On Friday 8th February we held our 2nd Q&A session on TowersStreet Chat. Many things were discussed, both serious and silly! Here is a list of all the questions asked and the responses we gave:
Mike asked: OK – basically, I’m just wondering how you feel the site has gone thus far – and where you feel that improvement can be made, specifically in the short term?
Joel: Overall, good. I think we as a team have spent a lot of time with our noses to the grind stone, and we’ve taken some time recently to take stock of how things are going in the team too, and we do things – as you saw with the recent topic on the Member Awards. But overall, we’re doing better than we hoped for at this stage, as we’re barely 8 months old of
Wilsy: Twitter is a big thing we can improve right now, we have got lots of followers (and also randomly lots of votes in the Shorty awards) In regards to the site, we have certainly got lots of big plans coming soon which I dunno if Joel will reveal.
Tom asked: Who pays for the site’s bandwidth?
Joel It’s actually paid by me and Craig, who basically jointly own (50/50 split) the server that TS is hosted on. The small amount of ad revenue that Google kindly scrapes from the barrel for us also goes into paying the server (and other random improvements, like the forum notifications system). And no, we don’t claim to have an excessive server, just one thats reasonable and does the job.
Thomas asked: Will there ever be a TowersStreet map?
Joel We did look at one, but professionally it would have cost way more than we’d have liked, and more money than its perhaps worth. We’ll hopefully find some interesting way to present the site in map form, but we’ve not really focused too much on this as we’re still kind of establishing our site and content first I guess. But we’ve not dismissed it, and we’re not forgotten about it.
Maya asked: Is there an age minimum for meets?
Wilsy: Anyone can come on meets, as long as they have permission from their parent/guardian
Hobohippie95 asked: Is there a code of conduct for meets?
Wilsy: We don’t have an official code of conduct, but we expect for people to behave sensibly and the same way they do on the forum
Ashlee asked: Im probably missing something, but as you pay for the site out of your own pockets, and google doesn’t generate much revenue, wild you be looking at doing fundraisers to help pay for the site?
Mike also asked: Following on from Ashlee’s question, have you ever considered accepting donations from members?
Joel: We did kind of consider donations, but apparently there are some legal issues to deal with when you accept donations and money from people – so it’s a little shady, and we’ve not really explored it any further as we’re kinda of in that “OK” place at the moment really.
Tom asked: Would you reveal the world first element of The Smiler if you had confirmation of it?
Wilsy: We haven’t had any confirmation as of yet of the actual world’s first (if there even is an obvious one), we would only reveal it if we had solid information as we don’t want to post something for the sake of it
Joel: We usually consult the Resort on anything big, but each piece of information is handled on a individual basis, and we as a team decide if its something that we’d like to publish or something we’d like to hold back for the surprise I guess!
Tom asked: I don’t think I’m explaining effectively so: In the event you had solid information that was beyond doubt the details of the world-first feature, would you reveal that regardless of requests from the park not to. IE) Would you be influenced by the park’s wishes or requests in both revealing the information and keeping it on the website if contact came afterwards.
Joel: When I say “consult”, I do mean we notify – we don’t always ask permission per se, but we do like to have a open line of communication to the Resort to feedback on what we know and what we’re up to. Again we treat everything on its individual merits – we have no blanket policy for revealing information. We’ll always aim to reveal everything we can, but that’s not to say we wouldn’t consider a request to not publish information for a good reason (thankfully not happened yet!!). And like I said – consider a request by someone not to reveal – we have a great team who are able to weigh up the pros and cons of everything we do, so we always treat each bit of information individually and decide collectively what we feel comfortable doing. But we are a news site, so we do publish things that sometimes aren’t in the interest of the Resort – we certainly don’t pander to all of their likes and whims! 😛
Thomas asked: Will we see the history section on TowersStreet expanded soon?
Joel: I believe the next big project is the History section, and Squiggles is already planning out in his little special way… I imagine him to be going crazy in a dark room somewhere…
Scott: Additionally, some of the history section is in the process of being written and organised, so it is gradually getting there bit by bit
Thom-MeatPie asked: If there was enough support for it, could there ever be a dedicated area of the forums for serious, more controversial and lengthy discussions?
Joel: It’s not been considered no, and I’ll perhaps ask the team to consider it. However – we’re loathe to create many more additional forums, as each board obviously adds more and more perhaps confusing choices for members and topics, but rather more from a performance point of view additional boards put a lot of stress on the forum software. That said – if there is enough call for it, we would consider it nonetheless, but I guess we felt until now it was being managed OK within the confines of Corner Coffee.
