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Crowdsourcing: New Member Introduction Thread


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Viewing 25 posts - 1 through 25 (of 89 total)
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  • #3749425
    matthew k
    Moderator

    @matthewkphx

    Ryan and I have spoken about creating a New Member Forum.

    We have many new members that join the site each month but don’t interact on the forums and we want to encourage these new members to feel welcome to engage the interactive side of BPL, here on the Forums.

    The thought here is that new members will receive an invitation to make this post during their “onboarding” when they join. We have been thinking about what questions new members should answer in their new member thread and we’d like to hear some suggestions from you, our current members.

    What information do you think a new BPL member should be encouraged to share? What should an introduction thread look like? Please share any ideas you have.

    #3749426
    matthew k
    Moderator

    @matthewkphx

    This idea was partially inspired by two threads over at High Sierra Topix:

    Lurkers Please Introduce Yourself (General Intro Thread)

    Suggestions for Requesting Trip/Route Advice (Self-assessment about experience and goals)

     

    #3749433
    Ratatosk
    BPL Member

    @ratatosk

    I don’t think new members should be encouraged to share, I think old members should be encouraged to share.  The vast majority of what a new member can do on Forums is read nine pages of technical acronyms about a fabric that weighs 2% less than whatever was perfectly useable last season, or listen to people with nine tents and four backpacks talk about minimalism. The site is very gear-oriented, and if new people haven’t used that gear they’re not gonna get involved talking about it. There are a number of good skills articles but they get buried under either very broad beginner-level stuff (mostly what-do-you-buy) and hyper-specific comparisons. If there aren’t forum threads on campsite selection, knot skills, knife skills, packing skills, etc. new people are just going to try to find the articles they need if they exist or lurk.

    #3749434
    Jon Fong
    BPL Member

    @jonfong

    Locale: FLAT CAT GEAR

    IMO, Lurkers are lurkers for a reason: they are newbies to the site, may feel intimidated and do not want to ask questions that seem naïve.  That being said, we were all new to the site at one time.  There is a lot of core knowledge contained within BPL, and in many cases, it’s like drinking water from a firehose.

    To onboard them, I think that you need to provide an environment to appears inclusive and inviting.  My belief is that having them fill out a questionnaire about experience level and such does the absolute opposite for some people.  What would help would be easy access to information.  Yes, there are general categories, but many times, one must rely on searches.

    Thinking outside the box here, one thing that could help onboarding is creating a safe and friendly environment for newbies to the site.  What would be great is if you could create a group of mentors that when asked could provide some guidance or feedback.  For example, Roger is a great source of information about canister and liquid stoves.  I find David to be very pragmatic and logical about all sorts of things.  There are a number of people who know the Sierras extremely well.  For newbies to the site, having mentorship would be a way to get more involved.  Something like a forum labelled Backpacking for Dummies (if that is still an acceptable term).  And some key members to provide guidance.  Just a thought.

    And I know that this is extreme, but it would be great to be able to have an index of information/discussion in one spot rather than having to use the search engine.  Probably impossible with an existing database but it would be nice.

    #3749437
    matthew k
    Moderator

    @matthewkphx

    Wow. Thank you both for your in-depth responses. There is a lot to unpack from both of you.

    The idea of an index is interesting. It makes me think of some of Link’s responses that include carefully curated links to past articles. Those posts are very helpful. I am active on a design forum that has a person like Link that welcomes new people with a list of Must Read threads.

    I like the idea of mentors. Perhaps the Newbie Forum should be a safe place 100% free of any snark/sarcasm.

    #3749438
    matthew k
    Moderator

    @matthewkphx

    It occurs to me that newbies to BPL are probably not monolithic. Some may be new to backpacking, whereas others may be experienced but they hike with traditional, heavier gear.

    #3749472
    Jon Fong
    BPL Member

    @jonfong

    Locale: FLAT CAT GEAR

    I like the idea of mentors. Perhaps the Newbie Forum should be a safe place 100% free of any snark/sarcasm.

    We are talking about Backpackinglight, right?

    #3749477
    Todd T
    BPL Member

    @texasbb

    Locale: Pacific Northwest

    Forget trying to create safe spaces and such…it’s a fool’s errand.  Just get them talking.

