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  1. #1
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    HAWK's Avatar
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    The Culture of The SitePoint Community - Your View

    Yesterday I started a thread about my failed community t-shirt project, and I got a bit more than I bargained for. One quote in particular gave me a shock.

    ... the atmosphere around here over the last few years has gone from "the fun place to be to discuss web design" to "watch Sitepoint make as much money as they can" with the help of the volunteer forum members.
    I think that this quote seems to be indicative of how many people are feeling at the moment, which means that I'm doing something wrong.

    Before I ask you to tell my why you think this culture change has occurred, I first need to point out that the quote isn't accurate in it's entirety. Our SitePoint community actually stands beside the SitePoint 'the company' and is not a money making venture in any way, shape or form. Forum staff are not responsible for making money for the company. There is no onus on me as Community Manager to generate any kind of income for SitePoint. I love that.

    So, that being said, I have two questions for you. What is it about the culture here at the forums that gives the impression that we are trying to make money and what do you think I can do to turn things around so that this goes back to being "the fun place to be to discuss web design"?

  2. #2
    It's all Geek to me silver trophybronze trophy
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    I've only been around for the last year and a half, so I can't compare with yesteryear. But I would think that the forums now are a fun place to discuss web design. The only thing I can think of is that when a book or other product is for sale, the banners at the top of the page are a bit obtrusive and perhaps could be considered as 'in your face' marketing. (Mind you, though, I think it's perfectly fair enough for SP to be displaying them.)

    Other than that, the world economy has gone sour over the last few years, and this in itself could be changing people's outlook on things—regardless of whether or not SP is doing anything differently. A lot of people use the forums, so SP must be doing something right. Are there any stats on forum visits now compared with a few years ago? </my-worthless-contribution>

  3. #3
    Motivated Procrastinator seriocomic's Avatar
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    Sarah you've been around here as long as I have, but much more involved than me (i've lurked more than I have contributed), but I can say that the community was "tighter" back in the earlier days - there was more knowledge "sharing" rather than knowledge "draining".

    Additionally, the popular forums that started as the marketplaces have now been spat-out as 99Designs.com and Flippa.com - which I think was a sensible business move on the part of the SP founders and operators. However, they are commercial in nature and have been the monetization of the fora in some aspect - perhaps that is the perception.

    The new membership of SP, at least in the areas I participate, are much more of an almost different forum persona - in that they sign-in, ask/get and leave. With the evolution of different forums that have become more niche, or operate under a different engagement model (see Quora), then you can't expect that today's SP will operate the same as it did in 1999, 2003 or even 2007.

    My 2c.

  4. #4
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    I find SitePoint looking for information about web development and I'm really glad that they have good products for sale, because a forum is a fun place to discuss and nothing more, you can't get a full in depth explanation on how things work in a forum.

    I'm not an active member of this forum or any other forum to be truth. I don't have the feeling that SitePoint is all about the money, there's a lot of free information in the forums and specially on the blogs. I guess some people dislike the ads, but I don't mind (the cloud banner is kind of cute).

    I don't know who is in charge of the SitePoint Twitter account, I think he/she is doing a great job promoting the forum and several community driven projects, so stop complaining!

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by nataliav View Post
    I don't know who is in charge of the SitePoint Twitter account, I think he/she is doing a great job promoting the forum and several community driven projects, so stop complaining!
    Thanks, you've made my day.

  6. #6
    SitePoint Wizard bronze trophy Tyssen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by seriocomic View Post
    there was more knowledge "sharing" rather than knowledge "draining".
    I haven't been as active on SP as much in recent years as I used to. Whenever I have stopped by here recently, I nearly always find any of the topics I'd be interested in replying to already answered, so just move on.

  7. #7
    SitePoint Wizard bronze trophy Black Max's Avatar
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    Well, I'll say this much. I've been on the forums in my current incarnation since, what, 2007?, and not once has anyone from SP approached me in any way to help SP make any money in any way, shape, form, or fashion. Had they done so, I would have told them to go to hell; had they asked again, I would have left. I think the marketing efforts SP engages in on the site and on the forums are minimal and acceptable (though the popups annoy me). Whether it's "fun" or not to talk design (I think it is!), the SP forums are one of the best places to get informed advice and assistance, both for "experts" and "newbies," on the 'net. It is probably one of the most "newbie-friendly" forums for design anywhere. That is probably the biggest single reason why I've stuck around so long.