Nick asked: To add to what MP said, would it be possible to have a sub-forum involved for serious debating. I think it’s a good suggestion, and the posts made should be forced to make a valid argument- not just a one line response. Even a special emblem would be fine here.
Joel: Nick – We’ll certainly look and discuss about the serious discussion point. We know a lot of people like serious discussion, but we’re also aware of the impact its having on some less savvy members at the moment who are perhaps a little intimidated by it, so its a good point to suggest and we’ll discuss it as a team.
Maya asked: I know its very early, especially after the sites been open for so little, but do you think TS will always stick to this beautiful purple colour?
Wilsy: I think purple (and gold) has sorta become our signature colour now, so it would feel strange for us to change it now. Although who knows what will happen in the future. I think Joel wouldn’t appreciate us asking for a new site design anytime soon!
Joel: The purple and gold are here to stay for now, but obviously we’ll adapt things as time goes on – I’ve redesigned the news on the homepage a little tonight!
Hobohippie95 asked: Before running this forum, did any of the team have previous experience of being a team member elsewhere?
Joel: All but one member of the team originally ran TowersTimes, so yes, plenty of of experience! lol!
Scott: Oh and hobohippie95 – the one member that wasn’t on the TTeam (me) was a team member on the UKs biggest Nintendo forum – so we all have experience somewhere
Tom asked: Have you taken the decision to ban any member that isn’t a spambot or whatever since TS was formed?
Joel: There has only been one banning on the forum to my knowledge for a serious matter, but obviously we don’t discuss the whos and whats outside of the team! Which does bring me onto another point – you don’t often see any actions or repremands we place on people for unacceptable behaviour, so it doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen – just that we choose to speak to people quietly
Wilsy: There’s no point doing everything publically, as that wouldn’t be very professional
Joel: And we obviously hope that people react to it and adapt… but not always
Scott: But just ‘cos you don’t see it, doesn’t mean it isn’t happening – so no messing about 😉
Thom-MeatPie asked: Ok, I’ve got a real serious question now. If you get banned, are you still allowed to pass go and collect your £200?
Scott: It would help if any of us had £200!
Mike asked: How is TST doing in terms of natural searches on Google etc? Are we now ranknig for key Towers phrases?
Scott: we are doing fairly well – it’s possible to see for yourself, by logging out of Google and searching random things. We’re dfinitely where we would want to be after such a short time. In fact, we ranked higher than Alton Towers for ‘The Smiler’ on name reveal day! Of course, that quickly changed 😛
Joel: its getting better, and some things are doing really well – we of course are working towards to coveted “alton towers” keyword (23rd last time I checked). But the big thing letting us down with Google is our age – Google does treat infant sites differently, so we will improve with time too, like a good whiskey.
Hobohippie95 asked: What will the team do if a genuine profile is found to repeatedly be trolling in the forums?
Wilsy: We have various stages of warning and watch levels before we consider taking any action which is more than that
MeatPie asked: When will the long awaited and much loved ‘-‘ topic be allowed to return against the will of Ben’s anti-‘-‘ facism?
Joel: Never! (on behalf of Ben) 😉
Andrew asked: Are there any other site areas due to be launched?
Joel: nothing major ready to go right now, we’re working on History which will hopefully be ready soon. Also We quite often work on different things, new content, self-improvement and rewriting things etc all the time.
Wilsy: Don’t forget our amazing new resort section 😉 We do have some media developments coming soon, with some content which hasn’t been massively publicised before.
Joel: Also: Some people… someone… anyone… might be pleased to hear… that ridecount.com will be coming back very soon after some ideas from people. No dates yet, but I have promised it will happen before the start of season. It’s just going to be rebranded a little too, and some minor changes. It will now be “powered by TowersStreet.com”, which might be a clue to its future too
Panda asked: Is there going to be anything else done to the Wiki? There are still TTF references everywhere.
Vez asked: if we edit the wiki its like trying eradicate we ever were TTF
Joel: Yeah, we know the Wiki does have lots of TT/TTF references in, but it really is a sideline for TS, and not something perhaps “official” in our plans – it was restored as obviously I had the rights to it and it was removed from TT, but at the same time we’re not actively developing it – but thats not to say members can’t work on it if they wish, as obviously thats the nature of a Wiki!
Vez asked: Can TST bring me some alcohol?
Wilsy: We would need to see your ID
Russ asked: What is the possibility of a live blog for maybe something like The Smiler opening?
Joel: We’ve not really considered live blogging as its usually heavily done (and very well done too!) by other fan sites, including the ‘Nerd gang. Plus we do find that a fair majority of our members attend the big meets – so it would be one poor person on the day dedicated updating the live blog for perhaps quite a small audience really.
