When talking about platform businesses, the conversation often includes a reference to network effects and how platforms can more quickly create value for different types of user groups. The concept of network effects can seem difficult to grasp at a glance but is really quite simple. By understanding network effects first, platform designers can begin to implement platform growth techniques that capitalize on their understanding of network effects.
“Demystifying Network Effects” by Esme González Pillado https://link.medium.com/qpBO0YBKo3
I’ve always believed that the mountainboarding community follows the laws of networks and so benefits and suffers from network effects. Networks are made up of nodes (people in the mountainboarding community) and edges (the social connections and relationships between those people). Understanding this helps us understand how the connections between people in the community work and what effect changes have on the entire network.
Understanding the problem
There aren’t enough people mountainboarding often enough. That is the problem. Looking at the problem from the perspective of the social graph of the mountainboard community, we have people (nodes) who are either active (riding regularly) in the community (network) which means that they have existing connections which are continually renewed and reinforced, or inactive (not riding regularly) which means that those preexisting relationships have lapsed. There are also dormant nodes but for the purposes of this we would say that they have dropped off the graph.
If a node becomes inactive it weakens the edges and has a knock on effect on the other nodes. If a node is active it can affect the activity of nearby nodes but may not be sufficient on its own to keep them active.
If node A in the diagram above becomes inactive, nodes C and D become disconnected from the rest of the graph, and the connection between node B and the rest of the graph is weakened and so weakens the connection of nodes E, F and J to the rest of the graph.
That’s why understanding the mountainboarding community as a network is important, because it shows us what happens when a single rider stops and how it takes more than a single rider to build up the community. We can use this understanding in order to help keep the active mountainboarders riding and reactivate the inactive riders. This will follow the same network effect rules as the weakening of the network and exponentially strengthen the community. So, how do we do it?
Towards a solution
We need a plan. If we want to solve this problem we need a plan, people, resources, etc. It’s not an easy problem to solve, but I think with the right things in place, and the right understanding, it is possible.
- Identify active and inactive (and dormant) riders. Knowing this will be essential for targeting the right riders. Luckily the ATBA-UK has a database of mountainboarders across the UK. They could all be assigned an activity score (5 for most active, 1 for least active) and then their postcodes mapped onto Google Maps using TableFusion.
- Focus on active nodes for retention. We want to keep the active riders riding as if they become inactive the network effects will multiply. So we look for areas on the map that have the highest concentration of active riders.
- Then we establish regular scheduled meets in the areas where the active riders are, doing the type of riding they like to do. If there is a cluster around a centre (as we could expect) then we organise a meet at that centre. The meets need to be at least monthly and planned in advance so riders can know about them and plan to attend.
- The meet-ups then need to be promoted across the community. This could be done using the ATBA-UK email newsletter, group chats on messenger (segmented by area), various websites and Facebook groups.
- Doing this would require quite a commitment from someone, and probably some funding from the ATBA-UK, but it would help turnaround the decline of mountainboarding in the UK.