Author Topic: The Demise of TechTalk  (Read 7614 times)

Offline ullarsskald1989

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Re: The Demise of TechTalk
« Reply #45 on: August 07, 2010, 06:02:34 AM »
Good morning all;

Here's the comment I sent to TechTalk, which I'll see tomorrow ;-)

I've been "on" the Net since the days of acoustic modems and text-only exchanges...currently maintain websites, blogs, a forum, several e-lists and social networking pages, I also subscribe to several forums, only 3 of which I frequent.  I spend about 25 hours a week online, so my time for any one of these is limited.

I much prefer the Tech Talk style of digest for special interest information and am willing to put up with the fact that not everyone is as willing as I to frequently use the search function before
posting a question.  Also, email is the only web thing I check everyday.

I have gone to the AHA Forum, and it is no better or worse than the others already available, so I will be visiting there as infrequently as I do the others.

There is a cultural organization to which I belong that scrapped their forum, due to disuse by the membership.

There is another to which I belong that has a forum that sees some traffic, but nowhere near that which the email list generates.

There is a third where the forum format is very successful and no email list exists.

Similar interest groups with differing demographics...

My wife and I are both AHA members.  We both read the TT digest everyday.  My wife has never been to the AHA forum, though she knows of its existence, no interest in that format...this AHA decision essentially "disenfranchises" her and other members of similar mind.

Take Care - Steven Robinson - Catamount Grange Brewroom and Wordsmithy

PS: I understand the cost-benefit analysis from a strictly business point of view.  However, the AHA is a hobbyist organization, which does some business.  It is not a business, which deals with some hobbyists.
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Offline narvin

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Re: The Demise of TechTalk
« Reply #46 on: August 07, 2010, 07:24:16 AM »
Ostracized?  That's really counter to what we're trying to do here.  As a matter of fact, let me be the first to welcome you and say that we all look forward to your contributions!

Yet further up in this discussion thread narvin posts a rather scathing message about the individuals who would rather read the email. Yes, I am one of them but for the simple fact that I was always able to read TT on my BlackBerry when I had down time during the day. Contrary to what narvin would believe, I have moved past 1200 baud into something a little faster.

And conversely, it's kindergarten over here, where only people who play on the Internet all day can make sense of the chatter.  And the information is no good.  Have I summed up the arguments against the forum accurately?

I understand that people are used to the email format, but anyone who actually took the time to look at the forum would know that the level and depth of the information presented here is as good as in Tech Talk (better, and less repetitive, in my opinion).  I keep hearing the quote of 2500 readers per day, but the day that the transition was announced, techtalk had only 2 new brewing topics and 4 replies.  I would not consider that a veritable font of brewing information...
« Last Edit: August 07, 2010, 07:55:44 AM by narvin »
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Offline kgs

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Re: The Demise of TechTalk
« Reply #47 on: August 07, 2010, 07:59:12 AM »
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!

K.G. Schneider
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Offline denny

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Re: The Demise of TechTalk
« Reply #48 on: August 07, 2010, 08:09:54 AM »
Thanks for your ideas, and that goes for everyone else, too.  I can address a couple right off the bat...we're hard at work to improve smartphone access to and use of the forum.  Drew and Fred are checking out various alternatives.  And having some way to identify AHA members is something that's been discussed since day one and is still on the priority list.
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Offline MrNate

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Re: The Demise of TechTalk
« Reply #49 on: August 07, 2010, 12:03:10 PM »
The big thing you'll lose with that (or other email approaches) is the actual editing hours spent assembling the email in TT's very organized presentation form.

Well, at the risk of sounding presumptuous then, why not address the manpower issue with volunteer editors? Clearly there is a significant number of people who find the format useful. Would enough of those people be willing to volunteer the labor needed to maintain the format? That seems like a true test of usefulness to me.

Rather than raising dues, I mean. Those that truly find Tech Talk useful could, in theory, step up and save it.

Or (and granted I'm not familiar with the format) is there any possibility of automating at least a significant percentage of the formatting with a text parser?
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Offline MrNate

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Re: The Demise of TechTalk
« Reply #50 on: August 07, 2010, 12:09:15 PM »
Thanks for your ideas, and that goes for everyone else, too.  I can address a couple right off the bat...we're hard at work to improve smartphone access to and use of the forum.  Drew and Fred are checking out various alternatives.  And having some way to identify AHA members is something that's been discussed since day one and is still on the priority list.

Denny, let me know if you guys want any help sorting that out. Don't know how much use I could be, but I'm available if you want me.
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Offline dbeechum

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Re: The Demise of TechTalk
« Reply #51 on: August 07, 2010, 12:23:16 PM »
We're looking at a number of different things right now and still having discussions. (Can't say we don't listen!)

As for the members thing, it's completely in the works but depends on some upgrades to the backend technology the org is using. If you've ever worked with grassroots organizations, you know the word I'm going to say and it will strike fear in your heart - Access. :)
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Offline MrNate

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Re: The Demise of TechTalk
« Reply #52 on: August 07, 2010, 01:13:45 PM »
Not as terrifying as the phrase "herding cats," but I completely understand. Just thought I'd throw it out there.
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Offline lucybear999

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Re: The Demise of TechTalk
« Reply #53 on: August 07, 2010, 02:25:49 PM »
As a user of both TT and the forum, I can see both sides. I really think that wherever the decision was made in the AHA to stop TT, the level of immediate visceral reaction rose well above what you guys expected. Hopefully, for the future, when it's something that has a daily send of 2500 people, you will approach it differently.

