Looking in the Mirror: Reader Survey Results

The procrastinating is over, I’ve finally compiled the results from the reader survey. There were 128 total responses, 68 from folks who have left comments, 60 from folks who read but don’t comment (aka “lurkers”).

Most of you read the blog the old fashioned way, scanning the home page for new posts or glancing at the recent comments section of the sidebar. But almost a third of you subscribe to our RSS feed, although the comments feed is not very popular.

It seems to me that this is an unsolved technology problem in the blogosphere, how to easily follow comments on posts you’re interested in, while not being buried in comments from other posts. What kind of strategies do you employ for this?

How do you read Portland Transport? All Commenters Lurkers
I check the home page for new posts 69.8% 64.2% 76.3%
I scan the recent comments section 26.2% 32.8% 18.6%
I subscribe to the RSS feed for new posts 33.3% 38.8% 27.1%
I subscribe to the RSS feed for comments 3.2% 4.5% 1.7%

Folks seem to be generally pleased with the volume of content on the site.

How do you feel about the frequency of new posts on the site (usually 2-4 per day)? All Commenters Lurkers
Slow down – I can’t keep up 1.6% 1.5% 1.7%
About right 85.7% 83.6% 88.1%
Give me more, I can’t get enough 12.7% 14.9% 10.2%

The idea of a transportation calendar seems to be popular. Look for more on this in the new year.

We’re considering adding several kinds of content to the site. Check those that would be of interest: All Commenters Lurkers
Listings for transportation jobs 41.7% 34.5% 51.1%
A calendar of transportation-related meetings 84.5% 89.7% 77.8%
Lists of operational announcements 57.3% 51.7% 64.4%

The question of what, if anything, to do about contrarians was one of the major questions I wanted answered in doing this survey. Early in the life of Portland Transport I actually banned several people, because I was getting feedback that we were scaring away folks from reading and participating. This went against my basis instincts for civic participation and I’m delighted that the community is strong enough that the healthy debate is apparently strengthening the conversation.

We have a few regular readers who are skeptics about alternative transportation. How do you feel about their participation? All Commenters Lurkers
Hey, they have a right to free speech too. 27.5% 29.7% 25.0%
They help us keep our arguments sharp. 51.7% 45.3% 58.9%
They detract from the site experience and distract the conversation. 20.8% 25.0% 16.1%

It appears that you’re fairly tolerant about a small amount of commercialism to keep the site going. There was a question in the feedback about what it costs to run the organization and I’ll do a post about that sometime in the future, after I wrap up the year-end financials. And I’ll keep the appeals for the donate button to a minimum :-)

While our expenses are minimal, we’re still trying to find a sustainable funding model. Check those you would support: All Commenters Lurkers
More appeals to hit the donation button 36.0% 39.7% 32.1%
Ads on the site 73.9% 74.1% 73.6%
Sponsorships for specific sections of content 63.1% 69.0% 56.6%

The demographics are interesting. We would appear to hit the sweet spot for the “creative class” (educated 25-35 year-olds), but primarily the male half of the creative class. So what’s the turn-off about transportation policy for women?

How old are you? All Commenters Lurkers
24 or younger 8.3% 7.8% 8.8%
25-34 53.7% 51.6% 56.1%
35-44 21.5% 21.9% 21.1%
45-54 9.1% 7.8% 10.5%
55 or older

7.4% 10.9% 3.5%

 

Are you? All Commenters Lurkers
Male 87.6% 90.6% 84.2%
Female 12.4% 9.4% 15.8%

 

What’s the higest level of education you have achieved? All Commenters Lurkers
School of Hard Knocks 1.7% 1.6% 1.8%
High School Diploma 17.4% 21.9% 12.3%
College Degree 47.1% 43.8% 50.9%
Advanced Degree 33.9% 32.8% 35.1%

Most of you have a web browser in your phone, but only half of you know how to use it! I wonder if that’s going to change over time as more web-based services get targetted at cell phones?

