03 March 2008

Parent Hacks admin: Let's talk about Parent Hacks 2.0

2269071692_539c16812f_m_d.jpg The crocuses have popped out of the chilly soil in my front yard. Every year when this happens, I feel a little quickening, a surge of possibility. It's rather corny, really, to see me scampering around the garden, exclaiming about the crocuses as if I've never seen them before. (Anyone who knows me well also knows I'm prone to fits of enthusiasm.) Luckily I have kids who jump right into the fray with me.

The point is, it's a new year, and it's time for Parent Hacks (the site) to reflect the amazing community it has become. Parent Hacks has grown to the point that my "email me and I'll post your hack" setup isn't doing us justice. (I'm sure those of you with hacks still waiting in my months-long queue or with emails sitting in my inbox will agree with me.)

And so, I have a revamp in mind that, while changing the overall format relatively little, will give you a bigger opportunity to participate and shine. I'm not talking about adding forums and calling it a day -- I'm thinking about a full-fledged community site that is open to participation, and also maintains that Parent Hacks vibe and voice. Where you can post your own hacks and questions, comment on others' hacks, and talk to each other. I (and hopefully some community editors!) would still approve and edit everything that appears on the home page, but this way, we'd all be freed from the Asha Email and Cut-and-Paste Bottleneck.

I could also do more of what I love to do -- write and be a part of the conversation -- and let the tools and technology handle some of the mechanics I'm currently running manually. I also recognize that as much as Parent Hacks is my baby, I don't have a monopoly on good ideas -- in parenting, or for the site. If we've learned anything over the last couple of years, it's that our collective wisdom is so great.

But before I go much further, I'd LOVE your input. What do you think works now? What doesn't? What's your pie in the sky wish list for a new and improved Parent Hacks?

Photo by Andy Hay.

Your comments

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I love that the hacks and comments and suggestions are free of the judgement and competition that seems to be prevelant in a lot of parenting sites and magazines. If you can extend this site into a community that fosters the kind of support that exists here now, it would be a wonderful thing.

Hack away!

I applaud your decision not to just add forums and call it a day. A forum could still serve the community here.

My guess is that some of what you do manually will need to remain that way. Perhaps you could recruit some of the pillars in the PH community as moderators, assistant administrators, etc. and offer a revenue sharing arrangement.

Whatever you do, don't take it lightly or act too hastily. I'm sure PH 2.0 will be even better than the site I grew to love.

Wiki! Wiki! Wiki!

(I saw Deki Wiki demo'd at BlogWorld at it seemed really easy and great. MindTouch.com)

I definitely appreciate all the work and backend maintenance that must go into running a site like this. The draw to this site is that each entry is of high quality - informative, coherent, and well written in a consistent 'voice.' This isn't true of many/most sites where input is a free-for-all to anyone with a log-in and password.

I agree that 2.0 would help cut a lot of the manual work. Also in agreement with an above commenter that carefully selected moderators and administrators could possibly help maintain the level of quality that you've worked so hard to achieve - with or w/o rev share.

I completely agree about the attitude of the site. I love PH because of the atmosphere of helping one another. I go to other sites where almost every post becomes all out war.

Asha - thanks for all of the work that you do! I continue to reccomend your site to parents that I meet!

I would open up submissions to everyone to increase the number of entries, however, I would suggest implementing a user voting system (a la Digg) that would better promote the better submissions as decided by the readers.

As I just turned 41 and am feeling feisty, allow me this:

Don't. Change. Anything.

ParentHacks is great the way it is. Yes, I may have a slight ego-reaction when one of my suggestions doesn't appear for a season or so, but I get it, ParentHacks is popular. And for good reason. Each post is tight, informative, non-judgmental, and open to comments. Couldn't ask for anything better.

I agree with the PP, do not change anything! I love that I get quick, quality bits of information. I am not interested in wading through forums to find the important nuggets of info.

I would not say to avoid any change because you don't want to sort through things. As long as the site is efficient it is very easy to have different sections for people that like different styles of learning/percieving.

It is possible for sites to exist with information and message boards. Baby Center is a perfect example. (Not a suggestion for PH) but Baby Center also includes shopping, weekly emails, et cetera.

Asha-
You do such great stuff here it's hard sometimes to see what change could look like. But if you're looking for what we (I) love and would miss most if it's not carried over it's this: bite sized nuggets that can be absorbed in moments and your links. It's great to be pointed to other great parenting resources.

I think this is really exciting, and I am looking forward to what might be next.

Best-

-Megin

http://gnmparents.com

p.s. I'm also really excited to read more from you- a la ashaland or the next incarnation...

I like it the way it is. I can appreciate if it's becoming too much work for you, but maybe you can get some volunteers to help read and sort through hacks?

