modellers too would also at times create toxicity, flaring up regularly with accusations of elitism and snobbery, pointless defamation and labelling. The sheer number of groups too is a little ridiculous, each administered with varying levels, some with complex rules and others allowing asian porn links and rayban adverts to propagate. There have been a couple of great success’ run by competent, tolerant, quality people interested in working to build a community like IT’S A GUNDAAAAAAM!!!!!!, but most are just a waste of time. It’s worth noting too that Facebook groups are designed with another thing in mind – to post in your news feed, snippets of what is going on in these groups. It’s likely you are missing an awful lot of very cool work or seeing a lot of the same stuff being shared over and over again.
There is of course a positive side to these groups that do make it worth interacting – meeting new people with common interests and creating new relationships. Sales posts, sharing links to bargains and group purchasing is helpful to the community. I’m not writing them off entirely, but I argue it’s not the best platform for modelling alone.
As an admin in these groups, I found that trying to get people to read basic guidelines with regards to posting frustrating, and people challenging those rules tiresome. The fact was, there are rules for many reasons when you are administrating a group, some put in place to ensure relationships with others are kept on good terms for the overall benefit of that community, and others to keep the content interesting and on-topic. Most people understand this, but a small, vocal minority have an ego to service, a mouth to shoot off, and have a narcissistic need to stir the shit. Banning people from groups for breaching rules to me seemed like a pointless exercise, and removing posts contrary to rules was only met with protest. It also created group divides and misunderstandings, and with your personal information on show it occasionally lead to some unsavoury abuse crossing over into my personal life. I am not one to shy away from conflict – but engaging in the nonsense will not yield a positive for anyone. I won’t let my emotions over-run my logic.
With all this going on I decided to give up administrating any Facebook groups and stick to just interacting as a member instead, and using it as intended, to share my work and things of interest as GundamUK on my page and to promote activities I am involved in. It was time to revive the Mecha Lounge and give it another shot. The absence of a permanent knowledge base and Q&A, the poor feedback, the lack of decent competition, the removal of anonymity, the lack of ‘community spirit’ and the dilution of modellers with collectors spurred me on to bring it back. Of course, some of the issues in social media will also be experienced on a forum so it’s not a complete nor perfect solution. Going back to an obsolete format does too have it’s own technical issues, but so far it’s working.
The Mecha Lounge allows for categorised discussion, breaking down the noise into what members want to interact with. It provides a higher level of anonymity, allowing people to express themselves with more confidence. It provides better access (with time) to genuine advice from verified experts, and provides a better platform for experienced feedback on showcasing work. It will remove too, many of those posts that are entirely pointless, humourless and self-serving. Attention whores will be duly mocked. Dicks will be called out as dicks, and a karma system will show just how nasty or nice a member is. I hope too, it will lead to more meaningful interaction between members, more co-operation and awesome, competitive competition. To the cynic it’ll all seem perhaps a bit idealistic, but it’s always better to start with good intention and clear goals, than to not start at all. All this of course depends entirely on one thing. You.
If you are a modeller who is interested in joining a genuinely dedicated community, then sign up! I would love to see again 250+ entries into a competition between modellers all over the world, un-tethered by commercial interest – run by modellers, for modellers – but for that it needs membership. Tell your friends, share some links, and let’s get this going again 🙂
As ever, would value any feedback you have. Am I being too harsh or too subjective of my viewpoints on Facebook groups for Mecha Modellers? Is my enthusiasm and bias for the Mecha Lounge unfounded? Set me straight in the comments 🙂