How can we improve/revitalize Route 50?

i can't help but feel like activity's been declining... a worrying trend

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October 21, 2017 6:01am
HeyGuys, apsa here. i just wanted to talk about my concerns about Route 50, mainly the decline of regularly active users, and how i/we can help. ive also included some suggestions for the site in general.
before i get to the heart of the matter, i just wanna hit you with a disclaimer: i am but a simple Routian, and i don't know what goes on behind the scenes here or any statistics about the site or anything like that, so i'm just going on what i've seen, in my personal experience. any ideas i give, are just that - ideas. i appreciate how hard the staff work on this site, and i don't mean to step on anyone's toes!

so, rt50 has always had a small userbase, which is what makes it feel like a community, very tight-knit and cozy. and i personally love that about the site. ive made many valuable friends over my time here. im not looking for route 50 to be a bustling metropolis or anything like that, i'd just like to give the site a little jolt, you know? now, it's not like i can make people come back to the site or join the site or anything like that. i just feel like the site has sort of lost it's luster... it feels emptier. like its becoming obsolete.
let me break it down into my three main concerns:
1 ~ new users:
i think we've had only a small decline in the number of new users compared to the past. the real problem is keeping them active. i see many accounts of new users who are active for a very short while, and never come back. it's like they're fish... we've "hooked" them, now how can we "reel in" these new users? and then afterwards we skin them and cook em up... uh sorry im just hungry lmao
2 ~ regularly active users:
many of the site's previously highly social/active users have not been active on rt50 for a long time, or they just check in very infrequently. now, it's not like i can force people to come back or anything like that, but it's kinda disheartening to see these old friend's profiles say they haven't been on in ____ months/years.
another thing i find worrying is the activity of the staff (btw i do NOT mean for this to be a callout or anything like that!): looking at the staff page, all 3 Social Media Posters are inactive. both Artists haven't been online since 2014. a handful of other high ranking staff members also appear to be inactive. rt50's userbase, like i said, is really small, so it's not like we need some sort of Elite No Fun Moderation Squad or anything like that. my beef is not necessarily with the "moderation" of the site (like keeping the site sfw and stuff like that). i think we need to look at "the bigger picture"...
3 ~ "dead" sections of the site:
there are parts of the site that are severely inactive. specifically chat, groups, and the forums all have seen a severe decline in activity compared to years past.
chat: at the time of writing this, the times of chat messages are from September 29th (the earliest message) to October 14th. (btw shoutout to DarkPegusus's messages in chat, which i agree with, and kinda gave me that final nudge to make this post). i remember chat floods, people's signature entrances into the chat room, and things like that. i feel like the chat really gave users character.
groups: groups may as well not exist, to be blunt. there are like, NO active groups. there are many spam groups with like 1 or 2 inactive members.
forums: shoutout to those who try to post more often, and especially to Sparkleaf, who is trying his damnedest to revive the forums. but straight up, they're just Not Active. which sucks.
thoughts + possible solutions + general ideas for the site:
i don't know much about anything at all, or how viable it is to implement these solutions. so im just throwin random crap on the wall and seeing if it sticks.
~ here is my biggest worry. i know, im probably just being paranoid here, but im wondering if route 50 is safe/sustainable (by that i mean, will route50 ever die? is the domain under threat of being lost/unable to be maintained? etc) questions like these may seem like prying, but if rt50 is declining, well the users don't need to know everything. but it would be good to have some reassurance, some information, some transparency.
~ the staff who are inactive is worrying me. especially the high ranking staff. theyre the ones who know the most about the site.
~ by far, the stream is the most active part of the site, so maybe we should base our solutions around the stream, and focus even more on the stream?
~ route 50 is hard to find On The Web. should we promote the website? how would we go about doing that?
~ make route50 more mobile friendly maybe? i know its not a mobile centric site, but its blocked at my school and i can only access it on my phone, and it's pretty buggy. having the site be more accessible On The Go would surely draw more users in. maybe have a rt50 app?
~ the "theme" of route 50 is Pokemon, and that's a shared interest of many users. but from what ive noticed, Pokemon is not as popular in the site as it used to be, people aren't invested in it anymore. what if rt50 were to lose the Pokemon motif, and just be a small community website? or would you feel like that is losing a core aspect of rt50?
~ the rt50 discord was created, which is Neato. but it's not so Neato when it's more active than the site's chat. discord just has more features than the chat. maybe we can add new features to the chat, like voice chat or something?
~ maybe we should have more integration with other social media. for example, the chat thing i just mentioned... is there a way to integrate the rt50 discord into the website itself? i know we have a twitter widget for our bases. another idea would be to implement a music player on the site, and people can contribute their favorite songs (it'd have the song title/artist/name of user who submitted it).
~ the users here at rt50 are very good at welcoming new members. i have an idea to help newbies even more. i think all new members should automatically be PM'd a message. as for what the message would say, i would make it contain something like this: an obligatory "welcome to rt50 blah blah". a very simple guide to the features of the site/how it works "our userbase is incredibly creative, so don't be shy and share your creations through the gallery", "the stream is the cornerstone of rt50. post anything you want!" (it would have a very brief description for each section of the site), "you can use emojis and other commands to liven up your posts!" (include a link to a list of all emojis and commands) etc.. a link to a very simple guide to customization (user customization like changin your title/icon, and base customization) "click here to learn how to spice up your look". a link directly to the welcome wagon "posting about yourself in the welcome wagon is a great way to get your feet wet on rt50 and make new friends!". and a link to the staff page/specific members who are "flagged" as new player guides/trustworthy people "if you have any questions, our members are very friendly! these users in particular are extra knowledgeable, and would be happy to help with any issues you may have". and then an obligatory "go out there and have fun!".
~ the following points are just some miscellaneous suggestions stuff to make the site more appealing.
~ new themes for route 50. i remember we used to have a suicune theme that was pretty sick. holiday themes maybe?
~ more/updated art. recruiting active staff Artists.
~ custom colors for your username.
~ custom tags for your username. like how cooltrainers who have the "cool" tag, but you can make them whatever you want (there should be a character limit though). having custom tags may confuse people with staff, so maybe staff should have something else to differentiate themselves, like a gold star or something by their name.
~ increasing signature size... tbh i thought it was always a bit too small.
~ making titles more visible. i wish it was visible in more places than just the forum.
~ updating the roulette... sometimes it shows old posts or things that are irrelevant to me, so maybe just improve the way it works? OR changing it up to maybe a "user spotlight" or "user of the week" that updates weekly. it would be on the front page, so it would have to be small. the "user of the week" would be either chosen randomly or voted on by members. someone reputable, a staff member or something, would write a short blurb about the user and handpick a few things that the user has created to be featured. for example "_____'s nature themed paintings are beautiful! [insert smaller versions of a few of them]" or "_____'s stream posts crack us up! [insert a few posts]"
~ status updates of some sort. you can post a short message "currently at the mall, i love shopping!"
~ a way to see which members are online (we have something like that now i think?? idk). members can tag themselves as online, afk, busy, and cooltrainers can be invisible.
~ update ribbons! how even do those work? is there a list of them we can get, and try to catch em all? can we display multiple ones on our base (via a widget maybe)?
~ ways to disable certain things on the site. for example, if we were to implement "user of the week", or "status updates", i could see how those would annoy some people.

