Here at Yehoodi Central, we are busy working on polishing and refining the cool features of our new website Yehoodi 3.0 (beta). We are pretty confident that it will take a to a new level our already successful swing dance community website.
I think it can't come too soon.
As several people have related to me, Yehoodi is starting to feel like a ghost town. So where has everyone gone?
Our general webstats continue to be quite strong, averaging around
25K-30K unique visitors and between 1 million and 1.5 million page
views each month. That's up from about 20K visitors and about 700K
page views a month in 2008.
That said, lately the general number
of logged-in users appears to be much lower than in year's past. I
rarely see it top a dozen users, whereas in previous years 20-30
logged-in users during the week was not uncommon.
There are of course several possible culprits. The lindy hop community itself might be slowing down, or decreasing in vitality. Yehoodi might have already saturated the existing market, so we aren't experiencing any growth but just maintaining our existing user base.
I personally blame Facebook.
Over the past year, I've observed a significant increase in the amount of lindy hop-related communications taking place on Facebook. Swing exchanges and competitions are using Facebook to do outreach to potential attendees. Dancers are posting their images and videos to Facebook to share with their friends. Sub-groups of dancers continue to be created — blues dancers of SoCal, collegiate shag addicts, even a Frim Fram group. I even get involved in protracted discussions and debates on Facebook about lindy hop issues.
In the past, a lot of these communications took place on Yehoodi.com. And a lot of them still do, often in parallel to similar exchanges happening on Facebook.
The rise of Facebook as an organizing and communications platform makes a lot of sense. Much of the lindy hop community is in the college age to mid-twenties age bracket, which also are the biggest population of Facebook users in the US.
Facebook offers many social tools for people to socialize, make new friends, play, exchange media, and coordinate activities. And it's functionalities and third-party apps expand constantly.
Facebook is becoming the standard for how people connect with each other socially. People I be-friend at lindy hop events don't email me or IM me on Yehoodi, they send me a Facebook friend request.
So the question for Yehoodi is, how do we provide services and tools for our community beyond what Facebook provides? How does a small, non-profit, volunteer-based community site compete with a multi-bizillion dollar corporation?
Part of the answer is that we go back to our core strengths of Yehoodi and adapt them for a Web2.0 world. That is, we focus and enhance:
- Lindy hop news
- Community discussions
- Swing events and calendars
- Lindy hop media — music, radio, videos and photos
All of these features of Yehoodi 2.0 are getting a refresh on 3.0 that's we think is going to radically improve our user's experience of the site.
But the other part of the answer for me is the basic difference between the two social platforms. Because the primary advantage of Yehoodi over Facebook is that we are a public commons for the community. Anyone — from the teenager who just took her first beginner lesson to the 55 year old rediscovering the dance — can come to Yehoodi and get something out of the site. She doesn't have to befriend someone else in the scene or get invited to join the right Facebook group or even register at all. She can just go to http://yehoodi.com, and click around till she finds what she wants to know.
I've purposely made an "either/or" argument here, but clearly there is room in the lindy hop world for lots of different kinds of internet-based tools and platforms. For certain kinds of communication, Facebook makes sense. For others, Twitter or a wiki or a blog might work better. Yehoodi needs to connect out to the wider social web instead of trying to re-invent the wheel, while also bringing people together within our own platform for our very peculiar and idiosyncratic needs.
It's this openness and social web connectivity that we think Yehoodi 3.0 is going to support even more than before. Which ties back to why we created Yehoodi in the first place 11 years ago — to create a common space for swing enthusiasts to come together.