    I'm not rallying 'round the flag or currying favor with the SP Powers that Be. I could care less what they think. I'm simply stating the situation as I see it. For anyone to say, whether by direct statement or by implication, that the SP Forums exist to help SP make money, that only indicates their total lack of understanding of what goes on in these forums.

  8. #8
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    Question

    It could be that SitePoint only tries to build the community because they're trying to increase revenue (and let's be honest, it almost certainly helps revenue). Or they could simply be excited about Web design and development and want other people to be too. Either way, I think the marketing efforts to get people involved would be about the same, and either way, we're making a judgement of a person's (or company's) motives, which is impossible to do 100% accurately. Sadly, motives are rarely altruistic, and also sadly, we often assume people are less altruistic than they may in fact be. The truth most often lies in the middle (they almost assuredly are excited about this stuff, or they wouldn't make it a career, but all companies also need to find better ways of making money to survive and compete). Ultimately, all you can ask is whether or not certain actions make the community a better place or not. While I don't participate in the community, I always pay attention to SitePoint and have recommended the site and products to many people because I do believe that they are trying to make the Web a better place (and succeeding, I'd argue). </philosophy>

  9. #9
    SitePoint Wizard
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    I've been around on Sitepoint for a long time too, sometimes more active than others. I've never felt like the community has turned into some "money machine using volunteers". In fact, the only thing I could think of that used volunteers to create any type of money was the T-shirt project and the community book. Even those I don't think are meant to make money.

    I think the T-shirt contest was more to create some cool community shirts than to generate a profit.

    The book I see more of a means to become a published author than as a way to make money for Sitepoint. Sure, Sitepoint will likely make some money from it, but they're also going to be spending likely hundreds of man hours editing the whole thing.

    Aside from those two things, I don't remember anything even remotely close to the community being meant as a money-machine.

    I know over the years I've gotten help with many questions I probably couldn't have found on my own, and I know it's never cost me a cent.

    I actually can't think of any thing that could be changed to change this attitude in others. I actually didn't even notice the book banner at the top (I had to scroll up to see what they were talking about when a previous poster mentioned it). I think most of us are well trained at ignoring ads.

    If I can think of anything though, I'll certainly let you know.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by seriocomic View Post
    Sarah you've been around here as long as I have, but much more involved than me (i've lurked more than I have contributed), but I can say that the community was "tighter" back in the earlier days - there was more knowledge "sharing" rather than knowledge "draining".
    I think that's the case. I don't venture much outside the GC and Community forums as I much as I would like so take this with a pinch of salt. When I do leave the Community forums, I see a lot of newbie questions... which it is not really bad in itself but my own development and learning is important too.

    This doesn't mean that there aren't interesting threads or new interesting stuff to learn and practice. It is simply that it is harder to find for me unless it is featured.

    True, I don't do that much effort to search for it so it is my own fault, partially.

  11. #11
    SitePoint Wizard silver trophybronze trophy Stormrider's Avatar
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    I don't think Sitepoint is any less of a community, and I don't see it trying to grab money either personally.

  12. #12
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    I created a virtual society website a few years ago (which I sold to cheap later) and it now has 2 million members and 200 million page views a month.

    After a few months of establishment website costs skyrocketed (a few dedicated servers etc.) and I could not pay the costs. So I started putting banners, advertisements and permium membership. The website started to produce some revenue after 1 year. Anyway now, under new management, the website produces $50,000 a month (it is in a developing country).

    Every move toward monetizing is being condemned by users but anyway, in order to compete you need to make innovations and expansions. For that , you need money.

    You may say forum contributors help in creating content for SP and also in gathering and keeping members (which translates into ebook sales, course fees and premium subscription). But the company is also enriching the website (including those books, courses etc.) which makes it more precious to members.

    How many facebook communities are as useful or even comparable to this website? I personally have always got my answers from this website and it has been among my top 3 resources. People here have always been kind to answer my questions.