i know its hard to branch out and be more active when the rest of the site isn't. kinda like leaving a message on someones answering machine. its 2017, people. anyway thanks to my fellow Routians for posting more on not just the stream, but other parts of the site as well. lord knows i can pitch in when i can as well. in general, i am more than willing to do what i can to help the site.
and again, this post isn't meant to call anyone out/offend etc. i don't pretend to know Everything about the site, and i apologise if im out of turn here, i'm just talkin about what i feel, and listing random ideas on how to help/improve the site in general. i dont want this post to give off the vibe of All Of You Must Be More Active Or Else, cause i cant make you do something you dont feel like. maybe the stagnation of the site is just how things are now, and its totally okay to be content with that. just... basically, speaking for myself here, i think it would be cool to see route 50 be a bit more active.
i would love to hear you guys' input on this post... do you agree/disagree? do you have any ideas for the site? let's start a discussion!
i know that was a lot to stomach. i wrote this in the AM hours and i have a headache lmao so sorry for any errors, and thanks for reading
"You know, I'm sick of following my dreams, man. I'm just gonna ask where they're going and hook up with 'em later." --Mitch Hedberg
October 21, 2017 6:30am
Well, for one thing, I don't know if we can do much. Kat has disappeared off the face of the earth to do her own lil thing as far as I know. And isn't she like.. head... admin.. owner... or something.

