As you are probably aware, it is very rare that I email the entire Aunty Monkey membership. However, it is the end of the year and I thought it was a good time for me to send out the Aunty Monkey equivalent of an Address to the Nation.
You will be able to tell that I am on holidays at the moment, because it is the only time I have to sit down and think about the site and where it is going.
For those who have been around Aunty Monkey for a while, you will know that about once a year I like to post my thoughts and opinions. Hopefully this won’t sound too much like a rant, but having just run the survey I am pretty sure that my thoughts reflect those of the majority of Aunty Monkey members.
Let me first tell you the main reasons why I ran the survey:
1. The average number of daily visitors to the site is half what it was last year. So in my opinion the Monkey is starting to die and now is the time to resuscitate it. I want to see if we can bring it back to the glory it once enjoyed.
2. More importantly, I (like many others) have been losing interest in the site. So for my own sake, the site needs a new injection of life, otherwise it will stagnate further and I will focus my attention on working on my Guitar Hero career.
There really were few surprises in the survey results. I had pretty much heard the same feedback through the grapevine and the majority of the thoughts (except for the individual who wanted to see more of me on the site) reflected my own feelings.
I am not going to bore you with tables of starts and pie charts. Instead, let me give you a summary of the main feedback and the things I am going to do to try and turn this site around.
Aunty Monkey is not Facebook
I had heard quite a lot of mumblings about this before and the survey has definitely confirmed this. The biggest concern that people have is that Aunty Monkey is becoming more like Facebook. The general, non-ballooning chatter is driving people insane and subsequently away from the site (ironically many are going to Facebook). Obviously it would be inappropriate to single any people out or start banning people for just being enthusiastic; however there are a few things I have done or am planning to do to fix this, including:
1. I removed a couple of features from the "Latest activity" section of the home page, including comments between individuals and showing when people become friends with each other. This should bring the emphasis back to the ballooning content rather than the social chatter.
2. I have decided that I will introduce Groups onto the site (for a trial period) in the next month or so. In the survey, 60% of recipients said they would like groups. I also think that this is a really good way to localise some discussions and content that is of interest to smaller groups and not necessarily the greater Aunty Monkey community. RC Balloons is a really good example of this. It was really interesting to see how many people indicated they wanted more RC Balloon stuff and how many people wanted less.
3. Finally the only other thing I can really do here is plea that everyone thinks about what they post on the site and think about if it is the right place to post it. Most people will know that I hate having to moderate content and thankfully (until now) I really have not had to do it much in the past. However, over the next few months I will keep an eye on things and will (privately) let people know if I feel like the content they are adding to the site is not necessarily appropriate.
With 32,000 photos on the site and 54% of people saying that photos are their favourite feature on the site, it is obvious that photos are the biggest feature of the site. There were a few comments about photos that are worth sharing:
1. People are getting a bit sick of a lot of photos that are exactly the same (e.g. uploading 10 photos that are almost identical). Please don’t dump the contents of your camera’s SD card on the site. Select the best few and upload them.
2. Add details about the photo (including where it was taken)
3. Please keep the photos somewhat ballooning focused. If they are people shots, tell us who they are and where they are. We all love context.
All I can say here is please don't ask people for ballooning cards. You wouldn't believe (actually you probably would) the colourful language that came through in the survey around people asking them for cards. Please keep this activity to ballooning events and not online. Most people feel like being hassled for cards on the site is the equivalent of spam.
From the day Aunty Monkey was born (some 16 years ago), the philosophy has always been that it would be a “non-political and non-profit” community. We will never make money from the site or allow others to do so. There are other sites out there that allow you to sell things. We are already losing people’s interest and I believe selling stuff would not only be the final nail in the coffin, but would destroy the Aunty Monkey ethos.
There were a few other comments that are worth addressing (while I am on a role).
There were a few comments by members requesting that “friend collectors” don’t try to befriend everyone. There is nothing I can really do to stop this, but obviously use your common sense.
There have been a few requests to have an events calendar on the site. I have been keen for a while to make this happen; I just need to find a way to do this without relying on a person (i.e. me) to have to administer it. This will be my project over the next few months and I am hopeful that we will see some sort of way of promoting events appear on the site.
Once again the request for ballooning games has come in. Let me answer this the same way as I always do. If you build a game and it is good, we will put it on the site. Games take thousands of hours to build and if not done by professionals, they are generally crap. If you really want games on Aunty Monkey, then you probably need to spend more time outside. Maybe try going ballooning ;-)
And finally a bit of advice to the person who requested a dating facility be added to the site. All I can say is that nothing will ever be a substitute to going to a ballooning event and having a few post flight drinks. It has worked for so many in the past, just ask around.
Let's Save the Monkey
Overall, I think we are at a really important turning point and while Aunty Monkey has deviated slightly from the desirable path, I believe it won’t take much to bring it back to where it should be. So I hope that together we can resurrect the Monkey.
That’s enough from me. Have a wonderful New Year and let’s make 2010 the Year of the Monkey.