By on July 7, 2007

network2.jpgFor over two years, we’ve been telling Detroit to wake-up and smell the homily: everything either grows or dies. We’ve admonished them to adapt and evolve. This they haven’t done. The Truth About Cars (TTAC) will continue to chronicle this slow motion train wreck until the last car derails, and beyond. Meanwhile, we’d be hypocritical if we didn’t follow our own advice. The truth is: we’re not growing. So we’re about to shake things up. Again.

TTAC currently welcomes some 14k unique visitors per day. Our readers hang around for an average of four minutes, viewing an average of 2.63 pages, generating 1m page views per month. Other than a 10 percent increase in the number of new vs. “old” visitors, we’ve been generating the same stats for the last six months. Not to put too fine a point on it, we’ve flat-lined.

Our existing strategy: cater to the Google searchers by emphasizing car reviews while maintaining our base (that’s you) with a side order of editorials and comments. The current layout reflects this two-tier tactic, and we’ve been working hard to make it work.

On the newbie Googlista side, we’ve added TrueDelta’s most excellent shopping data and “stars and snarks” mini-reviews for thesaurus-challenged scanners. We’re also finishing negotiations with a car broker. When complete, the fully-independent broker (gotta maintain those brand values) will kick us back some real money– as opposed to the dribs and drabs of income provided by Google Analytics and AdTags.

On the hard core readers’ side, we’ve been posting one car review and an editorial on Monday, Wednesday and Friday; and then two editorials per day otherwise (with some exceptions). In the next couple of weeks, we’re returning to regular podcasts and entering the news blogging arena. We’ll split the difference between Autoblog’s mild-mannered and Jalopnik’s limited slip differential (LSD) approaches, and add some TTAC ‘tude and international coverage. 

While I’m delighted to offer these improvements, I realize that they’re minor tweaks to the existing recipe— which, in relative terms, is proving about as popular as chopped liver at a Hawaiian luau. Like GM, small changes to the status quo ain’t gonna cut the mustard. To survive and thrive, TTAC needs a genuine game changer: something insanely great to lift us above the competition (or at least away from it).

Unlike GM, TTAC doesn’t have 421 levels of bureaucracy and the kind of union grievance procedure that makes changing a light bulb a federal offense. So, within the bonds of decency and dollars, we’re free to reinvent ourselves. Ah, but how? 

My light bulb moment arrived via an email from an editor/writer with an enormous and well-deserved reputation in the automotive press. After praising the site, he drilled down to what made it unique: you. TTAC’s commentators’ literacy, insight and expertise blew him away.

After nursing my bruised ego, I gave his analysis some serious thought. And of course he’s right. We’re not TTAC. You are. Sure our writers’ in-yer-face prose is stimulating stuff. And yes our Draconian posting policy creates a safe haven for vigorous yet respectful debate. But your comments are what set TTAC apart from all the other automotive websites. We would be an empty shell without you.

And that means YOU are our future. So here’s what we’re going to do…

My team and I are going to turn TTAC into a social networking site. In other words, we’re going to give you a HUGE canvas upon which to paint. An ENORMOUS theme park in which to play. And it will be YOUR intellectual playground to build and explore. TTAC’s writers will still provide reviews, editorials and news. With your help, Frank and I will continue to turf out the flamers and trolls without fear or favor. But YOU will be in charge of TTAC’s destiny.

The new site will have user groups, forums, user generated blogs, live chat, webinars and webcasts, podcasts, event calendars, picture sharing, video sharing and who knows what else. Well, actually, Frank and I do. But for competitive reasons, we’re not specifying the platform or listing all the features. And anyway, it will evolve.

We’re building the foundations now. When we get closer to launch, in a month or less, I’ll invite you, our faithful subscribers, to wander around in the Beta version and claim your own piece of turf. I’ll ask you to tell us what does and doesn’t work.

TTAC will do everything in its power to make the new site the best place for automotive enthusiasts to gather on the entire World Wide Web. And keep it that way. Meanwhile, if you can give me some feedback on social networking sites you use— or hate— I’d be most appreciative.

They say the truth shall set you free. What the Hell; let’s give it a try.

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69 Comments on “TTAC to Become a Social Networking Site...”


