What is this place and what can it do?
HotAirBalloonist.com is a built from scratch depository for all things balloon, not only for the balloonist's who are members but the public looking for balloon related services or products. This is a Facebook meets an Ebay meets Amazon.com meets Craig's List all rolled into one for the balloon world.
This is a not so brief explanation of what HotAirBalloonist.com can do.
There is an area on this site for every aspect of the balloon world. Pilots, Manufacturers, Dealers, Equipment for sale, Students, Clubs, DE’s, Insurance, Festivals, Crew, Ride Operators and more. There are different membership levels for everyone. Each membership has a set of permissions customized for that membership.
The permissions are as follows.
View a topic, Respond to a topic, Start a topic, Upload a file, Download a file.
These 5 permissions have been set for each Category and Sub-Category on the site and for every membership. To give you a little feel for the scope of this. There are currently 35 main Categories, 250 Sub-Categories, 12 Modules, and 22 Member Groups. That is a bunch of settings and there are 5 permission settings for each set.
How the site works
When a visitor (anyone) comes to the site you are a guest. A guest can see about 50% of the site. A guest has no other permissions except to view the information on the site. This allows the general public to use the site for information and to contact someone in the balloon world for whatever their need is whether it be finding a festival, to learning to fly, to just taking a ride. The site is a window for the general public into the balloon world.
The next level of membership is called the Registered Guest.
This is where the guest has taken the time to give us a little information about who they are. This is a FREE membership and allows the Registered Guest to be able to respond to a few topics and to start a topic in the Wanted Sub-Category of the Equipment 4Sale category as well as in the Wanted Category for Available Pilots & Ground Crew. The Registered Guest Membership was designed for the Pilot or Ground Crew who is looking for work. If you are looking for work you are most likely watching the pennies, so we made it possible for you to go on the site and register as a guest then list yourself in the Wanted and Ground Crew categories. In hopes that when they do get a pilot or crew job they will come back and become a paid member. As a Registered Guest you can also place a Wanted Topic in the Equipment 4Sale area so if you are looking for a specific piece of equipment you can let everyone know for FREE!
Next is the Paid Memberships
There are about 13 different types of paid memberships. Paid memberships have permissions to interact in areas that are associated with those types of memberships. I will not get into the exact permission settings for all of them but just explain it simply by saying. A Pilot member can not post things for sale in the "Equipment for Sale" category, only a member with an Equipment Sellers Membership can do that, however a pilot can view all of the equipment for sale and a Pilot Member, can respond to those topics with questions but not start NEW TOPICS. Hopefully I have given you a basic understanding about how the memberships work on the site. The more expensive the membership the more permissions you have and the less expensive the membership the fewer permissions you have. REMEMBER A guest can see the topics a member posts so remember always to include your contact information in every post or create a signature in your personal settings to automatically post that information at the bottom of each topic or reply you create.
There are many areas inside the site. The navigation bar at the top allows you to go quickly to many of the more popular pages in the site. Here are some of the different areas inside the site and some of the things you can do in/or with these areas of the site.
Most Recent Posts
At the top of the page on the main page "The Topics Page' there is a section called most recent posts. You will only see this when you are logged in. This section displays the 9 most recently added posts. This is an easy way for you to see what has been posted recently. The Most Recent Posts section identifies the person makeing the post, the Title LIne of the post and a link you can click on to take you directly to the post. It also shows when the post was made as well.
The Topics page has all the different Categories of discussions. You will find over 30 different Categories and there can be many Sub-Categories inside them. For Example there is a Category for Equipment for sale. Inside that there are many Sub-Categories. Sub-Categories like baskets and burners and envelopes and so on. The topics page is where there are over 35 different categories about all sorts of different balloon related discussions.
Best of all if you want to see a new category just send us an email and we will start a new one for you!
