Inside TSL: Four Months After the Change

Share on your favorite social network:
Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterEmail to someoneGoogle+share on TumblrShare on Reddit

One of today’s Friday Q&A questions turned into an entire article by itself. Here’s the question:

I am wondering how the post and activity level is on the new message boards.  Now that things should have settled down a bit with people getting used to the new board format, how do the posts and views compare to say this time last year?

It’s a good time for this question, because it has been just over four months since we flipped the board format on January 11, 2012, so we’ve got enough data to do some meaningful comparisons.  You asked about posts and views. I’ll discuss each one individually.

Posting Activity

I can’t give you exact data on posting activity, because we didn’t keep track of posting numbers in the past, and the board didn’t do it for us.  Our new boards, however, tell you exactly how many threads and posts are present.  As I write this, here are the pertinent data for our five “Big Boards”:

  • Free Football Board:  1,520 threads, 15,167 posts
  • Free Men’s Basketball Board: 2,129 threads, 27,575 posts
  • The Lounge: 3,978 threads, 30,211 posts
  • TSL Pass Subscribers-Only Board: 2,050 threads, 19,667 posts
  • TSL Pass Recruiting Board: 1,005 threads, 8,986 posts

Our old boards used to retain only the most recent 5,000 posts per board.  In the offseason, I estimate that the free Football board used to roll over once a week, so it used to get about 5,000 posts a week. It has been 18 weeks since the Jan. 11th changeover, so the old board would have received about 90,000 posts.

15,167 posts is a huge drop from 90,000 posts.  Even if you conservatively estimate that the old Football board would roll over every two weeks instead of every week, the old board would have received 45,000 posts in the 18 weeks since Jan. 11th. Again … big drop.

So if you find yourself thinking that posting activity is down, you are correct. Way down.

Page Views

A more meaningful measure to us here at TSL is page views, which is the other half of your question. Page views directly correlate to ads served, which directly affects revenue.

Please note that this question came in Sunday night, so the figures I’m about to present cover Jan. 11th through Sunday, May 13th. Here’s a comparison of page views on the “big five” boards since the changeover, versus the same period last year:

DateOpponentTime, TV
Sat. Aug. 31
loss (n)
Alabama 35, VT 10
Record: 0-1 (0-0 ACC)
CFA Kickoff Game (in Atlanta)
TSL Coverage: Click here
5:30, ESPN
Sat. Sep. 7
WIN (H)
1:30, ESPN3
Sat. Sep. 14
WIN (A)
Noon, FSN
Sat. Sep. 21
WIN (H)
Noon, ESPNU
Thu. Sep. 26
WIN (A)
7:30, ESPN
Sat. Oct. 5
WIN (H)
12:30, ACCNet
Sat. Oct. 12
WIN (H)
Noon, ESPNU
Sat. Oct. 26
loss (h)
3:30, ESPNU
Sat. Nov. 2
loss (a)
Noon, ABC and ESPN2
Sat. Nov. 9
WIN (A)
7:00, ESPN
Sat. Nov. 16
loss (h)
12:30, ACC Network
Sat. Nov. 30
WIN (A)
3:30, ESPNU
Tue. Dec. 31
loss (n)
UCLA 42, VT 12
Record: 8-5 (5-3 ACC)
Hyundai Sun Bowl
TSL Coverage: Click here
2:00, CBS

Wow, look at the carnage.  Page views on the boards are down almost 60%. In four months, we’ve lost almost 12 million page views on our message boards alone, representing thousands of dollars of ad revenue that have been lost. Sad, but it is what it is. We can’t turn back.

What has struck Chris and I as odd about this whole process is how little warning we received from our users prior to launch of the new boards. There were two occasions where we invited TSL visitors over to the new board system, which was in development for, er, quite a while, and we asked users to help us load test it.

On these two occasions, approximately 300 users tested out the new boards for us. Not one of them emailed us to say, OH MY GOD, WHAT ARE YOU DOING???  Not one. So we figured sure, there’s going to be an adjustment, but it didn’t seem like it would be that bad.

But when we actually launched the new boards, the reaction was surprising. It was much worse than I expected.

Site-Level Activity

I already gave you a feel for how much posting activity has dropped, and I also presented the page view numbers. Those were both related directly to board activity. What about the site as a whole?

There are three major metrics used to measure site activity: Visits, Unique Visitors, and Page Views. The terms are self-explanatory. Here’s a year-over-year comparison of those three metrics between 2011 and 2012 for the time period of Jan. 11th-May 17th:

2013 Football Schedule
Record: 8-5 (5-3 ACC)
Sat. Aug. 31 (L)
Sat. Sep. 7 (W)
Sat. Sep. 14 (W)
Sat. Sep. 21 (W)
Thu. Sep. 26 (W)
Sat. Oct. 5 (W)
Sat. Oct. 12 (W)
Sat. Oct. 26 (L)
Sat. Nov. 2 (L)
Sat. Nov. 9 (W)
Sat. Nov. 16 (L)
Sat. Nov. 30 (W)
Tue. Dec. 31 (L)

I anticipated a drop in page views of about 20%, because the new board format is more efficient than the old, no matter what view you’re using (threaded or linear).  But I didn’t anticipate a 25% drop in visits or visitors, which in turn caused the drop in page views to be more severe.

Basically, what those stats tell me is that about 25% of our user base, when we flipped the site, just quit coming. If you tailgate with a group of eight people who used to visit the site regularly, when you see them this fall, two of them will tell you they no longer come to the site.

My own father quit visiting the site, and he used to read it every day. When we flipped the site on January 11th, he had a lousy old computer that was running 800×600 and was slower than dirt. When he tried to pull the new site up on it … not good. He has since gotten a new computer, but I’m not sure he has started visiting the site again.

However, there are always numbers within the numbers. There’s another way to slice the data, by looking at it in date increments.

Here are the first two months (Jan. 11th-Feb. 28th/29th) of the new format, versus last year:

[table “66” not found /]

Very similar to the overall stats.

But March … March was a disaster:

[table “67” not found /]

That is BRUTAL. The new site format, combined with the lousy performance of the basketball team (and the lack of angst over being snubbed by the NCAA, and the lack of an NIT bid) just slaughtered March traffic.

Then April started, and things started to recover a little bit … and on April 23rd, Seth Greenberg got fired. Here are the numbers for the last seven weeks, from April 1st through yesterday, May 17th.

[table “68” not found /]

Now THOSE are the numbers I was expecting when we flipped the site format: a slight drop in visits and visitors, and a roughly 20% drop in page views.  Those were numbers I could live with in the transition to a new, more modern format.

Of course, those numbers are pumped up by the firing of Seth Greenberg and the subsequent coaching search. I realize that. But the silver lining is that many fans who had quit coming to the site were drawn back by Seth’s firing, and they made an effort to learn how to use the site again. And many regulars who were struggling with the new format bore down and learned how to use it better. So the last few weeks have been good for getting people “re-engaged” in the site. We’ll see where it goes from here.

What about subscription revenue?

[table “69” not found /]

January and February were awful, but March and April were break-even.  But now that the Seth Greenberg drama is over, May is not looking good and has sunk back down to January-February levels.

The good news is that Feb-May are our worst months for subscriptions, so the cost in real dollars hasn’t been too damaging. But the June-August time frame is our strongest three months of the year for subscriptions, so if that 18% drop that we’re seeing in May persists for the next three months, it’s going to cost us a ton of money.

Summing It Up

So was the format change a mistake? Well, there are a few implementation details that I would change in retrospect. I would go back and launch the new vBulletin board system in parallel with our old board system, and warn our users that a switch to vBulletin was coming, so get over there and learn how to use it. I would do that, instead of just throwing our users into the pool and seeing if they could swim.

I would also NOT have set the most recently updated thread to jump to the top of the board, as it did at launch. (We later changed this setting to show the threads in order of start time.) That was the single most confusing thing about the changeover, and setting it that way was a mistake.

But remember, hundreds of our users saw the new board system before it launched, and not one of them pitched a fit. It was only after launch that approximately 25% of our users pitched a fit, or more precisely, just threw up their hands and walked away.