    Another alternative to SP is to allow bigger websites like facebook eat all the cake, become billion dollars rich without giving back much of the value to the users.

    I support monetizing of the website (and the forum) on the condition that it still remains an open source of information to the users and provides free useful content along with the fee based. I prefer this to a NO-SP anymore scenario.

    BTW I hate facebook like general interest websites (in comparison to professional communities like SP) when it comes to technical discussions and resources.

  13. #13
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    For me, it's a community. I'm not so long on this forum here... but I've always have been helped quite good.

    But for new visitors, they kn&#243;w it's a .com url that stands for commercial, like every .com website. So don't be dissapointed if there are ads on the website, if they sell stuff, etc... It's NORMAL.

    Apart from that, the community is still fun for me... to be honest, I still haven't found a better webdesign forum around...

  14. #14
    SitePoint Addict zipperz's Avatar
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    To me what defines "Community" to me is a group that participates in making something, running something, the decisions, management ect.

    To me Sitepiont is a commercial forum where the owners make the decisions with profit in mind. Commercial Forum vs Community Forum

    I go to a few community forums and I usually get a sense of community especially with opensorce forums they have a feel of a group or community working together to create something and when changes need to be made it becomes a Community decision not a owner decision or a corporate decision.

    I have not been very active on sitepiont a couple of years ago I spent some time lurking and sold a site on sitepiont. My impression back then was it was more of a community forum where you could exchange knowledge and tips and buy and sell a site for a few bucks.
    My impression of sitepiont changed a lot when they started Flippa and basically most of the community/members was against the pricing model. But it was not a community decision it was a corporate decision based on profit. That’s ok, people want to make money but it seemed like sitepiont forgot about the members that made it all happen and never asked any kind of input basically just "what color looks good".

    Community forums to me are a place to exchange knowledge and help each other grow you learn and then try to give back and keep it all going. Commercial forums always have owners in the background trying to turn a profit from the knowledge base and the knowledge exchange.

    To me "The Culture of The SitePoint Community" is a commercial forum and community seems more like a marketing term.

    JMO

  15. #15
    Is Still Alive silver trophybronze trophy RetroNetro's Avatar
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    The point of my quote...
    the atmosphere around here over the last few years has gone from "the fun place to be to discuss web design" to "watch Sitepoint make as much money as they can" with the help of the volunteer forum members.
    ...was not to single out forum members as having asked me for money. My point is the reason Sitepoint is popular and makes money, is the forums and it's helpful members. We all volunteer our time (for whatever reason) which attracts more users, who are the people that buy the products Sitepoint has for sale.

    What is it about the culture here at the forums that gives the impression that we are trying to make money
    The banner at the top that I'm forced to hide with this:
    Code CSS:
    @-moz-document domain("sitepoint.com") {
    #promobar{display:none;}
    }
    Says above all else the first thing we want (is some money) you to see is an advertisement as opposed to any of the content below it. The ads on every page (even my profile page has an ad on it).

    After the success of the JavaScript course. I've seen a rush to get as many of these 'money makers' available as possible and I receive no less than 5 emails letting me know about each and every SP deal. (I'm sure there is a setting to not receive emails I am just too lazy to go look for it)

    Though let me say I have no issue with SP making money and growing as a company. That's what business is all about. It's really just a personal thing with me. I tend to like the underdog. Not the team that wins every year.

    Lets take Metallica for example. I was the biggest Metallica fan once upon a time. Though they started getting more popular and selling more albums then once their original bassist died. They totally sold out and turned from small metal act into the Metallica money making corporate machine. I lost interest.

    So anyway my point was not to make Sitepoint look bad and definitely not to make the forum members look bad it was just my opinion of why I was not buying a t-shirt.

  16. #16
    Is Still Alive silver trophybronze trophy RetroNetro's Avatar
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    Yes to add to what zipperz said. The forums themselves are just here to market the products Sitepoint has for sale (now, maybe in the beginning they were here to just be forums) and we (the forum members) are the driving force behind it and being asked to buy a $31 t-shirt on top of this , well you get the idea.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by zipperz View Post
    ...
    But it was not a community decision it was a corporate decision based on profit. That’s ok, people want to make money but it seemed like sitepiont forgot about the members that made it all happen and never asked any kind of input basically just "what color looks good".
    JMO
    May I ask, how do you feel about facebook communities? You know that facebook has become one of the most huge content sites (beside the people's directory) and that also has been done because of the content producing users. They are a perhaps $20 billion company now and I am not sure they give back to the users as much as SP.

