What should come next for AOA?

aoa logo 250OK, group meeting time. AOA is now a little more than a year old. And the crowd has grown significantly (especially over the last few months). That has us thinking about the future.

We have a lot of ideas for AOA. And you probably have some good ideas that we haven't even thought about. But we only have the resources to pursue a few new features in the near future. So we're asking: what should come next?

A few of our ideas are after jump. We'd very much like to hear your constructive feedback.

The crowd
Something we've wanted to do for a while now is set up another "stream" in which people could post their own items to AOA (kind of like Metafilter). Our publishing system includes this capability, we just haven't had the time to take it out of the box and set it up (so to speak). Is this something that you would be interested in using?

Calendar
We're at the point now where people are sending us info about way more events than we could ever post about in the regular AOA stream. If we could wave a magic wand, we'd have a system in which people could submit event info to a stream of listings -- and then people in the crowd could "highlight" or somehow indicate that an event looked interesting.

Events
We had a lot of fun at the AOA birthday party. And we've since heard from a lot of people that they would be interested in other events. These get-togethers could be as simple as "Hey, we're going to all show up at this place at this time for a drink." Or we might also be able to organize something where we get an interesting speaker or other sort of conversation starter.

Where?
You might have noticed that some AOA items include maps. What you might not know is that many of the items -- even posts without maps -- are tagged with geographic info in our database. We started doing this from the beginning because we figured there would eventually be some use for it. We still think that, but we haven't come across a specific idea that's prompted us to do something. Thoughts?

Podcast
We've kicked around this idea a few times and we were recently approached by someone about doing it. But we're not real sure what it would include -- and we're maybe less sure about whether it would be worth the effort. Would this be something (whatever it is) you'd be interested in listening to/watching?

Photos
This is something we already have in the works. We're planning to start running one really big photo every day from a group of local photographers (kind of like The Big Picture). We'll be paying (very little) for photos. If you're interested in participating, send us an email.

General site improvements
These would include the addition of a "share this" type button for every post, an "uber-feed" of everything that's happening on the site (posts, comments and other stuff), bug fixing (yep, we know the anchor for the "comments" jump doesn't work correctly) and some minor freshening of the site's design.


What else? We're guessing you have good ideas that haven't occurred to us. Please share in the comments (we'll try our best to respond in the comments, as well). If for whatever reason, you're not comfortable sharing in the comments, email us: editors |at| alloveralbany |dot| com.

We don't have the resources to pursue all of these ideas right now. But we think we can make a few happen. We just have to be selective.

As we've said before, starting AOA has been a really interesting experience -- in large part because of all the thoughtful, funny, engaging people we've met as a result. We really do appreciate your thoughts.

Thank you.

Comments

I think everything sounds great; particularly the first three items on the list.

As a user-powered local event aggregator, I'm thinking of something along the lines of a sidebar calendar for the next 7 days, where users can submit things to do w/a link to the event. (Albeit the submissions should probably be approved beforehand to avoid spam, etc.)

I'm partial to audio podcasting. I'd love to hear a once-per-month All Over Albany podcast. Greg and Mary are radio pros, so I know it would be a great program.

Another useful feature would be an AOA discussion forum. Your webhosting company may have already provided you with the capibilities to add a forum to your site for free.

You could have volunteer moderators maintain the forum for you.

There could be various discussion boards within the forum, including one to post and discuss upcoming events.

It's probably too much restructuring, but, I've wanted to private message other people and have wished for individual account profiles. Plus, it would discourage people from taking on several fake aliases in order to give the illusion that many people agreed with their point of view (which I have suspected on several occasions).

I think the Crowd and Calendar are great ideas.

I always enjoy the "Overheard" stories, but don't see them that often.

A regular feature spotlighting a "popular" Albany-area person (e.g., the waiter at Justins who has been there for umpteen years) would be interesting.

Reader-generated posts are a must at this point I think. That'll really improve the "community" feel of the website. I also think a Calendar of events where all users could post evens by category would be a really useful tool.

