Wow. A lot has changed in the last couple of weeks, that’s for sure. Some are excited, some are confused, and some are dismayed. Change can be dramatic – like coming home to find your house has been painted, and remodeled, and and moved to the lot next door. I’m sure many of you by this point are either busy exploring the new landscape, or wondering what in the heck is going on. Perhaps both.
Well, I think it is about time to talk about why all this has happened, and where VeloReviews is going in the future.
Our GodFather, Jeff Helfand, created a fantastic community of cyclists of many different disciplines. In doing so, he chose the best technology available to him at the time, nurtured it and molded it. He became a leader in the platform – one that folks referenced as someone that was pushing the boundaries of that technology.
“But this is just a cycling website – what’s all this about technology?” some of you may be asking right now. I ask you to hold that question for a bit.
After passing the torch on to me, I had to think long and hard about what VeloReviews really was – what made it unique. One of the first things I did was to put out a user survey to find out what things about the site folks were getting the most enjoyment out of. On the surface the results seemed clear – Forums, Forums, Forums. At this point I was already looking to move VeloReviews to new technology for a number of reasons, and on the surface this seemed to give me a clear direction. But a closer inspection of the data from that survey showed something slightly different.
You see, VeloReviews forums at that time were not exactly your typical forum website. Here’s an example of some of the comments I got on the survey when I asked users to type in their feedback:
- I like the forums, because I can go there to find people talking about the stuff I am interested in.
- The forum posts help me find out what people are doing
- It is fun to find folks that are doing the same things I do. I wish there was a forum for all of the big charity rides so I could find VR people that are going to be there and maybe meet them in person
I started to get a distinct impression that it wasn’t exactly the forums that people were into – it was the social interactions. It was identifying folks that were interested in the same things they were. It was interacting with those people – that is what the survey overwhelmingly portrayed. It struck me that the forums weren’t what people really wanted, they just happened to be the closest they had yet found to achieve what they really wanted.
So, in a nutshell, that’s what I’m really after. That is what I’m trying to build here with the changes at VeloReviews.com. I’m trying to create more social opportunities. On face value there are many, easier ways to create a forum website. In fact, I started down that path. But I found myself reusing the same software, the same techniques, as the other cycling forums. And, truth be told, there are already some great cycling forum websites out there.
Instead, I want to create something a little different. Of course I want a place to talk about what gears I’m running, or what jersey worked well for me, or find out what shoes work best for other people with wide feet. But I also want a place where I can say “Hey, if you are in Reno next weekend we’re meeting Sat at 9am at such-and-such a place for a ride!” I want a website where I can see someone say “Oh wow – Contador is attacking” and go and see the video while it is hapening!
I want a more socially engaging website, and I think I’ve got some ideas on how to build that.
Of course, one of the challenges of creating a social site is that everyone is different. As much as I might want to, as much as I may struggle to provide the bell or whistle that each person wants, I’ll never be successful in that. There simply is no way to make everyone happy.
There are some of you that do want the straight-up, forum website. If you are among those, there are some truly fantastic sites out there. I would recommend one or more, but to be very honest that is not my particular niche. I’m sure if you ask around the site you’ll find some recommendations.
Some of you may feel that the old VeloReviews was the perfect platform, you wanted nothing changed and wish everything would switch back. Well, if you count yourself in that camp you just may be in luck – the new site IRideBicyleses.com may be exactly what you are looking for.
Am I trying to push the VeloReviews users away? No – absolutely not! Instead I’m hoping to convey my particular vision, my motivation. I want to facilitate building a community that is watching pro racing online together. Or a website where folks at opposite ends of the country can watch a live video feed of a cycling-specific fitness trainer helping you to reach you fitness goals. A place where podcasts turn into a bunch of friends talking about what they all love.
VeloReviews has a long history of promoting other cycling related web content. There has been (and remains) a group for Fans of each of the major cycling podcasts. Having spent some time in the cycling blog-o-sphere, I’ve already go plans to start sharing some of the great cycle blog sites out there – at the same time encouraging folks to blog here on VeloReviews. When cyclists choose to compete, they do it on the road or on the track. Here on the web, we’re all just cyclists.
Four cyclists walk into a bar. It doesn’t matter if you order a water, a soda, a beer or a martini – I want to build a place we can all feel welcome and comfortable together. Hopefully you will find that place somewhere you like. If not, tell me why and we’ll take it from there.
Cheers, and keep your head above the saddle above the pedals.
Ross Del Duca – Editor, VeloReviews