1. Daniel
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    Daniel I'm sure you've heard the rumors. Founder Staff Contributor

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    We are back online! Server fundraiser comments.

    Discussion in 'Announcements' started by Daniel, Jan 10, 2014.

    We are back online!! Thank you all so much for your donations. In less than four hours we were able to raise enough money to bring WF back online.

    WritingForums.org went offline earlier today due to an unpaid hosting bill. Up until a few months ago, the forum's advertising revenue covered our entire server bill. After the software upgrade, advertising revenue was cut by two thirds. Since then, I’ve been paying the difference out of pocket. You might have noticed an increase in ads over the past month – this was my last attempt at covering the different between forum income and costs. Due to personal financial issues, I was (and still am) simply unable to pay the server bill – as a result, our web host suspended our account. I was unaware they would suspend it today, and I should have sought your help sooner. I re-directed the domain, and we ran a server fundraiser to bring the forums back online. We raised $350 in less than four hours. Well done guys.

    I’m truly grateful and humbled. I’m amazed and impressed by the speed in which we were able to bring the community back online, and am thankful for the generous donations. I can also say that I’m not surprised – I know WF means a lot to many of you, as well as myself, and I knew we'd find a way back online. I thought it'd take a few days though, at least! Thank you all so much. You guys rock!

    Now, I only bring this up to address any concerns because I’d be wondering it myself, but if you’re thinking “you’re unable to pay the hosting bill, how are you running a contest with $500 in prizes?!", then the truth is that when the contest was launched, neither myself nor the website was in the current financial situation. Fortunately, contest contestants, I budgeted the contest prizes into an amount of money I knew I was coming into in two weeks from now – just enough to cover the contest. So no worries there!

    I'm sorry this happened. It's a little embarrassing but there was nothing more I could do. Thank you all for helping.
     
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2014
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  2. Daniel
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    Daniel I'm sure you've heard the rumors. Founder Staff Contributor

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    Unfortunately, I’m still not in a position to pay the entirety of the hosting bill next month or in the near future. I’m doing everything in my power to prevent site downtime again, and hope I’ll be able to. Rather than simply crossing that bridge in a month when I come to it, I’d like to be highly proactive.

    The speed in which we were able to raise these needed funds gave me the idea of making WF more community-funded.

    Let me run this by you guys – please give me your honest feedback. If it’s a bad idea, I’ll explore other options to raise the money.

    The monthly bill for our server is $170. I also have a secondary mailing server (which I’ve currently removed to cut costs, but is normally $80/month, and is a desired asset because it enables us to send email notifications more quickly and more efficiently, and also enables us to send a monthly newsletter). So our total minimum expenses are $170, or $250 with the mailing server.

    Could we hold a monthly fundraiser to cover server costs (at least until I can turn WF profitable enough to cover expenses through advertising)? Once the goal is reached, the entire site would be ad-free for the duration of the month for all registered members. I know that's not a huge incentive to donate, that's why I'm running this by you. Maybe make the donations Supporter Membership, but treat it more like a fundraiser. I’d be willing to consider other perks or benefits if you have any ideas.

    I really don’t mean to ask for even more money after this awesome, successful, and much needed fundraiser, so if you think this is a bad idea, that’s cool. Or is it a good idea? Would you donate? Would it work? Do you have any other ideas for raising money or monetizing WF so we can cover our server/hosting bills each month? Please let me know what you think.

    And again, thanks to everyone who’s donated today to bring WF back online. You kept us alive! I had no idea how I’d be able to pay the server bill if fundraising failed. Thank you!!

    Daniel
     
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2014
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  3. Glacial
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    Glacial Member

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    No comments on how to carry on with things here - still brand new here. Just wanted to say congratulations on getting everything back up and running so quickly. It's really impressive how dedicated people are to this site, and you should be very proud about what you've accomplished. Hope you get things up and running smoothly again.

    Cheers,
    Glacial
     
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  4. A.M.P.
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    A.M.P. People Buy My Books for the Bio Photo Supporter Contributor

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    I wish I could have donated, hopefully in the near (Preferably very near) future I'll be able to help out if needed.