I would love the podcast. That would be brilliant.

I am curious though...with these changes, is there a conscious effort to make AOA an upstate version of Gothamist?

Secondig the "overheard" bits, and definitely an events calendar.


Love the Event idea. FlashMob for dinner/drinks @ _wherever_

Even a spot to put unpaid but 'juried' local photos would be pretty cool.

A Greg/Mary podcast would be awesome. Maybe Mary could bring back some of her panel discussions again! Those were great.

Barold's idea about local notables is cool too. Even local notable places or cool companies.

I keep running across things that I think the AOA crowd would find interesting and would love to share, but are decidedly not local. I'm sure the rest of you do too. Forum sounds like a good place for that sort of thing.

I second stronger commenting options. I'd like to see them unmoderated, with a Report Abuse for unsavoryness. Cookies that remembers my ID info, or account prolifes also mentioned above would be welcome.

As a user-genrated data stream, I'd recommend creating an AOA room on friendfeed. A comments RSS feed for AOA would be nice too.

I know this is a for-profit operation, but all that white space on your sidebar could be better put to use with more ads for local products. Even amazon affiliate links to local artists and authors, etc to get it seeded. Your Alexa score continues to go up, start banking on the trendline.

I still like the simple design of the site. Navigation is easy. But is still feels disinfected? cold? distant?. Something needs to be made warmer.

There's still not a serious outlet, a destination really, for quality local satire. AOA has come a long way in that, and I hope you continue that content trend with more features in the future. Controversy can be rewarding for a site.

Love Morning Blend.

I've never created any podcasts, but talkshoe.com looks like a way to produce for what you might have in mind? I'd listen to the product you put out as audio.

More blingees.


As both an AOA fan and professional mouthpiece, I would love a calendar and user-generated content. The local PR community would be all over it.

I also think meetups would be a huge amount of fun. I loved the birthday party, and it would be great to have more opportunities to meet up with cool, smart locals.

There's a lot of great stuff here but I'll just focus on one: I really like the idea of a podcast, and suggest the following:

- don't invent a format for the sake of inventing a format. I.e. don't decide it's going to be a 30 minute show no matter what and have to fill it with a bunch of crap. Have guidelines, but keep them pretty general

- You have lots of opportunities for content, but a couple of things I'd specifically love to hear are interviews or performances, both of folks that are traveling through and folks that are always here.

- In terms of scheduling content, I think it would be neat to feature things that are coming up (i.e. an interview or a used-with-permission song from an artist that's coming through town) as well as stuff that just left (again, an interview or performance with a musician, maybe even a used-with-permission recording from the Albany performance itself, or the director of a special event to talk about how the event went)

Whatever happens, long live AOA, this is a great blog.

One last PS, if you do add multiple streams, it would be great if you had multiple RSS feeds, like a master one but also one with just the calendar.

I think that a user forum would muddy up what AOA is. I think at its core AOA is about providing information, and that comments allow readers to participate in a community-like environment without the confusion of a forum. I also like the idea of user generated posts, but with heavy moderation. After all, AOA is kind of like a collector and filter of stories, and that filtration process is important. (Now it sounds like I'm talking about bottled water. Merchandising idea? ha). I think that AOA should keep up or increase the number of 'independent' posts, or rather posts that aren't pulled from other sites (for example, the cheapest beer and grocery investigation, etc.) Calendar is a good idea, but would also probably need editing/moderating.

@Barold Actually, Aleph the Justin's waiter and some other old-timers are now at the *new* New World Bistro on Delaware Ave.

Yes to user-generated posts.

Heck yes to more "overheard" (maybe that could be user-generated or emailed to you guys if it isn't already?)

Absolutely to the calendar if you can figure it out.

Totally would be all about events. I'd even instigate some.

I love the idea about featuring locals. There are so many more Albany icons like the Justin's bartender.

