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The future of macosxhints.com... Site News
The macosxhints.com site has taken off, far faster and bigger than I ever would have imagined. As of today, there are nearly 1,100 registered users, pulling nearly 700mb of data per day from the site. This led me to post a message late last night concerning the future direction of the site (you can read the original post in the remainder of this article). Since I have no revenue streams, the costs of maintaining this growing site were looking a bit daunting.

I asked for help and suggestions, and featured a poll offering some alternatives for the future direction of the site. I was amazed to wake up this morning to a number of emails with positive feedback and great suggestions, and over 35 responses to the poll in about five hours' of night time. Thanks to you, the macosxhints readers, I now have several good leads for new providers with substantially lower costs and unmetered bandwidth, which will alleviate my number one issue. A number of you have also donated to help cover the costs of running the site, which I greatly appreciate.

Based on all the input I've received, the future looks good for macosxhints.com. Read the rest of this article if you'd like to see what's going to happen here in the near future (summary - nothing bad!), as well as the story I posted last night.

Based on the feedback I received, here's what the future holds for macosxhints.com:
  • A move to a new web hosting company, probably in the next week or two. I'm talking with a couple right now, and I'll make a final decision shortly. I'll make an announcement here when a decision is reached.

  • The continuation of the 'shareweb' concept for covering site expenses. If you find macosxhints useful, and want to help support the site, you can make a small donation towards the expenses. Any money received will go directly to cover operating expenses, purchase additional services from the hosting company, or develop new features for the site (such as a bulletin board system for help requests). Donation information is visible in the 'Support macosxhints' box on the left of the screen.

  • No advertising banners or tiles, for as long as I can handle the economics. I still prefer to run a content-rich site without the distractions of banner ads, and I will do my best to keep it that way. With a lower-cost web hosting solution and some reader contributions, I don't forsee a need for banner ads in the near future. The only exception may be a banner for the webhosting firm, in exchange for better rates.

  • My continued attention to the site on a daily basis, to insure that macosxhints remains a valuable resource for Mac users worldwide.
Thank you so much for the great ideas, and for helping to make this site everything that it is. Mac users are, indeed, a special group!

-rob.

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Here's the original text from yesterday:

macosxhints readers: In the back of my mind, I knew this day would come sometime. I had no idea that it would come so quickly. What follows is a detailed look at the economics of running macosxhints.com, and the implications of those economics on the future of the site.

The macosxhints.com site has taken off, far faster and bigger than I ever would have imagined. As of today, there are nearly 1,100 registered users, pulling nearly 700mb of data per day from the site. While I'm thrilled at the prospect of the site helping so many people, I'm terrified of the financial implications. At the rate April is proceeding, macosxhints will reach the monthly transfer limit by Tuesday, the 10th of the month. By month's end, the overage charges could exceed $150 for April alone. Since macosxhints.com is a hobbyist site, and has no revenue streams of any sort, I need to make a decision (fairly quickly) regarding the future of the site. As much as I'd love to fund it forever at whatever cost it reaches, that's simply not feasible.

macosxhints.com is a non-affiliated, personally maintained site that generates $0 in revenue - there are no ad banners anywhere, which is the way I like it. However, I hope you can all understand why the long-term outlook for continued growth in site traffic is something I need to address quickly. With no income, and continually increasing expenses, the financial implications are quite scary. I did not launch macosxhints with any expectations of huge revenue streams, but similary, I didn't start it to go broke, either. I established an annual estimated budget for the site, which it now appears I will exceed at the end of this month, after only six months in operation. This does not make for pleasant conversations with my wife about my hobby, and it makes thinking about future increases in costs quite unpleasant.

So I'm asking for your help in determining the future of macosxhints.com -- after all, the site is here for you, the viewers, and I feel you should have a chance to voice your opinions. There are four possible options for macosxhints as I see it:
  1. Sell the domain and content to an interested party that has the resources to support it, and back out of my role with the site entirely.

  2. Join a web-based advertising organization and place banners and tiles on the site, with the hope of generating revenue equal to or greater than expenses.

  3. Attempt to make macosxhints.com a "shareweb" site, via a voluntary contribution to help cover the expenses associated with running the site. If the site is useful to enough people, then a donation of $5 - $10 from some percentage of those readers should cover operating costs, and maybe even allow for new features to be added (a "help request" bulletin board, for example).

