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Thread: What makes a good pub website?

  1. #1
    Former Pubs Galore Coder
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    Default What makes a good pub website?

    Hi all,

    This is a thread I have been desperate to get going for quite a while, and with a bit of chat going between 3 of us so far (hopefully more soon), now seems a good time to try it.

    We are desperate to hear what you want this site to do. Our view is that for this site to be a success it needs the community (whatever that community might be) to want to come to the site and use it.

    As a starter for 10 (taken out of context from this thread):
    Quote Originally Posted by Historian
    As far as BITE is concerned, i use it a lot. It has its issues, like PG. As i am a user i guess i can say what i feel about both, i have on BITE as well. I wont be offended if it is cut out! BITE suffers from a lack of administration, this site from lack of active users. If BITE carries on the way its going, i will leave reviews of pubs, but not bother with the forum. Its sad, as there are a lot of decent people that chat on the forum, but a few are spoiling it. There is no chat here to spoil, but you may notice that i do not leave rating scores here, just comments, as BITE shows how the rating system can be corrupted. You guys have shown in one thread that you are happy to get involved in chat etc, to the point that i can already abuse your lack of beer knowledge!
    It raises some interesting points that I entirely agree with.

    For me our site is the technically best pure pub website out there, with maps in particular being our stand out feature. Probably our worst feature being the review system, which whilst bad is still better than the majority of other pub web sites. Our real let down is the community (as in how we work together, not the individuals), and the way we interact with it on the site. Everyone we have contributing on the site is invaluable, including the landlords who review their pubs (although once again, please mention you are the landlord in the review). Sadly we are not getting everyone chatting well enough though.

    BITE for instance though has a thriving community who for me are what makes their site.

    Picking out one of the points in that post we are not great believers in ratings of pubs and it amuses me to see that they are requesting ratings out of 20 on the BITE forums. I think more ratings just makes it more confusing. If/when we go properly up the ratings route we will be trying to be original and not crank it up to 11.

    In the background a lot of work goes on to maintain the site that never gets visible. As examples in the last week we have had a request from one of our members asking about what had gone wrong with the site as they could not view it. Whilst we think in this instance the computer they were using is up a particular creek without a paddle it did show us that if the computer had problems with one of the pages they would end up with 50+ alert boxes effectively locking up the browser (now removed). Another user asked what is wrong with the picture upload, we think they don't have Flash installed, so I am currently trying to make it so that you don't need Flash to contribute pictures. Also I am halfway through coding an interface on the page to allow members to mark pubs as closed or open as that is probably the thing we get requested most on feedback now.

    Basically I would love to hear peoples suggestions of what we have right (just to make me feel better) and wrong so that we can improve it. We are always happy to hear suggestions and equally happy to explain our thinking on why we are doing things. I don't promise not to be defensive, but we are not interested in deleting or hiding anything as long as it is relevant and not too rude.

  2. #2
    Official PG MILD tester Soup Dragon's Avatar
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    ME and BITE and PG:-
    I signed onto BITE in Dec 2007 i think, as a casual kind of user. I rated about 50 pubs, with a few lines for about 9 months (nowhere near the amount i did!). I stopped for a while, then when i did a Scarborough/Whitby trip in May 2009 i started again, with slightly better reports, and since then have rated around 300 on BITE, which i also put on this site (in process of).

    I was horrified to find that when i started again there was a massive backlog of pubs awaiting to go on the site - this was cleared, but is now back to several hundred (around 800 at last estimate). Also, the lack of administration on the site means that pratts are leaving vicious comments, that should be removed, in the pub review area and in the forums. This left me annoyed.

    Even when leaving my reports just on BITE, i used this site for the maps, as so many pubs were already on (you chaps got me and my mate around Bridgnorth!), but it was clear that it wasnt being used either as a forum, or a review site to any effective level. It was simply the fact the pubs were listed and shown on a contextual map. What the site also got was lots of photos - more people submitted pictures than reviews.

    My frustrations mounting over BITE, i thought i could put all my reviews on this site for the pubs that i was awaiting to go on BITE, then i could copy them over when they appeared. However, this quickly became a fair's fair kind of thing, so i thought i would maintain the comments on both sites, as PG was a good tool and deserved something in return.

    THOUGHTS FOR PG:-
    The FIRST thing you do well is administer the site - it is a case of hours before new pubs are put on, or updates done. HOWEVER, if your traffic increases, whether you could cope with it, would have to be proved - as you say, lots goes on behind the scenes to detract from monitoring posts etc. BITE allows no help really from its regular users, something you may need to think about. Currenly BITE cannot achieve this.

    The SECOND thing you do well is interact with the forums, when someone you can see has an interest - like myself. You need to do more, even if its to tell a chap that you have never tried a Wadsworth beer! Start threads and chit chat posts yourselves, keep the forum ticking - I dont want to see 2008 topics on the front page, not a good advert. BITE add current news items on - do something similar? Interaction with BITE admin is currently near non- existant.

