Home Barista Forum Metrics - user activity over the years? Future of forums?

Offer your ideas on how to improve the site or report problems.

#1: Post by Rickpatbrown »

I've noticed a big reduction in a lot of forum activity over the years, in HB and others, and started wondering if Facebook, IG, Discord has killed the forum.

I'm not sure if others feel the same, but was wondering if there was some publicly available data for how many users use HB, how many posts, etc. Over the years.

If so, I find it really sad. There is so much knowledge that is available here (and other specialized forums) that is searchable and organized in a way that new social media platforms cant replicate. Basically, every FB post on the coffee roaster group is the exact same. It's a novice roaster posting a terrible roast with hardly any knowledge of roasting. These people would learn quickly here and turn around to be productive members in a few months- year and keep the advancement going. Instead, it's just spinning wheels.

Any thoughts?

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#2: Post by BaristaBoy E61 »

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"You didn't buy an Espresso Machine - You bought a Chemistry Set!"


#3: Post by Sideshow »

I notice a pattern in my own posts at least. When I was first starting out years ago, I posted a lot, especially a lot of questions as I was learning the ropes. I was also discovering my coffee preferences and was interested in pulling all kinds of shots from all kinds of roasts. This led to more challenges as I had to learn how to adjust to those different shot and coffee styles (a good thing for my development). Now that I have a good amount of technique expertise, I know myself. I pull certain kinds of shots from certain kinds of coffees. I also don't post as much (I don't NEED to), even though I do scan the forums at least once a day. Now I tend to be in the role of answering questions more often instead of asking them. And when I do post, it's more often because I'm interested in a concept rather than due to a need for practical advice. And I don't post as much on the "coffee is bad, help!" threads as much, or other threads that can usually be answered with a little independent research and experimentation. My posts tend to be on threads that truly interest me or on issues that still perplex me, which is far less than when I was starting out.

Even if this posting life cycle isn't ubiquitous, I'm sure it's fairly common. So if there are fewer new people starting out then perhaps the volume of posts may go down. But my question to you would be even if the quantity of posts has diminished, has the quality? If it hasn't, then maybe we're going strong as a community and just have fewer beginners than we did in the past.

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#4: Post by PIXIllate »

When has quantity EVER been a good predictor of quality?

My guess would be that the only other major place serious discussion and development of espresso is going on is the Decent private fourm. But since I don't own a DE1 I can't say for sure.

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#5: Post by MNate »

I think H-B has lost a bunch of quality posters and threads to the Decent forum and probably others like it (I'm on the Decent one and know Monolith has one). I wish they'd keep many of their posts here, for example, on beans they are liking since it has nothing to do with Decent. But they find a certain affinity and likemindedness among the group that I can't discredit. Part of those forums are a sort of design-enhancement idea place, and part of it is a place to diagnose problems. Since the problems stay behind a user-only wall and don't get posted on H-B, outsiders may think that brand has virtually no problems... sometimes I feel like that is disingenuous... but I get it too. It really is a quick and easy way to get user and official help. And who knows, maybe these brands' lack of presence on here actually works against them since there are fewer of their evangelists active on here. I don't mean to bash them, I just like H-B more and wish others would stay here too!

H-B will always get many more newbies asking basic questions which may get annoying at times but is also very valuable, especially as happy espresso-makers grows the industry as a whole.

Oh, and like I said in another thread, with many of us steering people away from commercial equipment in the home, I bet HB has fewer of those threads about how to turn such and such commercial grinder into a single doser or how to restore a big commercial machine... though I am still working on my Compak F8.

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#6: Post by Spitz.me »

That's a really good point, Nate. Back in the day when I started there were hundreds of postings on how to manage bad equipment for newbies. The Silvia and Rocky come to mind - ya I said it, bad equipment. Newbies were doing their best to improve whatever they had to be more consistent with temperature from shot to shot. So, that led to there being a ton of posts about temp surfing, PID installations/use, buying advice based on temp stability, etc.

The grinders were a prominent topic, but not to the degree they are today with all the talk about swapping burrs and alignment. It's reminiscent of espresso machine postings of the early 2000s where now we get lots of posts about how to fix/check grinder alignment, questions about how alignment affects taste, questions about how burrs affect taste in a way more nuanced way.

