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Some suggestions for more "Fan Oriented" topics.

Barrel Rider

Dec 18 2017, 9:40pm

Post #1 of 8 (4517 views)
Some suggestions for more "Fan Oriented" topics. Can't Post

Hi! First off, I want to say a big "thank you" to everyone involved in making and maintaining this site. My sister and I have been avid TORn followers since back when the LotR films were coming out. It's been a great resource and lots of fun for all these years. I maintain (and am always adding to) a large free informational website of my own, so I know how much work and time goes into something as massive as this. It is very appreciated, you can be sure of that!

Over the past few days, the two of us have been talking about TORn and wishing that there were a few elements on here that would make this even more sort of "fan oriented". Perhaps you guys have all thought of some of these and decided against them, but we wanted to post a few suggestions of things that we wish were available.

(One note: Someone may come back and say that things like this could be discussed on the forum here, but let me say a couple things about that. First, we don't have one other friend --- all of whom follow TORn and get the e-mail updates --- who has even known of the TORn forum before we told them. Second, because the forum interface is so, sad to say, archaic --- it's almost impossible to stay on top of anything or add to older posts. Because posts don't get bumped back up to the top when a new reply is posted, it is a waste of time to read or reply to anything that is not on the front page of a board. It would be so much nicer if posts bumped up with each new reply. You'd save space, too, because people wouldn't need post whole new messages on the same topic all the time. Also, because photos are so impossible on the forum, the last two suggestions here won't work that way.)

Anyway, on to the suggestions . . .

Virtual Bookshelf
First, as huge fans of both the books and the films, we love to see info about anything Tolkien. We've collected books for years, but it's really hard to stay on top of things. We see announcements for the new WETA books when you post them on the main page, but if we're off somewhere or busy and miss a post, then we might not hear about it. That's exactly what happened with the new "Script to Screen". We only found out about it last week, because we weren't home for the original May announcement. Could you make a page that is a sort of virtual "Tolkien Bookshelf"? Maybe have the Tolkien works separated from the B-T-S and Movie Companion types? That would be so cool, and something that should be easily updated as new titles come out.

Photo Albums
What about photos and publicity stills? Back in the LotR days, TORn was the one-stop-shop for all the brilliant pictures of characters and scenes from the films. We've kept scrapbooks about the movies and documented announcements, etc., but there are not good places for pictures anymore, and it's a great loss to the whole Middle Earth fan base to not have a place to find more than the posters. There is even a simple, open source photo album interface that might work, if you thought of putting something on like this. You can set it up to be only added to by administrators or other users. It can be seen here: http://piwigo.org/
It would be really cool to be able to have a place to find photos, and if you can set up something where fans can contribute, I know we would love to do that!
We keep trying to find LotR backgrounds and pictures, and you just can't find them anymore. Couldn't get LOTR photos that were large enough for a background!

Character Costume Spotlight
One other thing that we would really love to see, (and it could actually be included in the above photo albums, if you used an interface that could be added to and commented on by fans) would be some kind of page spotlighting the character costumes. This would be so helpful to fans who are trying to make their own costumes, or (like us) are always trying to costume dolls as various characters.
The Hobbit costumes can be researched in some of the "Art of" books, but even those would be so helped by contributions of fans who may have figured things out or seen the real thing. A really nice gent took photos of the Dwarf costumes on display at the Wellington Airport. He posted the photos on Pintrest, and it is thanks to those that we've been able to figure out a lot of things for dolls, since many details are not shown or discussed even in the BTS books.
If you want to know about colors or anything for the LotR costumes, it's really difficult. They didn't release detailed stuff about those like The Hobbit, so I know we could all benefit by input from others. There is an old post on the forum here that does a great job describing the Fellowship Cloaks, sadly the photos are all gone now.

Fan Creativity and Projects
This is something that I know I've mentioned over the years, and I really think a lot of people here would enjoy and benefit from. You NEED something that spotlights fan art and creative projects. And the Fan Art board isn't enough, because you can't include any decent pictures or mention anything that's for sale.

(A note about selling things: I have prices on all the dolls that I make. Not because I want to sell more than one of them, but because it stops most of the hundred e-mails I get asking what the price would be . . . when they really want to just hear $15.00 and free shipping. So, just because someone has prices listed doesn't mean that they are going into business. I totally don't want to do that, but it helps keep e-mails at bay.

