I’m Rachel. It’s nice to meet you. I’ve been using Flight Rising since about September of last year, and I’ve had a lot of fun. I have bought gems multiple times, so I am presumably one of the users who helps keep the site running monetarily, even apart from ads.
Over the past couple months, though, I’ve noticed some troubling things. I can’t find any better way to discuss them with you—certainly no way that seems likely to get a response—so instead, I’m taking to Tumblr, where even if you don’t respond, you can view this letter and even see its responses from my peers, other users of the site.
Let me start by saying that I want to like you. I want to think of you as once-removed friends, or as people who I or we can depend on. I try really hard to ensure that I’m not thinking of you adversarially. There’s no point in an us vs them mindset.
But intentionally or not, actions taken by the staff convey that mindset. This is far and away the most troubling thing I’ve noticed in my time on the site.
You claim increased transparency with “Words on the Wind” posts, but those posts rarely address users’ concerns and by now have turned into simple newsposts. You have a Suggestions forum set up, but it seems to have turned into an area purely for quarantine, so that you can more easily ignore those suggestions. You’re obviously aware of users’ complaints, since you respond to (parts of) them and seem to be reading the Tumblr tag, but you brush off all but the easiest-to-answer questions.
I believe that I speak for the vast majority of your users when I say that we don’t want increased transparency or accountability from you so that we can yell at you—we want it so we don’t feel used and lied to.
Your users are the thing that makes your site successful. We view ads, buy gems, play games, talk up the site you’ve made. In a very real way, FR would not work without its users. But your actions seem to say that we are really just an inconvenience, a whining mob that’s only there to get in your way.
To a certain extent, I understand this. I work for What Pumpkin, the merchandising company for a webcomic with more than a million readers. Most of my work right now is on Paradox Space (a side comic), where believe me, I hear from readers. It’s very, very easy to relax into that us vs them mindset and leave it at that.
But that’s not going to help you (or them). I combat this in myself by trying to check up on readers’ responses daily, respond where I can and where it’s appropriate, and to try to remind myself constantly that behind each reader is a real human being. It’s not actually too hard to do, because by and large PXS readers are sweethearts and just want to read cool stuff (and we just want to post cool stuff!).
Let me bring this down to the very simple and pragmatic and list a few things that I think you could do to alleviate the us vs them atmosphere you’ve fostered that would not harm your website:
- Tell us what the programmer(s) are working on. Is Akiri still recovering? No one is going to be upset if that’s the case; we all want you to be healthy. But since there are many programming problems that plague the site, giving the users some idea of what they should expect to be addressed would help keeping us from feeling like you don’t care how the problems impact our usage of the site.
- Tell us why the suggestion forum is a wasteland, or why you can’t or won’t institute a specific suggestion. For instance: people have been clamoring for banks since FR started. To my eye there’s no reason that’s a bad suggestion, but of course I have access to incomplete information. If you tell us why something won’t work, maybe—just maybe!—we’ll stop bugging you about it.
- Tell us if you’re overwhelmed. I have no idea how many of the admins are full-time on FR. In fact as far as I know every FR admin is still holding down a full-time “real” job. That’s okay. Just let us know. If we are aware that you’re working as hard as you can but you just don’t have the time, we’re going to be way more sympathetic. As it stands, we have no idea.
- Just let us know you’re listening. The way you respond to the few things you do respond to tells us that you see everything we say, but you don’t think we’re worth responding to unless we’re saying what you want us to say. That is a really easy way to tell your userbase it’s not worth your time, and a really easy thing to fix: just show us that you are listening.
From my perspective and the perspective of the vast majority of your users, your priorities are confusing; your choices are strange; your decisions exclude us. It will do nothing but help the site as a whole to show your users enough trust to tell them what’s going on.
Thanks for reading. I don’t expect a response—for all the reasons above—but I hope that, if nothing else, this letter gives you an idea how it feels to be a Flight Rising user these days.
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