I'm mostly here for selfish reasons, but I've dialled back lately because I'm finding these forums to instigate an unnecessary need to buy equipment to "better" my espresso/coffee. I'm tired of this self-inflicted feeling of having equipment that just isn't right because if I just did or bought X I would be done. Of course, we know that's not true.
LMWDP #670


#7: Post by Auctor »

I've been noodling on this topic for months now, especially as my participation on the site has waned considerably. To me, there are a few different participant needs that draw people to the site:

1) Discussing new products, roasts, workflows, etc.
2) Seeking purchase or workflow advice (usually beginners, which can make threads repetitive)
3) Looking for repair advice
4) Enjoying "coffee camaraderie" (this overlaps across the above three)
5) Buy / Sell

That said, there are a variety of factors that can lead to reduced participation:

A) Competition - there are a ton of new forums, YouTube channels, and other ways for people to get their needs met now (probably WAY more than when HB started years ago)
B) User burnout - this might be somewhat controversial, but after a while, how many different times can an "expert" opine to a beginner about buying or workflow advice?
C) Site modernization - the site doesn't feel modern, and while Google is your friend and you can find just about anything here (which is amazing!), that's not how modern web interaction works anymore - people like to be spoon fed content
D) "Changing of the Guard" - I've seen this on various websites from the early 2000s, where the original core group ("old guard" ) that drove the interaction is no longer the "majority", and the site fails to meet the needs of the "new guard"

I had planned to shoot HB an email about this, but since this thread is here, below are some thoughts I've been playing with to improve the site (obviously just my appropriately valued two cents):

i) Build an interactive "buyer's guide" for new users to help them learn about different products in the market, how they differ, and combine it with (unbiased) user reviews to help people make decisions easier - there's no need to pick favorites, but for instance, if your budget is $3K and you want a double boiler, there's 3-5 realistic options, and automatically displaying them with reviews, features, pros and cons, etc would enable faster decision making and better discussion
ii) Create a "DIY" guide for machines where known experts have already taken machines apart and put them back together - for instance, the BDB is well known to be souped up and modified by users; laying that out clearly can add real value to the broader coffee community (and who knows, maybe HB can create a referral program w/ Breville)
iii) Build out a database of known coffee roasters and user reviews for all of them - the difference between HB and other review sites is the quality of the reviewer - I'd much rather trust an HB review by another_jim than some random 5 star review on Trade Coffee
iv) Work w/ coffee experts to cross-post content from their site here on HB - this enables them to build their audience, and gives HB participants more reason to check in to the site on a regular basis

There are a bunch of other things like modernizing site UI, etc. that could be helpful as well. In a nutshell, I think there's a ton of opportunity to take what HB already does well and leverage it to both improve the site and enhance the discourse in the coffee community.


#8: Post by tennisman03110 »

While good ideas, who will do all this? Unless I'm mistaken, I don't think anyone is getting paid. Anyone posting, or editing the site, is taking time away from the pie chart of life. I post in spurts, but for weeks just don't feel the need to waste time on forums. I'd rather be making coffee or riding a bike.

For HB to really dedicate time to other areas on the forum, there's probably a cost associated.

That's part of the reason social media does so well -- lots of these "influencers", experts, etc. are getting paid, or provided with products. I think HB only has advertisements to make back the $$ for site hosting.

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#9: Post by Spitz.me »

My 2 cents - -

I think that all those thoughtful ideas to modernize and bolster the site as a service can potentially disenfranchise many users depending on how they're implemented and can negatively affect the main squishy reason why most, if not all stick around. Many great resources exist outside of HB that effectively allows HB to just be a forum first. There's no other niche that needs to be filled for this community that isn't already actively being filled - I don't think. It needs to stay as a forum for it to retain that quality that keeps people here. Coffeegeek is a prime example of a site that I only ever visited to be a part of the forums. I consumed the CG content very infrequently and when it disappeared I didn't even notice. I go here first since I found this community to be my number one place for info and help. The CG articles didn't add any value to me and as such, at launch I have only visited once to see what it looks like.

Forum users can find content beyond this forum, HB doesn't need to become a content driven service for it to persist.
LMWDP #670

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#10: Post by happycat »

It isn't fun anymore. It's transactional. Like working a volunteer information booth at a tourist trap.

I visit for a few reasons

- see what's new (nothing)
- maybe try to get some codependent validation through answering some posts

Then I realize I really should get back to the work I am procrastinating... and I disappear for the rest of the year.
LMWDP #603