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Thread: Existential Thread: Or What is Freezing Saddles Really All About

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    Steve O's Avatar
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    Default Existential Thread: Or What is Freezing Saddles Really All About

    I've had several conversations lately with active members of this forum that prompt me to ask the question: What is Freezing Saddles? Why do we do it?
    Is it:
    - A game by, for and of this Forum
    - A winter riding competition that just happens to be organized and run by this Forum

    Unquestionably Freezing Saddles was born of this Forum and its original intent was to provide a fun, winter riding competition among members.

    Last year, and even more so this year, there are a lot of people listed as players on the Freezing Saddles web site who have likely never logged in to the forum (other than to register), know nothing of beerneuring or vvill's N+1 or really have any intention of contributing in any way. I have heard of some players who actually express dislike or disdain for the Forum. I have heard frustration about getting nothing but radio silence from "team members" when reaching out to organize an event or just to have an on-line conversation.

    Most of the individual teams had a greeting thread back after the first happy hour. A number of players never bothered to even post a "hello" to their team members and, other than their miles being posted, haven't interacted in any way. Are they playing the game? If so, why not have every bike commuter in DC with Strava click a button and have their miles posted to the web site? What's the difference?

    I like to think of FS as a tool to grow our community. I want to cast a wide net to bring people in. At the same time, I don't think I want players in the game who have no interest in ever being part of the community. Where is the balance between a game being played by people who want to be part of the community and not being perceived as a clique?

    Is this something that we want to try to fix? Or not?

    I have a couple of ideas (one carrot and one stick), which I'll save for later in the discussion.

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    americancyclo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve O View Post
    I like to think of FS as a tool to grow our community.
    Why bury the lede?

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve O View Post
    I want to cast a wide net to bring people in.
    To the forum or to winter cycling?

    Are you asking if the forum should be exclusionary or if Freezing Saddles should be exclusionary?

    I don't think we ever established rules about participation, but there were some guidelines from the archives:
    Quote Originally Posted by rcannon100 View Post
    Please keep in mind that this is a game of the forum, by the forum, and for the forum. The whole point is a bunch of friends coming together to goof off. We hope that people will join in the reindeer games, come to happy hours, participate and even organize pointless prizes and side bets, and join in group rides.

    Take care inviting weirdos to join. If you dont think the weirdo is going to join in the forum, or come to a happy hour, or join a group ride - maybe dont invite them. If on the other hand the weirdo likes reindeer games, and is interested in adopting a puppy, maybe they are perfect. Every year new people assimilate into our community during FS. But there are also those who sign up, never show up, never play - and we then have to deal with how to fix our game.

    Registration goes through December 24th. People who buy me pie at FCCII will be put on a good team. The rest of you will be put on Steve O's team.

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    I think it's possible to have a contest that can be for everyone. I mean, sure, require participants to sign up through the forum or whatever, but if this becomes a bigger thing within the DC area, that's pretty cool. The forum could still play the host to the sidebets and happy hours and all that stuff, so those who want to have the motivation to ride but not the social aspect (ala the National Bike Challenge) can do so, but if they want to get anything more out of it, they come to the forum. Contrary to Bob's guidelines, I'm not sure how this negatively impacts the competition...is the concern having riders on your team who aren't social, or who don't pull their weight? I think that happens whether it's a "forum thing" or not (this year, I'm a good example of that type of teammate...sorry team!).

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    There seem to be several new people here. And a lot of teams do their discussions on strava. You can't expect everyone to join in the forum scrum.

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    I don't comment in the forum much, but do read most of the comments and add a "like" here or there. Our team (11) decided to mostly comment within strava which made more sense for us for team discussion, but maybe not so much for BAFS-wide discussions. I do try to click on many's BAFS rides in Strava and make comments of encouragement (or smack talk). I've been on only 1 ride this challenge with other riders (primarily for medical reasons), so I am not a shining example of the physical social aspects to BAFS, but I hear there is a final day big group ride at Haines Point that I look forward to meeting team and other BAFS rides who can attend. I guess my overall intent of posting this comments is there are other ways to communicate with team members and participate in the challenge than using this forum.

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    Who invited this Bob James guy anyway (and his brother Caleb)? Bob seems like a nice guy and he came to my "team ride", but he bumped me out of the top five individuals today and he doesn't beerneur or own lots of n+1 bicycles. The James Brothers should be disqualified for unsociability and riding too much but I want them on our NBC team, so I say give them a pass.