"Follow this feature"
There are many many balloonists who are part of the "Reflector" email system. On HotAirBalloonist you can use the Follow this topic or Follow this Forum feature to do the same thing. Any topic or any forum you are interested in you can simply check the box at the top of the first entry. Once you have checked this box anytime someone adds a new topic or a new reply, you get an instant email notice with the actual comments that were posted in the forum or topic you are following. Better yet you can follow as much or as little as you want! Choose the items you want to hear about and if you get tired of a subject or you have found the answer you were looking for you just select UNFOLLOW and poof no more emails. Taylor your incoming email information in any manor you wish. Say on top of what you want without getting tons of emails about stuff you don't what to hear about. This feature has all the benefit of the reflector with YOU in the drivers seat!
The HAB "Walkie Talkie"
This forum can be found in the Hot Topics category on the topics page. All new members are encouraged to go to this forum and check the "Follow this Forum" button. This is the infomation hub of the website. Any member who starts a topic in the Walkie Talkie forum will trigger a system wide email! This means if you start a topic hundreds of members will get an email letting them know you have started a topic. If they have an answer or want to respond they can simply reply to your topic. If you start a topic in the Walkie Talkie forum dont forget to check the Follow this Topic button so you are notified if another member reply's to your topic.
WHO READ THIS
There is a very unique feature installed in the topics on the site. It is called "Who Read This?" The site keeps track of the members who have read your topic while they were logged in. This feature can be used in cases where you have posted something you want a specific set of people to read. If you have a committee and you send an email out to ten members you can see if they all read your topic. You can see the WHO READ THIS at the bottom of any topic on the site. Better yet if you mouse over a members name in the "Who Read This" area a pop up will open that tells you when the member read the topic.
This page was designed to have two main sections. The first section is to showcase stories written by our members. It displays the 10 or 15 most current posted stories from our members. The next section on the page is for ballooning in the headlines. We have created a news feed, that scours the internet for any story about ballooning that has hit the headlines. If there is a news story (Good or bad) it will get posted here. There are also many other links down the right hand side of this page for more balloon related stuff. This is a great page to go and find out what is currently going on with ballooning and on the HAB Site. There is a link on the side bar that many overlook. The link says “View Other Media” This is a link to the videos page. Many pilots and crews my already have video up on YouTube and Vimeo and other video sites. On the Media page you can link your video onto HotAirBalloonist.com. No uploading over again just copy and paste the link and the site does the work! Go try that out!
The store is exactly that. An online shopping area where you can purchase items. As time goes by the store will grow and grow. The store is where you would go to begin a banner advertising campaign or purchase a membership or get a gift coupon to give your crew a free membership. There are Key Fobs and T-Shirts and Compass's and all sorts of stuff in the store and were adding more. There is no limit to the number of Categories we can have in the store and to the number of products we can list in those Categories. Recently we made an offer to several balloon festivals. We offered to list their left over balloon event T-Shirts for sale in our store at no cost to the event. Just another way they can get rid of their leftover shirts. Any member can have stuff listed in the store. If you produce something that other balloonists can use just let us know what the item is and what you want to sell it for and we will list it.
Most likely the largest section on the site. This Category has more Sub-Categories than any other. It is designed for the person who is selling equipment, whether it is a dealer or an individual or a manufacturer. An Equipment Seller can post a topic all about their equipment including photos, Text, Links, Emails, Phone numbers and any information they want to have listed about their stuff.
Now here is where it gets fun. Any member can ask questions about the equipment. Once an equipment seller has posted their topic about the equipment the other members can respond with questions about that equipment. So let’s just say that you posted an ad for a balloon for sale and you forgot to list what type of burner it has. Members will start to post replies asking about the burner.
YOU can go back and EDIT your topic to include the information you forgot! Since this is your topic you can add, edit, change, or even DELETE the topic at any time! No waiting for someone else to change it for you!!!! O and remember anyone can view the topic! Even NON-Members “Guests” can see the equipment for sale topic. So even a balloon pilot from Minnesota who is not a member can see your balloon for sale! So when you create a topic to sell something EVERYONE gets to see it!
