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START, STOP, and CONTINUE - The Results

Posted on October 14 2015

Last weekend I poured over 500 emails that were sent as part of the 7th Birthday Weekend Giveaway and I want you to know that I appreciated every email.  I was really surprised by how in depth many of the emails were and enjoyed the candidness of many of the suggestions.  A few made me laugh.

When asking what T.F.M. should START, STOP, and CONTINUE, I wasn't looking for a lot of pats on the back about how awesome this blog is.  If that's what I wanted then I would have just called my mom.  After seven years of writing this website, I really did want to hear what's enjoyed and what can be worked on for the future.

This morning I got up early and went through the emails again and this time kept track of the themes and ideas that were mentioned over and over.  Here's the results and a few notes on each...

UPDATE THE LAYOUT - If you boiled down all the emails that were sent, the overwhelming suggestion given was to update the layout of The Fiberglass Manifesto.  The center column was to narrow and almost half of the screen was not being utilized at all.  The black background with orange writing also had run it's course and from day one more mature readers have complained about the orange font but I blew it off.  Now I am over 40 and I get it, it strains the eyes to read weird colored type.  It was time for a change.

Truth told (and I am sure savvy internet users already realize this) I have been working off one of the most dated and simple (the damn template is even called "Simple") layouts that Blogger offers.  I went with factory settings and was always nervous messing around with it to much since I didn't want to break my toy.

Though a full refresh is deserved and slowly in the works, I figured I'd try tweaking things here and there and last night worked on it to make for a slightly better reading experience with a wider center column and a change in the type color.  The images can also be larger now which I think looks great.  It's a good start (a band aid more or less) and hopefully a new website will be unveiled in the future.

Oh yeah, to the "Grammar Police"...I do need an editor and someone to follow behind to make sure my 4 a.m. (without much coffee) ramblings make sense and all the words are correctly spelled.  I do need to proof my work more. 

MORE CONSERVATION STORIES - Agreed.  I do need to do more, support more, and highlight more what is going on on the conservation front.  I am a member of a half dozen different organizations (and follow along on a handful of others) and will work harder to inform readers what is going on to keep our waters clean and the environment in better shape than it is today.

CONTINUE TO HIGHLIGHT SMALL COMPANIES - There were a lot of emails regarding this and I get it.  There are a lot of small companies within the fly fishing and outdoor industry and it's been neat to follow their progress.  Several attribute (at least a small part) of their early successes to be heard about on The Fiberglass Manifesto and I do feel good about that.  The same has happened with quite a few small shop fly rod builders with several quitting their careers to concentrate on rod building full time.  How cool is that?

HIGHLIGHT THE EXPERIENCE, NOT THE BUSINESS OF FLY FISHING - Heard and understood.  Sometimes it's easier to put together and highlight a new glass fly rod offering, a new collection from an apparel company, or the latest gadget and along the way lose track of why I am doing this at all.  The experience means everything and sometimes it gets cloudy around here with the gear talk and ad creative crowding the side columns.

I am going to work harder on keeping that in check and hopefully by widening the center column of the website the ads don't come across as heavy handed but are still noticed.  The bit of scratch that I do make from advertising are essential in keeping the lights on and help tremendous things to happen around here from giveaways, to being able to offer free decals, to continuing the fly rod loan program, to destination travel, and of course the occasional fly rod or gear purchase. 

MORE DESTINATION TRAVEL - Duh.  Totally.  I'll have my wife read and reread those emails and I might even ask her to do it again whenever at breakfast on a Sunday morning when I gently (and strategically) ease into a "What would you think if I look into (which she sees it coming and reads it as I am already gone...) going to such a such a place to go fly fishing with so in so...?"  Her eyes roll and she typically knows that I am about to buy a plane ticket somewhere.   

Along with a family that seems to be going more and more and a full time career in law enforcement, I do try to go as much as possible.  The past several years I have really pushed the envelope at home and at work with the vacation requests.  I'll continue to do so for my sanity and you know, it's great blog content too.

REVIEWS ON GLASS FLY RODS AND GEAR -What T.F.M. is lousy with are articles on the latest glass builds coming out of all the small shop builders and nearly every new fly rod company unveils.  What's not covered as much are reviews and write ups on how these fly rods cast and perform.  I know that thoughts on fly rods are largely subjective, I need to do a better job on verbalizing what fiberglass fly rods are all about.  Fly rods (glass or otherwise) should be chosen for how they cast and not just for how they look.

There were also a lot of requests for more gear reviews, especially of click and pawl fly reels, vintage glass fly rods, glass specific fly lines, packs, waders, boots, etc.  I'll continue to work on gear reviews and glad to see that they are typically well received.

BUILD A FLY ROD - Do you know that I've never built a fly rod?  Glass or otherwise.  I need to change that as there were a lot of emails which asked to see a "hobbyist" (more like a hack in my case) build and chronicle each step in the building of a fiberglass fly rod from bare blank to complete.  I've got a couple ideas already in the works on this.

BE MORE ACTIVE ON INSTAGRAM - One of the biggest surprises from the emails received were how many readers are followers on Instagram and many were asking for more interaction between the website and the photo sharing app.  Until now I've tried not to overlap the two very much but have been rethinking that and may start highlighting certain articles, giveaways, and other content more often with photographs on Instagram.  I also just need to post more of my photography there as well.  I like that social media platform a lot.  Likely more than Facebook and Twitter combined.

MORE FLIES AND FLY TYING -Yes and yes.  I need to break out the vise more and there were actually a lot of requests for content on favorite flies, fly box prepping for a trip, fly tying videos, history of patterns, and step by step tutorials.

Flies are an important part of fly fishing (duh) and I need to remember that more.

MORE GIVEAWAYS - Consider this done and done.  There area already several stellar giveaways in the works and the 12 Days of Christmas giveaways really aren't that far off.  It's already well into October...

START A FORUM - Absolutely not.  First, there is already an excellent fiberglass only forum in The Fiberglass Flyrodders where I am mostly an absentee administrator on and all discussions on glass should be going on there.  There are many members on this forum and it is just full and overflowing with great threads, information, and knowledge on all things fiberglass fly rods both vintage and contemporary.  "Glass Geeks" abound on the forum and they are REALLY welcoming to new members. 

Second, forums are a major time suck from an administrator standpoint and even forums that don't need a lot of moderation still need moderation or the joint can go sideways quick.  I simply don't have the time to keep up with something else and already feel guilty for not spending more time on The Fiberglass Flyrodders forum.  If you aren't a member there, then you should be.

CONTINUE THE FLY ROD LOAN PROGRAM - The T.F.M. Fly Rod Loan Program has been up on blocks for sometime with not that many fly rods moving around the country like they should.  I had a hard time nailing down where all of the demos were at, then getting them back, and lost a couple of very expensive fly rods along the way.  This was disappointing and I am working to add more accountability to the program which will hopefully keep fly rods moving around a lot faster than before.  Details on that soon.

There was quite a bit more written up in the emails but those are the highlights.  Thanks again to everyone that took the time to send a note and I really do appreciate the feedback.

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