So what was the point of a new system, if it’s so damaging to page views, revenue, and popularity of the site?

We had to get off that old technology, period. It dated back to the late 1990s. We couldn’t update it, because no programmers wanted to work on it anymore, so we were stuck with exactly what we had. We couldn’t provide mobile formats for the content and message boards, and in this day and age, if your site isn’t mobile, you’re going to be extinct within the next ten years. We now have mobile versions of the boards, though we have yet to make a mobile version of the site itself. (Just today, a subscriber who reads the articles but not the boards didn’t renew his subscription, and he emailed us to tell us it was because our articles aren’t mobile-friendly.)

Our new site is also a networked format, instead of being standalone. This means we’ll be able to add new sites and share content with them, plus share the recruiting database. We’re pushing towards an ACC network of sites that will be able to share content from site to site, and be able to maintain a larger, conference-wide recruiting database.

You haven’t seen any of this stuff yet, because the changeover for TSL was so expensive and time-consuming that we haven’t been able to add other sites to our network yet. But what you currently see on TSL isn’t all you’re going to get. Over the course of the next year or so, we’ll be launching more and more new sites, with which we’ll be able to share content.

For example, you have seen Brandon Patterson posting links in our TSL Voices area to his own blog, Second Level Football. In the future, Brandon is going to have a site that is networked with ours, so instead of linking his content in our blog area, we’ll be able to run it straight through the home page, like a regular article.

We’re also going to have an ACC site soon, and we’ll be running ACC-related content from that site through TSL.

It’s all going to result in more content for TSL, articles from new site partners that currently don’t exist, and new voices from other sites that can be heard on TSL. You haven’t seen any of this yet, but in the future, TSL will feature more content and new features, none of which were feasible with the old site technology.

We’re taking a big hit in the early days of this new format, but it’s all part of a plan that’s headed towards something better. We know it has been difficult for many of our users — the statistics and lost revenue tell us that — but we had to do it to keep moving forward.

Because, if you’re not moving forward … say it with me … you’re moving backwards.




Share on your favorite social network:
Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterEmail to someoneGoogle+share on TumblrShare on Reddit

117 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. Will,

    Here is a suggested change. I also, have not been in the forums as much, since the change. The articles and links on the homepage draw me away from the forums. I do believe the forums keep the traffic up.

    I think you should have the “current forum” appear as a box on the homepage. That would change season to season, or if something is really hot. Fall would have the football forum, winter basketball, put the lounge up at times, ….

    I just think if people see the chats, without having to click, you might get traffic back-up.

    Just an idea, don’t know how much programing that would be. Still enjoy TSL, and want you to succeed.

    BR,
    Chris

  2. I have not been using TSL as much as in the past. Mostly due to being very busy. I still pop in and catch up with the articles and some of the forums. There are many more forums currently so I find myself not jumping around as much as I can find the info I might be looking for quicker. This is good but also reduces page views and redundant posts. The old board had tons of redundant posts and trolls as mentioned.

    The lack of a competitive basketball and a spring game definitely kept me off the board more then I would have been as well. Now that I’m picking my seats and the overall sports lull is occurring i know I will be on here more looking forward to football season. I thoroughly enjoy the content.

  3. I’d been meaning to point out a couple of these things but hadn’t had a chance. This seems like as good a place as any:

    1) For some reason, I find myself searching for the darn Login link all the time, both on the homepage and on the forums. It’s like I can’t remember where it is, and it’s not intuitive. And on the homepage, once you click it, the field color almost matches the background page color which makes it that much harder to locate. Maybe change the textbox background color to white?

    2) On the forums, using the “Back” button gives me a lot of problems. Often it’ll load two pages back, instead of one. Other times, it will not change at all. I think I’ve determined that this is due to the way ads are loading. Some of the ads seem to hang while loading, and others apparently reload while you’re viewing a page. Ultimately this creates a frustrating browsing experience as it seems to screw with the page history. (I’ve experienced this on both IE and Chrome)

    3) In the last 3 weeks, my TapaTalk will no longer load the forum list. It just says “Loading . . .” but never comes back. This is on Android. It worked fine for the first 3 months. Other forums work fine, just not TSL. (I thought maybe Will disabled it to force me to load ads at the regular site 😀 )

    Okay – enough of my B&Ming. Overall I like where TSL is headed. Been on here since the old HokieCentral days (my koozie finally ripped apart) and it’s still the best source for quality content and discourse.

    1. Assuming you’re having “Back” issues in the forums … don’t use your back button. At the top of every page will be a navigation bar that looks something like this:
      Forum -> Free (non-subscriber) Boards -> Football

      When you’re inside a post, just hit the “Football” link, and it will take you back to the forum home page.

      Tapatalk hits that issue now and then. Try clearing your data cache (Settings -> Apps -> TapaTalk -> Clear Cache), or you may have to uninstall/reinstall. But it will fix the problem.

      And the login issue … the easiest way for me is to just hit a random post, and click “Reply With Quote”. Then I’m logged in for the duration of my internet session.

  4. There is nothing better than pulling TSL up at lunch on a Fall Thursday and reading bourbonstreet or Will’s game previews! Content is definitely there, but the navigation in the new format was confusing. I left because of it, but the quality of the articles outweighed its cumberness. I am back for good now!

    Thank you for the open assessment of the website! Few others would have done that!

  5. I just wanted to thank Will for being honest and transparent about TSL’s struggles with the redesign instead of falling back into some corporatespeak trying to convince everyone that everything is OK and it’s just “the haters” who are whining.

    Personally I’m OK with the changes and I think the new forums work much better because I hated having reload every time I wanted to read a new post, with the old technology.

  6. I added a few comments to other replies- but I will consolidate a few of them:

    1) I think the way you did the testing, while it may be the “correct” way to beta test, was faulty for providing valuable comments. To say “hey, we’re testing, click here to go look”- you provided an option for inquisitive people. If somebody went there and didn’t get it, they may have simply not commented because they thought “hey, this is just a test, it’ll be better”. I think if there had been a way to force everybody to test it for a day or two- you would have gotten a lot of feedback. If a force test by all users wasn’t possible, I think if you had said something like “The New TSL is going to be radically different and will blow your mind, please go test it and let us know what you think”- you may have gotten more comments. I don’t use any other forums, so when yall were saying it’s going to be VBS or whatever this format is- that meant nothing to me.

    2) If you can set “reply with quote” to be a default- I think that would be great. I don’t use it because it takes time on my computer when I hit it, but that’s the only reason (that and because I don’t need to use it and know everybody that does need it- meaning they’re not using threaded view- are wrong 🙂 )

    3) I think as administrators yall need to use your big bat more right now. If people are doing stupid things (bumping threads just by saying “to the top” but not actually putting content in it)- they should get hit for a day. When stuff like that happens- it can discourage people from sorting by “most recent post”- which is what you want us to do to make it more discussion based. Release your inner dictator (so long as it’s threaded view by most recent post).

    4) Despite everything going against me- I have a new computer but it’s slow due to firewall and other security measures, a crappy resolution forced on me that my IT department has basically said I need to suck up and get used to, I still come and post because I find the interaction for the most part to be good and informative (and because I can’t get Twitter at work… and well I don’t “get” twitter when I’ve looked at it at home as well).

    Finally as others have said- I’m sure once fall camp rolls around- everybody will be back. Maybe you can talk with VTPhreak or Mstrawther (or whatever his name was) and get them to make some videos similar to their VT Football previews for the new TSL? Those get my amped!

  7. I don’t like the new format either… j/k 🙂

    Just re-upped for another year…someone has to keep Will & Chris employed.

    Go Hokies

  8. Like several other responders, for me it’s more a case of “VT burnout” and being busy with other things in life. It just so happened to coincide with the board change. Although not a geek by any stretch, I can certainly find my away around and pick things up as need be. It’s just that after the Sugar bowl loss (which like Lucy with the football for Charlie Brown I saw coming), and the poor basketball season, plus increased in work load and life responsibilities, I just haven’t had the time or wherewithal to learn the new system. Perhaps in time I will, but it will take time. I’ve only recently started looking at articles again, and only selectively.

