What I Would Fix About ActiveRain If I Could

Education & Training with Tech Training for You!

I think it is very good news that Ben Kinney has taken ownership of ActiveRain. With that news, comes also the return of Bob Stewart. These are two guys that you want to listen to when they share their wealth of knowledge! These guys also know the power of this community and want to make sure that ActiveRain continues to be a premier place to come to - a place that people enjoy coming to and that has value!

There is plenty of conversation lately about what to do to put new life back into the site. If you gave me the power, there is one thing I'd focus on immediately. Let's put focus back on the blogs! Yes I believe we have lost focus on the foundation of what this site is all about.

Somewhere back in time just a little bit, Q&A had a rebirth. The potential for Q&A to be helpful is there, but for me it introduced a ton of distracting 'noise' into the newsfeeds. There are some useful questions that prompt helpful responses. There is also a lot of not so useful questions and plenty of watercooler talk. Ok, whatever... but is this noise taking away attention from those blog posts that could otherwise get attention?

I've noticed a serious decline in the clicks to my posts since all this redesign happened. I want back what we had before, and even better!

Here's my list of things that I'd like to see:

  • Move Q&A out of the main news feed!
  • Let's get the main view back of the hand picked featured posts
  • Keep the 'Popular' algorithm in play, but demote it a notch - not part of the main view
  • Bring back the suggest button as a way to surface feature-worthy posts
    (keep the 'like' button, but realize like and suggest are two separate actions)
  • Let's style the feeds in a more modern look, bigger font and let's see the title!
  • Don't bury the following feed
  • Make it easier to see the blogs of people we follow

I'm of the school of don't complain about something unless you can offer a possible solution.

I have created a working mock-up redesign of what ActiveRain could look like. (yes, this took me quite a while, but unless I demonstrated, I didn't think I could make as powerful a point...)

You can find the mock-up page by clicking here
... once there, click on the various buttons on the top and right side to change the newsfeed

(keep in mind I took just a handful sampling of bloggers and a snapshot of a few posts each just in order to have content to interact with. Note: My mock up site is not linked to the live newsfeeds)


Now let me illustrate the design factors that I worked in.

I created a top navigation bar with 9 different ways to surface valuable blog content. Clicking on the buttons instantly refreshes the list. The 9 views are: Featured, Following, Fav1 and Fav2. Popular, Top 100, Newbies, First Post, and All.


activerain newsfeed design


Fav1 and Fav2 would be customizable special lists like you can do in Facebook and Twitter. When a particular newsfeed has lots of activity (my following count is over 300, for instance) you can create 'short lists' of people that you want to particularly not miss their posts. My Fav1 list could be real estate agents and my Fav2 list could be inspectors, stagers and RE other services. The lists could be anything you like though.

The Popular feed would use the algorithm already in play to surface content based on views, likes and comments. However, it has its own separate view and does not muddy the main featured view. The main featured view should not be diluted.

The Top 100 list (most subscribed to bloggers) would be people you aren't necessarily subscribed to but as you browse the newsfeed, you'll likely discover people that you will want to follow. This also would be very helpful for newbies who don't know anybody yet or who they should follow.

The Newbies newsfeed would surface posts from those who are just starting out (say 25,000 points and under). Can you remember back to those days and feel like when you posted something, you had very few comments? Only after you interacted for a while did your follower count go up so that you could look forward to more clicks and comments on your posts. This feed would help us give attention to the newer ones.

The First Post feed helps surface the first dip in the pool for a potential new blogger. I already see this view as bringing lots of comments onto a first time post that can really be encouraging.

The other thing I built into my design was a sidebar list of people who are the source for the given newsfeed. As you click on each of the names, the most recent posts by that person instantly appears. My design would have to be futher tweaked somewhat to consider that a following list may be quite long and may need next and previous buttons if it would be too long to show everyohe on one list. Also, it would be nice to sort the list both alphabetically and by order of recent post.

