Friday, February 20, 2015

Un-social media, hours, funds... etc...

Warning: this rare post is one of those Junkk Male 'stream of consciousness' efforts.

It has been a while. 

Make that a long while.

No excuses. Reasons aplenty... time, health, money... the usual. But at the end of the day, it's down to me that really not much has happened on (or other, associated parts) in a rare old while.

And while sorry is actually the easiest word, doing something takes a whole lot more.

A BIT OF CONTEXT was created almost 20 years ago. I hesitate to use the term 'ahead of its time', but nice people have and do, and it is true. It has always been meant well in compliment, but also carries a sense of curse too.

The concept was pretty unique back then, and remains so in some key areas today. As far as I am aware, no other 2nd/Re-use site has the searchable database of household products and materials, detailed descriptions and data, and associated ideas.

Likewise other innovations, such as JunkkYard, that was created around the same time as Freecycle, but had images from the outset, and nice features like poster-to-beneficiary distance guide and safe intranet contact.

And it all cost.... a... mint. Yet now, most would be achievable with free scripts and/or cheap apps.


I actually didn't mind the money, and was lucky to see much often at least half-offset by match-funded grants from supportive bodies.

But as with many things, especially in the world of innovation, it is easy to forget that content, maintenance and repair never go away, and carry on as long as the entity exists. In's case, although as much as possible has been created to evolve and endure even if I can no longer chip in, it has operational costs before factoring in the time to source and upload and administer.

I was happy and able to bear these costs at the start and for a long period thereafter. I believed in's potential and still do. Not just as a 'green' service, but as a possible money-earner.

At one stage we had three permanent staff, and one contracted. Me, First Lady PJ, Chief of Stuff Emma, and Head of Prose & Comms Anita. And that team achieved a lot. In our heyday we were running 150,000+ unique visitors... a month. 

I was inventing and writing. PJ was composing and designing. Emma was doing everything from creating and updating category info to fielding questions and  modding the Forum. Anita was helping with PR that got us noticed everywhere... big time.

But just as Coke and Pepsi as brands need to keep advertising even when they are at the top, so needed... needs this 24/7, 365/365 to maintain and grow. 

A few roles were left out at the start. My fault. There was no business management and, crucially, media sales. To be fair to myself I tried to find them, but those who may have helped (by which I mean taken a cut) never materialised. Then it was 'come back when you hit 500k visitors'. I wonder if that would be true now? many less popular sites seem to muddle along on a lot less.

Even those with staff and funding struggle:

And those with deep pockets were seldom interested unless they had control, or things had tangibles they could grasp. Even then, green can be a hard way to turn a profit.

So much of the funding we got went on consultants to tell us what we already knew; for instance that we needed specialist staff. But for which funding was not, apparently, available. And not one of scores of state-supported quango advisers appeared able to put us in touch with complementing talents.

So as mortgages needed paying and kids feeding, with no revenue, we had to cut back, in staff and hours, which on a website means content. And content on a site is king, though when this king moves on there is no new one to rise in their place.

Hence, stagnation... followed by reversal.


But not all the news is bad.

Despite the woeful support from within, the site has performed its ongoing function well, if with a few stumbles only a binary whizz could explain happening. For some reason a 'yes/no', on/off, 1/0 set of codes can and does suddenly acquire a life of its own and pull a sickie or has a wobbly.

Better still, it chugs along at its core, quietly absorbing new data like Voyager beyond the constraints of the solar system.

And, amazingly, people still swing by. Not many to contribute sadly, but for sure to visit.

I have no recent stats on from Google Analytics as I am a self-confessed ITiot (we had them, and they doubtless still exist...somewhere), but looking here on Blogger the Junkk Male RE:view blog alone gets several thousand visitors a month still. And that too has been pretty dormant for... too long.

Anyhoo, with great responsibility comes great ambition, so we (First Lady and I) are looking at a SWOT of what we've had, what worked, what didn't, what can't and where we can go next, to try and reinvigorate things but also draw down the running costs. 

Thanks to kids leaving the family nest we had one of those conversations with our lawyers on wills and legacies, and the subject of trusts and leaving funding to projects came up. I would like to endure no matter what. Calculating annual costs threw up the monthly hosting, the annual fee, domain renewal, ICO licence and an amount for servicing. That still added up to a fair capital amount in trust to provide operational cost cover annually.


So paring down is clearly necessary.

Certainly there are vast chunks (like the forum - I dare not look at it) and things like Junkk Questions (which takes up my day winnowing out spam) that can simply be dropped, though with luck not lost if ever they need need firing back up. Doubtful as it is all pretty much older than the ark. A vast capital outlay down the pan, but the old girl is holed and hard to keep afloat on old tech. It created the brand at least, which lives on.

We're looking at creating some kind of WordPress site, with the possibility of linking a few things to it. Apparently keeping the home page and video is not a problem. Sadly, the searchable database... is.... may be. 

Would that be such a loss? Looking back, although many kind souls did share ideas, few have of late, and almost nobody has bothered ever to fill out the data fields to match dimensions or materials.

Most else can be reproduced, and now with free scripts that when the site was created cost thousands... yes... thousands. We are of course looking at other things like a tip jar at least, which seems common these days, and easily included. 


Interactivity is mostly handled now by either the blog (for which this post is admittedly the first in months) or the 'Here Are Some We RE:made Earlier' FaceBook page. This latter I do keep bubbling daily with snippets, though few respond. I do always try to reply though. I did/do have a twitter feed, but need to remove that as a link as it has become more a personal, maybe too personal ramble around all my interests, from politics to music, green to the ad world, etc. 

I wish twitter had the ease of switching and linking that FaceBook has. I can find stuff online and post it in one click to the relevant category with the latter. With twitter you need to close out and sign in with the new timeline. When you have several to match varied interests, that can be a headache.

Plus, with any such direction away from a server you own and control, there is always the risk of a plug being pulled. Hard to commit too much passion to pages if it all may get lost! Plus of course revenue goes to the hosts; not the content creators. I wish I knew a bit more about back-ups, the Cloud, etc, in this regard.

But it all works and is easy, from posting to sharing, especially things like images or videos. There must be a way to auto-port new FaceBook posts to the homepage at least. I also have a huge backlog of nifty products as data, and a fair few of these as new ideas to upload.

I currently could not tell you how the admin system gets a new still on the home page, as it was and remains so complex. But one thing above all is clear on a new design... KISS!

Anyway, a lot of soul-searching, number-crunching and pondering here. And while we're at it, if anyone who knows their stuff and way around the back-end of a website has any suggestions... we're open to 'em. 

Yours in evolution....

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