    USERS:-
    I cant praise the people that send photos in high enough, but talking to other USERS here, make your comments worth putting on. If i read a one-time poster comment saying 'cr*p pub', it means nothing. Posters need to include a little detail on the pub, beer, food and service to make review actually mean anything to someone reading it. Why was it good, or bad? The better the comments the more people will be attracted to read and then leave them. It doesnt have to be super detailed - do it in four bullet points if you want. I have disagreed with other commenters - thats legal! just dont slag them off.

    So PG guys, it was good getting rid of the word limit, maybe you may think of having a structure to the comments - like ebay ask if you want to say anything on postage, speed of delivery, packaging etc when you buy something through them?

    Ultimately, the comments page is there to help us. BITE get loads of comments, from the sublime to the sick - as it isnt monitored well enough at the moment. As a BITE regular too, you can pick the wheat from the chaff and make an informed decision as you know who generally leaves proper comments.

    I think this site has great potential and i intend to keep posting whatever and usuing the forums - Jeez, i am an archivist, i am used to being on my own! and as a Bristol City fan, so is Conrad. I will continue to use BITE as well. I dont know if this has helped, but you can always ask my honest opinion and i will give it, either here, or in PM if you want guys.

  3. #3
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    Hi Paul,

    I wont say too much about BITE, for fear I start ranting. But my impression is that BITE is run on a primarily profit motive, with community a distant second. For me one of the most horrific things being those bloody interstitial Family Guy ads. Whilst it is clearly an aim to make PG profitable, we are very focused on trying to be transparent, my best example of this is the pictures that are uploaded to our site are fully credited and users have controls that allow them to delete their images if they like, which is a pity as we would far prefer to hold on to them as they are a credit to the site. Wherever we add new features now we try and keep that transparency in.

    Administration: As I pointed out on another thread we received over 900 pictures on Tuesday, all approved and we are not near our capacity to cope. Your point is entirely correct in more ways than the simple load though, we do try and check pubs before we approve them and do some vague checks on pictures assuming we are not getting too many - it would be far better if we had members who knew their areas taking on some of that from us though. With this in mind the system is designed with distributed administration in mind. In most instances we are just clicking on a link to do the work, we are not transcribing the pubs people add to our database, when you have added them we just click an approve link and it is visible to everyone on the system and there is nothing stopping us giving selected members similar rights, with a little bit of coding we could make those rights very specific as well. So we are very on board with that aspect, it is part of this whole community thing we want.

    Forums: Before I get going on the defensive bit, YOU ARE RIGHT, no argument and we need to address it. When the forum was started we did use it to post out the tiny updates we were doing and I shall start doing that again. About replying to threads, to be honest, as I am not much of a drinker I frequently feel like I have nothing to add, so don't, it is likely that had you not asked directly I would not have replied to your Favourites thread which would have been a huge mistake. More work needed at this end which we will do!

    Reviews: We have a number of issues with the reviewing system and it is one of my high priority pieces of work so may appear in the next year (I am way to busy, and easily distracted ). Firstly we need a report link on every review so that we can eradicate the bloody useless posts like 'cr*p pub' which contribute as you say nothing. We need people to be able to post more than one review so that a timeline can form, and we need to make reviews replyable to so some debate can happen. When we built the review system we had a lot of insecurity about reviewers just coming in and slagging the pub off and so took the approach of constraining it, way too much.
    I love your idea about suggesting a format for the review, not something I had thought of but could really make things work a lot better.

    As an aside we have a ton of ideas for the site, and tend not to mention them as we don't want to be beaten to the punchline as we are very constrained on how much time we have to develop the site. I am never sure if this is the correct approach as we could always do with input on the ideas. Whilst I am not great at chatting about beers I am fascinated to chat about the running of the site, and in general I would rather it were done in public so that we get as much early input as possible to all we are doing from the people who will use it.

    Thanks for all that input, never be shy of giving us more,

    Conrad

  4. #4
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    No probs, Squire - i was simply going for the record for the fastest 50 posts on PG - and bless my soul, i have just got there!

  5. #5
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    Congratulations, you qualify to view our super private exclusive forum.

    Sadly as I have less than 50 posts, I fear you will be talking to yourself

  6. #6
    Official PG MILD tester Soup Dragon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Conrad View Post
    Congratulations, you qualify to view our super private exclusive forum.

    Sadly as I have less than 50 posts, I fear you will be talking to yourself
    Great, at least i will be assured of good conversation

    Also, there is plenty of room for threads on ANY topic - doesnt have to be drink, or pub related - we spend half the time on here fitting in Blackadder quotes and talking about your favourite team, the Rovers.

