***Back to Basics - Please Read***

Discussion in 'Home Theater Lounge' started by CJ, Aug 10, 2017.

  1. CJ

    CJ Bronze Member Admin War Zone Member

    Top Poster Of Month

    This may be a bit long and somewhat of an emotional exorcism for me. Please bear with me.

    I just drew the July movie drawing. It is August 10th. My phone has been alerting me for a week to do the August newsletter. I haven't. I'm not interested in doing it.

    I know many people are happy with the forum the way it is, as a hangout for guys that have managed to not drift off in the last ten years. On one level, I know I wouldn't want to deal with the drama and expense of a huge forum but I've made it clear several times that I'd like to continue to bring in some new members amd grow the forum, just to have some new blood.

    A lot of my recent efforts with respect to changes to the forum have been in this vein. Specifically, all of the following have been efforts to attract new members or bring back old, previously active members:
    1. The software upgrade (to get better SEO, hoping to drive some organic traffic, and allow seamless registration via Facebook)
    2. Setting up the YouTube channel
    3. The monthly movie drawing
    4. Joining HT related Facebook channels and periodically announcing things like the drawings
    5. Installing the chat module
    6. Installing the weekly digest module
    7. The monthly newsletter
    8. The system of the month
    9. The top posters module and badge
    10. I've asked on a couple of occasions for members to try and attract new members either IRL or from other forums or social media sites (respecting the owners of those platforms) TTBOMK only one person ever did anything
    11. I've PMed previously active members to see if they're interested in coming back and pretty much to a person, they're not. Many of them never even saw the PM.
    12. I've gone on new thread binges sometimes posting a dozen stories from various trade sites multiple days in a row
    All of these efforts have completely failed if you ask me. This is something I've probably felt for a while, but I had a bit of a reality check recently.

    Allow me to digress for the purpose of explaining where my head is at.

    The owner of another forum I check in at every now and then has passed away. This forum operates quite a bit like HTL. A more mature user base, really no infighting, they don't even allow swearing on this forum. The forum has many more registered users but actually similar post numbers to HTL. They have no sponsors or ads and don't even have an affiliate program so the forum generates zero revenue. Despite that, the widow got some bad advice that the forum is somehow worth some fairly large amount of money. Two very dedicated, long term moderators have made her separate offers that she's refused. Maybe eventually she'll come back to the highest offer and figure something is better than nothing.

    Anyway, the situation has created a lot of turmoil and discussion about the actual value of the forum and even its future. One point that I actually made and many agreed with, is essentially that internet forums are dying and have no real future. Everything is going to the large "topic-neutral" social media platforms. Facebook and Reddit both have groups (sometimes multiple) for every hobby you could imagine and some you can't. With younger people especially, it is way more logical to search reddit and find r/hometheater or find the Home Theater Enthusiasts facebook group than to find a forum and register (and if they do, they'll go to AVS or HTF because they can't find this one). We know these formats are terrible for relationship building and for having content be indexed and findable by others at a later time, but most people either don't recognize that or don't care. They live their lives on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Instagram, Tumblr, etc...

    Another example is an IRL friend of mine is a mod at nesubaru (a Nebraska Subaru forum... talk about niche) and they're dealing with the same thing. Everything is moving to the nesubaru Facebook group. He hates it but there is nothing he can do about it.

    On top of all these system problems that traditional internet forums face as a whole, the home theater and audiophile hobbies have been in decline for decades. Audiophiles are a dying breed and have been for a long time and the home theater boom seemed to bust when the 2008 housing bubble burst and appears like it will never recover.

    I've spent time on all the aforementioned things trying to swim upstream. Trying to grow HTL. To see some trend over 2 or 3 or 6 months that people are registering post counts are up, new people are participating, etc. Time spent at work sometimes (when I shouldn't have) and probably more importantly, at home.

    The moderators on this forum, absent the refereeing and reprimands required on most sites, (IMO) lost a sense of ownership and connectedness. That means that any sense that anyone else had any interest in the success and growth of this site was lost (again IMO). The moderator titles and permissions were stripped away in February with the software upgrade. I'm not sure anyone noticed. I'm not calling out any former moderators. I never asked any of you to do anything more when the forum was slowly dying and its probably too late now.

    So what is the point of all this? I'll tell you what it isn't.
    • I'm not trying to create a sense of guilt. I actually feel like I've toed up to that line a few times in the past, trying to get members to bring friends, coworkers or people from other communities over to HTL and it didn't work anyway. Either you (although, I include myself) have no friends, or you don't want to put in the effort, or you actually don't want those people to be on this site.
    • I'm not threatening to shut HTL down.
    • I'm not asking for money. I don't need it, and none of this has anything to do with money at all.
    I can see no measurable metric that indicates HTL is growing. In fact members drift away every month. Unique visitors, page views, post count** and new threads have just been in a downward trend since the day the doors opened.