I agree that I'd like to revive route, it's where most of my online companions are, and all the contests and events we used to do were so fun. Spooky Halloween stories and all of that lol it was great. The notifs I get mostly are directed from the counting thread or groups posting art, so there's improvement there. But idk if anything is gonna happen like this

And for the site design and whatever I think it was mostly Kat and Frosti doing that, so maybe ask them about it

And route is mostly inactive because people have grown up and have things to do. Back when I was on route every single motherloving day of the lovely week and month I was like 10-13. I literally had nothin else to do. Now I'm in high school, and others are in college, and the curriculum, family problems, drama, and other things only get harder. Route is at the back of our minds during troubling times I suppose.

and for f**ks sake, Sky has a job lol a whole job kms

but yeah it'd be nice to see it alive again, encouraging this is probably a good thing. I just hope we'll have the patience for it.

October 21, 2017 8:51am
I've been thinking about this a lot lately too and I share a lot of your concerns! This is definitely my favourite community and the last thing I want is to see it go down the metaphorical gutter. I'm going to go through your thoughts and try and expand on them where I can.

~ ngl, I have no idea about whether or not the domain is under threat; I'm trusting that Kat has that one under control and that she'd tell us if she didn't.
~ I'm somewhat upset about the disappearance of staff as well but there's not really much that can be done? With the exception of Sparky (by the looks of it at least), our Execs are still intact and that's what's most important when it comes to dealing with problems that people may be having around the site, although that leaves a lot to be desired in terms of development. And let's face it, Route50 isn't getting any younger - we could definitely do with further development.
~ I absolutely 100% agree with centring interest around the Stream. It helps that it's the default page of the site but I think it can be a bit of a hindrance for new people on the site to not see anything there. Perhaps the "Users" section of the Roulette could filter out less active members and only show relatively active ones (people that have posted within, let's say, the last month?) and that could help people to find their place in the community.
~ We actually have affiliate links on a fair few larger sites. The issue is that holy moly the links are old! A lot of them still display EHQ as the site title and last time I checked at least two of the sites that we had affiliate links with have actually gone down for good (Arkeis being a good example - which was how I found R50 in the first place. Fun fact.). We could definitely approach other well-to-do Pokémon sites for affiliation and see how that goes! As far as anything else, our social media is practically dead (no social staff = rip Facebook page) and that definitely isn't helping. Maybe running Facebook ads would help - from my experience as admin in a group that can be a really good way to punt some life back in to things. An ad running on Facebook that would redirect back to Route50's Facebook page (thus in turn linking back to the site itself) could help to improve traffic.
~ There were definitely plans for a mobile site a few years ago but I don't know what happened with that. Might be best to ask Nav.
~ I think the Pokémon theme is important, personally. Even though it's not a main focus for a lot of the active members anymore, it gives the site an identity and all its users a common ground to work from. That's just my two cents on that, though.
~ R50 Discord? Active? Since when? lmao Joking aside, I'm not aware of any way to embed the Discord in to the site but again I still think it's important that we have chats that can be accessed without any "outside" accounts. Getting the Discord or the Chat more active either way would be great though!
~ I'm intrigued about your ideas for integrating other social media. I don't really have anything to add here but I'm all for it.
~ Re: automatic PM for new users. Yes. This is a fantastic idea!
~ rip dark theme. I definitely agree here and I'd definitely be willing to help in designing new themes, hint hint.
~ I'm not sure about custom colours, mostly because I think it could be a bit of a mess combined with tags and the possibility of different themes.
~ If I remember right there was actually a discussion about custom tags a while back, and a discussion over whether it should be a Cooltrainer exclusive thing. I don't quite recall how exactly that discussion ended but obviously we kept the tags as they are. Personally I don't think we should fix what isn't broken with the tags, but it could be an idea to make our Titles view-able in more places instead. I just noticed you suggested that below but hhh I'm merging the two points
~ Agreed re: sig size
~ I've already said my piece about the Roulette being sort of dated above, or if I haven't then I meant to and just forgot. tl;dr: Roulette needs updating, period
~ We kind of already have the Stream for status updates but I can see the merit of this idea. The Stream varies from one-liners to conversation starters so it could be an idea to have smaller status updates so the Stream is reserved for more longhand posts.
~ We do have an "Online Members" section of the Roulette/sidebar (I keep typing Routelette damnit) but it only displays users that you follow. I 100% support a full "Online Users" list.
~ rip ribbons :( This is another feature that kinda died with our artists and dev team - you get them for filling certain criteria (like I think most of our active users have the Data Muncher ribbon by now and a vast majority of those users probably didn't have a clue what it meant when they got it) but they were invisible for a long while until they were made displayable again. I believe the intention was to bring ribbons back as a full feature of the site and to regularly introduce new ribbons but that never happened for one reason or another.
~ All in all the site needs a fair bit of dev in regards to disabling and enabling things, and there was talk of a block/blacklist feature a while back that ended up rather inconclusive. Best we can do is try to find users who are able to consistently help with the development of the site and try to be as democratic as possible in the way that we implement new features.
On that day two years ago, a certain Trainer and Alder taught me something... By accepting different ideas, this world creates a different chemical reaction... So I met many different Pokémon and people and heard so much... And that's how my world quietly grew bigger... By being with Pokémon, humans can continue toward new horizons. By being with humans, Pokémon can exhibit their true power. - N
Friendship - All lives touch other lives to create something anew and alive. - Unown
October 21, 2017 11:03am
imo we need something big and flashy that we can somehow get out to other people saying 'hey guys, we're route 50, this is what we do'