  4. Close the site down.
Of the four options, number three represents my personal choice. I do not want to step back from the site, as I love what I'm doing, so choice #1 isn't good. I really dislike ad banners and tiles, so choice #2 isn't good. Choice #4 isn't good because not only am I not involved, but the resource isn't available for the Mac community.

Whatever route the site takes, if it stays online, I estimate it will cost somewhere between $2,000 and $7,500 to fund for the remainder of the year. I have no idea what will happen to traffic in July when OS X ships pre-loaded on boxes, which is why there's such a wide range.

I've added two things to the site tonight to help answer this question. The first is the Amazon Honor System badge at screen left. This system puts amazon.com's payment processing power to work for small independent sites. With a couple of clicks, visitors can donate a small amount of money to help support the site. I get the donation, net of a small transaction fee that Amazon takes for processing the payment. If you believe in macosxhints, and want too see it stick around with my involvement and without banner ads, please donate a few dollars to help cover the expenses. I'm considering this a "beta test" of the 'shareweb' site concept.

The second thing I've added is a new poll, which asks for your opinion on the four options that I've listed here. I'd like to know what the collective community thinks the future direction of the site should be -- it is, after all, here for your benefit. Knowing that the economic outlook is unworkable for me at present, what course of action would you choose for the site?

The last thing I want to do is close, sell, or otherwise change macosxhints.com. However, the economic realities of running a large site with no revenue stream are now beginning to hit home, hard. I invest roughly 20-30 hours of my time on the site each week, and have no problem continuing to do that in the future (I love that part of it!). I just cannot make that investment of time, and a significantly large investment of money, and justify it to myself or my family. Call me short sighted for not thinking this through when I launched the site, but I really just wanted to get online and start collecting and publishing hints!

Thanks for reading this far, and let me know what you think -- add your thoughts to comments on the poll, as opposed to this article (which is already too long, so I've disabled them here).

rob griffiths
April 8, 2001
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The future of macosxhints.com... | 11 comments | Create New Account
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Reducing Hosting Costs
Authored by: monickels on Apr 08, '01 11:39:28AM

You can reduce your bandwith requirements, and thus your hosting costs, by serving your images off a free server. A quick check shows that the current size of the main page download is 102K. Of that, 90K are files currently on your site and of those 90K, 49K are images. By moving your images to a free server--such as iDisk--you can therefore cut your bandwith requirements roughly in half. I do this for one of my sites and it works perfectly and invisibly. If not a permanent solution, it could be an excellent stop-gap.



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Reducing Hosting Costs
Authored by: Anonymous on Apr 08, '01 12:37:44PM

the only technical issue with this is that if the other site isn't available, then images may not come up, or could actually slow down loading of the page. [the key to avoiding this is to always specify image dimensions in the html]

-perry



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Amazon vs. Paypal
Authored by: Anonymous on Apr 08, '01 12:03:39PM

How efficient is the Amazon payment system in comparison to using paypal? I'm definitely willing to contribute something, but I want to make sure that the largest amountof my money is reaching you guys.

And also, trim down the page size a bit. :) Serve images off a free server or reduce or remove them.



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Amazon vs. Paypal
Authored by: robg on Apr 08, '01 12:30:04PM

Amazon takes 15% as their fee. They were easier to set up than Pay Pal, and more people have Amazon accounts, which also helps. If you want to make sure that 100% of what you give goes to the site, feel free to mail me a check -- just send an email for instructions.

I'm working on reducing the graphics, too -- I cut the logo by 50% this morning, and I'm working on revising the category labels as well.

Thanks for the feedback!

-rob.



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Amazon vs. Paypal
Authored by: Anonymous on Apr 08, '01 05:18:21PM

Its my personal opinion that Amazon is looking to make a KILLING on this tip jar system. 15% is HUGE! Paypal charges $.30 for a $15 tip. Amazon chares $2.25, or 750% of what paypal charges. Not to mention the fact that they get to advertise on any site using this system. I feel donors should me made aware of their options in donation systems.

