In the past year or so I set out to explore what we members could do to improve interest and participation in the forum. This blog is a discussion of some of those initiatives. In total these activities took quite a bit of thought and effort so I wanted to evaluate them as a whole collection to determine if they were worthwhile or making a difference.
I'll start with a poll that investigated road test fears:
This poll indicated that about 20% of respondents don't apply for road tests because they feel they can't provide a good enough road test. We could speculate about why they feel this way, but the bottom line is that it might be possible to increase road test participation by 20% if the underlying issued could be addressed. Maybe some simple road tests strictly for neophytes would encourage more participation and build confidence.
This was followed by a blog that explored what it takes to write a successful element14 road test proposal:
This was intended to help members write more successful proposals. Of course activities like this could provide stiffer competition for my own proposals, but forcing me to figure out how to write better proposals isn't such a bad thing.
I also suggested a way to make projects less daunting by having a tutorial phase:
Then there was a poll to figure out how members preferred to learn – this was aimed at providing insight into how educational material should be presented to reach a wider audience:
Next I asked about members' plans for electronics projects to get a feel for what types of project would appeal to a wide audience or even a specialized audience:
Then I mixed in a query about having an element14 party to see if face-to-face interaction was desirable:
I also wanted to know what members wanted in the way of electronic instrumentation to provide insight into their motivations:
I then tried entering a a design challenge with a partner to see if project collaboration was a feasible way to boost participation:
You can see we did a lot of work and collaborative participation was achieved, but it was very difficult to successfully complete the project, despite producing over 20 blogs.
Another query I had was about the seasonal nature of maker activity to find out if there was a point to structuring element14 projects around the seasons:
I also tried to inspire members to get excited about their tools:
This turned out to be a pretty passionate subject for a wide cross section of members.
I suggested adding 7 new Top Members to encourage deeper participation but the blog is in the Top Member area.
I ran a poll to find out if it was acceptable to re-enter older projects in new contests to see if we could make it easier to enter contests:
I also asked members to talk about their weirdest tools to explore the tool topic further:
I explored yet another idea in a poll – would members build a project from a kit?
This might lower the bar for those who have less confidence in their abilities.
I wanted a bit more insight into why most technical people do not participate on element14 to see if insight could be gleaned about this vast untapped potential participation pool:
The comments did yield some interesting insights into some of the reasons and once identified, maybe something can be done to reduce reasons like intimidation.
Coming from another angle I wanted to explore deterrents to participation:
There were lots more interesting comments, but I still showed about 20% aren't confident enough in their abilities to make an impressive blog for the world to see. Maybe an editor/mentor service by experienced members could help polish blogs and reduce concerns.
And one more poll on what instrumentation members prefer, again looking at motives to see what would really get the attention of the members:
Oscilloscopes always rank high in these types of polls.
And I ended up with one more collaboration initiative on a road test project:
Whether it is a design challenge or a road test, collaboration is tough to do well, even with good partners.
All this activity has provided some insight into member preferences. I only put a couple of conclusions above, because the data is not definitive and members can have a look and come to their own conclusions, but this whole topic seems to be relatively popular as all of this activity has seen good member participation. One of these activities got over 23,000 views and my first collaboration project got over 26,000 views:
In addition to these activities, I make an effort to contribute ideas whenever new ideas are solicited for projects or forum activities, partly with the hope of sparking interest among members. I'm not sure if all this activity was enough to give away my curiosity in this area, but it does show you can explore other things with this forum than purely technical topics. However I am curious about a lot of things. I have a new background somewhat non-technical project vaguely planned for this year, but it is not ready for blogging yet. This little hint is partly a reminder to me to work on it if I happen to see this in a few months.