I think that one of the TT points that bothered me the most is that the users of the forum aren't "serious brewers" because the TT user(s) doesn't recognize their names. ...
If the purpose of keeping the Forum open to everyone is to be welcoming, then can we have a conversation about what it means to be welcoming, and keep the door open for some constructive criticism about how Forum is designed?
I prefer the Forum slightly over TechTalk--I won't list all the pros and cons at this moment--but as a newcomer to Forum and as a relatively new homebrewer I found the nicknames and anonymity a bit challenging. I think I had to put together bits from an outside podcast to realize who Kai is.
I am not new to social networking... I'm considered fairly cutting-edge in my field, for whatever that's worth. Also, if this helps my street cred, I twice lost a battle to move a very large (9,000-plus) 18-year-old discussion list I co-mod to a forum format. (Finally gave up; it's now a kind of old-geezer whine board, and I say that as a greying lady.) For AHA to continue to attract new members, it must appeal to their expectations, and especially to younger members, a daily email digest must seem antediluvian.
But if we listen to what the TT supporters are saying, we might hear some ways to make Forum better all around. Otherwise we're being just as anti-change as the protesters appear to be. Paying a little attention to complaints can lead to vast improvement to the user experience and can also win over more members to the change.
Take the mobility issue: while a once-a-day digest appears to be old-fashioned, when I'm on the road for more than a day, it's the Forum that is inaccessible; I can at least (sort of) read TT on my smartphone, which is what I have in my hand all day wherever I am. That's a legit complaint. Most forum software has not caught up with changes in how people consume information. (Now when my iPad arrives next week, I won't care so much...
but that puts me in a very small sliver of the population in terms of how I will be accessing info.)
The mobility issue has a related problem that the Forum is a website and there are people who cannot access alcohol-related websites at work. TT is a welcome break from them. This may be a tiny percentage of the members, but it's one more user-experience issue that the Forum introduces, and when something becomes completely inaccessible to a small percentage of members, I guarantee you will be hearing from 100% of them.
Then there is the whole angle of how members are ranked on Forum. I seriously thought at first that "Full Member" meant dues-paying AHA member, not someone who had posted at least 100 times. Then I realized that on the AHA Forum, my membership means exactly nothing and is entirely disincentivized. I don't get a badge or a star or whatever.
Does that sound trivial? Not in the world of game and social-network design. Those of you on other social networks will understand what I'm saying when I say that I have rearranged my personal schedule to take back a FourSquare mayorship (however crazy that may seem). We are humans, and we therefore respond to rational incentives.
Now, it is probably true that with the Forum software there is no easy way to tie membership into registration except by (I'm assuming) providing an option to check a "yes" next to "are you an AHA member" and let people self-report, then tying that to something that optionally appears on the public profile. But I think it's a mistake from a recruitment & retention angle not to use the Forum to build some incentive to join AHA. TechTalk is a benefit of membership. Beyond the warm-fuzzies of belonging, knowing that my dues help support changes to state laws, and an annual conference that sounds great but I usually can't get to, what is the incentive to join AHA? If the conversation is no longer the incentive, what really is?
You can brush off the value of incentives if you've been brewing two decades and have a shelf of medals and ribbons, because you have internalized incentives; but think about AHA as an organization that has to continuously recruit and retain members who are seeking reasons to join AHA or renew membership. For that, I have two thoughts on incentives. 1. Posting to Forum more than X times is a benefit of membership. Let everyone read the forum (btw have we ensured posts to the Forum are globally discoverable, so a Google or Bing search for "rubber stopper in carboy" retrieves Forum posts?)... let anyone post a few times... then adopt the Flickr model and let "Premium" be associated with AHA dues. 2. Let Premium be associated with a cool little badge on my profile that appears whenever I post.
It could also be I'm not thinking out of the box and there are incentives that could be unrelated to Forum... but Forum is certainly very visible.
Whatever... they're just ideas... RDWHAHB. I appreciate AHA and the Forum and look forward to bottling my latest not-quite-right beers today!