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The Exponential Growth of WebmasterWorld in 2002
managing the explosive growth we've seen this year.

 3:28 pm on Aug 22, 2002 (gmt 0)

We've seen our traffic increase 3 fold in both uniques and pvs since the start of the year. There are some stresses on the system we are discussing how to approach.

a) Pre-moderation. All threads would require moderator approval before public posting.
b) Voting and public moderation. There would be a system where posts could be voted on by users. You would be able to set your own "twit list" level where messages below that level would not be included.
c) Members only. All members would have to log in.
d) Subscribers only. All members would pay a subscription fee.

Which one would you vote for and why? (one vote only please)



 10:12 pm on Aug 22, 2002 (gmt 0)

I'm curious how much work you are putting on yourself, Brett. As any company grows, it is important to hire people to help. I'll bet there are some people here who would volunteer to help you. You didn't really reveal the limiting factor.
1) Is it money for hosting?
2) or is it time?
3) or server load?

In any case, it seems important that you build a part of your site that is dedicated to making money--not necessarilly the forums. Here are a couple of ideas:
1) Sell consulting time - for $75/hour someone will view your site and discuss it with you on the phone. You get half and the consultant gets half.
2) Have a section devoted to web building tools such as WPG, Dreamweaver, and other software. Charge these companies a small fee to place their ad.
3) Build a section devoted to webmasters for hire. You could split it into sections by expertise - PHP, ASP, multimedia, etc. Charge for the listing. A well done Yahoo-like directory would be a benefit to many people and would also help your site continue to grow.

In any case, best wishes,


 10:14 pm on Aug 22, 2002 (gmt 0)

Brett, why not just post a topic begging for cash? Enough have already said that they would be willing to pay. I've made a donation and will be making more when funds are available.

I think if you just put a monthly topic out that says its that time again, than pass the basket around and let those who feel generous help support the continued success of the board.

If you do one thing, you should start charging members to participate in the Google Update threads! ;)

Torben Lundsgaard

 10:16 pm on Aug 22, 2002 (gmt 0)

Please don't sell your soul to advertisers Brett. That would really king suck.
One of the reasons why WebmasterWorld is so great is that it is free of adds and commercial content.

c) It's only reasonable to require membership. After all people get free access to a gold mine of knowledge. This will also provide you with valuable behavioural data.

D) I think that a subscription fee is a great idea. It will ensure a more professional level. I asume the goal is to develop and maintain a quality forum and not the largest possible forum in the world.


 10:22 pm on Aug 22, 2002 (gmt 0)

Ok, mega interesting input - just excellent - thank you.

Let me lay out some more info.

a) Pre-moderation. All threads would require moderator approval before public posting.

That is all "threads". That is just the topic starters and not replies. (Ummm, think slashdot).
We average around 50 new threads a day. The current mod/admin crew could handle that - no problem. The response time would surprise you. We'd shoot for under 10 mins and probably hit 15-60 seconds during the day (no I'm not kidding). That would be faster than a possible upcoming load sharing system we are looking at.

b) Voting and public moderation.

I'm not all that fond of it from a users stand point, but it does have it's place in any discussion. Users would vote on a thread. Each vote would get a little "rank". You could then set your own level of "rank" and wouldn't see msgs that fall below X rank.

It's attractive from one big stand point: to turn it on, I have to click a radio button and press submit ;-)

c) Members only. All members would have to log in.

Benefit: potential to cut down on some noisy posts and slow down trouble makers cruising for spam/url drop potential.
Problem: shuts off public access and search engine referrals.

What makes up the difference in the loss of traffic?

It is a site killer to me. It's attractive in that it requires everyone to login, but I don't think it would solve most of the problem. People have to log in to post as it is now and that doesn't slow them down. We do have a large lurker base.

d) Subscription fee.

This one is more attractive than when we had this discussion last year. It solves the liability issues (those are huge) and keeps us influence free (it's clean). Once we take ads, we are beholding to someone and develop a relationship - it is often the same people we want to discuss freely.

Things that take time:

- Oil is right in that it doesn't take much time, but doesn't quite realize how much follow up work is required. The best track I have on it, is that every problem or edit spawns 3 stickies to follow up. There is a huge backlog of stuff that I have to take care of that few see. (login problem, sign up problems, pleas for help etc)

We also seem to get 1-2 a week that are on some crusade about something and won't let the topic go. I'm sure you can spot the recent ones that ended up involving an entire day to address and it's still not done.

Things that are not a problem:

- bandwidth and hosting.
We've had many offers of free hosting from 'roll your own server' to load shared systems. Thank you to the Members, Mods, and the hosting companies that have made open offers of servers.

