Interview No. 150
Interview By: @The-Great-One
Today is a momentous occasion. We have reached another milestone interview and another fifty interviews. I've been walking down memory lane as of late. Rekindling a spark that almost died out a couple of years back. It feels great getting to do this with all of you again. Throughout these past fifty interviews we've had some wonderfully creative people. Tom Fulp returned for his fourth time, this time being interviewed by the members of Newgrounds. I hope to do something like that again in the future. A relatively unknown musician from the Audio Portal named Nothins shared his knowledge and craft with us. brewstew starting sharing his stories with us and we got to know the history, truths, and laughter behind them. We were also joined by the winner of The 2015 Newgrounds Annual Tournament of Animation TheSilleGuy.
We were also fortunate enough to learn the stories of Adam Phillips and MeghanLuna. We got to see the return of SardonicSamurai. The mind behind :the game:, Nutcasenightmare and the story of her life. One of the most famous Newgrounds members deathink sat down with us to share his creations and love of Newgrounds. As well as an Oldgrounds member, a brilliant animator, Sarkazm. It has been a wild ride.
Today though we return to a group of people whose main goal is to better the community of Newgrounds as well as help in the protection of content and the site overall. Today's guests are Supreme Commander @byteslinger, Supreme Commander @GUTHRIE, Major @ZomAlien, and Supreme Commander @Exedor. They are The Elite Guard Barracks.
ANSWERS WILL BE POSTED BENEATH THE A: DUE TO TWO PEOPLE BEING INTERVIEWED PERSON ANSWERING WILL BE NOTED AS SO.
Q: How did you find Newgrounds and why did you join?
byteslinger: Back in 2006 I was very involved in trying new ideas for website animation. I wanted more than just animated GIFs on a page, so after a little research I realized that the answer was Adobe Flash. It was all very new to me, and I learn best when I have an example or two to follow. I Googled "flash animation websites", and Newgrounds was right near the top. When I visited the site, I realized it was the perfect place for an up-and-coming animator to lurk. You could upload your work, and it would be critiqued by others. I learned what folks liked - and what they didn't. I joined shortly afterwards as I felt I could be a useful member of Newgrounds. In time, it became almost a second home for me.
GUTHRIE: The year was 2000, I was around 12 years old, and I was searching the internet for Teletubbies fan sites to show my little brother. I came across Teletubby Fun Land and explored the site a lot over the next few years. Those were difficult times for myself, the country, and the world. The Assassin series and 9/11 collections were strangely comforting in ways that my friends and parents were not. In 2003 I started high school but kept visiting Newgrounds, eventually discovering the BBS which is what finally got me to register for a Grounds Gold account after I realized it was free. Newgrounds has been a big part of my life ever since.
ZomAlien: I found Newgrounds a while back, almost when they first came out, but only made a account officially in 2017. I figured that I join as a way of giving back to the website to keep it running longer, along with support from a yearly subscription.
Exedor: I'd run across something called "All Your Base R Belong To Us" and it led me to Newgrounds. Then I found "Hoy Te Amo ++". And "Walk-Smash-Walk". And "Moonlight", and many others. And I started to realize that these were not professionals or big companies creating these great stories and animations; these were regular people. People who came up with an idea, and spent weeks and months of their lives, working hard, creating something for me to watch and enjoy, all for nothing more than a vote and maybe a review. I've been here ever since.
Over time, as we started to grow and gain status on Newgrounds. As you can imagine, due to our membership requirements, our roster was full of influential members with high voting power. Eventually, we started to take our role as protectors of the NG Portal seriously and did all we could to make sure every Flash possible gets a fair vote with as little influence as possible from mass-voters, zero-bombers, malicious users, and the like.
