Home – New Forums Tell me straight… What is the Flying Solo Platform Really About Now?

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  • #995303
    Warren Cottis
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    A zillion posts on… perhaps a slight exaggeration but there seems to be some predominant Categories…

    People with Dreams

    People in Trouble financially

    People with immediate day to day issues

    And People flowing through constantly looking for something… but not regularly participating and contributing

    If you are a newbie here you’ll think the information is Amazing and It Is!

    But if you are an Old Hand here… you know that a lot of Smart People have been here and contributed wonderfully but have moved on.

    If that happens… then how does “the quality of information to Newbies” have continued Substance… let’s face it… Everyone is an Expert on the Internet… but if good people move on then you don’t easily see their previous Like rating and so their value is harder to find and Lost in the Smoke.

    So Old Hands and FS Team and indeed Newbies… how should this Forum be more Robust and Quality Value delivered and driven ongoing?

    #1201038
    James Millar
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    Warren this is actually a really great post and something we have been discussing in my office. It will certainly resonate with anyone that has contributed here for several years.

    Personally I have noticed the same trends you have outlined and frankly this appears to have led to a decline in the quality of the contributors and dialogue. There have been some great debates on this forum over the years and many great minds have contributed in different ways but too many have moved on.

    I think there are many reasons people read and contribute to this forum. From an adviser’s perspective we (my firm) like to demonstrate our expertise and our commitment too Australian small and micro businesses. So contributing and answering questions is a good way of doing just that. We have provided thousands of dollars of technical advice on this forum over the years (probably tens of thousands) and I’m pleased to say that we have also generated some good business in return. So in many ways a win win.

    However, I think that the forum needs some reinvention. There is no doubt it’s the number one spot for general online dialogue for small business. However, if the quality continues to slide then how long will that last. It starts when good people stop contributing. Then casual visitors notice that and are less inclined to post questions because the answers are either not forthcoming or clearly off the mark (of no value). So the spiral begins in the wrong direction. Has that started?

    For one thing, I feel the forum needs to reconsider its policies with regard to what constitutes reasonable commercial representation and marketing. I have seen instances where moderators have acted very strictly on any form of self-promotion – even where a poster has asked for a solution that they provided. These were not spam / unsolicited selling and not counterproductive to anything I could see. And yet forum police appeared to give little consideration to the context.

    The rules are the rules but perhaps there should be some left field thinking applied to better facilitate commercial activity. It would make the forum far more attractive to contributors which in turn would probably improve the quality of the solutions and dialogue. Ideas such as

    1. A commercial section that was less restrictive on self-promotion.
    2. A contributor ranking system that recognised valuable contributions and rewarded them with different policies on marketing and promotion
    3. A better commercial paid advertising platform that was only accessible to certain contributors / members. It might be technically hard to build an advertising interface but it might be a good investment.

    These are just ideas. I know there are some switched on people that own this forum and no doubt they have considered or are considering some of these items and the condition of the forum.

    Anyway I think this is a great post and a timely reminder that there is no such thing as standing still and doing the same thing you did yesterday just because it worked then.

    Just my two cents. Note if this is deleted or I am banned for these comments I would not be at all surprised. I have probably broken subsection 4-234(b)(2)(ii) of the forum guidelines.

    Helping build better businesses and better lives with expert financial and taxation advice. info@360partners.com.au www.360partners.com.au 03 9005 4900
    #1201040
    Greg_M
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    I no longer spend a major portion of my day online, so for me posting here has become less common, but I think Warren has made some good points.

    I suspect that my old mate “political correctness” has taken the edge off the debates that used to occur here. The fact this post has had only one seriously considered reply and very few “views” indicates to me there’s “no one out there that cares” (with the few notable regulars excused).

    FS is a great resource, how you strengthen it, i.e. bring back regular talent and input, I’m not sure.

    A personal opinion only, but the odd bit of “biffo” used the get everyone going (but please not SEO) and bring out some good info and keep us all entertained.

    Cheers

    #1201041
    Divert To Mobile
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    I was a postaholic a few years back and enjoyed reading the heated debates on SEO and generous contributions on every imaginable topic from the regulars. I have recently come back to find a ghost town.

    #1201042
    sam_leader
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    • Total posts: 660
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    Hi Warren, James, Greg, Steve and all,

    Thanks for such a thoughtful post and responses. With some 5000+ posts just between you guys it’s certainly a combined voice of experience and as you’d expect, we have our own insights to add!

    Online communities including forums and social media platforms are ever-evolving and this year, we’ve observed yet more changes both within Flying Solo and elsewhere.

