AuthorTopic: Community updates  (Read 2500 times)

Offline Indigo

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Community updates

on: August 10, 2018, 07:08:28 pm
So a lot has happened recently and I'd like to summarize here for the record:

We have disassociated the discord from the forums
Initially, the idea of having an official chat sounded great for re-engaging the community.  However, in practice, it became problematic for a variety of reasons.  I suspect it actually reduced participation in the forums.  The culture of the chat shifted drastically from the forums, so much so that it hosted a dedicated politics channel that often fostered bigotry and antisemitism.  To compound that issue there was a disagreement within the mod staff about how to handle it - if at all.  Moderating a chat would be a daunting responsibility due to the constantly flowing nature of the discussion, even if we didn't have disagreement within the mod staff.  It became clear that having an official chat was a failed experiment for pixelation.  It has become quite an active community in its own right, and I wish it the best of luck in the future, but it isn't what pixelation is.  If we can't moderate our chat in the same spirit as pixelation, then we shouldn't be hosting one.

We need to review our rules/guidelines on the forum
In light of the above, It's clear that sometimes leaving things to interpretation can lead to misalignment in the leadership.  Rallying behind a point as ambiguous as "Don't be an ass" can have different meanings to different people.  We need to review our rules and guidelines and develop new ones that are more proactive and specific to the behavior that fosters a good and inclusive learning environment for artists.

Helm and Ptoing have rejoined as Moderators (at least temporarily)
The concerns brought up by Helm and Ptoing were part of the reason these changes are happening.  While we are working through these new changes, I've brought them back on board to help shape the future of pixelation.  Having had such pivotal influence in the development of pixelation in the past, they are always welcome here.  Due to life and other responsibilities, their long-term participation might be limited, but they'll be helping for the time being.

New moderators
As you're already aware, resulting from these changes some moderators have decided to step down including Crow and Cyangmou.  Both have been extremely valuable assets to pixelation in the past and I am sad to see them go amidst this drama.  I was hoping to minimize the amount of drama the community was exposed to, but oh well.  I wish them the best.  To fill the gaps, Kiana and Elm have joined to bring fresh eyes to pixelation's moderating staff.

The long-term future of pixelation
Setting aside all of this, Pixelation has a much larger problem.  It's dying.  It has been for quite a while actually.  My efforts some time ago to revitalize the forum with a renewed focus on activities, board restructuring, and the new theme has largely failed.  Pixelation used to be one of the few major hubs of the pixel art world.  But the truth is that while pixelation has dwindled over time, the pixel art community in large has been exploding elsewhere.

There has been a lot of discussion about why this might be the case.  A big part of it, I believe, is the format. The format of an online forum such as this is antiquated for today's standards. Things have been trending towards social platforms providing more immediate feedback such as Tumblr and Twitter, which is why it's no coincidence the pixel art community has been thriving on these platforms.

We are currently exploring new software for the future of Pixelation, currently heavily investigating Mastodon.  Mastodon uses the format of Twitter but is entirely decentralized allowing us to run a dedicated instance that we can customize to our liking.

Switching to a new format would be a BIG change for pixelation, and might even fragment the community, but if we're thinking long-term, that might be the best move.  How to transition to the new format is a whole discussion itself; should we archive the forums?  Run them side-by-side? Just make a hard switch?  We need to think more about these things and I invite discussion about it.

Offline Wes

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Re: Community updates

Reply #1 on: August 10, 2018, 07:19:44 pm
Thoughts and clarifications from a discord regular who was involved in the "controversy":

Quote
The culture of the chat shifted drastically from the forums, so much so that it hosted a dedicated politics channel that often fostered bigotry and antisemitism.

The politics channel was created to keep political discussion out of the general channel. It's not so much that political conversation was "hosted"-- political topics kept arising out of natural conversation, and the decision was made by the moderating team to create a separate-- opt-in-- channel so that political talks wouldn't be front-and-center in general.

Bigotry was never fostered or encouraged. On the contrary, conflicting opinions were welcomed and the debates (while heated) were often enlightening because of it. The lack of bigotry was actually a highlight of the "politics" channel.

There were some anti-semitic jokes admittedly-- from some perspectives it's good-natured banter, from other perspectives not so. Understandable that this would cause discomfort.

Anyway, we can move beyond that now that a decision has been made.

Onto the bigger and more important things--

It's nice that we're open to a shift onto a more modern format. I just want to bring up that it would be a shame to lose the amazing knowledge and wonderful critiques that have been built up here over the years. Old critique threads are worth archiving as a wonderful read -- often more useful than many tutorials.

Whatever direction you choose to take, I would hope that an archive of this site's tremendous library of pixel critique and knowledge is a top priority.

« Last Edit: August 10, 2018, 07:24:30 pm by Wes »

Offline Kiana

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Re: Community updates

Reply #2 on: August 10, 2018, 07:38:33 pm
Although I was sorry to hear about the conflict, Iím glad that the community is focused on moving forward in a positive way. Itís unfortunate that some have decided to step down, but their contributions will be remembered.

Iím honored to have been asked to join the moderation team. I hope I can be an asset to the community!

It's nice that we're open to a shift onto a moder modern format. I just want to bring up that it would be a shame to lose the amazing knowledge and wonderful critiques that have been built up here over the years. Old critique threads are worth archiving as a wonderful read -- often more useful than many tutorials.

Whatever direction you choose to take, I would hope that an archive of this site's tremendous library of pixel critique and knowledge is a top priority.

Donít worry, the forums will at least be archived if Pixelation decides to move on from them. It would be a shame to lose so much centralized knowledge, after all. The idea of a wiki has also been proposed, which I think would be great, since we can have a place where information is easily accessible and able to be kept up to date.
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Offline Atnas

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Re: Community updates

Reply #3 on: August 10, 2018, 07:45:35 pm
It's nice that we're open to a shift onto a moder modern format. I just want to bring up that it would be a shame to lose the amazing knowledge and wonderful critiques that have been built up here over the years. Old critique threads are worth archiving as a wonderful read -- often more useful than many tutorials.

Whatever direction you choose to take, I would hope that an archive of this site's tremendous library of pixel critique and knowledge is a top priority.