The Elite Guard Barracks Code of Conduct is as follows:
1. Voting fairly.
2. Stopping portal abuse.
3. Clearing up the review system.
4. Setting an example for others to follow.
How much of this would you say still holds true and what has changed in the past nine years?
byteslinger: Absolutely all of it! We have stayed true to the cause, and the current members of the Elite Guard have all set the standards very high. They all lead by example, helping other users while keeping the portal clean. As for what has changed, here are some bullet
[ ] Leadership changed in 2017; I became the Chief Barracks officer (promoted from within), and filled in vacant officer positions from the remaining crew
[ ] We re-adjusted our roster to reflect truly active members; all those marked inactive were declared "on leave, honorable status", and would be re-instated if they requested - and some of them did come back
[ ] Many of us became Moderators, giving us some ability to handle rule-breaking submissions as they are discovered
[ ] We're running with a smaller crew, but we're just as effective, if not more, than before.
[ ] We added the EGB ROTC program in response to the dismantling of the NGPD
GUTHRIE: It's really funny to see EagleRock talk about "Flash," thinking about the percentage of submissions today that are actually SWF files is astounding given the website's roots. Older Newgrounds members will remember some interesting times for the Portal and Newgrounds. For examples, remember the Outwar¹ raids? Or The Barney Bunch²? Groups like The Elite Guard were instrumental in revealing those bad actors and reporting them to the proper moderation teams. The Elite Guard Barracks ranks has decreased slightly in number since 2011, but the tradeoff in that means the concentration of people in the Barracks who care deeply about the health of the Portal is so much higher. The people who've stuck around all these years are incredibly dedicated to serving the Newgrounds community. I really believe that every member still espouses each part of the Code of Conduct, which is what makes us such an effective group. Following this Code ensures foremost that bad submissions are so recognized, but also helps us find really excellent submissions that might not be seen otherwise, which is the lifeblood of Newgrounds.
ZomAlien: Besides some users joining and leaving, nothing has changed too much. We all try to stay true to our code of conduct and roots.
Exedor: Most of it remains the same. We mainly focus on the animations and games in the EGB. The reviews, however, not so much. Those are handled elsewhere.
Q: What is The Barracks Manifesto?
byteslinger: It is the soul of the Elite Guard - the explanation of who we are and what we do. It is the basis by which we all live and breathe, so we can work as one to keep Newgrounds a better place for all. @Eaglerock wrote it up in May of 2008, and other than some minor additions for the changes we made, it is still his words and his ideals that we honor today.
GUTHRIE: This is a great followup to the previous question. The Manifesto was written by our founding member, EGSC EagleRock. it's a good place to start if you have any questions about the origins of the Elite Guard Barracks. Because we are so dedicated to fairness, and because most of our members have such high voting power, we can effectively amplify those really great movies or games that might otherwise fall through the cracks. I (and I think others in the EGB) believe that Newgrounds is at its best when users help one another elevate their animation, art, music, writing, etc. to another level. This requires a process of feedback and reflection. Reviews are an important part of that process, but also making people feel like they're part of a community where quality content will be recognized for what it is. I try to fairly rate every submission I vote on, and leave constructive feedback when I feel it's appropriate.
ZomAlien: It is documentation of the past, present, and future of the EGB and it's members. A history, and preservation of our goals and integrity.
Exedor: I tend to pay more attention to the Woman-ifesto... ok, that was bad. I got nuthin.
Q: Who has left The Elite Guard Barracks or Newgrounds in general that you miss and wish would return?
byteslinger: Wow. After 14 years, that list is so long, but I know that real-life can change your priorities, and sometimes, the absence is unavoidable. I was very close with @EagleRock; he and I had a great time on the forums. We worked together well, and at the same time, we had a continual give-and-take relationship that manifested as humorous point and counterpoint conversations. A few years ago he encountered a few changes in his life; he tried to keep busy on Newgrounds, but it wasn't meant to be. Someone else had to be in command, and that mantel became mine to bear - and I do so with honor and pride, every day.
There was also @SlashFirestorm, who set up the original NG Logs; when he realized he needed to pass that on, he asked me if I could take it over. It was no problem - we moved the programs and data to one of my test accounts, and the stat lovers still had a home to keep track of their progress. As a programmer, I added improvements, cleaned up the processing, and grew it into a system that I am sure would make him proud.