Here again a HUGE Category. We have scoured the web to try to find every REAL balloon ride operation in the United States. In this category the balloon ride operator can get a membership that will allow them to create their own advertisement about their operation. The Ride Operator Member can create a topic all about their balloon rides complete with photos, links, emails, phone numbers, and specials and just about anything they want to post. The best part is they also can change, add, edit or alter the topic any time. It is a mini advertisement for their business that everyone can see. So Guests, (the general public) who are looking for a balloon ride can find an operator in their state and make contact directly. If the ride operator gets only one booking from this it has paid for their membership for a YEAR!
This is a fantastic area of the site. The Exchange was developed to be an electronic bulletin board for areas were there is a great deal of balloon activity. Members in an area can use the "Follow This" feature of the site to stay informed about ballooning related information in their flying area. The Exchange has 4 sub-forums inside each area. The Pilots Forum, Crew Forum, Passenger Exchange and Landowner Relations. These 4 areas are where the most communication happens. Members check the "Follow This" box in each of the sub-forums and then are notified by email when another member has posted a new topic. For example, You have two extra passengers for Saturday. You do not want to fly an entire balloon for just two people but someone else in your area may have two empty spots available. You post a topic that you need someone to fly two passengers for you and all the members in your area get an email about your topic! Instant communication to all the members in your area. Another example would be that you are short ground crew for Friday. Post a topic in the Crew Forum and all the crew members get an email from the system letting them know you are looking for crew. If a ground crew gets paid for crewing just once it will pay for their crew membership to the site for an entire year! The Exchange is super convenient for the pilots and for the crews. Landowner relations can be posted in one spot for your entire area and anyone can log on and review it at any time. Great to inform others about a problem area or for new launch and landing spots. The Exchange can also help keep problems from getting worse by letting all the members in your area know about a sensitive spot. The Exchange also keeps a record of all topics posted so you can go back and review the information at any time and new pilots and crews to the area can also learn from the posted topics of others in the area.
This feature of the site is worth your entire years membership alone!
The Exchange is not a public page. The Exchange can only be found on the Balloon Rides page and only seen when you are logged in.
On every page of the site just under the main navigation bar is what we call a Bread Crumb Trail. This is a trail of the steps you have taken to get to the page you are on. Many times we want to take a step back or two. On many sites this requires the user to more or less start over at the main page. On HotAirBalloonist.com you can take just one step or two steps back just by using convenient links in the Bread Crumb trail.
This feature was created by the suggestion of a ride operator. We had a ride operator who said " I'll give you $100 if you don't list any other ride operations within 100 miles of me. Our response was that we could not do that since we are trying to create a resource that has ALL the balloonists listed on this site. But that idea floated around in my head for a few weeks and I came up with Pin Me! The way each forum works is by having topics in each forum. In the case of the Balloon Ride Operators forum the topics are the actual operators themselves. Each time a ride operator creates a new topic, the topic appears at the top of the list and moves all the other topics down a space. If someone wants their topic to remain at the top of the list they can go to the store and purchase the Pin me package. Then we Pin their topic at the top of the list. The pin me package can be used in other areas of the site as well, for example if you are selling a balloon and you want your ad to stay at the top so your balloon for sale is the first ad someone sees when visiting your category or forum. Pin Me is a first come first served package. The first person who purchases the Pin Me package gets to be on top! If more than one person in a forum or category purchased the pin me package they would be second on the list and so on. So if you think this is something you may consider then do it right away!
Topics inside a Category or Sub-Category.
