You are not logged in.

#1 2014-04-18 21:54:50

MichaelBluejay
Webmaster
From: Austin, TX
Registered: 2008-05-26
Posts: 1,342
Website

Pull the plug on BicycleAustin.info?

Communication in the Austin bike community has always been pretty bad.  Each group has traditionally done their own thing, without communicating very much with other groups.  There's been some improvement in recent years (notably from YBP), but it's still far from ideal.

Back when I was actively trying to aggregate the news and events from different groups, I got almost no participation.  I remember one time in front of Wheatsville when a Yellow Biker asked me, "Why didn't you publicize [such and such event we had last weekend] in your newsletter?", and my response was, "Because your telling me about it now, after the fact, is the first I heard about it."

Fast-foward to the present, and now we have a forum where anyone can post their events, and have them automatically show up on the first page of the site to boot.  But they don't.  I've invited YBP to post their newsletter (with their events) to the forum many times.  They never have.  I've invited the Texas Bicycle Coalition numerous times to post their local events here.  Nope.  Same for Bike Austin.  Etc.  There's an Austin Bicycle Summit coming up soon, but you wouldn't know it from reading Bicycle Austin.

I'd hoped to get volunteers from this site to post here about local groups' events when they hear about them.  After all, among our ranks, we have members of all the local groups.  But the response has been underwhelming, and even when someone volunteers they usually don't follow through.  (But thanks to those who *have* posted events here, whether they volunteered or not, but especially to the volunteers.)

Yeah, I could repost events myself, except that I no longer have the time, and after thousands of hours invested in bike advocacy over the years (mostly with the websites) I'd like to step back and have others do some of the work around here.

But that got me thinking, is Bicycle Austin even worth keeping around, or should I bite the bullet and pull the plug?  Arguments in favor of that include:

   (1) Now that LOBV is "Bike Austin", it's harder for this site to have its own identity.  I think there's likely some brand confusion.  And apparently Bike Austin didn't think this site was very relevant given that they never contacted me before adopting a name so similar to this site's.
   (2) The City of Austin lists local cycling sites, but doesn't consider this one worthy of mentioning.  (Ironic, since this site predated the City's Bicycle Program.)
   (3) The content is aging, links are going dead, and I don't have time to keep up with it.
   (4) The forum has very few active members.  And the local groups won't post their events, despite many invitations to do so.
   (5) Whatever utility the forum has, would likely be duplicated elsewhere if this one were to shut down.  Bike Austin or YBP would probably start one.

Now, if either the groups or our members would post local groups' events here, I'd think that this site would have enough utility to keep around.  Without that, I'm not so sure.

What do you all think?

Offline

#2 2014-04-19 07:39:07

ggw
Member
From: Austin, TX
Registered: 2008-05-27
Posts: 35
Website

Re: Pull the plug on BicycleAustin.info?

Having had similar situations, I found that, with a single exception, the its best to stop. Mostly for the author; YOU will have more time for things that keep you interested. This does not.

ggw

Offline

#3 2014-04-19 17:45:00

dougmc
Administrator
Registered: 2008-06-01
Posts: 599

Re: Pull the plug on BicycleAustin.info?

Ultimately, it's all about what you want to spend your time on.  If this isn't it, then so be it.

I don't think that these other organizations would take up much of the slack at all.  I wouldn't even expect them to put up a forum or make a general discussion mailing list, but they'd probably make a Facebook group or something and put stuff on it -- that seems to be where things are right now.  In fact, that seems to be where most of the discussions happen nowadays.

Offline

#4 2014-04-21 06:49:38

tstarry
Member
From: Austin, TX
Registered: 2010-02-22
Posts: 20

Re: Pull the plug on BicycleAustin.info?

I'll parrot Doug, it comes down to what you want to spend your time on.  One of the reasons I'm discontinuing my blog. 

Will another step up?  Maybe, but in the end I don't believe it will matter unless the "community" truly gets behind the web site, Facebook-reddit forums...whatever form it takes.

I wouldn't count on YBP taking up the slack.  Volunteers only have so much time, and they are few.

As for whatever comes out of the merger of LOBV and ACA...I don't hold much hope.  I may be wrong, I often am.

Offline

#5 2014-04-21 12:27:54

damicoaustin
Member
From: Austin, TX
Registered: 2008-05-27
Posts: 143
Website

Re: Pull the plug on BicycleAustin.info?

Whatever you do, please keep this forum (and whole site) archived! There is a wealth of info here that needs to be accessible, even if some links end up bad.

What's been great for Austin bicycling, also creates a problem....e.g. many groups and interests all with their own ways to communicate them. Back when I was active in advocacy, I would pepper every vehicle I could to get the word out on events/releases and such. But covering all that ground was time consuming, so I can understand why many organizations don't cover all the bases by posting with what you created.

I think this vehicle--the forum--is a bit outdated for the ways a lot of people communicate. Then again, I always thought forums were outstanding for searching for old information. And I wish there was a centralized place that plugged in all the different organizations automatically.

