The future of the Dance Web

With the end of 2005, esophagitis I’ve had a chance to spend some time looking at how this site is used, and, sadly, my general impression is validated with that data… Warning: After the past few months, I’m pretty down on the whole belly dancing thing, and that’s going to come through in this message. My apologies in advance. Let me cut right to the chase:

Over 400 people are registered and have access to post material here on this site – but no one is.

There are a few visitors that consistently visit and consistently post their information, and I am thankful for their participation. That said, any concept of a “community” I had hoped would evolve with this space has failed to materialize. Now, I have to focus on this site and its future.

The last “forum post” of any kind was almost two months ago. The last comment posted here was more than 10 weeks ago. While I can provide what appears to be excellent coverage with search engines for material you put here, it’s almost entirely material *I* put here. I don’t need another space to spew my own thoughts (I’ve already got one of those and no time to write there). On the positive side, even this dark little corner of the web has attracted over 45,000 visits just through search engines from people around the world looking for dance-related content (and, surprisingly, a large number from France, Germany, Australia and Malaysia). Those people should be finding your material, but so far, your material isn’t here to be found.

So, good search engine magic isn’t enough to attract significant participation here, and despite my own [admittedly sporadic] efforts to stir up some commentary with dance-related items from the media, this site doesn’t seem to work for you. There are plenty of discussion sites out there (bhuz, orientaldancer.net, tribe.net, yahoo and so many more (many of which are available here too). Discussion stuff was always pretty speculative for this place, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to try something with a more local focus.

The original purpose here was the calendar, and even there, only a few people are posting their events. I know it’s not the prettiest thing, but it was intended to serve a very particular purpose that is still, I think, unmet: A [mostly] regional calendar with a full array of up-to-date events and happenings from a good number of the performers in the area. Straddling the boundary between the dozens of individual calendars on each of your personal sites and the limited updates of the WAMEDA and Baltimore Bellydance calendars. My hope was that by allowing the people responsible for organizing events to promote their events with a simple fill-in-the-blank form, rather than waiting for me to get around to posting their material it would be a) more useful and b) more accurate. The bigger idea was to help you find your audience.

I had plans to expand the calendar effort pretty significantly, and add some neat features that would help you with your own web sites (giving you tools to pull your own events from this site into your site so you only have to update one place), but there seems to be little point in making that effort given the level of participation.

This all leaves me with one last general appeal to the public, to follow this one, which has had no response. This time, I’m going to be a little more stark and blunt:

Is there any point in running this site? If so, what do you want from it?

I hate arbitrary deadlines as much as the next person, but in the interest of not wasting any more of my time, let’s say we figure this out by the end of January, or I’ll just pull the plug on the whole thing and move on to something else. Maybe it was just a bad idea; I’m ok with that.

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7 Responses to The future of the Dance Web

  1. Anonymous says:

    this site Hey Roj,
    I think this is a great site. The calendar is a wonderful feature and a very useful tool that I think is also simple to use.
    The only things I ever really posted in it were the group events that I organized or the group events I participated in that I saw the organizer hadn’t posted. If it’s also meant for regular gigs and classes, then I’d certainly post more often. It’s also a great tool for those who don’t have websites to get their information out there. If regular classes are listed, I think it would be handy to have them on a separate calendar from the workshops and performance calendar. It will get too hectic and unclear otherwise, I believe.
    The “news” part also frequently pointed out interesting things I hadn’t seen elsewhere. So I like it. Haven’t participated of late- but with holidays, wedding, etc it’s been hectic.
    The local yahoo sites also have calendars- only one of which I’ve seen used. So, it’s not just your site.
    It might be helpful to once a month send out a reminder – “hey put your events up!”. One would think people would want to do everything they can to promote their events, so maybe they just forget. It is difficult with all the options out there. The benefit of your site over some of the others is that with your site anyone, even non-members can see the events- on yahoo groups and tribe you have to be a member- so you’re promoting to the same people over and over, whereas with your site (and other sites more public) it’s seen by more new people.
    Hope these thoughts help!
    Samira

  2. Anonymous says:

    Much improvement since last I visited I just checked out your site again. Many great improvements. Navigation is simpler. The calender is much more useful. Last time there didn’t seem to be any real way to tease out just my own regional stuff. It was all mixed up with stuff from all over the world!

    This site really is a great idea with much potential. Navigation and ease of use will be key. The real question is what can this site provide that the other sites cannot (to include the Yahoo Groups, Tribe.net, etc)? Few users have the time or inclination to keep up on multiple forums. What does this site do better? What can be improved?

    I have a few small usability suggestions off the top of my head:

    Speed is an issue. I’m accessing this from the super huge connection at work, and it is a little sluggish. I’ll have to check it from my cable connection at home. I suspect that modem users may have difficulty.