Agreed!

Echoing Kiana because she ninja'd me:

I do think entering archival mode once the new implementation is running also requires the creation of a pixel art wiki that pulls information and examples from the forum and elsewhere. That will eventually become a much more efficient replacement for the utility of the forum. Wiki is a much better format for this and it's been discussed years ago in prior 'future of pixelation' threads iirc.

I think the utility will be way higher when you can wikiwalk any terms in an article and get the full breadth of information without direct user involvement leaving people stranded and hopeless. It also encourages people accross communities to add their knowledge without the barrier that precedes being a regular, etc. Terms could potentially be automatically picked up and linked in mastodon posts to lead to the wiki articles they correspond to.

Doing this will amplify the strengths of pixelation - knowledge and theory and documentation on the wiki, and engaging real time responses for art critique and discussion on the mastodon - which would feed back into the wiki as concepts are discussed, especially if terms link to the wiki every time they appear. Wikis also have discussion pages, which I believe is a lot more efficient than having nebulous discussions that branch in too many directions.

Ultimately I think pixelation as a website would serve the world better if it was a resource people from all communities felt they could access and benefit directly from. A local community will be present in any space, but it's my belief that the more temporal nature of mastodon will encourage people to feel they are entering conversations on the same level as everyone else.

Offline Elm

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Re: Community updates

Reply #4 on: August 10, 2018, 07:57:24 pm
Just adding to Kiana's notes. Pixelation is certainly a wealth of knowledge, and we have every intention of preserving that. In the meantime there will be an archiving of the forums when the time comes and hopefully we'll have the current forums and new community online at the same time for a while.

I believe that art should really be the focus of the community, but it should also be a welcoming environment for all skill levels and walks of life. Hopefully, the new direction of Pixelation will help bring back some of it's spark from earlier days.

Although not a vocal member of the forums, I have watched the community for a long time and will be around to help with have a smooth transition. If anyone has any concerns in general, or would like to raise any issues privately. You are more than welcome to pm me.

While there is certainly good natured banter among users, I do believe Pixelation should be an accessible platform for all ages and backgrounds

Offline eishiya

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Re: Community updates

Reply #5 on: August 10, 2018, 08:21:37 pm
I've never used the chat so I have no experience of or opinion on what happened there, but I'd like to chime in on switching formats:

As much as I love Mastodon and as great as it is for talking to people, I don't feel it's a good format for things like art critique and doing edits and tutorials, which are the main way I participate here. Even if the Pixelation instance has a larger character limit and includes pixel-perfect zooming on media and posts gifs as gifs instead of as videos, it would still be annoying to post critiques containing multiple images. Old-skool as they are, I feel forums are ideal for that. However, if the Pixelation Mastodon instance can be extended to support lengthy posts with embedded images (instead of just ~4 attachments that come with the post and aren't in the flow of text) akin to forum posts, then I'd be all for a switch.

As for archiving: Pixelation has too much great material to just lose. I'd love to see the forum remain in read-only mode as an archive. I don't think it'd be difficult for people to repost their recent content on Mastodon if they want to keep the threads active.
Wikis sound like a nice idea in theory, but in my experience, they quickly stagnate and rarely end up any more useful to readers than a search through a forum or browsing relevant tags on forums or Mastodon/Twitter.


I also agree with Elm that art should be the focus. Unrelated conversations don't belong here (or on a Pixelation Mastodon or Discord, for that matter) imho, but moderation is obviously an issue. I think the more "think before you post" nature of forums helps keep people on-topic better than the more immediate feel of Discord, which is why the communities likely turned out so different. Mastodon is somewhere in the middle, perhaps leaning more towards immediate/Discord-esque.

Offline Kiana

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Re: Community updates

Reply #6 on: August 10, 2018, 11:12:48 pm
If the Pixelation Mastodon instance can be extended to support lengthy posts with embedded images (instead of just ~4 attachments that come with the post and aren't in the flow of text) akin to forum posts, then I'd be all for a switch.
You can have posts without a text limit on Mastodon, which is great; thatís the main issue I have with trying to have insightful discussions on Twitter.

I definitely agree that the ability to embed images can significantly improve the effectiveness of a critique. Hopefully this is possible, but if not, there is also the option of hyperlinking images in-line or creating a chain of replies with attachments. (The nice thing is that Mastodon is open source so it may be possible for someone to enable image embeds if the option doesnít already exist - seems to be a relatively well-wanted feature.)


On another note, one thing I think might be worth pondering is what a good format for job listings is, since a big reason some people use Pixelation is the Jobs board; clients getting in contact with artists and vice versa. Is Mastodon a suitable platform for that (ex. #hiring and #portfolio tags)? Are forums or a format more like Gamasutraís job listings better?
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Offline API-Beast

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Re: Community updates

Reply #7 on: August 11, 2018, 04:43:31 am
From my perspective Pixelation has completely lost touch with reality. The Discord and before that the Slack kept the forum alive, without it Pixelation would have died long ago.

Pixelation has what, four active users? You don't need eight moderators to police four users. Especially ironic considering that the two latest mods have always been more active in the Discord than the Forum.

As for the reasoning for separating the two I can say with conviction that the Discord has always been inclusive and welcoming. There has been one person with a crude sense of humor but outside of that he has been very civil and even encouraged a welcoming attitude. This all could have been solved by a bit of persuasion, but instead it was turned into a ideological issue which just made everything worse and pissed of quite a few people. With all that drama and how poorly it was handled by the Pixelation moderation team I doubt many people will come back to it, even if you somehow manage to bring back some basic level of activity.

Overall I don't think Pixelation has any future, at least not on the path it is currently taking.

Offline Indigo

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Re: Community updates

Reply #8 on: August 11, 2018, 05:23:03 am
Thanks for your optimism beast ;)

Things definitely could have been handled better, and Iím sorry about that.  Your not wrong that pixelation was and is on life support.  Thatís kind of my whole point in this topic.  The discord is quite a thriving community and I think thatís great!  But it definitely wasnít helping the forums.  As you say, pixelation has ďlike four active membersĒ - while an exaggeration, isnít too far from the truth.  I am under no delusion that pixelationís trajectory isnít heading south which is why I think a hard reset might be best in the long term.  For some, the discord might fill that role.  Cool.

