|Help! Retooling this sub board for a big relaunch.|
This sub board for the most part, has not worked at all like I had envisioned. We've been having a discussion about what to do with it to get it in gear and serve the membership better.
The purpose of the retooled forum would be to encourage and give members a place to discuss things around the Webmaster World community. I want to give members a direct means of input on how the site is run in order to serve them better. People who take time to register input into a site, are far more likely to stick around to see how it comes out. It will build member enjoyment of the site, loyalty and basic community "atmosphere".
I want a place where members will and can register input, without fear of reprisal, without being shouted down, without being censored, or being banned without explanation like other forums do in mass numbers. I want to give people the opportunity to take personal ownership of the site.
In order to engage people and get them involved in the site, we have to start by letting them know we are open to constructive input. With some of our best members (the moderators), that has happened, but most of it is tucked away out of site. The moderators understand I listen and take most feedback and put it into process and policy; but I realize that most members have no idea that such input is welcomed and encouraged.
I'm not proposing some phony feedback line like other places where the feedback is really intended to run the site better or more effectively for the owner - it is about the site running more effectively for the members and given them a voice in the decisions that are made.
So the question becomes, what can we do to start a on going conversation with the members?
The following is from the various brain storm sessions:
- limited access to members only.
- limited access to members only and the requirement for entry would be based on user post totals through the forums increasing by one each week. The first week people with 1 post would get in scott free, next week they would have to have 2, and so, and so on. It would continually raise the bar throughout the year.
- potential new names:
"Webmaster World Club House", "Webmaster World Town Hall", "Webmaster World Community Center", "Webmaster World Fitness Center", "Webmaster World Clubroom", "Webmaster World For Members Only", "Member Support Center", "Webmaster World Round Table", "Webmaster World Neighborhood"
Your thoughts and suggestions on part or all of the above are valued.
>So the question becomes, what can we do to start a on going conversation with the members?
How about a short series of questions to get started, maybe a survey?
What's your favorite forum and why?
If you could add a forum what would the topic be?
What one problem area can you identify happening within the community?
Why do you think people lurk instead of posting to the forums?
Might give a good overall view of what's going on to the community and a starting point for the membership forum.
Run periodic polls for topics.
I like "Webmaster World Neighborhood". How about "Webmaster World Network"? You could also run a contest to name this forum.
> Run periodic polls for topics.
I've found that polls are a great way to get "quiet" members to give feedback about something. It's anonymous, and by choosing one of the prepared answers, they're avoiding the potential embarassment of "sounding dumb"...
How about Webmaster World Feedback Forum? Or Members Feedback Forum... that way, people can't miss the fact that it's here to get input about the system.
I like the idea of the "raising the bar" qualification level, but I would make sure that it doesn't end up getting raised too high. maybe end up limiting it to "Full Members" and above at most. After all, the Preferred and Senior Members are obviously enjoying the board enough to participate a lot, and the newer members would most likely be the ones with confusions or problems to address.
>the newer members would most likely be the ones with confusions or problems to address.
I wonder what the simplest way to address those issues would be.
> the simplest way to address those issues
Ummm, RTFF? I would assume anyone who spends enough time at this board would be familiar with online etiquette, and would know to search for a FAQ.
But as far as questions about the 'secret inner life' of the forums, and finer issues of WmW-specific etiquette, and whatever other feedback newer members may want to give/find, a feedback board would be great.
I think a lot of the older members (us Seniors... *smirk*) would tend to be so used to the forums that an idea for improving them may not occur to us sometimes. A newer member may see it differently.
>A newer member may see it differently.
Agreed, and it's for this reason I feel a hesitancy about the idea of post requirements as mentioned above.
Thinking about it, there could be people who, being new to the subject matter discussed here, might do nothing but a lot of reading for several months. Sometimes it takes a bit of study to even grasp enough to know how to phrase a particular question. Such a person might finally officially become a member after what could be several months, and begin with only a few posts.
Yet that very person, as suggested, may be able to provide input that could prove invaluable to innumerable other members - by virtue of the fact that he or she does see things differently than those who have been around for a longer time.
It would be interesting to hear the thoughts of some newer people on this specific issue - especially those who might be in read-only mode and haven't been posting (aka lurking).
I'm wondering now how long different people read before becoming members or posting.
> I'm wondering now how long different people read before becoming members or posting.
Heh... maybe I'm more outgoing than most, but I wound up here while trying to ID a really annoying spider, so posting/joining was the first thing I did. Then, when I got fairly prompt an intelligent replies, I started snooping around and posting in other areas. I did leave my profile pretty nondescript though... minimum of info until I figured the place was above board.
All in all, if I didn't have a very specific question to ask, I suppose I might have just nosed around absorbing threads like a little sponge before finally thinking of anything to say, but I don't think I would have felt 'unwelcome.'
