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TOPIC: Welcoming new users

Welcoming new users 27 Aug 2013 21:30 #14331

10% participation rate is very high for the Internet nowadays. Participation rates used to be higher in the 90s, but that was when only enthusiasts used the Internet. They're often more like 1%-2% today.

Given that active users will always be only a percentage of total users, I think the only way you can get more activity is to increase the total number of users.

But there's a lot of alternatives out there. DhO and KFD, of course. And then there's the much more broadly based DharmaWheel (4,500 users) and DhammaWheel (7,500 users).

Here's a suggestion:

Make the front page, the very first thing people see, a lot punchier and less wordy. Go minimalist. Even as simple as this:


Welcome to AwakeNetwork

Our goal: To awaken in this lifetime

(Button) Join AwakeNetwork
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Welcoming new users 27 Aug 2013 22:14 #14332

Derek wrote:
Here's a suggestion:

Make the front page, the very first thing people see, a lot punchier and less wordy. Go minimalist. Even as simple as this:


Welcome to AwakeNetwork

Our goal: To awaken in this lifetime

(Button) Join AwakeNetwork

I strongly agree with Derek. Until today, I've never read all the way down the front page. I never even see the "Join" button on any of my mobile devices.

I found this paragraph a bit confusing:
Please note that joining awakenetwork.org is just the first step. To get the full benefit of discussions, you will need to be a member of one of the groups on the site. So if you see a group that strikes your fancy, contact that group's admin and get yourself signed up.

I don't seem to remember having to join twice. Is that something new? I understand wanting to have different communities under the AwakeNetwork umbrella, but I wonder if having to join twice is a high barrier right now?
Last Edit: 28 Aug 2013 09:49 by Andy. Reason: Remove duplicate word
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Welcoming new users 28 Aug 2013 04:47 #14335

jake wrote:
Removing the thank-you count for individuals is an elegant compromise! I like that. ETA It just occurred to me that non-posters can use the thank you button to express themselves, like a quiet person who nevertheless is an active listener.

I've never seen the button used by a non-regular poster (or not frequently, anyway). But that's a great way to use it.

I also do like removing the counter, whether "thank you" gets reinstated or not.
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Welcoming new users 28 Aug 2013 06:44 #14336

Keep the feedback going! Good suggestions so far.

FYI to Andy: Awakenetwork.org was set up as an umbrella site to hold many different message boards devoted to mediation and practice. Right now we have only one - the Dharma Forum Refugee Camp. So yes, you have two memberships here. One for the the umbrella Awakentwork.org and one for DFRC. This can be confusing so the simpler we can make the explanation the better. Some day there will be more message boards here, maybe even some pretty large ones, so figuring this out now is a good idea.
Last Edit: 28 Aug 2013 06:50 by Chris Marti.
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Welcoming new users 28 Aug 2013 08:28 #14339

I've heard people say regarding forum participation that they feel like they don't have anything useful to say, or that they don't know enough to participate, or that they feel like their questions or comments or opinions would be stupid, etc. When I taught college classes the same dynamic was common, and we were told to encourage (force) participation by doing things like breaking the class into small group discussions, or going around the room and having each person say something, or making the small groups or individuals go up front and do presentations, etc. As a former very shy person i can attest that being forced to participate in that way was excruciatingly painful for me (in high school and elementary school, for instance). On the other hand, as I gradually got over being shy (in college) I began to enjoy it, so the exercise can help someone find the courage to participate more actively, or it can just be torture, depending on the person. Not sure it really applies to a forum context, but thought I'd throw it out there.
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Welcoming new users 28 Aug 2013 09:26 #14340

Make one on one connections with new users to make them feel welcome, and that their input and questions are valuable. Maybe somehow make that apparent on the front page. And I agree that the current system for sign up is confusing. Had I not already been involved in DFRC before moving to awakenetwork it's not likely I would have made it through the menus and process.
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Welcoming new users 28 Aug 2013 10:01 #14342

In terms of welcome, perhaps there could be some suggestions, like "feel free to start threads on any subjects that interest you, such as about a book you've read, a teaching you don't understand, a poem or song that moves you, a question about practice experiences, etc."

I mean, you might assume that's self-evident, but sometimes people's shyness may be such they think "oh, that wouldn't be good to post, I better just read".
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Welcoming new users 28 Aug 2013 12:01 #14344

duane_eugene_miller wrote:
Make one on one connections with new users to make them feel welcome, and that their input and questions are valuable. .

