Sunday, June 19, 2005

Internet socializing aficionado that I am, I was interested to look at the site. I was quite disappointed by it, so I filled out their feedback form with some rather harsh comments. The owner of the site wrote back within a few hours. Here's our exchange:

From: YogaConnect [] Sent: Monday, June 13, 2005 11:54 AMTo: Support PersonellSubject: YC Feedback From: satara,

The other internet friend/dating sites I use do not have such a restrictive pricing model. Friendster, which is aimed at friends and secondarily at dating, is free; the Spring Street Personals charge to send messages, but not to read them. Considering that you can search based on interests on those sites as well - allowing you to find other yogis - I doubt I'd ever consider paying for a site like yours, especially since you have a very limited membership so far and there are few people in my area. Am I expected to pay a monthly fee while I wait for you to build your membership to the point where the site is worthwhile? In addition, I think your site feels commercialized/hokey/not in the spirit of yoga. This carries through even to the profile, which has a lot of little boxes/categories to fill out and not much room for self-expression. I think profiles like the Spring Street Personals, which encourage more creative liberty with the profiles, are much more simpatico and I get a much better sense of the person's true nature based on what they decide to mention. In short I was excited about this site since I love yoga and yoga culture, but have been very disappointed with your implementation. I detect a stink of the notion that yoga is trendy, and you are trying to cash in on a hot fad.

From: Chris Roy - YogaConnect
Date: Jun 13, 2005 4:46 PM
Subject: RE: YC Feedback From: satara,

Hi Zoe,

Thank you for your honest comments...we sincerely appreciate it. There is a lot of validity and insight to be considered in what you have shared. I agree with you, in many regards. You probably do not know this, however we are a brand new site (2 weeks new) and are obviously still working through the components of our offering and model. We have been receiving quite a bit of feedback from our members, mostly positive. However, the not so positive always provides the best insight. Our original intent was not to duplicate the Friendster or Tribe social networking model, rather something more similar to a Lava Life or exclusively for the yoga culture with community features. I would share that comparing us to any of those companies is a stretch, given that these are seasoned and well funded companies, that have had the luxury of time to refine their business models. We are likely moving toward a hybrid of these sites. I'll take a look at the Spring Street Personals for profile and user communication ideas, thank you for bringing that to our attention. Our current profile and pay model is simply the first iteration. I am sure it will evolve.

In truth, we understand that members will only pay for our service when they see value as they define it. Most people have just chosen to fill our their profile for now. I can share with clarity that we created the site from our heart and with pure intentions of bringing value to a culture that we love as well. Our commitment is to creating a long term community that the yoga culture embraces, not just generating quick buck. The last thing that we want YogaConnect to convey is being hokey or commercialized. We are actually quite the contrary.

Please be patient with us as we continue to evolve and grow the site. I would love to hear your additional insights and thoughts. We realize there is a wonderful community here that is being underserved and YogaConnect has great potential. If you have ideas on how you could help us get there, let me know :)


From: Fun Things To Do in DC
Reply-To: Fun Things To Do in DC
To: Chris Roy - YogaConnect
Date: Jun 13, 2005 5:27 PM
Subject: Re: YC Feedback From: satara,

Thanks for your response, Chris.
Yes, the mixture of the ideals of yoga and business is tough - I worked as a strategy consultant for two years out of college, so these types of business issues fascinate me -mixing ideals with capitalism. I do some free-lance teaching at home,and teach at a studio where I have gotten to know the owner, who started the place up a year ago. You don't just want to cash in, butyou also want to run a clean business, pay the bills and make a living... But I do suspect that your current pricing model is not going to get off the ground.
I've been using the Spring Street Personals for two years (I accessthem through but they're also on Nerve and The Onion) and really enjoy meeting people on the internet. Never used since it turned me off for many of the same reasons I mentioned in mynote to you (all the little boxes). I much prefer Spring Street to the larger since it seems to attract much moreeclectic/literate/interesting people, partly with interesting/provocative questions that allow some room for interpretation, and an emphasis on expressive writing as opposed to checking off boxes (which never tells you much about a person.) I think is probably a much larger business, but it also seems to me that yoga people are more expressive and creative and in my opinion something closer to the Spring Street model would be a better match. SS has two tracks; with free profiles you can receive but not send messages, and with payment (they have you buy points instead of a monthly subscription) you can send messages (cost 1 point) or "winks"(no informational content & free as long as you also own paid credits). I think that system probably works great, because there are many desirable people with free profiles, and the ability to contact them, without them having to pay, makes purchasing credits much more useful for people who do. I purchased credits at Spring Street, butI'm pretty sure that there's a demographic that's just never going to consider paying cash for such stuff. Nonetheless, makes no sense to drive away that demographic since their profiles still increase the overall value of your site.
I don't know what your funding's like, but it seems like network effects are so important here that it would be worthwhile to burn a bunch of capital in the beginning with promotions to swell your ranks and make the system worthwhile.
In terms of yoga-specific features, one thing that would really turn*me* on is some kind of organizational system for freelance yoga lessons or group yoga practices, perhaps at someone's house . I teach yoga to my friends at home right now, and I use Yahoo! Groups -they've got a calendar, bulletin board, little files section, etc. But one thing that's lacking is a sign-up system to register for class (necessary since my room is small), which I was lucky enough to have a friend build for me in PHP. This type of thing might be useful not only for yoga teachers but for groups of friends that wanted to get together to organize private lessons - or just practice by themselves. And even yoga teachers at studios often do freelance work on the side. That would drive your site more towards a community type ofthing rather than strict dating, but would probably also attract some desirable people - lots of people want to date their yoga teacher ;)
I'd also love to find a really useful active & intelligent bulletin board to discuss yoga teaching - methods, relationship with students, tricks of the trade, etc. I'd imagine it could be in the context of other conversations about yoga. Of course building this type of community that really requires a large group of active & articulate particpants is sooner said than done.
Well, that's my 75 cents! Good luck with your site & sorry if my first words were harsh - I did assume that a business owner that really cared would appreciate frank feedback.


From: Chris Roy - YogaConnect
Date: Jun 15, 2005 4:40 PM
Subject: RE: YC Feedback From: satara,

Thank you again Zoe. Yes, it's an interesting balance. You have given us some really good food for thought.
In appreciation,

From: Fun Things To Do in DC
Reply-To: Fun Things To Do in DC
To: Chris Roy - YogaConnect
Date: Jun 19, 2005 10:07 PM
Subject: Re: YC Feedback From: satara,

Good luck with everything, Chris :) You're going to get a lot of advice from everyone (and their aunt and their cousin too) but in the end it all comes down to your gut...


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