    So here's where I'm at... and please know that I'm not angry, none of this intended to be "punitive" or trying to guilt you all in any way at all. I'm just a bit tired of jumping through hoops to no avail.
    • I'm going to stop the monthly movie drawing. There are two kinds of people who enter, active members who I believe don't care if they win or not, and inactive people who only post in that thread and offer no other interaction on the forum at all. No one needs to win a movie from this site and it is doing nothing to attract new members. I don't need to be spending another $25 a month with no return.
    • I'm going to drop the monthly newsletter (and the system of the month). I thought it might draw in some of those previously active members back but it hasn't. It's not like it takes 8 hours to pull together but it is real time and its not accomplishing anything. I'll keep the weekly most popular topics digest because its automatic.
    • I'm going to uninstall the chat module. The first week there were maybe 6 people. The average has been 0-3 the last month + There's no point in having the clutter with no purpose.
    • I'm going to go back to kind of pre-upgrade posting mode. No more months where I post 2-4x more than the next highest poster (not exaggerating).
    Essentially I'm giving up on making HTL anything more than what it is. Every day it will be less than what it was and someday it will be nothing (maybe it already is). Maybe its all ego. I sit here and think, "would your life be better if HTL had 500 new registrants a month and 20x the traffic?" It wouldn't. But it does feel like I failed. Mike had something really special going and I tell myself that all those things I described about the hobby losing steam and topic-neutral social media steamrolling the entire landscape are the reasons why HTL is what it is. But I don't think anyone else here wants to put in any effort to make this site more when there is understandably no real self-interest in doing so.

    OK with all that said [/drama queen mode]

    I really appreciate the group that is still here. I consider all of you friends and I wish I could meet more of you in real life. Hell I appreciate those of you who have moved on. I get it. Its been 10 years here and 10 before that on HTT for those there from the beginning. I couldn't legally drink when I joined HTT and now I'm pushing 40. I've got kids nearly as old as Nathan P and Drew Mitten were when they first started to post. The good times were really good. We'll see what the future brings but I need to not tie myself up so much in the "success" of this site. I know you guys well enough to know everyone will understand.
  2. Rick C

    Rick C Active Member

    CJ, I can understand where you are coming from. I hope you do not see this as a failure. I am not a big user of social media and I rarely post at AVS. This site is like a small boutique coffee shop with great coffee and good music.

    It does not have to be Starbucks or Dunkin Doughnuts to be a sucess. It might be ruined with that traffic! :)
    Mikael Soderholm and CJ like this.
  3. Mike B

    Mike B Well-Known Member Donor War Zone Member Top Poster

    Basics are good, go with the flow.
    Don't worry, be happy.
    Smoke 2 joints - :)
    CJ likes this.
  4. claud

    claud Well-Known Member Donor

    I think you are right, CJ. Its just the guys that have been on this and HTT for so many years that we feel especially close. Thanks for the two BDs I won. The small forums are dead and dying, I hope it does not happen to us. Did not care much about the Chat. If I want to talk to you or David or Randy etc, I will just PM them for a phone number. Like Rick C I am not a social media person. I leave Facebook for the wife.
    CJ likes this.
  5. Phil A

    Phil A Well-Known Member Top Poster

    CJ - It's fine. Don't really need the free movies. Mike B's suggestion seems good to me:rolleyes:
    CJ likes this.
  6. Carl V

    Carl V Well-Known Member Donor War Zone Member Top Poster

    Like the above guys,
    I don't do social media
    I Do enjoy checking in here
    I am sorry to hear of some of your personal turmoil.

    And I agree on line forums have morphed over the last few years.

    And thanks for all your efforts....they were & are appreciated
    CJ likes this.
  7. Phil A

    Phil A Well-Known Member Top Poster

    When I worked, the kids I worked with couldn't believe I didn't do Facebook. I used to tell them I was going to start faceliftbook.com for people my age.
    CJ likes this.
  8. Denton

    Denton Well-Known Member Donor War Zone Member Top Poster

    Carl has summarized things well. :) Thanks CJ for your time and effort. Please don't let things get you down.
    CJ likes this.
  9. DustinDavis

    DustinDavis Well-Known Member War Zone Member

    CJ, I get how you are feeling. In fact I'd guessed why you were clearly putting more effort into the site since a while back. That you'd view it as a failure troubles me. Fine, the site isn't growing, and you have to accept that the efforts to grow haven't gotten results. However, I can also tell you that this is the only forum I have kept coming back to all these years. I don't think I have posted or even read anything (one or two exceptions for specific problems to research over a very short duration) on AVS or HTF in...a decade? Things have changed for me during that time, too. Kids. Less disposable income. Less time. Less motivation. Gained and lost relationships. Job, house, life changes. And all the while I have checked in here multiple times per day during most of that same period. Nothing lasts forever. Funny thing is I had my own fear that you'd shut it down. I can accept that. It's not like I really have a choice or that I can control it. Which might also be the case with respect to your growth ambitions. But I know I'm thankful for what you've done to keep us together, and will be for however much longer it lasts. And I hope you view that as a success.
    CJ and Rick C like this.
  10. Dustin B

    Dustin B Well-Known Member War Zone Member

    This very closely sums up my thoughts. I'd write more but it's 5am and I'm sick while rocking a sick baby and here I am checking this forum before I go waste sometime until she's sleeping again on YouTube or Reddit.
  11. Chris Slade

    Chris Slade Active Member War Zone Member Top Poster

    When I use the internet for entertainment I mostly use youtube for videos on specific topics that interest me, metal working, furniture design, abstract art etc. I do that way more than I check in on this forum. To be honest I used to probably be active on say 6 forums, now this is the only one I occasionally post on. I have been around for at least 15 years, and that is no short amount of time. Hell electronically knowing you guys or the forum pre dates all of my closest personal friends.