I'd like more refined searching and cross-referencing. I love the 'see also' links to past hacks that I may not have been around for. The categories seem a little broad in some places since there's so much content now.

Sigh. I love you guys.

OK, so here's what I love about PH:

* the positive, non-judgemental community
* the intelligence of the hacks and the comments (I rarely if ever pass on a hack submission)
* the fact that moms and dads are active participants here (huge +)
* the simple design
* the editorial room for short hits of useful info AND longer more thoughtful pieces
* the consistent voice

Here's what I think needs improvement:

* a workflow that lets other people get more involved as editors and as contributors
* a workflow that keeps hacks moving thru the pipeline more quickly
* better searching and crosslinking (a huge reason for a redesign, Cindy, glad you mentioned it) so this can be more of a resource and less of a river of info.
* A way to better highlight the community nature of the site, and the individual voices here -- that is, YOU.
* A way for you to be able to talk to each other and ask questions, not just respond to hacks.

It's an incomplete list, but it's a place to start.

As with many others, I love Parent Hacks the way it is, and so it makes me nervous to think about change beyond the workflow improvements. I'm already trying to cut down on the online stuff I read every day, and if too much gets added I'm afraid it'll be overwhelming. And while community is nice, I'd be so sad to see Asha's voice diluted.

Ack! No change! No change!

It's pretty wonderful to see that many of you like things as they are. I promise, I don't have any "let's turn Parent Hacks into another social networking monstrosity" ideas. I want it to stay essentially the same on the front end, I just want the back end to be more flexible. The idea is that it will give me MORE time to lend my voice to this site.

Also, when the time comes to recruit editors, I'm going to be looking right here, inside our community, for people already experienced with the Parent Hacks voice. My top priority is to maintain the quality of the hacks and the conversation.

I just discovered this site yesterday and haven't had the chance to really explore, so I don't know if my suggestions are already in place or off base, but as a new reader, I wouldn't mind seeing a "favorite posts" kind of spot, where I could see things that aren't most recent.

I also enjoy apartmenttherapy.com and wonder if their set up would be closer to what you are looking for. I do know that they have "open threads" where members of the community can ask and answer questions, but they don't interfere with the articles or stories.

By the way, this is a great site. Thanks for making it. Can't wait to really get into it.

I think that yes, you do what you need to get more automation and give yourself a break from the manual aspect of running the site, but as muhc as i hate to be a resistor to change, I would miss your introductions and commentaries, which I think keep things in perspective in some cases.

I would also say that I love the daily pops, usually only a few hacks at a time, and would hate to see those change to being eihter not do-able or to being huge and unweildy.

I agree with those that have said that the benefits of PH is that the posts are short and easily digestible and helpful! I read a lot of blogs per day, and I get overwhelmed if there are too many on my Google Reader to wade through and not enough that are pertinent to me. As changes are made for additional benefits, I think these positives would be great to hold onto.

I've always felt that "too many posts" is as big a problem as too few. I have intentionally kept the posting rate low so as to keep it digestible. Problem: the backlog grows and grows and people end up waiting months to see their hacks appear.

I'd like a new design to have a front page that looks very much like it does now -- a few posts per day "promoted" from everything that's going on on the site. But for those whom "drinking from the fire hose" is what they want, they can elsewhere on the site.

dont lose the awesome logo at the top left

and i love the site the way it is
forums would be great, but the comments section on each post is kind of forumesque
i also like links to related previous posts that you include
i look forward to your email in box!

As it's going to be nearly impossible to keep up with the constant flow of hacks from people without posting frequently, could you perhaps do a "theme" per day? Being as how you have a plethora in waiting, assuming that you'll categorize them in the future, wouldn't it be slightly easier to group 3-5 together in one entry under the same category?

I wouldn't mind reading them that way and it would be a nice way to keep caught up without being overwhelming.

Also, even a single entry can be accompanied by related links, much like you do now.

i'm newer to the site, so i don't know if this note will get read by the fearless leader, but my suggestion would be a place to request others' hacks.

i haven't searched for this, so there may be some for these questions, but something like a place to ask the group 'hey, how do y'all get a toddler to take medicine?' or 'what games does anyone play with their developmentally delayed older baby?'

DIGG DIGG, thanks Steve. I love the idea of hacks getting rated. With kids running circles around me. It takes my hack skimming to an amazing speed. VVRROOOOOMM!!

I really love how it works now, but I think it's great that you're trying to make it more of a 2-way street. I wonder if hacks can be categorized besides the way they are now? maybe this just means more categories: for sons, for daughters, for time-poor/cash-rich parents, for time-rich/cash-poor parents (and of course, for time-poor/cash-poor parents), 1-min hack versus a 30-min hack? just thinking out loud. thanks! best of luck!

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