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Thank you Robin, for the warm welcome! I'm Dave, your new Community Manager humbly reporting for duty!
I'm a lifelong mod enthusiast. Starting with ZZT as a kid, I’ve been fascinated with modding both as a consumable and as a creative outlet. I've had the privilege of dabbling with many game engines and interacting with the communities they inevitably spawn. From Doom to GTA V, if it's moddable, I've probably played it. Though as I'm sure some of you can relate with, I sometimes get so caught up installing add-ons that I forget to play the games! Ah, such is the life of a modder. Mods not only extend the life of our games, they allow us to personalize our experience and share our enthusiasm with others.
I view the Nexus, and I know Robin agrees, not as a mod repository but as a community. This is a testament not of the modding scene itself, but to the camaraderie you have shown in creating something bigger than the sum of it's parts, the Nexus. If you take a look at the network statistics offered at the bottom of the homepage, you'll be reminded of how strong your numbers are. Due to your efforts as modders, authors, and enthusiasts, the Nexus is well respected and you all deserve representation!
Supporting Robin and Paul, I'll likely be involved in many aspects of the operation working directly along with you the community to help ensure that we are catering to your needs. My focus will be ensuring that you are all well represented and will serve as a direct line of communication between you and the rest of the team here at the Nexus. Of course, that's not to say that Robin will be involved any less with the community! I'll simply be appending my involvement to his own.
Additionally, part of my job will be keeping an eye on the modding scene and the gaming industry in general. From indies to triple-a titles, I'll be evangelizing the Nexus amongst mod authors and their fans who may not already be part of the Nexus, bringing even more talent to your growing network. Of course your support with this will always be appreciated.
Going forward along with changes to the website design that are planned, I will be bringing new flavors of content that will highlight things going on here at the Nexus. Though the form these offerings will take is yet to be determined, I would like to provide them on a fairly regular basis. Perhaps something like short articles, user and mod author spotlights, videos, contests, and more. While I do have plenty of ideas, I look forward to hearing about your interests and will be very open to any content submitted by the community.
Though I've been an active user of the Nexus for quite a while as both a user and mod author, I owe it to you all to more intimately understand the community you have built. So initially with the help of the moderators, I'll be spending a lot of time simply trying to get to know you all better and understanding how things work around here. If you’re so inclined, you can always feel free to contact me personally via email with your questions, comments, thoughts, suggestions, complaints, or whatever! And of course, I'll be hanging out in the forums and the chat room often so feel free to stop by and heckle the new guy ;).
So, thank you all so very much for having me. I hope to serve you well!
Dave "SirSalami" Talamas
Back at the beginning of March I announced a job opening on the sites for a new Community Manager role. Putting a friendly face on the sites from someone who could dedicate all their time to bettering the community, within the community, has been long over-due and now, almost 7 months later, the position has finally been filled.
It's taken a long time due to, in no small part, the sheer number of people who applied for the position. After only a few weeks I took down the job listing after receiving over 400 applications, many of them absolutely excellent candidates for the position. Over the course of many months I read through all the applications, followed up on many of them, had chats with some people and gradually whittled down the short list.
Much like Highlander, there can be only one (but please, don't think that killing our new Community Manager will give you the power!), and today I'm happy to introduce Dave, our new Community Manager, aka SirSalami.
Dave's role focuses almost entirely on the community. And I know that sounds odd, because surely everyone working here focuses on the community, but I mean it more literally. While the site programmers or NMM programmers work on tools and functionality for you all to use, Dave's main focus is on conversing with the community on a daily basis, listening to people's issues or complaints and passing that feedback on to us. Essentially, Dave will be the central point of contact for members who need to get into contact with us. He'll become the eyes and the ears of the Nexus, helping us to enact change and reform parts of the site or community that are crying out for attention. He'll head up our moderation team, providing the moderator's with much needed direction and support and providing them with a proper, dedicated individual they can truly rely upon. He'll also be the face of the Nexus abroad, in other communities, where we might need a friendly face to help people who have any questions or issues with the Nexus.
For me, personally, Dave's list of skills fit the requirements for the job perfectly. In fact, he was almost a little too over qualified for the position, having experience with and a background in a number of programming languages as well as prior experience working for an indie developer in a similar role to his role now. He's a perfect fit for the small team of us working on the Nexus sites and I'm looking forward to seeing the positive change he can bring to the sites and community.
