Today marks one full week on New Newsvine, a week I know some members had sworn they wouldn’t be completing. But many of them are still here, slowly admitting that they are getting used to the system and even liking some aspects of it. Some users are still a bit bewildered but want to give it longer, some are very confused and can mainly complain; some have shown their disapproval by leaving the site altogether, while a steady few, like me, have used the week to get used to the system and now feel like pros with it, despite its obvious faults.
New Newsvine still has work to do to please most users (one can never please ALL users in any diverse social organisation), but personally, I am determined to stick with it as long as possible because, as I said in another article, when we like something we don’t trample on it, or abandon it at the first hurdle. We are prepared to fight for it and are quick to support it.
However, as a people person, I was trying to work out why there was such a backlash from many Viners and have come to the conclusion that the main reason isn’t all to do with the technology or design of the site. It is something more basic and emotional which then affected their perspective and their actions. The primary reason for the discontent was a clear mismatch of objectives and expectations between users and site owners. The users clearly value one aspect while TPTB value another.
Continuity and Bonding
When Newsvine came into being as a young site needing all the help it can get, and for at least the first four years, the emphasis was clearly on building a COMMUNITY, a loyal association of users that would stick with the site, help raise its visibility and help it to grow. It deliberately stressed this interactive community aspect in its functionality: through voting up comments and articles, watchlists, a competitive Leaderboard to track the most deserving, groups to encourage even more community spirit, Vinemeets, identifying active writer columnists, and most important to all users, the friendship aspect. All those elements stressed continuity and bonding. People felt they were part of a real community and it even affected their lives offline.
Fast forward to 2012 and talk of an impending Beta site which brought some excitement to those who thought it would be better than the Classic version, an improvement, they hope, on what they had, but with the things they valued intact. Except that the launch proved abundantly clear that what the users felt were priority for them was further down the list for TPTB.
As a very active COMMUNITY, it was most natural and fair for the members to expect this ethos to continue to be the priority, and all the things that helped to sustain this spirit to be a key part in the new design. Instead, with the launch of New Newsvine, the site had clearly changed from a community-led model to a clear BUSINESS model to keep up with competitors, to bring it up to date and increase its value and income. Groups or Nations, for more efficient user monitoring, now became more pronounced, for a variety of reasons, but have made essential commenting.
Gone were all the functions that encouraged a community that the users actually WANTED: no watch lists, no friendship lists or invites, nothing for any non-writer to aspire to, and no opportunity to even vote up favourites if they were NOT in one’s Nation. All well and good for the professional writers and reporters associated with it. But nothing for the lurkers, readers or commenters? Where did they fit into this brave new Vine?
That is a question only management can answer. But one thing is clear: Newsvine needs users to both make it function and drive its traffic. Not all users share the same aims and objectives. People are motivated by different aspects of the Vine. this motivation is what kept their respect for the Vine and that’s what kept their loyalty to it. Take that away and the the emotional and physical commitment is lost.
The Problem With Change
Change management is a difficult process, but the essence of any successful change is good communication, building from the familiar to the unfamiliar to avoid too much of a bewildering credibility gap, and constant review to test comfort and competency levels. From the numerous complaints this past week, it is clear that lots of users are committed to Newsvine and really do like using it, but the general feeling is that they FEEL they are dispensable to it. I think it just needs sensitive action by TPTB to show user value and restore some goodwill. Newsvine will never please everyone, but it cannot appear to ditch the community aspect without warning when it pleases, either. The expectations on both sides of the equation need to be more matched to get the right working atmosphere.
Users have to accept that there is no going back to Classic Newsvine for a variety of reasons. But staff also need to acknowledge that this is a partnership with various expectations, and the most successful partnerships look after each other and enhance mutual good feelings. In that case, the best compromise solution could be for some of those community functions to be reinstated, the ones that wouldn’t cause too much fuss to re-jig, but could make a world of difference to a lot more users. They might be simple but they make users feel VALUED and that’s a key to quality of life.
Speaking for me only (though I know some Viners agree), I LOVE the new site and find it almost addictive because of some if the new functionalities. I have a lot to learn about it, and some things are still problematic. But I am even happier now than on the Classic because this version has far more possibilities and opportunities to experiment. Having spent time every day learning it, I also understand its key aspects, and feel very comfortable with the site as a whole. Above all, I feel rather excited by Newsvine’s continuing development, and know that I am in a place where I want to be. I certainly won’t be going to any other site any time soon.