Lumbering Jack asked this on the old boards:

" In what respect(s) do you think this site's failure to "keep up" has hurt us, and how will the new site address these perceived problems?

{I'll admit my bias, here. My wife has recently become addicted to Facebook (mostly for purposes of playing Pet Society). All I can see from my exposure to that "social networking" site is a vast sea of people, bound together by nothing more than vague chains of acquaintance, twitteringTM on about nothing in particular.}"

I answered him there, but I figured I'd cross post over here as well. Keep in mind that this is only my opinion.

I don't think any of our regulars are leaving because we haven't switched formats, but I truly believe that we not gaining any ground and that a good part of the reason is because a simple message board is not what newer users are looking for.

This year I'm not a regular classroom teacher. I'm the technology coach for my high school and my job is to help teachers effectively incorporate new technologies into their lesson planning in order get the students to higher levels of critical thinking. I've had to do a lot of research, and I started a grad program this Spring specializing in 21st century teaching skills. It's really opened my eyes to what's going on in our society.

One of the biggest revelations to me was that the old notion that we have X-number of brain cells and we'll never have more is wrong. Our brains do continue to grow and change based on external stimulus throughout our lives. What this means to young people is that due to computers and other forms of technology, their brains are actually formed differently than people of our (about age 30 and up) generation. Where we are hardwired to accept information in a linear, chronological fashion. Younger people are hardwired to accept information in a more "random access" manner. This is such a pronounced difference that experts have coined a couple of terms to describe the difference. "Digital Natives" are people who have been hardwired to accept information based on the way it is accessed through technology. Those who are geared towards linear informational access are called "Digital Immigrants." I'll use these terms now because it seems less patronizing than "old folks" and "young people." :)

Digital Natives can multitask far better than most Immigrants can. This is why sites like Facebook and MySpace look so "busy" to Immigrants. There IS a lot going on, but that's how the Natives process the information. Looking at a simple message board to many if not most of them would be like watching the hour hand on a clock move.

And it will only get more pronounced as time moves on. It's a cliche to say that it's incredible how quickly things change, but it is. For example, guess what percentage of students in an average high school have email addresses?

Answer: 35%

Does that stun you because you were expecting it to be higher? It did me when I found it out. The reason it's so low is because digital natives consider email to be the "old way" of electronic communication. I had to make my daughter get an email account as she prepares to go to college. Heck, I'll bet all the immigrants here know of at least one person their own age who considers email to be too new-fangled for them. The natives have picked up email, sniffed it, and tossed it aside.

And here we are using a format that's over ten years old. In technological terms that's pre-Cambrian.

That's my rationale for pushing for the change. Whether you agree with it or not, I hope that it clarifies where I stand a little.

Views: 153

Comment by Captain Comics on May 27, 2009 at 2:36pm
I've also been pushing for blog capacity, for vague reasons that Rich explained much more articulately.

I could feel the earth moving under my feet. Blogging is where everybody's going, which not only allows for a much more immediate and satisfying interaction between writer and reader, but also requires almost no knowledge of CSS, XHTML, and whatever comes next. I knew that blogging formats were the future, and message boards like ours -- static, difficult to navigate, limited in tools, regimented by category -- were the past.

I could feel this, but I had no hard facts to back it up. Fortunately, Rich supplied those. Also, our community has become fairly set in size -- there was a time when we'd pick up 10 or so new member a week. Now, new members are fairly rare.

In short, we need to keep up with the times, or risk the dustbin of history. We're not in danger of that -- but I don't want to wait until we are.
Comment by Joan Carr on May 27, 2009 at 3:48pm
I love the new site! I recently became addicted to Facebook, so much so that the Captain has had to tell me "Put down the laptop!" I think I'll check out this site a lot more often than the old message board!
Comment by Travis Herrick (Modular Mod) on May 27, 2009 at 3:55pm
"In short, we need to keep up with the times, or risk the dustbin of history. We're not in danger of that -- but I don't want to wait until we are."

Right, because if you wait until then it will be too late anyway.

I enjoy the new site, but I am kind of a go with the flow kind of guy. It will take some getting used to, but doesn't everything?
Comment by Captain Comics on May 27, 2009 at 5:09pm
That's a great attitude, Travis. I know it will be hard for many to adjust, and I'm sympathetic -- I'm in the cohort (Baby Boomers) that are the only demographic that's shrinking on social-network sites (according to new figures). So if this cranky old coot can keep up with all this new-fangled stuff you kids today are up to, anybody can!

Besides, it's not the first time we've moved. Now I've got to archive my old columns again. It's like buying the White Album ...
Comment by Rich Lane on May 27, 2009 at 5:13pm
Digital Immigrants may never be as comfortable being immersed in tech as the digital natives, but don't forget when it comes to old style natives and immigrants, oftentimes the immigrants end up speaking the adopted language more clearly and concisely than the natives. :)
Comment by Pat Lane on May 27, 2009 at 5:24pm
I'm enjoying this. Easy to navigate. Nice layout. Thumbs up!
Comment by Mark Sullivan (Vertiginous Mod) on May 27, 2009 at 5:28pm
I'm a Baby Boomer, too, and I'm very comfortable with the original board, because I've used them for years. But I like the new interactive features a lot, too. I've actually reconnected with lots of old friends from high school and college on you couldn't prove that shrinking demographic by my experience.
Comment by Eric Chown on May 27, 2009 at 9:41pm
Out of curiosity what would the right size be for this? There is a tension between having enough members to make things feel alive and vibrant and so many that you spend most of your time dealing with the noise.
Comment by Don Collett on May 27, 2009 at 11:37pm
Country music legend Buck Owens was once quoted as saying, "If you're standing still, you're losing ground". I think now is a good time to "re-imagine" the site as something bigger and better. The layout and navigation, while different from the old site, still work very well. The addition of many other features will give us a great shot in the arm, and hopefully draw even more attention to the greatest comics and pop-culture site on the web.

To Eric: I don't think size is a worry from the end-users point of view. (I can't really speak for the mods on that, since I'm not one.) A person may have dozens (or more) friends on Facebook, for example, but I guarantee ya they interact the most with only about 20 percent of the folks on their friend list. There's certainly a possibility for cliques to form, but I think this community is big enough to welcome many more people. I say bring 'em on!
Comment by the_original_b_dog on May 28, 2009 at 12:49am
By the way, I still can't get over that 35 percent figure. I've been trying to rationalize it all day. I like old-style message boards a lot; it's like they speak my language. And I wonder how long it will take me to feel comfortable navigating the many mini-sections here. But I feel I need to keep up -- even though I now wonder how far behind I truly am!


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