    I don't know the answer but I am glad for the time, posts, advice and friendship that exists here. I am not in the hobby anymore at all. My best piece of gear is a Yamaha sound bar. But for some reason I still come back.
  12. I can appreciate everything you said.

    I came here a few months back after seeing a post on one of the Facebook groups (all of which I've now left). I still follow a few threads over at AVS, but those two places, while they seem to have the highest number of users, they also have the highest number of assholes and children.

    I have been here, and a couple other places, primarily because the conversations are civil, the people are polite, and it's not a pissing match or a dick size competition. I appreciate that. There are people who know what they are talking about there, but for every one of them, there are 50 more that have no concept of anything.

    So I'll still be here, in whatever format it is, for however long it is around.
  13. capsuleri

    capsuleri Well-Known Member War Zone Member

    CJ, I agree with all your proposals. My only suggestion is to keep the chat function for a while longer but perhaps move it to another day/time based on user input. Perhaps also seek chat topic input.
  14. DYohn

    DYohn Well-Known Member Donor

    I think you are doing the right thing. I've invited several people to join but none of them (to my knowledge) have. I value this place and the acquantences we've all become on it but "growth" for growth's sake is probably not going to happen. It either will or it won't and as you've seen, making time-consuming efforts to help don't seem to.

    So thanks for sharing your thoughts, if you get tired of the whole thing and decide to step away I'm certain someone else would step up to be the host/admin. Maybe Mike K. Maybe he'll change the name to HTT. Or maybe not. :)
    CJ likes this.
  15. Dan Driscoll

    Dan Driscoll HTT Refugee Donor War Zone Member

    Ditto, what Claud, Mike B and especially Dustin have said. I don't come here every day for movie drawings or to check-out the latest system upgrades. I come here to chat, joke, ask or give advice and sometimes argue with my friends. HTL stopped being an HT forum for me a long time ago. It is the place where I can (virtually) hang out with my buddies and shoot the shit, tell jokes, argue politics, give them a virtual 'High 5' when something good happens and a virtual hug when something bad happens. HTL has become my 'neighborhood bar' and I hope it stays open for a long, long time.
    Phil Rose, CJ and DYohn like this.
  16. Dan Driscoll

    Dan Driscoll HTT Refugee Donor War Zone Member

    FWIW, I do mention HTL to people I talk audio or HT with, but as far as I know only one has joined and he doesn't post very often.
  17. Jay Brown

    Jay Brown Well-Known Member Donor Top Poster

    Pretty much what Travis stated. I guess it's a Catch 22. One of the reasons why I enjoy this forum is because there's a small group of individuals that contribute on a daily basis, as opposed to hundreds of people giving out advice, good or bad. It's one of the reasons why I'm here, even back to the Mike Knapp site years. However, wanting the grow the site and make it more noticeable compared to the larger boards is also an enticing opportunity.

    Dan makes a great point regarding the environment of HTL, where for some it has become just more than a forum for toys, but a place to share intimate feelings, and our personal gains and struggles. We're all Human, and you will not find this on the larger forums.
  18. RJ

    RJ Member War Zone Member

    I certainly understand where you are coming from. I've been around since HTT, and signed up to HTL immediately when you opened the doors. I'm a lurker....always have been. But this is the only forum I come to. I know I'm not well known around here, but I love this place, not because its huge and growing, but because its small and tight knit.
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2017
  19. Jack

    Jack Well-Known Member Donor War Zone Member Top Poster

    I am sorry CJ, however, you should not be sorry in anyway. (Did I do my commas correctly ?)
    Anyway, you have done great, this is not the place for glittery graphics and a hundred writers and staff investing thousands into obtaining gear and advertising. Its you and beyond what you mentioned you have really not asked for anything. You did ask for help with new members and I kept getting turn downs from folks I asked, one even said it would not let him join...bullshit. Maybe others are stuck comfortably in the forum they are used to...I dunno. I did mod for another site because I was asked to an quit within the first month due to the huge click there. There may be a click here or it may just be I'm an asshole. Either way, stand tall brother, you are doing great !!
    Ps: Thank You for the head phone gear, I use it every day !!
    CJ likes this.
  20. Drew

    Drew Well-Known Member War Zone Member Top Poster

    Understand where you are coming from, and appreciate any and all efforts that you put into. This place is like cheers man. Do what you feel is right, everything else will fall into place, and since the days of HTT this "place" will morph into whatever it morphs into.
    capsuleri and CJ like this.

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