    Bottom line, I understand the need for change, which is the only constant in my business and life. It’s just that other circumstances and priorities are precluding me from fully embracing those changes. This is actually the first “post” I’ve made in many months. Keep up the good work, and perhaps I’ll ease back into the flow sometime. For now, it’s late, I’ve got to get up early, so signing off for now.

  9. Hi Will & CC,

    I’m a long time reader since HC days. I, too, have reduced the frequency of my visits to the TSL forums since the changeover. One thing that bothers me which I haven’t seen others mentioned is the new font. IIRC, the forum fonts used be a larger serif font and now it is a smaller san serif font. That to me drastically reduced readability.

    I don’t know if others agree with me but that’s my 2 cents.

    1. Most web browsers have a setting (or a plug-in that will do it for you) that allows you to specify what font you want to use, and override a website’s default fonts.

      Also, all web browsers are set up to easily allow users to enlarge the text on a webpage or enlarge the page overall. That might be an option that works for you.

      Also from a readability perspective, on a computer screen, sans-serif fonts are much easier to read. On paper, serif fonts are more readable. It has to do with the lighting or something.

  10. I too, struggled with the new format. Some things I like, others I haven’t figured out.

    Guess the proof is in the pudding—- I renewed my membership last night.

    I will keep the faith. Hang in there, Will. We all want you to succeed.

    Allan Auvil

  11. I suspect the reason the 300 who previewed the site but did not complain, was that they were “computer geek” types who have the latest equipment and live to be “early adopters.” The greater population, myself included, were surprised to see how slow the site had gotten (my laptop is two years old) and how difficult things were to find (also the much commented thread issues).

    I understand the need to update the technology.

    The content remains superb, keep up the good work!

    I look forward to the mobile upgrades (love Chris’s pod casts of ESPNburg).

  12. I can say it’s probably a combination of your change and the Sugar Bowl hangover. The main thing I have trouble doing is finding things that I used to know exactly where they were. When you modify a look and feel, people just don’t do as many things, as most of the trouble is looking to see where a link is.

  13. I just wanted to add a couple of comments….

    First of all, at the start of the switch, I was using the threaded view, but then Will mentioned the possibility of forcing an eventual change to Topic View so I changed. I wanted to get used to it. And it is VASTLY superior. Furthermore, when Will switched the boards to be sorted by time started, the very first thing I did was put it back so the most recent posts were at the top. If people would just use Reply With Quote, it’d be perfect.

    As for the drop in posts, I really think a lot of that has to also do with the ability to comment on articles directly under the article. Look at all the comments and replies to this article alone! On the old format, all of this would have been done on the message boards… Three or four times over in multiple threads having scrolled of the front page. That simply HAS to account for a big drop in posts!

    And for the record… I love the comments being under the article. Now I don’t read some reference on the board to an article for which I have to hunt in order to understand what the poster is talking about.

  14. Follow up from my last. With the trial period on the baords, I would guess that only savvy internet/computers users bothered to check out the new boards ahead of time. And even then, probably not too extensively because most of us are familiar with v-bulletin boards. So naturally, people who understand the format and know how to use it aren’t going to give much in the way of negative feedback.

    At the end of the day, you guys have good content and good writing (the Greenberg spike tells me what really drives things). Even if the format is not very good, like the old boards, it’s TSL we came here for, not pretty pretty coding.

  15. “I would also NOT have set the most recently updated thread to jump to the top of the board, as it did at launch. (We later changed this setting to show the threads in order of start time.) That was the single most confusing thing about the changeover, and setting it that way was a mistake.”

    In the short term business sense, you might be correct. But I believe in the long term, that is completely wrong for the proper function of a good message board.

    1. Agree, but it really threw the threaded users off, in a big way. Those who had never used a vBulletin board and didn’t really know anything beyond TSL — which was a pretty big part of our customer base — were very confused by it.

  16. I haven’t read through all the suggestions (I’ve never seen this many comments on an article before), but I’ ve got a few to add.

    1. The new board format is fine…but when I open a thread post, the message box is below the thread. So the page loads and then sets the view window to the message box. This just seems entirely unintuitive to me and I have not gotten used to it after 5 months.

    It leads to several issues.

    1a. I back out of the thread by accident because I don’t see the thread above the post.
    1b. If I want to view the thread, I have to scroll back up the page…for some reason, this seems like a huge pain because it’s unintuitive.

    2. I set my board preferences a while back to undo the newest post thread display, so I don’t know if this is caused by my user preferences. But I view a thread on the board…click a post…the thread view in the message is entirely different than it was on the board. It seems very confusing…EVEN THOUGH I know what is going on.

    Is there a way to link the view order from main board to post?

    Also, entirely unrelated to how I typically view the site. If I use an iPod touch, the message boards aren’t even the same colors as the site. They revert to white background, seems like some vbulletin default pops up. The boards then become nearly unusable.

    1. Ya know, Hal, the vBulletin boards are just not good at threaded view. Both of your complaints are common ones, and I agree with both of them. But that’s the way vBulletin does things, and we can’t change it. It’s an off the shelf program that someone else codes, not custom software that we can modify to our liking.

      I recommend giving the linear view a try. I switched from threaded to linear, and I like it a lot better, except that many users don’t use “Reply With Quote.” RWQ isn’t always necessary if you’re just making a general comment, but if you’re replying directly to someone’s comments, it IS necessary.

  17. Maybe I’m not a typical user (okay, there’s no “maybe” involved), but there’s no substitute for TSL. Yes, I can find news in other places, but the TSL writers bring an authoritative, inside view that virtually always reflects how I feel on Hokie issues. I don’t think I’m a charter subscriber, but I’m close. And I come here every day for news and opinion that isn’t available anywhere else. I tend to look at the message boards only if some controversy has erupted, and more often during football season than any other time. I’m not fond of the new board format, but it doesn’t discourage me from reading when I’m interested. Last year I switched a personal website to a new domain, and saw the same kind of discouraging drop in visitors, so I feel your pain, Will. I know you need all levels of commitment for earnings, but I just want to raise my hand and say I’m a huge fan. I can’t imagine being a Hokie fan without TSL.

  18. You write an article about plummeting viewership and what happens? The B12 and SEC give the BCS the middle finger and conference dominos is back in everyone’s minds. I wonder how this will affect viewers and postings during the dead season. Merry Christmas in May, TSL?

    1. That IS funny, but really, conference realignment has been pumping up our visits and page views for a few years now. This latest round of stuff going on is actually just business as usual for this time of year. 🙂

  19. Before the switch I took a look at what was coming & couldn’t make heads or tails of anything. I just reconciled myself that I would deal w/it when forced to, however, I do remember quite a few posters saying don’t fix what ain’t broken. Also, there were plenty of posters saying how fantastic the new format would be, so I was hoping I would learn to like it.

    While there are some plus’s (linking pics & articles) and the linking to other sites that Will mentioned sounds interesting, I can’t say I prefer the new over the old, yet. TSL has turned into a resource only site for the most part. It is just to difficult to have quick and easy conversations & see when somebody replies. Having to get every reply to any particular thread you have joined is a pain in the rump. Even in this section here, unless someone repeatedly scrolls down this long list nobody has a way of knowing if anyone replied to your comment or if anybody even read it. lol
    Four suggestions for Will:
    Pick what you think is the best format & go w/one for all.
    Get rid of quick reply.
    Figure out some way to get a heads up if there’s a reply to your post.
    Start a PATT only board and ask everyone to keep it positive since the NATT’s already have their board.

    1. ================
      Figure out some way to get a heads up if there’s a reply to your post.
      ================

      You can do this on the new board, EXCEPT you’ll get an email every time someone posts into the thread, not just when they reply to your post. Bummer, but that’s the way it works.

      Here’s how to do it; When viewing a thread, from the little menu at the top of the page, click “Thread Tools — Subscribe to this thread.” From that point on, whenever anyone posts into the thread, you’ll get an email.