    I was amused to read a team captain's post in which she mentioned that she "despises the forum" but Freezing Saddles has brought new blood to the forums. Whether it should be for existing members or for growing the community has been the subject of discussions before. I think the balance is pretty good. How are the new members finding Freezing Saddles? I think most find out about it in Facebook groups 'Women and Bikes" and "Washington Area All-Stars" and word of mouth. I'm onboard with the effort to get more women riding, and I feel people who ride for the Washington Area All-Stars in the National Bike Challenge should be welcome. People who hear about by word of mouth are friends of friends. Not everyone who joins FS will become valued contributors to the forum but some will. Some will become members who visit the forum but don't post much. What they learn here will make them better bicyclists. I know I have learned a lot here that has made me a better rider. Informed riders improve bicycling in greater DC generally which is good.

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    I don't have a real strong opinion on whether this remains forum focused or whether the community is defined more broadly, but I do have a vested interest in some aspect of the competition logistics. So I have a few comments.

    - I'm not sure how much larger this competition can grow without more sophisticated technology (making it possible for groups/teams and individual riders to self-diagnose problems about why rides aren't syncing, etc.). So I guess what I'm suggesting is that we could cap ridership (at say 250) and decide how high we want to set the bar for participation, etc. Obviously we want it to be open to new people and those that aren't going to ride 500 miles a week, but if someone doesn't respond within 48 hours or log a ride in the first week of competition, it seems reasonable to drop them from the competition and pull in someone from a waitlist.

    - Personally, I sympathize with the desire for teams not to converse on the forum. Forums are great when you really want to just read a single-topic thread, but really don't fit many of the more modern paradigms that people use for communicating online. I don't know that there's an easy technological solution, but I think many agree that communication in the forum format is often poorly organized ("thread tangents" indicate the problem), easily missed, and oddly anonymous in the modern social-media age. Personally, I find Facebook a far easier way to track events, for example, than Forum threads. Whether the shop rides or the coffee clubs, etc. I notice those threads have gone cold on the Forum as they moved to Facebook. That all said, I still use the forum obviously, because others do too. And making it a requirement for FS participation seems reasonable if there is desire to increase membership.

    - Ultimately, it probably doesn't matter much how the competition started, but just what the current organizers & participants want to do with it going forward. I like the ideas vvill has raised this year with alternative scoring systems that could better capture the FS ethos. I think shifting focus a bit to make the side bets more first-class parts of the games would make sense. Maybe abolish the individual leaderboards or get more creative with them, to keep the focus more squarely on the teams. I liked Steve O's earlier ideas of possibly shuffling things up teams during competition to keep things competitive. This year seems like it has had more top-spot churn, but there have been clear "not-winning" teams from pretty early on.

    - And finally, on the technology front, I'd love to see the data being used to create more meaningful outside-of-competition relationships and improve cycling for everyone. E.g. "did you know that you and <someone else> share a similar commute at similar time of day?" or "Did you know that the W&OD is now ridable again between Vienna and Falls Church?" There is a wealth of opportunity with the data we're collecting. We've chipped a way at a little more this year, so it's slowly evolving.

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    Team 11 we has it down. We dont talk neither on the Forum nor on Strava.


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    Rod, I was only ahead of you in the standing very briefly and I had to bike at 2am just to have a few hours of glory before your next ride. As to the James boys, there should be a BAFS prize for the surname with the most points. You might think it would be the more common "Smith", but no, it's the James gang.

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    Default some disorganized thoughts on forum participation

    As someone who rarely checks the forum (mainly because I never really got into it) and who was prodded to join the challenge by a coworker, I enjoy the data collection / competitive aspect of the challenge even though I don't participate much socially (when I do, I definitely participate more on the Strava team page than here). I check my team's Strava club leaderboard and the main Freezing Saddles data site pretty much daily, to see how I'm doing compared to my teammates and how my team is doing relative to other teams (and occasionally I check my individual stats against others'). I'm not super social in general, being more of an introvert, and I also don't like the forum paradigm either. That Strava's social interaction interface resembles Facebook's more than this forum's does is one of the reasons why I participate there more often than here, and another big reason is that I'm already on Strava anyway since I like to check up on my weekly goals for running and biking and give kudos to people I'm following. I also don't like that the forum has an insecure (non-HTTPS) login form (whereas Strava does have HTTPS), which is why I'm using a weak / throwaway password here but not on Strava.

    I'm not sure I'll be checking the forums again super soon, but feel free to reply anyway. Just thought I'd share my $0.02...

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