Now let's talk about styling - we still have a ways to go to make the pages more modern and readable! In my design, I focused first on the Title - Big and Bold, unmistakeable. Underneath is the byline - a very clear reference to the author. Finally the excerpt text underneath, but not in a teeny tiny font! Compare the current styling to my update:

activerain proposed feed styling

Ok, I'm steppping down from my soap box now. I hope I've given some useful ideas and demonstrated how powerful it COULD be if implemented. There's a call for ideas in the suggestion box... consider mine now turned in =)



Posted by

Hi there! Thanks for checking out my blog today. I'm a tech guy living in New York City but I love that I can reach so many via means of the web. In my blog posts and tutorial videos, you'll get many new takeaway points that you'll be able to apply. By following my blog (button below), you will be able to see my new posts in your "following" newsfeed. If you enjoyed this post also be sure and click "like". It helps me see that my content is hitting the mark!

My blog home page lists my most recent posts, so if you feel like reading more, that's the place to go next!

Click to  


Re-Blogged 2 times:

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  2. Winston Heverly 10/29/2015 02:21 PM
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Mike Rock
Complete Design - Granite Bay, CA
Granite Bay Luxury New Construction...For Less

This is my first day..so i dont know my something from a hole in the ground. BUT i like what you did! (and i wud love not to wade thru listings of homes 2000 miles away :)



Jul 07, 2015 01:40 PM #81
Jessica E. Thornton
Team Jet Properties - KW Realty - Chicago, IL
"Ready to help YOU reach YOUR real estate goals!"


I am in complete agreement with your visual recommendations on improving and putting the focus back on the blogs, which was my main reason for joining Active Rain.


Your suggestion about the “newbies newsfeed” would definitely motivate and encourage us to become more active.



Jul 08, 2015 06:12 AM #82
Debbie Reynolds, C21 Platinum Properties
Platinum Properties- (931)771-9070 - Clarksville, TN
The Dedicated Clarksville TN Realtor-(931)320-6730

I could just hug you, Craig. So many of your suggestions for improvements are on my list too. Let's get back to what we do and that is good real estate and business content that the public will flock to. I am so ready.

Jul 08, 2015 06:24 AM #83
Joyce Marsh
Joyce Marsh Real Estate LLC - Daytona Beach, FL
Joyce Marsh Real Estate LLC - Luxury Real Estate

Thank you Craig Daniels for putting so much time and effort into a redesign for the website platform and blogging.   It's nice to hear actual  solutions being offered rather than just a complaint rant which we hear so often. I too am totally bored with the Q&A section and agree it should have a place but definitely not on page 1.  I would like to see quality content featured by other than the same few bloggers over and over again. I search for interesting and valuable content and most often it has not been featured or trending but buried and it is so unfortunate that it did not catch the eyes of those responsible for featured posts. I was always a fan of the suggest button. I'm anxious to see what new plans are in the works and what we can expect moving forward. Thanks again for all of your great suggestions!

Jul 08, 2015 10:20 AM #84
Hannah Williams
HomeStarr Realty - Philadelphia, PA
Expertise NE Philadelphia & Bucks 215-820-3376

I think Ben Kinney and his team are capable of handling AR he and Bob Stewart  have been blogging and know what they are doing .They have my support 100%   everyone has good ideas  and I am sure they will put them to good use. Your ideas are good and I am sure they will take them into consideration


Jul 09, 2015 11:06 AM #85
Anne West
Coldwell Banker - Chicago, IL
Your Guide to Real Estate on Chicago's North Shore

Great ideas Craig! After hearing Ben and Bob describe the vision and plan this morning, I'm pretty sure they will listen to what you have to say-

Jul 10, 2015 07:29 AM #86
Claude Labbe
Real Living | At Home - Washington, DC
Realty for Your Busy Life

You've been thinking about this...nice.

Presentation is attractive as well.

And if I really want to get to the Q&A, I can but it won't hit me in the face.

Nice work.

Jul 10, 2015 01:35 PM #87
Jack Lewitz
IL Real Estate Specialists - Evanston, IL

I like this post and the thought you put behind it. I would like to see AR integrate broker to broker problem solving , I think training and education is a good ideas but hope AR helps promote agents to public domain and does more on prividing analytics and SEO data on topics and posts . 

Jul 11, 2015 12:34 AM #88
Thom Abbott
MyMidtownMojo.com |770.713.1505 | Intown Atlanta GA Condo Living - Atlanta, GA
Midtown Atlanta GA Condos For Sale

Man Craig Daniels ....they just need to HIRE YOU!