  • avatar
    lprocter1982

    If you’re making a forum, I offer this nugget of advice: DO NOT USE CARTALK’S FORUM SOFTWARE!!!!
    I repeat, in case you didn’t hear the first time, DO NOT USE CARTALK’S FORUM SOFTWARE!!!!!

    However, forums I like include crownvic.net’s, and hyundai-forum.com isn’t too bad. Good luck with the improvements, may TTAC rule the web like Toyota does the roads.

  • avatar
    miked

    RF, sounds great to me. My main concern is that It will get too big for you and Frank to monitor effectively and then things will devolve into a big flame war.

    A model that I like is slashdot.org. They’re less of a social networking site than you’re after, but they’re big. They have (mostly) intelligent comments on the articles, and there’s a “Journal” section for users to have their own articles and comments sections. Plus the (trusted) user moderation keeps the trolls to a minimum.

    Maybe it would be good to go with a Jalopnik style invite-only membership, that would also keep the trolls down. You’re right, the best part of this site is the insightful commentary and if the user base grows too fast, I guarantee you that the insight to troll ratio will fall faster than GMT900 sales.

  • avatar
    johnannette1969

    this could be great lets go for it.

  • avatar
    qfrog

    Robert,

    I like some of the ideas you’ve laid out in particular the “user groups, forums, user generated blogs, live chat, webinars and webcasts, podcasts, event calendars, picture sharing, video sharing” I can totally dig TTAC forum discussion of soo many automotive related topics. Anyways, I’m sticking around (is that good or bad?) for the foreseeable future.

    Thanks

  • avatar
    zerofoo

    Take a look at slashdot. The format works very well. Please, do not become another myspace for car junkies.

  • avatar

    Thanks for the support.

    There can be no compromise on TTAC’s posting policy (no flaming the site, its authors or fellow commentators). None.

    Initially, in Beta, the new TTAC will be invite only, running in parallel with this one. Once we get a grip on the basics, we’ll throw open the gates to the barbarians.

    Frank and I will police. We will also delegate policing to other members of the TTAC team and the group leaders.

    We will also put a copy of the posting policy in ALL the relevant locations, with a link alert to us (or the group head) for policing.

    Again, it will be civilized or it will cease to be. You have my word on that.

  • avatar
    Rday

    I think it is a great idea. Please keep the shills off of the site. MT forum has been wrecked by the detroit shills/fanboys.

  • avatar
    ghenriksen

    Sounds like a good plan, Robert. I don’t understand the praise being heaped upon Slashdot; your plan of cherry-picking moderators sounds a route much more likely to preserve the unique feel of the site. Self-moderation systems seem to produce sycophantic popularity contests and group-think, censoring points of view rather than behavior.

  • avatar
    mike frederick

    good premise Robert,I think it will work out fine.Actually having or simply reading an intellegent post/editorial on the web is increasingly hard to do.Especially when one deals with the automotive spectrum,loyalties and opinions run deep.

    Anyway,you’ll do fine.

    Also Frank,you were correct 100 % on location of where Sliverados were/are manufactured.It might not ring a bell,its been a few weeks.Not all Sliverados are built in the U.S.I should’nt run my mouth sometimes.Again Frank–I hope you see this.I stand corrected.

  • avatar
    kansei

    Sounds great! Some more intelligent discussion would be a great addition to this site.

  • avatar
    Hippo

    Good luck, I’ll hang around and see what happens.
    Personally my only interest is the detailed dissection of the 2.something collapse, and it is the one thing that makes TTAC unique.
    I no longer have the interest in cars I had when I was younger and when needed gather my own impressions anyway, so the writeup on cars only interests me so much.

  • avatar
    AGR

    RF

    Great that you realise / admit that its the folks that comment that make this site unique and interesting. Its an exchange of views / opinions.

    Most people that comment are mature enough to agree to disagree which is good.

    There are so many blogs and opinion platforms that its very challenging to constantly gain momentum. Most people only have so much time, and most don’t spend too much time reading either. Often its the same people commenting on a regular basis.

    The other challenge is that the commenters have a good knowledge base which is positive it raises the level of “intelligence” of the site, but also a negative since it can intimidate.

    As a social networking site are you referring to something similar to Facebook or LinkedIn? This is the “big sandbox” with a myriad of “smaller sandboxes” that are “owned” by individuals.

