Dear 100 Hour Board alumni,
How would you help the Board? Is there anything we, the current writers, could do to boost this thing? No, I don't think the Board is disappearing overnight, and I think my fellow writers are fantastic (I love you people).
But I think we--well, I--could do more, or perhaps just do differently, so is there something you'd suggest? Maybe give the Facebook page another go? Branch out to the 'Gram? Stop rescuing EFY kids from the tunnel worms?
-a frustrated writer
- Advertise on campus
- No cop-out answers (nobody cares how busy you are)
- Strict adherence to 100 hours (nobody cares how busy you are)
- Fewer vanilla answers (every answer should have humor, personality, or flair)
- Improve the system (update look, no blank front page / auto-load more questions at end of main page, etc.)
- Make it as good as it was during the golden age when each specific reader started reading.
Dear a frustrated writer,
100 hours or bust.
- The Black Sheep
I 100% agree with what the other alumni have said about having a stronger social media (Twitter in particular) presence, updating the website, and answering questions within 100 hours. Another thing I think that the Board could leverage to its advantage is search engine optimization. So many students (or future students) come across the Board after googling their questions about BYU. That's how I found out about it. We could use that to our advantage and make the Board questions come up higher in search engine results so that current students remain a large part of the Board's community and can easily become introduced to it.
It probably wouldn't be practical to use SEO keywords (terms that are frequently searched for related to our demographic) in all answers, but even just including some in our "About Us" and other pages could help. Though it could be an interesting experiment to try them in some answers and see what happens. At the non-profit I currently work for, my content team supervisor has able to achieve in one quarter higher views to our website than we used to receive in several years combined just by introducing SEO practices to our website.
Same as above: answers over 100 hours should be relatively rare. Waiting 4 days for a response is exciting. Waiting weeks or months for a question to post makes people stop caring about asking questions.
I've got fairly strong feelings about two things, but I feel like they have the potential to come into conflict.
On the one hand, 100 hours is a commitment, not just a suggestion. I mean, I'm not standing over the Board with a stopwatch waiting for my questions to post, but I generally expect an answer to a fairly basic question within 4-5 days, and waiting longer than a week makes me that much less likely to ask similar questions in the future.
On the other hand, I love spectacular answers. Concealocanth, with my encouragement, took around a month to answer Board Question #67987 (asked when I was still a reader). It was worth the wait, and I would have been disappointed if she'd written something minimal within the usual deadline.
I'm not entirely sure how to reconcile these two things, other than use common sense, listen to what readers explicitly tell you, don't hold questions past 100 hours unless you've got a really good reason, and for the love of all things don't ever hold a question beyond one month. (Yes, I broke this last rule several times. No, I never had a good excuse for it.)
As for more structural things, first I'll repeat my suggestion from Board Question #92280: there should always be at least one question, and preferably several questions, on the front page. An empty front page makes the site look either derelict or broken. Second, I think it would be really helpful to notify readers when their questions are published! The Board already sends a notification when a question is rejected without breaking anonymity, and I can't imagine it would be too difficult to extend that to answered questions too.
Finally, I do think part of the Board's decline in readership has nothing to do with the Board itself. I explained it last year in my answer to Board Question #91256, but honestly I think this explains it better:
The Board's options are limited (Facebook is going to be a tough sell for anything that relies on anonymity, for instance), but there's definitely more that can be done. I think that, purely in regards to engagement, the best example of good engagement by a similar organization is By Common Consent's Twitter account. Yes, it's an account associated with the blog, but it's also active enough to have a following in its own right. It routinely posts things only marginally related to BCC's core mission, interacts with other Twitter accounts, and generally behaves the way you'd expect a Twitter account run by a human being to behave. It's not a perfect model, but I think it has some valuable lessons.