      It has some flexibility built into it. Give it a try, and play around with it.

  20. Will,
    Is there a way to view foums on ipad without dowloading a $4 app.? I used to read the forums all the time, but don’t anymore. If the app was free i would be all over it. Wih the proliferation of mac/ ipad maybe there are others in the same boat.

    1. I just pulled the site up on my wife’s iPad using Safari, and selected one of the forums. It gave me the popup box saying that the iPad supports the forums with an app, and click OK to read about it. I just clicked Cancel twice, and it let me into the boards.

  21. Here’s a tip for you not-so-tech-savvy folks. If you’re using the newest versions of Firefox, Internet Explorer, Chrome, etc. your browser allows tabbed browsing. When you open up a message board list and see several different topics that interest you, rather than left clicking on the topic, hover your mouse over the thread title and click the scroll wheel down.

    This opens the thread in a new tab. Go down the list and middle-click all the different topics that interest you. As you do this you’ll notice more and more tabs across the top top of your screen.

    Doing this allows you to load a forum page once and have access to all the interesting topics without continuously using your back button.

    This is something that so simple that I use everyday and it makes reading this and any other VB site a lot more enjoyable. If you don’t know how to utilize tabs, I can see why you think this site is cumbersome. Use tabs and you’ll find you enjoy life a lot better.

  22. Will, does the new format count page views using things like taptalk forum? That is the only way I view the boards now. I only view the site on safari for the articles now.

    1. I’m pretty sure it does, but in looking through our Google Analytics, I don’t see any references to ForumRunner or Tapatalk directly. I do see lots of references to mobile devices and tablets, so maybe it’s grouped under them.

  23. To throw in my 2 cents on site mobility, the articles are perfectly fine. They load in a reasonable amount of time and I can use Reader for all of them (I have an iPhone). The big problem is the landing page. It’s just too big to load in a reasonable amount of time when my phone isn’t on wifi. Also, the format isn’t easy to navigate on a mobile device. If you guys just make a mobile landing page you’ll be in good shape as far as site mobility is concerned.

    The forums are significantly better than the old format. I think you got burned with so many users because you had the old format for so long. I’m guessing a large part of your subscriber base is 50+ and TSL was probably the only forum they used. They had used the old format for over 10 years and were used to it and didn’t see any benefits to the new format. There really isn’t a whole lot you could have done about this, but delaying the inevitable change any longer would only make the problem worse.

    As I’m sure you’ve now realized (and this is true for all sites) your least technically savvy users are the least likely to voluntarily try something like a beta test. This is why you didn’t hear a peep of complaints. Also, just based on your unique visitors number 300 users for a beta test is a very small sample size.

    All in all the new site was a very good move for the long hall. It’s hurt right now, but the changes will allow you to increase your subscriber base in the future.

  24. Will,
    I’m one of those not so tech savy guys who thought about dropping TSL during the switch over but have stuck around anyway. I sign on maybe three to four times a day read anything new and once in a while reply to a post or create a new one. The thing I find the most cumbersome about the new sight is how slow it is. It doesn’t matter if I’m on a old or new computer, it just seems to be much slower than other sights I visit. Sometimes I have to double click to get an article I want to read to pop up. The worse thing is the go back function–sometimes I can’t get it work at all, and if I double click it, it sends me two pages back instead of the page I want. The one thing I miss the most is the drive by humor that use to be on the Lounge, there still some but not as much as there use to be. I’m a loyal TSL guy, its still the best place to find out about about what’s going on in Tech sports, so Ill continue to be patient and hope for improvements. One other thing, since the switch over the overall negativity has increased on the boards, making me wonder if some of the more PAT’s have have stopped posting. Of course, the only cure maybe having the Hokies win! Go Hokies!

      1. I think you have an individual computer issue. I use Chrome an don’t have any speed, double click or page jump issues.

        1. Ditto, I use Firefox and it’s fine. We had speed complaints when we first launched the site, but none recently.

  25. I think the topic format is a major contributor to the reduction is overall page views. For example, my preferences have been set to allow for up to 40 posts per page in linear format. In the old system, I would have to load up to 40 different pages views in order to read all of those posts. Now, it’s just one page view. I know you expected a reduction in overall page views as a result of the change to topic view and linear format but perhaps it’s somewhat greater than you anticipated.

    1. This is an important point that seems to be overlooked. The big plus of the new format is that now you can view an entire message thread without having to individually load each message. That drove me nuts on the old boards.

      This is a huge step up in usability, but a step down for page views.

  26. One big problem for TSL is that it’s primary subject, VT football, is stale subject matter. VT football has had 10 or 11 win seasons for how many years in a row now? 8 or 9? There are no cycles that cause the typical angst and chatter among the fanbase.

    The TSL posting community won’t get into a should serious “should Beamer be be fired” arguments like those seen in other fanbases, because we know that Frank won’t be asked to leave short of a Bowden like implosion or Paterno like scandal.

    We will continually debate offensive production, but the cast of characters running the offense hasn’t changed much in the last to 10 years ( at least to the casual fan). We will have some skill position stars, but the OL will be weak enough to not allow those stars to produce to their potential. It’s been a rare year in the VT ACC era when that has not been true. And the TSL membership knows it will be this way as long as Frank is the coach, so there is no further use in posting about it.

    VT coaching staff stability also hurts TSL, limiting the debate/chatter about how a new coach affects recruiting or on field performance. I’m not saying Frank shouldn’t run his staff this way, just that the way he runs the staff doesn’t lend itself to posting and pageviews.

    We know exactly how any VT football game against OOC Top 10 competition will go – Offense will have a hard time moving the ball, defense will keep it close for 2-3 quarters, VT will make a major mistake, and the flood gates will open, and VT goes down again.

    ACC football also hurts TSL posts/pageviews. In 2004, we thought VT was joining a conference that could stand toe to toe with the SEC. The last year or two, there has been a growing acceptance that this is not the case, and that the ACC does not provide top flight competition. Will’s article from a week or so ago was really the stake in the heart. Anyone else notice that there zero pushback on calling the new ACC inferior to the SEC/PAC12/BigXII/Big10? We know it’s true, have accepted it, and generally have stopped being excited about ACC competition, except to console ourselves with the fact that it’s better than the Big East,

    The VT fanbase is defiantly football obsessed, and it doesn’t help TSL. We can joke about Hoos and Heels and Blue Devils prattling about basketball, baseball, lacrosse and women’s sports, but it would help TSL if those fans would go to the other boards and check out what’s going on – and I’m as guilty as all others about this.

    The great white whale of TSL pageviews and posts may have recently been spotted on the horizon. ACC membership instability has been a mirage for the most part. Any real possibility that FSU/Clemson/GT would leave the ACC will drive the VT fanbase nuts, driving the kind of chatter/debate that creates pageviews and posts. Unfortunately, it will likely create long term harm to VT football, unless VT is part of the package of schools leaving the ACC.

  27. Will,

    Thank you for making this change!

    I read the message boards of other ACC teams on Rivals/Scout, and it became clear to me that there was a much better way to use message boards than the way Techsideline had been doing it. To paraphrase what you said before, lots of things have changed since 1999.

    I don’t post much here, but read a lot. I have to admit I don’t visit this site as much as I did at this point last year. It seemed to me that the web site changeover happened about the same time the Fire Seth Greenberg movement grew on the basketball page. I got tired of reading endless posts about firing our coach and how our players should be shooting 1000s of free throws a day, etc. The negativity of some on the boards is a turnoff, no matter what the message board format is. If I want to get bummed out by constant negativity, I’ll go to work.

  28. I use my cursor over the title in the “What’s New” feature to see most of the message without clicking to drill down most of the time and then having to come back to board each time. Saves a lot of clicks to find out if you’re really interested in pursing a particular topic or not. Also the counts on number of posts and views within each topic help me keep up with only the hottest topics when I want to.

  29. Sugar Bowl loss + Crappy basketball team + Too many different ways to view/use the message board = Unhappy and Confused Hokies

    I still think everyone will come around, especially when football season starts……I mean, where else are they going to go? Besides, unless you are dead set on living in the Commodore and Atari world, you need a message board format like this…….although, I just wish it was all the same view for everyone (The people that do not reply with quote kill it pretty badly for me at times)…….