I'm pretty new to AOA (a few months here) so I won't presume to know enough about what you do to suggest ways to improve, but from your list of ideas I certainly like the idea of an updated calendar of things going on. I also think crowd idea has merit, but should be moderated somehow.

As a local photographer, I like the idea of adding some photographic outlet here as well (BTW, thanks for the recent link to my photoblog on you Neighborhood links...many of my pictures are from the capital district, though that particular one was not).

I would ask that whatever you add that it not require membership in other social networking venues (twitter, FB, LinkedIn, etc.).

On the whole, I am glad to have discovered AOA (thanks to a like I found on Kim's website!) and turn to it several times a day for updates on things happening in the area.

message board.

You guys have a lot of opportunity. As I mentioned in my Tweet I'm up at the NYPA conference in Saratoga. If this conference is any indication of the overall attitude of newspaper publishers everywhere, you guys have the opportunity to become an even more valuable and integral part of the community. Have you guys ever looked at spot.us?

@Anonymous, @Jeff: If we set up the crowd thing, that would include some of the functionality that you're talking about.

@A Mistake: Gothamist is great, but we're not looking to replicate what they do. (Though obviously there are similarities.) We're just trying to figure what works for this area.

@Mike Lerch: I think you're right about podcast format. We'd probably just pick some stuff that was interesting make the the podcast the length needed to cover it. After cutting (or, um, stretching) to make shows fit a time slot, the ability to just make something the length it needs to be is liberating.

@Erik: We have seen spot.us. I think it's interesting how it sorts of takes the public radio model and and turns it around (funding upfront vs after the fact).

A few people mentioned feeds... if we added in some of these new sections, we'd create feeds for each section.

Re: overheard -- we just put them up as we come across them. I'm betting the warm weather will lead to more.

Thanks for the ideas! Keep 'em coming!

Whatever you do with this thing, I'd like to see more dinosaurs. There's been a clear lack of dinosaur coverage recently. Also, space pirates. Perhaps some stories about the space pirate dinosaurs could hit two birds with one stone.

I'm with B, and I would like more unicorns and rainbows too.
Why there is no Cornify button on the main page is beyond me, especially on April 1st.
I demand more unicorns!

I really just like everything as is!

I like the super-simple layout & minimal advertising.

& I'm too lazy to remember a user name or password. I like that I can add my 2 cents quickly before my boss wanders by.

I like the randomness of the topics from stuff I've never heard of (vintage shops in Slingerlands) to stuff I think about every day (big cranes in the neighborhood).

as AOA gets bigger and better, please try and keep its edgy and light feel. Almost everyday, I get a good laugh at something someone has posted, or at the topic/photo that has been covered. I like AOA's non-mainstream feel.

Here's a great new idea for AOA: Each week (or everyday), have someone put a camera on their dashboard and drive up and down Central Ave between Ontario and Swan . It's like a real life Cruisin' USA...dodging pedestrians, potholes and double-parked cars every 300 feet all while keeping up with the 45 mph speed limit.

Not bitter...

For the calendar, I've always liked the way Wonkette and Gawker handle it -- of a Friday afternoon, they pick out three or four things to do over the weekend, and highlight them briefly. Somebody still has to sort through all the possibilities, of course.

No interest whatsoever in a podcast. Reading is always faster than listening/watching, and who has the time for all these podcasts? Unless you can teach me French or show me Olivia Munn jumping into a giant pie, there's not a lot of value added.

A calendar/events calendar is an awesome idea, particularly if you allow people to add events and moderate it (as suggested earlier). That's exactly the sort of open-source events listing that this area needs.

I'd totally be up for more meet-ups, especially since I had to miss the birthday celebration.

As a fellow podcaster (who records episodes with stunning irregularity), I'd definitely be interested in hearing what AOA can do on that end.

NOT SOLD ON:
- A forum. I wouldn't be against it, but there's nothing that I find appealing about it. It just seems so "web 1.0." If anything, stuff like blogs (eg. this site), Twitter, and social networking sites like Facebook have sort of made forums - particularly ones focused on local events/discussion - unnecessary.
- User-created content. The sort of people I'd be interested in hearing from/reading about seem to already have their own online presence for that sort of thing.

