Thank you all who participated in this survey formally while it was open and informally to me directly after it was closed. It was the single most participative item connected with OEIC and the feedback was very helpful.
The Primary Purpose of the survey was as follows:
- Learn if the website was thought relevant and effective.
- Gather ideas to increase effectiveness.
- Gather ideas on how to increase readers, members and participants.
- Get a sense for the impact it is making on reducing the use of fossil fuels.
The Good News: The website is generally thought to be relevant; participants in the survey overwhelmingly agree that burning fossil fuels impacts the environment and their household budgets. Also, a large majority felt the website was effective in motivating and educating readers to use less fossil fuel. Still the site is not organized as some would like. Some feel there are not enough homeowners telling of their efforts and success, and others point to lack of sponsors, as key issues.
The Bad News: Participation (questions, comments, complaints, concerns) is very, very limited. This may be typical of sites like this, but lack of participation reduces our effectiveness in motivating and educating readers, and in the overall impact we have on the Capital Region using less fossil fuels. In several survey questions, the need for more members/visitors was brought up; certainly if we had 10X the readers, meaningful participation would be much easier to obtain. Also the requirement of joining before commenting is a problem for some; I understand but no control would open the site to far more spamming, obscenities, and distraction. I now delete 10 members for every legitimate member who joins and I delete 3 comments and forum entries for every relevant one.
The Realization: At this point, most of our visitors, members and contributors are the same people who have been concerned about fossil fuels in our economy and environment for some time – as we say, we are the choir. Thus, the main conclusion is we need to reach and connect with a larger and broader group! The most effective ways we have gotten members and visitors has been through my networking and public outreach, and by your networking and recommendations. Plus I will look at other suggestions to be more effective, especially at reaching the broader population. Finally, the website has not actually been very effective in reducing fossil fuel use (less than 5% of respondents made even a small change, in any way related to the site). If it can’t be more effective, we need to do something else.
Survey Initiatives: First, I will allocate more of my time to community outreach – more members, contributors and sponsors – and thus can spend less time in developing content and the newsletter (it will be once monthly for a while). Second, over the next few months, I will prioritize and implement many of the recommendations you and others made in the survey, have made at other times, and hopefully will make in the future. Finally, I ask that you continue to support this community initiative as best you can, by forwarding the newsletter or blog links, by recommending it to your friends and family, and possibly by contributing your success stories or other experiences you have had in reducing fossil fuel use! Thank you for your help in the past and in the future.
Individual Question Summaries
Q1 The primary goals of our online community, www.OEIC.us, are to inform area residents on two questions: first, why and how each could personally benefit from using less fossil fuels and second, what are reasonable ways to accomplish this goal ranging from small scale changes to lifestyle rearrangement. Reduction in use would be in home, transportation and food. How effective do you find this website in furthering these overall goals?
75% responded the website was moderately or very effective in furthering its goals. 5% responded it was not at all or minimally effective. As I learned at the end, this excellent assessment was more a conceptual evaluation than based on experience, since very few have made improvements based on the site.
Q2 What do you recommend we do to improve effectiveness of the website?
The top three responses were:
- Increase membership, especially people not now involved with energy or environmental issues.
- More examples of how ordinary people use less energy
- Live events – outreach and OEIC meetups
The most common single response was “Don’t know or blank.”
Q3 How important do you believe using less fossil fuel is for your family budget?
66% responded moderately or very important. 12% responded not at all or minimally important.
Q4 How important do you believe using less fossil fuel is for the environment?
97% responded moderately or very important. No one responded not at all or minimally important.
Q5 How did you first learn about www.OEIC.us?
The top three responses were:
1. Direct or email contact with Dan G
2. Word of mouth, other people recommended (email & direct)
3. Local events
Note: Only 1 person found OEIC via a web search!?
Q6 Any suggestions on how to increase awareness of the website?
The top three responses were:
- Advertise in newspapers, also in magazines and radio
- increased networking with like and different groups.
- Social media
There were a lot of different responses, including: flyers, links, SEO, new URL, Craig’s list, etc. The most common single response was “Don’t know or blank.”
Q7 How often have you visited www.OEIC.us in the last three months?
Q8 What don’t you like, find annoying or irritating about the website?
There were a lot of reader-specific answers, such as: lack of integration with other social media sites; requiring membership to comment; categorization/organization; name/URL; not eye-catching, etc. No real clusters of complaint.
Over 65% of the answers were either “good as is,” “nothing” or left blank.
Q9 How often have you commented on or asked a question in a Blog or Forum?
There is very little reader participation, 84% have commented once or never. Just 16% have commented several times. Interestingly, over 80 people have contributed blog content.
Q10 What do you recommend we do to increase participation (comments & questions)?
The number one answer was to foster controversy in one form or another. Actually that makes sense, but I’m not sure how to orchestrate conflict or dissent.
Second was to have real world meetings. At first this seemed an odd way to promote on-line participation, but if people knew each other better they might be more incline to participate – comment, congratulate, ask questions or disagree.
After that, there were a lot of interesting ones and twos: less dense newsletter; ask for comments in the blog; as for comments in the newsletter; prizes for comments; short surveys on the website and in the newsletter; be less declarative, more inviting; Q&A; and link with other blogs, such as the Times Union and other like-minded websites.
Q11 Have you made any significant changes, during the last 10 years, to reduce your or your family's use of fossil fuels? (check all areas that apply)
Q12 Have you made any changes due to the website? If so, how did it work out? If you considered a change but didn’t go ahead, why?
Only six indicated small changes were made in the way they do things (use bus, gardening, thermostat, local food, etc.); and several larger changes (house insulation, new furnace, and high mileage car). Several mentioned that they considered significant improvements, but for economic, spouse or time reasons did not follow through.
Several mentioned that they think about energy reductions more day to day.
The vast majority (90%) have made little or no additional improvements related to the website. This is primarily due to the fact that they had already done most of what they want to accomplish (at least, based on their present thinking).
Q13 Any other comments or suggestions?
60% of those taking the survey answered this question. Of those who answered, 65% included some form of “thank-you,” appreciation, “good luck” or “keep up the good work” in their response. I am very grateful that so many do appreciate the work and effort all of the contributors have put in to provide this website’s content.
In this section, many people took time to say they can’t or don’t participate more due to time constraints and other priorities. I certainly understand this!
In this section, some mentioned they appreciated the newsletter, Energy NewsNotes and the Upcoming Events listing. Some also mentioned that the newsletter has gotten too long. An improvement that we are announcing now is the new Community Calendar. You can click on the button in the upper right to go to monthly calendar pages with local energy and environmental events. Click the event and you will get more details. This allow for quicker and better posting, and shorten the listing in the newsletter.
Some also commented that the website’s time will come! I hope so.
Finally, one suggested a DIY column because he appreciates that type of information and would like to share how he built his Solar Food Dehydrator. We do attach key-words or tags to each blog; one of them can be DIY. DIY can happen in just about any column, so search on the key-word. And finally, to the person with the Solar Food Dehydrator, please send what you’d like to share and I will post it under “Living Sustainably!”
Thank you all again,