And I know that people come back on here about "being fair to the paid advertisers", but the logo proudly bears the motto: "Forged by and for Fans of JRR Tolkien". There's nothing wrong with supporting your site with advertising, but don't bind yourself in contracts that now turn the site into a place that is "forged by advertisers for the fans of JRR Tolkien". There should be plenty of room for all of us to support Weta and the great places like that, without having to worry about "stepping on toes" by linking to others that may have the coolest pottery mugs made to look like they came from the Prancing Pony or Green Dragon --- something that Weta and the others don't offer, period.)

As two people that are very creative and always trying to come up with projects that are Middle Earth related, it's very hard to plow through endless results of non-relevant pictures and web pages before happening on a really cool post showing another fan's amazing art or creative project.
I SO wish that you would spotlight fan projects --- and not on the forum. Again, it's no good, since posts don't bump to the front and can't have pictures. (For instance, I can't make one thread for my felted dolls and add to it as a new one is finished. I have to repeat the same information, link to a number of old posts every time and put on a whole new thread for every doll, every time.) This would have to be something that you post as a blog entry on the front page or something. Not sure how you would like to do it, but I'm sure there is a way.
For instance, it would be cool if you showed different things like hand-knitted character dolls, OOAK dollhouses, handmade dolls, etc. What about the forum member who does the amazing paintings out of Instant Coffee? Or the one who painted their sneakers with Hobbiton scenes? Or the knitter who has a pattern for knitted socks (on Ravelry) made in the style of Thorin's armor?
All of these things are hard to find online because of the crazy number of non-relevant results. But we so wish that we could browse through an archive on your site that spotlights things like this, just to get ideas of things that we'd love to make and may have never thought of before! There are so many amazingly talented and creative people on here, and that's one of the fun things that being a fan is all about!

So, those are the suggestions that we've been discussing. They would make this seem a lot more fan oriented, because it feels these days like things are slowing into announcements and WETA items (not that we don't LOVE Weta and have our fair share of stuff all over our room!). That can't be helped, since the film furor is dying down, but I think that spotlighting fans' creativity and adding things like a bookshelf and photos might really be a great addition that would expand your activity and viewers.

Thanks for reading through these --- and for so many years of a great site! And I hope that nothing sounds like complaining or anything. These are just thoughts and suggestions and not meant to sound like anything else.

For pictures of my needle-felted Middle Earth dolls: http://www.sarahbethonline.com/
For pictures of my wonderful cat, Samwise: http://pepperminttoes.weebly.com/samwise.html

Forum Admin / Moderator

Dec 19 2017, 2:47am

Post #2 of 8 (4465 views)
Lots to unpack here [In reply to] Can't Post

and I'm not sure I'll address everything - I'm sure to miss something. Glad you posted this - maybe some other folks will be inspired by your suggestions.

First thing - this site is by and for fans, and we welcome anyone introducing new ideas and posts. However, our Terms of Service were determined by the owners of this site, not the admins, so this is the site the owners want, and it's our job to administer the rules.

The rule against advertising on the message boards is meant to keep this site free through the use of paid advertisements. Without our advertisers, there is no TORn.

But, I don't know if you've seen the recent introduction of the Crafts and Creations post that Kimi started. Here's her most recent post. On this thread, we have relaxed the restrictions on posting items for sale, but only within that thread. That might answer the concerns you expressed.

Someone once did a number of posts about the costumes of LOTR and they were wonderful discussions. If you want to start one on the Hobbit costumes, go for it! I'm sure anyone interested would join in.

Many of the earlier pictures were not from the message boards, but the main page - I think it was called the Scrapbook. There isn't as much news these days, which partly explains why there aren't as many pictures. We have the restrictions on picture sizes for the message boards because not everyone has high speed internet and large images are difficult to load. However, anyone is able to set up a Dropbox or Google Photos site and link to pictures, and there are no restrictions on size through that method.

One of the challenges we all have is enough time. No one can be here all the time, and we often miss something, like your examples of new books announced. Fortunately, we have a great search function - I use it often. It's impossible to organize the message boards in a way that suits everyone; what you might consider intensely fascinating would not be as interesting to someone else. I'm the perfect example - while I can appreciate the care that went into the costumes, I have no desire to discuss it.Cool However, I 1000% support the desire to have that discussion - I just know it's not for me! So the way I might organize TORn would be completely different from what you might want, but neither of us would be wrong - just different. We have an extremely diverse group with so many different areas of interest, and we hope the forums are flexible enough to accommodate as wide a variety as possible.