    These forums have always gone in quieter/active cycles over the last six years, and will continue to do so moving forward: faces change as people move through different cycles of their business. Then there is the rise of social media (Facebook in particular) and some of the banter and social connection will have moved from here to these platforms, as well as to our article discussions.

    So while this fragments discussion across the FS community platforms, forums still have a valuable place for more in-depth (and slower) discussions and advice. It’s true that the old SEO biffos were legendary and lively, but they could also intimidate people looking for a friendlier vibe and it’s a priority for us to uphold and maintain that :)

    With regards the extent of moderation, particularly around the grey area of self-promo, we don’t always get it bang on but we do our best to be even handed!

    The pace of change shows no signs of slowing down, but we remain fully committed to this forum, making ongoing revisions and maintaining them as a valuable resource for new and experienced soloists. That relies on making it a place that attracts all types to get a wide range of topics.

    Re-invention is just part of the new normal for all business owners these days – us included.

    Thanks again for raising and discussing this topic and we’re very open to ideas and suggestions on topics, sections, guidelines etc so keep it coming… we’re taking notes!!!

    Sam on behalf of myself, Peter & Robert

    #1201044
    Robert Gerrish
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    What a great discussion. I’m in Malaysia at the moment with a group of 100 + bookkeepers and it’s been rewarding to hear how many have gained support, connections and referrals through these very forums.

    Indeed the person who introduced me to this conference group credits our community for giving her the confidence to get started in the first place.

    I have to agree with Sam’s sentiments and while the online world becomes more and more fragmented, the measure of our platform’s value is much more aligned to quality than quantity.

    With discussions like these, that always nudge us to be better hopefully we’ll keep seeing an increase in both metrics!

    Robert :)

    #1201045
    Warren Cottis
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    Hi Sam & Robert

    Do you have a re-activation process for those smart people who have moved on?

    I wonder if many moved on because they ultimately didn’t feel appreciated for what they contributed… notwithstanding that they originally did it because they wanted to help.

    If you never followed them up well…

    #1201046
    Robert Gerrish
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    Hi Warren

    We certainly don’t have any automated follow up of lapsed forumites, save for the constant notes we all receive when subscribed to threads. That said, we have developed a close rapport with many regulars over the years – and I hope you might recognise yourself in this category – and we do receive numerous notes and messages when someone chooses to withdraw or pull back slightly.

    Since we started all those years ago, I certainly recall many who have evolved in their businesses and have either been unable or unmotivated to keep up a regular presence. Such is the passage of business, wouldn’t you agree?

    When I think of the analogy that was used a few years ago between a good forum, and a pub or café, I do feel that such a parallel exists, and in my own life I have certainly moved around from time to time – doing more of one thing at the cost of another.

    I’m not doubting that we can’t all do more to make the forums welcoming and valuable, but I certainly don’t view anything as broken.

    Robert :)

    #1201047
    talart
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    It has been interesting reading the selection of “operating a business” comments on a wide variety of topics. Then to have the “forum society” comments as this post is. I was taken to my experience with iseekgolf a forum I joined way back in 2010. There was the same forum society comments put forward there. A splinter group formed called OzGolf and the two are still around.

    iseekgolf evolved with the improvement of the website. Including a commercial forum for golfers to sell personal equipment not open for businesses and members had to have made a certain number of posts ie 20 that were relevant and contributed to the site. The long term members would at times mention the movement and absence of posters from the forum.

    In fact now having achieved many of my golfing goals I am an infrequent poster there now, where as I had an almost daily contribution over 2-3 years.

    Flying Solo is not broken. It is is the digital malaise of users needing to be encouraged and inspired to be active. Combined with the obvious of members being busy working using what they gleaned here and the current forums are no longer relevant to be active in.

    There is lots that I have not read or visited here yet so I cannot make any informed observations about the site relevance and content.

    #1201048
    bb1
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    It’s interesting but in the short time I have being lurking around here, this subject seems to come up every 4 or 5 months or so, as it does on another forum I am now an infrequent visitor to.

    And from what I can tell it generally comes up after some controversy, about deleted posts or some other thing that the poster isn’t happy with, so instead of just moving on with life, its decided there must be an issue with the forum, or the forum rules, or how likes are treated. In fact the last time this came up Likes for also mentioned.

    People come and go, I drop in and out of my industry forum on a regular basis, work overtakes it, or just over answering the same questions all the time. Or just forget about it for a while.