I'm going to leave the rest for Dave, who'll be writing a news post following this one introducing himself to the community. But from myself and the rest of the Nexus team we wish Dave a very hearty welcome. We can't wait to see what he can do.
It's been just over 4 months since the paid modding fiasco failed and Valve stopped the sale of mods on the Skyrim Workshop. I'm not here to beat the dead horse on what happened then, but I am here to talk about one of the major fall out points (pun not intended) from that situation, specifically, donations to mod authors.
During the time when paid modding was active, and in the aftermath, two things became very clear; a lot of users on the Nexus didn't know it was even possible to donate money to their favourite mod authors, and the amount of money donated to mod authors was so negligible it bordered on the pointless for almost all mod authors (we're talking a couple of dollars over the course of a 2 year period, even for some of the "big" mods...). We want to try and fix that, to get the word out more about completely voluntary donations while maintaining a certain degree of conformity and professionalism for mod pages.
Before paid modding the donation system was very simple. Mod authors put their Pay Pal email address into their Nexus site preferences and decided whether to turn on a donation button on their file and profile pages. The donation button is in the top-right hand corner of the file page, where the Download, Track and Endorse buttons are also placed. Lots of users missed this.
Accompanying that were a strict set of rules in our terms of service that state, categorically, that mod authors cannot, under any circumstances, ask for or even mention donations anywhere on the site. The main reason for this rule was quite simple; as it stands right now a lot of mod authors already fail to describe what their mod actually does anywhere near the top of their file descriptions. In between huge images, change logs, the latest news about their files/their life/their cats, what they will and won't provide support on and so on and so forth, it's sometimes extremely difficult to find an actual description of the author's mod. What I didn't want was mod authors asking for/demanding donations and giving running commentaries of their donor lists within their file descriptions and sticky comment sections, further muddying what should be an easy to read and understand section of a mod author's file page.
Similarly, we didn't want situations where mod authors withheld functionality that was only for people who donated, or started doing "updates for cash". The idea that the author will update their mod when the donation amount reaches a specific threshold. That's not what the Nexus is about and if mod authors did want to do that they could do that elsewhere. But not here.
This is something we, the people working on the Nexus, can help with by providing mod authors a dedicated area on their file pages to talk about donations. A nice widget or box somewhere on their file page, prominent, but not overbearing and instantly in the user's face, where the mod author can talk about their donations, track and thank their donors and explain what they'll use it for. But right now, with the current design, we just don't have the room to accommodate that. We could make another tab on the file page for donations, but would it be used? Would it really? It's something we'll be working on for our site redesign, but that's not going to be out for a good while yet.
The Nexus has a lot of users who "skirt the rules" already, sitting in a grey area where they know it's a bit naughty, but it's not going to get them into any trouble. I feel if we relaxed the rules on talking about donations, without giving authors a dedicated area to talk about them, then we'd increase our moderator workload substantially, as well as the ensuing drama when we have to make judgement calls on whether what's been written about donations does or doesn't break our ToS. And for that reason, right now, our rules remain the same on soliciting donations.
During and after the paid modding fiasco we altered our donation system slightly. Mod authors can now choose to show users who've already downloaded their file a small pop-up box before they try to download another file on the page. This box informs the user about donations and asks them whether they'd like to donate. The idea being, if you've already downloaded one of the files on a file page and go to download it again, it's likely the reason you're downloading one of the other files on the page is because you're downloading an update to the mod, or an optional file, and you actually liked/use the mod in your game. Similarly, the author can choose to show the same pop-up box when someone chooses to endorse the mod. Once again, the idea being that if you endorse a mod, you like the mod, are you're more likely to actually donate to the author because of that.
Like the donation button, these options are completely voluntary and the mod author can choose to enable, one, two, three or none of the options at the same time.
The inherent problem with the current system is, simply, that it's limited in its scope when compared to platforms like Patreon or Flattr. These platforms are specifically designed for exactly what I'm talking about in this post. From the ground up, they make it fast and easy to donate to your favourite creative people and give them financial support if you so choose. In short, they'd be perfect to implement into the Nexus.
And I'd love to. I mean that. It'd take all the hassle out of us making our own donation systems and we could pass it on to tried and tested platforms that work brilliantly already.
But I can't.
After paid modding failed miserably, donations were talked about a lot both publically and in our private mod author forums. Lots of brainstorming occured on how we could get the word out better. A lot of people agreed (some didn't, mind you!) that systems like Patreon and Flattr would be perfect. I said I would be more than happy to implement them into the Nexus, provided that Bethesda would be OK with the idea and wouldn't send their legion of lawyers after us.