Hmm, intriguing... this is actually a fantastic idea. Maybe we more active members do need to take it upon ourselves to reach out one-on-one with the less active members. In 3D group dynamics this is often valuable-- quiet folk often find a one-on-one interaction much better for breaking the ice. I can certainly relate to that. I hate meeting people in groups; I much prefer small gatherings or one on one hang outs to get to know someone. Once I'm comfortable with a few individuals in the group andn have some conversations going with them, it is much easier and more natural to jump into grouop participation. It can be tough breaking into a group, especially one that comes across as so close knit as this one. Any volunteers for the welcoming committee?
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Welcoming new users 28 Aug 2013 12:06 #14345

No one can or will be forced to participate here. I just want to get that out there. It never entered our minds. People are completely free to exercise choice on these boards - post or lurk as they see fit.
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Welcoming new users 28 Aug 2013 15:14 #14347

jake wrote:
duane_eugene_miller wrote:
Make one on one connections with new users to make them feel welcome, and that their input and questions are valuable. .

Hmm, intriguing... this is actually a fantastic idea. Maybe we more active members do need to take it upon ourselves to reach out one-on-one with the less active members. In 3D group dynamics this is often valuable-- quiet folk often find a one-on-one interaction much better for breaking the ice. I can certainly relate to that. I hate meeting people in groups; I much prefer small gatherings or one on one hang outs to get to know someone. Once I'm comfortable with a few individuals in the group andn have some conversations going with them, it is much easier and more natural to jump into grouop participation. It can be tough breaking into a group, especially one that comes across as so close knit as this one. Any volunteers for the welcoming committee?

I bring that up because I've been on the BG community for about 3 or 4 weeks now and am actively going out of my way to talk one on one with as many people as I have time to, and this seems to have generated a pretty regular base of people who now all communicate freely and openly in the community (and help encourage new members to do the same) Of course BG has the advantage that "hangouts" are the main avenue for communication, so live real time is a factor. But yeah, I feel there is an element of distance here, or that it could be warmer. Frankly, and this is just to be honest, not a slam, I already feel warm, welcome and part of the community - as in I've made friends - over at BG, where here there are a few people I've gone back and forth with a bit but don't feel that anchored and "at home" here... and I've been a member here for a year or two now - and was quite active for awhile. It does tend to feel "close knit" here and a bit intimidating to get involved. With respect.
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Welcoming new users 28 Aug 2013 16:19 #14348

duane_eugene_miller wrote:
But yeah, I feel there is an element of distance here, or that it could be warmer. Frankly, and this is just to be honest, not a slam, I already feel warm, welcome and part of the community - as in I've made friends - over at BG, where here there are a few people I've gone back and forth with a bit but don't feel that anchored and "at home" here... and I've been a member here for a year or two now - and was quite active for awhile. It does tend to feel "close knit" here and a bit intimidating to get involved. With respect.

To give a different perspective, for me this hasn't felt the case at all, I've really felt welcomed into the community even though at first it was clear that it was small and tight-knit (and you can have differences of opinion with some) - but that is what I like about it and why I was attracted to AN, so it couldn't be another way without losing that.

And it didn't at all feel hard to 'break in' in the first place, if that makes sense, like you turned up to, I dunno, a small meditation group and as you walked in you noticed everyone chatting and were like, 'oh they all know each other and I'm the newcomer,' but everyone smiled and made conversation straightaway and you got to know them, rather than they all kinda turned their backs and were like 'we don't know YOU.'

ETA: for me live/realtime chat doesn't always work as well because of the timezone issue, which is something to consider (i.e. will that kind of system be 'centric' to the geographic location of the majority), and also I don't always want to have a livechat if I'm in a hurry or I don't feel like talking etc, which is why I personally like the forum format with livechat as a possibility rather than a focus on it. Horses for courses.
Last Edit: 28 Aug 2013 16:21 by every3rdthought.
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Welcoming new users 28 Aug 2013 16:31 #14349

"all kinda turned their backs and were like 'we don't know YOU.'
Yeah I didn't mean it quite like that :P
I'm sure there are different perspectives on it. Regardless, it seemed/s to me that there are a central group here that are "buds" so to speak and everyone else is peripheral. Although I do not deny the possibility of that just being my perception of it (that's all it can be actually).
Live real time vs forum - they're both useful - just saying (for me) it's easier to make connections and friends in a live format.
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Welcoming new users 28 Aug 2013 18:11 #14351

thanks for pointing out the details of your experience duane.