We’re interested in your cell phone capabilities for our transit tools. Please check all that apply: All Commenters Lurkers
I don’t have a cell phone. 24.2% 21.2% 27.9%
My cell phone has a web browser. 60.0% 55.8% 65.1%
I know how to use the web browser in my cell phone. 30.5% 36.5% 23.3%
My cell phone has GPS auto-location 13.7% 17.3% 9.3%

I have not tried to tabulate the responses about other blogs that you read, but you read a lot of them! BikePortland.org got the most mentions, but there was an incredible variety.

Here are all the ‘open feedback’ responses, unedited. Thanks to everyone who participated in the survey!

Open Comments
About the ‘trolls’ . . . I really don’t mind when their comments are actually directed at the matter under discussion. I think their failure to follow the ‘rules’ was in part responsible for the less than expected success of the rtp exercise.
Be more inclusive and more open to a transportation model for all – not just self directed toward the anti-car – pro traffic congestion political drone. Why not keep an open mind to include all modes of transportation. To not do so is selfish and discriminates against the needs of most residents of the city.
Certain voices do tend to dominate the discussion in the forums, frequently without adding anything new. By using your site to harp the same opinions (which the majority of Portlanders probably don’t believe in judging by our elected officials) the tend to drown out the discussion. Perhaps if certain people dominate a discussion with the same arguments over and over again start deleting the offending posts, and state why you did it. It is after all your blog and you can frame the debate. There is nothing wrong with dissent, but it gets tiresome when your interesting site is used as a soapbox for the rhetoric of a few throwbacks who seem to have time to blog 24-hours a day.
Concerning question #6 – the skeptics do have the right to free speech, and they do help us keep our arguments sharp, but often I find their comments uneducated, demoralizing, negative, and unproductive. They seem to only come to this site to prove the concept of alternative transportation wrong, regardless of the reasoning, information, or ‘facts’ they use to support their arguments.
Debate with skeptics is important, but becomes redudant at times. Not sure how to structure it, but perhaps their best arguments could be collected in one place, along with the relevant counter-arguments (in favor of ‘alternative’ transportation). Someone coming in new could read the points & counter-points in an organized fashion, not repeated throughout multiple posts.
Definitely don’t go banning anyone, I get as much out of the opinions of those I disagree with than out of others.
For question #6 I wanted to choose more than one answer. I believe all three would better fit how I feel about those in opposition to your posts. That said, I think you do a great job getting folks back on point and reminding those who attack opinions to keep names out of it when replying. I don’t know how to improve the experience…you are doing a fantastic job so far…
funding: bikeportland had a raffle for a donated bike. perhaps a similar stunt might work for portland transport? raffle for a tri-met yearly bus pass, perhaps? an on-site library of transportation resources and contacts could be useful. images and videos of portland area transport (could be hosted physically on youtube or other such sites) could add a lot of value, both to individual posts & comments, & to the site as a whole. perhaps adding video news clip components to some posts? see john dvorac’s rant on this topic for more: http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,1759,2064319,00.asp
Great site overall. The format can be a little hard to read — in terms of distinguishing who made what comment, when. Also, I keep track of the site through the sidebar links on BikePortland, so it would be easier for me to choose which articles to check out if the headlines were more descriptive. As far as the pro-car faction, they’re fine, but it bothers me that a lot of other commenters get sucked reactively into their arguments rather than making original and/or relevant points. The car/not car argument isn’t the only one out there or even the most important one. In general, keep up the great work!
Hey Chris. EasyStreet would comp you the web space if that would help. -John Beaston
how about columns from prominent shakers like Rick Gustafson???
I don’t have thoughts for improvements at this time. I enjoy the site, it’s informative rather than rabble-rousing tone, and its commitment to forms of transportation that are alternatives to the automobile.
I enjoy the site, it might be nice to widen the circle of posters a bit, perhaps covering other aspects of transportation in the city like perspectives from people that make their living as automobile drivers, or having guest news curators.
I just started reading since the Trib article, but I think it’s a good blog and I’m looking forward to continuing to read it!
