Your Hub Is Up and Running! Now What? (Part 1)
Believe it or not, getting a new hub installed and running is the easy part. Sure, there are lots of packages to install, modules to configure, templates to design, and content to arrange. But that will probably take just a few weeks. Building a loyal user community will take years. Over the course of this multi-part series, we will explore what it takes to attract and grow an audience—what it really takes to “build” a hub.
There’s an old joke in real estate. The three most important factors are: location, location, location. There should be a similar joke for web site development: content, content, content. Users will come to your hub looking for content, and they’ll keep coming back if you supply a fresh stream.
What is content? Good content is unique, engaging, and easy-to-use. You may have a bunch of old tech reports sitting around as PDF files. You could load those onto the hub. Are they good content? It depends. Ask yourself if you would search the web for them and spend time reading them. If the answer is “yes” (Oh boy! Another tech report!) then put them up. Some tech reports can be a goldmine of good information. If these are not your own tech reports, seek permission from the original authors before posting them—perhaps just a simple email exchange letting them know what you’re planning to post and asking their permission. As you upload each report, be sure to copy the abstract into the resource description so users can see at a glance what the report is about. Credit the authors of the report as authors of the resource; remove yourself from the list or give yourself “contributor” status if you had nothing to do with the original report. Give each report good tags, so users browsing the tags can find related work.
But if you consider the question about the utility of this content more carefully and the answer is a weak “maybe,” then upload a few reports or move them lower in your priority queue. If the answer is “no,” then skip them. Think of your hub as a new store in the mall. It’s better to have just a few good items on the shelves than piles and piles of junk.
An easy way to generate good content is to record a regular seminar series. You may already have such a series for your project. If not, start one! Invite well-known speakers to visit and give a seminar about their current research. Many such experts will be reluctant to upload content onto your hub, but they will gladly come and speak. They’re used to doing that. Let each speaker know that you plan to record their talk, and have them sign a release form like this one. When it’s time for their talk, you might transfer the speaker’s slides to a host computer set up with a screen recording program, such as Screenflow or Camtasia, and use that to record the talk. Or, you might use a FlipCam or even a cell phone to record video of the speaker. You can certainly hire a camera crew and spend a lot of time in post-production creating very polished videos, but even simple screen recordings or FlipCam recordings are good enough—as long as you can clearly hear the speaker and read the slides.
You can upload the video for each seminar onto the hub as a resource. Create a resource category such as “Seminars” for this content. Be sure to write a good abstract for each talk and add tags for categorization. Credit the speaker by making that person the author of the resource. It’s a good idea to use mp4 format for the video, so that it will play in many browsers. You can upload the video file as the primary file for the resource and add slides as a secondary file. Or, you can post the video on YouTube and create a “Seminar” resource on the hub with an external link that points to YouTube. That gives you the best of both worlds. You’ll have a new resource on the hub, and putting the video out on YouTube gives you additional exposure. Many people will find the video while browsing on YouTube and follow any links that you leave in the video’s description back to your hub.
There are many other kinds of engaging content too. We’ll explore simulation/modeling tools in the next part of this series.