Update, 25th April 2019:
This post generated lots of fantastic feedback about the upcoming changes from our members. We’ve incorporated this feedback into additional improvements we’re making to Stitch, and are hoping to release the changes in the next couple of weeks.
We have left most of the original article below unchanged, but have added in extra sections to highlight the additional changes we are introducing, based on your feedback.
Thanks to everyone who gave us your feedback … without your input, Stitch wouldn’t be possible!
Over the coming weeks we’re going to be making a number of changes to how Stitch works.
Some of these represent a major departure from the way things have worked until now, so we’re taking this opportunity to outline some of the changes in advance.
We want to give all our members an opportunity to not only get familiar with the changes ahead of time, but also to understand the reasons behind the changes and why they are being introduced.
As always, we welcome feedback about everything that happens at Stitch, so if you’ve got any questions, comments, or concerns, please let us know!
Some of you will have already noticed that we are introducing changes to the way Stitch notifies members about events and activities in their area.
Previously, every time anyone within your local area created a new activity, the system would send you an email inviting you to the event. This approach was fine in areas where a Stitch community was just getting started, but in active communities it had become a major issue. Some of the problems included:
- Different members have very different ideas about what “local” means. Some members are only interested in activities within walking distance, while others are willing to travel significant distances to get to events that interest them. Stitch would notify everyone within a 30mi / 50km radius, but this one-size-fits-all approach didn’t reflect what most members wanted.
- In active areas, dozens of events can be published on any single day, resulting in an avalanche of email notifications. While it is usually great to see lots of activity in a community, a small number of registered Stitch members would get annoyed and mark these emails as spam. Unfortunately it takes only a tiny percentage of recipients to do this before Stitch’s ability to send emails gets blocked by our service providers. This has catastrophic consequences! It meant that a tiny group of users was having a major impact on how Stitch works for all its members.
- Every Stitch member is interested in some activities more than others. The old system didn’t give members any ability to choose which activities they would like to be notified about
In order to address these issues, we are giving all members more ability to opt-in to the notifications they receive. We’re doing this by basing your notifications on the Stitch Groups you have joined.
You will receive direct invitations to any events posted into any of the Stitch Groups you have joined (and if you’re a Full member, you are able to join as many Stitch Groups as you want). It won’t matter how far away those events are, either: you can now join Groups in other areas so you can find out about events there. If you live in Brooklyn but spend your weekends on Long Island, for example, you can join groups in both locations so you can get notified about activities for both.
This means that if you don’t want to receive notifications about particular events, you no longer need to. If Stitch members near you are really interested playing pickleball, for example, but you have no interest in pickleball, you won’t receive invitations to those events unless you join the pickleball group.
That’s obviously helpful to people who were feeling overwhelmed by event notifications, but what about people who are interested in pickleball, but haven’t joined the Group yet?
To make sure events and activities continue to be promoted to the community at large, Stitch now sends out a summary email of all activities published in the previous week. That way, even if you haven’t joined the pickleball group yet, you will get notified about events for the pickleball group in your weekly digest. And as soon as you attend one of those events, you’ll join the group and receive all future event invitations.
Update, 25th April 2019:
Feedback from members was that sending out a summary of events only once a week wasn’t frequent enough; many members told us that they often create events only a few days in advance.
In the upcoming update, Stitch will now provide a daily summary of published events, instead of a weekly one. That way you’ll receive only one email per day regardless of how many events are published in your area, but you’ll be guaranteed to be notified of events soon after they are published.
You will continue to receive instant notifications for events in groups you have joined.
You will also be able to set the distance within which you are notified of new events and activities. You might only want to be notified about events within 5 miles of where you live, for example. The Stitch Activities page will also be updated to reflect your distance preference.
We think this is a big step forward in giving our members more choice about the notifications they receive, but we also know there is still more to do. Over the coming weeks you’ll see some continued improvements in the area of notifications, including:
- Giving members a choice between a weekly digest or event invitations as they come
- A weekly summary of upcoming events in your area
- The ability to filter notifications based on your interests
- Easier ways to cut down on notification chatter in discussions you have joined
Another big change you’ll start to notice over the coming months will be an increasing role that Stitch Groups will play in helping you control which parts of the community you’d like to participate in.
The current implementation of Stitch Groups is reasonably simple, but has demonstrated how important it is for us to allow different social groups to grow and organize themselves around particular locations, interests, and activities.
Just like society in general, the Stitch community is extremely diverse, and our members have a wide variety of interests, attitudes, and beliefs about how the community should operate. Stitch Groups help provide a way for members of Stitch to organize their community the way they want.