  • avatar
    maxxm

    The suggestion is an excellent one that should enhance the otherwise sterling qualities of this site. The TTAC posters are a lively and enlightened crew with much to contribute. Describing the contemplated public launch as “throw[ing] open the gates to the barbarians,” however, is not necessarily the best way to characterize the quality or the anticipated offerings of the new participants TTAC would want to attract.

  • avatar
    AGR

    The comment box should be bigger, and with more utilities like in most forums.

  • avatar

    maxxm:

    Tongue firmly in cheek.

  • avatar
    oboylepr

    TTAC is as much a gottahaveit ‘fix’ for me as my morning coffee. As was mentioned before TTAC is unique in it’s coverage of the issues behind the scenes within the industry in general and the ‘domestics’ in particular. It is also unique in the absence of derogatory and profane comment. As I know that these things wont change I am all for the kind of improvements mentioned.
    BTW, if you are still looking for suitable forum layout, you might have a look at Airliners.net as it is pretty good. Keep up the awesome work!

  • avatar
    jerseydevil

    Good. I have enjoyed this site for a while now, and it is very cool to be able to talk back to the reviewer, and other posters. Lots of fun. Therefore I welcome a chance to do it more. Good luck!

  • avatar
    cyclopticgaze

    With respect to slashdot, I think the thing that it has always done best is its forum layout. The threaded nature allows different conversations to develop between users under the single content heading/blurb. The user-moderation has certainly promoted groupthink, but few other sites have a comment layout as effective as slashdot’s (even if it can be clunky). Slashdot’s journal and friends features are poor, in my opinion, though. A site like deviantart has better user page abilities, but that site revolves around user-created content.

  • avatar
    Shantanu

    The forum ideas sound great, and I’m sure the new layout will be just as addicting as the current one. But please, keep an option for a “classic” layout. It follows the iconic “KISS” strategy, and makes it easy to see all the latest articles. That said, I’m sure the new TTAC will be better than the last.

  • avatar
    NickR

    Dang, I thought my social networking you meant ‘dating’. Ah well.

    It’s a great idea, but seriously you are going to need site administrators to avoid flame wars. I have given up on many a site due to the flame wars, and even YouTube seems to produce idiotic post after post.

  • avatar
    mrcknievel

    I’m a caveman. I no nothing of your social networking and user created mini-blogs with interactive multimedia content.

    I’m used to simpler things like a well moderate forum that allows a fair amount of free communication in a structured environment. I just don’t want to log onto one of my favorite websites in the interverse and find a virtual Ford dealership assaulting my eyeballs.

    But I’ll follow you all anywhere..if you say the rough seas lead to paradise I’ll uh..do something productive with the jib while saying “Aye Aye Cap’n lead the way!”

  • avatar

    Huge leap – I wish you the best of luck with it. I enjoy the site as it is, but it’s not like you’re communists or anything, right? You have to grow and make some money.

    We have a small site (lots of them around) that we basically do out of affection for the subjects of cars and the car business, because it sure doesn’t make any money. As wrenching as it may be in the begiining, I think you’re doing the right thing in trying to change in order to grow.

    B Moore – Autosavant.net

  • avatar
    ihatetrees

    Best wishes toward the re-design. I don’t know what the appropriate model is – there are some good suggestions here.

    You’d think that the programming/behaviourist boffins at Google would have an app/system/algorithm to police trolling comments.

    Trusted/Logged in users (with consistent IP addresses) are allowed to flag suspect comments.
    IF such users’ ‘flagging’ is consistent with Farrago’s, he/she gets upgraded (eventually given the honorable Farrogo-Think Award)
    ELSE such a users’ flagging is downgraded or ignored.

  • avatar

    As always, Robert, it’s great to see innovative ideas and forward movement. That’s a big differentiator here as well.
    A caution on the forums idea though… there are hundreds if not thousands of them out on the web already. And no matter how good the intentions (or moderation) the great majority of them inevitably end up with a bunch of kiddies arguing and dominated by a clique of bigots with thousands of posts each (obviously having no other life – and certainly no real experience with whatever car is being discussed or the industry). And then the serious enthusiasts get burned out and stay away.
    So I’m looking forward to your ideas to keep this one adult, responsible, and fresh. There is definitely a need if you can pull this off.
    -Jeff
    http://www.DrivingEnthusiast.net

  • avatar

    I think this idea sounds awesome, best of luck RF. My only concern is mission creep, I don’t want to see the reviews and editorials I love so much pushed aside by the new social networking content.

