On the new digs and USSM in general

DMZ · April 26, 2006 at 11:56 pm · Filed Under Site information 

The plan was to scrape enough money out of T-shirt sales, Google ads, Amazon affiliate links, a complicated Moose-napping scheme and whatnot to afford to move somewhere swanky that could host USSM without falling down (this costs more than you’d think) while still having a cushion of a couple months hosting bills. At the rate we were accumulating money, it was going to take us another couple months to get there (T-shirt sales went well initially, but the Google/Amazon stuff was barely going to pay to keep the doors open, no matter my ad tinkering).

So enter digital.forest.

They’re local. And for no reason I understand, they’re helping. After much discussion of what we needed and our current problem, they offered us a deal we could not turn down, no matter our meager bankroll. So we moved ahead of plan, which is fine with me, because that plan meant we were playing chicken with the user exprience: while picking up users and growing quickly, the site slowness and server errors would make it harder and harder to come and read. I was worried, to paraphrase Yogi, that we’d soon be so popular that no one would come here any more because it’s too crowded.

We don’t have a Beowulf cluster of supercomputers here at USSM Labs, crunching stats and inventing new defensive measures on its own. But this so far seems much, much better than our old digs. I don’t think the site went down during the game thread tonight (though, in fairness, not everyone’s over here yet due to the way server change information gets spread). That makes me grin stupidly. You have no idea what a pain that was.

We also have a lot more bandwith to play with, which hopefully means we can do some more photos, and we’re still hoping to get some podcasts up so you can listen to us joke around while riding the bus to the Mariners game, or… I don’t really know. We’ll think of something.

We’re still not corporately sponsored, we still aren’t part of an affiliate network that subsidizes our bandwith and hosting, we still don’t charge for subscriptions or premium content. We’re Mariner fans that have been at this now for three years (and change), and that’s all. I have no idea how much time I’ve spent on the site between writing, fending off comment spammers (and censoring dissent!), and trying to keep the old thing from falling over by doing ridiculously stupid tricks. Including research time on stuff like the Attrition War articles, it’s easily a year’s full-time work since we first threw up a post. I’m not alone — Dave and Jason have been here since the start, and Jeff had another Mariner labor of love before this.

Sometimes, it feels like one of the best things I’ve done, and sometimes, if I’m honest, it feels as if it’s been entirely unrewarding. Mostly it feels pretty cool. We’ve been paid back in random generosity through responses to technical issues, or someone picking up on one of us needing a job and dropping us a hint, or someone offering us a spare ticket if we want to see the game, as if we’re a good friend. Readers want to sit and buy us beer before games, and we have events where a hundred people will show up to talk to other fans and the expression on their faces talking to other smart Mariner fans is like they’ve had their first drink from the oasis after crawling around the desert for days with vultures circling. It warms my cold, antisocial heart.

I don’t know what happens from here, or how long something the current state can hold. We’re trying to do something strange that requires a balancing act I didn’t really anticipate: maintaining the level of discussion requires more intervention the larger we get, and now we have registration. But when the PI shut their forums for a while, I was shooting comments as they popped up, like a carnival game. I don’t know that discussions scale.

I worry that someone’s going to give Dave a full-time job to write about baseball or go hunt prospects, and Jeff’s going to be given some huge book deal to roam the earth and write about his crazy adventures (not a novel — they’ll be well-told stories), Jason’s going to open a restaurant, or (and) I’m going to wake up one morning and find the comments overrun and decide to go work on my next book instead of fix it. Losing one of the authors that way would be joyous and a great loss at once. We’ve seen that when we have more time to dedicate to writing articles, the site shines, but that time comes from somewhere, and we do only have so many days in our lives (I have, for instance, ~16,500 days left, and I’m unlikely to die and think “I wish I’d spent more time moderating comments”).

Based on what we were eking out of Google/etc, we’d need to grow another 10-20x for it to be worth it for one of us to quit their day jobs and write full-time (or every regular reader could give us a couple bucks, but I don’t believe there’s a team-oriented site that’s seen a high enough donation % to encourage me to think this is possible at current reader levels — and let’s not discuss that, please, it’s not the point).