- cash expenses.
WebmasterWorld is surprisingly cheap to operate. I'm sure if I separated out the little things like net access it would be significantly higher, but I just write most of that off as a biz expense anyway. Probably the biggest expense by far is mod phone calls. (Ever call London in the middle of the day? I suffer at&t sticker shock once a month)

- moderators
First class - what a crew. They are the standard bearer for moderation net wide. This is how it is done.


 10:35 pm on Aug 22, 2002 (gmt 0)

I always try to look ahead, down the road, and see all sides of the picture.

D). is really the only option. Why...

well free advice is great, it's so darn good that people tend not to use the search function (even when pointed out). People still want that personalization that people provide and no matter how you look at it, there is always a cost. If there wasn't the forum would have no moderators, senior, preferred, or junior members, no expertise or quality control.

When you get a question (asked ten times) and 10 threads are dropped to answer, this generally means alot of duplication and alot of extra work.

IMHO - the search function and inactive threads should be public domain, allowing the free advice to continue without over-burdening the system and staff. This also allows newbies the opportunity to, not only build knowledge but view the WebmasterWorld internal expertise, in advance of subscription. (DAMN! THAT WAS MY QUESTION PREFECTLY, BUT HE ASKED ABOUT FAST NOT DMOZ!)

The fee would be nothing compared to actually receiving hired help in consulting, web design, programming, SEO etc., not to mention the factual return you actually make on your investment.

Read all you want, but subscribe to post and to get the personalization service you would never get anywhere's else.

This rids the forum of drop domains.

Eliminates (or at least reduces) duplicate posts.

Allows commercial exchanges non-members (for fee) but free to members.

You could also continue the member's rank and tie this to fees (cheaper the more senior you get). The first day... we all would be newbies though - Hee Hee :)!

I doubt there are too many active members that can say they haven't made money on the forums advice freely given, saved the expense of hiring or at minimum didn't deploy that spam trick because another member tried and lost.

Just some more deep thoughts from Fathom.



 10:48 pm on Aug 22, 2002 (gmt 0)

d) Subscribers only. All members would pay a subscription fee.

i am willing to pay a sub fee to enter WebmasterWorld. why - because it's striaght forward and clear. if you want access to this great information and members you have to pay.

would just like to see the quality of the posts remain the same. hopefully restricting access would not hinder this.



 10:55 pm on Aug 22, 2002 (gmt 0)

The problem with D) is I probably would never have joined in the first place if I had to subscribe from the outset. I lurked for quite a while as I was learning all about Google, etc, until I realised I would get more out of it by getting involved. However it's difficult to subscribe to a forum without getting a feel for how worthwhile it is beforehand.

At this point I would certainly pay an annual fee but in time you'll find it will hamper the rate at which new people join. New people bring new ideas to the community which helps it stay strong.

Members only would be good - I've got a feeling you can still make the board SE friendly. If any group of people can figure out to do it, I'm sure it's here.

I'll add that I've found this place extremely valuable and just hope that I can contribute more than I pull out.


 10:56 pm on Aug 22, 2002 (gmt 0)

E) Since the problem is "managing" the growth and dealing with problems such as:

"noisy posts and slow down trouble makers cruising for spam/url"

What we need is more moderators. Also, if there is any technical stresses that
are overwhelming for the administrator, we can start a forum and post certain
issues the can be solved by the members. We can all contribute in some way
or other, it's just a question of organizing and using all our talents.

but dats onlee wat i tink !

with the given options; i would vote C


 11:02 pm on Aug 22, 2002 (gmt 0)

Excellent point dantheman!

Lurk days, open house, win a subscription... marketing at its finest!


 11:03 pm on Aug 22, 2002 (gmt 0)

I found this community through a SERP, and I lurked for about a month. At first, I was skeptical. I was the project manager for the redevelopment of the company's website, and I didn't want to do anything that would hurt my company.

I read what was said here and compared it with what was said elsewhere. I was skeptical.

The community won me over by its depth of knowledge and its willingness to answer newbie questions. That's a rare combination.

WebmasterWorld has become a regular part of my day. I've been on the road the last few months, and I've been bummed because travel-time has eaten into my reading and posting time on WebmasterWorld.

WebmasterWorld strikes a rare balance between professional organization, newssource, social club, and mentoring-place.

I'd like to see solutions that allow skeptical newbies to visit and check-out the community. However, this is a remarkable website and resource and community.

Where it goes, I will follow. :)



 11:05 pm on Aug 22, 2002 (gmt 0)

You could always have a zeal quiz on posting when people signup. Make them learn the basics and what is in the TOS before posting privaledges.


