IFDB, the Interactive Fiction Database, was launched about ten years ago by Michael J. Roberts. Mike was responding to a commonly-voiced complaint about the IF Archive: it’s full of great stuff, but it’s impossible to search and there’s barely any information about the games there.

I take full responsibility for the IF Archive’s failings, by the way. We occasionally talked about ways to improve searchability, but we never did anything about it — until IFDB came along and pretty much solved the problem for us. It’s the complement that the Archive didn’t know it needed.

IFDB takes a crowdsourcing approach which has worked very well for the past decade. IF enthusiasts fill in bibliographic data about new games (and about old games, as they come to light!); people can contribute reviews, ratings, game lists, polls, and so on. The site instantly became essential to the IF community, and it remains essential.

Having said all that: nobody argues that IFDB is perfect. A couple of weeks ago I ran into a discussion about what sorts of things IFDB isn’t as good at. I immediately got defensive (even though it’s not my site!), and then I started to ask how it should be fixed. And then I took a step back and said, okay, maybe I should be asking everybody what IFDB needs.

Thus, our shiny new IFDB User Survey.

If you have used IFDB at all, please take a few minutes to fill this out. Answer as briefly or as volubly as you like. You may include your name or answer anonymously.

(Yes, I realize the irony in explaining IFDB for four paragraphs and then making a request of people who already knew what IFDB was! Here at IFTF we strive to be educational even at inopportune moments.)

If you’ve already filled out the survey, thank you! (We originally posted it last week.) (And we haven’t changed anything, so there’s no need to do it again.) But if you haven’t run through it yet, please do. The deadline is October 15th.

After we close the survey, we’ll collate the results and post a summary on this blog. It should provide an interesting diversion while we wait for IFComp results.

Now the caveats:

IFDB is not an IFTF service; it is wholly operated by Mike Roberts. Mike has stated that he doesn’t have much free time to update the site these days. So please don’t get the idea that anyone is going to jump straight from collecting suggestions to implementing new features. This is research. Once we have results, we can start thinking about next steps.

We will of course pass the survey results along to Mike. It’s possible that some of the suggestions will turn out to be easy changes. You never know. If there’s a possible role for people to contribute development effort, we’ll be happy to coordinate; but that’s up to Mike, obviously.

However, the survey is deliberately open-ended. It’s possible that the top ideas won’t require server updates at all. They may involve better use of existing IFDB features, or public outreach, or even a brand-new complementary service somewhere.

Thanks for helping out.

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