i think my own engagement has varied - at times i mostly just keep my journal, if that; at times i get intrigued by other threads and the reasons a topic engages are all over the map. the busier i am with work the fewer threads i pay attention to and the less time i spend on chat-type media that require lots of attention.
i know a half dozen people here off-forum, either from before awakenetwork or from the hangouts we've had. the hangouts are really good for that kind of getting to know each other.
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Welcoming new users 28 Aug 2013 19:24 #14353

I should note that my perception has a good deal to do with my expectations, or what I am looking for in support. By no means am I saying that I haven't had support here and found very useful information and feedback, and I have certainly never been made to feel unwelcome. Everyone here I've interacted with has been kind and straight forward, which I have always appreciated about this forum. But (again, to me) there is a nearly tangible difference between the "core group" and "newbies" (these are my terms I'm only using for the sake of making my point). This isn't really a "bad" thing as it is totally awesome that the "core group" has developed great relationships with each other, but (and again, this is MY interpretation and may not be entirely accurate) when groups sort of evolve an identity or a structure they tend to stagnate, which is sort of what it feels like here (to me). Again, much respect to each practitioner here, because what we're doing is not a easy thing, but if you want to grow the community, it is my opinion that you need to inject some vibrance to it's current state. Give people a reason to get involved, or kindly seek them out, one on one, and encourage participation. Again, much respect. I've learned a lot here and you guys are awesome.
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Welcoming new users 28 Aug 2013 22:17 #14360

I've been a little concerned that all our reveling in the camaraderie (man, that word is hard to spell!) of the BG conference hasn't helped any. It's a bit like the 8th grade all over again, except it's not. But it may look that way.

OT comment: this time I hit the "reply topic" at the bottom and my post got put up higher. Someone (Tom?!) is gaslighting me!
Last Edit: 28 Aug 2013 22:19 by Laurel Carrington.
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Welcoming new users 29 Aug 2013 04:32 #14365

Laurel - it would be really unnatural for ten people who know each other from a forum to go to a relevant event together and not say anything. The posts about BG are awesome for showing what was going on. In fact, I've been surprised to see no (as far as I can see at a glance anyway) sign that ANYONE from DhO or KFD went to Buddhist Geeks, and Dan and Kenneth were there, and have been there every year, so you'd think it would be really natural for there to be discussion about the event on those forums. And, I might add, I find the camaraderie here something completely lacking on any other forum (of any subject matter) I've ever participated on, except possibly one horse-related one I used to follow where some of the members would meet up in person at big horse shows, and had been for years.

I am also uncertain about the "reaching out" idea, in that it would be really weird to me if I posted sporadically on any forum, and then a month later someone from that forum called me up to ask why I wasn't posting more, and how much they wished I would. That may be me, of course. But one of the comforts of the internet is that you don't have people checking up on you all the time. Of course there are different ways to reach out! But I think there is some onus on the newer or less regular participant to make their needs known and to show up, not pop their head in, wave, and then sit around silently hoping someone will ask them to say more. One can private message other participants who seem to have some interests in common or have written threads that appeal. One can post in ones own thread that one needs some attention, a hug, feedback on a specific thing. One can set up hangouts and suggest subjects (so far I think hardly anyone has ever set up a hangout except me, and I got tired of always organizing it, though I might do it again. I was hoping it would be more of a group effort.)

Anyway, this is really useful to talk about. I'm just throwing opinions out there, would love to hear other ways of looking at it.
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Welcoming new users 29 Aug 2013 07:57 #14373

Here are just some of my random thoughts.

The front page needs work, for sure, but honestly I don't expect a lot of visitors there yet as membership here is pretty exclusive and generally achieved by word-of-mouth (or vigorous pimping on other boards). Or, through Google as publicly-visible discussions involving general topics (such as that-punk-rock-Zen-guy-I-won't-mention-by-name-for-fear-of-being-accused-of-pimping-right-now) are searched out. But I accept the criticism gladly, and will think on ways to clean it up.

As to reaching out, again great point. But I will say that when someone does join, or ask to join to be precise, Chris or I communicate with them by email first. This is primarily a spam prevention thing, secondarily a "fit" thing. But once they are approved, we do sent a final "welcome" email suggesting what they do next, like introduce themselves on the "Welcome" thread. So we could take as an action item to make that last email more verbose, and deliberately inviting, to help them ease and integrate into the place more fully.
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Welcoming new users 29 Aug 2013 08:44 #14377

To add to Tom's comment, most of the folks that join are known to us from another "place" like KFD, DhO, or BG. Still, we do try to get them to come in and post on the welcome thread. I will make the e-mails I send more verbose, for sure, from now on. What we need to have to get more posters is, IMHO:

1) more members
2) more active discussions in the public area
3) a broad range of topics that spans a large range of interests
4) diversity, diversity, diversity ( which will only come as a result of a larger membership)

I'm listening carefully to Duane, who I think is putting his finger on some of what I think are the issues we need to think about.
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Welcoming new users 29 Aug 2013 11:33 #14384

...and something else that just occurred to me that I think is a driving factor of participation on BG - scheduled events and guided discussions. This helps people to have something to form around. Again, just my two cents on the subject. In the end it's really all about what you (the core group) want this forum to be. There really isn't anything "wrong" with it the way it is, but if you feel it's lacking some element, then looking at other models that are successful in the areas you're trying to succeed in may provide a benefit.

