Like all good communities, VeloReviews continues to evolve based on its members and their interests. Of course VeloReviews is first and foremost a cycling website and thus that theme will always be present. However, the way we approach the topic of cycling has been changing. These changes have come not only from my influence, but also from the members themselves. Every comment, every post, every photo — all of these items help shape the culture that is the VeloReviews cycling community.
Out little community is, however, one built upon technology. I view my primary role at VeloReviews not only as Editor-in-chief, but also a Chief Technology Officer of sorts. It is my job to help guide the technological underpinnings of our little corner of the web to foster and support the community. When using any technology, there is a fine line between using the technology to support your ideas and forcing your ideas to fit the technology. Hopefully I’m maintaining that balance for everyone on VR.
To that end, I’m in the final stages of some changes that are in direct response to trends I’ve seen in the community’s activities. One of the interesting things I’ve noticed since the move from our old platform is a rise in blogging. This is one of those situations where I’m not sure if this is the community driving the technology or the technology driving the users.
Many (perhaps even most) users have expressed an interest in the discussion groups formerly referred to as “forums.” The subtle changes in the way the forums have worked on our current platform–and what it takes to get to them–may have actually encouraged people to focus more attention on the blogs instead of the forums. To that end I’m working to make the forums a little more accessible. On the other hands, the shift in focus to the blogs may simply be a sign of changing trends within the user community. Regardless of which came first however, we now have two very clear interests from the community.
The blogs have also somewhat changed how users interact with the community. It is true that the number of daily visitors to the community–“daily unique visitors” in web tracking terms–has dropped off since the move to our current platform. That sounds like a very scary thing. However, there is an interesting counterpoint – the total number of actual activities (“pageviews”) has remained somewhat constant. In other words, while we have fewer people coming to the site on a daily basis currently, those that are here are spending more time and looking at more things. Said plainly – we have a smaller user base, but that user base is much more involved. Personally I think this is a very very good thing.
The industry refers to this as “user engagement” and it is a sign of a sustainable web site. Many web sites out there rely on a constant churn of new users as old users get bored and move on. I’m motivated to help build a community that lasts and I get the distinct impression that many of you out there are of the same mind.
It is with this in mind that I’m quite excited to augment the user blogging functionality even further. On the horizon, VeloReviews will start to offer blog hosting for cyclists on a much broader basis. I will continue to work to help promote the discussion groups and the information there, while simultaneously presenting VeloReviews as a place for cycling bloggers to come a find a home. These bloggers will likely become engaged members of our community and will allow us to engage in subjects in a much more in-depth manner than normally occurs in standard forum discussions.
Clearly you see the new look-and-feel of the website. While these changes may appear simply cosmetic, they are actually the surface of a restructuring of the technology to allow me to create an environment to foster these two initiatives. The social aspects of the site–the activity stream, the sharing abilities–are currently a fairly unique offering among cycling websites. I’ve yet to find another cycling website that has embraced the social aspects to this extent. With that foundation in place, we are now poised to fulfill our blogging and discussion group goals, bringing those features available to a wider audience of current and future community members.
Again, thank you to all the members of the community who have helped make VeloReviews what it is. Feel free to contact me at any time – either via messages here on VeloReviews or via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cheers, and keep your head above the saddle above the pedals
Ross Del Duca, Editor in Chief of VeloReviews.com