I'm tired, I'm leaving ...

    When I said that you need to invest in the community and User Groups, you invested in tennis tables. Now we have a lot of average tennis players and no community.

    From a recent

    article I want to talk about why I want to close one of my sites - the technical .net community, whose primary goal is to publish technical articles. In general, everything that will be discussed here can be easily extrapolated to many technical resources and technical Runet bloggers. I removed direct links from the article so that my post would not be recognized as advertising.

    I can’t say that this decision was given to me easily, and the decision itself was probably considered for the last six months. But you have to admit an obvious fact: the site at the moment has ceased to perform the functions of the community. No further activity will be conducted.

    Below I will tell you what, how and why.

    A little background

    The site was created several years ago as a resource for covering the activities of the local User Group. Therefore, the domain name was invented local. After some time, the targeting changed twice: first - Ukraine, then - ru- and uanet. Thus, we hoped to expand the audience. And they were not mistaken - after some time, the resource received a permanent audience and authors.

    It should be noted separately that the founders of both User Group and the site at that time were ordinary students, which is why many decisions were not always correct. For example, a domain name could (need) be changed even then, but who then looked for years to come?

    For several years, several hosters have changed, as well as the last year (slightly less), the site has been working on a new engine written from scratch. The idea was simple - learn how to develop applications on new technologies, gain experience in developing a real project, the ability to experiment (for example, autotagging works using the Named Entity Recognition tools), etc. We always implemented and tested new libraries, approaches, components on the site, and only then we offered to use it for our customers or students at IT events.

    In the best of times, up to 3-4 unique technical articles a week appeared on the site. Over the past year, this figure has fallen significantly.

    What goals did we set?

    • creation of a technical resource;
    • creating a resource - a container for all User Groups;
    • development of the IT industry (well, the young ones were also naive - why be disingenuous :)

    We also set a commercial goal: advertising on the site, press releases for money - in order to achieve self-sufficiency.

    What I'm proud of

    So, I am proud that:

    • many "activists" thanks to the site, as well as the events that we conducted, found highly paid work;
    • many of our "activists" were able to attend various events for free both in Ukraine and in neighboring countries;
    • many "activists" were able to get prestigious international titles - MSP, MVP, etc .;
    • the site helped and inspired other people to create User Groups and communities (it’s a pity that many of them are inactive now - see the reasons below);
    • I was recognized at international events by guys from the USA on a T-shirt with the site logo;
    • we have put together a large collection of free e-books and cheat sheets;
    • thanks to the site, many good people met many other good people;
    • I personally gained extensive knowledge in the field of hosting, DNS, SEO, configuration and deployment, support, etc., which qualitatively influenced and affects my current core business.

    In addition, there were some rules that we also did not break (which I am also proud of)

    • we did not block or delete objectionable comments, accounts or articles (except for explicit spam);
    • we did not introduce karma and other measures for users, giving the opportunity to realize ourselves both to novice developers and highly professional specialists;
    • never published links to pirated content, cracks, etc., on the contrary, in every possible way promoted BizSpark, DreamSpark and other loyalty programs that allow using paid software legally;
    • we have never merged a user database (over 2000) to third parties;
    • we discarded the opportunity to work under a particular company, although such an offer came only once and a long time ago;
    • we did not abuse the newsletter (read - spam), sending only important news and that is very rare;
    • we used the method called “holivar” very rarely (although I honestly say that we used it), these days the influx was greater than when the article that was high-quality and needed by IT specialists was published.

    Yes, we tried to somehow monetize the site, but we didn’t want to hang up the slop links (although I did agree several times, but the advertisers ’requirements were quite tense), they set Google AdSense (a thing that was useless for poor traffic), banner companies (twice, if I'm not mistaken, but nerves burned every 200 times), etc. Then it was decided not to exchange all of these things at all, so that our site would not be an overloaded advertising tree.

    Actually what went wrong

    First and foremost, the need for up-to-date technical content in Russian or Ukrainian. When I had a lot of time, I spent part of this time searching for young and promising authors - at that time the number of articles was less stable and the quality was also at the level. Naturally, this process should be constant - naturally, the shorter the time, the fewer authors who were ready to do something for someone almost free of charge. In addition, before, Ukrainians could take part in author support programs, receiving some presents for their work - for example, books or Xbox. Let me remind you that some time ago the program was closed to non-residents of Russia. At the same time, the remaining authors almost completely ceased their activities. After all, the motivation was very vague,

    There are several important points here:

    • over the years, the number of “pops” on the Internet has increased significantly - in particular, this is due to the fact that many modern companies have embarked on consumerization, which has increased the demand for content for blondes, which we basically did not want and do not want to be in;
    • the great growth of social networks, in fact, crowded out many of the usual channels of access to information (subscriptions, RSS, daily visits to 5-8 sites, as it was before). Actually, there’s no reason to go to sites now, because sites themselves can publish interesting links on social networks, and only the “most liked” ones can be viewed. I’m already silent for the average time of the session - it has decreased significantly, because you still need to read twitter, linkedin, classmates, VKontakte, facebook, instagram and check in, etc. Sorry, but there’s no time to read large and smart articles ...
    • many act on the principle: “I don’t want to think much, I need bread (in the amount of several thousand) and spectacles (holivars, photojacks, bashorg, snot, drooling, scandals, investigations).” We saw how many serious offline publications closed down - for example, Computerra, KO, many publications from the top 10 have problems with advertisers and conversion, problems with RSDN Magazine, etc. ... Where are the small resources ...
    • the need to write a lot now for competition. When you are not working at full time on a project, this is not possible;
    • A good article needs to be written for several hours, or even days. A great and good article is not necessarily many views and reviews. Holivar is another matter ...

