May 7, 2007

Sudden spurt in online motorcycle communities

Over the last few days, I have received no less than four emails that I find extremely curious. All are from webmasters of new motorcycle communities that have sprouted recently. I thought I would take a moment to consider this development.

For a long time, the largest community (at least they claim this and I see no reason not to believe them) has been xbhp.com. There have also been fairly active (but nowhere near that large) communities that're around as well – notably, bajajpulsar (yahoogroup), BikeNomads (yahoogroup also) and rddreams. There have also been model-specific groups, touring-oriented groups. And all of these motorcyclists are online everyday. Many belong to multiple groups, crossposting information and discussions across multiple fora. And since I'm still trying to define the communities – they come in many forms, including email discussion lists, online forums, I believe some use the wiki format (I have no idea what that means). And so forth.

Sometimes, when I'm browsing along, I notice that some members post almost every two or three minutes. And then I wonder what they for a living? How can I also earn my living while having that kind of time on hand? Then I realise that it isn't my business.. and now I realise that I've already digressed.

So, the curious emails all proclaim a newly opened web portal for motorcyclists. I'm wondering why there is suddenly a need for so many communities. Could it be that so many people have gotten moderated off their original communities and are opening new ones in spite (remember ybhp.blogspot.com)? Or is it that the commercial aspect of running large online communities has become more obvious so net-savvy motorcycle fans want in on the action.

The funny bit is that all of the emails are invitations extended to me to join as a member/moderator/editor. And all of them require me to register if I wanted to check out what the community was like. Which strikes me as kind of odd. If I wanted to sell you a product, would I not be smarter to allow you to see it first? So obviously, all of the proposals wilted as soon as I clicked the links. I've barely got the time to keep the blog updated, how the heck am I going to do anything more?

But I'm still totally mystified by what the sudden blossoming of online motorcycle communities represents. The obvious conclusion is well, obvious. Enthusiasts, who have long been lost identities in the mad throng of Indian motorcyclists are finding their voice. The Net is the place where they can collect in significant numbers, voice opinions (and I'm not going to point out that a fair volume are offered without any actual riding... oh I just did). It is also the reason why a number of manufacturers playing in the premium sector now actively monitor the discussions to see what the enthusiast is saying/thinking. How long before online communities actively influence product strategy and design?

But I have a nagging feeling that I'm missing something in all of this. That this represents a crucial piece in my understanding of the Indian Motorcycle Market Jigsaw and I'm unable to see the big picture because I can't quite see what this little piece means...

5 comments:

Madhukar said...

Enthusiasts, who have long been lost identities in the mad throng of Indian motorcyclists are finding their voice. The Net is the place where they can collect in significant numbers, voice opinions (and I'm not going to point out that a fair volume are offered without any actual riding... oh I just did).

I agree every motorcycle enthusiast(as you called) is not knowledgeable as you and probably cannot match your blogging ablities, but there are plenty of ppl who have massive riding experience under their belt. You cannot dismiss them simply 'cause you're not allowed to view their forum without registering.

Mk

Hrishi said...

Wanna swap jobs? ;)

rearset said...

@Mk
Please accept my apologies. I've obviously not said exactly what I meant. I'm not dismissing any of them, I'm just curious. I firmly believe in laissez faire and everyone's free to do whatever they choose. This has nothing to do with my abilities or the lack thereof.

As far as not registering goes, I've registered with multiple communities that I think add value to my motorcycling at some level. Yes, in hindsight, I do recall that each had an open archive that I could browse before I signed up.

@hrishi
No thanks! 8-D

Hitanshu said...

Its personality driven for the most. Sadly, besides at max, a cool bunch of guys, there aren't places with a raison d'etre.

Yogesh Sarkar said...

Because they know if you see their forums without registering, you won’t even consider joining them in your worst nightmare.

Fact of the matter is, forums aren’t made registered only to protect the information they might have in there from praying eyes, its just a cheap trick to inflate user count. Since more than 80% of their "registered members" never return!