Offline Atnas

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Re: Community updates

Reply #9 on: August 11, 2018, 05:35:38 am
From my perspective Pixelation has completely lost touch with reality. The Discord and before that the Slack kept the forum alive, without it Pixelation would have died long ago.

I think the slack killed Pixelation by siphoning off the activity and losing the very precious momentum of good will and thoughtful time spent giving back to the community. I remember waking up some.... Most mornings excited to check what had been said in a thread discussing theories and such that I could learn from immediately and continue the discussion or apply to artwork. In the real time chats it felt like a stream of constant negativity and posturing where nothing was gained. Community? Sure! But Pixelation should always put learning above having a comfy place to air one's laundry.

Most of the effort units of our members went into the slack/discord community and slowly became it's own thing. It was a mistake, but it gives the opportunity to try something new - the momentum has stopped, and now we can try a different design. This is something indigo had been wanting to do for years, now we have the chance. If it fails like you think, that's fine too! We will try something new.

Really, after years of people almost exclusively using real time chats and not caring for the forum, it's odd that suddenly the name and idea of Pixelation means something only when it's lost to them. Its just a name, the discord community is untouched.

All that's changed is we don't have the discord to pretend like Pixelation isn't already nearly without a pulse.

All this to say, I'm glad you care so much about Pixelation to be upset, Beast, but I hope that you can see how the discord community wasn't Pixelation. If people leave because they weren't really interested in Pixelation, but rather the Discord community, that should be seen as a good thing! I hope everyone is where they are most happy.

As for the number and appointment of mods, it's about developing Pixelation in the best direction we can. We needed new perspectives, and we needed old ones. What was going on was clearly not working. The manpower right now is working at what form Pixelation will take in the future, it is of course going to take a lot of effort, so we need many hands with many skills.

Offline Kiana

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Re: Community updates

Reply #10 on: August 11, 2018, 05:47:34 am
Pixelation has what, four active users? You don't need eight moderators to police four users. Especially ironic considering that the two latest mods have always been more active in the Discord than the Forum.
If Iím being honest, the main responsibility for moderators is handling things like spam and thread moving/deletion, which is a lot easier to handle if you have a few people in different timezones. Having to ďpoliceĒ users really isnít what Elm and I are here for, and I wonít speak directly for anyone else, but Iím pretty laid back. I was actually asked by Crow to moderate the Discord but I didnít think I could handle the time commitment and responsibility of moderating a chat on top of client work.

I did use to moderate several decently-sized forums during the ďgolden ageĒ of forums so I knew this was something I could reasonably contribute to, though I figured I might be met with contempt from some regulars (being more of a lurker). I donít blame anyone if this is the case, since I would probably have a similar reaction, but I hope people can understand that I do my best to be reasonable about things, and that Iím no stranger to pixel art as a medium. I will try to contribute knowledge to the site when I can, to whichever platform Pixelation decides to take, since I understand the importance of it.
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Offline Crow

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Re: Community updates

Reply #11 on: August 11, 2018, 06:28:22 am
I think the slack killed Pixelation by siphoning off the activity and losing the very precious momentum of good will and thoughtful time spent giving back to the community.

I think that assumption is wrong. Forums are just a dying medium, and I'm pretty sure that even without an active chat, activity would have dropped just as much. The lack of activities didn't exactly help, either.

Offline pistachio

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Re: Community updates

Reply #12 on: August 11, 2018, 10:13:42 am
Pretty high time for such a discussion to go down now. What the 4 guys here didn't step up to say.

Haven't looked into the tech side of this gizmowhatsit Mastodon so my suggestions now aren't specific. It looks workable but that's at a glance. Also because I don't know exactly what is going on behind the scenes here, which I'll respect.
But I will get behind two things mentioned: because botched transitions crippled two of my top two art resources for months--that we do not fuck up the software transition, and preferably that we archive (prevent the link rot of whatever's still up). Too much good stuff to lose. And improve the sorting of good reads and so on if that's viable. Too much good stuff not to be seen.

As an aside, you can correct me on this, but PX has been reborn a couple times, big time, a few epochs back.
Some folks remember Pixelopolis (I don't) and here we're moving on again.
Will I? Don't know. Let's see and discuss.
« Last Edit: August 11, 2018, 10:32:50 am by pistachio »
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Offline ptoing

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Re: Community updates

Reply #13 on: August 11, 2018, 10:48:28 am
The database we are using IS the Pixelopolis one. :)

But yeah it was
-Blue Pixelation
-Pixelopolis with new database because hack and lack of proper backups
-Pixelation again with Pixelopolis Database
-Bunch of server moves to where we are now.
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Offline 0xDB

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Re: Community updates

Reply #14 on: August 11, 2018, 12:26:45 pm
Thought for the future and for restoring a bit of the lost past(images mainly):
Images should either be hosted by pixelation via an attachment mechanism upon posting or from within the posting mechanism they should be uploaded and link-rewritten to a unified and reliable external image hoster. Old posts (primarily in threads marked as valuable/highly readworthy) should be parsed for broken image links and the parsing should automatically check https://archive.org/web/ for existance of cached copies (under wayofthepixel.net as the URL to look for) of those lost images which are then to be re-hosted by a reliable external image hoster or pixelation itself and retroactively link-rewritten to repair the missing image links in the good-to-read-threads of the past.

The repair-old-threads task could also happen as time allows after archival of the boards content and after moving on to whatever new platform. The task to repair old threads could be done manually and spread over the shoulders of the community in a process much like the collabs were handled: Mod would give out a list of threads that need repairing. Community members claim a thread-to-repair and then wander off to find the missing images (on their own computer if they happen to have a saved copy of the thread or on archive.org/web skimming wayofthepixel.net snapshots on there) and report and deliver any found images back to the mod who can then re-host the images and re-link them in the thread-to-repair. If someone does not deliver anything after a few days of claiming, thread goes back up for grabs by someone else.