Anyone who reads the gaming news will know, Bethesda's lawyers are trigger happy as f'. In recent years they've sued Mojang, of Minecraft fame, over the use of the name "Scrolls". They've sued Interplay, originally owners of the Fallout IP, over the use of Fallout. They've sued an indie dev for trying to use the game name "Fallout Fortress". And they've sued the Oculus Rift people over the use of "trade secrets". They clearly like using lawyers. I'd rather not lose this entire site over mod author donations.
I encouraged mod authors who were interested in Flattr and/or Patreon to contact Bethesda about the topic and get their take on it. Initial reports back were not good or positive and the general consensus was that Bethesda had said no. The topic was laid to rest.
Then, a few of months back, a site called "Sprked" cropped up, looking to become a Patreon style platform specifically designed for modding and activities of a similar ilk. They began contacting and messaging a lot of mod authors on the Nexus about using their site, but didn't send a message to me about it. I sent them a message asking them to stop doing it immediately. Not only was it spammy, but if mod authors attempted to mention using the service on the Nexus they'd have received a warning, as it would have been seen as soliciting donations. I explained the situation to the person I spoke to at Sprked, that Bethesda seemingly didn't want such a system implemented, but I told them I'd contact Bethesda personally to get to the bottom of it.
So I got in contact with GStaff, the community manager over at Bethesda, to get to the bottom of the issue once and for all. I'll quote the messages I sent to GStaff on the topic, so you can see what I said, but I won't quote GStaff, out of respect, as I have not asked for or had his permission to do so.QUOTEHi Matt,
I hope you're well.
I wanted to give you a heads up on a new site that's just launched called Sprked. It's basically a Kickstarter/Patreon monetisation site tailored specifically for mods. It features Bethesda games, images and IP quite prominently.
I know a user called
contacted you after the Skyrim Workshop paid modding situation to ask if Patreon would be OK for mod authors. From what the mod authors had gathered you had indicated Bethesda would not be OK with such a system. Is this correct? I ask, as it's something we would have explored implementing in to the Nexus if you hadn't made it relatively clear to that you weren't OK with it. It's something we would not implement if Bethesda were not happy with the idea, especially if it would sour things between us, and because of this we haven't pursued the idea any further. It's also something we have actively prevented mod authors from advertising on their file pages on the Nexus, which has essentially "nipped it in the bud" as without our authorisation it's practically impossible for them to get the word out about it to their users.
We have extremely strict/tight rules on mod authors asking for donations. Mod authors cannot specifically ask for donations in their file descriptions, they can't offer "perks" for donations and they can only use our generically written donation text, which links to a user's Pay Pal account. The Nexus never, ever, touches donation money. As such, we've informed the creators of Sprked that we will not allow them to contact mod authors about the service/advertise their service on the Nexus until we've heard back from you on the topic, simply because it's against our TOS for mod authors to advertise such services on their file pages at this time. That rule will not change unless you/Bethesda make it clear that such things would be deemed "OK".
If you could shine a light on this rather precarious situation, I'd appreciate it.
The response I received was one line long and informed me that it was something that Bethesda cannot support.
Unfortunately, GStaff's answer didn't really answer my original question. I wasn't looking for Bethesda to support it, I was writing to make sure if the Nexus supported it, Bethesda wouldn't have a problem with it. I clarified the situation:QUOTEHi GStaff,
Welcome back from what I assume was a busy week last week.
Unfortunately this is something the mod authors are pushing me heavily for so I kind of need a little better wording on this one (sorry!). When you say "it's not something we can support" I don't know whether you mean it's just something Bethesda aren't going to support themselves, on their own sites/services (e.g. Bethesda.NET, the forums and Skyrim Workshop) or whether it's something which, if the Nexus did support it, Bethesda would be unhappy about/come after the Nexus either legally or with a blanket ban on Nexus related use?
Sounds extreme, I know, but when Bethesda opened the Pandora's box that was paid modding all this other stuff came out with it and we, at the Nexus, are coming under pressure to do more to support mod authors from a donation stand-point when we're utterly unsure how far we can go without you, Bethesda, getting upset. Hence this message.
Thanks for your time.
GStaff's answer was to say that yes, it would be problematic if we were to pursue Patreon or Flattr-esque systems on the Nexus, and that was that.