i'm working on a sort of sitewide event that we could run to get this kind of thing out: a sort of collaborative project that people of any talent/proficiency can take part in. I have the idea and general structure down, what i'm thinking of rn is how to motivate people to take part without making it into an actual art contest (i also really want to draw ribbons or have a base widget for it). I'd initially asked a staff member about making this happen but the staff all have their own lives/jobs/responsibilities so i don't mind bringing this about myself.

also, the number one biggest sort of seller we could possibly have is ourselves - and since we're mostly a gaming based community, what about things like multiplayer game pub stomps? like having a route 50 league team (not a serious one dear god the lcs scares me) but a sort of 'clan' if you will with a [Rt50] clan tag or something? not only does it open up the opportunity for everyone to socialize with each other and for new routians to get involved and make friends, but also (if we're really good LOL) gets randoms to maybe search up the Rt50 clan tag and check out what we're about? i've seen this work really well on a different community i was a part of called Raven Republic. we used to get a whole load of new users when Armored Core was being played since we were all part of the -RR- clan (the site later died because the game died)

as for the forums - they're not active because there aren't enough people to post on them, as simple as

new users just aren't seeing what is going on - a few people say 'welcome to the route!' and that's pretty much it. We need an actual 'new user experience' to show them around the site, what's going on and stuff like that. this could be a forum post or a whole interactive thing, either way it's something we need to show people what rt50 do

if you guys post your art somewhere else, maybe even just add a link in the description of the piece to the route50 gallery submission? or link your rt50 gallery? people are curious so we need to provide them the means to explore
In a world of war and conflict, an extermination throws the last great bastion of peace into aggression. In the midst of this, a child sorcerer seeks justice for his fallen home. A repentant assassin and a messenger of the future rush to save their last refuge from destruction. The dead return, backed by a forgotten god. Ideals clash. Morals crumble. And it will not end until one half of the world stands in the ashes of the other.
October 21, 2017 11:11am
Mobile Site
This is probably the single most important thing we need in order to revive the site. Stream is the least inconvenient on mobile, but no area of the site plays nice with mobile. I would have to say Chat is the area that needs a mobile version most.