Edit: Which is what I believe Derek was pointing to from the start.
Last Edit: 29 Aug 2013 11:38 by duane_eugene_miller.
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Welcoming new users 29 Aug 2013 16:36 #14386

Chris Marti wrote:
What we need to have to get more posters is, IMHO:

1) more members
2) more active discussions in the public area
3) a broad range of topics that spans a large range of interests
4) diversity, diversity, diversity ( which will only come as a result of a larger membership)

To question the premises: do we need to actively try to get more posters? Why?

I can see that, as it stands, if, say, five people suddenly stopped posting for whatever reason, the group might lose critical mass. But most of the things I really like about this forum are to do with it being small, and I think might be lost with lots of posters (look at Dharma Overground at the moment, for example, or the big dharma forums like dhammawheel/dharmawheel).

Again, the front page stuff - that was an incentive to join for me, I knew there was more going on behind the scenes and I liked the public stuff enough to be interested. But that quality of privacy encourages an atmosphere of open and personal discussion that's really invaluable.

Also, it seems to me that people have joined over the last few months (I think I've only been posting for six or so), it's not like no one new is arriving.

I have no feeling that things here are stagnant, quite the opposite (though of course the question of the 'feel' will be different for those who've been posting here for longer).

It often looks to me like every board/forum has a certain lifespan - it grows to the point of critical mass, has a halcyon period where things are great, starts to get too big, unfocussed and trolly, or a lot of central figures drift away, or there's some other kind of 'big event' (the Wetpaint catastrophe, the AF wars) and dies a slow natural death. I wasn't a poster to KF or Dharma Overground but it seems to me like that happened on both of those... And to me AN is in its halcyon days period, one that I feel I will look back to with nostalgia wishing 'it was still like that' (unless I'm so awakened that I never wish things were other than what they are :P )

Having said that, I take Ona's recent point about organising hangouts - participating in a hangout was a really good thing for me to feel more part of the community - and I just became a bit freer than the frantic last month so I can take it on myself to organise one, maybe around Alice In Wonderland as we were discussing previously (that's for another thread).
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Welcoming new users 29 Aug 2013 17:00 #14387

"To question the premises: do we need to actively try to get more posters? Why?"

For message boards activity is life and inactivity is death. I, for one, would like these boards to last a long, long time, so I believe that more posters equals more activity equals more incentive for more people to join and post - thus creating a virtuous cycle that benefits all of us now and in the future. And a more active board is more fun, with more topics and more diversity. Good all around, IMHO.
Last Edit: 29 Aug 2013 17:04 by Chris Marti.
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Welcoming new users 30 Aug 2013 10:48 #14400

To echo Chris' sentiment, while it is personal pet project, I have invested a fair bit of time, and some money, in making this a cool place to be. If people stop talking, it is not very inviting. But specifically to the point of small vs. large, this is deliberately designed to foster both. There can be a LOT of members, but grouped into smaller collections, having their own discussions independent of the others. The trick is certainly going to be finding the balance between "private" and "public" discussions, to maintain a high signal-to-noise ratio for each user. Friends, and groups, are going to be more important as other collections of practitioners come into AN.

And thank you for saying the front page stuff was incentive...I was starting to develop a complex.
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Welcoming new users 03 Sep 2013 19:13 #14540

Tom, have you thought about setting a max width to the container on the site? On my typically high-res monitor, each line of text ends up being very long which affects readability. This is true for the home page, the forum, and the blog. (For my taste the font size is too small so I have it bumped up some, which makes the home page even more unreadable.) With a window width of about 1200px, the forum suddenly becomes way more appetizing!

practicaltypography.com/line-length.html
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Welcoming new users 03 Sep 2013 19:34 #14541

Are we merging with DharmaOverground? That's a great idea. The whole is more than the sum of the parts!
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Welcoming new users 03 Sep 2013 23:06 #14545

Thread about it here, as Derek mentioned: www.dharmaoverground.org/web/guest/discu...ards/message/4650405
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