So, in my last (and first, theoretically) post, I talked about what drew me to the PotBS community. Why I'm here. But now I'd like to talk more specifically about Flying Lab's uniqueness in its approach to community. I'll start off with some disclaimers. I've never gotten as involved with a community as I have with FLS before. Therefore, things I say are unique to FLS may very well exist with other game companies. I am not specifically pointing out why FLS is better than all other companies. Rather, I am just showing the elements of communication that make a game company (in this case, FLS) "good".
The most obvious thing a new member of the community notices is the blatant presence of the developers in the community. All FLS staff are clearly defined by their red names on the forums, and a quick search through Coldfront's Dev Tracker shows that they post extremely often, whether it's about the game, or completely off-topic (in the case of Tom Tobey). This blatant presence is extremely reassuring in a sense, because everyone knows that they are being listened to, and that their complaints will not fall on deaf ears.
One bad thing, however, is the use of the Developer Questions subforum. This forum leads you to believe that your questions will be answered by the Devs if you post there, but instead what tends to happen is that a new member, eager to get their voice heard by the developers, posts a question that everyone else on the forum has heard twenty times before. I admit I did this myself when first joining the community. So instead of the new member getting an answer from the developers, he/she receives one from the community members who know the answer. And that's not good enough for the new member, so they say "Thanks for your response, but I was really looking for confirmation from the developers". And this degrades into an argument over whether the answer was legitimate or not, even though it is posted all throughout the forum.
So how can we improve upon the Developer Questions forum? It need to be changed. All those sorts of questions belong in either New Member Questions, or in General Discussion. Developer Questions should be closed off to be read-only, or, even better, make it like the News forum, where only the Devs can post a new topic, but community members can respond as they see fit. Then add a question submission form somewhere, from which the questions are not publicly visible, and the developers can pick and choose which ones they wish to respond to, and post them in the forum. While having that forum open promotes the "openness" of communication, it only works if the developers actually respond to the vast majority of threads in that forum. So close it off a little, and answer all questions in that forum. It will make the community happy to see their questions answered by the developers, and it will make the developers happy because they can deal with whichever questions they want, ignore the really bad ones.
Okay, this post has gotten way too long. Next time I'll continue this discussion about the FLS community, specifically talking about IRC as well as the beta process.