Then there was @RohanTheBarbarian, who was both funny and yet serious about the Barracks. He would laugh with the best of them, but would not tolerate trolls or thieves. It wasn't unusual for us (okay, well maybe me) to derail a thread with tangential humor, but that showed we were comfortable enough to be ourselves while we worked.
We had some members who left, and then found their way back. For example, my good friends, @Lizzardis, @Fro and @ADR3-N all had requested leave years ago to deal with their lives outside of Newgrounds. After some time, they worked their way back and are all active members once more. Now, that's dedication!
Just thinking about this makes me wonder where the likes of @SupraAddict, @Idiot-Finder, @PossiblePancakes, @SlntCobra1, @Phantomlassuk, @michelinman and @PorkChop are today. I do hope they are all doing well; it would be great to hear from them once in a while.
GUTHRIE: It would be nice to see EagleRock around here again, but we all understand that people move on. I know he would be proud of how we're getting on without him.
Exedor: Life takes over; I understand that. If they're not here, they may be becoming successful, improving themselves, or spending quality time with their kids. I wish them well. Maybe they'll remember us someday. ...maybe, when they find their kid looking at, and hiding, the things they used to look at and hide from their parents a dozen years ago.
Q: The Elite Guard Barracks was originally designed to protect the Flash Portal. Which is now split between the Movies Portal and Games Portal. Although the classic Portal still stands to this day why haven't y'all branched out more? Music that breaks the guidelines and/or stolen cannot be submitted to the Barracks, but instead to the Audio Portal Cleanup. Why a separate thread to do the same job? Would that cause a problem of being spread too thin or is it prevent a bulk?
byteslinger: Managing rule-breaking audio is a bit different than dealing with movies and games. There is a higher prevalence of theft and using copy-written material in the Audio portal, and the Audio mods keep on top of that. We do work closely with the Audio mods, so when something crosses our path that they need to manage, we send it their way. They have their jobs to do, and they do it well. Technically speaking, they follow the same ideals as we do in the Barracks, but its just not formalized.
GUTHRIE: To me, the Classic Portal is the purest part of Newgrounds that makes the site so effective as a place for content creators to showcase their hard work. It's the place in which I spend the most time on Newgrounds. I think the continuing existence of the page is testament to its usefulness. And I think that the fractured nature of each portal is what ultimately keeps these threads separate from one another. Audio Portal Cleanup exists because there is so little crossover between the Classic Portal and the Audio Portal, and the Scouting system serves that purpose as well. A similar system doesn't exist for the Classic Portal, again validating the EGB's continuing service.
ZomAlien: I think keeping the Audio portal cleanup and EGB separate did some good and a little bad. Good: because there's SO MUCH stolen audio on Newgrounds, it's crazy that's how I got my whistle status to Deity. Bad: because not everyone knows about the APC thread, so sometimes the links get posted in the EGB thread and confuses things. I think it's good to keep them separate, I figure it helps the Moderators alot that way.
Exedor: It may seem like the same job, but it's not, exactly. I like the boundaries that are in place. If everything was in one place, it would get overwhelming. But, it also allows us to keep the apples separate from the oranges, and to fine tune the discussions much better.
Q: The Newgrounds Police Department held a similar concept to the Barracks. It was a stepping stool for those going up the ranks and working to keep NG clean and fair. In 2012 though it slowly phased out and is no more. What would you say was the fall of the NGPD? When and how did it come to an end? Are you sad to see it go?
byteslinger: It was sad to see the NGPD fade out the way it did. It was the perfect place for new Newgrounds users to get together and do good things in a structured environment. Many members of the Elite Guard started in the NGPD, and when they reached the rank of Private,if they were in good standings, became a member themselves.
There were two major factors that negatively affected the NGPD: (1) the user community was aging out; there weren't new, younger members joining and (2) there were other forms of animation that were being developed, and Adobe Flash wasn't forefront anymore. So,with no new blood and a waning interest in Flash, membership and activity dropped.
