Monday, February 28, 2005

Running a Site

Or why you can't please everybody....

I had an exchange of emails today with an FM member who has been considering starting a site like Forward Motion but dedicated to music writing. We had an interesting exchange about membership, boards, chat rooms, costs and time.

And we also got into the philosophy of how to handle a large site, especially one where there is bound to be a lot of different approaches to the work. There is no easy answer that makes everything perfect for everyone. The site is bound to be filled with contrary advice and people standing up for 'their way' because it worked for them. That's how we all learn, both what we can take from others and adapt to our own needs, and what doesn't work as well. If one person had all the answers, they'd have the market cornered and the rest of us would be worshiping at their feet, but just because they don't or because others disagree, is no reason to assume that it's all bad. There is some damned good advice given for free at FM every single day. Adapt whatever works for you and don't worry about the rest. Keep in mind that some people a more assured and forceful than others, and you are not required to agree with any of it, just so long as you are polite.

He also asked how much of the site reflects me, and that's an interesting question, considering that I didn't start FM. Holly and I have absolute opposite philosophies on many things like politics, children, and even on site work. She loves the tech stuff. I like the people involvment (which is why I am doing things like 2YN, B2S, the two month dares, and anything else I can come up with).

My general philosophy is to offer as many different things as I can because I know that writers find a variety of things helpful.

But that's where you reach the 'You can't please everyone' level.

Sometimes I think the complaints I get are rather selfish, and the people are not looking at the larger picture that includes anyone outside themselves. In the last two months I've had emails complaining about everything from the number of pips people use in the signature files to the fact that a chat room has rules (and never mind that there are six others that don't) and they don't want to be bothered to be polite to the people who do appreciate the rule.

It's that way everywhere on the site at one time or another. Allowing some crit groups to go private -- their choice, no one forced to -- won a flurry of complaints. I wrote that the February Challenge didn't have to be a traditional romance I got an angry note from a romance writer who accused me of trying to ruin the genre by encouraging 'perversions' of the pure romance tale. There are always people who don't like the interface, and those who don't like one faction of the membership for some reason or other. (I've been told at various times that I need to drop the younger members, the Christian Writers Group, the Romance group, and anyone writing novels.)

Can I make the site perfect for everyone? Of course not. And I don't try. I give as many options as I can while still staying within the basic rules of the site. The first few months were very stressful as I tried to balance everyone's needs. A year and a half later I've come to realize that I can't please some of the people because they just don't care about the site. Their interests are purely personal and the fact that some major change might benefit only them is not important in their view of the site. They want things for themselves and any change that doesn't work for them is obviously wrong.

So you learn to shrug it off. Maybe if this were a paying site, or if the people involved ever did anything but complain, I might feel differently. Or maybe not.

Though sometimes I think if the active members paid $1 a month, I wouldn't scramble to cover things like the money it cost to get the chat working again a few months ago. There might even be enough to keep Vision funded, which has been a problem this year. I'm gathering my birthday funds and should be able to cover both the last and the current issue. Do I mind? No. I really like Vision and I'm only annoyed (and embarrassed ) that I can't seem to get the money, time and work to coincide. Add the DTF work -- which I hope paying me back for the time I've invested soon -- and I'm surprised I still have time to write.

Never mind that it's 8:15 am and I haven't been to sleep yet. Maybe its time to.

All in all, I think the site works as well as a site of this type and size could. People will complain. Like Holly, I might one day decide that's enough. For now, though, I think we're doing fine.

Just always remember that the site isn't about you; it's about a large number of writers coming together to help each other reach publication. I think it's pretty impressive.


Jean said...

Did you remove the link at the site for donations?

Jeri said...

Wow, nice comments interface!

Anyway, have you considered a mini PBS-rally for money once or twice a year? I do think people would be happy to help out if they were just prompted.

And some of the examples you cited were just too funny - how could you dare not adhere to the "pure" romance standards! *lol*

You're running a site that is so huge and so encompassing, I'm perpetually amazed you haven't gone nuts over running it. Cudos to you, Zette.

Zette said...

Jean -- Yes I did. At the time I thought I had enough funds to make it through two years for the site -- but chat had some unexpected costs. Still, I think if I get the advance for Ada Nish Pura in time all will be well.

Jeri -- The problem is really more with Vision than the site (at least as long as nothing more goes wrong!). I'm annoyed because I bought myself something expensive and even though I love it, I should have realized that my personal cash flow was going to slow down again.

I hope by the end of this month to have everything with Vision caught up and maybe get far enough ahead that I won't have this problem for the next issue.