I’m also leary of what happens when years of sacrifice by everyone result in one person making money while the others continue to toil, because all kinds of bad things happen. I don’t want to talk about that any more.

For now, though, here’s the short version:
– we have a new host, and by all measures it appears to be awesome
– digital.forest rocks and you should totally go there for your hosting needs
– I’m clearly willing to push their hosting services even though that’s not part of the deal
– we’re going to do some new stuff, like podcasting
– on a purely cash basis, the site’s now about break-even over its history
– the long-term future of the site is, as it has always been, somewhat uncertain
– fewer people visit USSM on a given day than turn out to see the Mariners
– that gap is not that large, and that’s both great and sad

In conclusion, about 1% of our traffic from search engines last month came from people looking for more information on Jennifer Pankratz, Scott Spiezio’s girlfriend (of which he has a tattoo). Thanks to all our readers, regardless of their taste level, for the last three years.


34 Responses to “On the new digs and USSM in general”

  1. Robo Ape on April 27th, 2006 12:12 am

    As an M’s fan relocated to San Francisco, I would just like to say that this site is a wonderful bastion of all things Mariner, and the closest I’ve come to having good, straight, M’s talk since I was living in Seattle. I hope the sight stays up and running for some time. Keep up the good work.

  2. adamt on April 27th, 2006 12:43 am

    I’ll take partial credit for that 1%!

  3. Bodhizefa on April 27th, 2006 2:19 am

    Congratulations on the move, gents. You guys rock at a consistently hardcore level. Keep it up 😉

  4. Roger on April 27th, 2006 4:12 am

    Chuck at Digital Forest is a friend of mine and one of the good guys. I’m considering moving my ten-year relationship with another web host to Digital Forest just because they’re great folks. Good move.

  5. Roger on April 27th, 2006 4:16 am

    I also wanted to add that the t-shirt stuff worked well for me for the first few months I used it, but by then all the “hard core” people had their shirts…and how many does any one person need? I haven’t tried Google adsense stuff because a fellow with a similar site told me he got about 2/10th’s of 1% click-though. With my traffic, that’s $5 a day max. Hope you guys can at least do better than that. Good luck and thanks for the site.

  6. Evan on April 27th, 2006 10:46 am

    Shouldn’t that be “of whom he has a tattoo”?

    I’m incredibly grateful to you guys for running this place, not because it gives me somewhere to ramble on about nothing (I can do that anywhere – I think I ran into DMZ on a non-baseball message board just the other day), but because you offer such great content for me to read.

    I’m surprised you haven’t started charging us, yet.

  7. patl on April 27th, 2006 11:02 am

    You can solve podcast bandwidth issues by hosting offsite – check out ourmedia.org as a fantastic possibility. No-fee, archival, they pay the bandwidth.

  8. Phoenician Todd on April 27th, 2006 11:22 am

    I’ve got to, once again, express my gratitude for this site. I truly enjoy reading about baseball written by educated, intelligent individuals and the respones of my fellow readers. Thanks.

  9. rcc on April 27th, 2006 11:34 am

    USS Mariner is the best baseball blog…..hands down. I hope you can continue to function in cyberspace.

  10. msb on April 27th, 2006 11:50 am

    OT sigh. why do I do this? the midday guys on KJR have now decided that the only reason the Ms are playing Reed is because they have to have something to show for the Garcia trade, because there is no reason they would have stuck with him if he was just some guy….

  11. Replacement level poster on April 27th, 2006 11:52 am

    Thanks guys very much for all the work you put in to this place. I’m smarter fan for having spent the last couple years here.

  12. msb on April 27th, 2006 11:56 am

    oh, before I started whining, I meant to say that the previous thoughts about occasional donations is still a good one… Did Dave ever get his money back for the Safeco feed? Do we still need to give him something back?

  13. dw on April 27th, 2006 12:05 pm

    You know, you could pick out a few of us to police the comments as well, so you can actually have a life. There are plenty of us who don’t have lives.

