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. :wink:

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”?

I’m always linking to my own stuff. Worst that could happen is some mod removes it or I get banned. shrug

My apologies, I haven’t been very active here in a while (work, life, other stuff), so perhaps I shouldn’t comment. Nonetheless, I would like to answer.

Today was the first time I’ve been to SitePoint in a while. I was happy to find SitePoint feels much the same to me as on other visits. I see some familiar faces that were here when I was more active; it doesn’t look like there’s been a lot of turnover. I see friendly banter and thoughtful questions. Furthermore, there’s still many patient responses with very little of the “RTFM!” or “lurn2google n00b” attitude that characterizes many other forums.

In other words, SitePoint is just as good as I remember it. Better, actually: there’s even more information. Coming back was like running into an old friend and discovering they’re doing really well. :slight_smile:

Regardless, I applaud your willingness to consider criticism. Indeed, I think that part of what’s kept SitePoint alive so long has been this constant tweaking and examination of the community. In this regard, I think there’s some parallels with Slashdot…evolutionary adaptations to the site suggested and selected by a passionate core membership.

As for the commercial aspects, well, I understand. This stuff costs money. In my opinion, however, your commercial side reasonable, tasteful, and context-appropriate. I’ve found your products useful and informative.

The current model works OK for me. I understand you’re trying to find a balance that brings in revenue without making people set up another Adblock Plus filter. That’s a fine line. If people are complaining about the intrusiveness, there might be other options.

On Slashdot, for example, they give people the ability to disable or limit advertising if they’re reached a certain level of participation in the community. It’s related to their notion of “karma” there, so it’s not simply quantity of posts, but factors like post quality, length of membership, etc. Perhaps this might be an alternative?

Or what about a tiered subscription option…visit, more ads; join and participate, reduced ads, quality participation or send us X amount, and lose the ads. Send us X amount more, and get all of our books. Just don’t punish people with really obnoxious advertising if they don’t pay, of course!

Yes, some people won’t be happy with any advertising, product sales, or anything that suggests SitePoint might have commercial interests. Are they simply griping about the advertising, or do they have any practical alternatives? Is there another model (besides donation- or subscription-based) that scales effectively?

TaliaJ / TaliaJ2 (Been here since 2005; first account had some sort of unresolvable password issue :()

/All this said…I’m sorry, but the t-shirts were a real yawn. :wink:

Actually, I can think of a number of individuals that do fit the bill (not you Sagewing), however, as far as I know, none of them are staff (though they do have some awards, so they have those icons that may be mistaken as staff).

However, their numbers are quite few, and you learn to just kind of ignore them when they get uppity. =p It’s always the loud few that overshadow the quieter minority.

I’ve been hanging around for a long time and it hasn’t changed THAT much. It’s grown and become a bit less casual and a bit more formal, perhaps, but not dramatically so. SitePoint has evolved and there are more products and promotions but the forum hasn’t been dramatically affected.

And I remember years ago people saying that SitePoint was just about money, blah blah. I remember people saying ‘this place has changed’ way way way back.

SitePoint is a business, and this is a forum owned by a business, and there will always be people who resent the idea that SitePoint endeavors to make money rather than simply supporting the forum in some Utopian fantasy world.

Like any community, it ebbs and flows and as it grows it becomes better in some ways and worse is some others. As the forum grows and gets older, there are more people who will be vocal in their criticism, but that can also be interpreted as part of the overall success of the forum.

Overall it seems to have done well over the years - it’s hard to keep a forum fresh and going for so long!

I’ve been a member on Sitepoint for a long time and initially was fairly active, then had a quiet patch, and now im starting to get back into it.

The forums were pivotal for me in my early learning of PHP and MySQL, and it is nice to now be able to return some of that knowledge, whilst knowing that many members can help me out with more advanced problems.

I have previously bought a couple of Sitepoint published books. What I would say about the books (at least the ones I have read) is that they are good, but don’t make the must read list for me. That is why when I see ads or receive emails about the books, its more of a hindrance than anything else, so I kindof overlook it. Can’t say that I am bothered by the advertising space though.

I think the forums did start to nosedive in terms of quality of posts (perhaps mostly spam / borderline spam) however thankfully the quality is now back and as good as ever.

I am guilty of virtually never visiting the front page or looking in the articles, though I guess personally I would like to see more business orientated resources.

Generally I think Sitepoint is definitely on the right track, its not easy for forums when people’s attention spans are in decline, and you have competing sites like Stack Overflow - perhaps you could look at a stricter Q & A section and keep the forums as is, for waffling (like this post) :slight_smile:

P.S. I would use the marketplace if I thought I would get results, but I fear my listing will be lost in the junk.

I must admit that before this discussion started I never made a distinction between Sitepoint the company and Sitepoint the forum. And that is part of the problem I think. If people have an issue with the way the company works, they may tar the forums with the same brush.