    Bad Question:  Tell us about your kit.  What is your base weight and how does it change with the seasons?

    Good Question:  Do you like okra?

    #3749508
    MJ H
    BPL Member

    @mjh

    Best question: If you can fit it in your pocket, it’s worn weight and not counted, right?

    #3749542
    Arthur
    BPL Member

    @art-r

    There are a lot of assumptions here.  I suspect the web site can provide the correlations of the amount of contributions to the longevity of the members.  There might be a lot of people like me who have been around for a few years but don’t contribute much because I don’t have much to contribute that has not already been covered by much more experience hikers than me.  I do not make my own stoves or tents, sew my own backpacks, or do 6 month thru hikes.  But I love the info from those who do. I am a lot lighter, about where I want to be thanks to everyone here. So it might not be the new people, but just us old, dumb guys!

    #3749549
    Ryan Jordan
    Admin

    @ryan

    Locale: Central Rockies

    I lean towards optimism on this topic.

    While our forum has its share of gear nerds in it, and a (very) small handful of people who prioritize their need to share their opinion from a tree stump vs. listen to those around them, we generally have a very talented, generous, and helpful community.

    Anything we can do to engage new members and invite them to share in an environment that’s inclusive, positive, helpful, and generous will go a long way towards actually helping them achieve what they’re trying to do by being here – increasing their confidence in and enjoyment of the backcountry.

    Helping new people find joy in the wild seems like an opportunity, not a burden.

    #3749553
    David Sugeno
    BPL Member

    @davesugeno

    Locale: Central Texas

    Bad Question:  Tell us about your kit.  What is your base weight and how does it change with the seasons?

    Good Question:  Do you like okra?

    I pretty much agree.  I’m assuming Todd is referencing another forum, bpbasecamp, which we both frequent.  We have a “Trailhead Register”, which is ostensibly a place for new members to introduce themselves, but in practice functions more as a whatever you feel like talking about space.  We have a set of questions we often ask newcomers, including opinions on okra, beer, bacon, and kilts.  It’s kind of silly, but the point is relationship building, not how experienced you are.  Even though the backpacking content has waned in recent years, I stay active on that forum, not so much for the info, as for the community.  I think there is a lesson to be learned there.

    Helping new people find joy in the wild seems like an opportunity, not a burden.

    Totally.  I have benefitted immensely over the years from information I have receieved on this forum.  I think just about anyone who frequents BPL would say the same.  Most of us are motivated by the desire to pay that forward, however we can.

    #3749566
    matthew k
    Moderator

    @matthewkphx

    Thank you for the context regarding okra. That makes more sense now.

    #3749573
    rubmybelly!
    BPL Member

    @sleeping

    Locale: The Cascades

    My balance isn’t as good as it used to be, so hopefully I won’t fall of my tree stump before I finish this post…

    First off, stop using the term ‘newbie’.

    I agree with Jon that having new members fill out a questionnaire about experience level and such would be a bad way to start. There are folks who have been on here for quite some time who haven’t even filled out their own profile (I’m looking at you rubmybelly!).

    Perhaps you could just start a thread each month, and make it a sticky for a couple of weeks, inviting new members to say hello and such. Don’t use the same thread every month, start a new thread each month, so it won’t get too long or bogged down. You could put these threads in their own forum, new member forum as you already suggested.

    I don’t find the idea of mentors and such as necessary. I’d go as far as to say it seems to me a bit silly. Backpacking really isn’t some hard skill, regardless of how much the engineers want to try and make it so (sorry David T… :-). The folks that are always helpful, a small but vibrant group on BPL, will naturally gravitate to any new member forum to see if they can be helpful. Perhaps you could give those people a different designation (but not mentor! :-) than ‘BPL member’.

    As always, first impressions are everything. BPL hasn’t always given very good first impressions (I still remember the poor REI guy who got hammered for offering to help people here), you might have to pay a bit more attention to a new member forum to ensure the cantankerous don’t hold sway.