Superuser / Moderator

Dec 19 2017, 5:05am

Post #3 of 8 (4457 views)
FWIW, [In reply to] Can't Post

to find the old costume discussions search for 'Did you ever notice' by Arwen's Daughter. She did a great job of unpicking the costumes with as much detail as she could glean.

Anyone who'd like to restart a costume discussion is welcome to do so. Smile

Celebrimbor: "Pretty rings..."
Dwarves: "Pretty rings..."
Men: "Pretty rings..."
Sauron: "Mine's better."

"Ah, how ironic, the addictive qualities of Sauronís master weapon led to its own destruction. Which just goes to show, kids - if you want two small and noble souls to succeed on a mission of dire importance... send an evil-minded beggar with them too." - Gandalf's Diaries, final par, by Ufthak.

Ataahua's stories

Superuser / Moderator

Dec 19 2017, 5:48am

Post #4 of 8 (4456 views)
Some great ideas! [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks for the post, BarrelRider! It's awesome to see such great ideas and enthusiasm for TORn. SmileHeart

In general, the main thing holding back progress is time. All of the ideas you mentioned (that are viable - see comments below regarding photos and fan creativity) would take initial time to set up, and ongoing time to maintain and update. TORn is obviously going to get busier in the semi-near future, and we need to do a re-group to determine which staff are still willing and able to devote their time, and if not, to identify the areas where we need help. TPTB and some of the Sr. Staff are aware of that and are going to Skype after the holidays to discuss. If anyone has any special skills or interests, and the commitment and time to help, it would be helpful to start hearing about that now, realizing that it will take time to re-organize. That goes both for the boards and the site as a whole (see note on old boards at end below).

Virtual bookshelf - I love this idea and have often thought about doing something similar. FYI, a handful of very good sites already exist that at least partially fulfill this function (Tolkien Society, Tolkien Bookshelf, Tolkien Library.com). Still, it would be a 'nice to have' here at TORn. if nothing else, a page for staff and/or fan reviews would be awesome.

Photo Albums - the TORn scrapbook was a treasure, but as far as I know, the old pictures are all but unrecoverable from the Scrapbook as it once existed. It would be a monumental task to gather everything that was lost (if not impossible, in many cases). But there's no reason we can't start a new one. Well, no reason except that pesky time thing, not to mention that pesky copyright thing. The reason you can't find as many Tolkien/Movie pics online anymore is that the Tolkien Estate, Warner Bros, and many artists have cracked down in recent years on other sites posting their copyrighted pictures; and rightfully so (pun intended). Laugh So, we're prohibited from becoming a repository for 'free images' of copyrighted works like the old days. Collecting our own pictures, and ones we can get permission to post, however, would be a worthy endeavor.

Character Costumes - again, great idea, but we'd need someone to spearhead it, much like Arwen's Daughter did with her amazing LOTR costume posts. I'm not a costumer but, like the bookshelf, I believe there are already a few sites devoted to fantasy costumes. Still, having some info at TORn would indeed be great. However, we'd need a committed volunteer, or volunteers, to do a lot of research and maintenance.

Fan Creativity and Projects - The Greenbooks section of the site, along with the old Rolozo Tolkien site (both hosted here - and boy am I dating myself now Laugh) used to feature fan fic and fan art. I agree that it would be great to have site resources, not just board resources, to feature fan creativity. Again, though, as with the current Great Hall of Poets feature, it would require volunteers to review and post entries. Because we're a family-friendly, pretty-much-Tolkien-centric site, I don't see us ever allowing a pinterest-type of free posting by fans. Even with something similar, editors/moderators would be essential.

With respect to items for sale, I agree with entmaiden that that isn't our mission as a site. We allow it on the boards in certain circumstances (Gaming and Collecting board, and Creative works threads). However, entmaiden is 100% correct that TORn's mission is not to help fans sell their creative works, nor will we ever go there in all probability. The reasoning is twofold: 1) advertisers help pay for the site, so allowing free promotion hurts our ability to survive, not to mention tempting our paying advertisers to question why they're paying, and 2) allowing free promotion for one or two, or 50 'deserving' artists and craftspeople opens the floodgates to having bunches of people justifying why their art deserves to be featured. Again, a nightmare of a time and moderation commitment.

I hope the above leaves the door open and is encouraging while at the same adding a dose of reality that every great idea takes a ton of time and commitment to see through to fruition.

Note on the old boards - not only is the outlook of saving anything still very bleak, you're all saddled with me - a Sr. Staffer who has a real-life business to run and loses track of communicating sometimes. For that I apologize. My top TORn-board New Year's resolution is to get it going again and to hand it off to others to investigate further.

