Rambling About Vision and New Site Features

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Blog entry by Martin Sojka posted 10-14-2007 08:02 PM 1894 reads 1 time favorited 25 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I was asked to write about the vision/mission statement in the sketchup repoistory forum thread. So let’s do it… I’m also going to ramble about the latest major feature requests – repository and wiki.

As many of you know this website started as my personal project. I wanted to learn coding and website development in relatively new framework (Ruby on Rails). I also wanted to work on the non-client website… just turning all of my ideas into reality – features I thought about, design I like, keep it simple approach etc. I never imagined this kind of positive response and growth. What a ride. I’m not only improving in website design and development, I’m also learning to listen and react to the community’s feedback as well as to use various internet marketing strategies down the road.

The problem I’m facing right now is the site’s growth and no positive cash flow. There is simply no way I can continue devoting more and more of my time and money to this hobby. I have a regular job and only so many hours during the week days and weekends ;) So the reality is that we finally need to find some sponsors/advertisers. The income will allow me to spend more money on the growing site hosting requirements and events as well as to actually hire some people to help me with running the site.

We have made some important steps in this direction during the recent weeks. Firstly, I believe our site already presents quite attractive advertising channel. We have new advertising brochures (media kits) that Debbie is handing out to company representatives on the woodworking shows; we have updated our advertise page with the reasons to advertise on the as well as with exact advertising plans. But we’re also seeing that all of this is not enough and we must become more proactive in this area. It is something I have relatively no experience with but I was lucky to get in contact with possible commission-based advertising space sales person during this week. She has experience with selling ads for the local TV station in USA and is excited to help us. Making phone calls to the right companies and other activities. Any ideas in this field are welcome!

I’m also actively working on two sister websites – gardening and home building. So my vision is to have three tightly related websites. I will do my best and hopefully other two websites will have same positive and unique “LJ-like” community spirit. These three websites will allow us to reach even more advertisers and to spend more time on new features that will benefit all three communities. Gardening site is coming this week – crossing my fingers ;)

Other monetization plans are: Amazon powered woodworking store (not generating enough interest so far), LJ merchandise store (even less interest so far), donations and some kind of fee-based premium membership (more about it below). Business directory and listing projects for sale are in my long term plans too – just not enough time so far.

Now let me say that I really enjoy all of the feature requests and ideas you folks are posting each week. They are helping to move the site forward and you know I’m always trying to do my best to implement them one-by-one as my time permits. So I’d like to touch much discussed repository and wiki now.

I like the idea of having some kind of repository and I’m toying with slightly twisted version for a long time. I don’t like creating specific SketchUp repository because there is no reason to focus just on the SketchUp files. Plus this feature is related to the support of the post attachments directly on the I’m the proponent of the keep it simple and independent, distributed solution. That’s why using specialized sites like Photobucket and Flickr makes sense to me. To attach SketchUp and other files like PDF to the posts you have some good options right now too – ex.

But I’m beginning to see lots of benefits in implementing files support directly on the as we grow. Let me describe how I envision this feature to work. You could attach files like images, PDFs or even SketchUp files to any post you’re writing (project, blog entry, comment etc.). Once the file is attached you can even embed it directly to the post just by clicking on one link – makes sense for images. And to enhance this even more we’d have dedicated repository pages that would allow us to browse and search across all of the attached files on the Imagine what kind of repository we can build this way.

The main reason I was hesitating to add this feature is that it will dramatically increase the file storage and bandwidth requirements and this aspect is also quite hard to predict. The good thing is that relatively new Amazon’s scalable storage service seems like the right way to go. Cost effective but it still increases the costs down the road. So I was thinking about incorporating premium fee based membership option that would activate file attachments and repository browsing to the subscribers. I’m talking about something like 4-5 bucks per month (Just to avoid any confusion – LJ will always have FREE membership, the fee could possibly apply only to some premium features in the future and NOT to any features that are currently free). But it’d be great to know what you think about this first. Would you be interested in this feature? Doesn’t this kind of premium membership sound strange to LumberJocks? Should I start working on this? ;)

Another major feature I’d like to implement in the near future is Wiki. I really love the idea so thanks for reminding me about this. The only drawback I see is that it will add another content layer to the site and we already have projects, blogs, workshops and forums. So our little site will get more complex again. On the other hand I think benefits of having our own Woodworking Wiki are great. It can be also implemented as the standalone site so I’m still not decided about the exact technical implementation. Just wanted to let you know that I’m planning to add this in the future.

That’s it for now… Hope all of this makes sense ;) and thanks for reading this long post!

