I smell a rat

Human Powered AdventureSocial networking and user-generated content are some of the hot buzzwords of the Internet these days. New sites pop up every day trying to duplicate the popularity of MySpace and Digg, the success stories of today’s Internet.

So it’s no wonder that consumer product companies want a piece of that action. The latest of these companies is Outdoor Research, which makes a variety of niche gear and apparel.

A couple months ago I wrote about OR’s Lab Rat program, an admirable Web effort to listen to customers. Too bad the same effort put in that site wasn’t put into the company’s new community Web site, HumanPoweredAdventure.com.

The intent of the new site is to let outdoor enthusiasts share in discussion forums, trip reports and gear reviews. But sadly, OR left out some key ingredients in a successful community-driven site, like allowing members to comment on posts and ways to express their identity.

In the publicity OR sent to Lab Rat members they said it is still in beta, so I guess I shouldn’t judge it too harshly. I’ve released sites in beta before and know that’s the time when you need to test them and collect feedback.

But phew, this one reeks.

The problem isn’t that it’s light on content, which it is, or that it has some navigation that doesn’t work right, which it does.

The site is dull and uninspiring. And that’s pretty much the opposite of what you want in a community site for outdoor enthusiasts. Dull and uninspiring tends to deflate the community and dampen the enthusiasm.

OR needs to set a trap for this rat and start over.

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