    I think a fundraiser is very doable considering it's only $170. I've seen websites with smaller userbase raise much more each month and I think we all love this place just as much.

    Maybe we can think of a way to increase traffic to the site? As more traffic, more ads being viewed/clicked, more revenue.
    No idea HOW though.

    Oh, and THANK YOU to everyone who helped out in any way.
    I personally sincerely appreciate being able to come back here day after day.
     
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  5. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    What if Supporters had a sub-forum accessible to them for self-promo of their published works? I know that wouldn't be a perfect application across the board - not everyone who is a Supporter is going to have published works to promo - but it might give incentive to those who do to become Supporters.
     
  6. JJ_Maxx
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    JJ_Maxx Banned

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    ...and we're back! Hooray! Everyone came together and got us back up and running and I think that's fantastic.

    About the future of WF.org... It's so difficult of a situation. On one hand, I play World of Warcraft and pay $15/month for it, yet I spend more time on here then in Azeroth. But on the other hand, the reason we would donate is because of the connections we've built here, but that only really works with us senior members. New members might not see the value in donating, simply because there are other writing forums that they could use without donating any money. I'm not saying everyone would be required to donate to use the site, but someone would have to, or else the forums will go down again.

    Unfortunately, I can't think of any solutions off the top of my head, but maybe together our hive mind will come up with something.

    Either way it's good to be back. :)
     
  7. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I didn't mind the fund raiser, I've always been willing to pay my share. I don't understand why it seemed so poorly planned. And my biggest complaint is with the attempt by the Fundraze website to invade my space, post my real name, take my FaceBook data, all that marketing extortion of data irks me.
     
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2014
  8. JJ_Maxx
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    JJ_Maxx Banned

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    I agree. Could that website be anymore brazen in its attempts to wrap it's tentacles around every part of your Internet existence? My goodness. All I wanted to do was donate and comment, but unless I gave them full access to my Facebook or Goggle+ account, I couldn't. I would have preferred if you cut out the middle man and just gave us your paypal address and I just send it direct.
     
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  9. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Yeah, it would be a lot better done internally with a direct donation though Paypal address.
     
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  10. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think JJ has a good point -- it seems like many of the donations were from folks I recognize, and who are here pretty frequently. (And I'm not even sure that a lot of members across the pond were even aware of the situation, due to the time difference.) But I don't think that new people would be willing to pay for a site where they don't have any kind of entrenched interest.

    I'm curious as to exactly how/why the software upgrade resulted in a 2/3 loss of advertising revenue. Is it because fewer ads are available? Is it the increased costs? Is there any way we can recapture that advertising?

    What sort of fundraiser did you have in mind?

    I wonder if maybe the writing workshop should be limited to people who pay? Maybe even just $5 or $10? Although, that might be hard for the younger folks here, who don't have credit cards, etc. I don't know - I'm just kind of brainstorming.
    It's hard for a lot of people to pay extra for things, especially at this time of year. I was able to give the $25, but I don't know that I'd be able to continue to do that every month.

    I also didn't love how it made me give my Facebook information, although I saw on the message I could donate directly, which is what I ended up doing. (My AMEX number was stolen last year, so AMEX gave me a new card with a new number. I was lazy and never updated it on paypal, and the few times I've used it lately, I've just made a direct transfer from my bank. But the pop up window wouldn't let me update the card or proceed -- it just churned and churned. So I had to just go to paypal directly and donate to the address you gave. So it was possible to donate that way, although even to comment on the fundraiser site, it made me let it access my Facebook info. (Although it was kind of neat to see all the real life names.)
     
  11. JJ_Maxx
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    JJ_Maxx Banned

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    I've seen other sites where becoming a 'premium member' bypassed the workshop requirements. Perhaps we could increase the requirements a little to make paying for premium more tantalizing?
     
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  12. Lewdog
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    Lewdog Come ova here and give me kisses! Supporter Contributor

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    Thank you to all that donated. I wish I was in better financial circumstances to have done so myself. I was going to donate a small amount but for some reason Paypal wouldn't let me donate directly from my savings account. Hopefully in the future I'll be able to help out more. How about doing some kind of cheap lottery?
     