Some of the changes you can expect to see include:
- An improved Stitch Group page which will let you see not just the members of the Group, but also all the events, activities, and chat discussions in those groups
- Better tools for Group organizers, such as group announcements & member management
- The way Groups dictate the notifications you receive from Stitch, as outlined above
- Easier ways to control and discover the Groups in your area you should join
- Private and Member-only Groups, for members who want more control over who they connect with in the community
- The ability for Basic members to participate as much as they want in a single Group, as a way to allow new members to get familiar with Stitch before they decide to become a Full member
The last point in the previous section highlights another significant change that will be coming to Stitch in the near future: we will be making some big changes to how much of the community activities that Basic members (i.e. members who haven’t paid a Stitch membership subscription yet) can access.
For some time we have been looking for a balance between what we give Basic members access to, versus the privileges enjoyed by Full members.
We know we need to give Basic members the ability to experience Stitch in some limited way, as that’s the best way for them to find out what it’s all about.
We also know that some Basic members need a little time before they are ready to join. Some are in difficult transitional periods of their lives, with major life events causing them to realize they need more companionship in their lives, and very often they need quite some time before they are fully ready to participate in the community.
We know that some of our Full members want lots of Basic members to attend their activities, while other Full members much prefer their events to be members-only.
Finally, we know that some community groups who already provide activities for over 50s would like to use Stitch to connect with their members. But our current pricing model has made this challenging, as they don’t want to force all their existing members to join as Full members of Stitch.
All of these reasons are why it’s been clear to us that we need a better way to provide a part of Stitch to Basic members, one that makes more sense to everyone.
At the same time, the Stitch community relies on membership dues in order to keep itself operating, so we need to ensure that Basic members get enough of a taste of Stitch to realize the value that a Full membership provides, without giving them so much they never need to join. It’s vitally important that we keep things fair for those members who support the community by faithfully paying their membership subscriptions each year – if we give too much to Basic members who aren’t paying anything, it’s unfair to all the Full members who are doing their bit to support Stitch.
That’s why, over the coming weeks, you’re going to see a big change to the way Basic members access Stitch.
Instead of the current system which allows a small number of randomly-selected activities to be marked “Open” to Basic members, we will be using Stitch Groups as the basis for restrictions on Basic members. In essence:
- Basic members will be able to join a single Stitch Group, and participate fully in all activities, events and discussions within that Group.
This will help small or new Stitch communities that are only just getting started, where there may be a small amount of community activity, but only enough for one Stitch Group. In those communities, Stitch won’t be forcing Basic members to upgrade until the community becomes larger and more active.
It will also assist community organizations which want to bring their members and activities into Stitch. They will be able to create a Stitch Group that all their existing members will be able to join for free. If some of those members decide they want to participate in the rest of the community, they will need to upgrade to a Full membership.
- Control over access to events and activities will now be done at the Group level, rather than for individual events and activities.
Full members will be able to choose whether their Groups are open to Basic members, or are for Full members only.
If a Group is for Full members only, then all the events and activities in that group are for Full members only. Similarly, if a Group is open to Basic members, then all activities in that group will also be open to Basic members.
Update, 25th April 2019:
A number of our most active Community Champions told us they didn’t like the idea of a black-and-white division between “open” events vs. “member-only” events.
They explained that they really wanted their events and groups to be primarily for full members only, as that’s clearly the best way to help the Stitch community be financially sustainable. But at the same time, they also wanted some ability for “new” Basic members to come to their events, as a way to introduce new members to Stitch and help them understand what it’s all about.
Their strong feedback was that we should allow new members a limited introductory period for them to come along to Stitch member-only events.
So that’s what we’re doing.
When someone first signs up to Stitch, they will be classified a “new member” for their first month. During that time, they will be able to attend up to 3 member-only events and activities, as a way to get introduced to the community.
These events also give them an opportunity to get verified by a Stitch Community Champion.
At their first event, new members only need to register to Stitch: they don’t need a completed profile, as they are just attending as a guest.
After their first event, however, all members need a Stitch profile in order to come to any events or activities. This is mandatory as event organizers use profile pictures to identify and verify members at events and activities.
New members will also need to ensure they get verified within their first 3 events: after that point, they will no longer be able to attend any events without being verified.
After attending their first 3 events, or after one month from first registering, new members will need to become a Full member if they want to continue to attend member-only events and activities, and fully participate in member-only groups, discussions, and enjoy all the other benefits of Stitch.
If they choose to remain a Basic member after their first month, they will continue to be able to participate in a single “open” Stitch Group as outlined in this article, but will no longer be able to attend “member-only” events and activities.
The change may take a little while to get used to, but the overall idea is much more straightforward and easier to understand than the way open events work today. In summary:
Basic members will be able to fully participate in a single Stitch Group, but if they want to participate in the rest of the community, they’ll need to upgrade to a Full membership.
