Survey Results on the eList, 2010
Thank you, all, for participating in the 2010 eList survey! The turnout was fantastic -- over 250 respondents!
The purpose of the survey was to give me and my fellow moderators, fellow past WGNA Presidents Suzy Phillips and Helen Solinski, guidance on how to moderate the eList. I felt we knew pretty well how the eList community felt on commerce, religion, and politics, but it reassuring to know for sure.
On commerce: you don't want the eList to devolve into a free "penny-saver" email advertisement, but you also like recommendations in response to inquiries and don't view them as commercials -- this was confirmed by a 95% majority. The survey also showed that you are happy with someone announcing that they themselves can provide the requested service, but also that you don't want someone to out-of-the-blue volunteer such information: 67% say it's fine to answer the question "who can fix this" by saying "I can!", but likewise 67% don't want someone to just jump out and say "I can fix something".
The survey showed that you want to hear about seasonal events (e.g., Christmas boutiques) and local Willow Glen store openings and closings, and also that you want to hear about special fundraisers events at local stores, but that you don't want unrestricted advertisements. (And from the 2007 survey: it's okay to announce yard-sales and your own car or house for sale, but it's not okay to sell cars or houses as a business: the eList is for amateurs, and professionals should use the commercial venues.)
I was hoping the survey would help draw the line in some of the "gray areas" between black and white, but the responses were evenly split on questions such as store openings throughout San Jose or local half-price sales. So, I will make some Solomonic decisions:
* I don't want to see announcements of every new tire store or health spa that opens in Berryessa or Almaden, but it'll be okay if there is some local connection: does it provide a unique and locally needed service (e.g., old plumbing or furnaces), or is related to a former Willow Glen provider (say, a local businessperson has now moved to Midtown), or is it of personal interest ("my sister is opening a new spa in Westgate").
* I don't want to have anyone posting every weekly sale at Frys. One the other hand, if it would likely be of interest to our unique local community, it is okay to announce sales at local stores (e.g., Casa Casa's half-price close-out sale).
If things seem to get carried away, I may revisit these decisions...
Regarding the Community Recommendations webpage: it's clear that you don't want ads from WalMart, or even large local businesses such as, say, Noahs Bagels. However, the results on the self-promotion of small local businesses are difficult to decipher: on these, the "like" category got the plurality, but the "weighted average" was negative, even though the total "like"+"love" was larger than the "dislike"+"hate". (Geeze, you don't make it easy for us, do you?!) And nearly everybody was positive or negative: there was very little middle ground! Based on the various comments provided, again I will draw a fine line:
* Small local Willow Glen businesses (5 equivalent employees or less) may send a notice off-list to announce@WGBackfence.net . Our volunteer, Shirley Worth, will feel free to edit the notices, as appropriate, into a standard format, and the notices will then be added to a separate section of the Recommendations webpage. This will hopefully help the local small businesspersons but won't dilute the spirit of the community recommendations.
* Several folks suggested that we charge for this service. However, we are not set up to collect money, and also it would affect the volunteer status of the eList. So I recommend a "payment in kind": volunteer to help at your kid's school, go to a library board meeting, volunteer at a food-bank, or help with the local business district.
* Again, this is a trial-run: I may change my mind if this doesn't appear to be working out.
Religion was somewhat easier: you like to receive notices of non-religious events at local churches (e.g., community meetings, concerts, etc.), but you don't want religious notices (postings to the Recommendations webpage, discussions and debates, or even announcements of Sunday-school openings): the desire is for "separation of church and eList". But the survey showed you were nearly evenly split on the matter of fundraisers at local churches, so again I need to draw a fine line: if the fundraiser is for a local Willow Glen service (such as a local preschool facility), then it's okay; if it is for a more general religious purpose (e.g., supporting missionaries overseas), then it's not.
And politics was the easiest of them all: you all don't like it. By a 95% majority, you say you don't want campaign ads, and you don't want announcements of fundraisers and rallies, or campaign events, either. You do want to be informed about local ribbon-cuttings and ground-breaking events, even though they might be considered "political"; you do want to be notified about candidate forums; and you also do want to know when elected officials are appearing locally.
I have posted the data summaries on the website:
You have given us the mandate to continue moderating the eList, basically as we have been doing these past many years. But now, if and when we're challenged as to why we made a given decision, rather than having to provide a long discussion on the reasoning for the decision, we can simply point to this survey and say "it is the will of the community"!
I thank you all for participating in the survey!
~Larry Ames, eList Moderator
2/18/10; updated 6/26/10