So in a nutshell, the forum still has value, but much less an impact than it used to. So I'll understand whatever direction you go.

On the Bike Austin deal, just a note that you pegged it perfectly with your other post noting: "Yeah, it might have been nice had I heard from anyone in Bike Austin before they chose that name.  But no, I didn't.  Then again, I'm not sure it would have helped anyway:  They wanted the name Bike Austin, and I would have been loathe to change the Bicycle Austin name I've used for many years."

When the discussion came up, I said that someone needed to contact you. But the response I got was, "what difference will it make?" Still, I believe in open communication, and there are always ways to point people in the right direction, like "Looking for ...?" Or simply promoting each other.

Offline

#6 2014-04-21 13:06:08

MichaelBluejay
Webmaster
From: Austin, TX
Registered: 2008-05-26
Posts: 1,342
Website

Re: Pull the plug on BicycleAustin.info?

damicoaustin wrote:

When the discussion came up, I said that someone needed to contact you. But the response I got was, "what difference will it make?" Still, I believe in open communication, and there are always ways to point people in the right direction, like "Looking for ...?" Or simply promoting each other.

Thank you for making that suggestion.  On the "simply promoting each other" bit, I have to laugh.  I link to Bike Austin in the header of every page of this site, but I think it'll be a cold day in hell before they admit that BicycleAustin.info even exists.  (Or other sites/groups, for that matter.  From perusing BikeAustin's site, you wouldn't know that there are any other advocacy groups in town, or even a City Bicycle Program.  The word that comes to mind when browsing their site is "insular".)

I think this vehicle--the forum--is a bit outdated for the ways a lot of people communicate. Then again, I always thought forums were outstanding for searching for old information. And I wish there was a centralized place that plugged in all the different organizations automatically.

What form would that take?  And how would we get groups to actually use it?

I have daydreamed about programming a calendar system that would let users (readers) filter for just rides, just other events, all events, etc. (i.e., offering functionality that the Google Calendar doesn't), and to make it easy for each group/blog to put that calendar on their own site -- the idea being that that kind of rich usefulness was available, more groups might actually participate.  But I'd have to build it first to see if they'd come, and if they didn't, that would have been a big waste of time.

Offline

#7 2014-04-21 13:26:32

dougmc
Administrator
Registered: 2008-06-01
Posts: 599

Re: Pull the plug on BicycleAustin.info?

MichaelBluejay wrote:
damicoaustin wrote:

I think this vehicle--the forum--is a bit outdated for the ways a lot of people communicate. Then again, I always thought forums were outstanding for searching for old information. And I wish there was a centralized place that plugged in all the different organizations automatically.

What form would that take?  And how would we get groups to actually use it?

No need to wonder what form it could take, as it's already come and (largely) gone..

Forums largely replaced Usenet because 1) they were a little easier to use for those who were new and 2) they allowed people to control their forums with an iron fist if they chose to, rather than the lack of control that Usenet offered.  But Usenet was awesome in that every interest was covered in one place (just in different groups) and it was decentralized so that things wouldn't just disappear one day because somebody got tired of dealing with it or because their harddrive failed and they forgot to ever take backups.  And when dejanews came along to search all of it at once, going back to the beginning of time ... wonderful!

That said, the lack of control was a problem (and a blessing), as was the high difficulty in creating new groups and near impossibility of removing unused groups.

Usenet is still around, but largely dead -- most discussions happen elsewhere now.  Reddit is probably the closest thing to what it was now, and it's solved many of the problems that Usenet had quite effectively.  And there is a subreddit dedicated to bicycling in Austin though it's not particularly active.

Offline

#8 2014-04-21 15:58:08

damicoaustin
Member
From: Austin, TX
Registered: 2008-05-27
Posts: 143
Website

Re: Pull the plug on BicycleAustin.info?

MichaelBluejay wrote:

What form would that take?  And how would we get groups to actually use it?

Oh heck...here's an example. I find NextDoor https://nextdoor.com/ to be extremely effective in keeping me plugged in on what's happening with my neighborhood and surrounding neighborhoods, better than the traditional listserv. But it's just one more thing I have to sign up for, monitor, have an app for, etc. It's built kind of like Facebook, but obviously separate. And then you have Facebook to deal with as well. Google calendars work great in that I can do something like simply subscribe to my kids' school calendars...but you can only subscribe to so many calendars before it gets silly and unwieldy.

If there were something that automatically pulled in content from various organizations to one place, with options on how you interact with that content, it would be great. I'm not talking about the old push toward portals with user generated options for content, or just feeds either...but something that the user had to actually go to and engage. It's in my head, but I can't quite describe it, as you can tell by this post!

Offline

#9 2014-04-21 18:04:35

cycling74
Member
Registered: 2008-09-28
Posts: 61

Re: Pull the plug on BicycleAustin.info?

^^^


Okay whoever figures that out is the next Zuckerberg or Jobs or whatever.

Offline

#10 2014-04-25 18:46:56

MichaelBluejay
Webmaster
From: Austin, TX
Registered: 2008-05-26
Posts: 1,342
Website

Re: Pull the plug on BicycleAustin.info?