Thoughts on the future system to be used:
I think a forum still is the best way to exchange thoughts and ideas for a more long-term usability/readability. Chats are fleeting and chaotic, topics in chats are often interleaved with several different conversations going on in parallel in the same timeline so to speak, whereas a thread in a forum usually stays on the one topic it was opened with and can still be read well years later whereas a chat-log contains way too much noise and is harder to search/skim for any specific topic or thoughts exchange.

One thing that might be useful for art feedback in particular (and only in addition to a forum for discussing other topics not revolving around a specific piece of art) would be a real-time-checkout system where users could click "write a critique, make an edit, reply" next to an image and then others would see in real-time who's currently critiquing or editing(just as information though, it should not block them from also doing the same in parallel) or just replying. Then when they're done writing or editing, they would submit and the system would build up a tree-view where the critiques and edits are direct child nodes of the original image. This way different paths spawned from any given image are always clearly visualized and each critique-item and edit-item always has exactly one clearly identifiable source. When a users later posts an improved version of their images, it would be useful if they could, in addition to writing something along it, mark the critique-and-edit-items they found useful and which they tried to follow in their new version and the system would link those up in the tree-view as well (or just mark them in the old version), so that one can always see what items spawned the new version.

Perhaps it does not even need to be presented as a tree view but rather in collumns, perhaps like this:


So, it would basically, like in a forum, show "posts" but each post is a definite version of a piece along with author and words from author and then all the crits and edits and other comments for that specific version right next to it. When author makes a new version (and it should be visible in real-time for others that author is working on one, provided author was thoughtful enough to click some button to signal just that), it goes up stacked on top of the previous "post" and in the previous post, all crits and edits which were useful get marked by author (or maybe there could even be an additional open-for-all give-love button to indicate that anyone liked a particular crit or edit (the authors markings should alwaysbe uniquely identifiable though)). Upon new version from author, previous versions get locked (with the exception of still allowing marking of items as helpful but no new crits/edits/comments should be allowed anymore on old versions).

The crits, edits, and comments should probably better be collumns (was too lazy to erase and redo in the sketch above) next to the piece version and also marking something should be available anytime as clickables under the invidual items and not just appear for the author upon posting a new version.
« Last Edit: August 11, 2018, 12:29:58 pm by 0xDB »

Offline Crow

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Re: Community updates

Reply #15 on: August 11, 2018, 08:22:24 pm
The repair-old-threads task could also happen as time allows after archival of the boards content and after moving on to whatever new platform. The task to repair old threads could be done manually and spread over the shoulders of the community in a process much like the collabs were handled: Mod would give out a list of threads that need repairing. Community members claim a thread-to-repair and then wander off to find the missing images (on their own computer if they happen to have a saved copy of the thread or on archive.org/web skimming wayofthepixel.net snapshots on there) and report and deliver any found images back to the mod who can then re-host the images and re-link them in the thread-to-repair. If someone does not deliver anything after a few days of claiming, thread goes back up for grabs by someone else.

Oh yea, uhh, about that.. I have a Python script somewhere that I wrote a while ago. You give it a thread id and it tries to find the latest archive.org snapshot of that thread and grabs all images it can out of it. Might help repairing threads. If anybody wants this, contact me.

Offline pistachio

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Re: Community updates

Reply #16 on: August 12, 2018, 03:42:51 am
@ptoing
yeh, that's gonna be something to learn from. Not on this scale tho!

@0xDB
Interfacing like this is gonna be enough work for a huge team. That's the huge team we don't have, and if we did, guys without time or resources. That said I'd still kill for a custom interface.
I've only got a vague idea if this customization is in the scope of Mastodon. So far it doesn't seem like it.
Tying this to your point #3 this customization is gonna be needed to jury-rig it into less of a fast paced chat and more of a slow paced critique forum. (I think Discourse, Vanilla etc. do that better. hell even old school ConceptArt.) So if you do this you're fighting against the medium tho the results could be interesting.

If we are gonna host a chat of some kind, I think one of the problems this time round was not enough cross-talk or cross-modding between the two, and the ease of access of the chat platform compared to the forums. So it kind of grew off and out of proportion. Compare that to our IRC way back, which was the low level sidekick compared to then shiny feature-rich forums. Ironically that got flipped on its head here. With a switch, who knows, we could change that.
« Last Edit: August 12, 2018, 03:59:32 am by pistachio »
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Re: Community updates

Reply #17 on: August 12, 2018, 06:21:36 am
What is the point of Pixelation?

To me it's always been a place of thought leadership (for lack of a better term) for the medium. I regularly go back to re-read the likes of Ramblethread, and come here first for information on system restrictions and palettes. It's a living archive of the last X years of pixel practice.

Platforms like twitter or slack or discord are the opposite of this. They're ephemeral Ė it's hard to see what happened yesterday Ė and things invariably become either atomised or a wall of noise. I can't really see mastodon being any different. It feels like you're trying to recapture a lost community by hollowing out what attracted that community in the first place, with no guarantee that new people will want to engage with the new platform (as opposed to, say, just using twitter, which seems functionally pretty much identical but has a much bigger potential audience).

I guess my feelings are that it's unfortunate people decided to endorse offsite chat platforms (which always kill forum traffic and lead to drama), but this move seems like a lot of risk without much chance of reward  :(

To summarise, my question is this: what do you want Pixelation to be, and can a new platform even achieve it? I'm thinking of things that currently do drive traffic like the Secret Santa and other activities Ė could you run them effectively through mastodon?

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Re: Community updates

Reply #18 on: August 12, 2018, 11:22:36 am
I have my doubts about things like Secret Santa, Pixelator, or the Hexquisite Corpse Activities as well.
Even things like Commercial Critiques would be weird on something that is more like Twitter, imo.

We have to see what works best.
There are no ugly colours, only ugly combinations of colours.

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Re: Community updates

Reply #19 on: August 12, 2018, 01:12:06 pm
I believe the popularity of Pixelation and its ability to attract new members i largely tied to interesting challenges and collaborations. At least I think that's a big part of it. I realize something like the hex collab is a massive undertaking but unique high-quality collabrations like that is something you can only get at Pixelation ( or Pixeljoint but the forum is difficult to find). The big collaborations drive in new and old people. You come back to see it unfold and while you are there you might as well weigh in on some WIP threads or chat a bit, but people need some spectacle other than the regular forum fare to be pulled in. Things like the old palette challenges, mockup frenzy and the Hex and ISO collab is a necessity. The interest in Pj's weekly challenges vary from week to week depending on the theme, but things like that Pixel-dailes where people can very quickly " get involved " and see their work next to more experienced artists is how to pull in members.