The Topics on the site are started by our members. These are posts created by members about something they want to know about or to tell about their services or items for sale or just about anything a member wants to say. Inside each Topic you can include, hyperlinks, emails, photos, unlimited text, your contact information, mailing address and even create a poll. We can also create categories that the general public can not even see. Imagine Custom categories that you must be a logged in member to see. The possibilities are endless. If you are not logged in right now you can not see the Hot Topics Category but if you use your Facebook credentials or register as a Registered Guest you will see a category on the Topics Page called Hot Topics. This is an open topic that you can use right now to get an idea of what you can do on this site.
Yes you can even create a poll. Have something you want to ask for someones opinion? Create a poll. Want to do a vote for Club President? Do a Poll. Want help choosing a new balloon name? Conduct a poll! As a member you can create any topics you want. Inside that topic you can also create a poll. Ask a question and then create up to five answers. A poll can have as many as 20 questions. You can imagine the dozens of great uses for this feature of the site.
Actually there is no limit to the calendars we can have on the site. We have several on the site right now. The cool part is that the calendars can be set with different permissions so we can choose who can see them. For example if you have a balloon club and you want only your club members to see YOUR calendar we can do that. If you want a calendar that only members can see but not the general public “we can do that”. We can also control who has permission to add, edit or delete items from the calendar! The Default calendar on the site is the Balloon Events Calendar and we have over 130 events listed on it right now. If you want to see an example of how the private calendar system works go to the site as a guest. (Not logged in) and then click on the drop down arrow of calendars. You will see several calendars but you will not see the BFA Board calendar. Now log in and go back to the calendar page and click on the drop down arrow and you will now see the BFA Board Calendar. We can control who sees the calendars as well as who can add and delete items from the calendars.
The Member Map
Ok, this was my favorite module on the site. Took me almost three weeks to install and get functioning and then another two weeks to get all the information on it.. The member map is a scalable map with marked locations of hundreds of balloon related items. From Festivals to Ride Operations to Repair Stations to DE’s to Balloon Clubs. There are over 700 pins on the map. You can zoom in on any part of the country and then click on a pin and a small window will open displaying the information about that pin. The pins are colored by item. A yellow pin is a balloon ride. A green pin is an event. Red pin is repair station and so on. So no matter what you are looking for you can find the nearest one to you anywhere in the US. A guest can find the nearest balloon ride operation. A student can find the nearest DE. A pilot can find nearby festivals or events or even a repair station. This module is not only cool but has great usefulness.
Are you still with me? Bless your heart if you still are.
On HotAirBalloonist.com we have the ability to create entire categories and forums customized for your club. We can create a category that is password protected so only your club members can gain access. Once inside your custom category you can use all of the other features of the site. Your club president can have a moderators membership allowing them access to the bulk mail feature of the site and you can even have club meetings in the chat room on the site. Many balloon clubs fail because running your own website is time consuming and costly. Needing to rely on a webmaster to make changes to the site is also a pain. On HotAirBalloonist.com you have complete and easy control over your space. If you are even a little bit curious about how a balloon club can be run withing the site give us a call and we will show you how.
The photo and video galleries. Here members can share their photos. The favorite flight or event or just cool shots they have collected over the years. Split up into several categories and we will be adding more, the member can create their own gallery and then go back and make more or add more to their existing gallery.
Not too much to explain here. This is an online “LIVE” chat room for up to 50 members. We can also create private chat rooms! So not only can you join the public chat but if you have a balloon club or you’re on a committee involved with a balloon event or a board member you can create a private chat room for your members only. This is also a very valuable module in the site.
Online web logs, here you can write a continuing story about your ballooning or any other item you feel is of interest. I should have done a blog about building this site and all the hassles I went thru to get it to work. You can tell the story about building your first balloon or tell the day by day story about going to the national championships or any item that takes time. It is a great way to tell your story and open to all members to use and everyone to view.
Here members can upload files to share. Let’s say you are a balloon festival, you can upload your pilot application or your vendor application or even the competition map for anyone to download. Say you have files you want to share about basket specifications or even balloon gore drawings, all these things can be uploaded for others to download at their leisure. I have even found it is a great way to load large files that you would not send via email. We can create as many categories for the download page as we want and upload as many files as you need. We have just added a new category in the Download section for FAA Forms. Currently you can download the PTS for private and commercial balloon students. You can download a bill of sale form and we are adding more all the time.