  14. Steve T on April 27th, 2006 12:18 pm

    You guys kick ass, really. Being an Internet Superhero is its own reward, don’t you think?

    I think if you stuck a “help us out” paypal link near the top of every page you’d get more donations than you’d expect. As I was explaining to Dave yesterday, I can afford an occasional chip-in but I’m kind of forbidden from bringing more swag into the house. I don’t hardly ever wear t-shirts, but I have enough of them to carpet the surface of the sun for some reason.

    As for Evan, who writes, ‘Shouldn’t that be “of whom he has a tattoo”?’: no, it SHOULD read “of whom he has the brains and respect for humanity and the simple decency to keep any and all tattoos of PERMANENTLY OUT OF PUBLIC VIEW”. Jesus, that thing still gives me nightmares (as do several of Spezio’s at bats here).

  15. AQ on April 27th, 2006 12:28 pm

    I agree with the sentiments in this thread. While I don’t post much, I lurk often. You guys are my first resource for what’s really going on with the M’s. I appreciate how candid and factual you all are and I believe that I am slowly becoming a more intelligent fan as a result.

    I think dw’s comment (#13) is a good one. You oughta consider the idea of having a few trusted longtime souls as site moderators. Allow them the ability to zap posts, edit posts, etc. As an aside, myself and a longtime friend of mine started up our own website about 6 weeks ago and we’re already thinking that we need moderators. And this is with a website that has about 90 registered users at the moment. I can only imagination how much info you guys are sifting through on a daily basis..

    Thanks for all of the information and good conversations on here and I hope you continue the site for at least 16,500 days. 🙂

    — AQ

  16. Southpaw Red Fox on April 27th, 2006 12:45 pm

    This site is great – especially for out-of-town fans like me. Keep up the excellent work.

    PS – someone needs to quickly make amends to the Baseball Gods for a Doyle naming convention error in the text of “Outage.”

  17. Smegmalicious on April 27th, 2006 1:21 pm

    Thanks for keeping this place going. I’ve been a junkie since I first discovered you and this is always my first and usually last stop for Mariners info! Thanks guys!

  18. Rain Delay on April 27th, 2006 2:01 pm

    I too would like to throw a thanks your way! I’m with #17 I’m a junky around here as well. I’d also like to offer my services. You’ve said your going to get into the whole podcasting thing. Well I know I could help make it sound awesome.

    I’m in radio, I’m a prodcution driector and sit in a studio for roughly 8+ hours a day. So just drop me a line I’d be more than willing to help put a bit o’ polish on the podcast and what not, and I’ll do it for free as well. It would be no sweat.

    Again thanks for making this a great place to come day in and day out.

  19. shirts on April 27th, 2006 2:18 pm

    Thanks to each of the authors for all that you do. This site makes my day a little better.

  20. Abodacious on April 27th, 2006 3:07 pm

    Yeah–I can’t imagine what I would do all day without USS Mariner. Uh …. maybe get some work done?

  21. marbledog on April 27th, 2006 3:10 pm

    Keep up the good work, guys. You’re seriously the best.

  22. deltwelve on April 27th, 2006 3:42 pm

    Like AQ, I’m more of a lurker than a poster (though my posting seems to directly correlate with the amount of studying I need to do for exams, hence a recent increase).

    I just want to thank you for all the work that goes into the Good Ship Mariner. I am definitely a more informed fan thanks to you guys, and could not imagine going through a season – especially ones like the last two years – without your analysis and wit.



  23. FarFrom206 on April 27th, 2006 3:59 pm

    Similarly, I almost never post but read religiously. Thanks for making it easy for a longtime fan living 3000 miles away to feel close to home, and to other M’s fans.

  24. jloris on April 27th, 2006 4:09 pm

    A. A general ditto on all of the above.

    B. On more than one occassion, I was this –>

  25. jloris on April 27th, 2006 4:11 pm

    This is why I don’t post. Html ignorance is not bliss.