    If to speak even more objectively, then you always need to look for someone who might be interested in your work. Our target audience is IT people, and everyone needs IT, we thought and ... were wrong ...

    We are not interested in large online stores due to the small audience (compared to their audience).

    We were not interested in companies, because in Ukraine there is a preschool educational institution, in Russia - a hubr, nobody wants to look further. In addition, many company representatives tearfully spoke of support, and then, as if the punctual Englishmen left without saying goodbye, and after that did not get in touch for months. No, positive moments sometimes happened, but they did not affect the overall picture.

    Microsoft is not really needed at the moment, either:

    • there is no funding for UG and the community (at least in Ukraine, in Russia, as far as I see, the situation is a little better, but this is not easier for the Ukrainian resource);
    • we need the love of consumers, but we don’t have them - we have (as it were) a technical resource;
    • we have users loyal to MS, and it is important for MS to conquer new horizons (you need to make a site for Android :).

    In fairness, I must say that MS never dictated what material and in what sentiment it should appear on the site, and also always provided bonuses to activists upon request, if there was such an opportunity. For which, in general, thank you.

    Well, actually, our readers need us, although we did not reach the critical mass just a little.

    I look enviously at stackoverflow.com, dotnetrocks.com, codeproject.com, windowsphonegeek.com and others. And I understand that in Russia and Ukraine there is no such kind and level of resources (and it is unlikely to be in the near future, although I want to make a mistake). According to active technical bloggers, I notice that they began to write much less often and much less, many moved to English-speaking resources or write in English.

    The second point is technical, and this is hosting, domain, engine development, bug fixing, support, answers to questions, help to authors (strange, but 90% of IT specialists could not fully master markdown, but what can we say then for TEX or XSLT? ??), and a simple banal support.

    Since we run another technical site where there is no less work, and then more, we perform about 4-5 times a month throughout the CIS, and we also work, so another resource that has not reached self-sufficiency is superfluous work that, as we have seen, no one wants to do. A side effect is SEO, i.e. separation of PR, TCI, as well as other parameters, which adversely affects search results.

    The third point is professional. For some reason, it seemed to me that if a person maintains his blog, writes normal articles, etc., sooner or later he should be in the field of view of more well-known publications that should be interested in such people. I was wrong. For 4 years, not a single well-known resource on its own initiative has offered me or other authors to work as a freelance correspondent. Moreover, this does not work equally for both our resource and the Habr and other well-known resources.

    But they suggested foreign magazines write articles for them. He refused, because he needed time that went to free content, and also because of the need to wait some time from the moment of writing the article to its release and, in fact, receiving feedback.

    Blogging companies on the hub, all the time went to the minus, instead of asking (to hire) a person from the same hub, who could do this faster, better, more productively. Companies, ignited by the idea of ​​creating their own "elite" community, were burnt out at the zero-second-third meeting, without even consulting with those in the "topic". Even after the offer of help, even after the offer of free help ...

    A very revealing example is msdeveloper.ru, which published a technical (free) magazine, and also, in fact, was an analogue of our resource. So far, unfortunately, it has not taken off, and the author recently left the game, selling the magazine to its current owner.

    Disagreements about targeting - the fifth point - someone advised making the resource narrowly targeted, someone - shared. As a result, whatever one may say, some part of the “board of directors" was not happy. So we lost some more good authors.

    Instead of a conclusion

    If you have the impression that the previous part of the article was written on behalf of d'Artagnan - perhaps you are right in something. To fix this situation, I want to add a few words.

    If you judge the project as a startup, then I also made a lot of mistakes. Lack of a business plan, development strategy, availability of a backup development strategy, etc. - all this prevented the development of the resource to a normal scale.

    But my main mistake was attracting friends to the project, because of which there was a lot of mix personal and professional. Many are able to perceive such situations normally, but sometimes the situations went to the interpersonal level. Yes, sometimes I myself could flare up and say something superfluous. In any case, this also did not add constructiveness. But, as elsewhere, without difficulties and errors, there is no, and thanks to such situations, we all got some kind of experience.

    Our possible further actions: we will transfer the content to another resource, making one large resource, while some sections will be a thing of the past. We will not close the resource tomorrow, it will happen, maybe in a week, maybe in a month - as soon as a little time is freed. Perhaps we will even make some kind of offline backups. In general, this is a question for discussion.

    Perhaps I would sell the resource to someone, but I doubt that in the current situation someone needs it.

    In any case, I want to say that sometimes in order to move forward you need to give up something. And you will not drink the experience, as they say :)

    I really want the really technical codeproject or stackoverflow level resources to appear in the CIS, and IT specialists and companies would be happy to support such initiatives.

    Thanks for attention!

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