Online Users
A full "online users" list does exist, and it shows people who've been online in the last 15 minutes (compared to the front page, which only shows activity from the last 5 minutes). It's just located at the bottom of the Forum Index.

Site Development
The last couple years, we tried to organize a lot of the CS majors here to liven up site development. We expanded the staff to draw more attention to Route 50. We even got bovin to make some nice art for a newbie intro message! But everyone's busy these days. And as far as I know, only Navarr (and Kat) have access to the site code.

Chat
I don't want to get too deep into this because it's a huge mess and really shows how bad things have gotten. Right now there's two Rt50 discord servers and I suspect some people won't want to join the "official" one. There's also been some people who aren't so fond of discord. Needs more discussion.

Forums
Quote (apsa)
forums: shoutout to those who try to post more often, and especially to Sparkleaf, who is trying his damnedest to revive the forums. but straight up, they're just Not Active. which sucks.

Technically, the forums are more active than in previous years. It's true they're still pretty dead but they're Slightly Less Dead instead of Straight Up Dead like they've been for years. I'd like to thank everyone who's pitched in. The Forums might not be used much outside RPs and stories these days, but niche use is still use.

I mean, compare that to Chat. Chat used to be the main hub of the site. Now it's deader than Cubone's mother. (I'm not sorry)

Quote (Chookie)
and for f**ks sake, Sky has a job lol a whole job kms
A lot of us have jobs now. My activity on Route 50 has dwindled ever since I started working. Actually, even before that, probably ever since I ruined my laptop back in spring.

Future Development

Right, so here's my thoughts on the Stream and the Forums.


New Users
As mentioned before, bovinlep did make art for a "Welcome to Route 50!" post from Michiko that would link to some helpful resources. Unfortunately, Navarr has been fairly busy all year, so as far as I know, this post was never implemented. Also, some links were to things I was supposed to write, and never did. :(

Groups
Let's face it. We're not gonna see much activity here unless we get active enough that we don't need to huddle together like survivors in a zombie outbreak.
You do seem to know what is needed. Yes, what a Trainer needs is a virtuous heart. Pokémon touch the good hearts of Trainers and learn good from wrong. They touch the good hearts of Trainers and grow strong... Go onwards! The Champion is waiting!
- Drake of the Hoenn Elite Four

CaRSP aRiEWoVLotE
October 21, 2017 2:37pm
Yo, sick and busy with a project right now so I might not write as long a response as I want to; could come back to edit this later.

But in short, yes to all of this. The site needs a boost, and from multiple different directions. I've been wanting to make major changes for a long while, but I've been incredibly busy with college, to the point where I really have had to put Rt50 on the backburner. I can't promise that that's going to change any time soon, either. My main priority right now has to be finishing my last semester of college and applying to jobs, and that hasn't left me a lot of free time. After that though? I might have time to commit to Rt50 then, but I still don't want to promise anything too concrete.

Mobile Accessibility
I think it's a better idea to make the website show up nicely on mobile without an app first, if only because it will be less time consuming. Also, if it's not adding any new features (like push notifications, a nicer chat system), it's inconvenient to have to download an app just to use a website.

Of course, in the long run, I think an app would be a really nice thing. If Rt50 chat messages were as easy to respond to and see on my phone as Facebook Messenger chats, I personally feel like I would be much more active here, and I imagine others would as well. I've also toyed around with the idea of a game on a Rt50 app as incentive to download... maybe the RPG that's been talked about and attempted before? That's definitely a stretch goal, but I do feel like some kind of centralized game could give people incentive to check in to Rt50 every day.

Site events
Exactly what Arkangel had mentioned, and exactly what I have been too busy lately to help with (apologies! I really do want to help and organize for this, and had actually begun working on it. I know it's taken me too long, though. It definitely wasn't out of disinterest, though)

-- anyway, site events provide a lot of activity without usually needing TOO much setup time. I feel like user organized and staff-approved events would be a thing worth pursuing, since most of the staff is currently too busy to organize their own events. I don't want to dump this responsibility onto site users, but if anyone feels inspired and just thinks something would be a fun thing to do, this could be a good way to do it.