We think this new approach will not only make the system easier to understand, it will help address a lot of the limitations we currently face with Stitch, and allow us to bring on board lots of new members by partnering with existing local community groups and organizations.
Update, 25th April 2019:
We received a range of feedback from members that they did not want to have to be a member of a Group in order to be able to come to events in that Group.
This surprised us, so we did a bit of investigation into where the objection about joining Groups came from.
It turned out the objection came from the fact that joining a Group automatically made you part of the online Chat conversation for that Group. Not all members are interested in online conversation, and want to attend activities without being inundated with email notifications.
As a result of this feedback, we’re making a big change to the way notifications about conversations work on Stitch. This includes comments posted on Groups and Activities.
In the coming update, you will no longer be automatically subscribed to the conversation for a Group or Activity when you join or attend. You can opt to “follow” the conversation if you want to, but this will be your choice.
In introducing this change, however, we needed to make sure we still had a way for event organizers (or group owners) to send a message out to all attendees.
We will be introducing a new “Make an announcement” feature to all Activities and Groups as part of the upcoming update. This means that attendees at events and activities won’t need to receive comment notifications unless they want to, but can still receive important announcements about the event, such as change in venue or event start time.
Some of you may have noticed that we’ve recently introduced some changes to Stitch’s Membership Points system. Specifically:
- We changed the way points were calculated for hosting an event, and
- We changed the rewards that membership points can be redeemed for
In the past, Stitch awarded 500 membership points for every activity posted to Stitch. This reflected how important each activity is to the community, particularly in new areas where the community is just getting started. In very new areas, before a local Stitch community is up and running, it’s not unusual to get only one or two members along to the first few events. Yet these ones are the most important events of all, as they are what helps get a new community started in the first place.
Unfortunately, this meant it was possible to “game” the system by posting dozens of events on Stitch again and again, earning rewards even if nobody attended.
To protect against this we have tweaked the rewards system so that the points you earn will mainly be a result of the Full members you get to attend at your events. We have doubled the number of points you earn for each Full member who attends.
If you are in a community which isn’t very active yet, you will still earn 500 points for the events you create. In active communities, however, the points you earn will be based on how many members attend your events. That way the members who do a lot of work to create popular events that are well-attended will receive the most rewards, which is only fair.
We have also changed the rewards offered for membership points, and have removed the ability to redeem membership points for gift cards, at least for the time being. This wasn’t something we wanted to do, but we unfortunately didn’t have a choice: for legal reasons, we were not able to offer gift cards under the previous scheme without creating unfortunate tax consequences for both Stitch and the members receiving the gift cards.
We hope in the future to be able to re-introduce the option of gift card rewards if the legal situation can be resolved, but in the meantime we’re working to create other great redemption options. These include:
- Free and discounted Stitch memberships for yourself,
- The ability to gift a Stitch membership to someone you know (or donate it to a member of the community in financial need),
- Redeeming your points for a donation to charity which Stitch will make on your behalf, and
- Great new swag & merchandise options – we’re currently under discussion with a number of vendors as we speak!
While we regret needing to remove the gift card option, we think the alternatives are going to be just as good. It’s important to remember that redeeming points was only ever intended to be a way for the community to express its appreciation for the Stitch members who do the most to improve the lives of their fellow members, not primarily a way to earn cash or gift vouchers. We think the new options express appreciation just as well, and we look forward to adding more redemption options in the future.
Finally, we will be removing the current travel pages of Stitch, while we work on plans for a new way for Stitch members to meet travel companions.
We firmly believe that travel will eventually be an important part of Stitch, since so many members tell us they would like to use Stitch to find a travel companion.
Our experience with the current travel pages, however, has demonstrated that combining social connections with travel content can be very complicated. Members often suggest a destination they have in mind, but very often don’t actually want to commit to travelling with someone before they have met in person.
We’ve had plenty of successful examples where members found travel companions through the site, but a lot more examples where the initial interest in a particular trip didn’t go anywhere, which ended up creating a lot of frustration.
That’s why we’re going to be closing the current version of the Stitch Travel pages while we reassess the best way to get travel to work for our members. We’re confident they’ll return at some point, bigger and better than ever!
That’s it for the roundup of the major changes to Stitch you can expect to see over the coming weeks, although we will also be making numerous other smaller improvements to how the site works, as we continue to try to improve things for all our members.
We’d like to thank all our members for bearing with us while we introduce all these changes, and for understanding the important reasons that many of these changes need to be made.
As always, we welcome feedback, so if you’ve got any comments, questions or concerns, please let us know!