    They also rarely ask or comply with the requests of users and as any other company, the main purpose is to have a higher net income at the end of the year (otherwise they will need to close the doors and we won't have SP anymore).

    I have operated at least 30 websites (some with several hundred thousands of users) and none of them (except the one I mentioned above) exists anymore. That's because I could not monetize and therefore maintain them.

    My time is not free and I have a living to manage. SP staff have family, kids and wives to manage. Or they should devote their lives to us internet users

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by BPartch View Post
    Lets take Metallica for example. I was the biggest Metallica fan once upon a time. Though they started getting more popular and selling more albums then once their original bassist died. They totally sold out and turned from small metal act into the Metallica money making corporate machine. I lost interest.
    You should have stopped listening to Metallica since Dave Mustaine left.
    \m/egadeth it is !

  19. #19
    Is Still Alive silver trophybronze trophy RetroNetro's Avatar
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    I'd say you can't compare Facebook and Sitepoint.

    Facebook is a way for people to pat themselves on the back and let all of their "friends" know how great they are doing, how cute/smart/special their kids are, and what their pets look like.

    Sitepoint was a way to help webmasters, developers, "insert title here" to assist each other when an issue arose that could not be worked out by ones self. It was also a place to meet like minded people and share ideas and make contacts.

    As the popularity of web design grew, so did Sitepoint. At some time (it seems to me) they figured out what a money making business teaching newbs web design was and made a decision to shift the focus to this as opposed to the latter.

    Having said that. Can one still come to the sitepoint forums and learn to better their web design skills? Sure thing, but the atmosphere is different (at least to me).

  20. #20
    Is Still Alive silver trophybronze trophy RetroNetro's Avatar
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    Off Topic:

    Quote Originally Posted by bulevardi View Post
    You should have stopped listening to Metallica since Dave Mustaine left.
    \m/egadeth it is !
    I started listening to Metallica after he was already gone. :P

  21. #21
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    I think a lot of the 'here to make money' perception (which I don't share) stems from what parts of the forums and even the general site you are visiting. I rarely venture outside HTML/CSS, and if I do it's to javascript/php/mysql. You would be hard pressed to find any 'Sitepoint money making' in ANY of those forum areas.

    I'm also an Opera user, so a common question for me is "what advertising" since I generally just get a bunch of big blank white spaces since http://ads.s3.sitepoint.com/* is on the default block list...

    I also generally don't visit the home page of the site unless someone links me to an interesting article because it's a fat bloated train wreck that takes too long to load.

    But because of that -- I sit here wondering what people are on about with the 'only here to make money' bit. I don't see that at all.

    But then you couldn't pay me to poke my head into the entire "sitepoint books" or worse, "Manage your site / Host your site" sections... While nowhere near as ... mercenary, as say the entire forums at another unrelated 'point' website involving 00110101, those areas are still chock full of scammers and promotions that, well... I'd probably get myself banned if I posted what I REALLY thought about 2/3rds of the threads in there... but that's typical of once you get the fly-by-night marketing scam idiots in there and the nimrods who actually buy into the "get rich quick" nonsense.

    Another possible explanation is just the language used. We discovered this on a website I maintain where using the word 'official' on what were supposed to be fan products threw people into the exact same kneejerk we're seeing here.

    One of the seven cornerstones of propaganda is "Name calling". While <glittering generality>obvious troll (idiot, nimrod, jackass, ********) is obvious</glittering generality> -- and as such mostly harmless, it's the less noticeable words that hold the real power. Words like "official", "corporate", "corporation" - for many people these words hold a negative connotation despite their seemingly innocuous nature. Just look at the pure fiction of the FSF's "windows sins" website for endless use of words that are seemingly innocuous at first glance, but crafted together - possibly not even at the conscious level to the reader - swing people's point of view regardless of reason or even common sense. In this way you kind of have a mix of "glittering generalities" in the mix -- words that engender a certain feeling outside it's meaning. Quite often they don't even have a meaning or are meaningless -- the classic example of "A Real American" in political campaigns for example... Always ask "what is, a REAL American?"... does that statement only apply to the one candidate, or is it true of both.