Jul 11, 2015 04:21 AM #89
Christina Sanchez Hood
Palo Alto, CA
#SiliconValleyHOODS | Inspired Living

I like it.  Your suggested look has strong sensibilities about it and I like the 'tag' like aspect at the top.  Your other comments appear to be on point with the general consensus I have read about AR lately.  Thanks for putting so much thought into improving our community!

Jul 11, 2015 05:35 PM #90
Gabe Sanders
Real Estate of Florida specializing in Martin County Residential Homes, Condos and Land Sales - Stuart, FL
Stuart Florida Real Estate

Love your ideas, Craig.  I hope the powers that be read and heed this post.

Jul 11, 2015 09:51 PM #91
Tom Arstingstall, General Contractor, Dry Rot, Water Damage Sacramento, El Dorado County - (916) 765-5366
Dry Rot and Water Damage www.tromlerconstruction.com Mobile - 916-765-5366 - Placerville, CA
General Contractor, Dry Rot and Water Damage

I think this is an awesome display of how things can look Craig, I see that the Gods are considering how this can get done. I know this example took a great deal of time but I sure does help in visualizing the description.

Jul 11, 2015 11:43 PM #92
Silvia Dukes PA, Broker Associate, CRS, CIPS, SRES
Tropic Shores Realty - Ich spreche Deutsch! - Spring Hill, FL
Florida Waterfront and Country Club Living

Craig, I like your navigation bar a d didn't we have simething like that at one time?  With all those changes over the last couple of years, I can't remember.

Jul 12, 2015 07:09 AM #93
Wanda Kubat-Nerdin - Wanda Can!
Red Rock Real Estate - St. George, UT
So Utah Residential, Referral & Relocation REALTOR

Craig, I do like your suggestions! I would like to see the subscribed list to the right side again as it once was.

Jul 12, 2015 11:43 PM #94
Dorie Dillard Austin TX
Coldwell Banker Realty ~ 512.750.6899 - Austin, TX
NW Austin ~ Canyon Creek and Spicewood/Balcones

Good morning Craig Daniels ,

Awesome stuff ! You have made some great suggestions and spent a lot of time showcasing how things could be displayed better! Thank you!! You are such a valuable asset to Active Rain!

Jul 13, 2015 10:22 PM #95
Charita Cadenhead
eXp Realty - Birmingham, AL
Serving Jefferson and Shelby Counties (Alabama)

Craig I never question anything that you write and this is no different.  These are great suggestions especially that ones about the feature button and the redesign.  I know their intent was good, and I'm in favor of change, but all of the redesigning that has taken place has resulted in a loss of the community "feeling."  I hope they implement your ideas.

Jul 14, 2015 01:19 AM #96
Kate Elim
Dockside Realty - Spotsylvania, VA
Realtor 540-226-1964, Selling Homes & Land a

Hi Craig...Thank you for the thought and effort you put into this post. Your suggestions are spot on and I look forward to seeing implementation of all or at least a good part of them.

Your contributions to Active Rain are really appreciated.


Aug 13, 2015 01:00 PM #97
DeeDee Riley
Lyon Real Estate - El Dorado Hills CA - El Dorado Hills, CA
Realtor - El Dorado Hills & the Surrounding Areas

Hi Craig,

I like your suggestions.  I also have a hard time finding links that are only available to members as well.  

Thanks for all the work you put in on this!


Sep 20, 2015 10:55 AM #98
Peg Barcelo
Fluff My House! Home Staging Inc. 250.486.6369 - Summerland, BC
The FlufftasticStager from Summerland, BC

Great post Craig!

Lots of cool things that could be implemented, altho I'm still getting used to this format, now that I'm back here blogging.

Right now, I'd just like all my pix to show up that I've downloaded into each post I've written.

Feb 08, 2016 06:45 AM #99
Dave Halpern
Keller Williams Realty Louisville East (502) 664-7827 - Louisville, KY
Louisville Short Sale Expert

Pretty amazing work you've done here Craig Daniels ! It's rare to have a tech guy who is also a design guy with the user in mind. 

Aug 01, 2018 08:40 PM #100
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