  26. metz123 on April 27th, 2006 4:15 pm

    I love the site but you know you guys don’t have to play martyr(s). You can enlist people to moderate and if one author leaves for different pastures you can open up a casting call and look for a replacement. There are a few good blogs out there with some decent writers and more bloggers are being born every day.

    If you want to do podcasts there are lots of hosting sites out there (libsyn) that will stream & store the content for free. All you need to do is point the RSS feed at the audio file hosted in a different location.

    Keep up the good work…

  27. Mock on April 27th, 2006 5:32 pm

    Honestly, I enjoy the writing immensely, the commenting most of the time, and the fact that I have someone else to complain about Bloomquist and Hargrove to more than I can express. As a whole, thanks for putting the time and effort in. And I swear, as soon as I’m nearly not-broke, I’ll pitch in and buy a shirt. Really, I will…

  28. blueboars on April 27th, 2006 11:11 pm

    Seriously, as a serial lurker and ultra infrequent poster I love this site.
    If you go with Steve T’s #14 paypal idea, you would get enough to solve the server problem. I saw a guy at the pyramid beer garden Sunday at Noon with a USS Mariner T-shirt. I felt a certain kinship. Great job guys!
    Also, to go with #26, get a few volunteers. I mean how bad can the traffic be in McCall, ID? He obviously has nothing to do!!!!
    If you are looking for volunteers, just check out the New Year’s Eve post compilation stats.

  29. kmsandrbs on April 28th, 2006 9:50 am

    So, I can’t say you’re the best, sorry. But that’s really because you’re the only one I read. But I’ll trust (at least some of) the other posters on that account.

    I’m hopeful y’all can keep it up.

    I agree that if there is any way that volunteering could help, put the call out. You’ll have tons of responses.

    I am pretty clueless as to how the Google/Yahoo/whatever ads work … do you get a miniscule fee every time someone clicks one of those? Or do we have to buy something?

    What about a Mariner’s related “for sale/exchange” area? I do not know what all would be involved (or if that just would create more problems then help), but lots of folks come here for M’s related info, so offereing an opportunity for a sale listing might bring in a little. Just offer a listing space, no other services (buyer beware, no guarantees, etc.). I’m thinking the biggest area would be in seeking and selling tickets.

    Of course, considering the intelligence of your articles, and the overall class with which the site is run, none of our great ideas are probably anything new.

    Hey … maybe y’all can offer premium priced swag AUTOGRAPHED by the USSM authors … 🙂

  30. JoelE on April 28th, 2006 1:53 pm

    I’m excited about a ussm podcast fo’ sure. One fun idea might be to record a podcast whilst you guys watch a game, a sort of “alternate reality” game cast, akin to a special feature on a movie dvd. Just throwin’ that out there.

  31. Karen on April 28th, 2006 5:59 pm

    This site is by far the best Mariners blog/commentary/message board I’ve come across in 10 years and many M’s message boards ago. They ALL imploded eventually, from cliquishness and tendencies of some toward anonymous ‘Net nastiness. Somehow, you guys have kept that stuff to a minimum, and I know it’s hard work.

    But all good intentions aside, suggestions for folks to “mod” for you, or “police the place” scare me. I’ve been at 2 places in the past 2 years where the mods start acting like boot-stomping brownshirts. Just last week I was kicked off a board I’d been a member of for 5 years, mostly because the owner had been in absentia for 6 months due to some pretty intense personal issues, and some newer (

  32. Karen on April 28th, 2006 6:07 pm

    (less than 2 yrs) members were doing the mod work. The place is not the comfortable site it was a couple of years ago.

  33. DMZ on April 28th, 2006 7:14 pm

    And that is exactly what scares me about outsourcing moderation.

  34. tangotiger on April 30th, 2006 7:46 pm

    I agree, you can’t outsource moderation. USS Mariner represents the views of Derek, Dave et al, and the crowd that they attract. If you have more moderators, you’ll get a slight shift in the beginning, and eventually it may veer of course. i.e., if it ain’t broke…

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