Well, my wife says I should keep the site going for the forum, because even if only 10 or so people use it regularly, it's useful to them.  Also, even if few post, many more read:  the email list (where these posts get sent to) has hundreds of subscribers, and I know at least one city councilmember reads it.  Finally, she pointed out that even if another group starts a forum, it's not going to be welcome, neutral territory like it is here.  That is, if Group A won't post here, they're certainly not going to post on Group B's website -- if Group B even allows it.

So, things will plod along for now.  In the meantime, it would be really great if any of our members would volunteer to post local news & events here.  Could I please get:

* One volunteer to post Bike Austin's news/events
* One volunteer to post YBP's news/events
* One volunteer to post Texas Bicycle Coalition's news/events

Offline

#11 2014-04-25 20:34:09

bizikletari
Member
Registered: 2009-03-18
Posts: 223

Re: Pull the plug on BicycleAustin.info?

Absolutely. I am pretty sure YBP will keep posting its newsletter and whatever event there may eventually be.
Personally, I love the site and I've been reading it for many years. Thanks for keeping it alive.

Offline

#12 2014-04-25 21:16:35

MichaelBluejay
Webmaster
From: Austin, TX
Registered: 2008-05-26
Posts: 1,342
Website

Re: Pull the plug on BicycleAustin.info?

YBP has *never* posted its newsletter to the web forum (despite several requests/pleas from me).  They post it straight to the email list, but never to the web forum.

Anyway, bizikletari, does this mean you're offering to post YBP stuff here?

Offline

#13 2014-04-27 09:59:22

bizikletari
Member
Registered: 2009-03-18
Posts: 223

Re: Pull the plug on BicycleAustin.info?

I suppose there has been a misunderstanding, I was under the impression that the email list and the forum were one and the same. I'll correct that assumption.
I usually read the forum rather than the email list because I find it easier to navigate, but some people do read the email list, because they have it in the inbox folder.

If the YBP collective agrees, I'll help with that.

Offline

#14 2014-04-28 17:02:27

MichaelBluejay
Webmaster
From: Austin, TX
Registered: 2008-05-26
Posts: 1,342
Website

Re: Pull the plug on BicycleAustin.info?

The difference between the web forum and the email list is explained on the front page of the website, in the big yellow box:  Web forum posts get sent to the email list, so by posting on the web you hit both the web and the email list.  If you post directly to the email list, you hit only the email list.

I'm surprised that you need permission from the collective to post YBP stuff to the web forum, but if so, then thanks for inquiring about that.

Offline

#15 2014-04-29 10:59:37

Jack
Member
Registered: 2013-03-27
Posts: 331

Re: Pull the plug on BicycleAustin.info?

FWIW.  Perhaps via another pool, maybe a Craigslist ad, you could find a volunteer to do some for the site that you used to do (update/add links, e.g., or even reach out to other groups for events postings).  New blood?  It's a crap shoot, but you might find a very interested person with time and Internet skills and enthusiastic interest to pick it up.

Offline

#16 2014-04-29 11:29:25

MichaelBluejay
Webmaster
From: Austin, TX
Registered: 2008-05-26
Posts: 1,342
Website

Re: Pull the plug on BicycleAustin.info?

Keeping the website updated is a huge amount of work and there's no way I'd find a volunteer for that, when I can't even get sufficient volunteers to just posts events to the forum.  And if I can't get volunteers to post events from the hundreds of bike enthusiasts here, then posting to Craigslist seems like an even longer shot.

But I'll repeat the plea now:  Can I please get:

* One volunteer to post Bike Austin's news/events
* One volunteer to post Texas Bicycle Coalition's news/events

?

bizikletari will probably be posting YBP stuff, so that's one out of three!

Offline

#17 2014-04-29 17:54:54

MichaelBluejay
Webmaster
From: Austin, TX
Registered: 2008-05-26
Posts: 1,342
Website

Re: Pull the plug on BicycleAustin.info?

Todd Savage of Bike Austin has just volunteered to post their news/events here.  Yippee!

Now we just need someone to handle posting Texas Bicycle Coalition and Be Kind to Cyclists news/events and we'll be all set.  Any takers?

Offline

#18 2014-05-01 10:04:57

Augenwinkel
Member
Registered: 2010-02-05
Posts: 16

Re: Pull the plug on BicycleAustin.info?

For BikeTexas (no longer Texas Bicycle Coalition), you might contact Susan Wilcox (susan at biketexas org).

Offline

#19 2014-05-01 11:39:01

MichaelBluejay
Webmaster
From: Austin, TX
Registered: 2008-05-26
Posts: 1,342
Website

Re: Pull the plug on BicycleAustin.info?

Yes, I meant BikeTexas.  Of course I've invited Bike Texas many times to post their items to the forum, including Susan Wilcox specifically, but nothing so far.  So, if Bike Texas isn't going to participate, I'm hoping that one of our forum members (many of whom are BikeTexas supporters), will repost BikeTexas' mailings here.  So about that, who would like to help out with that?

Offline

Board footer