16 January 2010

Parent Hacks community: Let's talk (more!) about how to talk more

If you've been hanging around here a while, you probably know that I've been making noises for years about adding community features to Parent Hacks. The goal: to open things up so YOU can ask questions and start conversations.

Parent Hacks is, in essence, a community blog in that most of the content and value comes from you. But you've also told me that coming here feels a lot different than hanging out in a forum or a wiki -- the fact that there's someone steering the boat makes a big difference in quality, tone, and good mojo. Which I appreciate because, you know, I like it here.

For this reason, a forum has never appealed to me. It feels too separate from the blog. I've toyed with turning PH into a social networking space so each of you could have accounts and personal pages, but the back-end logistics are big enough that it's not a realistic project for me right now.

The good thing about doing nothing is that technology often poses a possible answer if you just wait long enough. Given that many of us are already talking on Twitter and Facebook, we could simply do our Parent Hacks talking there. Or I could beef up the comments with a plug-in like Disqus. But before we get into the tools, I'd like to ask you this:

Where and how would you like to talk to other Parenthackers? Are you happy commenting on posts here, or do you wish YOU could initiate conversations? Are you a Twitter or Facebook user? Would you like to see more user-submitted questions to the group (also known as "Talk Amongst Yourselves" posts)? Or do you like the level of conversation as it is?

Leave a comment here and let's talk a bit more. I've got ideas, but I'd like to hear from you first!

Your comments

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Very interesting Questions!

I agree that I like how this blog is run, and I don't think I'd participate if it were a social-networking site because it would be quite time consuming. I'm the kind of person who will often read everyone's response before I post one of my own.

I am on Facebook, and I would be interested in joining a Group on there. That would combine with an app. I already use and make it easy for me to just drop in from time to time. I don't know how often I would initiate Questions, though you never know. :-) I do like hearing what others have to say and putting in my 2 cents when I think I have something to contribute.

I guess I'm change-adverse because my first reaction is that I like things just fine the way they are. When I feel the need I can chime in with a comment.

I use FB and Twitter. I think I follow you on Twitter too. In my limited experience, forums are too...unedited and random and mundane. Given how much ground I'm trying to cover in cyberspace these days, I'm a big fan of edited/curated content.

I kind of like what Dooce has done, because her blog has stayed the same. Maybe something similar, but you could pick out highlights and post to the blog with an acknowledgement? The only thing I don't like is that only members of the community can comment on her blog - I'd keep comments on the blog open to nonmembers.

That's my 2 cents. I think what you do is great already though!

I'd hate to see the conversation move from parenthacks.com to Facebook (which I have so far avoided) or Twitter (tweets are too short for a good meaty hack). I agree with Cindy that curated content is way more valuable. Some backend changes on the site itself might help open up the conversation, though. A couple of examples: If we could submit hacks on the site instead of via email, it would be easier for you to post more of them. Also, a thumbs-up feature would let us essentially "vote" on hacks, but in a positive way, and make it easier to have a "most popular hacks" list. I'm a Drupal developer, and I know Drupal can do all this stuff out of the box -- I assume WP and MT can as well.

I really appreciate being able to read the e-mails depicting a post. Facebook would be able to facilitate a dialogue equally as well.

I have not used Twitter or typepad or any other technology as of yet and do not currently have plans to leverage those technologies. I do not want to lose track of the helpful suggestions that other parents are able to offer me, and that I will be able to contribute to in the future.

Yes! Katherine -- a back-end change is really what's needed in the long-term. The email-to-hack pipeline is silly and hasn't scaled at all (I'm the biggest bottleneck).

Great suggestions for doing what most are saying so far: more of the same, but at a better rate.

I, too, like Dooce's new community, but somehow having conversations in two places...then again, if it were optional...

By the way, Katherine, I believe that's Drupal in action.

I love he idea of a forum...not only for organizing the fabulous ideas shared here, but to allow for more of a community. I think all parents need a bit of grown up time to share their thoughts with!

I am in the "I like it the way it is". I would love more hacks, and the, for lack of techie terms, fancier comment system, easier ways to submit hacks, all sound like an improvement on the status quo, versus a major shake up. Which is pretty much all am looking for. But I am pretty behind the times internet 2.0 wise (my younger brother says a decade..).

The downside I see to Facebook is that it's too public -- sometimes I want to ask things of the PH community that I don't want to ask my friends or family (or at least not online.) If I start a conversation on FB's PH group, it's going to show up on my status updates, as I understand it, and that's not the kind of thing I want. So, keeping conversations here on the PH site, either the way it's been or the way Dooce is doing it, is better, in my opinion.

So...have you checked out Moms4Mom?

http://moms4mom.com/

It's a Stack Exchange Q&A site about parenting. It's a great site that could use some more participants to make it even better. Would you consider merging your community with theirs or starting a new SE site?

Great point about the Facebook transparency issue, Kristi.

Count me as one who likes it nice and easy, just as it is!

I like it just the way it is and really like your voice, Asha. I wouldn't think a forum where just any ol' person could post would be nearly as valuable.


Margie and Kelly -- thank you! From what Im gathering from the feedback here, I may be trying to fix something that isnt broke. My schedule is changing dramatically right now (much less time but much more to say!) so the timing is perfect for this realization.

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