  30. Will,

    I love the new format. I love that you can post 4 pics per post very easily. I love that you can do a poll.

    Thanks for bringing TSL out of the stoneage!

  31. I still read almost every day, but format is well . . . .cumbersome. Almost like you are not sure what to put where. No issue with having to upgrade – but keep working it.

    1. That’s an interesting point. There is a lot of stuff on the homepage. Well, not really any different than the old site, but it’s just different. I think the scrolling articles makes it seem busier to our users.

      http://www.cnn.com/

      Check out the homepage to CNN.com. They’ve got a lot of stuff crammed on there, so that seems to be where the focus of the internet is going these days.

      1. You are right – CNN is jammed with stuff. Their site is distracting to say the least. Guess that is why i never look at major information sites – if i want an answer to some specific item i will look that item up. TSL and a few newspaper sites are the only news sites i visit on a regular basis. Keep up the good work.

  32. There’s another saying, say it with me….”If it aint broke, don’t fix it.”

    I enjoyed this article because it made abundantly clear that I was not alone in hating the new format. I grew weary of fighting with it & eventually got out of the habit of logging onto Techsideline. I simply get my news elsewhere. I will check the homepage occasionally for headline news but not regularly. I do not plan to renew my subscription.

    Definitely a Hokie supporter! (Just not a Techsideline one.)

    1. I don’t hate the new format, but since the Sugar Bowl, which I’m still extremely pissed off about, I haven’t been keeping up with VT Football like I normally would. Once August rolls around I’ll get back into it and probably get used to the new format.

    2. Have you upgraded your car, your computer, your clothes, your phone, and maybe even your house since 1998? Sure you have. TSL needed an upgrade, too, because we were using technology that dated back to 1998.

      I’m sure you’d be livid with the company that employs you if they were still using the same tools, technology and techniques they were using in 1999. Actually, they might not be employing you. They might be out of business.

      The old TSL wasn’t “broke” … but it was going to break. No one uses Windows 95 anymore.

      1. The old TSL may not have been broke but it sounds like the new one is headed in that direction.

        1. Good luck finding a format anywhere on the internet like the one you are wanting…….oh, well, there is one place you can go to find it of course…….

  33. Will, was it really such a surprise that the test-runs of the new format didn’t give you meaningful feedback? It stands to reason, at least to me, that the type of casual users who have since abandoned the site were very unlikely to have taken part in the tests. I would guess the vast majority of people who checked out the new format in advance were either hard-core users or tech-savvy.

    My usage has fallen off in part because of the new format and in part because I’ve found new sources for the type of insider information that first drew me to this site.

    1. With the clarity of hindsight, you are absolutely correct about the userbase that did the testing. Honestly, there were SO many details to be taken care of that it was impossible to think everything through in the kind of detail that was necessary. We didn’t have a team of people dedicated to the redesign — we had a couple guys and one part-time programmer. So there were bound to be mistakes in design and implementation.

      Regarding the comment that you and others have made about other sources of info, there’s one thing to remember: these sources of info didn’t appear overnight. Twitter has been growing steadily, the blogosphere got big a long time ago, guys like Kyle Tucker and Andy Bitter have been doing a great job for years, and there has been a strong HokieHaven.com/VT247 element for years.

      But on Jan. 11th, we flipped the switch on a format change, and our business changed immediately, not because of the other elements that were out there already, but because of the format change.

      And one more thing: People don’t pay us $54.99 a year for “information” per se. You’re right, the Internet is crammed full of information. So-and-so just committed, so-and-so just got hurt, this school joined that conference, etc. What we do with our subscriber articles is provide breadth and depth to all that “information”, to put it in context and project what it means now and will mean in the future.

      If all you want from the Internet is “information,” then blogs and Twitter are the place for you. And I don’t mean that in a snotty way — it’s just the truth. Everyone provides information. We bring something different to the table, something that requires more time and effort than just barfing out a little nugget in 140 characters or less.

      1. Will
        I joined a few years ago when you offered the thirty five dollar a year offer and think the fifty five dollar re-up is the best money I spend all year. Before that I read the free boards and non-subscriber articles. Having never been a poster on the boards (now or when I didn’t subscribe) I think the new site is a major upgrade. The old board was nice to see the comments of other posters on a topic but was brutal if you wanted to read more than their first line of that comment. I can see that clicking in and out as a big part of the page views.

        To your point about info – I feel the news I get on TSL is from people who care about the hokies as much as I do. After a football loss it is the only place I can go to start the “healing” – your post sugar bowl coverage alone was worth $55 in therapy.

        I am sad to hear of the struggles both financially and in disgruntled customers and hope the growing pains are temporary. I am not going anywhere! Thanks.
        JJ

    2. I agree completely. Will, that’s a really lame argument to blame “us” for not giving you a heads up. I understand you’re frustrated in the decline in site visits and associated loss of revenue, and hearing tons of complaints must get old, but don’t lose sight of what should be your primary goal – to make your customers happy. Honestly, your attitude throughout this process, or at least shortly after the new site was launched and the complaints started rolling in, seems to be “shut up and get used to it.” I’ve seen you make posts along the lines of “if you don’t want to get used to the new site, I don’t want you on my board anyway.” This attitude has turned me off just as much as the confusing new board system.

      1. I think you all are misinterpreting that part of the article and my subsequent comments. I’m not “complaining” or “blaming” with those comments. I’m just saying, no warning came out of that, so we were surprised at the reaction.

        1. Will,

          While it’s a moot point now, I wonder if the issues from lack of feedback dealt with the fact that it was a short time trial without a lot of content? I feel like I would hear about it after the fact, and that people were generally only trying it out for a period of an hour or two. In that time, there wasn’t a lot of chances for people to see what it looks like after a few days of postings. If there could have been a 2 day test period for everybody, not just people that went over there, I think a lot more could have been revealed. I don’t know how technically possible that would have been though since I’m not a programmer, but I think you would have gotten a lot more feedback. Maybe in 10 years when the next change comes!

          (Sorry my comments are all so late here- I don’t get on at home much anymore)

  34. Would be curious to see pages and visits of message boards versus home page articles and recruiting database. The message boards are less like chat rooms now, and there’s fewer garbage posts. (Still some doozies out there though). The “latest posts/what’s new” option lets me check in for new topics really quick. I’m trying to spend less time on the internet anyways, and like others have mentioned, I’ve started to lean on other media for the latest news and rumors (Twitter).
    But the articles are outstanding and alone are worth the subscription price. These guys actually produce MORE good articles than I can keep up with sometimes. Always new ones coming out, sometimes multiple in a day. Great job guys, keep outdoing yourselves!

    1. That’s great feedback, thanks. When Chris and I get back in the office Monday morning, we’ll set some time aside to discuss your comments, and to consider acting on some of your recommendations. I really appreciate you taking the time to express yourself in such detail and to provide such constructive feedback.

      1. lol…. + 1 billion
        Hey, I’m becoming part of the “old guy” category, and change in general isn’t as easy as it used to be. I found that out in the past year when I changed jobs and moved…. but, I also know that it was the best thing I have done in a very long time, personal growth wise…. and so it goes with the new format on TSL. It wasnt fun or easy at first, but getting used to it now. I still feel that some of the “banter” that made it fun is lost to me now—-people seem to not “banter” as much. Whether that’s due to the new format or just coincidental to who is posting what, I don’t know. One part of why I enjoyed the message boards was the banter threads that would get going — just was fun and entertaining to me. (particularly the lounge….which is an “extra” here, as it’s not VT related at all really – but I like the lounge and reading posts — just seems there aren’t as many fun threads ) Maybe it wasn’t hard core content on VT sports all the time….but that’s the point of it being a message board, to me -I can read official news outlets if all I wanted was hard core sports news.
        Anyway- I don’t visit as often (at least not consistently by the week/month) but part of that is just my own schedule and changing habits. I’ve never posted a lot, but always enjoy the content here. And the articles are definitely great and worth the price of admission.
        So – since I just renewed this month, I’m still here! 🙂
        Keep up the great work and hang in there!

