Week 1 – Community Building Field Test

(If you didn’t read the first post in this series, you really ought to start here…)

We’re moving right along on Cycling.com – and it’s beginning to look like the site now has a pulse!

Things improved dramatically after we got our login issue fixed.  Here are the basics for the week:

  • 40+ users registered
  • Several new photos added
  • Comments starting to come in
  • 2 new regional cycling groups were created by users
  • The first weeks poll had 65 votes – and I only seeded it with 10 votes…
  • We had our first ‘real’ forum post, i.e. one that I didn’t write

No doubt a lot of you are saying “gee, that’s not many users” and you’d be right.  The thing is, as low as that use level is, it’s much higher than the previous couple months, in which all we had was spam being posted.  The secret of community building is that when you start from ground zero, it take a while.  If things are going well, I expect to see a geometric progression of traffic for the initial period.  The problem is, that is very hard to do when you aren’t actively marketing the site and you’re left with only guerrilla techniques.

That comes with only a modicum of effort.

  • Olympics articles updated every day or so, as time permits
  • New videos are upload as soon as I find something worthwhile on YouTube
  • Forum posts are created pretty much daily

Next steps

Since we started registering users in March, I’ve decided we’re going to send out a newsletter.  I wanted to do it today, but unfortunately time has gotten away from me, so we’ll be sending tomorrow.  The basic play will be “We’ve got Olympics coverage” but deep down, the message is more simple, “we’re alive, come visit us.”

I’m looking to have stickers made, but I’ll admit that CafePress is an utter let down.  I don’t think a simple oval sticker is worth $2 per in a 50 unit increment.   So now I need to actually figure out what the design will be and go to bid with the traditional vendors.  Anyone have any luck recently?

Findings

It’s too early to make any prognositcations.  I have been surprised by how much I’m learning about the platform we’ve built, and most of it’s good.  I really like the ease I can post stories, the ability to easily post videos, the way user generated content is handled, and way that users can easily interact.  On the negative side, i really don’t believe that BBPress is a competetive solution for forum software.  Even though we enhanced the heck out of it, I don’t feel it is close to Simple Machines, or the gold standard in my mind, vBulletin.

Surprisingly, I have found that which Sal commented on in the first post in this season – the user interaction is spread all over the site, and that makes it that much harder to see what’s happening.  I’m wondering if we missed something by restricting you to seeing only what your friends are doing on the site, but deep down, I know we were right on the privacy issue.  Perhaps a homepage widget that boils up all public activity, such as wall posts, blog posts, forum posts, comments, etc. to show “What’s happening right now.”

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