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Re: ANS and the future of the list (Long)

OK, so I was curious enough about this thread to chase it through the
archives to it's origin, and then follow the discussion.  Having read Dan's
plan, I feel compelled to comment/advise...

Dan, please don't take the following as an attack on you or your ideas.
It's mostly just recommendations based upon my experience with similar
projects.  There are also some somewhat strong statements of my beliefs.
They're still not attacks on you - just a statement of where I stand and
what I think is right.

I applaud your willingness to host and administer the quattro mailing list,
and I admire your obvious energy and enthousiasm.  I just want to point out
that your plan may be a little mis-guided.  Hopefully my advice and opinions
will help you refine your plan into something potentially more successful.

> To elaborate a bit on my plans, I am hoping to turn it into a
> fee-based service, hopefully a one time fee, with the remainder
> of costs being covered by advertising and other sources.

If you cannot fund it entirely with advertising, then I advise you to forget
it.  I know whereof I speak, knowing folks who have tried this with alot
more popular cars than quattros: www.miata.net - which is now entirely
advertiser-supported, their attempt at a paid-membership club having failed
to attract enough members.  When push comes to shove, people won't pay for
what they think should be free (to them).  And I'm one of them.

Sure a few people have indicated their willingness to pay for such a thing,
but remember silence is not consent.  The remainder of the list membership
may feel differently (who knows?), and people tend to vote differently with
their wallets than with their keyboards anyway when the time comes.

> Some of you grumbled in the survey I took a few months ago
> about not wanting to ever pay for the list.  Look at it this
> way - how much have you saved by getting parts from a vendor
> you heard about on the list?  How much grief have you saved
> knowing that a certain dealer sucks?  And how glad were you
> to find a source of information and experts that can answer
> most tech questions?

That's not the point, though.  Sure, the list is a fantastic resource, but
that's because its open nature encourages a free exchange of information.
Why should the more experienced audiphiles pay money to dispense free advice
and information to newbies?  When people pay money, they expect something in
return and they're less likely to give of themselves.  The cool bunch of
people here on this list are especially giving as a general rule, but
they're still human.

> My goal is to turn the list into a type of online club, where
> there is something for everyone, with enough bang for the
> buck where if it does cost you $20-30/yr to belong, you
> would never once question the value (unlike other Audi clubs...)
> Archives, multiple lists, better web pages with detailed tech
> writeups, product reviews, etc.  When I say advertising, I mean
> banners and things like that.

You can set up a quattro- or audi-specific web site and sell advertisements
on it, but don't make the mistake of going the membership route.  I've seen
big multi-national corporations (the Discovery Channel - www.discovery.com)
try the club membership/access restricted angle and they had to bail
immediately and make it free access because people won't pay for access to
web sites.  If nobody will pay to join a club, and its survival requires a
certain level of membership then, well, it's gonna be in trouble right quick.

Additionally, I don't think it's right to take a list that has existed in
the free domain for all this time, and try to make it private and charge
admission.  While you may have put alot of work into maintaining the list (I
know it's true, and I salute you for it), you don't own the content that
people have posted.  You also don't own the original concept - you're just
the temporary guardian of the original concept of a free and open list.

I don't want to sound like a jerk, but I feel strongly about this.  If you
try to convert the list to paid-membership, I will immediately start a new
*free* list, giving freely of the hardware, software and internet access
that I personally own, author and buy to make it happen.  You see, I don't
believe it should cost money to participate in a list such as this.  And I
don't think I'm alone in that opinion.

If you want to set up an adjunct web site (which you sort of already have
started) and sell advertising on it, then more power to you.  If it has good
_original_ content and is itself a good resource, then you'll get the hits
you need to keep advertisers happy and therefore pay for the site.  Just
don't forget that the list was the chicken and the web site is the egg it
laid and, in this case, the chicken came first.  The list will survive any
attempt to commercialize it or suffocate it because someone like me will
always come along and re-invent the original concept of a free and open
mailing list.

> To do all this, I first need a domain (got it) but I need to know
> that AoA is not going to swoop in and shut it down at some
> point because of trademark violations or something similar, as
> was the case with the Audi Club of America (so they tell me).

Even if they don't come after you immediately for trademark infringement,
management will change and somebody eventually will.  This just means that
you have to use a name that isn't trademarked by Audi... if you want to be
safe from their scum-suckers^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^Hlawyers.  I wish I had
some good ideas to offer for alternate domain names, but I just sat here and
thunk until smoke came outta my ears, without coming up with a single good
name.  I'm sure the list membership could help you out with ideas...

> Once I have a domain, I need to set a machine, get an internet
> connection that is up all the time and large enough to carry
> all this traffic.  Just to give an idea of costs, we're talking
> $10-15000 in hardware, and about $600-800 a month for the
> connection.  It is doable, and I am still trying to make
> it all come together.

If you do do a web site, I'd advise looking into hosting your web site on a
WSP (Web Site Provider).  It will cost alot less since they have economy of
scale on their side (I know this from experience too - I consult for a large
WSP).  It eliminates the up-front equipment cost, and the monthly cost will
still be less than $600-800.  The lower cost makes it more likely that you
will be able to cover those costs and make the site viable.

This advice is free, and some might even argue that it's worth what you paid
for it.  :-)

Once again, please realize that this isn't meant to be an attack on you
Dan.  Just some advice with my opinions mixed in.  I hope you'll take it in
the spirit that it was given.


72 Pantera: Rocky       91 Miata: Steve (the bionic car)      97 Miata: Nadia
96 A4Q: Rudolf             84 RZ350: Tasmanian Devil