  • avatar
    kazoomaloo

    Should be interesting, I’m looking forward to seeing what evolves. I like TTAC because of the real-world automotive focus (not reporting on concept cars or mods some dude made to his fiero in his garage) and informed industry analysis. If you can maintain that base and increase user participation, I think you’ll have a real winner. I’m with qfrog… sticking around for the foreseeable future.

  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    I only discovered TTAC a few weeks ago. I think a forum would be a great addition as it will allow readers to start topics of their own without having to respond to an editorial or review.

    May I suggest The Guardian Unlimited forum as a good model – very well organized and very readable.

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    This does sound great, although like NickR, when I read social networking I thought that everyone in TTAC-land had to date each other.

    Which doesn’t make a lot of sense. But if TTAC does go that way, I call dibs on Jay Shoemaker. I figure that if I have to go gay, I’d rather do it with a rich guy who will buy me a nice car, at least.

  • avatar
    GEMorris

    Robert:

    Anything Myspaceish is to be avoided, Facebookishness is always preferred to MS.

    Mini-Blogs are great, you can pick the best reader generated content and give it space alongside regular feature writers.

    Forums, No, no, no, no, no. Biggest time sinks and they attract the trolls you do not want. The mini blogs should let the authors police their own space and therefore cut down on your enforcement duties.

    Forums are so web 1.0 :)

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    Forums can work extremely well… and I’m sure the fellows you’re working already have a healthy background with it.

    On the auto broker side, these tend to work best at a regional scale. One broker for California, one in the Northwest, one for the Southwest, etc. If you ever have a need or desire to have one for the Southeast feel free to let me know.

  • avatar

    Robert, this sounds like a great idea, but I hope it doesn’t evolve into something like digg.com.

  • avatar
    Bill Wade

    As always, Robert, it’s great to see innovative ideas and forward movement. That’s a big differentiator here as well.
    A caution on the forums idea though… there are hundreds if not thousands of them out on the web already. And no matter how good the intentions (or moderation) the great majority of them inevitably end up with a bunch of kiddies arguing and dominated by a clique of bigots with thousands of posts each (obviously having no other life – and certainly no real experience with whatever car is being discussed or the industry). And then the serious enthusiasts get burned out and stay away.
    So I’m looking forward to your ideas to keep this one adult, responsible, and fresh. There is definitely a need if you can pull this off.
    -Jeff

    I’m a moderator on the web’s largest dirt bike forum. Jeff is exactly correct. It is extremely difficult to keep the trolls, shills and kids under control. One of our sections is the trucks and trailers forum. It’s a nightmare of the peeing Calvin Ford/Chevy/Dodge crowd. It’s taking some heavy handed efforts to try to clean it up.

    Please keep the editorial section as is and not fully integrate it with the forums. Many of us like the tight and incisive editorials and the commentary provided by a small but very perceptive group of enthusiasts.

    I feel as if I personally know some of these guys.

  • avatar
    Jeff in NH

    I second GEMorris’s suggestion; mini-blogs are a great idea, whereas fora should be avoided at all costs.

    I liken this approach to that taken in the arena of property rights – those who own property (analogous to mini-blogs in this instance) have a vested interest in good maintenance and care, whereas public lands (analogous to open fora) are vulnerable to the deprivations and occasionally malicious motives of whomever may visit.

  • avatar
    Nemphre

    It seems inevitable that as the site becomes more popular, we will get more fanboys or general goofballs who can’t type or form coherent thoughts. It has already started to happen a little bit. You might have noticed the influx of such people in recent 2 star reviews, such as the Mitsu Lancer review, which actually had to have some posts deleted. My guess is that someone posts a link to the review on a fan forum, and then all the fanboys have to jump in and ruin everything. A forum may become a breeding ground for such things.

    I think GEMorris may be on to something though. All registered users could have their own mini-ttac, where they could write reviews, editorials, etc, and other users could post feedback, just like we’re doing right now. The TTAC editors could then look at the blogs every weekend and pick out the good stuff to display on the main site. It’s like what your art teacher did in grade school.