  13. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yes. Do it. And I don't really care about being ad-free; the site has value, with or without ads.

    The only thing that would stop me from donating would be any nervousness about the security of the intervening money-handling folks. I have a reasonable level of trust in PayPal, for example. Though I can imagine getting paranoid enough that only snail-mailing would make me completely comfortable, because I'm weird that way. So I'd suggest making both options possible.

    But, absolutely, do the fundraiser, and I'd suggest adding a little buffer (maybe a goal of $300 or $350 instead of the monthly cost of $250) so that you have some security for bad months.
     
  14. JJ_Maxx
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    JJ_Maxx Banned

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    Again, in a medium such as this, you are limited to the 'products' you can monetize.

    Colored names.
    Larger signature.
    Larger avatar.
    Gold stars.
    Removal of limits.
    Etc...

    After that you are just asking for charity. To me, this forum has worth, and that worth can equate to dollars, but that line is going to range with every individual.
     
  15. Daniel
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    Daniel I'm sure you've heard the rumors. Founder Staff Contributor

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    I like the brainstorming, and I think better and improved Supporter donations might be the way to go. I'm not really convinced there's enough people who'd be willing to pay/donate to advertise their work simply because I don't think there are enough people with published works on this site. Correct me if I'm wrong. I'm also sure an advertising section would be good for the site (maybe it could be, though). I don't get me wrong, I haven't completely written off the idea yet.

    I guess a question I might ask would be what are you guys (and/or writers in general) will to pay for (within the context of online writing resources).

    More traffic would help greatly, but usually grows slowly over time. Generally, traffic comes from search engines, referral websites (think a link on Reddit or another writing site), word of mouth, and returning members.

    Ranking #1 in Google for key terms like "creative writing," "writing forum," "writing resources," and the like are the key drivers of traffic. A little more on that later in this post.

    It's true, if we're talking donations I suspect almost all of them would come from long-standing senior members. Donations would of course be option with some sort of benefit.

    I see how that can be annoying. If we have to do a similar sort of fundraiser in the future, I'll try to find a different service.

    It was listed in the details/explanation, someone even used it, but it was probably overlooked by everyone, buried in a paragraph somewhere.

    I'm glad you ask - I absolutely love talking about this sort of stuff. :D

    The main reason is that when we changed from vBulletin to Xenforo software, almost all the URLs of our pages, threads, blogs, etc., were rewritten by the new software. This was unavoidable. I knew it would happen, but the pros of upgrading outweighed the cons. Since the URLs changed, we re-directed the old addresses to the new XF ones. However, Google hates it when you change the address of a web page, so as a result, we were moved from #1 and #2 for terms that bring us traffic every month, such as "writing forum," "writing forums," "writing help," etc., to further down the page (rank #6, #11, etc.). This results in a decrease in visibility of WF in the listings, which translates to less visitors. The upgrade literally cut our monthly traffic in half (though curiously, not posts per day).

    Additionally, perhaps partly due to the decrease in traffic and rankings, the amount we make per click has decreased and I haven't been contacted by a private advertiser in 5+ months. It is not increased costs. The best thing that could happen at this point is a return to our old rankings for keywords. I think we'll get there eventually, but it might still be a while. Rankings are calculated through hundreds of factors, including the number of links to a web page, the quality of source website, social signals (links and mentions on social media), website content quality, website speed, etc.

    I was thinking simply a fundraiser similar to today's with a target goal, and a progress tracker, basically a widget displayed on the sidebar of the site. If the donations (or donations/Supporter membership) for the month reach the target, the entire site is ad-free (except for guests). Then any other benefits or perks we can think of. Maybe you guys have some better ideas.

    An interesting thought. Maybe if the Writing Workshop was somehow more advance (e.g., guaranteed number of reviews, guaranteed quality, no review requirements, etc.) Charging for the workshop 100% I think would turn people away, and I doubt too many people would donate.
     
  16. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Your Supporter setup doesn't seem to have a way to just fork over money, period, without choosing a particular benefit. I'd suggest adding that.

