Ship Spotting World is going online

26 06 2010

Yes, we’ve gained the server horsepower to add a new wiki for Ship Yacht and Boat fans everywhere.  We are loading under licence from Wikipedia, a selection of relevant articles to get the place started.

Drop by and see Ship Spotting World

We are getting there – We have a community!

20 12 2007

It takes time for a community to start.  We’ve a small and loyal community now, which is great.  It’s a demanding community and it is learning self sufficiency – a great and desirable trait.

We’re having to make sure that any processes that get put in place are hugely simplified from any counterparts at Wikipedia – it’s a great model, but hugely complex and full of red tape!

We have lively discussions, requests for enhancements, and folks taking personal responsibility.  That’s what a wiki is all about!

Fan Fiction area

6 10 2007

After a while you bow to pressure.  So we have.  We’ve created a whole area for Fan Fiction.  Primarily we expect this to be Thomas The Tank Engine material, but who knows what other areas we’ll attract

The challenges of building a community

10 04 2007

The only way of building a community is to keep promoting it until evangelists arrive and take it over.  The difficulty is finding the evangelists without people thinking you are spamming, or trying to muscle in on their world.

Early on I joined as many railfan email groups as I could find in order to  let members know about us.  There were no false pretences.  I asked each moderator if I could promote the site and all agreed.

Even so the promotion is an uphill struggle.  People still see us as competitive when we are an extra resource to be used.  I’m not sure how to conquer that.

Promotion and expansion

20 03 2007

I’ve been concentrating on Train Spotting World with promotions.  I think it’s mainly because it came first.  It’s also by far the largest spotting or fan community worldwide for large pieces of hardware.

While I’ve been doing that, Bernd has been tuning the  advertising that funds us to be more relevant and actually add value to the pages rather than just generate a few cents per click.

We’re in pretty good shape, performance-wise, too, now.  We’ve discovered that every little tweak of a software settings file  empties all the database caches.  That’s not particularly helpful, especially during the setup phase, so we’ve disabled that element.

This means I can start to concentrate on promoting Planes.  I’ve done some already, but it is also interesting to see how it develops under “Google Power”.  Planes is just under half the size of Trains, so will feature less well in Google.  It also came later, so is taking what feels like ages to be spidered.  In reality, of course, it is taking the usual length of time any new site takes.

Development of Community

17 03 2007

I should know this already.  Communities take time to build, and they need evangelists and builders.  Find two or three of these and the on-line community is assured.  In my heart I knew it.  I think I’m just impatiently wondering when it will happen; after all, we’re over a month old!

What I didn’t realise is that there would be resistance  to the project.  In truth that should not have surprised me at all, but my enthusiasm was larger than my realisation.  Wikis can be terrifying, and I think we have one or two people terrified and one who started preaching against.

I find wikis easy, but maybe that’s because I’ve been playing on Wikipedia for a fair while.  Anything we’re used to comes naturally once we’re used to it.  Driving a car was really hard until it wasn’t hard any more.

I also find it very easy to adopt a new resource.  if it’s useful,  I’ll have it.  I’m not hugely conservative, you see.  I look for value, and I use that value.  But not everyone is like me.  Rail and Plane fans are no exception to being “not like me” – they are just ordinary folk with a special interest and enthusiasm.  Some have spent years building up the most amazing collections of photographs and spotting reports and stories on their own websites, and some of those see us as an intrusion.

So I’m using this blog as an apology to them, because intrusion never was and never will be our intention.  We’re not competitive and we’re not competition.  We’re very much like a public noticeboard:  You can pin things on it, you can read things, or you can walk by without caring.  If enough useful things appear on the noticeboard you’ll stop and read, but you may never, ever pin up a notice of your own.

All we are is an asset for fan communities worldwide.  We’re as useful as people make us, as authoritative as people make us, and as fun as people make us.

Plane Spotting World is on its way

5 03 2007

The wiki is set up, files have been selected.  The upload, a somewhat jerky process that gets stopped by anomalies, is on its merry way, and the initial site population is coming.

I have a little work to do on it tomorrow (Ok, it may be tomorrow already, but it’s today from my persepctive), as does Bernd.  Then we’ll open the doors.   Or do we close the doors and arm them for takeoff?

At that point we simply open the link from th emain Spotting World logo and also start to promote the site.  And we need your help.  Word of mouth would be really good

What is coming next

4 03 2007

The Railfan community is completed. Well, what I mean is that the Train Spotting World site has all its functionality complete.

We have blogs, Youtube linkage, Flickr linkage, an event countdown calendar, loads of stuff. We may add a little more here and there, but it’s easy to do. And we know, now, what is needed. So the future is not so much enhancement of the current fandoms but the release of the new ones.

We started with Trains. The global railfan community is arguably the largest specialist spotting community, so it’s a great place to start. And there was nothing like Train Spotting World anywhere. Next is planes. Over the next few days we’ll roll Plane Spotting World out and we’ll populate it with a good initial set of articles.

After that comes ships with the launch of Ship Spotting World. Then, especially for all the UK based Eddie Stobart spotters, will be Truck Spotting World, followed by Balloon Spotting World.

The interval between these depends only on the demand our research shows to be there. After all, each takes server horsepower and disk space. We can only launch as each community takes off, because each community is funded from the discreet adverts we place on the pages. As a community becomes financially self sufficient it gets more server power.

The usual “new site” problem

4 03 2007

We launched on St Valentine’s day – February 14 2007. There is absolutely no reason for our being at all impatient. The site is just like “Field of Dreams” – “Build it and they will come”.

They are coming, too. Not in great swathes, but in numbers sufficient for Bernd and me to be confident that we have it broadly right. At this stage we have too much similarity to Wikipedia, that is inevitable. And we have more articles than are relevant. That is also a given. But we and a couple of stalwart editors are working on that.

We’ve even been asked to “rescue” some Thomas the Tank Engine stuff in danger of being deleted from Wikipedia. So we are not unknown.

But we do still have that challenge that every community has in the early days. Facebook and MySpace must have had the same problem: “Where do the first people come from?”

It’s not just that. “We have the first members, where to the others come from?”

Obviously it’s a mixture of search engines and word of mouth. It just feels nerve wracking until it starts! But the server is bought and paid for, so there is no real rush. It’s just that we so want the community to succeed, and no amount of growth will ever feel fast enough