Other Site Development Things
You guys talked about a lot of good stuff up above, and I think a lot of those improvements would come in handy. I don't have the time to address them all at the moment, but again, I would be interested in working on a lot of these things once I have more free time. I especially love the idea of merging forums and stream- forums are great for in-depth discussion, but they seem hard to break into right now.

Advertisement
I like this idea; I'll help fund this if we decide to go for it. Facebook ads, maybe some ads on some smaller sites for people with similar interests to Rt50. It'd be especially good to do this after a big update or if there's some big event going on. Re-affiliating with other sites seems like a good idea as well.

Pokemon
I agree that we aren't very Pokemon based, but I also feel like we should have some sort of theme to set us apart from just 'community site'. Maybe we could branch out our theme focus to show people it's more than just a Pokemon site, but we need some kind of branding imo.

October 21, 2017 11:38pm
thanks for reading the post and being so receptive! i don't have time yet to formulate a response just yet (i will edit this post later), but i AM reading everything you guys post.
"You know, I'm sick of following my dreams, man. I'm just gonna ask where they're going and hook up with 'em later." --Mitch Hedberg
October 29, 2017 6:13pm
Hi old friends, it's been a long time!

First I wanted to share how hecking impressed I am that folks are still here posting and caring so much about reviving the site. Any other community forum would have fizzled out long, long, long, long, long ago. Route 50 is now 10 years old - isn't that insane? I think about it a lot, the fact that young adults basically grew up together in our community is amazing. Route 50 basically raised me.

As a personal update, I'm living in NYC now. I'm 24. I've been living and working as a grown-ass woman for the last 5 years.

To date, I've continued to pay for the hosting/etc and have no plans to change that. I also gave Nav keys to kingdom to help keep things running which has been wonderful. Thank you Navarr!

All your suggestions are great. I would love to see them happen, but I'm not able to do it myself. Route 50 is really owned by the community now and I know a lot of YOU are all busy in school and working etc but if there are folks who WANT to step up and take leadership then I'm all for it. I don't want to be the reason you can't make Rt50 'home' again. I'm willing to support electing new staff members, giving people access to the code, etc. It just requires time, love and care. Without that, maybe it's better to start gracefully transitioning Route 50 into a smaller community and disabling some of the features that have gone totally unused.
November 6, 2017 3:51pm
I don't have anything constructive to add to the things discussed here, but I did want to add my support! At the very least, I think that if a mobile version of the site could be created, it would breathe a lot of life into it. Also Kat! Hello! Thank you so much for continuing to host the site, it truly means a lot to us <3
November 13, 2017 11:26am
this is a really great idea! i remember how much route 50 drew me in as a like... nine year old (wheeze) and it continues to do so for me today, at least to a lesser extent than before. i remember leaving the site for about three or four months and coming back to a new stream and layout that took me a while to get used to (i still can't figure out groups, lmao) and i feel like if any of these changes were implemented they should be done with either chosen "beta testers" or rolled out with lots of warning to the general community first.

one thing i really like is the idea of making the stream play a bigger role in the site, especially the weekly user spotlight! that's a really cute idea and i think it could bring more attention to the more active but still kind of unknown users that are just hanging around without anybody to talk to.

when i first joined, i believe the site had different themes that could be used for the actual design of route 50 (i mostly remember a suicune and an underwater one), maybe we could hold a contest to draw/come up with ideas for new designs like that and restart that idea. it's small but could help out a lot, especially since like leopard said there could be use in an alternate dark theme.

i'm very tired and don't know how to elaborate more on this at the moment (will probably edit later!!) but sitewide events should be brought back! routelympics and the halloween contest were tons of fun and i met a lot of new members through participating in them, but it was pretty sad to see that they never happened again, even with the 2016 olympics and halloween happening annually. more events should be added for sure, maybe even a revamped routelympics for the 2018 winter games!

maybe new event staff could be helpful, if we don't already have those? where i volunteer, we have an event coordinator who is basically the backbone of everything happening that isn't business as normal, and helps implement new ideas and get everyone excited and ready to participate. i don't know if that would work, it's just an idea! :") i feel like also more moderation on the stream and gallery should be added because i've seen lots of stuff that needs to be addressed and it just..... isn't.

also, hey, kat! we love you.

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