Offline Helm

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Re: Community updates

Reply #20 on: August 12, 2018, 05:10:12 pm
re: Pixelation is Dead, attracting new members, being popular

More technically savvy people than me will synthesize what we'll come up with and figure out the best way to present Pixelation in this glorious web 2.0 reality. Your contributions are very necessary and welcome and thank you for posting in this thread with your thoughts, keep doing that!

However I wanted to communicate a spirit-of-the-thing related point of view that plays into the future of the platform in a significant way, and also in this way to touch on some criticism on the current state of affairs. I post this now because no discussion of how to be popular again will be solid without considering what it is we would endeavor to make popular again, exactly.

The core function of Pixelation as a community is that it brings artists of less experience or skill in contact with those with more experience and skill in order to exchange ideas and help each other. It's not to have a hex collab or secret santa. Activities certainly foster a community, but if it's indeed true that only 4 people care about the core function of Pixelation at this point, it's not going to be assuaged with bells and whistles of any kind.

And if it's only 4 people on the boards in the end, that's fine, as long as those 4 people are getting help with their pixel art.

Pixelation has always struggled with growth, because it's an art forum. We don't advertise, we don't make money, we don't have a 5 year plan or anything like that, we are not marketing gurus or very business-minded. Unchecked expansion and growth aren't really the point. Pixelation's prime concern is to attract the people that might benefit from it, not become bigger and bigger every year at all costs.

On that front, I want to address what can be done to help Pixelation become available to those that might need it, and how you can help, if you care and still have love in your heart for Pixelation.

1. Once we're up and running again and have got a handle on our tech, and only then, it'll be the time for everyone of you that has ever gotten better at pixel art here that's still reading this and cares, to put out the word on twitter or other social media that Pix is  back and has refocused on the educational aspect of pixel art. Not just 'as it was before' but better.

2. That means, yes, this is going to be a 'boring place', because places for learning are boring if you're not looking to learn in them. This isn't an entertainment site, and although knowledge and socialization of a craft are very exciting to me, if you do not come in Pix in good faith (that is, to learn or help others learn) then there's not many shits and giggles to find here. This is by design, and that design is only going to be streamlined and sharpened further in the future.

Whatever Pixelation loses in terms of internet-lulz-related-edge it will gain by being a safe and respectful environment for artists to grow in. That's our core benefit and we plan to redraft (and drastically condense) our ruleset soon to promote this atmosphere even further without unwarranted byproducts of elitist gatekeeping and 'either do the hard work or get out, scrub' unspoken assumptions we may have fostered in the past. Hindsight is 20/20 on that front.

3. Once we're up and running and the call has been put out by anyone and everyone that cares, I sincerely implore you (and this won't be the last time) to put in even 5-10 minutes a week picking up someone's thread with their pixel art and helping them. I will be doing this as well, I am 34 years old and swamped with work constantly, but I'll put in the effort. I'll even trade you critique-for-critique if that helps. Even if it's just 5-10 people at first, as long as we help each other, we keep things not just civil but proactively kind-hearted and we persist, the word will go out that we're back in business and serious about both helping beginners of all backgrounds, and about providing a safe environment for them to learn in. Whatever growth we can achieve by cleaning our old forum tech etc. will only become substantial if we can keep on with this mission statement.




As this conversation evolves (both internally and public-facing) I'll go into more detail about how to clarify and future-proof our community culture (from ruleset to recommended critique style) so that something like what just happened won't happen again. This is a large discussion in itself and I've got a lot of thoughts I want to bounce off of you.

If anyone has any questions or thoughts concerning any of the above, I'm all ears and I'll do my best to reply. Pixelation, as always, works best when all of us put our heads together and come up with a gameplan.

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Re: Community updates

Reply #21 on: August 12, 2018, 07:23:26 pm
Helm, reading your post was very heartening, as that's the direction I've been hoping Pixelation would go. I'm here to learn, and not participating in all the other activities has left me feeling like I've been using the site wrong, even though learning's supposed to be the point of the site.

Also, for what it's worth, I don't think it's forums in themselves that are off-putting to new users, I think it's just the inconvenience of registering a new account that requires an email address and confirmation emails in a world where almost everything has Twitter/Google login options, and of inconvenient image uploads when the big boys let you copy+paste images right into your posts and turn image URLs into embeds automagically. Discourse forum seem to be doing just fine, and I think it's the more convenient UI that makes the difference (but augh, I hate the way categories are presented on that).

Offline Helm

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Re: Community updates

Reply #22 on: August 12, 2018, 08:05:03 pm
eishiya, thanks.

I don't think forums are bad for the critique process, in a certain way they're quite perfect, but I have a few reservations that mean it might be worth going the full step to a modernized setup.

1. As you say, the hurdle of registration on a new board is a HUGE way to keep people off of it. In the past we would have said in a less enlightened way "if they don't want to take 5 minutes to register, then how serious are they about learning?" and leave it there. However this is a new time on the internet and you log into everything with twitter etc. Also back in the day, forums were de rigeur for stuff like art critique. But today is today and we should lower the price of admission to as little as possible.

2. I want threads to lead with art. This is a board about art, and if you could look at what everyone's posted without having to click through a text header first, it's going to facilitate people helping other people with their artwork in an intuitive way. If I can scroll through a bunch of images, ideas might immediately spark in my brain about how to help them. Then I can click through and write under the art. We couldn't easily do this back in the day, but it seems that's the direction Mastodon for example would help with.

3. I just took a stroll through active pixel art threads and I was surprised and happy to find that nearly every one of them has at least one post with worthwhile critique by our pixel warriors. This gives me hope that the spirit of the thing is intact, we just need to help shape a better outlet for it.

Also, eishiya, in that exact stroll through the forums I noticed your good work helping others as well. Thank you.