 11:09 pm on Aug 22, 2002 (gmt 0)

Speaking of gems as first posts...Majorhitz's first post was a real winner.


 11:20 pm on Aug 22, 2002 (gmt 0)

OK - After reading some of the posts, I have changed my mind slightly.

I now favour the pre-moderated thread starts.

If it still needs a revenue channel, then a few forums go "paid members only", but all the main ones stay out in the open.

I think the arguments against 'paid membership only' are well put and valid.


[edited by: 4eyes at 11:43 pm (utc) on Aug. 22, 2002]


 11:30 pm on Aug 22, 2002 (gmt 0)

We average around 50 new threads a day. The current mod/admin crew could handle that - no problem. The response time would surprise you. We'd shoot for under 10 mins and probably hit 15-60 seconds during the day (no I'm not kidding).

If thats the case then I think this would be the best option, I myself have posted questions that have been asked before and answered many times before. That way the Mod can just send an email back saying that the question has already been posted and to try using the "search function"

Plus I'm all for brett sending out a thread once every month or so saying "come on guys cough up its pay pal time"


 11:59 pm on Aug 22, 2002 (gmt 0)

Brett if C is a killer then D is death: D has the same problems as C plus liability issues are actually worse and usage will decline.

Your last post suggests you don't need to raise revenue to cope: rather time. If you don't go down the community/Moderator route you will need money by such means as

a) Raising VC
b) Your D)
c) Adverts
d) Begging
e) Something else

Difficult call if you need to raise funds: Dmoz runs with only 2 staff and low overheads and is a long term commodity play. Overture runs with tons of staff and high overheads and is a short term media/auction play.

IMO Subs will raise funds but probably kill any meaningful capital value.


 11:59 pm on Aug 22, 2002 (gmt 0)

Sorry chowcat. I just checked - 101 new public threads in the last 24hrs. whew.

D the liability issues are eliminated because if you require a few, you have their name, address - there's no anon monkey biz...


 12:02 am on Aug 23, 2002 (gmt 0)


If I've read your explanation of the options correctly, the negative issues (no se referals, closed system etc) with option c) are the same with option d) Subscribers only. All members would pay a subscription fee.

I think d)

If you do implement a subscription fee - can I make a suggestion? Make it an 'amount' paid in local currency.

ie I know that $US20 isn't the same as 20 pounds sterling as $20 Australian - but, in their respective countries, they all have the same purchasing power. How much does a big Mac cost in Sydney/ london/ New York - about '3' ?? A beer?? '2' or '3' depending on the neighbourhood

Now that would really exploit the 'universal nature' or the web....


 12:02 am on Aug 23, 2002 (gmt 0)

The problem still with the pre-mod that I see is that once you say it nots allowed how do you go about letting the user know. Email has been suggested or it could be sticky. This has been commented that takes around 30 secs this would add up over time. Granted that is an average of only 25 mins a day but it still adds up. I still think D is the best option. Leave it open or just the beef for free then you have to pay to post. I was doing math on the way home from work today. I am thinking 10 to 15 dollars a month is not to much. That comes out to be 1000 to 1500 a month with 100 users. I know thats achivable here. There are to many people who depend on it. Its been mentioned that no one is making money off what they learned here *yet* and neither am I, but I would cough that up in a heart beat. I have looked at other forums around, most general questions go unanswered or its an inactive board. I judge activity by how much has happened that day. WebmasterWorld is by far the best board to be on!


 12:32 am on Aug 23, 2002 (gmt 0)

I'm going to say two contradictory points:

1) I don't see any problem with ads. You've got an audience that advertisers are screaming out for. Everyone on the forum has money to spend on technology related products. There's no conflict of interest, you just tell advertisers they cannot expect any influence at all over the content of the forum.

2) Whatever you do, don't change the layout of the forum too much - it's one of the best forum layouts I've seen and what made me read it in the first place. I see other forums which may have great content, but ouch my eyes start hurting and I can't afford that. I spen too much time staring at the screen anyway. Tastefully laid out, banners don't have to hurt too much - see how I integrate 468x60 in my profile site.

I don't have a problem with C)

Finally, I think a small sub would be OK - $10 a year or so but I wouldn't pay more, and bear in mind the old saying, that 90% of the people who say they would pay here - WON'T!


 12:34 am on Aug 23, 2002 (gmt 0)

ie I know that $US20 isn't the same as 20 pounds sterling as $20 Australian - but, in their respective countries, they all have the same purchasing power. How much does a big Mac cost in Sydney/ london/ New York - about '3' ?? A beer?? '2' or '3' depending on the neighbourhood

The Economist regularly uses the Big Mac as a basket of goods to analyze relative purchasing power of currencies.