    The questions I have about this idea: Are people really interested in seeing what Billy Joe has to say about the viability of hydrogen fuel cells, or the reasons why he likes the new Accord? Interested enough to dig a little to find his blog and then dig a little more to get through the posts about what he ate for dinner last night and how he got in a fight with his girlfriend? Also, when the site hits big time, would there just be too much content for the TTAC editors to sift though?

  • avatar
    confused1096

    Couple of things. Keep active at other car sites and blogs. I learned of TTAC and Jalopnik at the cars!cars!cars! blog. When something affects a particular enthusiast group drop a line at one or two of thier sites (if we, the readers, haven’t already done so). For example: During the TBAG awards a couple of us kept things stirred up at http://www.crownvic.net to get extra votes…not that it worked . But the upside? You gained a few new readers who, after voting, checked the site out, then posted thier thoughts.

    Also, for formats. Maxima.org is one of the best enthusiast forums going, the site is well laid out and doesn’t seem to have as many glitches as some, also not annoying to deal with like the cartalk site. Worth looking into.

  • avatar

    Checking out all the recommendations.

    I like the idea of NOT having a forum– at least until the rest of the bits are up and running.

    And I’m feeling you on the policing of the flamers and trolls. Job One. Got it.

  • avatar
    foobar

    Here’s a knee-jerk response to the idea.

    Everyone with a semi-popular Web site wants to turn it into “welcome to the social,” and Microsoft’s adoption of this gormless slogan is emblematic of the half-baked way most sites approach this, by thoughtlessly trying to duplicate Myspace’s features. I think that would be a losing proposition, and I hope that’s not the plan.

    What *could* work well here, I think, would be to stick with the same basic format (discussion focusing on the comments on editorials and reviews, not independent forums) while providing proven users with profile pages — and then *gradually* bulking up the features available on user profiles. Start with just “here’s a little about me,” and “view my past comments.” Then add “here are photos of my cars, and descriptions of them.” Then, slowly, add more: auto and parts classified ads on user pages, user mini-blogs on our own topics, ways to link to people interested in the same cars. Think of it like a Metafilter user-profile page — an accessory to participation in the site, rather than user networking being the core of the site. That way lies madness, or Livejournal (i.e. fragmentation of community into little interest groups, impossible to regulate, no feeling of the whole site talking to each other with a shared feel).

  • avatar
    miked

    Wow foobar, I just logged in because I thought of something to add to this discussion and you beat me to it. It would be nice to have some type of profile or bio page, and maybe even a microblog of personal rants that others can comment on. The reason I say this is that there are lots of actual experts who comment here and it would be nice to know who’s an expert in what so that we know who to believe. E.g. I know to believe NICKNICK when he says something about engineering because he’s an engineer. And I know to believe mikey when it comes to what the guys on the shop floor are dealing with because he’s there with them. I’d like to know what everyone’s expertise is.

  • avatar
    PerfectZero

    Sounds like some great ideas. I agree that the comments on here are always very insightful and informed, so having more user-generated content sounds like an awesome plan. I’d love to see webinars/webcasts from people with automotive background, especially on the technical side, for example.

  • avatar
    TreyV

    Hmm, something along the lines of the TTAC version of dailykos.com would be facinating. On kos, there’s a front page of posts that is controlled by Markos (the founder) and his team of promoted and trusted head bloggers. Each new front page post starts at the top and moves down the front page. There’s a mix of current events and deeper topics. Each post can be commented on by anyone after you’ve joined. But behind the front page is a teeming community of bloggers wth sub-communities and so on. Really good blogs can be suggested to higher ups or picked out by them for the front page. I suggest dailykos because it’s a wild, smashing success and meticulously moderated. TTAC classic is actually already half of this formula. What’s missing is the community behind the front page.

  • avatar
    TreyV

    No open forums. The heart of site is focused and educated discussion of cars. Anything that distracts from that doesn’t need to be here.

    Oh yes, hear hear for draconian moderation. The reason the discussion here is so intelligent is because the punks are quickly throw out in the back alley. They either shape up or soon get the hint. I was once warned and edited for mentioning the site in a review discussion. At the time I of course insulted but later realized the powerful logic of getting moderated: I wasn’t discussing cars, I was discussing the site. TTAC takes discussing cars so seriously that there are posts like this and others where Robert and Frank specifically blow the ref whistle so we can discuss the site.

