I hear you, Miriam. I respectfully disagree that Matt and I respond in haste and do not really hear the observations and complaints. I have observed the decline of event creation and attendance. I shared my opinion on one of the possible causes of that.
I appreciate your observation on the changes to the "network" functionality. I would love to share the background on the events that led to that change.
I again respectfully disagree that the new "follow" functionality is like Facebook. It's actually the *opposite* of Facebook. Facebook is a 2-way network, meaning approval is required by both parties before a connection is made. Prior to the changes last winter, Biznik's network functioned the same way. Acceptance of an invitation to network was required before the other person would appear in your network. In return, if they appeared in your network, you appeared in theirs.
The problem with the Biznik network was that the purpose was never established. We know why to use the Facebook network (until the changes that permitted filtering and grouping and hiding content from some friends and not others) it was pretty straight forward -- you made a "friend request" if you want to see the posts on their wall, and grant them access to the posts on your wall. LinkedIn was also clear. Again, these platforms have evolved some but at the root of the LinkedIn connection was permission to view their full profile and contact that person. You don't need to follow a Twitter user to see their tweets, you can go to their profile, "following" puts their tweets in your stream. But the other reason to follow a Twitter user was to grant them permission to message you directly.
Biznik didn't have any of that clarity. We don't have a wall for status updates, so a network connection didn't give you access to another person's activity. Biznik profiles are visible to all users even non-members, so a network connection did not give you access to profile details. Until recently, all users could send messages to other users (now messaging is a benefit of paid membership), so a connection is not required to message someone.
We posed the question (inside our team meetings, with a number of consultants, and in conversations with long-time members), "Why do you make a network connection on Biznik?" The unifying answer was a variation of, "To keep tabs on what they're doing on Biznik."
Some people wanted to follow an event host -- they wanted to know when an event host created a new event; and event hosts wanted to message their network to let them know a new event had been listed! Some people wanted the same functionality in articles -- to know when an author had published a new piece, and to let fans know that a new piece had been published.
We determined that this sounded a lot like "following" another Biznik rather than "connecting" with another Biznik, and that the ability to learn of an author's latest article shouldn't require the author to accept your invitation to connect.
So after much discussion and deliberation we came up with the idea to change "network" to "follow" and to compliment the change with the Network Activity Updates mailing. The "follow" functionality doesn't work if you're not getting notified of the actions made by those you follow. But no one wants to follow 100 people on Biznik and get 100 individual email notifications each time they do something. The weekly summary report solves that.
I appreciate that every change has the potential to cause disappointment. I don't like a lot of Facebook's changes -- it forced me to use Facebook differently. I have strong opinions about Path's UI changes and use Path less because of them. I expected some users to not like the change we implemented yet felt compelled to make them anyway. I respect your displeasure.
I'm sorry to hear that Biznik no longer has a "nourishing at home feeling." I suppose it was inevitable. It would be nice if it could have grown and stayed feeling small. I don't have a response to that.
I regards to the old tagline, "Business Networking That Doesn't Suck," again -- I appreciate the feedback! This is *your* community, I have the responsibility of taking care of the container that holds that community. It is not a role I take lightly or frivolously. I have a deep respect and a warm regard for the community that sprouted out of nothing, and for those who continue to show and participate through their invaluable contributions.
Each and every addition, change and "improvement" is carefully considered and deliberated on. It took us close to two years to update the tagline and I'm still not entirely at peace with the decision.
If you'd like to know *why* we changed the tagline, I shared the reason in a blog post I wrote 2 years ago.
At the root of it is a disconnect inside of me. I don't think networking sucks. I think networking with peers is inspiring, crucial, beneficial and fun! The burden of creating a place where networking doesn't suck, implies that it does. What sucks are people who abuse the networking container by only thinking of themselves and trying to sell to others.
Maybe it's semantics and Biznik's 95/5 Principle helped make Biznik a place that doesn't suck... I don't know. I hear you. I appreciate you. And I thank you for taking the time to show up and share in this forum. When you show up you make this place awesome for everyone else.