Friday, July 17, 2009

Caffeinated Please?

There are some sites and services that look pretty on the outside but offer little in terms of user experience when you actually sign up. I realize that Cafetalk is becoming one of those sites. Don't get me wrong - we have a LOT of users who benefit from our service. Cafetalk has a little over 2000 students registered. I know that's not much, but many of them have taken the trouble to thank us for making it possible for them to find the "perfect" teacher at a reasonable price. That's truly satisfying. I know it probably has little to do with our service (there are many out there just like Cafetalk) but more to do with the fact that many of our tutors really put in the time and effort to provide students with a great learning experience. Nevertheless, it's good to know that at least some people like what we've created. And it's not just the students. Many tutors are now constantly making more than $150 a month on our site, and the most popular folks rake in over $400. Again, that's not much. But for many tutors who are doing this part time it's not such a negligible income after all. But are we doing enough? Probably not. Well, definitely not. As many of you are probably feeling, there's something "decaf" about Cafetalk. For starters, there's the fact that we don't communicate with you enough. The repercussions being that you don't know what we (the little green men who run the site) are thinking or where we intend to take this. And more importantly many of you probably need some guidance in order to get more students. So yes, we admit we've not been doing as much as we should. Not so much because we're lazy, but because there are simply not enough resources to get everything done. Cafetalk has no permanent staff. It's being patched together by a bunch of contributors who work part time to keep things afloat. But that's just an excuse, and that *will* change. Because more people are starting to derive benefit from this service we figure it's time to crank up our engines and get things rolling, so to speak. So this is our first jab at making things better. Firstly, by creating a channel through which we can communicate with all you tutors. And also maybe provide a venue for you to vent through comments (please, please keep the criticism constructive). Secondly we hope to constantly give tips on how you can improve your quality of service. We see a lot of things tutors are doing right that gets them the students and the retention level they deserve. But we also see a lot of tutors who could do a lot better if they did just a few things differently. That's the gist of why we suddenly decide to do this "caffeination" blog after years of silence. So stay tuned and let us know what you want to know, and we'll try our best to answer. PS We have absolutely nothing against decaf in case some were offended :)


  1. Hey guys and gals.

    I'm one of those tutors who has had pretty good "luck" with Cafétalk and the service it provides. Students come and students go, but since I started tutoring here over two years ago, I have always had students, sometimes many, sometimes just one faithful one. It may be because I had a lot of little "hearts" in my profile for a while. It may be because I really try to take advantage of the new technologies to make my classes different. It is certainly because teaching has been a vocation for over 30 years for me and I enjoy the time I spend with my students.

    I think this new "blog space" is a very good idea, where we can all take part and share what we have done and get ideas for what to do. The truth is, I've looked around at other sites for this kind of service but none of them seem to offer the freedom for both tutors and students to develop the tailored programs that most students want. There are too many "learn English in three weeks" style sites that just can't live up to that promise, while here at Cafétalk, the student and the tutor can find the right rate and rhythm to make sure that good language exchange is going on.

    So, I will certainly be participating in this blog and hope to see other tutors chipping in with their two cents worth. "Never go to bed without having learned something new" is my motto, we always have to be improving ourselves and Cafétalk offers just that, not only for the students but also for the tutors who use the service.

    Mr Spears.

  2. Hi Mr Spears,

    Thanks for the comment. It's good to know that some tutors find Cafetalk useful. I think you're definitely one of those who knows what you're doing so your feedback is much appreciated.


  3. Hey m@ (do you have a name we can call you? hehe).

    This blog is new and I came upon it because of a banner on my tutor's page at Cafétalk. Yet there are only two tutors signed in as followers. If we don't get more tutors to check out the blog and participate, it will not serve its purpose of being a forum for improving Cafétalk as an on-line language study site.

    My suggestion is a mass-email to all tutors about the blog. Perhaps if an email is sent to all tutors signed up, inviting them to check it out and, more importantly, become a follower and participant, we can get a real forum going here. This might also be a way to evaluate just how many of the tutors listed at Cafétalk are active tutors and how many just clicked on the "become a tutor" button, filled out the form, and then forgot about the site. It might encourage some of those ghost tutors to get involved.

    Well, just a suggestion, I would really like to see this blog take off and become active. Naturally, it is summer and maybe a lot of tutors are on the beach; however, it is particularly during the summer months that most of us ESL teachers have nothing better to do than spend time on-line, so maybe it is the best moment to get the thing launched.

    Mr Spears.

  4. Hello Mr. Spears,

    Didn't mean to be secretive:) I will get around to publishing a more detailed profile of myself later on, but for now you can call me Mat - like the thing on the floor which people trample on. It pretty much fits my description at the moment.

    And thanks for you suggestion. Yes, let me try to send something out to all tutors either today or tomorrow.

    If we can get just a few more active tutors on here to lead the discussions that would be great.

    So much to do and so little time! Arrgh.

  5. Hello Mr. Spears,

    I've just sent a notice about this blog to all our tutors. Hopefully it will encourage more tutors to check out the posts and participate in the discussions.


  6. Hello Mat!

    My name is Ron and I am one of the new teachers here in cafetalk. As you have pointed out in your blog, teachers might have a hard time figuring out how to actually "get" students into their classes. I am no stranger to this. I have completed my profile, although I know there is much to add in order to enhance it, and have posted a general notice. Two weeks have passed, however, and I still have not gotten a single query from a potential student.

    I don't know if 2 weeks or more is the "standard" waiting period and that's what I want to find out. I also want to have an idea what constitutes a "good" profile, and some other tips from you and possibly from other teachers in this site who have experienced teaching using this system. I have also tried adding your skype account but my request has not been accepted.

    I hope I could find some sort of enlightenment about this matter because I believe this website offers a great opportunity for both students and teachers. Truth of the matter is, I can't wait to start teaching! That's how excited I am! =) I am looking forward to building a constant flow of communications with you and all the other educators in this website. A call to all of you: please don't hesitate to contact me if you have questions or suggestions for a newbie like me. Thank you and have a good day, whichever part of the globe you are in!

    Best regards,



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