  • avatar
    whitenose

    RF,

    arstechnica is the model you want to emulate. If you don’t do it, your competitors eventually will. The Ars forum software sucks, but the gestalt is the thing, and there is a genuine, large, and diverse enthusiast community there. The one big problem is that they don’t do enough policing.

    Another online community to consider: DailyKos. Ignore the (partisan political) content and just consider the structure of the information. It gives you an alternative, and I think superior, take on the Slashdot-style forum, and it does a much better job than Slashdot of weaving user journals into the flow of the site.

    Re: picture sharing, video sharing

    I cannot emphasize enough: bad idea. These are not your strengths. Leave them to Flickr and YouTube. Save yourself many headaches (for example, iPhone just came out — does your video technology work on it?). Spend time on really good, interconnected forum and journal software instead. Even if you’re buying well-supported technology from a third party, this is just headache after headache. Let users link to video and picture content. Just establish some ground rules for acceptable embedding.

    Slashdot

    Regarding the Slashdot moderation model: I have huge, troll-rating-proof, karma on Slashdot. Trust me when I say that you don’t want to emulate that model. It’s way too easy to game the system by writing a vast quantity of comments slanted toward the prejudices of the Slashdot majority. No, I don’t do that, but some do, and — once upon a time — I *did* sometimes edit my comments to make them less powerful/interesting when I knew I would otherwise get an unfavorable moderation.

    Jalopnik style invite-only membership

    Have you looked at the comments on your average Jalopnik post? I don’t think that’s the way to go.

  • avatar
    whitenose

    Oh, and another hearty “hear, hear” for Draconian moderation and policing. (I say this knowing I’m likely to be at least an occasional casualty of such).

    One of the very best online forums (strictly a forum, not a “social networking”/community site) is the Steve Hoffman audiophile forum. It’s _very_ strictly moderated, political/religious discussions are completely verboten. The signal/noise ratio is as high as it can be.

  • avatar
    bodayguy

    Not sure I understand the forum idea. Forums need a bit more of a niche than you can offer. I enjoy two forums for the cars I own, but I have no interest in reading a general car message board.

    And 14,000 hits a day ain’t good enough? That’s not bad.

    I think your snarky reviews and commentaries are the hook for this site. I can see some fun in having my own profile page, but I don’t see how you make money off that.

  • avatar
    nino

    I don’t think that I’m qualified to offer an opinion on this, but here goes anyway:

    TRUE car enthusiasts are small in number. While I understand that you want to bring in more people to the site, just increasing the traffic is no guarantee that the quality of the site will remain. As has already been pointed out, the site will open itself to many undesirable elements unless certain measures are taken upfront in the planning stage. Right off the bat, I would say NO to an open forum type arrangement.

    The other idea of allowing visitors to post pictures and such, I really don’t see the value in that. Do we need to see everybody’s “ride” here? Besides, there are other sites already set up where people can sooth their egos posting pics of their cars.

    The one suggestion that I really like is getting the experts that post comments to be given a forum, so to speak, to elaborate in their area of expertise. A perfect example would be to get an in-depth opinion of a car salesman to rebut some of the posts and comments made about car salesmen and maybe even offer advice. The same insight would be very useful from the many professionals that I know for sure share their comments here.

    In the end, I found nothing wrong with the way TTAC was before and I certainly don’t find anything wrong with the way TTAC is now. I would however be disappoited if TTAC became just another place where people argue about which car is the best and how they beat a Ferrari with their modded Yugo. I enjoy the articles that give an insight to the industry that isn’t readily available at other places. In my opinion, THIS IS WHAT MAKES THIS SITE UNIQUE. This is what should be the focus and what should be enhanced.

  • avatar
    shaker

    I used to inhabit the forums at somethingawful.com; they had “public” forums and “private” forums (which required a one-time $10 fee to join). Posters who flamed or trolled were “flagged” by members, and those that were deemed in violation were “banned” (i.e. their $10 was history) but could re-register. Repeated violators were “permabanned”, but some would re-register with a new e-mail address and username, but savvy members would eventually smoke them out. Still, the “10 bux” requirement tended to make trolling expensive — you’d be surprised at the civility of people on a forum that was essentially the Internet version of the “Wild West”. (and the requirement for the site owner and appointed moderators to stay on top 24/7!)
    That said, I’d suggest a “step-by-step” approach, as you’ll be able to see the point of “diminshing returns”.

