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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)

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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)

1:55 am on Aug 23, 2002 (gmt 0)

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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

2:07 am on Aug 23, 2002 (gmt 0)

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If there are just over 100 new threads in 24 hours now, that would likely drop if the "pre-moderation" rule were to be applied. A number of potential thread-starters wouldn't start'em if it were clear that they'd have to go past approval. And a clear message to that effect would encourage people to consider whether what they have to say would fit just as well into an existing thread.

So I'd vote for that option; it's the least disruptive and least exclusive, and it's the one that would have the strongest beneficial side-effect.

2:40 am on Aug 23, 2002 (gmt 0)

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A- too much work for the mods
B- sounds like something I would never use (how many flies?.......)
C- If you want to but, I see it as a waste of your time. It might save on bandwidth and processor time.
D- This is the way to go for you. It is time to make sure you get something out of this great community you created.

Just the other day I was trying to remember the last time I made a donation to Webmaster World. I could not recall and I know I didn't make one after thinking about it. I got busy and forgot. If you had some sort of auto billing process the money would already be there. (Startup makes a note, Donate today).
Brett if you go with "D", will I lose all the pr in my profile? ;)

My selection is a "minefield" for you. To the best of my knowledge it has never been successfully done. Even though I loathe the idea of it, it is time. I believe you are one of the very few people that can do this and make it work.

2:49 am on Aug 23, 2002 (gmt 0)

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b) is the Slashdot model. I've said it before, but it seems nobody wants to hear it -- Slashcode is the way to go here. As to paying for bandwidth -- okay, banners? Nah. Subscription is probably a good idea, maybe $30/year or some such. The problem is that unlike a magazine you can read before buying (or subscribing), you'd have to off-limits all the existing content, or make editorial decisions about what is allowed to be visible outside. So call this a combination of (b) and (d).
2:52 am on Aug 23, 2002 (gmt 0)

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Kind of a an embarrassing little story that makes a point. My wife and I work out of the house with our desks opposite each other. It is not uncommon for us to leave little notes to each other throughout the day. Sooo, one day I figured it was time to drop a little donation cheque in the mail to the forums and I wrote a note to my better half instructing her to send a cheque to PHD software systems for X amount of money. A couple months later, I was checking out the books for that quarter and low and behold...Hello, what do we have here? She had accidentally added a zero to the amount. (My handwriting is pathetic). Anyhow, words were exchanged but I quickly realized that I take far more away from these forums that I can possibly give back. The cheque should have been made out in that amount in the first place because of the wealth of information I gain from this awesome place.

When I first came here I was a fish out of water trying to find my way in a new business and was very intimidated by the expertise that frequents the forums, but as soon as I came out of lurk mode I was made to feel welcome. I can't articulate what that meant to me as a complete neophyte. I feel that any model that is put in place needs to give new users that same sense of welcome that was awarded me. I don't have the answer but I know that with the level headed admin and mods that this board boasts, a balanced approach will surely be able to be found.

BTW......I never write her notes anymore. ;-)

3:37 am on Aug 23, 2002 (gmt 0)

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Option d (subsciption) is my pick. The world is changing and the internet is not a giant 'free for all' as some people would like (look at Napster). I would pay to be a member of such an excellent site as this. It is sure worth it's weight in gold. Not sure of the annual fee though- is USD $10 per year too small? In return you should add an archive section.
4:31 am on Aug 23, 2002 (gmt 0)

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So the problem really is the number of posts (and the number of "noise" posts) but the number of members should not drop? And there is not a financial problem.

To address this then, what about membership plus a post limit model?

Free membership: lurking plus limited posts per month. Use your allocation wisely. Mods plus Brett/mod-selected members given unlimited posting privileges.

Paid membership: unlimited posts per month.

New viewers: given access to newbie faq base and view-only time-limited membership.

After a year's membership, membership changes automatically to free.

One thing I was impressed with when I joined here was the depth of experience and the high level of gold to dross. I was intimidated in making my first post (good thing, IMO). Lately the average time taken to reach 100 posts has dropped significantly.

Would not "think before you post" be a good path to follow? I'm as guilty of not doing it as anyone...

[edited by: stever at 4:33 am (utc) on Aug. 23, 2002]

4:32 am on Aug 23, 2002 (gmt 0)

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How about like PBS or Jerry Lewis type marketing. Put a % of funds needed/received up in the corner for us to see at all times, updated daily. In other words more pressure for donations>
4:47 am on Aug 23, 2002 (gmt 0)

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How about banner ads. You'll get paid and we will ignore them...it's win win if you ask me <g>
5:09 am on Aug 23, 2002 (gmt 0)

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I say banner ads for the non-subscribers and no banner ads for the subscribers. That seems like a win-win to me. The information and community here are very valuable.

BTW - I don't post very much since I don't often have something to say that someone hasn't already said but I really enjoy being part of the community (even if it is only in my mind). Someone suggested the members only option and kicking out those who don't post in over a month much like Hotmail but I don't agree with this.

