A few weeks ago, something I had wished for, for years, came true when I bought the entire Developer Shed network of sites … and I’m so excited!
Where do I start?….Well, back in 2002, my buddy Darrin Ward had created a Google Dance Tool to alert people when Google was Dancing (updating). Towards the end of 2002 Darrin also started an SEO forum called SEO Chat (today a Developers Shed property), and I was the second member to join SEO Chat after Darrin.
I didn’t comment a lot in there…but I was there every day for at least an hour for several years (FYI, in the profiles, the time on site is not accurate, that function was added years later). Though I didn’t write much in the forum, I had communications and relationships with many of the members….there were many SEO’s in there who I considered my friends, and I really felt that it was a wonderful community.
A few years after starting SEO Chat, Darrin called me up and offered to sell me the SEO Chat Forum and the Google Dance Tool, for 1/2 the price that Developers Shed was going to give him. I was wayyyy flattered that Darrin would offer this responsibility to me…I believe Darrin knew that I’d take care of his baby…but at the time, I was saving up for an adoption (never did adopt, we got lucky and had 2 boys), but at the time, though highly flattered, I couldn’t buy it. So, Darrin sold to Developers Shed; which was sold later to Ziff Davis Enterprise.
In 2006, for various reasons, including that the site started to change into something that I wasn’t willing to use, I left the community. I also wrote about SEO Chat in a blog post in 2006 where I talked about SEO Chat Dirt; I was referencing a poll that I had taken where only 1% of my blog readers felt that SEO Chat was their favorite forum. In response to that I said,
“…I’ve since always looked at it [SEO Chat] as ‘I could have had it’, and I was really sad to see the 1% number for people who still ‘lived’ there…man, I wish I could take it over now…..naw…. I don’t have time for that!”
There have been times over the years when I’ve ended up at SEO Chat, I would get sad to see it plastered with ads, which I felt took away from the content and the community…and the forums themselves somehow got buried in the site architecture. I’ve wanted to own it since about 2004 before Darrin sold it, and I’ve wanted to try to “fix” it every day since.
About once a year for the past few years I’d try to contact Ziff Davis Enterprise to see if it would be possible to buy SEO Chat from them….but it seems that my attempts to make contact never reached the right person. Also, over the past several months, I’ve stated several times that I’d like to buy SEO Chat…and I tried again to contact them a few months ago, but I never heard back…then my Chief Innovation Ninja, Chris Labatt-Simon, a few weeks ago said he’d try to contact them…and, low and behold, he was able to use his contacts to connect with the right person at Ziff Davis Enterprise…Chris asked me if I wanted to ask them if they’d sell the entire Developer Shed Network of sites..and I said “Sure, Why not…let’s ask”…
…I’ll leave out some of the details in the middle..but anyways, a few days later (yes, a few days), I was the Very Proud Owner of the entire Developers Shed Network of sites…
The sites in the Developer Shed Network include:
- SEO Chat and the Forum and the SEO tools
- Dev Shed and the Forum
- ASP Free and the Forum
- Dev Mechanic and the forum and the webmaster tools
- Dev Articles and the Forum
- Dev Hardware and the Forum
- Tutorialized and the Forum and about 40k webmaster tutorials organized and reviewed
- Scripts.com and over 16,000 scripts organized and reviewed
- Codewalkers and the Forum
- and some other great sites which we have to revive.
The day after the final paperwork was signed and the money changed hands, Chris and I were in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, at the Developer Shed office, to meet with the devoted Developer Shed staff.
The staff I met were beyond expectations. There was James, Charles, Eric, Jenny, and Terri, all very highly dedicated to the communities…These were people whom had been working on Developer Shed for a combined time of over 28 years…these guys have been the “unsung heroes” behind the scenes…even when there wasn’t someone telling them what had to be done, and even though they weren’t reporting back to anyone, they kept working..they kept writing, they kept doing what they could with the resources that were allotted to them…they really care…I’ve met them, I’ve talked with them all and I believe that they are overjoyed with our future plans for these sites…and I believe they know that I highly care about them…and that I care about the community…and with me, users come first before advertising…They’re excited about the updates and changes and so am I. I’ve dreamed of this for years, and I want to give the users their community back, not be bombarded with ads that make the user experience poor.
Well….I don’t have all the answers today….this happened very fast and very recently. It was only a couple of weeks ago that I finalized the deal, and met with the Developer Shed team to talk about the future visions for the sites.
At the moment, we’re working to move the sites to our own servers. Since we don’t have full control at the moment, there’s only so much we have been able to do so far…but at least, you’ll notice that in all the forums, the usability has greatly increased over the past few days from what is was prior – way less advertising in your face. The main site areas will be next…
Will we do advertising in the future? Yes, I’m sure we will…BUT, I will NOT sacrifice the usability and the user experience for the sake of making money.
I pledge to these communities to improve the sites and to make the site for the users first and foremost.
Below are some of our initial ideas and plans for the sites:
- We will be updating all sites to a much newer version of vBulletin.
- Each site will get a new homepage layout to encourage people to participate in the forums.
- We’ll be building up the Twitter and Facebook communities for each site and integrating these into the forums.
- We’ll be fixing, removing, and adding new tools for the sites.
- We’ll be removing all advertising areas that interfere with the usability of the site.
- We’ll be ordering shirts to send to those who have contributed to these communities over the years.
- I’ve read several threads in the forums where the users give ideas to make these sites better, and I will be incorporating many of these ideas over the next few months and with the redesign of the sites.
- There are several more things that we’ll be doing, all geared towards making the community stronger and better.
I believe that, with our resources, we can make these sites way greater than they’ve ever been, and take the traffic to record levels in time. I also believe in karma…and I believe that by treating these the moderators, the admins, the Developer Shed employees, and each community with respect, that it will pay off in the end.
We will be working to improve the usability of the sites, listening and acting on what each community wants, and together we’ll strive to make all the sites and their communities the best that they can be. Though the Developer Shed Network is very strong now, a year from now I’d expect looking at analytics trends, and it will appear as if they rose from the ashes. These sites and communities haven’t seen nearly their best days yet, not hardly. I will do what I can to make the sites and the forums a great user experience…that’s my job…the rest is up to the users, I believe that if the community members can take pride in their community and help it grow, than each site has amazing potential to become huge communities, sharing communication and knowledge.
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