    Calendar filter could be improved by allowing a user to set their preference for location, so that when they log in and click on events, it automatically remembers to open up the region they are most interested in.

    Calendar filter could also be improved by re-examining the locations and how they are used. For example: A search on Virginia returns a workshop this weekend in Alexandria. But a search on NOVA (Northern Virginia) returns nothing. I would expect that a search on NOVA would return the Alexandria workshop and a search on Virginia would return events for all locations in Virginia (combining Norfolk, NOVA, Richmond, and Roanoke). The RSS Feed seems to do this better than the calendar filter. Similarly, Baltimore would return events in Baltimore, but Maryland would return all Maryland events INCLUDING Baltimore.

    It would also help to have a search for Washington DC Metro Area, to combine events for NOVA, Washington DC, and parts of Maryland.

    Uploading an image into my profile doesn’t work. It gives an error that the folder cannot be found.

    I am a Software Engineer by day, designing and creating dynamic Internet applications. I would be happy to review the site in detail and discuss ideas with you.

    – Nimeera
    http://www.CleosCloset.com
    http://www.Nimeera.com

  3. Anonymous says:

    Listings Princess Eternal
    Is there some type of list of instructors and dancers in the area. Or even a review of different dancers and instructors including pictures? If not these things would be helpful for some one like me whos looking for another teacher and would like to keep in touch with other dancers.

  4. Anonymous says:

    This site Hi Roj,

    Very nice to hear from you and all the effort you have put into the construction of such a wonderful tool – your website – at the disposal of all the belly dancers connected to the virtual world!

    I think you’re doing a great job, and it has not been for nothing. Lot’s of people login, and post. But I think that most people didn’t have much free time the last 10 weeks… remember it was winter holidays, xmas, etc… lots of partys, etc…, and that might be the reason why it was so quite during the last weeks. I don’t know, just guessing.

    I would like to take the opportunity for an open discussion, and mention how did I find your website, and what was my first impression of it. I was surfing the web, searching google about belly dance, and your website was one of the hits, but for my surprise your website had postings of yahoo groups discussions, that were suppoused to be only in between the group where it was being discussed. I confess that scared me at first , but not enought, so I decided to subscribe and become a member, and start posting things, but I don’t always have the time for that.

    If you want a suggestion for the future of the site, I think that posting yahoo groups discussions becomes repetitive, and I find it incautious, so I think that your site should have its own discussion, instead of adding other discussions already being taking place else where. Just a suggestion though.

    Another thing, maybe we a restructure to facilitate the navigation, and the posting would be great. I find it a little difficult to find where to change or post some information.

    Well, by any means you should give up on the idea, because it is great!!! I find sites to be a continuous change and moving forward, and forums are always visited by many, but receive posting by only a few… that’s just a pattern forums have, a few people that always post and post, and the others just stop by to read about it.

    If you need any help in terms of graphics, just let me know ;)

    Yonisha

    May the Magic of Dance be with You!

  5. Anonymous says:

    your site hi Roj,
    The Calendar is useful, I post the few events I have; other than event posting, I like the news aggregator but only use it sporadically, as I’m checking other forums regularly. Only got so much time for the web :-)

    thanks for all the work you’ve done here,
    Anthea

  6. Anonymous says:

    HI, ALL. THIS REALLY IS A GREAT SITE. THANKS FOR MAKING THE BELLYDANCE COMUNITY STRONGER AND ALSO OPENING DOORS FOR OTHERS TO LEARN MORE!
    THANKS!
    SHAHRAVAR JEWEL OF BELLYDANCE.CO-UT.
    http://www.shahravarbellydance.com

  7. Anonymous says:

    Don’t give up! Roj,

    You (and your website) are such a huge asset to the belly dance community. Not only are you a huge supporter in general, you take amazing pictures that express the beauty of the dance and the dancer perhaps more than anyone else I’ve seen. You have such a generous and honest spirit and do your best not to get caught up in the drama.

    I really like the calendar and have looked at it periodically since I first learned that it existed. It has been helpful since I’ve been in the area for less than a year-and-a-half. I do think that there is a need, especially for events.

    I plan to post more on your site since I now have a hand in organizing more local events. Previously, I didn’t want to post other peoples events, necessarily. I worry about stepping on toes. Maybe I’ll do it anyway. As far as postings/blogs go, I think that you have a unique perspective on the dance, as I’ve said in the past. I enjoy reading what you have to say, so maybe it’s not so terrible that you write most of the posts.

    You have to do what’s right for you, but I’ll do my best to support you if you decide to keep the site running.

    Peace,
    Elliah

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