    #3749574
    matthew k
    Moderator

    @matthewkphx

    Ok, so I have heard several people now say a questionnaire/survey seems like a bad idea. The HST survey I linked to was mostly because I liked how clear it was, not the specific questions were applicable for here. I was thinking the survey would Be a conversation starter. A few potential questions:

    1. Approximately where do you live and where are you most interested in backpacking?
    2. What draws you to hiking and backpacking?
    3. Experience level (1= “I drove past REI once” 5= “I have been backpacking for decades”
    4. Nature’s most perfect food: Taco or Burrito?

    I didn’t share this list in my initial post because I didn’t want to pollute the process by sharing my ideas at the beginning. That may have been a tactical error.

    #3749575
    matthew k
    Moderator

    @matthewkphx

    So here is how I would have answered those questions back when I joined seven years ago:

    Approximately where do you live and where are you most interested in backpacking?

    I live in Phoenix, AZ. I have been backpacking in northeast AZ a few times and I’m preparing to hike in the Sierra Nevadas for the first time this summer.

    What draws you to hiking and backpacking?

    I started dayhiking on local desert trails when I graduated from grad school to get some exercise and give my brain a break. I discovered that I feel more present in the moment when hiking. I started car camping about six years ago with my kid’s Cub Scout pack and found that fun. I realized that hiking + camping = backpacking. It turned out I like it

    Experience level (1= “I drove past REI once” 5= “I have been backpacking for decades”

    Probably a 2? I can tie several knots and I know how to line a map up with a compass.

    Nature’s most perfect food: Taco or Burrito?

    Definitely tacos.

    #3749576
    matthew k
    Moderator

    @matthewkphx

    I think I would have felt included and welcomed with a survey like that, assuming some nice people responded.

    I think this type of survey gives the experienced people a little bit of material to respond to. The goal here is for new members to feel welcomed and safe.

    I do not think my list of questions has been optimized yet. I’d appreciate some ideas about other questions or how to refine the ones I have shared above. Thank you!

    #3749603
    Jon Fong
    BPL Member

    @jonfong

    Locale: FLAT CAT GEAR

    If you look at these questions, how do they benefit a new member?  It helps the responder gain insight but does not help them.  Given that you have an influx of new members and that you have some sort of database that records this, why don’t you send out a query as to thier motivation for joining the site?  What information are they looking for and how can BPL help them?  Most of the answers that you are currently getting are from long term members and that is not the audience that you are trying to address.  Go ask the people that you are trying to reach.  Even a 5% response will give you a lot of insight.  In my field, the term is known as “voice of the customer” and in this case, it is with new members.  My 2 cents.

     

    P.S. – in thinking about it more, aren’t you really talking about an onbording process?  If you think of it that way, there are probably processes / methodologies out there that could help.

    #3749604
    Andrew Marshall
    Moderator

    @andrewsmarshall

    Locale: Tahoe basin by way of the southern Appalachians

    I like the idea of a new member forum, and now that Matthew has elaborated a little bit, I like the idea of a few baseline questions to help get people started and give established members something to respond to.

    I’m a member of a very active and positive outdoor industry networking community, and new members are introducing themselves all the time. What makes it effective is not only that new members share some details about themselves, but that they have a concrete ask, a specific thing they are looking to do or achieve as a starting place. To that end, I would suggest adding to MK’s potential questions this – What’s one thing you’d like to learn? What’s one piece of gear you are looking to know more about? What’s a gap in your knowledge you’d like to fill? What are the kinds of stories you are interested in reading? Something along those lines. That would allow current members to share knowledge or make a recommendation to other threads/content,  and thus interact with new members in a positive way that has an immediate positive effect.

    It’s very important to me that Backpacking Light be a positive spot for people new to our sport, and that those of us with knowledge and skills present ourselves not as smarter/better/eye-rolly but as welcoming, friendly, and open to sharing. The beautiful thing about backpacking is that the sport itself, at its core, is so simple and accessible to most people. But established communities are not always accessible. It’s entirely possible to hew to the letter of the law when it comes to posting guidelines but still not present a welcome face. This is an area where I believe we have room for growth.

