5 Tips: Knowing HOW to Fold ‘Em

Over the weekend Putting People First posted Louis Rosenfeld’s announcement that UXnet disbanded.  As I read the announcement I was simultaneously filled with sadness, surprise and oddly enough admiration.

We spend so much time talking about launching social web sites and engaging people, but very little time talking about what to do when things don’t work out.

In my head I kept hearing good ol’ Kenny Rogers singing:

“You got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em
Know when to walk away and know when to run
You never count your money, when you’re sittin’ at the table
There’ll be time enough for countin’, when the dealin’s done”

The Gambler, by Kenny Rogers [Complete lyrics to The Gambler]

HOW do you fold ’em, in this case social websites, and walk away gracefully?

Do you simply pull the plug?  One day the site is there and the next day it’s gone?

Even television studios announce shows on the chopping block giving fans an opportunity to rally together and show support.  Should we give that a try on the web?

Do you leave the site up and let it linger?

Having content for the sake of having it does more harm than good.  Gerry McGovern has successfully argued this point since 2003, but I’m apparently not as effective as Gerry so go read what he has to say on the matter.

So as Kenny would sing, “For a taste of your whiskey I’ll give you some advice.”

Five tips I learned from UXnet on folding ’em gracefully.

1.  Announce the news.

Rosenfeld’s first sentence pulled no punches, “On behalf of UXnet’s board of directors, I have a bit of difficult news to share: we are disbanding UXnet.”

Or as Kenny would sing, “And somewhere in the darkness the gambler, he broke even.”

2.  Offer a reason why the site can’t go on.

His honesty was refreshing, “We don’t have the ability to tackle or pay for the kind of development work that such a goal requires. We’ve tried hard for eight years, but it’s time to recognize that our approach isn’t the right one and move on.”

Or as Kenny would sing, “Ev’ry gambler knows that the secret to survivin’
Is knowin’ what to throw away and knowing what to keep.”

3.  Acknowledge loyalty.

Of his audience, Rosenfeld said, “And that we’ve gotten this far is testament to the many volunteers who’ve put in impressively generous amounts of hard work and, in many cases, have contributed their own money.”

Okay, Kenny doesn’t say squat about other people in The Gambler

4.  Celebrate the site’s achievements

“Perhaps most importantly, as one of the early facilitators of social networking for the user experience community, we’ve helped UX people connect at a local, often in-person level–stuff that doesn’t show up on the radar, but is the point of a network.

Hmm.  It seems my Gambler analogy is falling apart.

Kenny sings, “There’ll be time enough for countin’ when the dealin’s done.”  Or maybe it’s right on?  The dealing is done so there is time for counting achievements.

5.  Offer a substitute.

The thing that surprised me about the announcement was the offer of a substitute.  The UXnet group created a Google Group.  I don’t think I would have made the same choice–starting a new community–but the idea of pointing loyal followers to other rewarding experiences is good.

I think Kenny would sing, “Forget poker.  Play blackjack.”

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