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StormTrack-->Ning Social Network

After the discussion in the "Is This Site Dead" thread (see: http://www.stormtrack.org/forum/showthread.php?28476-Is-this-site-dead), many stipulated the idea that part of the reason activity on Stormtrack has slowed down is due to Facebook and possibly other social networking sites. I pointed out the weakness of Facebook was that it wasn't focused on the subject of chasing and has a lot of limitations itself whereas the forum structure still has some good aspects. However, it occurred to me that the best solution may be to keep up with the times and either convert Stormtrack Forums into a social networking site, or create a Stormtrack social network site to run concurrently as a sister site to the forums thereby offering members greater flexibility. I recalled that I was in a local chaser social network site just for central Tx chasers that was created using Ning http://www.ning.com/about/product/.

I would like Tim, the moderators, and members to investigate and consider the option of creating a Stormtrack Ning site. Having used the other Ning site, I think it would be cool and people would probably like it. At first, I thought it was free, but it turns out it is only free for the first month. Here are the different Ning plans features and costs: http://www.ning.com/compareplans. That's a bit pricy for 1 person to pay but if we have donations it will be very cheap considering the number of members that Stormtrack has. Possibly as low as $1 / year each or less. That is certainly cost effective IMO. Also Tim may find that this is a much easier format to setup and maintain. As I understand you basically just decide on display options, colors, and what features and plugins you want your site to use. It then generates it itself.

Features: Ning provides all the hardware service to keep it running. It's really kind of like FB in the sense there is no moderator I believe although the owner can remove or likely suspend members. Search engine optimization feature is built in. It even has the ability for embedded streaming video. It has an included forum and threads that can be date based. Each member gets their own Blog which is like their personal page or website, but integrated into Ning. It has search features, a scrolling latest activity bulletin board, ability to submit photos, and videos for everyone to see. It has a members list, the ability to send out event announcements and reminders. It also has individual email, and chat built in. It's really kind of cool I think. It would be Stormtrack on steroids. Oh, it also integrates in some way with Facebook, Twitter, and other sites so you could share with other folks if you wish. It appears that it also has a built in way to collect donations, post ads, collect ad revenue, and even sell merchandise. My guess is this may be a lot easier than the way Stormtrack is currently doing it.

Biggest downside I see is the amount of space provided for photos or video. Those limits may soon be reached. Perhaps like Stormtrack we would require members use their own space at least for video such as YouTube to save all the bandwidth space and keep the cost down. I suspect they would be willing to work with Stormtrack for a custom disk space plan.

So, admin, moderators, members... Check this out and decide what you think. There is a free 30 day trial just to set it up and play with it. We could even do that and let members join and everyone decide how they like it before they buy in. I'm tempted just to set one up and start inviting all the other chasers cause I'm a bit excited now, but I think I'll wait for input. I'd like this to be sponsored and blessed by Stormtrack and be an official Stormtrack social network. I think it would be presumptuous of me to create it and name it Stormtrack without Tim and others giving it the green light.

Please post your opinion!
My biggest concern is that we're still competing with Facebook for our users' attention, time, and contributions. What does the Facebook integration actually entail? For this to be successful I think that integration should be pretty deep. For example threads show up in the News feed, and when you post a status or picture on Facebook you should be able to share it with the forum at the same time. Basically, much of the forum should be accessed and used through Facebook. I'm not sure if that's possible with some sort of plugin for Facebook.
Skip, the Ning can be set up to integrate with Facebook, and I believe Twitter and others. It is probably each members choice if they want to share at those locations. You mention you think much of the social network should be accessed and used through Facebook, but I am submitting this as a superior chaser option to Facebook. It would have the ability to centrally focus on chasing and chaser things like the current ST Forum does but would be presented in the social network fashion allowing individual users to share and interact similarly to FB (perhaps actually a better format). Personally, one of my complaints of my use of Facebook is that I use it for chasing and interacting with other chasers but it is also mixed with extended family members, chase friends, non-chase friends, old friends, business acquaintances, close family, etc, etc. In other words IMO Facebook is a inefficient communication vehicle for focusing on a single topic (i.e. chasing). I don't necessarily want to share chase related stuff with family, and non-chaser friends or coworkers. I don't necessarily want to share family / friend / coworker stuff with other chasers I may not have even personally met. This is one reason I tend to not use Facebook a lot. Personally I think a chaser focused social network site makes a lot of sense and could be fun / rewarding. It is free to set up and let members give it a trial run. It could take the place of the ST Forum or run as an alternative in parallel.