I think the forums are great and I have done for a long time. Of course there’s a certain amount of content that is less interesting, less helpful, occasionally unpleasant (very occasionally), but that is all true of any forum, and much less so on this one than on many.

And I have to pay tribute to Hawk who is doing a great job, and I hope is not blaming herself for the t shirt problem or anything else that’s been raised about hte forums. She was the one who helped me when I had an urgent problem with a Sitepoint (the company) product recently, while the company’s “customer service” department simply ignored me.

So yes, you guessed, I do have issues with Sitepoint the company. I used to admire it hugely, but I think it is beginning to lose its way in a number of ways. I’d be happy to elaborate, but maybe we should start a new discussion for that?


Since joining SitePoint early 2004 I have seen it change over the years, infact I learnt php/css/html/mysql/etc…right here as well as books and other websites.

This was due to members staff or not with their knowledge helped me out and others. To me it doesn’t matter what profession they are in it’s just being part of SPF and helping out that really counts. God hey, I’m on my second job since joining SPF (if only you knew what I do :D), I hope to get my third at some point.

Anyway, I tend to agree with the banners at the top are a bit annoying but at least there is an option not to show they again, until a new one comes out. I know SPF has some small problems that need to be sorted out but we are working on them.

Overall SPF has become better, stronger and more knowledgeable and will keep on improving over ther years to come and I’m very proud to be part of the SPF team.

Originally Posted by jjshell
My only concern is always the same: the mood in the CSS/XHTML forums isn’t particularly friendly, and most people posting in those forums aren’t fun (pickiness, semantic purity and all the things you have to face before you can actually get an answer). But it’s been like that for a long, long time.

I don’t agree with this at all. I’ve posted questions over the last few years and never had anything but friendly considerate treatment.

Originally Posted by andrew-bkk .
Seems to me though that of late Sitepoint has allowed its web design forums to become dominated by a small group of overly opinionated idiots who DO hide behind pseudonyms and who quite clearly do NOT have any professional involvement with this industry.

I don’t know where you are coming from either. Paul O’B, for example, apart from the knowledge he shares, dedicates an awful lot of time to answering the same questions that get asked day after day. You could criticize those who ask without doing any search for the answer, but accusing those who help is a bit rich.

I don’t have any axe to grind with Sitepoint. The courses have been excellent and I knew the price would go up (as Russ’s last one has). The books have helped me learn a lot about my trade and I don’t mind receiving emails announcing new ones. If I am not interested I just delete them.

True I only participate in CSS, HTML and occasionally Javascript forums and sometimes feel I should help a bit more. However, as someone else said, the ones I can answer usually get answered before I get to them.

I did sign up to the Facebook page, but I can’t really see where it fits into my scheme of things. I waste a lot of time reading unnecessary stuff, but that is one of the hazards of the internet.

All in all I think Sitepoint is a very worthwhile place to visit and as most of us are trying to make a living from web design or development, I don’t see that we should grumble at you selling useful books and courses. I doubt you will ever be millionaires.

And I only wear plain teeshirts, so I didn’t even think of buying yours, sorry.

The staff members daily profession may have nothing to do with the (specific area) they have been assigned within the forum. They don’t get voted in because they (or the forum leaders) consider themselves ‘design experts’ or they may have commercial interest within the web design industry.

May be that is a misconception by some members; that to become staff you have to actually work in web design or considered some kind of guru/specialist?

It is ‘completely irrelevant’ if one of the Staff is a Cleaning lady, a Website billionaire, Networking professional or Bus driver (as a job). So long as the forum answer/reply is of actual merit or helps the discussion.

Now, if someone “claims” to be a web guy as a day job (commercial) and wants to promote their website fair enough. So long as member doesn’t shove their homepage link down people’s throats at every opportunity within the main body of the reply. For example claiming they’re cool, make loads or money, name drop, say have written or featured in tonnes of books, blogs or other banal things, etc.

A true professional will generally know to keep out commercial interests from a reply within a post.

I have a feeling that you’re talking about the staff here. If we’re a bunch of overly opinated idiots is a matter of opinion. Some people will think that we are, some people will think that we are not (hopefully :p). Regarding hiding behind pseudonyms… I think that I can speak from everyone else that we don’t hide. When you signed up you had to use a user name and so I did… but the reasons to use an alias instead of my real name had nothing to do with hiding and lots to do with fun :smiley: Of course, when I signed up I never thought that I was going to be part of the staff! :lol:

What I mean is you’re making a dangerous assumption here.

Firstly, I’m a lurker and don’t remotely consider myself part of the community - just look at my post count to date I joined!

But I do remember “Ye Olde Days” and I’ve watched Sitepoint develop over the years as a forum and business. I’ve bought lots of books and subscribed to the (mostly excellent) newsletters.

I’d suggest the answer to the original question has already been made by “seriocomic” in post #3.