5:39 am on Aug 23, 2002 (gmt 0)

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regardless of any other consideration, I think there needs to be at least one area that is "an exclusive forum".

Many members do alot of advance research and need to bounce ideas off other members that have similar goals and/or expertise.

Less informed members dropping in a post because they don't understand the dialogue is confusing for all.

Quality control needs to be a major consideration. Exponential traffic growth by default reduces post quality exponentially and I believe this is a far greater issue than pre-moderation of threads.


6:13 am on Aug 23, 2002 (gmt 0)

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I will definently go for option d) Brett: Subscribers only.
6:20 am on Aug 23, 2002 (gmt 0)

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a) sounded interesting, but then instead of 100+ new threads in 24 hours you'd probably get a smaller number of much longer (quite possibly less focused) threads. You've seen all the mini topics spawned in a SlashDot thread...yuck

b) could be really helpful when trying to read the Google forum ;)

c) still not sure how much different this would be from now as far as drive-bys are concerned. This would probably reduce the SE traffic a bit over time. However, I think the word of mouth for WebmasterWorld will continue to drive traffic this way for some time to come.

d) all for it if it can be done in a way that the global community can join in without having to mortgage their homes.

6:48 am on Aug 23, 2002 (gmt 0)

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I'd be out of here if I had to pay... small sums, I know, but a site here and a site there and it all adds up. It doesn't help that I work part-time and am paid in Southwest Pacific Pesos (aka Australian dollars).

I'd suggest some kind of self-managing moderation/rating system, perhaps based on Kuro5hin's (or Slashdot's).

Perhaps a selection of the more useful threads can be put on public display with a 'more detailed information for subscribers' link like Danny's site?

I don't offer any subscriber-only material... :-)


7:36 am on Aug 23, 2002 (gmt 0)

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Thinking aloud here so I hope this makes _some_ sense:

I agree with the posts that say that it can take a little while to realise just how good a resource webmasterworld really is, so if you charge people straight away to read or post you could lose potentially good contributors IMHO.

I'm not sure a time-limited free membership would work, because some people may lurk for months before they post.

I also think that charging for particular forums could have problems - I first came here and stayed becuase I was looking for information on search engine optimisation, its only recently I've seen all the stuff about affiliate programs and now I read that forum religeously since I can see the opportunity for unchaining myself from my office desk at some point. My point is that if particular forums are charged for, then people still don't get to see how good those particular forums are until they pay.

How about something like this - posts are already counted, so perhaps you could give users free access for a certain number of posts, then when they reach a certain number either begin to charge or send out emails requesting donations of a suggested minimum amount? Like "We hope you have found ww useful so far, if this site has helped you perhaps you'd like to make a donation of $* ..."

It could be automated so wouldn't take take any more time to administer once the code was in place, and would surely generate some more revenue for you Brett.

Maybe even a post count related suggested donation amount.....might cut down on noise posts if people were just made aware that it can cause problems.

7:36 am on Aug 23, 2002 (gmt 0)

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I think that you can improve the sticky mail exchange after an edit & problem. Probably 80% have great similarities. An intelligent template system might reduce the time spend significantly.

On the side of the user you might want to ask them to categorize their reply. Let me clarify this last idea through this example:

Brett: Hey user Y, I removed your topic because it's already discussed in thread X.
User Y: Thanx dude!

These dialog can be improved on two points;

First on the moderator side, when deleting a topic, the system should give a list of standard sticky mail templates. You choose for the "dupe post" option. The system fills in the username for a personal touch and remembers the topic of that sticky mail.

User Y receives your stickymail and want's to say thank you, because he/she's well raised by his/her mamma. When replying the system ask to categorize the reply, like "thank you note", "follow up question", "another question", etc, etc.

Because the reply is categorized, you now are able to prioritize all incoming replies. For example, you can delete all incoming thank you's if you are short of time.

Could you explain the "crusade" thingie a bit more?

8:07 am on Aug 23, 2002 (gmt 0)

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I think the time has come for a private forum with paid membership. Let's face it folks, many of the world's experts hang out here and give out free advice to newbies, some of which probably comes back at them in the form of new competition. Then there's the lurkers who only take but don't return.

There's other forums where the newbies and lurkers can get free advice and many of the experienced people that hang out here also hang out at those forums where they also contribute.

If WebmasterWorld switches to a private paid-membership forum it will raise the forum and the dialog in its threads to a more professional level, separating it from the others.

8:08 am on Aug 23, 2002 (gmt 0)

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Maybe even a post count related suggested donation amount.....

Not a good idea, since you would pay (donate) more if you give more answers. Not a good way to have people answer questions.

And I guess it would kill rcjordan ;).


8:16 am on Aug 23, 2002 (gmt 0)

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good point. Guess I didn't think that one through....:)
8:18 am on Aug 23, 2002 (gmt 0)

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I wouldnt mind paying a fee, aslong as its not a silly price - as most of the information on this forum is priceless to me.
8:24 am on Aug 23, 2002 (gmt 0)

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I think it wouldn't be a problem to have a fee. But it would be better in that case to have even a "conditions of participation", some rules to respect in order to avoid spammers to post and moderators not to work too much.

Webmasterworld is one of the biggest source of experiences I've ever seen, let's keep it working well!

8:35 am on Aug 23, 2002 (gmt 0)

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Although in general terms I like (d) it would be a problem for me personally and those in a similar boat. My web work is non-commercial, mostly donated to local organizations. My one "major" site is non-commerical and costs me money to provide it to the world. For me, I simply couldn't afford to add the new expense to my budget.
8:46 am on Aug 23, 2002 (gmt 0)

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As a newbie I can't believe the amount of info thats available here for free. I paid hundreds of dollars to the academy of web specialists for an "Advanced Search Engine Marketing Course" I have learn't more here for free in a matter of days and it's bang up to date.

d. at virtually any price

8:51 am on Aug 23, 2002 (gmt 0)

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I have not read all the previous posts (were not they just too few;)) .. my VOTE would be strongly for D. The information on this forum is valuable and any one who makes use of this should be able to easily afford a nominal fee for this (no matter which part of the world you are in ... after all this is WWW)!. Also, D helps solve many other issues facing this forum - pay for the web site hosting, servers, bandwidth, maintenance, pay for the time of mods/individuals who are spending a lot of time (Did Brett mention his time being chewed up), sys admin, programmers, etc.

It is amazing to see that this forum survived this long without going option D) or some kind of monetization a.k.a banners/pop-unders, etc.

8:57 am on Aug 23, 2002 (gmt 0)

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How about encorporating basic information into articles? Any info that is continuly repeated in threads (such as the basics of SEO, etc) could be set as an article.

Having a few articles on the main subject areas would make the information easier to access for newbies (cos to be honest there are tonnes of related therads on the main areas and it can be difficlut to find what you are looking for -its easier just ask someone). The articles can also link to related threads.

From here, set the forum as members only (read and write) and allow members who have X amount of posts the facility submit articles on thier specialist areas.

Benefits -

<<<<plenty of information in article format for newcomers and lurkers and plenty of keyword rich text for the SEs.

<<<<the goldmine that is the forum is restricted to members only.

<<<<information becomes more manageable - articles can be reviewed before posting (not much time and effort involved in that) and can be easily indexed (easier for newbies to find the info). No content monitoring issues as people wont be able to reply to the articles.

<<<<the public section could contain advertising to generate revenue if necessary, but the members only section remains clean.

As someone suggested in this thead, you could have a test based on the info in the articles for membership of the forum - ensuring that there is minimum level of knowledge to be able to post threads. This should kill off repeat threads as the issues would be addressed in the articles section.


9:03 am on Aug 23, 2002 (gmt 0)

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zoinks, monster thread.

I don't make any from any of my websites (hobby type) although their optimisation (maybe with a view to making one day via them) does interest me.

Echoing what many have said, I'd go for keep reading free, after all lurkers = more interest = fresh blood into the scene. Part of what makes WebmasterWorld special is the 'family' feel to the place, and newbies will only get that feeling once they've experienced the tone and quality of this place over a period of time (even if theyre only reading). We were all newbies once.

As for posting, have registration compulsory and no payment required for the first month (say) so that people can dip their toes in the water. Likely as not they'll see real benefit from being involved, and for a small annual payment after the first month could continue in that way. I fully understand the reasoning for generating some $$ for this, and as long as it can be done without stifling new people getting involved then fair do's. How you'd handle people paying up without credit cards efficiently I don't know.


9:22 am on Aug 23, 2002 (gmt 0)

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Spread the load like DMOZ, subscription would also kill the site - wouldn't you need to login as in (C) ie. members only?

If storage / hosting isn't an issue, what about *more* moderators combined with automated filtering (a google-like algorithm perhaps?), there would be plenty of assistance offered from suitable programmers who read here.

I'd hate to see Webmasterworld become more restricted, but would pay a subscription if this were the way to proceed.

9:26 am on Aug 23, 2002 (gmt 0)

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WebmasterWorld Store...

I'd buy a T-Shirt. ;)

9:38 am on Aug 23, 2002 (gmt 0)

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Havn't read this whole thread, its toooo long, I wish I had time to spend all day on WebmasterWorld but I run one of those business things ;)

- Cut down on so many unnecessary posts
- SEO should view WebmasterWorld, the rest should be our customers ;)
- If its a full time job you must charge, thats just making a living, everyone has to, you can't make everything free.

<d) Subscribers only. All members would pay a subscription fee. >
Would cut down on the noise for sure. I wouldn't hesitate to pay for subscription


9:40 am on Aug 23, 2002 (gmt 0)

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I think paying a yearly fee might work. It might work to put your visitor numbers back to where they were originally, and make other boards more popular.

I like the idea of banner ads for non-members.

Also the idea of on-site advertising. I am sure that there are a lot of people here who need SEO services that really don't have the skills. For example, I am good at SEO work, programming, designing text content. But graphics? I need help in that area. Other people who are good at graphics may require some of my skills.

I am sure a directory of organised adverts may help you financially, including SEO related affiliate schemes you may join.

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