I may decide to set one of these up soon. Is anyone interested? If I set it up can I name it StormTrack or StormTrack Social? Likely it would still conceptually be a Tim Marshall / Tim Vasquez, and storm chaser community site although I may initially foot the bill. Otherwise if Tim(s) have no interest and no one else then I may create it with a different name. I could use a similar name to my website Tornado Xtreme or I may come up with a new name. I have quite a few chaser friends on Facebook and could invite them all to join and they could invite their chaser friends to join. Actually the public could be invited too with the knowledge that it is focused on the concept of chasing as a topic. With this networked invite it could grow quickly. I could also invite those on Stormtrack, but it's probably easier if done from the Moderators or Admin as an official blessing.

Anyone else curious of what life could be life for us interacting in a Stormtrack chase forum style social network? I'm a bit surprised by the current lack of response although perhaps this is related to the "Is this Site Dead" thread.
It sounds like something worth at least trying (the free trial version). Obviously the most significant opinions would come from current moderators and administrators (probably mostly Tim) since they (he) would have to do all of the work.

Basically I'm saying I would support at least trying it.
Hi Bill -- long time no see! If you think this would be a useful extension of Stormtrack, you have my blessing to set this up under the Stormtrack name. Since this would be an extension of our community and have our name on it, we would need to retain ultimate control over it in case of some unforeseen issue; this should be understandable. However you can run this as you see fit and perhaps I can make a presence there to help get it going. After I take a look at it and discuss it with the moderators, we could potentially send out a sitewide e-mail or sitewide announcement to let people know about it.
I'll commit to funding the first three months of the "Plus" level if this helps. PM me if interested.
Awesome news Steve. We can also chip in funding too once its going and seems to be working. I guess we'll await word whether Bill is able to handle the Ning site of it, and figure out where to go from there.

I guess since you're using that "I Don't Always" meme guy in your avatar, it would look something like this:

Haha! Right on! Hope it works out! You guys know as well as I do; we need a solid society here. Let's work it out!
Ok guys, just saw this! Chase season has started and things may be a bit busy but I'll see if I have the time to step into it and have a look around. After that if it's looking good we can make a member post or send out announcements. A lot of us can notify folks on Facebook as well. Apparently that is where everybody is "camped" including me, but I do miss the weather themed aspect of Stormtrack. A lot of info never gets said in an organized fashion on Facebook, but I think Ning can handle that aspect as well as interface with FB. We'll see how it goes.

Tim, yep, it has been quite a while. A shame too as we occasionally have some pub get together's that I'm sure you'd enjoy.
OK, no worries, Bill. There's still time for us to look at options. I'm going to at least try to re-open my Facebook account... I had to put it on vacation last fall because I didn't have time for social media.

Yeah, I miss the pubs in Austin. I don't know if you've been to G&S Lounge near 1st & Oltorf but that's one place worth seeing. The best way I can describe it is like the Soup Nazi running a pub. It's really a nice dive, but complain about your beer and you're out of there. Lots of drama at that place.

I did create the Ning site. Tim, let me know where to send the sign up or Admin info so you can check it out (Email or PM) if you are still interested. Currently paying on it so let me know. If no one is interested I'll delete the site.
PS: I killed it back a couple months ago or so. I think it shows promise as a concept though. I still think we should give it a go sometime and see how folks like it. I'm on Facebook, but it kind of sucks for storm stuff IMO, because it isn't storm centric.