So what would I like to see the Board's Twitter account do? Tweet a lot! Give all of the writers access to the account and have them post things (anonymously or signed) on a regular basis, even if they're not directly Board-related. Talk about how you feel. Comment on the news or the latest viral tweet. Post polls. Interact with fans. Like and reply to other people's tweets. As The Man with a Mustache suggested in a flagette, make a point of posting a link to a Board question, whether new or classic, at least once a day. Looking through the Board account's history, it looks like it was run pretty well during October, but since then it's dropped off the face of the internet. I'd love to see that level of presence maintained.
Regardless of your approach, I wish you the best. The Board is a good and valuable institution. Next year is the Board's 25th anniversary, and I'd love to see it survive and thrive for another 25 years and beyond.
Y’all need to expand your community. Honestly one of my favorite Board memories was sneakily putting fliers all over Heritage Halls with Concorde and a few others. It's easy to do and it gets the message out quick!
I think having more than one writer answer the same question is also really appealing to readers. Even if it’s a quick, "Everything that writer said plus a few sentences of my own two cents."
Google Forms and surveys are a good way to get feedback. I saw some notes that it was recently done on the Board page but I do think that any type of feedback is beneficial. I wouldn't just post it on the Board; Tweet it and share it on Facebook as well.
Lastly, y’all are close-ish to 100k questions. MILK IT FOR ALL ITS WORTH. Contact the Daily Universe or the BYU Alumni Magazine or heck, even the Daily Herald and get an article published. People unfamiliar with the Board will be intrigued that there’s a website that’s been around for so long it’s answered a literal 100,000+ questions and older readers might return.
Best of luck! The Board brought me so much joy while in university so I hope it does the same for you current writers.
Put Board leadership in the hands of current BYU students.
To be clear, all three editors right now are AMAZING people who have done phenomenal work for the Board. I just think that when you graduate it's easier for the Board to become less of a priority and not something that you would be willing to invest serious energy into as far as marketing and re-design go. It seems that writers who are current students (and I think there are a lot of great ones right now) have more incentive and opportunity to advance the Board in those ways.
I think all the ideas listed in the above answers are great.
I also think all you writers and editors are great! It's 100% okay for change to happen slowly, and all of you are doing a wonderful service by volunteering any of your time to help out and entertain random people on the internet. Thanks for all you do.
I've always felt that the Board is hard to advertise because the writers are so focused on keeping their writership a secret. Ideally, the Board would have enough word-of-mouth momentum that the writers wouldn't have to expose themselves at all. But I count myself lucky to have heard about the Board from the one person who told me about it, and that was back in 2011 when it was really going strong.
One idea would be to encourage writers to talk about the Board with friends if they're comfortable with that, rather than feeling like it's a secret identity. The best advertising will come from the writers themselves, and the best readers could be friends who are somewhat personally interested. Just don't reveal your actual 'nym (though some people may figure it out). Anonymity has different importance to different people but I didn't mind knowing there was a handful of people who knew I was a writer.
Maybe I'm just nostalgic, but I love the classic aesthetic of the Board. I don't think a major overhaul to make it function like Reddit would work well. You go to Reddit for Reddit stuff and the Board for Board stuff. But of course some smaller updates to the site every now and then could show readers that the Board is still alive, especially if you talk about those updates as they come.
If you're not getting enough questions asked, you could try things to generate your own content. Set up a schedule of questions from the editors or writers. Make a series highlighting great answers in the archives. Discuss things, debate things, etc. Most people on any website are just lurkers anyway, and they won't care if the questions come from readers or are self-generated.
YouTube, for example, has a view count on each video, so that people who don't engage at all still show up as an engagement. The Board right now has no way indicate the people who come and only read, which has to be most of the visitors. Maybe include a view counter on answers, or a visits counter on the website. Something like that could help the website feel more alive, and help readers feel like they're engaging in something without having to make an account.
The website needs a complete aesthetic revamp. No one wants to use a website that looks like it was made in 2010 (which I think this website was). The people who made it did a great job, but a new color scheme and a more minimalistic layout would go a long way.
Also, yeah, word needs to get out about the Board. Advertisements around campus would be really cool.