While monitoring the Madison Commons website I couldn’t help but ask myself some questions: Who is their target? What are they trying to do? Their website is all over the place in my opinion and not focusing on a real “community” or target audience. It attempts to focus on specific neighborhoods (a more family based idea) while at the same time focusing on campus issues (such as) or blogs (some of which focus on drinking tickets). These don’t really go together in my opinion. In addition, their site seems to be too newspaper style based. In order to gain an interactive audience they need to do something different and not just publish a ton of blogs and information, and hope for people to answer. I don’t feel that this site offers anything new and doesn’t give users an incentive to comment or come to the site.
In the “about them” section they say the site is designed to provide news and information and to provide a place for discussion. I like that they have an issues section, but there is no real way for people to unite around an issue. Once again, they just give people the option to comment. Instead, they should pick issues (maybe un-news related) that people would want to support and get behind. Their issue section seems to read the same way as the blog—information based, and not community based. If mobilization is their aim, they should allow people to make groups and cover issues that can be changed. If it is not their aim, they should focus less on issues and more on things going on in Madison.
I suggest they let users generate more of the content by posting a question and allowing people to answer it, that way there is more incentive to write back. This site isn’t at all interactive. I like that they have a poll bar at the bottom left of the page and I think they should use more of these for information about town hall, voting etc because that’s a way people can voice their opinion without the overdone comment bar. They should maybe also have a twitter feed with someone tweeting updates on certain issues.
Since I noticed there was a real debate on the top 5 things to do in Madison (http://madisoncommons.org/?q=node/440#comment-1004) I think they should use this as a way to improve their site. Everyone loves talking about Madison and his or her favorite things to do here and places to go and eat. I think the site should give people an outlet to share these ideas since it is such a hot issue. They could have a group thread of favorite things, and maybe someone from Madison Commons could start a twitter feed with updates on places to try, and discounts/specials going on at different places. This not only is clearly of interest to people in Madison, so it will get them to their site, but it is also a way for people to interact and get involved. They could even plan group trips or get group rates to certain events or restaurants.
I like the idea of the Madison map as well. This once again to me lends itself towards a more best of Madison type of site. With that they can include all of the issues on the left side bar as well as blogs but maybe cut out the neighborhood information because it makes it seem too much like a newspaper and less unique. There are already many newspaper information outlets for people out there. I think to be successful they need to do something different. I think if they want to still keep it about news they should have a "news" section of the site, but majority of the site should be information about Madison and more of "what's new." This could be in the way of a blog about recent developments or important things going on, but to get people to the site, the site needs to be more fun. They should maybe have a daily or weekly Madison fun fact or question. Maybe users can even answer the question and whoever gets it right wins a discount somewhere or a gift card.
Originally when I saw the title Madstub I thought “cool they let you know about concerts and events coming to Madison,” but that’s not what it is. It is another info-based section. I think if they kept the name and changed it to a concert list or music section that could also benefit their site and get conversation flowing. People like talking and commenting on issues that are important to them, they will be more likely to get involved in the site with things like this than from stuffy news articles. I think all of these examples should help get people to the site, get them involved, and while there, they are more likely to read information and stories.