GStaff did not go into any further detail as to why it would be problematic if the Nexus used Patreon or Flattr and frankly, I didn't ask because I didn't want to push any further. You can speculate on the reasons yourselves. I imagine if they were pushed they'd likely quote the tried and tested "legal complications" with such an idea. Though why there'd be legal complications over Patreon/Flattr but not straight-up Pay Pal donations, which Bethesda signed off on personally when I asked them for permission to implement that system after Skyrim's release, I don't know.
It's also been widely reported in the gaming press that Bethesda will be revisiting paid modding at some point after Fallout 4's release and I think we can all safely assume that they're going to be gearing towards such a system on their Bethesda.net site, which they've been talking about a lot as well. Such a system would effectively allow them to cut out Valve as the middleman, accommodate an interesting push in to console modding, and either ensure they can maximise their profit as much as possible, or allow Valve's original cut to go to the mod authors. I freaking hope they're going for the second of those two options. Irrespective, I've no idea if the fact they want to revisit paid modding in the not too distant future has any bearing on their decision to say no to Patreon or Flattr on the Nexus, but I think it's similarly possible.
In light of the fact they've said no, I think what upsets me most, personally, is the seeming irony of Bethesda's stance on the topic of paid modding. They've said time and again that they believe mod authors should be allowed to be compensated for their work, but they forget to add their caveat to that statement; that they seemingly want mod authors to be compensated for their work, provided they can take a cut. And heck, I completely understand why they believe they deserve a cut. It's their game, their platform, from which mod authors would be making money. It's entirely reasonable for them to take a cut (how much of a cut is still open to debate, though!). What I don't appreciate is the fact they try and paint it like they're doing it for the mod authors out of the charity of their own hearts. It just seems really silly.
As I said, this is something I really wanted to get behind for mod authors. It seemed so simple and easy to implement that it was a no brainer. But we can't, and for that, I'm sorry.
I wanted to set the record straight on this topic as I still get contacted about it regularly even today. It was also mentioned a lot in our recent site survey that 25,000 users were kind enough to fill in, and I still see a lot of posts on other sites wondering why we haven't done more. The reason why we haven't done more is because our hands seem to be tied.
If you have any ideas about how we can make donations more prominent and friendly to mod users while using a simple donation system over something more expansive, like Patreon and Flattr, then by all means get in contact or leave us a comment. We're all ears on trying to help out mod authors more, without the potential for getting sued to hell and back.
If you have read my previous news post you will be aware that we are now looking to recruit a part-time User Experience / User Interface (UX/UI) Designer. This is integral to getting the redesign of the site correct and we need a professional to come onboard as soon as possible to help us!
We've received a heck of a lot of feedback from the survey we ran and on top of that lots of members have been sending me personal messages about what they'd like to see changed on the sites. From the information I've received, I know that you are all very interested in being a part of this process. The Nexus community is one of the best (if not the best) online community I've ever had the pleasure of being a part of and the devotion to the site is incredible. Because we know there's a lot of people who feel passionately about this redesign process we thought we would post this position here first to see if we have any takers.
Obviously we'd much rather work with a professional UX/UI designer who is already a part of this community. Someone from within the community will be much more attached to the project and have a deeper understanding of the requirements of the site as opposed to someone who's never used this site before.
If you're a professional UX/UI designer and you're interested in working with us then please take a look at the below job posting.
User Experience / User Interaction Designer
We here at Nexus Mods are looking for a passionate and like minded individual to work with our small but very fun team to do lots of amazing things including talking about cats and beards, taking the piss out of the Nexus Mod Manager programmers and chatting about random rubbish on Skype. Oh, and we would also like you to be able to do some UX/UI stuff, too!
This position is offered on a part-time, freelance contract basis. Fees can be discussed on a per-applicant basis, but this is, of course, a paying role as we're looking for a professional.
Ideally we're looking for someone who has at least 2 years previous proven experience or who has a very strong portfolio from University, college or similar.
We're looking for someone to:
- Research and understand interaction design trends (those cool sliders, drop downs and things that make the site flow).
- Analyze data given from the Nexus Mods community; including, but not limited to Surveys, Feedback Forms, Forums and PM's.
- Consult closely with Robin and I regarding necessary functionality.
- Have top notch design skills, attention to detail and an aptitude to do things off your own back.
- Be able to create visual representations of sites using wireframes, process flows and visual design composites.
- Have very strong written and verbal communication skills in English.