I just feel like All Over Albany has its own distinct feel and personality to it, which is directly attributable to the fine folks behind it. It's nice to want to have more hands in the pot and give it a more "democratic" feel, but I wonder if that tone and presentation would become muddied by so many people providing submissions.

Just my two cents.

I would love this NOT to become a podcast. I look at you at work and this is my outlet for knowing what's going on without my whole office being there. Selfish I know, but I would actually love if you became less popular...

So a few weirdos want podcasts... but would that really enhance AOA? No. Just extra crap for you to keep up with to keep a few obsessive weirdos happy. Work on making your content even better, not adding pointless features. And ditch the twitter crap while you're at it. Twitter is pointless. ("ooh, I saw a McDonald's with a double drive through"-- yeah, guess what? Everyone else in Watervliet has seen it too!)

Advice column!!

I don't think there should be a member's forum. It might end up like the Rants and Raves section of Craigslist.

It sounds like we in the Capital Region represent different styles and preferences for learning and communicating!

I also vote against a podcast since I much prefer the printed word. I would hate to see creativity and energy siphoned away from the print medium.

I'm with Alison... keep doin' what you're doin'. I would add---do more of it. (increase content)

Of the ideas you presented I find Calendar and Events the most appealing.

@Blehber Is there anything you like? Or can you not put up a comment without something negative in it?

Here's my two cents:
The crowd: This sounds like it could be a good idea for the community to share news that you guys don't have the time to put up. However, it sounds like it could take a lot of monitoring and/or could get filled with a lot of spam. I'm not terribly familiar with this so I could be wrong.

Calendar: I would LOVE this feature. If users submitted their own content (event info including description) and it could be easily added that would be perfect. I would still like the Stuff to Do feature for the highlights but I think the calendar would be a great addition.

Events: Yes!! I was so upset I had to miss the b-day party and I would love to meet some of the cool people that comment on AOA. I'll even volunteer to help get these together.

Where?: I can't think of a specific use for this other than what you use it for now. It sounds like a great idea but I'm not sure for what.

Podcast: I think the occasional podcast could be fun but I, like many readers, read AOA while at work and listening to a podcast is out of the question during the day. I think that all the contributors to the site could make some great podcasts on various items but I would prefer that the site not be overrun with them.

Photos: I think this is a great idea too. I love looking at the pictures that you put up from local photographers.

Other: I would love the uber-feed. While the posts are on my RSS feed I tend to miss some great comments because I don't always have the site up. I would love to be able to see the comments in my feed. I'd like to see more content but I'm sure you guys are stretched as it is. I like the idea above of featuring interviews with certain people in Albany (hot guys post, Mary? haha).

Overall, I think you guys should know that you are doing an amazing job with the site. The site has become my go to for news, events, shopping and so much more. The content is well written, interesting and worth reading. I love that you cover so many different topics from the serious to the not so serious. Thank you for what you've put together.

Big ups to open-source calendar.

Not so hot on some of the other suggestions, I guess to me more isn't always better and one of the things I like here is the tight focus. Podcast might be fun for others, I just I know I would never get around to listening to it. As to a member's forum, I feel like the comments offer the right amount of self-expression to the site's readers. And for "The Crowd" it sounds like a potentially overwhelming barrage of information.

That seems like a lot of naysaying so let me rush to add that I really like the site and look forward to checking it every day!

My wish? A recurring weekly feature on a Capital Region artist, be it a musician/band or painter or writer or sculptor or arts collective or whatever. Some of us formerly happening people do not get out as much as they used to and still want to know what they are missing.

@Cecelia- she is exactly right- filtering is the core of AOA and so far you've done a superb job. I also especially like the specific-to-AOA content.

My only suggestions are blog-platform specific:

Better commenting system with profiles, so it would remember my registered name and email, and I could be emailed when people reply. Plus, then comments from non-anonymous users wouldn't have to be individually approved.