Offline 32

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Re: Community updates

Reply #23 on: August 13, 2018, 01:27:42 am
I'm very glad to hear the discussion in here. I'm not sure what happened in the chats recently, I was somewhat active on slack early on but I felt that it was not pixelation. It was just a way to chat with other community members, which I think we have plenty of options for. That doesn't need to be pixelation or tied directly to it.

I don't have many thoughts about a new format, my main concern from the chat format and twitter is losing self contained threads. Hopefully mastadon is better for that than twitter but I think the beauty of the forum is to have a special self contained discussion that's just about your piece of art and people helping you with it. I think that is a powerful thing that makes people want to participate in this community.

I really appreciated the art and critique focussed nature of the forum, I never needed to know anyone personally in order to feel welcome enough to ask for help. Whereas I would feel less comfortable in a more socially focussed environment. I really feel that divorcing pixelation from the idea of any kind of general chat is important. We have twitter and discord for that now. I also felt that the relaxing of the no one liners rule was eating away a bit at the community, maybe that's just me though.

Like most of us I've been swamped with work and life of late so it's been difficult to find time for the posting on the forum but I'm going to do my best to follow Helm's lead on that and get involved again. I think in addition to helping new users maybe the more experienced artists should commit to posting personal work here for critique too. I know most of us probably feel that asking for critique would slow us down these days (thanks very much to learning how to have a critical eye from pixelation!) but one of the big draws for me was seeing that amazing artwork, the process of how it was created, and how being critical is valuable for artists at every level.

I'd also just like to echo Helm in saying I appreciate eishiya's continued commitment to providing quality critiques :-*

Offline Rydin

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Re: Community updates

Reply #24 on: August 13, 2018, 03:48:10 am
Less is more.
Don't overthink.
Post like you pixel.
Nothing superfluous.
 :crazy:
Man cannot remake himself without suffering for he is both the marble and the sculptor.

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Re: Community updates

Reply #25 on: August 13, 2018, 04:48:38 am
Joining Helm in the walks around the forum :) I'm going to make time on my schedule as often as I can to step through and offer help. I remember the summers I would just hit refresh every 10 minutes while working on art of my own very fondly.

Going forward, regardless of format, we are trying to cultivate the best learning environment possible. This means a lot of learning on our parts about the best ways to teach, too.

Much of the past decade on this board, I spent trying to gain attention by posting flashy edits with a sword under my name. Even if unaware, I wanted to be cool! But being cool - How many of us have bitterly uttered that newbies leave after a great edit/critique?

Since so many of us have felt this, so I want to address it:

Imagine that real person who is definitely not just going to forget their art they worked hours and hours on and then had the courage to post.. Imagine why they leave after receiving help that goes overboard and mostly serves the critiquer in making an extreme edit or posting things they need years to understand. I want to think about this every time I post from now on. We don't need a lot of people, but we won't ensure that it's only the thick skinned. We must find ways to be helpful without alienating people eager to learn from us. Because thick skin has nothing to do with learning. There are plenty of determined people who don't have thick skin - and a way around this is entering a dialogue with people and asking what they are going for.

It would appear that even when things were good, they were not so great for everyone, just the few that stuck around. I would say 'forged in the fires of mount pixelation' when people asked me how I got good. We had a rep for being very unforgiving.

-

32, I agree with you that the new format ought to do what serves the intent the best - those concerns are shared. I also really look back favorably on how I only knew the other artists through their work and a few other blips. I'm very glad you're going to be more active though, I feel like once momentum gets going, and we also start posting our own work, the true boon of this great community will come through.

Ultimately we are not just going to flip a switch and have a new format and have everything be solved. We have to start nurturing what we want out of our future now, and the harvest will come.

Offline pistachio

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Re: Community updates

Reply #26 on: August 13, 2018, 08:19:06 am
Ultimately we are not just going to flip a switch and have a new format and have everything be solved. We have to start nurturing what we want out of our future now, and the harvest will come.

Right here, this is exactly what shook up the communities I mentioned. Change from the top of Mount Olympus, without consideration of the needs of users, but instead a revolutionary new brand for outreach. It could and did go wrong those times.
Obviously whatever flavor of jargon you want to use, of course this is something to consider. Good management basically. But Pix for me is/was about being powered by a niche community, a collab in itself, so that's what comes first (so to speak: bros before hos ;) )

So amen brother. Whatever we choose should build on slow in-depth critique and the community who gives it. Do what the forum does, and better, and sustain that. Twitter is Twitter, open source or not. If you want to swing to Twitter, more power to you, but weigh what you gain and lose.

Expect some thoughts on user interface coming from me and from others hopefully.*

*thoughts on becoming the tiny mutant pixel-obsessed Polycount hopefully not yet.
« Last Edit: August 13, 2018, 08:39:50 am by pistachio »
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Offline Dex

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Re: Community updates

Reply #27 on: August 14, 2018, 07:39:00 pm
So first off, I absolutely agree with everything that Jeremy said. Pixelation, to me, has always been a place where I have come to see the valuable feedback provided by others knowledgeable about art-- not just pixel art, mind you-- and somewhere that I've been inspired. Seeing the community changed into some sort of Twitter-esque format would not be in the spirit of what the forum seems to have always been about, at least in my opinion.

I moderated and admin-ed a lot of decently high profile websites in the "renaissance" of forums, when boards thrived, and yes, that era has pretty much come to a staggering halt. I mean, there are certainly tons of forums out there that still thrive, and see immense amounts of visitors/posters every day, like ResetEra, TIGS, various music forums, etc. What keeps those members coming back? I'm not quite sure. Is it the content? Continuous releases of new things to discuss? For me, forums offer a way to discuss things that no other media outlet really allow for-- Twitter, as mentioned by Jeremy, is a website where posts get lost after even a day. Now, don't get me wrong-- I love the Twitter pixel art community. I have received amazing feedback and gained a wonderful, positive following there. It is truly a thriving place. But what I do not usually receive on Twitter is constructive, well-thought-out criticism or insight that helps me view my pieces from a different angle, or to catch a mistake that my eye my glaze over.

