Watching the fury that's unfolding in the Tested forums has really driven home how well the Giant Bomb and Gamespot guys (specifically Jeff and John Davison) have dealt with the site's move.
Because of Jeff's firing this site has had a pretty low opinion of Gamespot (and that's being generous), so this could have got really ugly. But it's become very apparent that there's a reason that Jeff and John are both considered two of the top men in games journalism; they totally, 100% "get" online gaming communities. Looking back on how this announcement and transition happened is like looking at a master class of online community management.
First was the announcement. Although a few things leaked out, the first most of us knew about the deal was the live pancake video. Everything about this was perfect. Someone on Twitter joked that the fact that Jeff was announcing a huge business deal while eating pancakes should tell us that nothing is going to change. Although this might seem like a flippant comment, I think there's a lot of truth in it. The whole video just seemed relaxed and honest. There was no flashy PR speak, no "HEY GUYS, WE'VE GOT A GREAT ANNOUNCEMENT!!", it was just Jeff sitting eating pancakes while he continued to be one of the realest motherfuckers on the planet (second only to Kid Rock in the authenticity stakes). Because Jeff seemed so relaxed in that video it kept all of us duders watching calm.
As well as being a relaxed, no nonsense video, Jeff and the guys also stuck around for ages answering all of the questions that we might have. No one needed to speculate on the forums because you could just ask the guys themselves.
And then there was the interview with John Davison, who it seems is Jeff's new boss (not sure exactly how all that works out but that seems to be the vibe from the video). Instead of producing a flashy video, they just sat down and went through everything that happened with Jeff's firing and talked about the future plans for Gamespot and Giant Bomb. They both came across as having a huge amount of respect for one another, which I think again put the community at ease. Again, everything here kept the community calm and stopped a digital riot.
Now compare that to the clusterfuck at Tested. That first reveal video that ended with Jamie and Adam from Mythbusters appearing was funny and exciting, but it didn't give the community any idea of what was coming. It sacrificed clarity for impact. I genuinely think that if Will and Norm had come out and laid out for the community exactly what was happening then all of this unpleasantness could have been avoided. Will has been in the forums and on Twitter putting out fires, and everything he's saying makes loads of sense. We now get that although his name is no longer front and centre on the site, this is a huge career move for Norm and him. However this just leads the casual observer to wonder why the hell there wasn't a video or article explaining all of these things beforehand?
So much of this anger with Tested could have been avoided. Currently only Jamie and Adam have got there twitter links in the sidebar, which lots of users in the forums saw as being disrespectful to Will and Norm. Will has now clarified that he and Norm will also have their twitter profiles there very soon. But again, you just have to ask, why the hell didn't someone working behind the scenes on the transition see how this would look the the Tested community? When making huge changes to a site that has a dedicated following ensuring that it's existing members don't flip the fuck out should be a priority.
Online communities are living breathing things, changing their environment is a risky thing to do (just ask Digg) but watching Giant Bomb and Tested over the last 24 hours has been a really interesting lesson in how to keep your online community at ease.
The lesson to everyone making similar moves in the future should be clear; don't be flashy, stay calm, explain everything up front, and if at all possible, eat pancakes.