I was very sad to see it go, and I realized that if the Elite Guards were to continue to survive, we needed to make a few changes to the Barracks. In 2017 we instituted the "Barracks ROTC Program", which would open the door for new users that formerly would have joined the NGPD. This way, if a user was serious about being helpful to Newgrounds on a regular basis, they would have a home. We haven't had too many join, but it's there if they want it.
GUTHRIE: The NGPD was a fantastic group and I was sad to see it fizzle out, but by design its member pool is limited. Membership in the NGPD was predicated on having between 400 and 2499 B/P points, and when it started a really dedicated NG voter could surpass 2499 B/P points in a month or two. I feel that this is the most glaring reason the NGPD was short-lived and the EGB has such longevity. A few years ago the Elite Guard Barracks even started a ROTC program³ which allows users who haven't yet earned their Private rank to serve as members in any way they wish, becoming full members after they achieve that 2500 B/P milestone.
³ Inquire in the thread if you're interested!
ZomAlien: I would say the fall would be lack of familiarity, not many users are aware of the NPD as the EGB. And yes, it is sad to see things that bring users together go away, it was like bootcamp to get in the EGB.
Exedor: For me, it's always been the EGB. I know there was a NGPD, but it was basically two doing the work of one, so it was consolidated to one. Keeps things simpler that way.
Q: We now have Portal Moderators to watch over the Movies and Games section along with Audio, Art, API, and Review. @Exedor here is a moderator in all of these categories. How does the moderation team and Barracks work together?
byteslinger: Actually, many members of the Barracks are moderators in some capacity (including yours truly), such as @Gamejunkie, @Asandir, @Fro and @Jackho, to name a few. We get along very well with the Mods, and generally we all are on the same page when it comes to dealing with rule-breaking submissions.
GUTHRIE: There are quite a few Elite Guard Barracks members who are on different moderation teams. The close relationships we have with each part of the Newgrounds moderation network is how we can work so effectively as a policy enforcement group. Once a submission is reported in the Barracks, it's often a matter of minutes before the submission is removed. That still impresses me.
ZomAlien: We all work together at the EGB with @Exedor and other moderators by flagging the suspected submission (carefully) then report it to the EGB thread, then one of the moderators would usually give feedback and take care of business, and reward the behavior. From what I see: everyone gets along fine, and works hard and well.
Exedor: Oh man, I've been put on the spot. er.... um....breathe, remember to breathe... Actually, we mods work together pretty well. All mods patrol their various areas of expertise, but we also have the flagging system where users can report things. The benefit of threads like the EGB and the Audio Portal Cleanup is to allow users to post questions and get involved in the conversation to learn, and get questions answered.
Q: How involved are the site administrators with The Elite Guard Barracks?
byteslinger: We work with them daily, and we have a great relationship with them. Most of the time, they let us work autonomously, but every once in a while they'll weigh in to help guide borderline situations. They have been known to make comments if we spend too much time off topic, or if things start to turn personal, but overall, we are all on the same side and we all get along quite well.
GUTHRIE: Occasionally we ping Tom or liljim to ask for their input on something, but that might happen once every few months. We're pretty separate from the administration, and I think that's a good thing. We want to help enforce the rules - not write the rules.
Exedor: They watch over and chime in from time to time. But the mods handle this level of things to allow the Admins the time and freedom to run the site, without getting bogged down in the daily clean ups.
Q: For those who might see something suspicious, what is the best possible way to report it? How can they gather evidence?
byteslinger: If anyone feels that a submission is possibly violating Newground rules, they should make a post on the Elite Guard Barracks forum, clearly explaining why the entry is in violation, and a link to the submission itself.
For claims that something is stolen (or unauthorized derivative work) they should have links to all sources. If something is improperly categorized (for example, such as "E" for everyone but it contains explicit scenes) or contains copy-written material, a brief description of what we need to look for. All claims posted on the EGB forum are researched, and the poster will get a reply as to the final status of the submission in question. If the submission was not rule-breaking (but just low-quality or borderline) our members will inform the poster as to how they reached that decision, and thank them for their efforts. There are no penalties or problems for any user if they post a problem to us, but it was deemed not rule breaking. Many times it's a matter of opinion and interpretation for borderline submissions.