  • avatar
    mistercopacetic

    I see the point you’re making, Nino. It seems Mr. Farago has goals that may be in conflict: preserving the core group of automotive enthusiasts by providing them a safe virtual haven, but also bringing more people into the fold. Personally, I would say it’s up to auto enthusiasts to spread the word amongst ourselves.

    Have you ever been to a really great restaurant, and wished they did more advertising so more people knew about it? Bad idea! Just tell your friends, then they tell their friends, etc. Each person spreading the word is their own filter.

    I support opening up the site more, but I can’t imagine how much filtering Mr. Farago has to do already in the comments sections alone, just to keep this site running. For my part, what keeps me coming back is the writing both above and below the fold, and the clean site design. But please, for the love of God, DON’T dumb down the editorials (or anything else) just to bring in more people!

  • avatar

    Hey I like chopped liver and TTAC but do as you must to grow the business.

  • avatar
    Blunozer

    I hear you guys on the whole “group-think” stuff. I was a moderator on ephatch.com (02-06 Civic Si). Although I had a lot of fun, there was definatly a shortage of new ideas and opinions and things just got stale after a while.

    Lookin’ forward to TTACSpace! (wink)

  • avatar
    MgoBLUE

    RF,

    You have my full support. As others have said, I need my coffee and my TTAC, so do what you gotta do.

    A few months ago I lost my Imus in the Morning — and I’m not adjusting well. Had somebody given me the option of losing Imus or paying ten bucks a month (even to the “victims”), I would have happily ponied up the Hamiltons. So let me be the first to suggest a premium membership fee (or whatever kind of fee makes sense). Maybe this is the way to keep the editorial section free of kids, bums and flamers.

    That said, I’m going to put my money where my mouth is and head over to the TTAC SWAG area today…cha-ching!

  • avatar
    Matthew Danda

    If it becomes a social networking site, my employer will ban it from the “approved” Web site lists. That means I won’t be able to participate during working hours. So my participation will decline severely–until I buy an iPhone and use it get around the corporate firewall. But that’s another story…..

  • avatar
    fallout11

    I happen to agree with Nino and Mistercopacetic, and see this as a bad idea…..
    Endless growth is a paradigm appropriate for terminal stage cancer or yeast, not a smart, savvy, prescient automotive editorial and review website. Dilution and over saturation will be the inevitable result, leaving TTAC an online cross between Myspace and “Car and Driver”. Blah!

  • avatar
    Caffiend

    I agree with the consensus that forums are a bad for for TTAC. Consider adding a comment rating system, up/down, as on reddit.com. Commenters could be rated based on a total of votes for the various submissions.

    Moderation would be usefull to maintain the high degree of usefull comments. A global delete of the First Post crap and other unrelated nonsense.

    Change is good.

  • avatar

    As stated above (hey! how about numbering the comments?), we’ll hold off on the forums.

    Your feedback has been MOST helpful. I’m thinking now of a phased introduction of features, so we can maintain quality when (to God’s ears) traffic increases.

    As long as I’m at the helm (and hopefully longer), TTAC will not descent to Myspace and/or Car&Driver levels to become editorial fluff and nonsense.

  • avatar
    greenb1ood

    RF: Glad to see you’re not resting on your laurels…how hypocritical would that be right?…and branching out into new areas of technology and interest.

    My 2 cents as someone who reads often, but comments little is to keep the sight focused on intelligent discourse.

    This would all but eliminate a typical forums section without vigorous 24/7 moderation. But there has to be another way to further elevate the TTAC experience…

    My suggestion is to make long term members who have shown their ability to be genuine and decent over a specific period of time (decided by your staff) in the article comments the sole community in the forums.

    I know this might acually eliminate myself as a founding member due to my lack of comments over my year or two of membership, but if you look back at all of them I doubt you’d find a single ‘flaming’ or ‘attack’.

    This smaller community would in essence police itself by notifying you of improper use, and it’s contents could be read-only for the rest of the internet so that non-members could educate themselves with the diverse, well thought out opinions of your readers.

    Achieving entry into the forum would be a reward for the kind of intelligent discourse TTAC promotes, and anyone who took the time to fake their way in would be quickly identified as fraud by the established members.

    What do you think?