  35. I’ve always liked TSL. When I heard about the change, I figured it was a done deal so why say anything. I didn’t like it from the get go and still don’t. Change for the sake of change is not always good. I think TSL was the best of all the rest. I’m not sure now though. I wouldn’t mind it if it went back to the previous foremat. Thanks.

    1. You need to re-read the last section of the article. To be honest, fcraig, nothing makes me more angry than accusing us of “change for the sake of change.” I have repeatedly expressed the necessity of updating the site, for multiple reasons, and to continue to accuse us of “change for the sake of change” shows that you’re not paying attention to what we’re saying.

      1. Why does this surprise you, Will. It is like many people who read and comment on threads and posts on the boards. They either do not comprehend what they read or they twist it to their own likes and reasoning. Many reply with answers or replies that are totally oblivious to the post to which they are replying. Some are an embarrassment to having attended and/or graduated from VT!!

  36. I think there 3 main factors in the sustained dramatic decrease.

    Neither of these is “change” because change always is met with increased scrutiny.

    1) Timing – I think in retrospect it may have been a good idea to make the change in August going into the season. Article and content deadlines be darned, your consumer base interest would be at its peak. All those people hungry for their content would still hammer the site and plow through the aesthetical differences with a lot less scrutiny, I do believe. They wouldn’t have had time to think about what they did and didn’t like, because they’d need to get their Hokie fix. This would cause them to adjust to the site in a much less critical fashion. Switching it in January, right after football season ended and when people didn’t “need” TSL as much, and gave them time to really think about what they did and didn’t like may lead to some irrecoverable losses.

    2) 247 site launch – You mentioned the dramatic decrease in March. Well that was just after VT’s 247 site was launched in late February. I joined up and that site took off like a rocket. I would imagine quite a bit of your content losses was due to traffic moving to 247.

    3) Thread “waiting” – With your new format, mainly the functionality of the board to move the most active topics to the top of the page, posters are more willing to “wait” on the topic to come to them than to seek it out by posting. I know I do that. If there is a hot topic, I know it because it’s at the top of the board when I show up. So I can just read it and get all the info I want. In the old TSL, it would be way down the front page or off the page, and I’d be better served to start a new topic to increase my chances of getting responses because of the prime board location. And since it was already a hot topic, it would get more posts and page hits.

  37. Will, as others have said, I wouldn’t put too much thought into these early numbers. I dealt with posting and reading the old boards because I always come here first looking for news, and even if there are other sites now that offer pretty stiff competition, I’ve come to enjoy posting with some of the regulars here and hearing what they have to say. Now that you’ve made the switch to a 21st century message board, I love it. Every other board I frequent on the internet uses the topic view style, and for me, it makes it much easier. If everyone would just switch to the topic view/linear mode and hit the reply with quote button, everything would make much much more sense, and I think people would stop having such a hard time with it. Keep fighting the good fight. I’m not dropping my subscription although I will have to get around to setting it up to bill annually rather than monthly which is what I’ve done since I joined which is pretty stupid on my part. I’ve been registered here for going on 10 years and visited the site frequently before that while I was an undergrad. People will catch on. Hopefully when FB season starts up, you’ll see those numbers go up.

  38. There’s something to be said for the simplicity of the old format. That goes for the boards as well as the homepage. It was much easier to pop-in, quickly scan for interesting stuff. It feels a bit like a chore now. More clicking needed to get to actual content, a homepage with way too much stuff on it to know where to focus … it’s just not as easy to get sucked in anymore.

    That being said, for me, the sugar bowl was a factor as well as generally trying to spend less time on sports and more time on getting things done professionally…the new format was helpful in breaking those old habits kept me involuntarily coming back and spending time throughout the day.

    I haven’t replaced TSL with other VT content. I’ve replaced it with productivity. I honestly have no idea what’s going on with VT sports right now. It’s been 15 years since I last could say that.

  39. I am not sure that you have enough data to determine any correlation between the new site and visits/posts. I agree that the refresh had something to do with the volume, lack of subject matter, and just the time of year. I would suggest waiting a full 12 months before attempting any analysis of the switch. (and it had to be done BTW, the old site was painfully out of date).

  40. This is just one man’s opinion but I think you’re putting too much stock in the launch of the new site as a reason for the drop in site activity.

    I see 3 other things that have hurt TSL 1) Twitter 2) More Competition and 3) Content that has gotten a bit stale.

    I’ve seen the VT community grow a ton on twitter. News breaks on twitter before it breaks on any message board. Beat Writers and other sites now promote their links on twitter a long with a bunch of info and opinions that tease their articles.

    There has been an increase in competition for TSL… I’ll won’t discuss this further.

    In my own opinion, the content has gotten a bit stale. We’re seeing a lot of the same stuff. I know in this situation it’s extremely hard to maintain a steady stream of fresh ideas… how many different ways can you write about or spin VT athletics? With that said, at 1 time, TSL revolutionized the way we all received our VT news and discussed it. Now, I feel like maybe TSL has fallen behind the 8-ball a little, like maybe you guys have fully embraced, haven’t had the funds, or just haven’t been able to fully embrace “new media.” When Hokie Central first started and became TSL, it was ahead of the curve, it was, at the time, “new media.”

    More twitter activity and a smart phone app would go a long way in helping increase site traffic in my opinion. It’s one thing to tweet that there is an article posted to read, it’s another thing to tweet about the article, add some insight to it or some nuggets that weren’t included in the article itself. Will and Chris both tweet from time to time but not much. If you want people to leave twitter to come here, you may consider interacting with those folks more on twitter.

    I’m a long time TSL member, I used to post here A TON… I could probably count on 1 hand the number of times I’ve logged on this year. It’s nothing against will and Chris, it’s just I’ve migrated more to newer media, I’ve found other places that are easier to get my VT News.

    I post this again, just as one individual’s opinion. I figured since Will was honest with site numbers, it was ok to have this discussion in this forum. If it’s not, feel free to delete Will. I do appreciate TSL, and for a long time it’s been a huge part of how I consume my VT athletics. But, things change and you’ve got to be able to change with them. Also, don’t focus so much on the launch of the new site, it had its issues but all and all, it’s a good platform.

    1. Good, interesting points. To be honest, Twitter, just isn’t in my wheelhouse. I write 2,000 word articles for a living, and I like to think they are interesting, and people will obviously pay for them. 140 character blurbs…I just can’t get into that too much. Especially when somebody responds and asks a question, and you have to respond with another 140 character blurb.

      Like you said, Twitter is really about news and finding out things first. That’s never what we’ve specialized in. We specialize in breaking that news down after it happens.

      1. I guess my point is this; you guys just don’t seem to use twitter as a tool to promote yourself. It’s more of a way that you communicate that you’ve posted a new article. I’ve not seen you tweet the link for an article more than once, maybe you have but I missed it. When you tweet the article, maybe tweet a few interesting points about the article, maybe some insight that you learned while writing the article or a few tidbits you cut from the article. That’s what I’ve seen from others who use twitter to promote their fan sites or blogs, including the VT Beat Writers

        I would also suggest maybe holding an interactive live chat on your message boards. Especially when you have a specific subject or article. Use twitter to promote it… I don’t know, I’m just throwing that stuff out there I’ve seen others do it, they use twitter as a tool to promote themselves and their site. Not so much to just “chat”.

        1. You are correct, those would be much better uses of Twitter than what we are currently doing with it.

  41. Will,
    I have been a TSL and Rivals member for past 5 years and was on both boards (mostly as a reader) daily. I mainly perused the sites at lunch or other times while at work. When the change first occurred, my office system couldn’t access the site (IE7 with tight restrictions), but luckily and coincidentily, we upgraded systems about 2 weeks later. I have grown to like the new format, but there is so much less traffic that I only check it every couple days now. I also miss the RSS feeds (although I have found a workaround by RSSing your twitter feed, but the links don’t work as well).