This shouldn't end up as a debate over 'cool' (pull) vs. 'geezer' (push) technology. Push technology is all around you, TV, newspapers, breaking news e-mails, etc and radio  ;D is push technology. Many of the TT users cannot access the forum (from work), as their company policies block access to any alcohol related sites. I've seen postings that represent that it takes approximately an hour to wade thru the TT topics....well simply put, that is just absurd, an hour....jeez.

Once the announcement was made, the figure $15,000 per year cost was quoted by GG. Since that time, posters that either run similar services, or are familiar with how they work, have directly challenged that figure, and suggested they be contacted to help AHA, with appropriate cost levels for this type of service. Makes one think AHA was using a little puffery, to sell the decision.

I agree that a forum is a much livelier, interactive place over something like TT, but let's not confuse that, with immediacy of response. A quick scan of the forum today, shows only a couple of messages that requested an immediate response.

Anyway, I use this and a group of other homebrew boards (B3, NB, etc) so the closing of TT won't have a great effect on my usage. I do hope whether at CP/GG level, or governing committee level, that you get the message that making unilateral decisions, behind closed doors, without prior larger member input will result in the firestorm you've seen over at TT. As it turns out, this was a major type decision that should have been handled differently.

Thanks again, to the AHA and our elected officers. You deliver on a daily basis and either do it voluntarily, or for the love of home brewing...
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Offline kgs

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Re: The Demise of TechTalk
« Reply #54 on: August 08, 2010, 04:56:32 AM »

Once the announcement was made, the figure $15,000 per year cost was quoted by GG. Since that time, posters that either run similar services, or are familiar with how they work, have directly challenged that figure, and suggested they be contacted to help AHA, with appropriate cost levels for this type of service. Makes one think AHA was using a little puffery, to sell the decision.


My hunch is that cost refers to the staff time to view, vet, and post messages; a co-mod and I did that for several years (unpaid :) ) before the list in question went to a format that is largely self-policed. We spent about 5-10 hours each on the list every week. Move TT to a cheapo web host and set it up on Mailman with volunteer moderators to keep an eye on things, and it wouldn't cost anywhere near $15k... $200 would be more like it.

One concern would be that conversation within AHA would be "forked" between the TT crowd and the Forum crowd. My comment above about what the list I co-mod turned into refers to the fact that newer members of the profession pretty much don't use the list--they use other social media. And it's not that the newer members *need* immediacy; they just *expect* it.
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Offline k4df4l

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Re: The Demise of TechTalk
« Reply #55 on: August 08, 2010, 05:51:05 AM »
One of the reasons I joined the AHA was to support the organization that champions homebrewing and fights to make it legal and accessible to all.  My membership and participation is not just to benefit myself but hopefully to aid the homebrewing community as a whole, members and non-members.

Creating exclusive forum areas for members or taking other actions that legitimately make non-members feel like second class citizens are suggestions that I can not support.


On the subject of TT, I almost though I was transported back in time when that first email arrived ;)




Offline tschmidlin

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Re: The Demise of TechTalk
« Reply #56 on: August 08, 2010, 10:09:09 AM »
I'm new to this forum, but not to forums in general.  I've enjoyed techtalk, but it's ok with me if it disappears.  One problem with techtalk from my perspective, is that it is never there when I want it to be, and stale by the time I get to it.  I don't usually learn that much from it, but I like answering questions.  But when it arrives I don't have time to read through it.  When I have time to read it, it either hasn't arrived yet or I figure Houseman's answered that question already.  On the forum I know I'm not wasting my time because I can tell who hasn't had questions answered yet rather than on TT where you often see 5 replies that say more or less the same thing.  Plus it's a lot easier to go through old topics and pick up bits of information.

There definitely seems like there's a way to keep TT around for a lot less money than the AHA is spending on it, and I'll probably subscribe to any alternate solution the AHA may come up with.  But I consider my move to the forum to be permanent.
Tom Schmidlin

Offline denny

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Re: The Demise of TechTalk
« Reply #57 on: August 08, 2010, 10:30:09 AM »
Great to have you here, Tom!
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Offline gabetoth

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Re: The Demise of TechTalk
« Reply #58 on: August 08, 2010, 08:53:28 PM »
I've followed the forum since it started, but I'm more a fan of TechTalk, one of those long-in-the-tooth geezers (actually, FYI, a 28-year-old tech-friendly journalist). I'm not here to explain or defend that preference. I'll miss TT, but I understand the reasons behind the shift.

Frankly, though, I'm pretty turned off to the idea of being part of this community after reading the responses from forum members towards those prefering TT. I don't agree with the TechTalkers who have been bashing the forum, and likewise I don't need to deal with you guys on the forum who have responded in kind.

Thanks guys; way to make this a welcoming, open place. Meanwhile, plenty of HBD users are on TT saying, "Come on in, the water's fine." Maybe you could take a lesson from that, rather than trying to belittle us dinosaurs.

Thank you, honestly, for the civility from those of you (Denny, Drew and many others) who have shown it. It's a shame a vocal minority has to frame this as an "us vs. them" issue.

Offline tschmidlin

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Re: The Demise of TechTalk
« Reply #59 on: August 08, 2010, 11:14:43 PM »
Thanks Denny, somehow I'm not surprised that you are prolific here!
Tom Schmidlin