Whew! Now I need to go rest my fingers! Laugh

Koru: Maori symbol representing a fern frond as it opens. The koru reaches towards the light, striving for perfection, encouraging new, positive beginnings.

"Life can't be all work and no TORn" -- jflower

"I take a moment to fervently hope that the camaradarie and just plain old fun I found at TORn will never end" -- LOTR_nutcase

(This post was edited by Altaira on Dec 19 2017, 5:50am)


Dec 19 2017, 6:09am

Post #5 of 8 (4449 views)
Those [In reply to] Can't Post

'Did you ever notice?' costume threads were great.
I'm sure if someone wanted to start up further costume threads, people would be interested.

Tol Eressea

Dec 19 2017, 1:26pm

Post #6 of 8 (4429 views)
Pssst Altaira [In reply to] Can't Post

(Remember when Pssst was a thing here?)

I'm still more than willing to do whatever I can to help resurrect the old boards.

Happiness: money matters, but less than we think and not in the way that we think. Family is important and so are friends, while envy is toxic -- and so is excessive thinking. Beaches are optional. Trust is not. Neither is gratitude. - The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner as summarized by Lily Fairbairn. And a bit of the Hobbit reading thrown in never hurts. - NottaSackville

Barrel Rider

Dec 21 2017, 3:58pm

Post #7 of 8 (4319 views)
Thanks for the great replies! [In reply to] Can't Post


Entmaiden and Altaira: Thanks for the great responses. I can totally understand everything that you both said and appreciate the whole idea of time (particularly not enough of it!), volunteers and copyright.

From all of the answers that you guys gave, I think that (in my opinion) a new forum platform would really improve all of this in one swoop. I know that's easily said, but maybe someone would be willing to help set that up. There are even free and open source varieties that might be an option.

I'll give a few examples of why I think this would fix a lot of things, and this is more for you guys to think about, put under your hats and discuss, as it may spark some ideas during your conversations. My sister and I are both really active on some other forums (my sister especially), so we've been discussing things that are nice or not nice about different ones and make reading and posting easier and simpler. So, these are some thoughts.

It was the "Did you ever notice . . ." threads by Arwen's Daughter that I was thinking of. However, telling people to search for those is a useless answer, since no one is going to do that if they are just coming in looking for something. There are two things that would help the different things here:

1.) The thing that seems like a really necessary upgrade is the idea of posts coming to the top of a board after a new post. This would keep things cleaner and a lot easier to follow and continue discussing. From a posting point of view, it's a waste of time to post on old posts here, because no one is ever going to know to read and respond to the new discussion.

Also, from the posting aspect, take this as an example why it would keep things cleaner and easier to follow.
I make needle-felted dolls. My first post on this forum was to show pictures of one of them. I made a topic that explained what the dolls are, how they are made, and the whole idea of the project I was working on. Unfortunately, it takes a few months for me to finish each doll. By the time I came back to post pictures of the next one and add to the original post --- I couldn't even find it. I had to search for it, find it seven or eight pages back and then think. No one was ever going to see an update on that, since it didn't pop up to the front. So, ever since, when I post a new set of pictures, I have to start from scratch. I have to explain the same stuff and insert links to all the older forum topics. That's quite extensive now, but if I don't do that, then people are sending me messages asking if I ever posted pictures of others. Does this all make sense?

As a reader, the same applies. Take the gent who paints with Instant Coffee (wish I knew his name, but I don't --- I just LOVE his posts!). If he were able to add to one post, then we would all be able to see all of his pictures in one shot. Right now, it takes a lot of time, clicking and page loading to try to find his other posts and see what he's painted before.

2.) The second suggestion is something that goes along the same line, but is doable as the forum stands now. This is something that my sister and I see in practice on every other forum that we use, and it always works pretty well.

Using the Costume Discussion as an example (though you could substitute any subject that you can imagine as an ongoing one-topic discussion that would attract multiple readers on an on-going basis), instead of worrying about making a "column" on the main page (like the Great Hall of Poets or the other reoccurring subjects), you could make a sticky thread. That would keep the subject on the top of the forum, easily accessed for years to come. It would also be easier for those interested in that to watch for new replies. Also, the moderators would only need to check that discussions in those threads stayed on topic.

This would also be the way to handle the "Crafts and Creations" thread started by Kimi. (Thanks for mentioning that. I was the reason she started that, and it's a great idea!) As it stands now, the original thread has disappeared far enough that a new one has been started and a link to the original post had to be inserted in the top of the second C&C post. I think that "Crafts and Creations" should be made into a "sticky" post, because as someone following that one, I've wanted to go back and look at previous posts multiple times already.
One other question on this one . . . why is it in "Off Topic" board? It seems like it should be in Fan Art, because it is the same people posting.

