Introduction to Forum Projects

By Martin.
« Previous Article Next Article »

Art by LifeisDANK.


When signing up to Smogon Forums, there are a number of places that users tend to go to make some of their first posts, with some of the more common choices including Rate My Team, Orange Islands, and Competitive Discussion. The primary method of contributing to this last section of the site involves contributing to or participating in forum projects.

A forum project is a thread that encourages metagame-specific contribution either from the wider userbase or from a small group of people for the benefit of the wider userbase. Contributing to a forum project is a great way to show off your metagame knowledge and, in some cases, your creativity and ability to solve problems within teambuilding, and forum projects can often be rather fun to contribute to. In this article, I will go into greater detail about the different types of projects available to people, and I will use my experience with project posting to provide tips for ensuring the quality of your contribution to said projects.

Thread Prefixes

There are four prefixes that are used to indicate the different types of forum projects that exist, and each of these serves different purposes and gives you a hint about the way you need to go into these projects.

Project: In most cases, the project prefix indicates a thread where you are given a goal, usually set up in week-long rounds, and during each round you can make a post relating to said goal. These are generally not oriented towards back-and-forth discussion, instead focusing more on independent contribution, and they often have a "winner" system at the end of each round where either the contributions get voted on by users or the hosts make subjective choices. Examples of project threads include Pokémon Matchmaking, Core Analysis Workshop, and Team Building Competition.

Resource: The resource prefix indicates a thread that functions as a resource that is useful for new players, people trying to get into a metagame, or people who want to improve the efficiency of their teambuilding. Unlike most project threads, individual nominations and contributions are made alongside back-and-forth discussion, although certain threads (such as Good Cores) focus solely on the former. Examples of resource threads include the Viability Rankings, Creative and Underrated Sets, Good Cores, Team Building Workshops, Sample Teams, tier bazaars, Speed tiers, and various types of compendiums.

Metagame: The metagame prefix indicates a thread where people can talk about the current metagame. Discussion in these threads consists of a combination of individual contributions and back-and-forth discussion on the matters that get brought up, and they generally have less of a specific focus to what people are allowed to talk about than projects and resources do. Examples of metagame threads include metagame discussion and suspect test discussion threads.

Other: Any type of thread that doesn't fall under any of the above three categories will have this prefix. The contribution style varies from thread to thread, and these are often much more casual than the other threads within the forum. An example of this is Ladder Achievements.

Tips for making good posts

Before posting: The first thing you should always do before posting in a thread for the first time is to read the rules of the subforum you are posting in and the OP (Original Post) of the thread you are posting in carefully; take note that the rules of the forum are pinned at the top of the subforum and are not the same thing as the global rules. This is important to ensure that you are posting the right things in the right places. Something common to all the types of projects is this: if you are a new user, it is recommended that you "lurk" before posting. Lurking means to spend time reading the posts made by other users, especially those of badgeholders and moderators; badgeholders and moderators are chosen because they set a good example both with regards to the content of their posts and their attitude both on and off the forums. This means that, in most cases, their posts are good resources for both learning how to make good posts and knowing what to look for in good posts. While it is tempting to dive straight in, it is important that you understand what goes into a good post beyond simply vomiting everything you can think of into the box that says "type your post here" before you actually start.

Formatting: Think carefully about how you format your post before you make it. It can be overwhelming for someone to see a huge post that is not separated into paragraphs, so ensuring that long posts contain reasonably frequent line breaks is important. It is also important to not go over the top with formatting. While it is useful for a post to contain certain visual aspects, such as an image of the Pokemon you are talking about, to make the focus of the post clear at a glance, importing header images from text generators doesn't add anything to a post that is not done better either by using bold text for headings or even forgoing them all together. Overuse of bold text and other formatting is not desirable for similar reasons, and when used outside of headings it is almost invariably unnecessary. Ultimately, you should strive for a simple post aesthetic over a complex, individualistic one both to save you time when posting and to make your posts as clear and unobnoxious as possible to read.

Content: First and foremost, make your post legible, coherent, and easy to read; consider the order you present information in, don't use whatever dumb nicknames you can think of instead of the names of actual Pokemon, and don't be an idiot. It's fine to not have great English, but make an effort to make your post readable or else it will get deleted. Beyond this, the most important thing that you need to take into account when posting is that, unless a thread is oriented towards it, "theorymonning" (discussing something that isn't backed up by personal experience with what you are talking about) is the cardinal sin of competitive discussion. As much as you may think that you can conceal a lack of knowledge of subject matter, you can't cover up the fact you are pulling phrases out of god knows where; little slips here and there combined with a variety of other factors make it very obvious when you do so, and this will hamper your chances of being rewarded for a long-lasting period of contribution to a forum. It is also important to take note of the fact that quality is more important than quantity when posting. Whether quantity means writing a vast amount in your post, posting large numbers of replays, or posting a vast number of damage calculations, it is invariably better to post a concise explanation without any "fluff," a small number of replays that show off what they are attempting to demonstrate well, and a small number of relevant damage calculations. Ensure that what you post about is viable at all times, and when discussing niche picks, ensure that you provide a detailed, relevant explanation for why you are using them over something more standard. Finally, if you are looking to earn a badge (see "Rewards" under "Why should you contribute?") through competitive discussion, the most important first step is to make posts that are recognized by others to be of a high quality and to have a good attitude towards others. Entitlement is the absolute worst thing a post can put across, and hunger for pixels breeds entitlement.

