Featured Movable Type Site: Bike Hugger

By Jennifer Jeffrey

Bike_Hugger_Main.jpgMovable Type Motion Connects a Fast-Moving Audience

When we released the beta version of Motion, our new social application for Movable Type, we knew that the first people to try it would be enthusiastic about social media and interested in how to more effectively share and publish content online.

That’s exactly what DL Byron and Jay Allen had in mind when they integrated Motion into the latest iteration of their Bike Hugger site. DL Byron is the principal of Textura Design, Inc., a Seattle-based company that offers creative social media strategies; Jay Allen is the founder of Endevver, a San-Francisco based web development firm that specializes in building and customizing Movable Type sites.

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Bike Hugger is “bike culture blogged”; it started with a series of evangelism events called “mobile socials” where cyclists would meet up to network, ride, and share information. Version 1.0 of the blog was built in Movable Type, and the community eagerly began connecting online. “A lot of people in the design and development community are also enthusiastic about cycling,” explains Byron. “The bike racks at tech conferences are always full.”

“Bikers are early technology adopters,” Jay adds. “They’re very open to experimentation. They’re an ideal audience for us to try out cool new technology and see what works.”

Both Textura Design and Endevver use Bike Hugger as a lab. The site is built entirely in Movable Type, and they use it to test new design ideas, plugins, and various ways of sharing content that they may eventually apply to the enterprise or other clients. “The key to successful blogging is to live it,” Byron explains. “That’s what we do every day with Bike Hugger.”

The newly re-designed 2.0 site uses Motion to create a single, one-page view of all of the latest Bike Hugger activity around the web, including Tweets, news articles and photos posted on Flickr. “We’ve carefully selected action streams that we think are relevant to our community,” Jay says. “We want Bike Hugger to offer timely content that our audience can use and share.”

The site also offers a unique way for visitors to find archived content, with an alphabetized tag cloud, a grid of monthly archives by year, and the ability to search by popularity, author or keyword.

The flexibility of the biking community has made this kind of experimentation possible. “If something doesn’t work, we’ll pull it down,” says Byron. “We don’t believe in the ‘Big Reveal’ - we build out an idea, take it live, and see if it works.”

“You can’t get this kind of testing in a QA Lab,” adds Jay.

Adapt to Social Media or Die

Bike Hugger is a perfect demonstration of a site that enables people to share information in multiple ways. “The blogosphere used to be very insular,” says Byron. “Now, tools like Twitter are breaking it wide open. Publishing online has become easy enough that almost anyone can do it.”

Jay agrees: “Action streams have turned the web on its head,” he says. “The ‘walled garden’ approach to publishing content online was too limiting. People want to stay in control of their content and share it with the communities they care about.”

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That’s where Motion comes in. The application has the ability to import action streams from dozens of sites around the web, allowing community members to share content from a variety of networks, and allowing sites to evolve as technologies change. “I feel like Movable Type is supremely situated to take advantage of these evolving ways to share content,” says Jay. “MT is so flexible that it can integrate many different technologies into one platform.”

Bike Hugger plans to begin extending more publishing privileges to its community in the coming months, allowing people to share relevant information about the events, people, and topics that are important to cyclists.

Mobile Socials are a great example of how we bring content together in innovative ways,” says Jay. They created custom fields in Movable Type to include pieces of information about their activities - from event name to start time to location - which makes adding new events a snap. From the site, people can RSVP on Facebook, and will soon be able to upload photos and related Tweets and other event-centric content. “Not only is Movable Type an amazing content management system, but it’s also an incredible event management system,” he says.

The new Bike Hugger site was built in less than two months, with the combined efforts of Endevver, designer Scott Benish, and the team at Textura Design. The site now has 4,000 daily subscribers and tracks at 10,000 impressions a day. On Flickr alone, they’ve surpassed 800K annual views. “Our growth is strong,” Byron says. “Motion has helped us grow by enabling us to provide timely, relevant content.” 

Both Byron and Jay anticipate that the site will continue to grow and expand in the future: “This is such a forward-thinking community that we’re going to be able to keep on innovating,” says Byron. “We don’t care about industry buzzwords; we just want to do epic work.”