For more information, see The Economist's Big Mac Index [economist.com]. :)


New WebmasterWorld slogan -- "Do you want fries with that?" ;)

[Edit: Yes, I am a geek...]


 1:18 am on Aug 23, 2002 (gmt 0)

I vote for

d) Subscribers only. All members would pay a subscription fee.

It is certainly about time that you start making some money from all your hard work. Maybe you should have a couple of free forums where new users could get their feet wet.

If you go for option d) I think you should offer free membership to the really prominent members who's posts everyone is longing to see. Just imagine if Googleguy decided he didn't want to pay... ;)


 1:20 am on Aug 23, 2002 (gmt 0)

I think another solution for this would be to collect all new post for each day & filter them by selected moderators at a certain time when they are free & then allow whichever post to go through if such has not been posted - so this means would be the b) option :)

As you know we are all bunch of lazy fellas-me, the site search works great for all that is posted. Meaning that new posters should first search through the site for relevant post & read up before they do any posting, but there's very subjective imho.- Let's go to the extent even as to put a search box in the first page just like google to prompt first timers to do a search first & then below there a login for members. This I think will work great - So lazy fellas-me will search first instead of post. You can call your site search BRETTGLE-google or BRETTHO-yahoo , BRETTMA -teoma search :) being cheeky. :)
& talking about Yahoo, let's make everybody read the TOS first at the register, needing to check every box before posting - just like yahoo when submitting for payment & even better if you add a time frame to it like 5 minutes to make sure they read it -bcoz you know most of me will just check every box hehe :) What the hell just make it like yahoo - for every post you will have to pay 10 cents & then for each category have listings by subcategories for people to go through the archives. hehe - just drank some super radioactive coffee lately. :)

Another way would be the credit points system, where new posters would be allowed only these few post per month. And upon review by moderators to check the quality of their post, their points can be increased to get more credit (posting). ? Provided that there be no favoritism - nah just joking I know that all moderators are neutral here & good fellas :)
Replies to a new topic should also be limited to 2 pages max if that thread is of not so sticky or relevant. ? What do you think of such suggestions Brett ?

[edited by: zechariah at 2:15 am (utc) on Aug. 23, 2002]


 1:23 am on Aug 23, 2002 (gmt 0)

I'd be inclined vote for "read free, pay to post"

But I found this site thru a Google search and if the c/d options would limit search referals (did I read that right?) then I'd hope for some resolution that kept new users/members coming to the door.

I will admit to being an ardent lurker most of the time.... :)


 1:28 am on Aug 23, 2002 (gmt 0)

It it goes to subscription which I don't favor, a free 7-30 day trial would help to keep members coming in without having to make a decision before coughing up the cash.


As a search engine strategy, it might be worth it to leave the first page of threads out there for the spiders and to generate interest.


 1:30 am on Aug 23, 2002 (gmt 0)

I think option D would be the best. To attract new users maybe you could have a trial-period for potential subscribers where they could lurk the forums for a few days.


 1:31 am on Aug 23, 2002 (gmt 0)

At this point I would certainly pay an annual fee but in time you'll find it will hamper the rate at which new people join.

This is how I feel. I didn't lurk for long before I posted but it took a couple of weeks reading before I realied what a goldmine this place is. Also, not being a professional webmaster I doubt I would have even considered myself qualified to join when I first arrived if I hadn't been able to read the posts as see how friendly everyone is(assuming either option c or d).

I think one way around this could be a mix of free and member/subscriber only content, although I don't know how this should be divided up.

Make it an 'amount' paid in local currency.

I like this idea if a pay route is decided on. My country is not "poor" or "developing" and I actually live pretty comfortably for an under-paid fulltime student. But the exchange rate sucks and my money becomes worth a lot (lot) less outside my country.

I agree with the coments about repitition of questions, I've seen it in the short time I've been here. There definitely seem to be a few stock question/answer posted which could be either localised in an extended knowledge base or found by site searchs. Prominant links to the places where information can be found along with a specific message for all new sign-ups encouraging site searchs should reduce these questions. For example, I didn't notice the Google Knowledge Base link for over a week.

I've been in another forum where any question already adequately answered in previous posts automatically gets "please do a site search" as the reply. The newbies learn pretty fast that they need to do some digging before they ask. It sounds like the pre-mod idea put forward as option a) would be useful for this kind of thing.