  • avatar
    greenb1ood

    Additionally, you could congratulate the founding members with an editorial and post updates whenever new members are added. This way, the new members wouldn’t just show up, but be properly welcomed into a semi-exclusive club of auto bloggers.

    The more I think about it, the more I like this idea.

  • avatar

    idea for reducing bad behavior on forums: force people to sign in with their real names.

  • avatar
    greenb1ood

    David Holzman:
    While this is not a bad idea, it would be very difficult to enforce, plus it would not allow people like me who work in the industry to freely discuss some topics.

  • avatar
    beken

    TTAC has become one of my daily must-read sites and hope it continues on. However, I feel I must make comment about podcasts. They seem to be a rage right now but I was wondering if I was the only one to steer away from them. I find they take too long to listen through where I can speed read through some of the articles. Maybe if podcasts evolve to include indexing so I can listen only to parts that peak my interest.

    Anyways, just thought I would make a comment.

  • avatar
    Lumbergh21

    lprocter 1982:

    Whatever happened to Cartalks forum? I left it for a couple of months then came back and it had gone from poor to worse. I haven’t gone back since. I definitely agree that designing the new TTAC after Cartalk’s forum would be a bigggg mistake.

    The best forum that I go to is Stovebolt.com. Obviously not a general forum; it deals entirely with pre-1973 Chevy and GM trucks (the original in-line six developed by GM was known as a stovebolt engine). This site is a great example of how to police a forum. Once again, politics and religion are forbidden subjects no matter how reasoned or well mannered the discourse might be. It is annoying at times, but it does result in a pleasant site to go to both for technical assistance or just to shoot the bull in the “Off Topic” forum.

    Finally, I would also like to complement the literacy of the people on this forum. Since it was brought up by a previous poster, I’ll second the hope that this site never sinks to the level of every other site I’ve seen on the internet where half of the posts are difficult or impossible to read due to all of the abbreviations and misspellings of the most common words. What’s doubly impressive is that this high standard exists in an arena with nearly nonexistent editing functions.

  • avatar
    Terry Parkhurst

    I agree with David one hundred percent: have people use their real names. That is what newspapers have done for years, and the same too for (print) magazines. In regards to the latter, sometimes names and addresses are withheld; and in the cases of people working for a company, who might loose their jobs over their comments, exceptions can be made.

    However, the noxious practice of allowing people to creat “handles” for use on comments sections, really allows for some rants that would never get published; just look at some of the stuff appearing on “newspaper” web sites.

    If a person knows that the name they go by is going to be posted, they’ll consider their words more carefully. Besides, in terms of making a social networking site, it becomes easier to link up with someone who might be going to the same auto related event you are; and to get hold of them via the phone book. (Which people who have seen something I had published have done, and it’s almost always welcomed.)

  • avatar
    -TC-

    ghenriksen:
    July 7th, 2007 at 11:50 am

    Sounds like a good plan, Robert. I don’t understand the praise being heaped upon Slashdot; your plan of cherry-picking moderators sounds a route much more likely to preserve the unique feel of the site. Self-moderation systems seem to produce sycophantic popularity contests and group-think, censoring points of view rather than behavior.

    I agree most heartily with the above. I’ve used this same structure on other sites and it seems to work the best overall.

    Good luck.

  • avatar
    EJ

    With a ‘forum’ format people could create their own mini-editorials with corresponding discussion threads. That would be fun.

    Policing proper manners and preventing ‘junk’ content and endless irrelevant banter are essential to keep the place livable, though.

  • avatar
    mastermik

    well, social network sounds good. specially a forum, b/c now we have to wait for one of your writers to initiate discussion through a review or editorial. As far as design, I just want it to be clean: more facebook than myspace.

  • avatar
    mastermik

    Also, get JL to write reviews again.

  • avatar
    shaker

    I get a “warm fuzzy” when I google my real name, and come up with references to others who share it, but nothing personal. In these days of ID theft, I’d prefer to keep it that way.

  • avatar
    murphysamber

    Robert,

    Would you mind doing that speech in front of a large american flag? I feel compelled to chase Rommel all the way to the sea for some reason.

  • avatar
    seths

    Hey Robert,
    Great to meet you and your daughter yesterday. Cool site! Hope to catch you around Prov. sometime soon.
    Cheers,
    Seth

  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    “idea for reducing bad behavior on forums: force people to sign in with their real names.”

    Good idea.

    – John Smith.

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