I know this probably isn’t feasible given time constraints, but I think you could improve the site by going out and getting a story once a week (rather than waiting for a report by the Portland Tribune, Oregonian etc). As a for instance: go out and interview the guy who owns the Portland Traction rail line (the one that runs next to the Springwater Corridor Trail on the Willamette), ask him about his proposed plan to fill in the Sellwood Gap by swapping his right of way for a parcel of land by Oaks Park. Or sit down and interview Sam Adams concerning whatever transportation issues you’re interested in. My point is that if you’re involved in the making of the news I think you’ll see your traffic increase. Regardless, it’s a great site, keep up the good work.
I usually access your site via the Oregon Blogwire that appears at the right-hand side of Blueoregon – lured over by an interesting title. At times the content that I find when I follow one of those links is sparse – a one sentence announcement of an event, for example. I’d rather see only full length articles with opinion and news. Leave the one liners for another section of your blog (perhaps the calendar mentioned in a previous question).
I’m just curious, how much does the site cost? Why is a funding model necessary? I spend about 9 bucks a month for databases, development tools, web servers, multiple domain DNS and a bunch more. I mean, no doubt it’d be kewl if one could just sit around and blog for a living but I don’t know if the above items are worth asking about. Just do em’ or not. Ads, donations, or whatever.
Keep balance with all transportation modes. Make pragmatism a key part of any discussion.
Keep up the great work!
Lose the trolls or at least allow them to be handled in a more assertive manner.
love it, except for jim karlock and his ever-repetitive cronies: the only reason i checked the third option on #6.
More of a ‘forum’ layout rather than a ‘blog’ layout – it currently is really tough to find a comment from someone when you want to find it.
More visual content would be a nice way to bring some of the discussions to life.
re #6. there’s quite a difference between a ‘troll’ and someone trying to genuinely ask questions or raise alternative views. so… I think trolls detract from the site experience and I think that intelligent, informed skeptics help us keep our arguments sharp and offer real-world views on subjects that are too often discussed in a vacuum. And they all have the right to free speech, but that certainly doesn’t require you to run every comment someone makes!
re 7: something more like google ads that might at least pull up something related to the content, NOT the ‘hot horny singles’ ads that seem to be the default at so many sites. Maybe amazon or powells links for transportation related books.
Thanks for running the site, and please keep it up. I’ve commented only a couple times, but I read the site almost daily. It’s a great way to stay abreast of transportation plans in the area, and it’s nice to hear opinions that differ from what’s presented in the traditional media sources. One suggestion: might you consider some type of Q&A or topic suggestion method? It seems that there’s a lot of knowledge concentrated at this site, and I find myself occasionally thinking of questions and not knowing where to ask them. Your site might be ideal for that. Just a thought. And don’t hesitate to put ads on the site. You need to pay the bills. Most regular internet users are quite good at ignoring them anyway.
Thanks for the great site. I really appreciate the ability to discuss issues with people who are interested in them. I’ve been a long time reader and semi-frequent commenter. About the ‘trolls:’ I haven’t read the comments much lately because of a few people who keep ranting about the same things over and over. There are two or three people who are anti everything and somehow always bring the subject back to how they think bicyclists or whoever should pay tolls. These people have gone way past the point of intelligent debate and make it so nobody can have a good conversation. I know I’ve visited the site less because of it. These people need to be banned or their comments deleted because it just ruins the whole thing. That’s my opinion. Thanks, Isaac
The site is Portland Transport, not Portland Mass Transit, so I feel there’s nothing wrong with people who are for balanced or car-favoring concepts. There’s nothing wrong with a little healthy discussion and better understanding of all sides of an issue.
There are trolls, and there skeptics. Differentiate appropriately. No sense is preaching to the choir, IMHO, so non-consenting views should not be discouraged.
Threaded commenting would be very helpful.
When there is a real need for LUTRAQ thinkers to be present in Clackamas County, there’s a void and the County Commissioners continue on their merry way to do the same ole/same ole, as does the business community–sprawl mentality. Certainly, its easier to develop raw land when there are plenty of resources available. Now, with the Pleasant Valley CIP $$ limitations and funding issues, all of a sudden the irrational exuberance for growth got cold and our movers and shakers are complaining that we are not getting enough support from our state and federal government. Few acknowledge that the well is dry. So I am hopeful that LUTRAC’ers will be more visible at public meetings. But its certainly necessary that these sorts of concerns come within (the county politics). Outsiders (such as 1000 Friends) have not been welcome at the table.
Wow – you do an incredible job. Can’t thank you enough for getting exposure to these important issues.
7 Comments