    Of course, when you have a forums you run the risk of 'bandwagon'. A lot of people won't normally speak up when they see something bad or wrong -- having this whole "if you don't have anything nice to say" nonsense drilled into their heads by the <name calling>thin skinned metrosexual tofu loving San Francisco wussies</name calling>... but once one person dares to say it, you'll often see others who were quiet come pouring out of the woodwork en-masse. It's an aspect of bandwagon that is rarely discussed in marketing coursework, where they usually think of pushing bandwagon (Don't you want to be a Pepper too!) instead of finding natural mass appeal (hey, people hate this, let's use that!). It's often much more successful to join a bandwagon and steer it, than it is to start one.

    The lack of certain techniques can also have an impact. Plain Folks for example. That big red admin box and using the word 'official' will often lead people to conclusions (like you being part of the company not a volunteer, like the Tee's being a company project with a profit for the site agenda) that have nothing to do with fact. Often times this can be so radically burned into people's heads that no matter how many times you say it's not the case, people will still treat it as fact.

    That's also an aspect of 'transfer'. Usually propagandists like to talk about transfer in the positive -- someone likes something, let's associate our product with that... but like most of these techniques it's a two way street. The negative connotations of a 'boss' (administrator), a company, being 'official' -- can all transfer onto a product regardless of if said distaste for the terms is based in reality or not! This is increasingly true as the number of <cartman=name calling>Dirty **** hippies</cartman> increase with their "fight the man" "rah rah, fight the power" nonsense seems to be increasing in numbers again. You are seeing it worldwide the increase in the 'companies are evil' nonsense... just take a good solid rational look at the FSF to see that in action.

    As Werner Naumann said, "Perception is reality"... and there's a lot of false perceptions people have that color their rationality (or eliminate it completely). It's why religions don't want you to believe anything but their rhetoric and actively fight anything that differs from their view, it's why political parties don't want you to listen to anything but their slant, hence how people often have irrational reactions and draw nonsensical conclusions from the simplest of facts.

    Especially if you figure in that quite often the truth is so hard to deal with people will believe anything -- ANY made up malarkey rather than deal with it... Though that's a subject for another time.

    Bottom line -- don't take the 'moneymaking' comments too seriously. JHVH forbid you be expected to come up with $$$ to help with the hosting costs of a site this large (what are you up to here, $500/mo?) and sell products off the main part of the site while allowing all of us to suck down your bandwidth for free.

    HOW DARE YOU! :P

    When put in that context, it is rather silly, no?

  22. #22
    Is Still Alive silver trophybronze trophy RetroNetro's Avatar
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    Nevermind.

  23. #23
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    I mentioned that I am talking about facebook communities (groups and pages) not the people directory

  24. #24
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    Just not sure how you got into this situation. Who says that community site doesn't give out free t-shirts? I really appreciated when FatWallet.com decided to give me a free t-shirt after posting certain number of posts. I do understand now that you were just doing for fun w/ no marketing in mind. As you said, if you left out the logo then it wouldn't have any confusion. Also, I think you guys are for revenue site? No? I remember you have to pay some money to post in some area. Also, 99designs.com as well? With recent give away for sitepoint books, I think it's really easy to think there are more free prizes ^_^ hopefully more on the way.

  25. #25
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    Off Topic:


    Quote Originally Posted by BPartch View Post
    Lets take Metallica for example. I was the biggest Metallica fan once upon a time. Though they started getting more popular and selling more albums then once their original bassist died. They totally sold out and turned from small metal act into the Metallica money making corporate machine. I lost interest.
    Similar for me, though really what did it here was their music turned to total garbage. Load was aptly named, don't even get me STARTED about the tone deaf casio keyboard garbage that came after.

    Problem with a lot of bands is they age like milk. If this is them sober, somebody get James a **** beer.


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