Ask for feedback and take criticism with an open mind: While it can be daunting to ask someone from an entirely separate social group for help, it is a great way to improve the quality of your posts and, in some cases, can be enough to turn a user around entirely with good focus and willingness to not be stubborn. Moderators will be happy to help you with any queries you may have and will provide feedback when asked, as will more dedicated badgeholders, and they can help you iron out the issues your posts may have in a much shorter time frame than it would without their help. Most importantly though, it shows moderators that you actually care and want to improve your presence, which makes it more likely for you to form the connections that are essential for gaining respect as a poster. This, in turn, is very useful for forming friendships that will ultimately make your stay on Smogon (or even just within the specific section) that much more enjoyable and rewarding for you, which has a knock-on effect of showing in both your posts and your gameplay. It is also important to retain a cool head when receiving criticism. Instead of taking a defensive stance and retaliating back at the other poster, take an open-minded standpoint and take what critics say to heart; learn from your mistakes, and use it to improve your own presence. Time and time again, I have seen people who get defensive about their posts and refuse to change when people say they should, and it really doesn't make those users look good at all while also commonly leading to them being really terrible forum presences.

Why should you contribute?

Improving your game: Participating in forum projects is useful for helping you practice certain skills within teambuilding by creating situations that force you to use your head and to think around problems that you may not even consider thinking around if you only practiced teambuilding by... well, building teams. It also makes you consider things you have learned when battling that you may not actually consider when building, and this in turn rubs off onto your practical teambuilding. Reading other people's posts is also a great way to improve metagame knowledge; especially when you only play on the ladder, which is consistently a few months behind on metagame trends, and aren't a very religious follower of tournaments, looking at forum projects can be a great way to keep up to date on what's popular and adapt your teambuilding to account for the handful of players on the ladder who do start picking up on these trends before the masses, allowing you to stay ahead of the metagame. In addition, you may think of something someone else didn't, and vice versa. One of the great things about forums is that they can function as an information exchange, so not only can you use it to help yourself learn, but you can also help others learn from your own posts once you get the hang of it.

Rewards: Good contribution pays off in the long run. People who consistently run projects and/or who are very high-quality contributors to the various threads within their forum can be rewarded with the Pre-Contributor (Ladybug) and Community Contributor badges. Being a badgeholder has its own set of perks attached to it, including an increased limit on avatar file size (3 MB, up from 100 kB) and the ability to set a custom title, and it also means that you are recognized by the moderators as a good role model and improves your look to non-badgeholders. Having a badge not only generates a lot more likes than you would otherwise get ('cause that is all that matters on Smogon, right?) but, more importantly, generates a higher level of respect for both you and your opinions. As you climb the ladder, your influence increases, and you can use that influence to help shape the metagame and the community into what you want them to look like. Just don't use your powers for evil!

Make friends and be a part of a wider community: At its core, Smogon is a series of communities that are separated by the section they apply to. While certain forums, such as OU discussion, are fairly splinter oriented as opposed to being unified due to the sheer size of them, a lot of forums are actually very tight knit, which is a great way to form friendships with people who you may not become friends with otherwise. Even in much more splintered sections, you can find yourself forming strong friendships with people around you due to both a shared interest in something and a mutual respect for one another's opinions, and it is a really great feeling to make friends and break out from your status as "random" in the eyes of others.

It's fun: Ultimately, the reason why you should contribute is because you enjoy doing it. If you are posting just because you feel pressured to do so 'cause that's just what you think people do, it not only shows in your posts, but it is also a waste of your own time and effort. That said, like is the case with consuming any kind of media—whether it be watching anime or TV as it airs, reading books, manga, and comics, or playing any video game—discussion is a big part of what makes the game enjoyable and is ultimately its lifeblood. Enjoy it while the fun lasts just for the sake of enjoying it!


Now that you've read this article, I hope that you feel a bit more comfortable with the thought of jumping into forum contribution. It is ultimately hard for anyone to find their feet when going into something with no name recognition, and for a lot of people it can also be hard to get the hang of the expectations of everyone around you. Hell, it took me the best part of 3000 posts before I was able to get the hang of it and to start climbing the ladder for myself, but I sure as hell don't regret starting, and it is so worth it when everything begins to pay off and your confidence begins to increase. I look forward to seeing you taking your first wades into the competitive discussion sea!

HTML by Inactive~.
« Previous Article Next Article »