Feel free to upload a file you think a fellow balloonist can use or may need.
You can now CHARGE money for a file you have that others could use. A tether contract, Check list, Photograph, Book, any electronic file can now be uploaded in the HotAirBalloonist.com download center and then be purchased by anyone!
You can sell your photos of your passengers in the Download section! Take a photo durring the flight then upload it for purchase by your passengers. Give them a link to your category and the passengers can purchase and download the photo with no effort from you. Name your own price for your photos.
ATTENTION professional PHOTOGRAPHERS! Do you want to sell your photos? Did you know you can do that in our download section! Get an Equipment Sellers membership and we will create your own category in the Download section. Then you can create entire galleries from any event you photograph and sell the photos here online in the Download center. Call or email for more information.
The member’s page is only viewable to members who are logged in. Here you can find our members. Look up and find out how to contact or more about a member of the site. With an easy access alphabetical location system you can find a member quickly even if we have thousands of members. Find out how to get a hold of an old friend you have not seen in years. Search the members and send a note to someone you have not seen in a while. Connect with friends. The member’s page allows you to find people fast and has links to their personal page where you can find their current contact information.
Here is the scary part
I have only scratched the surface of what this site can do. This is actually a quick walk around of the different areas of the site and a short overview of what they can do. The actual capabilities of this site are tenfold what I have touched on in this extremely long entry. Each member has a complete back room area where all of their personal stuff is available and MORE!
TWO MORE FEATURES!
First is the area called Hot Topics. Inside this category are a few Sub-Categories. One of them is called the "HAB Walkie Talkie" Each new member is automatically signed up to follow this Forum. Each time a member posts a new topic all the members will get an email! Then it is up to you to choose if you want to follow this new topic or not.
The next great feature is the Video Tutorials.
There is a Sub-Category inside the Download Center called Video Tutorials. This section is filled with video explanations of how to do many of the more popular tasks on the site. There is a full written explanation as well as a downloadable movie. These Video Tutorials can also be found in the Download Center of the site. This makes everyone an expert in minutes. If there is a task you would like to see a video made for please let us know and we will make one.
Now for your bonus. We have an incentive program. In the beginning it will be real easy to not have to pay a penny to be on the site and you may even earn a little $$ for yourself. As more people become members you may find it harder to find new members but here is how the incentive program works.
- You purchase a paid membership on the site.
- We give you a customized coupon code for your friends to use.
- They use it to get a discount on a paid membership of their own.
- YOU get a credit on your membership!
When you give someone your custom coupon code they will use it during checkout. They will save 50% on their first month’s membership and you will save $1 on your membership every month for as long as they stay a member up to a year. So let’s say you purchase a Ride Operators membership for $5 per month. If you find just 5 friends to become members of the site your membership can be free for up to a year! When you sign up you will get a confirmation email with your user name and password. Just respond to that email with “Get me a custom coupon” and we will set it up and send you the coupon code right away.
Already a member? Send an email to Info@HotAirBalloonist.com with the subject “Get me a custom coupon” and we will send you back your own coupon code.
Honestly bless your heart for reading this!
Hopefully I have created a little excitement for you about the HUGE POTENTIAL and BENEFIT of this online balloon community. As I mentioned, I have tried to create something that will benefit all aspects of the balloon world. The site is huge and you honestly should go on and play around with it to get a feel for all the stuff it is capable of doing. If you can think of something that should be on the site let me know because I can create stuff real quick.
Tell your friends to become a member and YOU as a member, log on and contribute, play, experiment then let me know how we make this even better!
Help me create the best online resource the balloon world has ever seen.
Question, Comments, Concerns, and Advice are more than welcome.