We have a very large lurk to post ratio. I've received quite a bit of feedback that newer people feel we are a touch advanced for them. That also adds to the desire to re-evaluate this forum because there is clearly a large segment of our daily readers that we are not serving as fully as we could be and should be.
>>that newer people feel we are a touch advanced for them.
I can understand that comment. Some days I feel like I can reply to a few questions with advice (for me that is doing good ;)). Other days I read a post or several posts and have no clue. I could see the intimidation there but with my attitude I view it as something to reference and learn from. Just reading some of these posts "opens" my eyes to what I never realized could be.
You're dead on, Brett. At the same time, making the boards "less advanced" will dilute the value of information offered/shared (mho). A new user is pretty much required to make a significant time investment in order to get up to speed. Some time will pass before the new members feel that they can contribute. Perhaps an additional "newbie forum" with a big bright heading "there are no stupid questions" would address this. New members would have a comfy home and semi new members could contribute to discussions almost immediately.
"That also adds to the desire to re-evaluate this forum because there is clearly a large segment of our daily readers that we are not serving as fully as we could be and should be. "
I remember that this issue was addressed a few months back and consensus was that people were happy with the "advanced" information shared in this forum. People said that although the information was often very advanced, tools and resources were always provided for people to do their own research and become more familiar with whatever they're interested in. So althougth the information isn't "hand-fed", the forum provides a means for people who are willing to do the work to learn more about virtually anything.
It is true that we're all very busy and it would be nice not to have to do extra reading or research. However, the moderators and the people answering the "newbie" questions are very busy as well and shouldn't have to spend too much time answering these types of questions. In my opinion, it would be preferrable for them to focus on answering more "advanced" questions that others don't have answers to.
If the focus of the board is shifted too much to accommodate for newbies, we would be catering more to another community but at the same time that would sacrifice one of the aspects that differentiates this forum and makes it special, which is the "high level" of discussion and information shared. Also, this would increse the number of threads (which has happened) and some matters will not be explored as thoroughly as they could be.
Oh Oh I just realized that I strayed from the initial topic (the sub-board) but Brett also brought the point up of the FORUM and new needs.
This forum has grown TREMENDOUSLY in the last few months, and it's great that Brett is seeking feedback as to where to go from here. I just hope that the "niche" continues to be high quality, advanced, and specialized information about anything that pertains to the internet, internet marketing, design, SEO, etc.
A couple of ideas:
Add an FAQ section...A page where we include all the questions that newbies most ask and answer with a general consensus...
Add a feedback section...Problem with this is that if there are suggestions for imrovements, people may be shy and may not want to appear as if they're "bashing" Brett, the board, or the moderators in any way...that's a problem...anonymous posting may not be good...So it seems that sticky mail may be the way to go...
Maybe you can add a "feedback" form and a link to the page at the top?
In any case, thank you Brett for all of the improvements you have been making to the forum, everything is looking great! Also, thank you for seeking feedback from the members of the community.
ps just my opinions.
2_much, you've raised a few very interesting points:
>This forum has grown TREMENDOUSLY in the last few months
I can almost remember back to my very first visit here, which was a few months before I actually joined up and posted, and can even remember what my first impression was. There was a bit of growth I noticed during that time period, but the increase is even more noticeable between September and now.
The growth almost seems to be happening on an "exponential curve" and what's very observable, although hard to put into words, is that there's the equivalent of a "corporate personality" that's been emerging. What I mean by corporate is not referring to a type of organization, but rather to the concept of a collective being made up of, and reflecting, the sum of all its individual parts. There almost seems to be a discernible rhythm to the way the interaction takes place.
>If the focus of the board is shifted too much to accommodate for newbies, we would be catering more to another community but at the same time that would sacrifice one of the aspects that differentiates this forum and makes it special, which is the "high level" of discussion and information shared.
I believe that what you're saying differentiates this forum is the very thing that's emerged, over a period of time, as an accumulation of the collective input of the many members.
So how does what you're saying tie in with what was said in the very first post in this thread:
>serve the membership better.
Which portion of the membership's needs could be better met? Who are they - newbies just at the beginning of learning the subject matter, those who could be considered intermediate users?
In what ways could their needs be served better? If any one individual's needs could be served better in some way, how is any one to know unless that individual speaks up? And further, even if that person is willing to speak up and share, will they have any type of problem with finding the terminology to express it?
There can come a point when certain things become so integrated into a person's consciousness and skill-set that they begin to apply it almost intuitively, without even having to think about it. Can a person, once they have reached that point, relate to back when they first started, and each piece of information was dug out laboriously and then built upon?
What about people who have reached what, for lack of a better term, could be referred to as intermediate users? Will they see a basic question asked, say "ah, I know the answer to that" - and then not offer the reply, concerned that, just maybe, it is not 100% correct?
If there are any whose needs are not being adequately met, who are they, and what are their issues and concerns? I can only speak for some of the things I've encountered along the way, but that doesn't necessarily give a clue to what's going on in other people's experience.