GUTHRIE: Much of the rule-breaking content that is submitted is super blatant. Game footage, for example, is really easy to identify and doesn't require much evidence to report. Same goes for excessive pornography, which I think we classify as anything with real pictures instead of being drawn or animated. The rule against stolen submissions is the most important rule to help enforce, in my opinion, and can be the most difficult to substantiate with outside evidence. Some of this comes with time, you sort of build an intuition for what a stolen submission looks like. A user submitting multiple high-quality movies in less than a day is one red flag, but that could also be someone uploading their portfolio after a year of work. There are a few very regularly stolen movies, youtubers like theodd1sout who haven't made the jump to Newgrounds, or Cyanide and Happiness which does have a presence here but they don't submit to Newgrounds as often as YouTube. Some techniques I utilize are making sure any credits in the submission match the name/user that submitted it, googling the submission title or description, and doing a bit of investigation into the user in question to see if they have a track record for rule-breaking behavior. The best way to report it is still through the flagging process, but adding a post in the Barracks for particularly egregious submissions is good too (I often do this for stolen submissions).
ZomAlien: #1 to me would be looking up the name of the submission (audio) on YouTube and if it sounds the same, has the same time, has a different creator, or doesn't have any sources then usually it's stolen (not always the case so be cautious) or if you see art/movies/games that you've seen somewhere else before from a user who's sign up date was literally today, then usually (not always) it's stolen. You could also ask help from experienced members or Moderators. Always helpful!
Exedor: The flagging system is best way that a user can report things. However, with items that are questionable, but not confirmed as rule-breaking, threads like the EGB and the Audio Portal Cleanup are available so users can post questions and get involved in the conversation to learn what they need to know to better discern which side of the line they should be on.
Q: What is your favorite thing about Newgrounds and why?
byteslinger: It is still one of the only places on the internet where up-and-coming artists, audiophiles, game designers and programmers can upload their work to get public feedback on their submissions. I get to see such a wide variety of talent, from the abject beginner to some truly professional grade artists. Despite the downturn in overall membership, Tom and the staff kept Newgrounds alive, making changes in an ever-demanding electronic world. They had to deal with the MPAA rulings in 2016, which forced a lot of copy-written content off the site.
Ironically, I was just about to release a beta version of one of my first music videos based on "Major Tom" by Peter Schilling to Newgrounds; I had worked with a graphic designer friend of mine who did the storyboard with me, and helped me sync the narration text to the playback. But since it was a copy-written song, even as a tribute, I was no longer allowed to upload it. Alas, the work on the project stopped, and it never saw daylight. It did make me appreciate the effort and time it takes to put together a decent 5-minute movie, and as such, all the work of the others who do this every day.
GUTHRIE: Newgrounds is a low-pressure way for content creators to showcase their work. The barrier for entry is very low, and a submission will almost surely get at least a few hundred views - this is likely not true for any random YouTube video. The amount of incredible and unique art that we witness every day is my favorite thing about being part of this community.
ZomAlien: It's a platform site to share,whether it's art, movies, games, music, ideas, or threads. It's always been about helping out your creativity and by spreading it. I love it.
Exedor: When someone puts in the time and effort to create something cool to submit. Anyone go to Youtube and submit some poo they recorded with their cellphone cam. Newgrounds focuses on user created animations so as to give these artists a place to showcase, and get appropriate appreciation for, their hard work.
Q: If you could change anything about Newgrounds, what would it be and why?
byteslinger: Overall, I am very pleased with Newgrounds as it is; about the only thing I would like to see is more access to historical stats, or possibly a controlled API that I could use with the NGLogs site that would give me non-personal usage information (such as submissions, votes, experience points, medal counts, etc.) so I could keep the monthly stat database on NGLogs updated without having to resort to screen-scraping. I had been working with @BrenTheMan a while ago, and he thought it was a good idea, but he was busy doing some major coding for Newgrounds, and that took priority (as it should). Maybe one day we'll try again. But otherwise, there's not much I would touch.
