Contra dance rides & web clearinghouse

There’s currently a discussion happening on the “Contra Dancers” Facebook group about rides coordination & having a web clearinghouse for dance information. I chimed in, and generally think it’s interesting, so I’m posting (selections from) it here too.

Original post: Rona Weiner, 6/19/13 10:46pm

Dear dance gypsies and dance organizers, are any of you working on a better method to coordinate housing and rides? I’m thinking this would be a lovely project for me to tackle. I’ve seen a couple of sites that have interesting concepts (like Ricky Rides), but nothing that seems like a perfect fit. Thoughts?

Tavi Merçapulcu, 6/20/13 1:01am

Let’s create a contra rideshare website!! I’ve been thinking for a while about asking the CCD folks if they would be willing to give away the url so i could found a site that combines the basic introduction to contra, listings for any regular series contra that would submit, a log-in enabled collection of contact information for callers/musicians/bookers, perhaps even a choreography page for anyone who’s willing to publish their dances, and why not add a rideshare board while we’re at it?! Unless of course dancegypsy wants to add that, in which case i’d say go right ahead!

Rona Weiner, 6/20/13 9:07am

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, just to clarify, I’m thinking of something a little more automated than a mailing list or posts page. For example, something that will let me list that I have 1 bed and 2 floor spaces available, and allow people to “book” them. Some features that come to mind… offer and “book” housing space, hotel space, and carpool space, request bedding (when flying into a camping event, this is a life saver), use pre-defined lists to easily match requests (e.g. list of nearby airports for rides), etc.

Alex Krogh-Grabbe, 6/20/13 10:33am

Something automated like that would be great. Perhaps look at the (technological) model of AirBnB? I’ve never used it, but it’s quite popular.

Two other thoughts: a mailing list can do something, but I’m skeptical about how widely used a rides-specific mailing list would be. In Western Mass, we have the PVCD email list, onto which organizers post information about upcoming dances, people ask for or offer rides, lost & found notices happen, and OCCASIONALLY there are massive conversations about dance etiquette & philosophy. This list seems effective for rides, because people sign up for it for other reasons too.

Secondly, I’ve organized rides for Youth Dance Weekend for the past four years, and I’ve always wanted a more automated web interface like Rona suggests. Lacking that, I’ve found little reduces the need to just send lots of emails. The main thing that’s useful is to get rides information on the registration form (need/offer/all set? what region? how many seats?). After that, what I’ve found to be the most efficient is to just send out batched emails to all registrants within each region, saying “this is the ride situation in your region. Figure it out!” And they usually do. The main piece of information registrants are lacking is specifically who else in their area is going to the event. If the rides coordinator THEMSELF tries to match everyone up, it’s a ridiculous amount of work, and registrants get frustrated because they can do a lot of it themselves.

Also, Tavi’s idea of a contradance information clearinghouse is a cool one. It’s a huge undertaking, but would be cool. Maybe also a reddit-style voting system on which videos of contradancing are best to give a sense of what it is? Two other thoughts on this: has a LOT of information about regular dance series and performers, though I think it might have a slight focus on the northeast. I’ve heard it’s a hassle to update it, though. Second, the CDSS website is a place I’d think about hosting such a web endeavor. The goal of CDSS is to be a resource for folk traditions such as contradance, and I can see this being a reasonable fit. But again, massive project.