    I think one thing that you have discounted is the arrival of the new 247 site. I gave the new 247 site a free month trial, and I can tell you where your site traffic has gone. The seems to be lots of insider info over there by gurus who aren’t shy about sharing. I am not sure what the fix is for that one.

    I still like the TSL articles by far over the other sites, but the boards have died off quite a bit. Good luck with your numbers. I hope they come back.

    1. Thanks, OC_Hokie_JC. You and someone else mention the 247 site, but that’s not really relevant in the discussion. 247 plays the “inside info” game, which we don’t play. They’ve got contacts on the coaching staff that feed them info, and that’s great for them, and it’s a service that VT fans want. We don’t get involved in that, because there’s too much risk there. Just ask TCB007.com and HokieHaven.com what happens when the coaching staff no longer favors you and no longer feeds you inside info.

      The site that 247 really hurt was HokieHaven.com. Before 247 opened up shop, HokieHaven.com was filling the “inside info” role. All that happened was that role moved from HH to 247.

      The guys at 247 have told us that they don’t consider us to be competition, and that’s great, we don’t consider them to be competition, either. We feel that TSL and 247 fill different needs and are complementary. If you’re the type of VT fan who loves the inside info, then you’ll prefer to 247 to TSL, whereas before, you preferred HokieHaven.com to TSL.

      If you’re the type of VT fan who prefers the outsider view and in-depth analysis and discussion, then TSL is the place for you.

      Here’s the point: 247 isn’t beating us at our game. They’re winning a game we don’t play. And vice versa. The site that 247 *IS* beating at their own game is HokieHaven.com.

  42. Will, thanks for the analysis. I hope it does not affect long term business…I’d hate to be without HokieCentral,..er, TSL. Hopefully you all can recalibrate to make it work.

    I will say one thing about message boards that I don’t think really affected your hits and usage. First, I think for non-technical users like me the change was too much…I’m an old dog that doesn’t learn new tricks well.

    The thing that was really getting to me was that the message boards were getting too much like talk shows on radio. To me, I quit listening because the hosts were too opinionated and would hang up on you when you questioned their opinion, and it was all crap just to fill up air time…I mean, who cares? Get a life. I think a lot of talking heads take positions they may not even believe in just to get to get an argument going and get more listenership, and more revenue dollars based on that. I hate arguments and confrontation and noise. Nothing gets accomplished. Well, I felt personally like a lot of board users were getting hyper in the same way over what was written on the board. I felt I had valid things to say, but I was getting shut up or shut out. So your new format was another excuse for me not to go to the message boards.

    Now I use the replies/comments to the articles to express myself, and I am more comfortable. I only wish there were were more articles. But I know you all can’t just make stuff up. It’s okay. HC or TSL, it’s still my #1 source for Tech sports.

  43. It did not take long for me to really like the changes.
    No more scrolling endlessly.
    Much more efficient.
    I quickly see the areas of greatest interest, and marginal interest for me, and get right to the point.
    The fact that I can customize the view periodically is pretty cool also.

    I also dislike the trolls, but hey, some of them probably don’t like me either. 🙂

    As for those that have diminished interest in VT football, and liken that to reduced usage…I’ve lost count of the big Michigan fans I know that have all said how embarrassed they were in their inferior play to us at Sugar….I think we kicked their u know what. And I think this new. TSL format kicks u know what too.

    That is all.

  44. I’ve been on here since HokieCentral as well. In fact, my bookmark, still says, “HokieCentral.com the Premier Independent Publication Covering Virginia Tech Athletics.” I used to be a fairly active poster but quite frankly, the last few years, I’ve begun find that I’m here less and less. The biggest reason is not the change in the website, although that is a factor, but because I have been so dispirited by the loss in New Orleans, the losses in hoops (especially that one to FSU), and the feeling that the Athletic Department takes fans for granted especially when it comes to taking their money and delivering less. After a brief surge in our non revenue sports and women’s hoops, almost all of them seem to have dropped off badly. This all has led me to be less fervent.

    As to this site, I miss the RSS feed as it made me 1 click from a story I was interested in. Also, I just find it harder to quickly scan through the boards like I used to. I don’t know why, but I could just skim right down and see interesting threads and jump on them. Now I don’t.

    I’ll stay a paid subscriber because I still think this is the best participatory Tech site there is. I’m sorry the visits are down. I hope they pick up because I know that means revenue. I’ll try and do my part.

  45. I’ve been a member since… well, since TSL went to subscriber membership and was here back in the Hokie Central days. I’ve never been a big poster, but that’s typical of all the boards I visit for a multitude of hobbies.

    TSL is still my homepage, so I still hit the site daily. The biggest change is my visits to the boards. And it doesn’t have anything to do with the switch; I visit a number of boards with the VBulletin style. My problem with the boards has more to do with the conduct… the angst and vitriol has grown beyond tiresome, even on the subscriber boards. Other than the SG news, I haven’t visited the boards much since January. But, as I said, it has nothing to do with the switch in style or layout

    My visits are more often just to read the daily news, which just loads a new, offsite page and doesn’t add a page visit. I also read any new articles. I’ve also changed my subscription to monthly. This let’s me keep up with the news, and if I skip a few days, I came come back and catch up on the subscriber only articles when I reenlist.

  46. I love the What’s new section…but I know I do a lot of non clicks lookin’s to save time. So I know I’m not alone in doing this. I loved the site once you switched to linear. All will be good once Freshman report to camp and the yearly hype begins!!

  47. Will, I emailed you a long time ago that I notice your old boards were doing auto refresh.

    Would that not skew your page view hits

    1. Good question. IIRC, the auto-refresh was only every 5-10 minutes, so while it would contribute some page views, I don’t think it would be *that* many.

  48. My drop off was two fold and it had to do with timing. The new format was the basis for it but I do believe it had a lot to do with the fact that after the Sugar Bowl I was so dishearted that I think I was look for a reason to step away and the new format provided that. Now that the wounds are starting to heal I find myself spending more time on the boards and am starting to like them

    1. I too was VERY disappointed in the Sugar Bowl results, and , unfortunately this was a story all to familar. In the future, I hope to not get worked up over the overblown hype in football, it will remain as in the past and no need to get worked up. I have spent less and less time on the board and less time worrying about the results of games. In addition, the reseating again rubbed the wrong way and opened up previous wounds, so I will move on with less intensity.

  49. My board activity has probably dropped 75% as I just don’t like the new board formats. They are harder to read through. The articles are not much different for me. Not sure if I will renew. The boards are an issue for me but the main reason I subscribe is the articles and recruiting info.

  50. I’ll put it this way.

    This new message board format is garbage. There is no commonsense flow to it. Most of the time the “it’s changing deal with it” works, but this design is horrendous.

    It is the reason I stopped visiting the site.

    1. Hmmmm …. I’m not likely to care about your opinion, since you registered using a free ymail.com account and the name “_______” “______” …. just so you could post this.

      Come on, sack up. Register with your real name, your real email address, and post using a username that people know and recognize. Otherwise, all you’re doing is marginalizing yourself and your opinion, and no one cares what you think.

  51. I think the mistake was trying to combine the old threaded format with the new linear format. The two formats just don’t jive, and probably led to a lot of the confusion.

    I love the new format. I think the community just needs to learn to post more quality commentary. I never got much info from the old one sentence hitters back then. Time for Hokie/TSL Nation to start thinking and writing in more than one-thought bursts.

    1. Exactly. People who post using threaded format screw the people using the topic format (unless they reply with quotes which is key)

    2. Yep, I agree 100% with this. I love the new format. Every other VT board out (and I know of four other VT sites) there has the same topic linear format so if people left for another site because of the new format then that reason doesn’t fly. The only problem I have is that there are two format options to the site now. For those of us using the topic/linear view it’s frustrating/confusing as hell sometimes. There are MANY posters who absolutely refuse to “reply with quote” and that makes the board unpleasant for all of those using the topic view.

