Well after my previous post I received several comments on this site, several comments on the forum, a couple of emails and a couple of phone calls. Thank you all for your input.
A bit of history before we look at what was said.
I started the sites with several ideas in mind.
- To provide a site for preppers, including newbies, to learn about prepping in the UK.
- To provide all the files I had on prepping for all to download.
- To introduce preppers to each other in a controlled way.
- To encourage preppers to create local and/or special interest groups related to prepping.
- To allow preppers to discuss the articles on the main site.
I planned to create a Main Site for articles on prepping, a Files Site for PDFs and prepping files and a WiKi so people could understand the terminology. Then once that was established I was going to build a Forum for discussions on the topics posted on the Main Site. The issue I had with the forum is that all forums require a lot of work to manage and administrate and I knew I did not have the time for it. After I had put the main site online I had discussions with some preppers and I thought I could do the forum with a light touch and so the forum was the second site to go live followed by the files site and the WiKi.
Went OK with contributors, groups and group meets and a thriving forum till I had a problem with my ISP in late 2014. 1&1 spit, screwed me over and coupled with work issues I had quite a few months downtime until I eventually moved to a new ISP. The site never recovered.
From what I could see the sites are pretty much like this;
The Main Site has plenty of people using it. Enough so that the stats are at an all time high. Which is what I wanted to do let people find the information to help them prepare. The number of hits on the main site had slowly increased over time with a massive dip after the ISP issues although it has now recovered and exceeded the high point by going to new heights. Although with nobody except me posting or really commenting makes it look dead. People are still signed up for email addresses and the contacts DB but as I don’t log the contacts or its use I have no idea what is going on in there.
The Files Site also has plenty of people using it. I am regularly clocking Gb of downloads daily so people are downloading stuff. As that is all it does and I again don’t log its use I have no real idea what is going on there either.
The WiKi Site is pretty much stand alone. I’ve had a couple of suggestions for items to be added over its life but besides that I have no idea what its use is.
The Forum Site is the most visible area with people commenting and like all social media sites it has its downsides. I was hoping that people would just ignore and not feed the trolls but it appears that hasn’t worked here and I have regularly received complaints about people on the site. In the last month the site has had several days dotted through the month with no articles or comments at all.
I managed to achieve all of my original objectives, even now with few participating, it is still going on. However as the reach is small there isn’t too much new collaboration and discussions and no growth.
Last Two Weeks
So after noticing that forum was quiet and as I was coming up to some free time I thought it was about time I reviewed the sites and decided what to do with them. First up is always ask your customers so I put up a post here and on the forum asking for input.
Some of you responded and the verdict was pretty clear although not really unexpected.
On the main site it appears that people are happy with it although they are mainly people that have little or no experience in prepping. These people feel they have nothing to add so do not comment or contribute but are happy to learn from the site. These are the people the site was aimed at and its primary objective.
The same people also appreciate the files site as there is a large amount of interesting information on there.
Nobody mentioned the WiKi site.
The forum however got the most comments and that was around three subjects;
- The trolls.
- The wide range of subject matters not related to prepping.
- People leeching and not contributing.
Looking at the Issues
Trolls are trolls and to be honest most sites have them and the moderators nuke them when they see them. They come back under different names and the game goes on. The sites that control trolls have strict rules and moderators that are on there all the time. I didn’t want to have too many rules and thought that an occasional purge would do as we were all big tough preppers who could handle anything from a horde of invaders to fighting with wolves over a chicken and I thought some upsetting words on the screen would be a walk in the park. So we have a few people that made some dubious comments and people complained. The problem was that people were complaining about everyone and some good contributors were included in that.
What to do? I don’t have the time to police this.
Originally the site was specifically for prepping related stuff but that was expanded, at user request, to encompass a wide range of subjects and the claim was made that even stuff like the terrorist attacks in Iraq was relevant as it demonstrated what could happen here and we should use it to prepare ourselves. That included politics as what politicians do impacts us all.