In its heyday, and when I was just starting out as a pixel artist, Pixelation was the place that I would always peruse the threads of experienced artists that would be working their piece out-- I remember watching closely the threads of people like big brother, Helm, Indigo, etc. and seeing the wonderful feedback they would get from everyone-- experienced artists and newer artists alike. Some of the threads that have been archived for their wonderful knowledge are threads many of us experienced in real-time, and probably recall being an exciting, inspiring piece of pixel art history. As I improved, I began posting here as well, but as you can see by my post-count and activity, it has certainly fallen off.

Continuing on that thought, I think that is somewhere that Pixelation has declined-- more experienced pixel artists posting their work-in-progress pieces. When I browse through the Pixel Art board now, it is mostly newer pixel artists, and while that is an amazing thing, having so many new people who are seeking out pixel art as a medium coming to receive insight and criticism on how to improve their work, I feel as though those of us who have been working with the medium for quite some time now have fallen off in terms of posting work, seeking insight, etc. I am quite guilty of this-- I have several pieces that I'm working on currently, and I've only really posted them around Twitter, Discord, etc... I'm sure many of you are the same in that regard! I had my own set of pixel art "heroes" here growing up, and I feel like the same might not be able to be said for newer artists who browse today.

I also would not want to see the activities that have brought such joy and artistic achievement changed to an entirely new format/ Secret Santa is one of the highlights of my year, usually. I love waking up and seeing everyone's gifts, and seeing the appreciation from whoever has received mine. If

Another user brought up the issue of registration, given the newer methodologies of registering for websites through other social media outlets. Newer forum softwares DO allow for those sort of things. Flarum, NodeBB, Xenforo, Discourse, etc. all have upgraded and up-to-date features. These setups would allow for notifications (check when one of your favorite artists posted a thread), gallery implementation (a banner or something that would scroll through recent WIPs, perhaps?), and other features that I think would allow for more community feedback and discussion that would thrive. I agree that an upgrade to the current system is absolutely necessary, no matter what direction the community decides to go with.

If any help is needed by the board/staff, I'd be more than willing to help out. I've always really loved this community.

Offline Retronator

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Re: Community updates

Reply #28 on: August 15, 2018, 09:08:19 pm
The conclusions so far that match my views:
  • Pixelation is a place where you come to improve your pixel art. A community of practice.
  • Forums have a desirable way to facilitate discussion that aligns with this focus.
  • The format of a forum in itself is not the problem, as seen by thriving examples such as TIGS.
  • Points of friction such as registering and uploading images are something to address.
  • The unforgiving/elitist tone of critique is what drove some people off the site (and could be changed).
To this I would add a few points of my own:
  • Changing of the format to be more like Twitter removes what makes Pixelation unique and relevant. If I want Twitter, I just go to Twitter. The main issue with forums for me is that you have to go outside the social networks you frequent. This wasn't a problem in the past, because forums were the main social networks. The reality of today is different, but just changing the format into another form of an independent site doesn't alleviate this. What would help is for Pixelation to have a social media presence.
  • The idea that Pixelation forums are dead is to some extent distorted if you use Slack/Discord. I wasn't active there so this all comes as a surprise to me. But I appreciate that it sparked the desire to actively work on Pixelation as a platform. I'd like to see this make the forum experience better (or at least as useful as in the old days) and reach new people that can benefit from a place like this.
  • Because internet landscape changed, there's no need for Pixelation to cater to 'hanging out' of its members (so they can discuss politics or whatever unrelated to pixel art between each other). We (can) do that on Twitter where most of us (can) follow each other anyway.
With all this said, if/when you go for a content/marketing push as Helm suggested, you can count on me to provide help to beginners in areas I feel competent, as well as help spread the news on social media.

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Re: Community updates

Reply #29 on: August 16, 2018, 02:46:53 am
Ok, here goes my two cents.

I am on the other end of the rope here, I am the beginner trying to learn. I humbly hope my perspective helps somehow. I've found pixelation by tracking the source of absolutely stunning pixel art that looked like cut from another stuff entirely if compared to a lot of recent indie gaming pixel art, things that were true to old-school game art that I loved, and then surpassed it. If memory serves me I think it was mostly arne's, bettleking's, and cyangmou's art, and it all lead to here, and then I noticed there were threads here where these already great artists were asking for help on their own work and still learning, which made immediately interested. But what I saying is, pixelation have a lot of outstanding material that is capable to grab people's attention,if only they get to see it. Interested people will dig things up, but perhaps I might have opened the wrong image search result on google that lead me to a specific artist's portfolio instead of pixelation. This was the perfect place for what I wanted to learn, but I found it by mere chance.

As for the environment, I've had some education in traditional media in my teens, and even then I quickly learned how toxic art communities can be, as artists are emotional people with some need of attention by definition, so I entered here kinda knowing where to step. I lurked the critique forums for a while before mustering courage to post anything, and I was greeted only with fair and helpful critique by mystery meat, eishiya and curly, but I felt the best when I watched people at their very lost first steps receiving the exact same amount of care and attention.

That was when i felt this place was special, and that made me stay. Teaching isn't easy, teaching people that might simply disappear by the next post, and for free, well, that could only be explained by the fact that these people where getting satisfaction from helping, and had a really strong sense of community. I have occasionally seen people saying that pixelation gave harsh critique that was off putting for beginners, but to my perception these days were already gone when i joined. I am in no position to teach pixel art, but the environment is so welcoming that I have also breached that barrier and have provided my honest opinion on other people's art whenever I felt i could help, and I felt to be well received. Bottom line, I dont think the environment is an issue here, at least regarding the critique section, which you guys seem to be agreeing to be the main focus.

On presentation and usability, the forum feels well designed, the auto scaling is something I miss whenever I am in another site/forum, but I couldn't help thinking that a more "information jumping on your face" thing would be more practical, and I have always compared to some very close, but still different forum formats, namely: imageboards, and reddit. Image boards start with images, you dont have to guess what you are going to critique by some cryptic title, specially if you are in hurry checking it the midst of a lot of work, which is in line with helm's remark above. As for reddit, it gives you updates on unread posts much more directly and noticeably than the very small counter in the upper right corner here, while it automatically enables following threads where you have posted. Art related subreddits also have images  directly on the header of each post. Pixelation would gain a lot by being more visual. As for automatic log-in options, I fear it could make it easier for spam to creep in, but who knows.