    I'd also suggest making the link more prominent--I saw an ad on the top right once, but it doesn't always show, and I don't know where else the link lives. You could tack it onto several places--"become a supporting member" under Members, for example, and "wanna purchase some resources?" under Purchased Resources, and "Support WritingForums!" as a new tab to the right of the "What's new?" tab, and so on.
     
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2014
  17. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    As long as we have your attention, Daniel, how about an update on the progress of the Sci-Fi contest judging? Hmmmm? :)
     
  18. A.M.P.
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    A.M.P. People Buy My Books for the Bio Photo Supporter Contributor

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    Well, that could be something we offer.
    I haven't seen too many sites offering this (Or maybe they all do.)

    If you are a subscribed member, there would be a special member group that WILL give you two reviews minimum (maybe a strong board of 10 or so members) if you post it in the paid review section.
    The reviews could consist of a preset template or a similar one the reviewer can make up (So long as it's as equal or as good. You know, keep the review personal)

    Members would be limited to 1 review per week (As to not spam) and can even be denied the privilege if they post content that is obviously written in 5 minutes with no edits just so the reviewers aren't obligated to have their eyes glaze over.

    Bonus for the reviewers, they could maybe get X months free subscription per year for their time or some other prestige in case they need incentive.

    I think we have some very strong, and even published, writers here that could give really good advice and certainly worth the small subscription fee (or donation perk?)
    They'd get their moneys worth plus the no-ads, exclusive forums, and whatever else you can offer.

    One other thing, at no point offer a chat channel that is directly associated or posted on the site.
    Or our posting will go way down and most members might actually do everything via chat than actually use the forums. Just my two cents.

    Keep the forum, a forum.
     
  19. Lewdog
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    Lewdog Come ova here and give me kisses! Supporter Contributor

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    I actually gave this idea to the owner of another board, but what about the idea of contacting some publishers and offering beta reader work on this site. You could then have people here beta read, and the money from doing the beta reading could go towards paying the server fees?
     
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  20. A.M.P.
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    A.M.P. People Buy My Books for the Bio Photo Supporter Contributor

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    That'd be interesting depending how the details would work.
    Some people are actually into that.

    Just, lets not offer a member for member review, kinda deal.
    I think some people here would hate to say no or be bothered by others for it.
    I think enough of us offer a gander to keep everyone happy at the moment. Or so I found.
     
  21. Lewdog
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    Lewdog Come ova here and give me kisses! Supporter Contributor

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    Realize I don't mean charging for reviews in the work shop, but having publishers send random work from various authors they have already signed, that they want some beta reader reactions for.
     
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2014
  22. A.M.P.
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    A.M.P. People Buy My Books for the Bio Photo Supporter Contributor

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    Oh, I know.
    That was just a slight addition on my part in case the idea crossed anyone's mind.
     
  23. the1
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    the1 Active Member

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    I will be sure to donate if fundraisers become a monthly event.

    I did not even notice that the site was down, probably due to the fact that I was sleeping when this all happened.
     
  24. Thomas Kitchen
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    Thomas Kitchen Proofreader in the Making Contributor

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    This may be a stupid idea as I don't have a clue about how this type of thing works, but if it's pay per click, couldn't every member just click an advertisement and you get more money, @Daniel ? :p

    By the way, a huge thank you to all who donated. I wanted to myself, but I'm also not in a great financial situation right now, and I have other clubs and collections to pay for. I do know that considering the amount of time I've been here, I should have donated already, so once I get some more money in to pay you, I'll pay a little more to compensate for the time I've been on here.

    Thanks for the superb site and community! :D
     
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2014
  25. A.M.P.
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    A.M.P. People Buy My Books for the Bio Photo Supporter Contributor

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    Just a quick note, do not click on the same ad or multiple ads like crazy over and over.
    The ad company can easily see where those clicks are coming from and if the same person does it over and over to generate false "views/clicks" they can stop paying Daniel.
    Click on one ad, now and then, at best.

    Correct me if I misunderstand how this stuff works.
     
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