There was a reference to it looking like a BNP site. The issue I have here is I think the biggest and most immediate threats to us are from the invasion of Muslims and the overbearing state. That must be discussed if we are looking at threats.
What to do? I don’t have time for police this either and if I did the different political views mean it is an area of dissent even if it is based on facts.
The part about people leeching and not contributing has been around for a while. Several people who have been prepping a while have commented on this. It creates a problem for me because one of my primary tasks is to allow people that don’t know anything to download information for later use. If someone writes something and doesn’t want it shared then I’m happy to hold that back, it isn’t mine to control, but stuff I have leeched off others over decades and not really contributed in return I cannot with all conscience hold back as if it is mine. I can’t change my stance on this as this is exactly how I got all my information and this site is for me to share that with others.
With few new joiners and the old crowd off to pastures new there is little collaboration going on now, on the site anyway, as those set up earlier are still going strong off site. Few comments from experienced preppers mean the new joiners do not learn and cannot build up their experience so they can contribute and bring others in. This is not what I wanted. I wanted to bring new preppers in and educate them.
So taking all this into consideration the only are I will be looking at changing is the forum as leaving it as it is is pointless, something needs to be done and I can only see the following options. Feel free to let me know if you can think of any others.
- Close the existing site for writes. Allow it to be read only for the articles in it.
This would mean starting a new site instead.
- Set up a strict membership system before you can write. People I am happy with only. Existing users must reapply.
This would mean I invite those I know and still talk to while those I don’t need to let me know they are interested.
- Set up a strict membership system before you can write. Invitation only. Existing users must reapply.
This would mean having a core of people who would suggest others who could join. Black ball principle.
- Make it a closed paid membership only site.
Anyone can join if they pay and anybody breaks the rules gets ejected with no refund.
- Set up a user voting system where the users can ban trolls and off topic posters.
Using a rating system that automatically triggers when you get X -ve votes.
- Set up a site where the only threads are articles on the main site and enforce that.
Limits topics to those on the main site only. My original intention.
- Set up a two tier system where the open items are threads for the main site and forum opens up for your posts as you build up points.
A tiered system that gives writing privileges to advanced preppers while others can only read posts in those threads.
- Keep the site as is and make more people moderators with strict rules and enforce them vigorously.
Basically as now with mods tightening up the rules on off topic posts and trolling.
- Offer prizes or rewards for contribution.
Encourage articles with rewards. Best post gets a reward. Details clearly need ironing out.
My thoughts are that I will mix and match for my needs. I should archive the site as it is after I have pruned back the off topic posts. I should create a new tiered site where anyone can register as now. Registered users can only discuss the topics on the Main Site and selected topics. Selected users can add topics of their own for discussion in a thread structure similar to what there is now which everyone can read but not everyone can post to. Police it vigorously for trolls and off topic posts.
Offering rewards means getting sponsorship and that requires a lot of work and a base for that sponsorship we do not have. I have paid for these sites myself and have received no financial help, bar a few donated items, mentioned on the site a few years ago. I have received a lot of time help by people moderating, contributing to articles, meeting and discussing topics though. I have made a few good friends and consider the time and effort well spent.
The downside is that I have raised my head above the parapet and people that I would prefer not to have an interest in me have my name on a list.
- Go through a delete all users that have zero posts.
- Go through and ban all users that have less than 10 posts.
- Ask for some input on the future of the site.
Deleting users that have posts orphans their posts and screws up the system. So nobody gets deleted that has posts.
Steps over the next two weeks
- I must think about what I can do with the forum.
- Prune some threads to get rid of clearly off topic threads.
- Get input from users.
- Analyse input.
- Make decision and implement it.
If we do decide that the site is useful then I’ll set it up and monitor the site over the next few months and if it isn’t going anywhere, there are no contributors or interesting posts then I’ll just close it down and make it read only.
What is your view?
Having read all of the above and knowing what I am looking at doing feel free to complete the poll, write to me in the comments, write to me directly or any combination of these that you feel comfortable with.