    But I often look here at the users, it is not unusual to see only 8 members signed in but 200 guests (not the robots), so sure it looks like a ghost town, but also take a look at what threads those guests are reading, and some are years old, some are current, so they are I assume still getting valuable information. Also some of those guests may be members just not signed in.

    I don’t think something is broken just because we don’t agree with admins policies, gee I have had some deleted which I don’t agree with, but have moved on with life.

    Have a look at what lays under what you see, and this is still a bubbling forum with heaps of valuable information.

    #1201049
    James Millar
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    From the comments above it seems there are a combination of factors being natural evolution of users, evolution of information in general and perhaps some issues with the treatment of contributors / users (whether there being any mistreatment is another debate. I’ve made my position clear on that one. Has it been for maintaining PC in the pub? Maybe avoiding controversy is the cornerstone of a forum but we encourage it in our office and it works more than it doesn’t).

    Whether the forum is broken (or not) is probably the wrong way of looking at it. That would suggest restoring to a former “better” condition is the preferred course of action and that’s a step back in time. I think it could do with a dose of change and what that looks like depends ultimately on the objectives of the owners. Is the forum a business (for profit) or is it a community social service with less regard for monetisation? If it’s the former then re-invention with the view of generating revenue from users, contributors, advertisers would be the immediate focus. If it’s the latter then stick with the current, keep the strict ground rules, have a range of banter and transient users / contributors. See where that goes. Different paths with different goals.

    I personally favour monetisation because at the very least it provides resources to innovate, develop and still provide a social benefit.

    Helping build better businesses and better lives with expert financial and taxation advice. info@360partners.com.au www.360partners.com.au 03 9005 4900
    #1201050
    bb1
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    Just another reason commercialisation of the forum needs to be approached very carefully, is you will end up with what has just happened, but often happens here. Someone finds the forum and suddenly starts with the hit me up, I am the best, here’s my website and phone number, I will help you.

    Just now I have seen 7 posts from the same person, all aiming at the same end, they have no intention of contributing, just using it as a sales platform, if this kind of stuff is allowed (admins are generally onto them), generically, than you will see the forum crash and burn, because why would anyone come here.

    #1201051
    James Millar
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    bb1, post: 238434, member: 53375 wrote:
    Just another reason commercialisation of the forum needs to be approached very carefully, is you will end up with what has just happened, but often happens here. Someone finds the forum and suddenly starts with the hit me up, I am the best, here’s my website and phone number, I will help you.

    Just now I have seen 7 posts from the same person, all aiming at the same end, they have no intention of contributing, just using it as a sales platform, if this kind of stuff is allowed (admins are generally onto them), generically, than you will see the forum crash and burn, because why would anyone come here.

    True which is why some form of ranking system may work. Give back to those that give out and reward long term contributions.

    Helping build better businesses and better lives with expert financial and taxation advice. info@360partners.com.au www.360partners.com.au 03 9005 4900
    #1201052
    Warren Cottis
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    I just reread my OP and I don’t believe I said the Forum is Broken.

    I was asking how the collective “we” can make it even better.

    Perhaps the word “should’ would have been better as “could” in the ending?

    I also want to say that I have never been offended personally in any way by how the Forum is moderated.

    Overall, the FS Team do an outstanding job and I don’t want my OP misconstrued. If the Forum Is What It Is… then so be it.

    #1201053
    Peter – FS Administrator
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    Hi Warren,

    Thanks for the clarification and kind words. We definitely saw your post as constructive and positive feedback as usual, and always welcome it as it helps us continue to evolve.

    There’s no doubt that we could and should and will keep doing more to make these forums and community more valuable.

    In terms of the moderation question, striking a balance has always been a fine line since we started. I’ve been involved for several years and still don’t quite know where the line is between…

    • Friendly v controversial
    • Helpful suggestions v self-promo
    • Robust debate v public disputes
    • Leeway for legendary regulars v consistent rules for everyone

    It’s that grey area I feel like I keep falling knee deep into :) That’s when not treading on toes! One thing is that online discussions left totally unmoderated tend to become unproductive.

    I agree that the idea of providing a platform for valued members to network and promote is a great one. While we’ve seen many examples showing that Flying Solo does actually give regular contributors this sort of credibility/exposure organically (as a byproduct of valued contributions), trying to accelerate and formalise this currency is where the execution always gets tricky. We’re open to ideas of course!

    More generally, the wisdom of the crowd with discussions like this will give us the answers we need to keep evolving – there’s no option to stand still for any of us. As Ben Lee would say “We’re all in this together.”

    Thanks again :)
    Peter

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