[edited by: shelleycat at 1:32 am (utc) on Aug. 23, 2002]


 1:32 am on Aug 23, 2002 (gmt 0)

I like zechariah's idea bout the point system. Maybe change it to users giving points. Only give the topic starter the ability to award points. So say I ask a question "How to parse html into PHP" I give points to the people who answer. Obviously we would want the highest points to go to the most relevent answer. The more points you get the more topics you can start? You start out with 2 topics and you get more points by replying to answers? Almost like option B.

I still tend to lean twards option D, maybe expand the index to include more posts. Those can be the free ones people read, these can be selected by Mods or by the users voting for them? A combo betweeen B and D.


 1:37 am on Aug 23, 2002 (gmt 0)

second go...

OK d) is sounding good.. i suggest it is variable.. say for example the annual fee could be 2 hours of your salary. When put that way it is reasonable for eveyone but of course it is an honour system, and it depends how "honourable" our members are! $20 US is well over 1 days salary for me for example. But to americans and some Europeans it could be less than 1 hour.

Two principles: 1. The web IS global so that has to be taken into account. 2. Agree - the trend to paying for web services is a healthy and increasing trend.

[edited by: chiyo at 1:48 am (utc) on Aug. 23, 2002]


 1:40 am on Aug 23, 2002 (gmt 0)

a) Pre-moderation. All threads would require moderator approval before public posting.
b) Voting and public moderation. There would be a system where posts could be voted on by users. You would be able to set your own "twit list" level where messages below that level would not be included.

a&b) Sounds like judgementalism and bickering would quickly make the board kinda icky. No thanks, who are the mods or anyone else on earth equipped to judge what is twitty?

c) Members only. All members would have to log in.

No problem with logging in, just wondering why? The true twits will stop at nothing anyway, they will register, login, whatever it takes(whoops, there I go getting judgemental :)).

d) Subscribers only. All members would pay a subscription fee.

Slight modify here-- d is for DONATE....if half the people that said they *would* pay for a subscription, would hit the DONATE button NOW..maybe the model would work, but I doubt it.

I still don't agree that you pay a subscription to provide content (post). The way most organizations sell content is by charging for access to the archives. The fresh stuff is usually free.

The threads may not always be what you want them to be, but apparently a whole lot of folks like it just the way it is (you did say traffic tripled).


 1:40 am on Aug 23, 2002 (gmt 0)

A lot of good suggestions here.

Took me a while to read all of the posts; I haven't kept up with this one because I knew it would be long.

As far as I can tell, the idea is to give Brett some time back so that he can get back to making a living. And maybe a small part is the load and expense for throughput on WebmasterWorld.

This is a balanced approach. Here are my ideas:

1) Get some more moderators if there is a problem in this area. The fact that you are expanding so rapidly also means you have a lot more qualifieds to be mods.

2) Do some MINIMAL advertising. I wouldn't mind the ads. Now you say that is out, but sponsors with small text links?

3) I don't really understand the membership deal. Basically we all are members if we want to post. That's not going to solve anything, I don't think.

4) A subscription to CERTAIN forums would not be a problem with me. Then let everything else be free. I think the free areas would induce a lot of people to subscribe, because most of the good posters around here will post to just about all of the forums.


 1:55 am on Aug 23, 2002 (gmt 0)

Being a newbie myself...but having been a part of this community since May 2002, I have had a chance to enjoy and benefit from Webmasterworld an experience that I feel is priceless.

Had I not had the opportunity to spend time here free from dues in the beginning, I would not have known what an invaluable and unbelievably professional group of people participate in these boards...I was instantly hooked and extremely grateful.

All that said...there came a time when I felt that as a participant, I wanted to show my appreciation and support and made a donation (albeit small) to say "thank you" for what was so freely given by so many people. It was like giving back to what was so freely given to me.

I realize that these boards were created on an "honor system" and that donations were not a requirement for membership...nor really solicited except for a small button.

Some of our visitors will not be able to pay, purely from a financial standpoint and I believe that no one wants to keep anyone out because of financial hardship...therefore the "honor" system.

Finding a system, which is both altruistic and yet manageable, seems to be the question/dilemma in continuing with the current growth factor. It is not an easy task to decide...Brett seems to want to offer what's fair for all circumstances.

Maybe a "trial" period for participation could be introduced and then after a certain time frame, a small fee for membership could be made mandatory for continued participation (i.e. ability to post, etc.) For those so inclined, we could keep the donation participation open along with the small participants fee...I don't know how much that would generate or be beneficial...but that might generate a little from all participating members and then extra from donations from those that would like to contribute...???

My two cents...Linda

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