GUTHRIE: I am struggling to think of something that would bring meaningful change to Newgrounds. I would like to see some restriction on Screamer videos⁴ but I understand some of them have merit and the user base will continue to serve as that filter. Some more acceptance from the community of live-action movie submissions would be very nice.
ZomAlien: Maybe having the NG shop back. I could use some merchandise like toilet paper.
Exedor: The amount of adult content on the site is concerning. In the early days of the site, Newgrounds was supported by adult ads. It brought in a lot of cheeky characters. I earned my Deity Whistle flagging unsavory reviews left on unsavory content. It still took a long time to clean things out and repair Newgrounds' reputation once adult ads were replaced with cleaner ones. Then, when tumblr decided to clean up their site, all the rats and roaches fled here, and all the clean up work was in vain.
Also, I wish more users understood: Vote appropriately. If something is half-good, it's ok to give it a half score instead of a 5. If you give a 5 star vote to a submission from an artist who's still improving, what will you rate when the better stuff comes later on? And, don't be afraid to vote 0 on something. Getting something blammed is not the end unless you give up. Keep improving and come back. Then, when something truly great comes along, it can get the high scores that it deserves.
Q: What can we expect from The Elite Guard Barracks in the future?
byteslinger: That's easy - the same level of support, professionalism and leadership you should always expect. Members may come and go, and even the leadership may change, but the Manifesto and the vision of the Elite Guard remains clear and focused. We hope to increase membership in the future; there are plenty of good people out there who help us on a daily basis, and we've extended membership to many of them. But whether we have 15 members, or 150, you can expect that we all are held to the same high levels of quality that were set in 2006 by our founder, @EagleRock. 14 years later, I am honored to be the Chief Barracks Officer of this fine group of folks, all of which do me, and Newgrounds proud, by their dedication, hard work, commitment and friendship. When you have the best people, you can expect the best results.
GUTHRIE: The Elite Guard Barracks will remain a welcoming place for anyone who feels a pull to contribute more to the Newgrounds community, and who will uphold the Elite Guard Barracks Code. It's a fun place to spend your time!
ZomAlien: We're here to stay and continue with what we do. I have made my impact with the EGB, and so have my fellow members, and members before them. I expect to see some more users joining, maybe soon or maybe not so soon, but the EGB will be here until the bitter end. As for myself: I plan on staying until this ticking in my chest stops, there may be times when I'm not as active, but I will always be back.
Other users in the EGB share some of their best times and worst times as do I, and that gives us all a sense of trust and closeness with one another. They all work so hard and I'm proud to be part of it.
Exedor: I can't speak for the others in the EGB, but as for me, I'll keep knocking down the bad guys and cleaning as best I can. ...with a fair degree of snark and bad jokes.
The Elite Guard Barracks have always done well in my eyes and the eyes of many others. They have an immense love of Newgrounds and I believe thanks to them we have a much cleaner Newgrounds than I think we've ever had. That's not to say that anyone here is slouching, but they put in the dedication to ensure the creations of others is protected and to help build a better community that we can all be proud of. If you're new to the site and have happened to stumble across this interview. Look into that group sooner rather than later. Believe me, it is something that I could've used when I first started here on Newgrounds.
I just wanted to say, to longtime readers and even newcomers, thank you for your support and appreciation for reading. It truly means a lot to me that I can not only share the stories, the craft, the laughter, the joy, and even the sadness of those on this beautiful site with all of you. My favorite part is that we can all enjoy them together. Looking back on the past interviews I and my fellow interviewers have done, brings up a lot of great memories. I am happy that I could be a part of this site and that all of you are along the ride with me. Thank you. Let's make it to 300.
A Special Thanks to All of You for helping making The Interviewer what it is today.