I sincerely hope the best for this place, and I am up contribute in any way that i can.

Offline pistachio

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Re: Community updates

Reply #30 on: August 18, 2018, 12:11:25 pm
Some consensus so far seems to be 1) more activity (constructive, not unrestrained growth, this arguably killed the Discord) and 2) more outreach (those feed into each other) and 3) making the future format more visual, without unneeded sacrifices.

On this note, Polycount's a more visual forum. Yes, I'll continue to bring it up, because it does a lot of things right and it's a direct blow to "forums are dead". Actually, dissect whatever you can from those guys or any team that gets it right, as far as that's relevant to this place and what we do.
It'd be great to see even more concrete examples raised, specifically what features a layout has, how it applies here, if it wasn't mentioned already. Learning from the best and keeping the discussion open where possible. That's Pixelation in a nutshell no?

Personally of the software mentioned I'm looking at Xenforo for being light and heavily customizable, things which I think are key to sharpening Pixelation's goals potentially (but it's what I stand up for in software in general.) Another point against Mastodon from me. But up to you.

Lastly I'll second helping out with anything specific.
« Last Edit: August 18, 2018, 12:18:33 pm by pistachio »
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Offline Crow

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Re: Community updates

Reply #31 on: August 18, 2018, 12:56:34 pm
killed the Discord

It's alive and kicking :P

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Re: Community updates

Reply #32 on: August 20, 2018, 07:49:34 pm
I've been reading all the feedback and really appreciate the detailed thought everyone has put into this.

Re: new format...
After reading the thread and talking internally a bit, it's clear to me that although Mastodon might very well be a great platform for an art community, it isn't really what Pixelation is unless we radically redefine it.  To that end, I think we should set aside that format in favor of investigating other formats moving forward.  It's important to me that we only change the format in ways that embrace what is in line with what Pixelation is.

I've been looking into more modern forum software to see if there's a good fit. https://flarum.org/ looks really appealing to me and is moddable.  I like its clean presentation, mobile-friendly interface, and it's use of tags as forum sections.  But at the end of the day, it doesn't *really* provide much that we don't already have with the existing forum software without heavy modification which can also technically be done on SMF.  There's not much immediate value to switching.

Vinik mentioned Imageboards, and I've been looking into it.  At first glance, it definitely has a lot going for it that would be great:

- Images are first class citizens
- Content is presented immediately rather than obscured behind text links
- retains a forum-like thread structure

it also has some downsides:
- Very much stuck in the 90's.
- Focus on anonymous features of "chans" rather than members/membergroups/etc
- lack of moderation tools

After all my searching, I am amazed that there has been no modernized take on the format.

This really leads me back to the idea that if we really want a format that works well for Pixelation, I might need to write it from scratch. That is no small feat and would likely take many months before we can try a public beta.

I'll continue searching and thinking about this, but in the meanwhile, like Atnas said, we need to work with what we have now and start making proactive changes here that we can then leverage into whatever technical future pixelation might have moving forward.
« Last Edit: August 20, 2018, 09:16:54 pm by Indigo »

Offline eishiya

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Re: Community updates

Reply #33 on: August 20, 2018, 08:52:48 pm
In case my opinion's worth anything: I dislike tags-as-sections, I prefer tags and sections, the way Pixelation currently has it. Just feels more organized and intuitive to me, even if similar results can be achieved with both.

I personally rather like the forum format for critique, and don't want to scroll through a page full of posts or verbose threads a la image boards or Mastodon. I think the only thing that's really missing is the ability to quickly preview the art in the thread, to see what sort of art it is and whether there have been updated by the OP. A small (for compactness and easy scrolling) thumbnail that can be hovered-over or tapped (touchscreens) to see a (slightly) larger version of either the first or latest image posted by the OP (or better yet, both!) next to the thread in the thread list would be a great addition to the current format.

Offline Ai

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Re: Community updates

Reply #34 on: August 21, 2018, 02:36:04 pm
Haven't heard of Flarum, but it seems similar to Discourse; I'm fairly happy with how Discourse deals with "embedded" images - making it show any image embedded in the first post, within the index, would be the main change needed AFAICS.
Examples of Discourse use in a graphics context are MyPaint forums and pixls.us graphics processing forums
If you insist on being pessimistic about your own abilities, consider also being pessimistic about the accuracy of that pessimistic judgement.

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Re: Community updates

Reply #35 on: August 27, 2018, 09:44:12 am
In case nobody knows, Dan (Indigo) posted this 2 days ago:
Pixelation 2.0 via Twitter

No time to riff right now. But worth discussing.
OpenGameArt | TIGSource | Reddit coming soon. | Polycount

Offline Indigo

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Re: Community updates

Reply #36 on: August 27, 2018, 05:22:25 pm
I'll post a dedicated thread for this

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Re: Community updates

Reply #37 on: August 31, 2018, 03:09:02 am
In case nobody knows, Dan (Indigo) posted this 2 days ago:
Pixelation 2.0 via Twitter

No time to riff right now. But worth discussing.

why in the fuck are you turning the forum into twitter

hard no
PSA: use imgur
http://pixelation.org/index.php?topic=19838.0 also go suggest on my quest, cmon
MAJOR BORK TALLY: |

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Re: Community updates

Reply #38 on: September 01, 2018, 02:05:58 am
because I'm not.  It's very much a forum like you're used to.

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Re: Community updates

Reply #39 on: September 01, 2018, 02:08:07 pm
You could share your opinion less aggressively, MysteryMeat. As far as I can tell Indigo is doing this on his own time as a favor for the whole community.

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Re: Community updates

Reply #40 on: September 02, 2018, 08:08:31 pm
sorry you're right, that came out way more harsh than it shoulda. sorry indigo
PSA: use imgur
http://pixelation.org/index.php?topic=19838.0 also go suggest on my quest, cmon
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Re: Community updates

Reply #41 on: September 02, 2018, 10:30:56 pm
I really appreciate that.  Thanks MysteryMeat