    I have seen a few posts asking about family history/old pub information

  7. #7
    Real Ale Drinker Filo's Avatar
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    Smile Review Timeline

    Hi,

    If I could just throw my two peneth worth in.

    I like the time line idea allowing a user to make multiple reviews. With that facility, in years to come, Pubs Galore might become the diffininive online history of British Pubs in the 21st century. I also like the idea of having a format which will prompt users to put the appropriate information in.

    The rating system could be perhaps a little less general. In other words in some pubs the ale can be good, but the food poor so its ale deserves a better rating than the food. Bagdale Hall for example is probably the finest place to eat traditional english food in Whitby, but I wouldnt want to go their just for a beer, the only option being John Smiths Smoothflow.

    I always remember when I was an apprentice at Thornaby MPD, it was customary for all the staff to go to the Harewood Arms at the top Stockton Road after work on early shift Sundays. It was the most delapidated pub I've ever been in, no food, no music, no women, (under the age of 70), but the ale was hand drawn and kept in perfect condition. With the rating system as it is I would go for 1 star. But wouldnt it be better If I could give the ale 4 stars and everything else 1 star each, (although I wouldnt expect to rate the women)?

    Sadly the Harewood arms along with the Bon Lea were demolished to make way for A66 widening.

    Anyway just some thoughts,

    Regards,

    Filo
    Visit my Website www.whitby.manymore.net or listen to Whitby Radio www.whitby.manymoreradio.com/

  8. #8
    Official PG MILD tester Soup Dragon's Avatar
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    Hi filo

    You were at Thornaby - takes me back to choo choo days in the 70s when as a kid i was a spotter. I have grown up now - do pubs instead - my whitby ones are up now i think. Got Scarboro and Filey to do, but these were from my first days of posting and a little less informative - wait till you see Shakespeare Inn (Scarboro)

    Yes, i agree with the timeline facility - as pubs change hands quickly and it does give a 'history' - a gaffer will always complain if a review is no longer anything to do with 'his/her' pub, but the argument can be made now.

    Ratings are just a pain i think. Subjective - better i think just to leave comments on good/bad points - and yes, i have left the odd one for a gorgeous barmaid - after all, archivists are human too!

  9. #9
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    Hi Filo,

    Good to have your thoughts!

    First things first, it would be great if you contributed to the Favourites thread, which is currently losing course swiftly and could do with an injection of on topic information. Also it would give you an opportunity to mention some of your projects where they will get seen by people reading the forum!

    I think the timelines thing is very important for all the reasons you and Paul are saying, and as alluded to in another thread we need something similar for pictures, and also pub names. We will get to all those, if I am honest the hardest part for me at the moment is visualising how to make it all work on the screen. To back this up with an example we do occasionally get landlords contacting us to insist we remove out of date photos of their pubs - at the moment we hide them when this happens with an eye to re-showing them when we have more of a timeline available.

    Ratings, I actually agree with both of you. I don't want to suggest too many of my thoughts at the moment as I am a ways off actually being able to do the development. But to put it into broad brush strokes, number ratings are useless, far better to give it a verbal scale and we should be able to suggest whether a pub prefers certain clients. So we should have a system that lets a user know that a pub serves great food but no real ale, or real ales but you better only want a sarny with crisps on the side, or even excels at both.

    And finally in a cat amongst the pigeons moment, FILO have you checked your namesakes review page recently? I promise we will allow replies eventually!

    Conrad

  10. #10
    Real Ale Drinker Filo's Avatar
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    Default Favourites Thread & Namesake

    Hello Conrad,

    Thanks for your reply.

    As for the namesake review page I have re-arranged the comments section with additional info to off set the slightly negative review submitted. Having said that, between you and I, I dont like Tetley's much either, although Camra obviously do since the 2010 Good beer guide includes the namesake again .

    I'll have a look at the Favourites thread and see what I can do. One of my little projects as you know, is a new 24 hour Internet radio radio programme called Whitby Radio. Although depending how you log on it is also Manymore Radio which my brother runs in Birmingham. Now its up and running and getting many more listeners around the world than we expected we have been trying to find ways to cover our costs. They are actually quite small, but it would be nice to recover more. So the first idea was to offer a free webpage service to pubs that didnt have one, (because of the cost), bit like the filo site, www.firstinlastoutpub.co.uk . This makes a little money from google adverts and since they got in the good beer guide it has taken off quite nicely. Then I thought about advertising pubs on the radio for free (small donation requested obviously). But the problem is contacting the pubs for both ideas in the first place. eg more expense, and were not in that league

    Would that sort of (advertising) be suitable on the Favourites Thread? Or perhaps its a service you could offer your users? just a little logo for free adverts and webpages perhaps?

    Anyway my little brain seems to be working overtime.

    Regards,

    Filo
    whitbyradio.manymore.com
    Visit my Website www.whitby.manymore.net or listen to Whitby Radio www.whitby.manymoreradio.com/

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