3.) About photos in the forum. I understand the whole problem with slow internet, and that's a valid concern. Could you, perhaps, incorporate the option of uploading smaller (though slightly larger than your parameters now) pics in the forum post, and anyone can then upload the large pics to their own photo host and post the links? Here's an example of a post I made on another forum that shows this option:
By allowing the smaller photos, it means that even years down the road, the post will still be of use. Even if my photo hosting expires, the post is still readable. To use an example of how photos expire and render a post useless or poor, have a look at this once great post by Arwen's Daughter:
A lot of the info in her post here involved pictures. Sadly, they are now gone, which means that the response to search for her fabulous costume posts loses its value, since anyone really needing detailed info like this needs some photos to go with it.
By allowing small photos actually attached to the forum post, it should not result in any slower download by readers (whether slow internet has to download a small picture hosted on the forum or hosted elsewhere and embedded, it is all the same) and should maximize the value of the forum for years to come.

Ideas for Forum Platforms
I've never actually had to set up a forum, so I don't know exactly how to do it (though I've set up a lot of web-related interfaces, this is something I've never had a need to do). However, my sister and I went through some of the forums that we use and thought we'd post a couple examples here.

phpBB is a Free and Open Source Software that a lot of forums use. They tend to be less decorated, but they are so easy to use, read and post that the change in design may be worth it. Also, I don't know whether the forums we've used with this interface were just not into decorating and left plain on purpose. Here's the link to the phpBB site: https://www.phpbb.com/
Here is a link to a site using this interface that is really successful:

By far, one of the forums that my sister is super active on is a more decorated and advanced platform. They don't have the name of the platform posted, but we've seen a number of forums on the same one, so it must be easily set up. It also offers some more advanced settings --- as in, there is a "Selling" board that only appears to signed-in members, plus you are not allowed to post a new topic in that board (and thereby sell something) until you have reached a certain number of posts (we think it's about 50) that the system reads as a certain word count. This keeps out spammers and anyone loading the place with posts of "yep", "nope" and "I agree". Here's the link to the forum:
If you want to know something particular about it, my sister and can find out for you or put you in contact with someone who knows.

These are just some starting points for you guys, but we don't want to sound like we're complaining without offering some constructive suggestions . . . because we're not. We're just hoping to offer some helpful feedback.

This post is now so long that I'm going to stop on this and reply in another entry to the thought of the photo albums.

Thanks for letting us discuss this! You guys all do a great job, and this is a great place!


For pictures of my needle-felted Middle Earth dolls: http://www.sarahbethonline.com/
For pictures of my wonderful cat, Samwise: http://pepperminttoes.weebly.com/samwise.html

Barrel Rider

Dec 21 2017, 4:07pm

Post #8 of 8 (4317 views)
More thoughts . . . this time on photos and albums, etc. [In reply to] Can't Post

Hi, again!
This is a second reply, because I thought it would be better to separate thoughts and keep things from getting too long.

About the Photo Albums
That makes sense about having copyright issues. Do you not qualify under the fair use law because of the paid advertising?

As far as collecting pictures, etc., we do have a very large amount of the pictures originally posted in the TORn Scrapbook still on some discs. If it would help anybody to have those to go through, my sister says she'd be happy to mail a disc to you guys.

Also, would you be allowed to post fan-designed computer backgrounds and the like?

If you get to the point where you decide that it might be a good idea to put up some kind of photo album platform, you might consider Piwigo. It's an open source interface that can be installed with just a couple of clicks:

If you do decide to use this at any point, I'm more than willing to volunteer to configure it for you, if that would help. I've done it a few times already. You don't even have to access the server or anything to do it. If someone with the server access just installs it (and that's very easy, because they have a web install that only takes a few clicks), and then there will be an Admin page/sign in that the person configuring the albums just signs into and does their work on the internet browser.
Here's a link to one of the album pages that I'm working on right now:
There are multiple theme options for the colors and format. You can tag the individual albums and photos, and everything comes up in a Google search very well. You can also choose to allow comments or not, etc.

Hope some of these suggestions help!

For pictures of my needle-felted Middle Earth dolls: http://www.sarahbethonline.com/
For pictures of my wonderful cat, Samwise: http://pepperminttoes.weebly.com/samwise.html


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