Post pagination! Yes, the 'all posts from the last 7 days' is cool, but after that, you have to view the posts a month at a time in the archive. Why is there no 'previous page / next page' buttons at the bottom of the homepage? This is the only blog I've seen that is not set up that way.

I like a lot of the suggestions already mentioned - I would definitely listen to a AOA Podcast.

an addition to my last comment - before adding too much of the "new technology," please remember that many of your devoted readers are behind aggressive firewalls at work, and we would be blocked from content in those formats.

Thoughts, in condensed form:

I love Morning Blend. Definitely keep this feature!

I also would be a fan of other social get togethers for AOA folk.

I also agree with the notion of making sure that the site doesn't go too far in the direction of podcasts or other higher-bandwidth features. I think there's a high percentage of AOA folk who check at work and want to keep their AOA habit under the radar - podcasts and other like features might make that a wee bit difficult.

I can't wait to see what the second year brings for AOA! Great job! This site is exactly what I've wanted to see in the Capital Region!

More photos sounds nice. But that's about it...I like the site as it is, its simplicity is fresh. No podcast.

@Pallagia I second the love of Morning Blend. That's how I get my news in the morning. Sifting through the other news sites (especially the TU's) is a pain.

I agree with Barold about a "colorful local" feature. Mental Floss does something like that on a national scale and it would be cool to give refreshing people a place to shine. AOA is not just about stuff to do or places to go- it's also about people.

As for user generated content- I dunno. I feel the comments are a great forum for that.

A podcast would be super. It could be something in the sidebar?

SOCIAL!

I would like the comments easier to see/get to. I realize you need ads (revenue, and all that) but, when you click 'comments' it doesn't take you right to peoples' response. I'd like the post and comments to be seamless.

Argh! You have an epic thread the day I'm on vacation! WHY, UNIVERSE?! WHYYYYY?!

I think events would be wonderful. I loved the AOA birthday party, and my main regret was that I didn't get a chance to talk to everyone. The events wouldn't need to be frequent.

Comment moderation: establish a moderation policy and stick to it. I don't know if MT supports this easily, but if a user has commented a certain number of times their future comments should automatically post to the site without needing moderation.

How about user profiles? Allow users to sign in rather than enter their credentials each time they post. This could also be tied to moderation, so once a "doesn't need babysitting" flag is set in a user's profile, their comments aren't stuck in moderation hell.

Threaded comments would be nice, but I'm not as attached to this as I used to be.

I'd love to hear a podcast, but like you I don't know what you'd talk about other than audio versions of the above articles.

How about going hyper-local? This could probably be done with your tag infrastructure as it is now; allow users to see stories on Troy, Saratoga, Schenectady, Great Barrington, etc. Since the capital region is small, you could probably map ZIP codes to AOA tags.

Sorry if I duplicated comments above, I haven't read all 40 before posting this.

What about any form of linkbacks? Would be nice to see the referrers listed at the end of each post...

I kind of dig the metafilter idea. Maybe just an AskAOA section similar to ask.metafilter.com

One good example is over at CelinaBean
http://celinabean.com/2008/09/questions-looking-for-an-ingredient-in-the-albany-area-ask-celinabean/

I've been thinking about some technical improvements that might make navigation easier. I'm sure someone posted these up there somewhere but I'm too lazy to look.

- Use the AOA logo picture that pops up after posting a comment as a link right back to the homepage. That way one doesn't have to go back to the post to get to the homepage. But keep the other links that way people can go where they want from there.

- Some sites enable the user to go back to the most recent page but the user ends up on the same spot on the page from where the user navigated away. So if I navigate from the homepage using a link at the bottom of the homepage, when I come back to the homepage I will end up right back to where that link is located on the homepage and I don't have to scroll back all the way to the bottom.

These are obviously suggestions or lazy surfers such as myself. I hope this makes sense and is helpful. :)

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