    It’s important because if people don’t feel welcome, they will go somewhere else – and the somewhere else may not have the depth of knowledge and experience that this community does. With all the new people flocking to the outdoors in the last few years, the single best thing we can do to ensure all of us are having a safe and enjoyable experience is to get everyone up to speed and operating with a shared sense of safety and responsibility. Being welcoming allows that to happen, and it lifts all of us up.

    #3749606
    matthew k
    Moderator

    @matthewkphx

    @jonfong – Good point that we can ask new members about their needs/interests and capture that in a database. That is worth considering. Still, my focus here at BPL is on this part of the community, the forums. The goal is to help create an environment where more of our new members feel welcomed into the forums. I’m biased: I like online forums. It seems safe to assume that you agree with me if you are reading this. And yes, we are talking about an onboarding process!


    @andrewsmarshall
    – Thank you for your thoughts. Agreed the goal here is to help new members feel welcomed and comfortable. I like the questions you have added:

    • What’s one thing you’d like to learn?
    • What’s one piece of gear you are looking to know more about?
    • What’s a gap in your knowledge you’d like to fill?
    • What are the kinds of stories you are interested in reading?

     

     

    #3749612
    Todd T
    BPL Member

    @texasbb

    Locale: Pacific Northwest

    That all sounds to me like “Glad you joined; now help us properly pigeonhole you.”

    The talkative ones will jump in on their own without any goading.

    Some are reluctant to jump in and participate because they don’t know what they’re getting into.  They don’t know the wizards from the trolls, the rules of the road, or where they’ll fit in the pecking order.  Better to just break the ice and get them participating without feeling like they’re going through an application process.

    My two cents.  And yes, I like okra.

    #3749626
    Jon Fong
    BPL Member

    @jonfong

    Locale: FLAT CAT GEAR

    You’re not worried about the talkative ones, mainly the wall flowers.  Matthew, maybe you can give us a sense of average enrollment per month?  The other question is can you track persistence? Are they active or one and done?  that could help size the magnitude.

    Okra is great in Gumbo as well as stir fried.

    #3749672
    matthew k
    Moderator

    @matthewkphx

    Some are reluctant to jump in and participate because they don’t know what they’re getting into.  They don’t know the wizards from the trolls, the rules of the road, or where they’ll fit in the pecking order.  Better to just break the ice and get them participating without feeling like they’re going through an application process.

    I took the liberty of bolding one of your lines, Todd. That is exactly our intent here. Your point about Okra (or my question about tacos vs burritos) is a friendly, silly question and I think that’s a great idea but I know that we’d like to encourage new folks to start talking about gear/technique right away too. It would be awesome if someone asks a question about stoves and a few nice/experienced people hop in with some helpful information or links about Moulder Strips or whatever.

    I’ve only tried Okra once or twice. It had an offputting slimy texture but my brother says it probably wasn’t made well.

    Jon, I’ll let Ryan pop in with statistics if he feels it is appropriate. It’s quite a bit more than I would have guessed.

    #3749688
    rubmybelly!
    BPL Member

    @sleeping

    Locale: The Cascades

    “That all sounds to me like “Glad you joined; now help us properly pigeonhole you.””

    Agree with Todd. I think asking new people how much experience they have could backfire and keep some lurkers lurking. First make them comfortable here, they’ll talk about gear and technique soon enough (if that’s what they come here for).

    #3749689
    Jon Fong
    BPL Member

    @jonfong

    Locale: FLAT CAT GEAR

    Jon, I’ll let Ryan pop in with statistics if he feels it is appropriate. It’s quite a bit more than I would have guessed.

    It helps because we don’t know the scope of the issue. If 100 people sign up a month and you never hear from them, that is a significant issue that probably needs to be addressed. If it’s 10, that is a different issue.

    Also, what draws people to different sites? I tend to look at four sites. I tend to find backpackingligt to be the most technical and a good amount of depth. That may also be why new member participation is low. I like Trek-Lite as it gives me a better understanding of people around the EU. Reddit is pretty hit and miss though I think that it is heavily moderated which to me borders on censorship.

    Backpackinglight – +20k members
    Reddit Ultralight – +5ook members
    Trek-Lite -3,500 members
    WhiteBlaze – 69K members

     

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