      1. This includes TSL guru Hokie83 who never replies with quote. I haven’t figured out how to switch views easily, so I have no idea what his replies often mean. For instance, there is a hot topic being debated and he replies “You are correct”. I would love to know WHO is correct when there are multiple opinions in the thread.

  52. I’ve been a member since 2004. Looking through the message boards used to be my favorite thing to do, but now I stopped looking at them entirely. Maybe it’s just me, but I find it incredibly annoying how posts are not in the order of which they were posted. When people don’t use the quote button, everything gets confusing and I don’t know what people are referring to when they make comments within a topic. Am I doing something wrong here?

    At this point I keep my subscription for the articles (these pieces you can’t typically get from a Rivals or 24/7 site). Lately I’ve pushed myself to look through the message boards here more, but since there are so few topics, there’s just not much content to look through on a daily basis. Hopefully that’s just because it’s the off-season….

    1. If everyone used reply with quote, I think the boards would be perfect. Personally, I have the topics ordered by last post time (you can change that at the bottom).

      FYI to Will, I like the Vbulletin set up a lot more than the previous site, and I find navigation through the topics much much easier. I click and read and post as often as ever.

      1. CC and I were talking today about eliminating the “Quick Reply” box (which causes all the problems with people not using “Reply With Quote”) and forcing “Reply With Quote”. I agree, once that step is taken, the boards will be perfect.

        1. Yes, please do this! Reply With Quote makes all the difference.

          Appreciate all the transparency Will. I think much like every other enterprise connected to ACC athletics, success on the field and court will ultimately be your most important driver of business.

          (One minor quibble though; you seem a little PO’d/blindsided from having three hundred beta testers and no negative feedback, without thinking about the immense self-selection that went into forming that group. The majority of folks that are dropping probably aren’t the kind of people to raise their hand on beta-testing a new technology).

          1. ————–
            (One minor quibble though; you seem a little PO’d/blindsided from having three hundred beta testers and no negative feedback, without thinking about the immense self-selection that went into forming that group. The majority of folks that are dropping probably aren’t the kind of people to raise their hand on beta-testing a new technology).
            ————–

            Ha-ha, yup. Not PO’d, though … just surprised. 25% of 300 is 75. Not one of the 75 “what the heck???” users emailed us.

        2. This is the main thing that irks me about the new board, the reply without quote. Even some of the Guru’s don’t use it. Eliminate that and I’ll be pretty happy.

        3. Can you leave the quick reply box but just code it so that it automatically replies with quote? That would be awesome. As I’ve said several times before (back in Jan or Feb I think)- for whatever reason at work clicking the quick reply box causes a delay on my work machine- thus I don’t hit it once it’s already loaded. But if it could be default- that’d be pretty sweet.

    2. From the message boards, click “Forum Actions — General Settings”.

      Scroll down to “Thread Display Mode:” and select “Linear–Oldest First”.

      Scroll down to “Forum Skin” and select “Topic View (Classic vBulletin)”.

      Scroll down and click “Save Changes.”

      From now on, “check the boards” but clicking the “What’s New?” links to see what threads have been updated across all the boards on the site.

      Rock on. Get used to it. I love that method.

      1. I guess I should have been more specific. I’m referring to posts within a topic, not topics within a forum

        1. I think this will take care of that:

          Scroll down to ”Thread Display Mode:” and select ”Linear–Oldest First”.

          You’ll still get people who refuse to use “Reply With Quote,” so you don’t know who they’re talking to when they say “I agree,” but I think we’re going to take some steps to do away with that issue.

          We have tried to educate people about using “Reply With Quote,” but we have a number of posters who are just being bull-headed about it, in my opinion. Or maybe the just can’t figure out how to do it (which means they haven’t watched the videos I posted).

          Since people refuse to use “Reply With Quote,” we’re thinking about forcing it, thus giving them no choice.

  53. Back when it was getting its sea legs, I told Will this new site was a real achievement. Compared to other sites, it was easy on the eyes while still having a lot of options that were easy to access. The new forums were a thing of beauty; I never posted much (because it’s easy to lose a lot real-life hours debating on the internet), but as a reader, having a modern board was a delight. Most of my viewing is in Chrome with a lot of tweaked options–the new TSL ran like a charm even with my oddball set-up, which is a real achievement for a new site.

    Looking ahead, I’m proud knowing I’ll have something similar to operate in the near future, and even prouder to be part of some ambitious plans.

  54. I had to fight through frustration with the site for about a month trying different methods and not understanding why they didn’t respond the way I thought they should. I e-mailed you/Chris and got some help. Now I use the Topic View and it is far superior to the old site.

    Some of the reasons, not all, that I really like the new site are the following: (In layman’s terms) 1 the little blue or white box that tells you whether you have read this part of the thread. 2 the little green circle that tells me I have commented on the thread 3 the bold/normal print that tells me whether there are additions to the thread 4 the ignore feature although I have only used it on one UVA troll 5 Topic view allows me to read only the topics I am interested in without scanning all the threads for subject matter. 6 the edit feature allows you to correct the original thread without having to create another thread to correct it.

    These are just a few of the reasons I like the new site and I am sure there are more that I will think of after I submit my comments. Hopefully when football season starts and we are undefeated, viewers will return and put up with their frustration of learning the new site. This site is far superior to any other VT site for many reasons and I think most Hokie fans know that.

  55. I frequently just use the “What’s New” feature to show all the boards at one time instead of individually going into them. Over time I tend to use this more and more. This might account for some of the decline in page traffic ?

  56. I’m surprised by the drop in visitors and views but not by the drop in posts…but thats a good thing IMO. Before there were pages and pages of the same posts, just 3 hours later. Now the popular stuff is right there for everyone to see instead of rolling off the page. In fact, that might account for some of the drop in views. I much prefer the new format, especially the mobile forums. Most of my time spent on tsl is on my phone, not a pc. That being said, are visits, etc from the mobile counted in the numbers in this article details? If not, I bet thats a large part of the delta.

  57. Will,

    Being in the technology business, I know changes are hard to swallow sometimes. However, I personally use the site, and more specifically the boards, much more now than before the changeover. You had no choice but to move into the 21st century.

    I strongly suspect that as time goes on and as the football season ramps up, you’ll see those numbers turn around. And I can guaran-dang-tee I’ll be renewing my subscription in June.

    T.

  58. Do you think people just mentally checking out with a consistently mediocre VT Football program has anything to do with it as well? A lot of people had had it after the Sugar Bowl loss and there haven’t been any changes in the program since then…

    1. +1. I haven’t been nearly as interested in off-season and recruiting info this Spring. I think the content has been just as good as past years – and the site is a big improvement IMO. Just not into the juicy details like past seasons for whatever reason.

      The Seth drama was by far the most interaction I’ve had with the site since football season ended. (FWIW: I’ve never gotten on the boards very often, before or after).

    2. Personally, I’m just fed up with the trolls, and I think that has led to spending significantly less time reading/posting on the boards, or even reading articles etc. I’m as avid a fan/alum as ever, but I’m much less interested in the online camaraderie than I used to be.

      1. TSL has a LOT fewer trolls than it used to. The vBulletin format is a “long-discussion format” that encourages more thoughtful posting, and discourages drive-by type-and-click posts.

        1. Plus with the ignore button can’t you eliminate the trolls if you dont want to see thier crap posts? I have not personally used it yet but i would think that would help those who dont want to put up with the trolls.
          I am very satisfied with the new site format. I dont use a mobile device to access, just my laptop. Once i got my view set the way i like it i am a pretty happy camper. I use thge therad view but that is what i like so happiness prevails………..
          I had noticed the decreased activity but thought most of it was just off season, post SB loss malaise and assume as summer camp etc start activity will return to prior levels.

        2. I pretty much agree with this. There was a point where I thought yall were losing control when topics on things such as, I don’t know, curling- were being bumped up for no reason without yall doing anything about it. I haven’t seen it happen in a few weeks- so hopefully that’s been put under control.

          Overall- I still dislike the new format (especially when I’m on a work computer with a crappy resolution forced on me)- but by looking at my posts you’ll obviously see I still use it because there really isn’t much other options out there.

Comments are closed.