7 Responses to Looking in the Mirror: Reader Survey Results

  1. Adron
    December 26, 2006 at 11:13 am Link

    I’m really curious as to how much it costs you (even including your actual time blogging). What’s the real break down, because I’m still confused why it costs so much, and 5-10 bucks a month shouldn’t be enough to really worry about self funding.

    Maybe a host change is needed (aka easy street per one of the comments).

  2. Adron
    December 26, 2006 at 11:16 am Link

    …and btw, I hope people realize I’m more of a skeptic watchdog than a naysayer of transit options. I’m just very very untrustworthy of Government entities (Trimet) being better at keeping our well being and preferences & interests at their forethought. I’ve seen what other cities have done and just don’t want Portland to make the same mistakes, thus I attempt to be as active as possible. To summarize though, with what the city has had to work with, they’ve done a pretty decent job.

    As for JK posts, if they bug ya, just ignore em’. If you find some of the information interesting go find where it came from, I did and it was worth it. I now know that I can get a car for about $100 bucks from some heap and get around on about 30 bucks of gas a month!

  3. Chris Smith
    December 26, 2006 at 11:33 am Link

    I’m really curious as to how much it costs you…

    I’ll post an outline of the financials later in the week.

  4. Ross Williams
    December 26, 2006 at 12:18 pm Link

    there is a real need for LUTRAQ thinkers to be present in Clackamas County, there’s a void and the County Commissioners continue on their merry way to do the same ole/same ole, as does the business community–sprawl mentality.

    I’m not sure this is the appropriate spot to comment on this, but the comment is there.

    Clackamas county just elected Lynn Peterson, who instantly becomes the most knowledgeable elected official in the region on transportation when she takes office. There is a tremendous opportunity for LUTRAQ-type solutions as well as new multi-modal, community oriented, transportation investments. That said, Lynn is a politician now who needs to get reelected. She will need a lot of political support if Clackamas county is going to become an innovative leader in the region’s transportation system.

    I hope those who have focused so much energy on the city of Portland will now focus some at creating a supportive partner in Clackamas county. It was a partnership between residents of Portland and Milwaukie that helped to revived light rail to Clackamas county. The reality is that Portland’s future depends on Clackamas county solving its transportation problems.

  5. Paul Edgar
    December 26, 2006 at 12:49 pm Link

    I live in Clackamas County and for everyone who lives in Multnomah or Washington and do not know my county is conservative almost 180 degrees different then the people who live in Portland.

    The values are different then what most understand in the Metro area. Of course we have Lake O and its thinking but Lake O is not representative of the majority of Clackamas County.

    Metro is where most people should start to worry about because they are the people who shoved out the UGB and legitimized, Happy Valley and Damacus with its sprawl with no local job base that puts all of these new home owners on our roads.

    It was Clackamas County that stepped up big to get HCLRT/MAX extended to Clackamas Town Center and provided the key funding for Portland’s new Transit Center.

    A lot of people should worry about Portland’s and Metro’s inability to address the dynamic capacity needs in the I-5 corridor where it is projected that we will have 5 to 6 mile long backups lasting up to 14-hours per day in the 2030 time frame.

  6. peter
    December 26, 2006 at 1:16 pm Link

    adron,

    you do not come off as trollish at all. perhaps it is because in expressing your government skepticism you acknowledge the fact that cars and the suburban development pattern are not the result of the free market.

    fwiw, i don’t think jk and others are trollish either, just a little repetitive and stubborn.

  7. Nick
    December 26, 2006 at 5:55 pm Link

    Even though I have never driven a car, I believe it is important to have the opinions of Parker, Karlock, et al, on this blog, as it shows us where the pro-motorist heads are.

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