Mike asked: Will TST find a way of making Blivvy not scary? It says something when a 23 year old coaster geek is terrified of the thing 😛
Wilsy: Mike, I’ll personally make sure you are perfectly safe. Everything has been designed for your comfort and enjoyment
Tom asked: Is it right that TowersTimes retains all of the site (not forum) content it does since the breakoff?
Joel: Not really wanting to open a can of worms with the TT thing (as obviously most of it has been settled and we’re working nicely now) – but theres no real legal ownership of the content per se as TT (nor TS) are not registered legal entities – nonetheless, we agreed on what we left and what we took, and thats worked OK for both parties now I guess. We want to be different from them and unique (obviously we can’t always be, but we aim to be) so we wanted our own style and our own way of doing things anyway.
Hobohippie95 asked: Is there any chance of a little games area where we can compete with other members for the highest score with games being changed regularly?
Joel: It’s unlikely as theres already some great resources out there (Shout out for RideSims.com) that offer such things – so it would be wasted development time for us that we could bring something unique to fruition instead
Andrew asked: Are there any other special events or competitions that you’re planning or would like in the future?
Joel: We don’t have anything planned yet, but we do like special events, and as ever we try hard to keep a good relationship with Alton Towers to try and give our members something more – as you may have seen in our previous roles, we did get to enjoy some nice perks like behind the scenes tours, and obviously if we can bring anything like this we will, but it’s really down to Alton Towers management really, and its why we do try to retain a good relationship with them!
Wilsy: I have a few ideas about special events, but not sure if it would happen, will investigate once my other projects are sorted
Joel: Competitions and such – they are a nice idea, but some are a little silly we feel (LIKE THIS STATUS TO WIN A PEN!!!) but it’s not really our style to do them. Obviously big and exciting things, but we’ve not committed to an approach with smaller competitions yet. That’s not to say we won’t do LIKE THIS STATUS FOR A PEN! stuff in future, but again we’ve chose not to do it so far because we don’t feel it’s the right thing for us, building quick likes etc for free gifts 😛
Wilsy: I’d rather money like that was invested into things like the notification bar instead of stationary
Tom asked: What goals or objectives have you set for the website and/or community this year?
Scott: Obviously Tom we’re excited to expand the site further with more information and things like history. We also hope the forum side of the site grows over the coming season too. We don’t have any set targets – but we hope you all enjoy what we have planned and that there will be more people joining us for the ride!
Wilsy: I don’t think we have done anything massively wrong yet, so we just need to keep what we are doing, we are certainly becoming (if we arent already there) the best resource on the internet for general Alton Towers information, and we have still got lots of ideas to implement
Meat Pie asked: Can we have a community suggestion box for Chat events which could increase its usage?”
Joel: Yes, if you like Meat Pie, you can establish a thread in Guest Services for community chat suggestions if you wish, that would be great! We’re always happy to see the community take initiative and ownership of things too, like the Unofficial Member awards
Tom asked: To be slightly more technical/general, why was the decision made to go with .com over .co.uk – purely SEO or?
Joel: We just liked .com to be honest, it’s sweet and short and memorable. There are no SEO gains or disadvantages, we’re already targeted to the UK in Google anyway.
Jem8472 asked: Given that God is infinite, and that the universe is also infinite… would you like a toasted teacake?
Joel: Yes please!
Anon asked: Is Ben single? He’s a proper fit <censored> Barnes
Joel: No Anon, he’s married.
Anon asked: Do you or do you not accept that some of BigT’s posts, particularly of late, have escalated to a level that has damaged this community? Not only are the posts themselves arguably offensive – but the current lack of effective action could cause the team’s decision-making to be questioned.
Joel: Well… we’re not really going to talk about individual members, because it’s not how we like to roll. But… obviously the team aren’t stupid about what goes on the on the forum, and we do deal with things brought to our attention as best possible, as well as keep a close eye on proceedings and particular members if needed. That said, if someone has an issue with an individual, they really need to let us know their thoughts, because we can’t deal with everything that goes on – we don’t get time to read everything for a start! 😛
Mike asked: Any plans for other official ‘social’ meets following the success of Beach Party being official?
Joel: Obviously we have a policy of continuous improvement, and when things work well, we run with them like crazy. Yes, Beach Party as an official meet was great, and we’ll continue to look at the meets calendar on the wider basis of things-people-go-to-a-lot-but-aren’t-official because we like to be different. Obviously The Smiler has put a giant spanner in this year’s meet calendar and Alton Towers Accountants are already furiously rubbing their hands on the extra revenue from us.. some would say it’s a conspiracy… but I’m waffling now…