It would be great, but not essential, if you lived in or around (or can travel to) the South East of England, to make it easier to converse face to face.
The position will report directly to Robin and I.
If you feel that you have the necessary qualifications, ability and drive then we would love to hear from you. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and provide details of why you think you would be awesome for the role, a link to any portfolio you may have and also your Curriculum Vitae / Resume.
Robin and I look forward to hearing from you.
The results are in!
Well the results are in and I thank you for all the time, effort and input that went into completing the surveys. We had over 25,000 responses in a two and a half day period which took both Robin and I totally by surprise and just reinforced our belief in the passionate community we have here at NexusMods.
I've put all the comments into two different documents and am now in the process of reading them, making notes and tallying the suggestions up so that we get an idea of what we can do to best improve the experience for you all.
Like I said before, this process is open to the community. So for your information, these are the results of the survey:
Rather not say: 4%
18 - 24: 40%
up to 17: 22%
25 to 34: 19%
35 to 44: 8%
45 to 54: 5%
Rather not say: 4%
55 to 64: 2%
65 to 74: 1%
First Visit: 1%
Usage (multiple answers possible):
Mod User: 96%
Browse Around: 20%
Forum User: 9%
Mod Author: 8%
Uploading a Mod is Simple and Easy:
I like the look of the website:
Easy to Navigate:
Find what I want Quickly:
Everything is clearly labelled:
Particular Mod, then browse around: 53%
Browse for Hidden Gems: 44%
Particular Mod, then leave: 3%
Recommend to a friend:
An average score of 9.23 out of 10 for recommending to a friend, now that is certainly a good thing to hear.
We also had an enormous amount of suggestions and feedback, 700+ pages to be precise and I’m actually going through all of it. Some people have gone into incredible detail:QUOTEBetter tracking of your own comments in various sections/mods, to see when/if someone replies. Better access to mods that are high quality, but haven't got too many downloads and/or endorsements. Many great mods are bogged down way back in the pages, with skimpy clothes and nudes clogging up the front pages.
Many have been listing parts of the site and how they believe it should be changed. Others have blasted down ideas in bullet points including highlighting tagging, making the site more responsive and improving the site search functionality.
It actually doesn't matter how you have given your feedback we are exceptionally grateful for all of it. I have received plenty of PMs too which I will reply to over the course of the next week. Things are pretty go, go, go at the moment but please be aware that I'll reply to everything eventually.
I’ve also created another form incase you wanted to put forward any more feedback and suggestions throughout this process. You can access that by clicking somewhere around here.
We have picked the 5 winners of the Steam vouchers and will be contacting them via email in the next few days.
So what's the next step? Well, we are looking at taking on a part-time User Experience / User Interface Designer to work with us on interpreting the information we gathered from the surveys, hopefully we can find a passionate person from within the Nexus community, but I will put out a separate post on this very shortly.
Once we have managed to recruit someone to come on board we will begin the whole design process. To begin with this will involve analysing how people use the site, which parts of the site get looked at and how people interact. From that we'll find the areas that can be streamlined and made more intuitive, work out a process flow that people will not find too different from the norm and then begin with wireframes.
Once we have managed to produce the wireframes these will be shared with the community for feedback.
These are fun times to be here at NexusMods and I'm looking forward to the next month immeasurably.
If you’re reading this and you're wondering who I am then you might want to check out Robin's news post that briefly introduces me. But let me explain a little more about myself. Firstly, a big hello!
Okay, so my name is Paul and I go under the forum name BlindJudge - which comes from one of my favourite looking wakeboard tricks and no, I can’t do it - yet!
I’m a passionate gamer who enjoys pretty much any game going, my Steam collection is pretty vast (1100+ games at present) and contains everything from the latest blockbusters through to some lesser known but amazing gems of indie titles. Currently I’m playing games such as Battleblock Theatre, retreading my way through Skyrim (this time modded to the brim) and some of the old school games like the Homeworld remake.
I've been brought in alongside Robin to work in a Content Director role. It's a wide and very varied role but will initially focus on improving how the staff work behind the scenes and working on a complete redesign of the Nexus Mods site. That might be a little worrying, for a new guy to come in and tell you he's heading up a redesign of the sites, but let me try and put your fears to rest.
The Nexus site design is now a good 4-5 years old and it's starting to show its age. Not only that, but it's also splitting at the seams due to all the functionality that's been "tacked on" since the last site redesign was done. The current design wasn't developed with a lot of the new functionality that's been added since in mind, hence why some places can seem a bit cramped and it's often hard to find exactly what you want.