If I compare to other webdesign forums, this one has always been very (read: more) helpful to me.

Oh, I aswel noticed on other websites that there are more “pigs” insulting other forum members than here…
so relatively, it’s not so bad here :wink:

Haha, you’ve made my day :wink:

Glad to know I can help :slight_smile: I may not post much here, but I’ve been coming here since back in 2002. I visit the site almost daily and find the forums to be a great resource for finding information… just hope the front page articles can turn back to that sort of resource as well.

Like I said I don’t have negative feelings, I am just posting how I see sitepiont.

Calling peoples posts negative or hateful are usually just an uneducated way to try to discredit them.

Like I said Hawk was asking for feedback and opinions and these are mine. No need to try to discredit them. Seems like others have similar feeling as I do also, sorry not everyone thinks the same as you.

I,m glad you have benefited from sitepiont for me I have gained most of my skills and knowledge other places so sitepiont doesn’t have the same value to me.

If Hawk wanted all pat on the back everything is fine she probably would of started a thread called “why do you love sitepiont”. But thats not what it is it is “The Culture of The SitePoint Community - Your View

I think the ‘vibe’ at Sitepoint is overall pretty good… things could be worse, it could be like d*gitalp:nono:int!

This is exactly what I was going to post. Although it’s not directly related to the forums, for me, I visit the homepage and then navigate to the forums. When the homepage has “garbage” articles on it, I tend to just move on my way, and only end up in the forums when I’m looking for answers on a problem. used to publish only useful articles and tutorials. Now you see a few development articles smashed between random topics, lists, etc. that, as masm50 said, look like something from Mashable. Seeing that “garbage” is a turnoff for me personally. I’ve always known SitePoint as a place relating to web development. The slogan on the front page even says “Become a better web developer.” Yet now there seems to be much more “tech news” related articles versus straight up design and development articles and tutorials.

I know this is not something Hawk can necessarily change directly but that’s my two cents.

Hi HAWK! After thinking about your questions, I came up with some answers regarding the first one… I think that the comparison between years past versus present posts pertaining to things such as “free t-shirts”, “free books”, etc. has some ownership with this “making money” stigma. For example, currently, I see on the homepage feed a topic about “SitePoint T-shirts - What Went Wrong?” While I understand that the overall goal with a thread like this is probably not to generate income, I also understand, too, what message it implies to someone reading it–let’s make money through residual mediums, like, say, t-shirts!

Keeping in mind that I’ve accrued some time around here, I can honestly say that threads like this were never generated on the homepage of the forums 2 or 3 years ago. Back then, you saw nothing but threads that came from the visitor base about various issues strictly web design or development. Now, however, it seems as if there’s always some sort of “social network” element intertwined with whatever posts get generated on the homepage of the forums. I think this is what causes a lot of the panic around here–there’s just too much of the contemporary “social crap” now meshed into the forums. It’s kind of ironic, I guess, because this is a type of community, but personally, I’m so tired of this web 2.0 social network junk that I sometimes shun it. This is just my interpretation or feeling, of course…

Here’s some ideas I came up with to improve the proverbial community (my apologies if some or all have already been mentioned):

1.) Reduce the number of blog posts within the homepage feed of the forums. It’s somewhat redundant and half the time, if the user wishes to read more about these posts, they’ll have already clicked on the link on the page rather than clicking on it within the forum page.

2.) In the forums, why not try to generate more forum posts? For example, right now, we currently have a feed that generates approximately 14 or so posts from the forums varying in mixed sources (i.e. - some are “Highlighted Posts” while others may be archival feeds from past dates, etc. Instead of keeping solely with this routine, why not expand and refine this? For example, instead of just generating the said amount above, generate more and make the final product be organized into smaller, more refined blocks, etc. (similar to a checkerboard effect but not so similar…) I hope I’m making sense with this… Regardless, it would pave the way to more interaction from the visitors, expose more information as many feeds could possibly come from each or many of the forum sections (i.e. - JavaScript, PHP, ASP, etc.), and would definitely be stickier content than what we have now.

3.) Is it possible to integrate some form of video post feature? I know the required resources for something like this would be incredibly demanding, but just imagine how personalized it would be for each registered member… I know, I know… Probably a pipe dream.

Otherwise, I think what you’re doing around here is perfectly fine.
Keep up the great work!

it seems to me that some heavy contributors might feel betrayed in the sense that SP is making money while they are continuously building the SP forums that makes SP able to make those money.

as from my point of view, at the moment i’m just happy to learn and get tested here on SP.

and ds60 makes a big point: it’s a big community but does it runs it self? in the real world, we all pay money for the roads getting us to pubs to meet and chit-chat. we all pay taxes that make parks and gathering squares possible. those taxes give us the right to enrage when things are wrong.

here there are no taxes. if you want to give, give. if you want to take, take. as for the adverts, well, it’s like with women: we can all look, but touching is at your own expense :slight_smile: