First of all, I wanted to thank everyone who took the time to complete the Sonic Stadium Reader Survey that we conducted last month. We've had a lot of great feedback, and we're going to take some time to go over everything suggested and work hard to improve your browsing and posting experience here.
Some of the feedback was related to the SSMB Forums, and the discoverability / accessibility of content on there. It's something that I'm keen to focus on, and hopefully the tweaks that we have made today go some way to making the experience a little better.
Please note that all of these changes are experimental, and may be tweaked or reversed at any time if we think it's not offering any real benefit to the community or the site at large. You're always welcome to offer your feedback in this topic (or just send me a DM - can't promise I'll answer every message but I will read them!) so we can help shape the next phase of the Sonic Stadium together!
Sonic News Forums
First of all, there is a new Forum in town! The Sonic News forum aims to be a collaborative space - not only will our 'official' Sonic News reports live here, but SSMB users can make new news-focused topics to help contribute to the newsdesk. We have a Pinned "How To" topic introducing the Sonic News forum that you can check out right here.
Over the last few months, we have tried to encourage SSMB users to post news (or significant updates of interest that may be newsworthy) as a new topic in the relative Sonic Games / Sonic Comics or Sonic TV/Film forums. From now on, the Sonic News forum offers a dedicated space for you to do this. You can, of course, still post news topics in the other forums, but please note that if the Sonic News team finds your topic newsworthy it may be moved to the Sonic News forum.
The design of the forum is a work-in-progress, so please expect changes over the coming week/s to make things look a little more elegant and readable. But as you can see above, news topics will be categorised into subforums, and at the top-level Sonic News forum view you can filter out the categories that you would prefer not to see, so that you can get the latest on the kind of news you're most interested in.
We also have a special Achievement Badge that can be earned by SSMB users who post news that end up getting covered by the Sonic News editorial team. The Topic OP will not only be credited in the resulting news story that we write up, but will also earn Rank Points (which varies depending on the quality of the post) and the above 'Sonic News Tipster' badge.
The best news about this forum is that it is tied directly to our new-in-Beta, re-imagined 'Sonic News' section of the Sonic Stadium. This is powered by the same platform that runs SSMB, so you'll be able to read our news stories with the same design (and theme choices) as your SSMB user account. Also, Sonic News stories are integrated with forum topics; meaning that any replies in a Sonic News Forum topic will also appear as a comment in the Sonic News Story article, and vice versa!
SSMB's Sonic News section is still very much a work-in-progress, and for the full news reporting experience we still recommend you check out the homepage on our Wordpress blog, as not all stories we report will yet be carried on the SSMB side (although we are working on that). But this is one step towards re-imagining the Sonic Stadium site and offering a complete integrated experience for the Sonic community. We hope you enjoy using it!
Discussion Forum Re-Organisation
With the introduction of the Sonic News forum, we took the opportunity to tidy up the forum list and reimagine the purpose of some forums.
Sonic Discussion Forums
All of the forums that were previously used for Sonic discussion - 'Sonic Games', 'Sonic Comics', 'Sonic TV/Film' and 'Sonic General' - have been re-organised. There is now one top-level forum called 'Sonic Chat', with 'Games', 'Comics' and 'TV/Film' subforums to further filter discussion.
These forums will be dedicated to non-news related Sonic the Hedgehog discussion. Fan theories, character speculation, general discourse, Megathreads for games, community reviews of comic releases, and community projects are examples of the kinds of things that would belong here.
We wanted to offer a separation between news topics and general discourse topics, as we found that people tended to approach discussion differently on both (news-related topics might be worth an immediate, pithy response, while you might have some thoughts on an already-released game six months later that would be more appropriate in a Megathread or general discussion topic).
We have also modified the design of the Sonic Chat forum/s so that all discussion topics are visible by default, with an option for users to filter out topics from certain subforums. We hope this will remove some friction in the browsing experience (nobody likes clicking through to a forum and then a subforum just to check out a topic's latest posts).
Video Games and General Chit-Chat
These forums have been moved up the list and combined with the Sonic forums to build a broader 'discussion forums' category. With the culture and attitude towards forums changing in an evolving internet/digital world, we wanted to make a more efficient, straightforward forum list, to make it easier for users to browse and find the information they need.
Personal Discussion Forum - Notice
When it was first established the Personal Discussion forum some 13.5 years ago, forums in general were a lot more actively used by younger users (not just SSMB). At the time, we saw an opportunity to do something positive and provide a safe space to offer community support for those going through emotional issues.
Today, there are more appropriate and effective ways to find support, and we feel that it is no longer appropriate for us to have a forum dedicated to this kind of discourse. It's a forum that has also been dead for months, and a lot of previously-active discussion in those forums have some level of crossover with the General Chit-Chat forum.
We are still considering our options with this forum, but it is likely that we will close it. If that decision is made, we will announce it and move some choice topics over from Personal Discussion to Chit-Chat, before closing the forum. We will keep you posted on this.
Check it out! New emojis! We've taken a selection of emojis that were previously exclusive to the Sonic Stadium Discord server, and added them to the Emoji List on SSMB. Feel free to express yourself in whole new ways!
You can find the Sonic Stadium emojis by clicking on the Emoji icon in the post editor (it looks like a smiley face), and then when you see the popup window, scroll all the way down to find the Sonic-themed pack. Unfortunately, we currently cannot re-arrange the emojis so that they appear at the top, but we're working on making that happen.
I know the first bit of feedback I'm going to get is, as always, complaints about the change. I know nobody likes change. But we haven't made these changes lightly, and as mentioned you can consider everything experimental at this stage. Some things may be adapted, some things may stay this way, others might be reversed. But we'll make the tweaks as we monitor community activity and see what works.
Despite this, we really do welcome your feedback and suggestions for further improvements, as we take these small steps towards a rather big and ambitious goal: to offer one united platform for Sonic the Hedgehog fans to visit, read, chat and interact.
There will be more features and tweaks to come, across other areas of the site and forums. Stay tuned!