I don't think its necessarily true that more site visitors have amazon accounts rather than paypal accounts. It depends upon your users. If this were a quilting circle, then more visitors would probably have used Amazon. But the average user of this site is moderately tech savvy, has probably bought or sold something on ebay, and is willing to set up a paypal account. (I believe paypal account referals can still bring in $5.)

Thats my $.02. And you'll geta bit more once you set up a paypal account. : )



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Amazon vs. Paypal
Authored by: robg on Apr 08, '01 08:23:25PM

There's now a PayPal button in the box - thanks for the feedback! So, in order of highest percentage of donation going to the site, it would be a check, then PayPal, then Amazon. I promise to uphold my end of the arrangement, and keep working to make macosxhints.com the best place on the web for OS X info!

-rob.



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Cheapest E-Donation
Authored by: Anonymous on Apr 09, '01 01:20:14AM

The best balance between ease of use and % of money getting to its destination is $15 through paypal.

Paypal charges $.30 for up to $15, and then $.30 + 2.2% for larger amounts. That means that only 2% of the money goes to paypal with a $15 donation.

This changes on April 19th. (They are a bit unclear on the details.) But i think it changes so that there isn't this $15 sweet spot - it'll be so that the more you pay, the cheaper the transaction.

But then again, in one place it says something about charges being different for credit card charges. Since I didn't have the cash in my account and didn't want to wait the 3-4 days, I made the payment anyway, charging some of it to my credit card. I would like to verify that you guys did receive $14.70.



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Willing to subscribe IF ...
Authored by: Anonymous on Apr 09, '01 08:07:41PM

I and plenty of others too. I bet, would be willing to pay a small subscription fee (say 4.95/m or $14.85/quarter or $59/year ( [with 1,100 users, that's $5.4k/m, though you can count on 50% turn-over a year], that would still start you on a new career. :-)

Now the IF part:
If the postings weren't just a random assemblage of threads but were instead indexed into a taxonomy of categories just like the material at a public library is organized by:
- author (easy),
- title (easy,)
- subject (uh, 'interesting', as any single entry can be found to have possibly more than a single subject.)

That means that someone would have to go through all the threads, index all messages with content while not bothering to index the useless messages (those saying that somebody found something somewhere but not the who, what or where [these are basically just noise,]) while maintaining the taxonomy tree and putting it on a 'search' page where people would be able to search by more than just "key-words"

(Its a well known fact that people rarely use words in the way the dictionary defines them. "Sharp threads, dude!" is an utterrance reffering to nothing sharp, potentially without threads, nor a dandy in a Western movie.)



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hmmm
Authored by: robg on Apr 09, '01 08:24:35PM

great thoughts, and we've discussed such things on the geeklog development list. at this time, though, i don't have the skills (lots of intense PHP and mySQL coding required) nor time (it takes all the free time i can muster just to review and post the stories) to make those sorts of changes -- and i still want some time left over to actually use the system i keep writing about ;-).

that's why i'm only asking for $10 per year, as i recognize the constraints on the structure. it's getting difficult to find things, and there's some noise (although i try to keep it down). i have some thoughts on making it a bit more useful, but they won't happen over night.

at $10 a year per reader, and assuming only a small percentage contribute, i'm just aiming to cover my costs. if there's enough left over to take my wife out to dinner for putting up with the hobby, that's a bonus :-).

thanks for the feedback;

-rob.



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Suggestion for a hosting company
Authored by: schuss on Apr 12, '01 02:16:51PM

don't make a decision on a new hosting provider until you talk to servercentral.net. they've got very reasonable rates for unlimited bandwidth providing, and offer php, sql, ftp acces - all the good toys. i've been hosted there since july, and their customer support has been absolutely stellar.

they're featured on deal-mac quite a bit, are mac-friendly and (i think) even advertise discounts for deal-mac readers.

good luck. btw, the site's awesome.



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story is kinda stale..
Authored by: captain_smarts on Apr 14, '01 09:25:50PM

..so i hope people read it.

i just registered and you have a nice option *turn off story logos*

why no apply this to the entire site? i have it checked off on slashdot and the page
is slim and trim.

i'm sure the 1100+ members would check this if was going to help you reduce costs.

look into that free hosting thing as well, it's a good idea.



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