As has always been the Nexus way, we want this process to be as transparent and open to the community as possible and we would love people to come forward every step of the way to offer their suggestions, thoughts and any input you deem could help us deliver to you the site that you deserve. We're not keeping this a secret and just springing it on you once it's ready. We're not working in private with a couple of "respected users". We want to get everyone's opinion every step of the way through to completion. This is your site and your community and you guys are best placed to tell us what you think is best for it - not us and not a few "carefully selected" individuals. We would like it to not only look nice but be exceptionally easy to navigate and easy to find exactly what you're looking for while highlighting not only the bigger mods but also the hidden gems people may have discovered. Importantly we'd also like to to be future proof for any new functionality we add to the sites in the future to avoid that "tacked on" look.
We’ve already started collecting lots of behind the scenes data over the last month. Heatmaps have shown us where people are clicking and how many people scroll up and down the pages. Analytics are showing us where people are arriving from and which pages they are entering and how they're browsing between the various pages on the site. The next logical step for us is to get some really important information from you guys, the people who use the sites the most, on what you'd like to see from a new Nexus site design. To that end I've set up a quick survey, it only has 15 questions, which are mostly multiple choice and should (honestly!) only take 5 minutes to complete, unless you want to give us really detailed information (which we'd really like to read!).
So if you don’t mind, please take our survey, the information you submit will be used to make the site better for you, after all! As an added incentive we’re going to pick 5 names at random from the completed surveys and each of those people will receive a $50 Steam Gift Card.
I know, they are annoying and no one likes to fill in surveys - but the information that we can capture from you guys would be highly advantageous to all of us when it comes to a site wide redesign. We don’t want to just change things over and spring it on you in a “TA DA” kind of way, we would like it to be user driven and because of this, my posts will more than often be asking for help, input, or informing you where we are in the process - and it’s going to be a long process!
So what is our timeline and when do we start?
Well, as mentioned we’ve already started to collect important data behind the scenes and hope this will give us a good insight into what is currently working and not working on the site. There will be a few more bouts of research, such as the survey, so we predict this could last anywhere up to around 8 weeks. We’ll try and get wireframes drawn up and put out in the public eye to gauge reaction and see if anyone has anything they strongly agree or disagree with. Heck, if you feel that you can come up with any ideas or wireframes or even designs yourself then we would love to see them.
Following the research and initial planning stages we’ll jump into the initial design stages which we will announce on the site. This is where we will be consulting the community and UI/UX experts to come up with design mockups for the site, using wireframes and feedback for the designs. These will once again be scrutinised and discussed, shown to the community and your comments will help further these. This should last around 8-10 weeks.
We would love for the new site (the moment it reaches Beta) to be released alongside the current one like the Nexus did with the previous design. This means that people will be able to switch between the two designs, old and new, finding out what they like about the new site, but more importantly what they don’t. There will be a feedback form for you to report back anything straight to us. Every single one of these will be read by me and put into metrics to facilitate changes to the more disliked features or a bug tracker to get things fixed.
It will be exciting times for us over the next few months as the site is developed and coded. It will be done in parallel with the existing site, so nothing will change on the existing NexusMods.com site and, as we said, we'll consult you guys, the users, throughout the entire process.
Site launch day will be exciting, this will be the day when the site swaps over from what it is now to the new one. It will have been a long labour of love from not only the staff here, but also the community as a whole and something I am exceptionally excited to see happen.
Once the new design is rolled out we are going to make sure that site updates and features are then released quickly, no getting stagnant as we want to evolve at the same pace as (or ahead of!) the gaming industry, quick to react to changes taking place in the gaming world. It will be a part of my job to move the site forward quickly ensuring that we stay ahead of the pack. Through listening to the wants and needs of the community I believe this is very possible.
It’s nice to finally say hello and I’m looking forward to working with each and every one of you.
Back in March we put up a job posting for a Community Manager position at Nexus Mods. I was looking for someone who was a part of the modding community who could be a friendly-face on the sites and would handle a lot of the PR and community side of things on the Nexus which has been lacking in recent years.
Over 400 people applied for the position and over the course of a couple of months I whittled down the applicant list to a "short-list" of 30 people, and then further down to a shorter-list of 4. Before I contacted these remaining 4 individuals, however, I met up with a close gaming friend for lunch one day. His name is Paul.
Paul and I met several years ago at StratLAN, a relatively small 100-150 person LAN event that takes place a few times a year at Stratford-upon-Avon racecourse that is run by Multiplay here in the UK (the same people who run the large Insomnia series of LAN, which I also go to, and who also did this year's Minecon, whose staff I know relatively well). Paul and friends were playing the Game of Thrones board game around a big table and, over the course of many hours and many drinks we all got to know one another. We now all meet up regularly, despite some long travel distances for some of us, to play board games and go to LANs together. When we're not LANning or board gaming we're often online playing games with one another. A good 15-20 of us are close friends now, of which Paul is a part, with a further 10-30 I've come to know and like a lot. Paul and I sit next to each other at the LAN events and he sometimes watches me as I do some Nexus work in between gaming sessions. He regularly offers advice on things he'd change on the Nexus site or asks questions about why I haven't done this or that. He tends to be quite astute!
When we met up recently Paul and I got to talking about our individual situations and, long story short, I saw a place for Paul working at the Nexus. He has a passion and drive for this sort of work with prior experience working on sites and in graphic design with a keen eye for the challenges facing the site and the work necessary to get the Nexus back up to scratch. I say up to scratch because I definitely feel like the Nexus could be doing more than it is right now in almost all areas, and the reason we've dropped the ball a little is because of me. Paul's coming in to streamline our operation and work just below me (no innuendo) to not only help with the decision making process but to help micro-manage the implementation of new functionality both behind the scenes, working on streamlining our work process, and on the front end that users actually see. Basically, he's another me, who will have the time necessary to really do what's best for the sites and this community. It doesn't mean I'm going anywhere, it just means I'm now getting some help on the sites that I really needed. And quite importantly for me, Paul is someone I know, who I can go and visit and who I can trust implicitly (indeed, he's sat a couple of metres away from me right now working away at his desk, migrating our internal bug tracking system over to a much better and more efficient system).
Paul will be making himself known and getting straight down to work in his own news post to follow. In the mean-time, I would still like to hire on a dedicated Community Manager. I held off on finalising any choice of Community Manager based on the applications received while Paul was brought on and acclimatised. we've both decided that a Community Manager is still very necessary and would be very worthwhile to the sites. I'll continue that work soon (tm).
Over the past 24 hours the Nexus sites have gone down 3 times, sometimes for as much as an hour. It's school holiday season which means it's also DDoS season, typically a time when an abnormally high amount of DDoS attacks happen (logical conclusion is...?). We're told by our hosts that we are not the target but unfortunately we're being taken down due to the attacks happening against our host's and main data centre's infrastructure. It's nice to know we're not the target, at least, but obviously it still sucks.
If you're wondering why we don't just "do something" about it. We do. We pay a lot of money (right now about $3200 a month and growing) to help against DDoS attacks, but DDoS mitigation is a bit like that scene at the end of Batman Begins where Jim Gordon is talking to batman and he's talking about escalation. "We start carrying semi-automatics, they buy automatics. We start wearing kevlar, they buy armour piercing rounds. And you're wearing a mask...". You can buy a ridiculously expensive firewall that can scrub 20GB/s of malicious traffic on your upstream, then you'll just get attacked by a bigger botnet that attacks you with 50GB/s of malicious traffic. You buy a firewall that can handle 75GB/s, they attack you with 100GB/s. And so on and so forth. And each time it gets more and more expensive to combat against. And it can get really, really expensive after a certain point.
We and our hosts continue to react to the DDoS attacks as and when they happen. If they happen while I'm at my computer then I'm updating the Nexus Twitter account to let people know about the down-time and that we're aware of it. So if you like to be kept in the loop while the sites are down then you can follow us on Twitter. We don't really use that account for anything else right now so you won't get spammed about crap you don't care about!
While the techheads work to sort this out for all of us (and this DDoS is affecting thousands of sites, so we're not the only victims) please sit tight and be patient. At the end of the day, this is one person ruining it or all of us. Well, one person, and hundreds of thousands of computer illiterate people who haven't secured their PC's/routers/Internet of Things hardware against people using their hardware as botnets. So by all means, take this time to review your own system security!
As you might know we've been struggling with our forum server after the past few weeks and have been working towards getting them on the same Cloud setup that's worked so well for us with the main sites themselves.
However, we'd struggled to understand why, all of a sudden, the load times on the forums went from fine to absolutely awful in little to no time at all. There wasn't any sort of traffic spike and the servers weren't being constantly DDoS'd so there was no real reason for it. We knew it wasn't our database because the forums are running on the same database cluster that the sites are using; so the sites would have been slow as well.
We came to the conclusion that it must be related to how heavily we've integrated our forum software, Invision Board, with the sites themselves. All membership information, profiles, file comments and discussions and bug reports, image comments, video comments and Premium Membership information is handled and called through Invision Board and each time we add a new game to the site we were creating 17 new forum categories to support it, to the point where we had close to 3,000 forum categories on the forums. It seems Invision Board doesn't play nice with growth like that. At all. For the technically minded, Invision Board seems to store things like your read topics for every single forum inside variables before every single page load, so if there's 3,000 forums, that's a lot of server resources being used on each page load.
We've been experimenting with a number of different tweaks and changes to the forum servers over the weekend. Because it was the final weekend of the Steam Summer sale we once again saw record numbers of users on the sites (36,000 new members this weekend alone and 7,500 page views a minute). We were very pleased to see the sites held excellently during this time with page load times well within normal ranges and the traffic helped us to not only benchmark potential issues with the sites in light of a Fallout 4 release that's not too far away but also to analyse what would help relieve the load on the forum servers.
Today we've made some relatively large changes to the forum category structure. Most notably, almost all games on the network now only make use of a single forum for all discussion (with the exception of the big games like Skyrim, Fallout 3 and so on). We've done this not because we particularly want to but because the forum software itself cannot handle having 3,000 categories (and growing each time we add a new game to the network). All file, image, video and article comment topics now take up a single category each (as opposed to a category for each game on the network) and all the old topics and posts for files already uploaded have been moved to these single categories. While you can still access the "forum view" mode for file and image comments you will no longer be able to access the file and image comment forum category directly. Because all the files and image comment topics for all games on the network are now mingled together in a single forum category it seems pointless to open up the category for viewing; you'll never be able to find what you're looking for by browsing through that category anyway.
Making this small change has not only reduced our forum category count from 3,000 to 1,200 categories (and we haven't finished doing spring cleaning yet which will likely drop that figure to below 1,000) but it's drastically (DRASTICALLY) reduced the load times on the forum server. Essentially, the forums are now back to being quick and, in fact, better than ever.
We'll now manually add more forums (like forums for "mod requests") as and when they are needed. As it is, a lot of the games we support have no need for forums here and they're added automatically as a token gesture. They might be used, they might not. Point is, they're there, and we can always add more categories for popular games as and when they're necessary.
We've still got some spring cleaning to do and we're still going to go ahead with moving over to the cloud setup for the forum server. The cloud setup has showed its worth to us many times already, but case-in-point, this weekend the NMM virtual machine that handles logins and retrieving metadata for the Nexus Mod Manager became overloaded due to the sheer number of requests being made of it. As soon as we found out about the issue we were able to double the RAM and CPU cores available to the virtual machine, on the fly, within 5 minutes. Problem gone.
Aaaaaand, as I type this, I've just been informed of a DDoS taking place against our servers. It's being looked in to as we speak and I can't speak highly enough of our friends (well, actually my friends, two of whom I lived with in Reading after university and one of whom is a childhood friend from my early secondary school days) at Krystal.co.uk who handle a lot of our hosting requirements for the sites and are always there for the sites whether it's 3pm or 3am if we're having issues. If you're a Brit who needs hosting or has a crap hosting provider and is looking for reliable hosting with great service you really can't do better than these guys. And I wasn't paid for that little advertisement, they just deserve the exposure for the times they're there for the servers, fighting off the kiddies out there who want to ruin it for everyone else (they were also up at 3am on Friday morning helping us to bring back the forum server that decided it didn't want to wake up from a restart).
We're aware the forums have been largely inaccessible and now down since 11pm (GMT) on the 18th of June. In an unwelcome throwback to the 2013-2014 Nexus years the RAID controller on the forum server has seemingly packed in. Perhaps the forum server wanted to give us one last gift before we (had planned) to transition to the new cloud-based system over the weekend?
Thankfully all our database operations are stored on a 5-server database cluster unrelated to the forum server, so things like the member database, posts, topics, etc. are all fine, dandy and indeed all working from the NexusMods.com site as usual. The forums, including new registrations, are not however.
We're continuing to look in to it, but it's coming up on 3AM now and this might take a while. Just a heads up.
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