A brief visit to AuntMinnie

AuntMinnie, which has 148,000 members worldwide, is celebrating ten years of radiology journalism with a terrific giveaway of gifts depending on how long you’ve been a member.

On a smaller scale it’s worth noting that since I captured the vital statistics for its forum membership in mid-November (29604 Registered users have made 223898 posts in 13 forums. There are currently 27278 topics) that by 22 Dec it reads: 29827 Registered users have made 230030 posts in 13 forums. There are currently 27949 topics. That’s over 6,000 posts in just over a month. OK, fair enough. But remember the well-established 90-9-1 rule of thumb that around 5 to 10% of members contribute all the posts. So say around 200 people have created those 6,000 posts?

Lets remember what drives advertisers which are the lifeblood of these sites is the number of members, the reach. So the emphasis is not surprisingly on rewarding this aspect. And to be positive this has the benefit of rewarding the majority of readers of the site, rather than just the contributors. That said if Aunt Minnie is going to sustain its success for another ten years then how is it going to live up to billing in its meta description tag (the description you see under its Google listing) as the following:

“AuntMinnie.com is the largest and most comprehensive community Web site for medical imaging professionals worldwide. Radiologists, technologists, administrators, and industry professionals can find information and conduct e-commerce in MRI, mammography, ultrasound, x-ray, CT, nuclear medicine, PACS, and other imaging disciplines.”

So there, they see themselves as a community site. So how far are they to achieving that goal? From a community consultant view, the first thing to point out is that what they call community is the forum section, fair enough; not to be confused with ‘Communities’ which is where the separate specialties/technologies such as CT fall. By the way one thing about that, when you select one of these communities, you are presented with a series of news items that are clearly specific to that topic. Each of them clearly has a ‘Discuss’ link to respond to the content and post in the forums. What would help though is the forum post which opens to give you the option to either post a new thread (as it currently defaults), or to post in an existing thread. That way you are designing it with the needs of the contributor foremost.

Anyhow, looking at it from the top level of the forum there’s a few things that jump out at me (bearing in mind I don’t have access to community metrics for any of the sites I’m looking at). And the first is as you can see is the sheer volume of topics and posts which appears kind of daunting. So in the ‘Residents Digital Community’ discussion forum, leading the numbers, there are currently over 55,000 posts and nearly 8,000 topics! Phew. At the other end of the scale the ‘How to use these Forums’ discussion forum there are just 3 topics and 3 posts. That said at least the number of discussion forums, limited to 10, provides a kind of order. One small note is that the community stats say there are 13 forums, while just 10 are listed, so I assume 3 are private.

But what could be improved if not the information architecture, by placing the topic and post count in a less prominent position, is the display of contributor’s content which currently due to lack of space appears in a truncated format, while space is allowed for the individual moderator which is surplus at that level. Obviously AM staff are constrained by the software to some extent but surely a re-skin based on an information architecture review, even if it’s just at the top level, would be a worthwhile investment for its 10th birthday?

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