25 comments so far

View Thos. Angle's profile

Thos. Angle

4444 posts in 4197 days

#1 posted 10-14-2007 08:22 PM

Most magazine subscripions cost around $30-35/ year. That would be about $3 per month. Would that be enough to keep the site up and running? There is cerainly more content here than in a dozen magazines. I’m in favor of the Wiki but I think no on the repository. SketchUp already has a warehouse. We all need to get in line and use the on-line store that you have set up. I’ve checked the prices and they are very good.We also need to click on the ads on LumberJocks when we wish to look up a company’s products. Awareness usually solves problems. Martin, you’ve done a great job. Hang in and we will see what we can do to help you.


-- Thos. Angle, Jordan Valley, Oregon

View Mike Lingenfelter's profile

Mike Lingenfelter

503 posts in 4349 days

#2 posted 10-14-2007 09:21 PM

I pay for my subscription, and I don’t spend half as much time there as I done here. To keep a sight like this going I’m willing to pay a subscription. It’s always hard to take a free site and start charging for it, but I think most people here see the value in the site.

I was just reading a message over at The Wood Whisperer, and he’s starting to deal with the same issues.

View Karson's profile


35152 posts in 4635 days

#3 posted 10-14-2007 09:43 PM

I’m kind of in same range as Tom in a 30-35 per year range. Get it out of the monthly column and it cut down on the amount of having to track and prod people. Realizing it would all be electronic, but getting a $5.00 bill every month is hardly worth the problem.

We appreciate your efforts and want you to continue, so we are willing to support anyway that we can.

Martin I like your restoration of the next and prev on the 1/2 picture. It would be nice if the next button on the last picture goes to close, instead of having to go to the top. I don’t have a suggestion on the prev when on the first picture.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Appomattox Virginia †

View Obi's profile


2213 posts in 4472 days

#4 posted 10-14-2007 10:00 PM

Martin, let’s just take the facts and submit them to the Major tool maunfacturers.
1,769 woodworkers… that turns into 1,769 saws & saw blades

3,003 projects, turns into a very large amount of sandpaper (except for Dennis Mitchell), gallons and gallons of stains and finishes, breathing devices, dust collection, planes, sanders not to mention this year alone I’ve bought 5 or 6 gallons of Titebond II wood glue.

Certainly there are some manufacturers that have the vision for a strickly woodworking audience.

And there are a lot of us who need to buy new table saws, sanders and planes. The right manufacturers could offer us an incentive to buy here from them.

View Russel's profile


2199 posts in 4174 days

#5 posted 10-14-2007 10:40 PM

Martin, do what you have to do to keep this site up. If it requires a subscription, count me in, like others have said, I get more here than any magazine I’ve subscribed to. The workman is worthy of his hire; ain’t no reason you should bear the expense for our benefit.

-- Working at Woodworking

View A.W. "Pappy" Ford's profile

A.W. "Pappy" Ford

98 posts in 4117 days

#6 posted 10-14-2007 10:51 PM

Martin, I’d have no problem paying for premium feature access. I do think it makes sense to keep portions of the site free, however, so people can continue to join and see what a wonderful site it is before moving up to the premium services. This is by far the best woodworkers’ site around. The $30-35 annual model appeals to me as well.

In regards to the time and work involved, please know that many of us would be happy to assist in any way possible – anything you can do to distribute workload, I’d be more than willing to help out.

Many kudos to you, sir.

-- --==[ Pappy ]==--

View Martin Sojka's profile

Martin Sojka

1893 posts in 4707 days

#7 posted 10-14-2007 11:11 PM

Thanks for the feedback so far.

Just to avoid any confusion – LJ will always have FREE membership, the fee could possibly apply only to some premium features in the future and NOT to any features that are currently for free.

View scottb's profile


3648 posts in 4562 days

#8 posted 10-15-2007 01:31 AM

if you get the sister sites up, I may never leave the computer!... being that I bounce between woodworking and homereno – as many of us I think… there is a lot of crossover there… but still different audiences. as for the gardening, I’ve had to put mine on hold for the past few years while I get the yard/house ready. Was just about to start looking through the back issues of Organic Gardening, and all those seed catalogs to plan my spring. – this is an area I’d love to be able to benefit from a similar brotherhood as we have here – even save and swap seems with. Hope that you can keep everything working, and as always, I’m happy to help in anyway I can.

-- I am always doing what I cannot do yet, in order to learn how to do it. - Van Gogh -- --

View Dale Robinson's profile

Dale Robinson

33 posts in 4148 days

#9 posted 10-15-2007 02:27 AM

I have no problem with a premium fee but I would prefer to pay a yearly fee than have to keep up with a monthly payment. This site has become quite important to me.

-- Dale, southeast Misouri

View Dan'um Style's profile

Dan'um Style

14179 posts in 4218 days

#10 posted 10-15-2007 02:33 AM

Some websites start with a paypal account and ask for donations. You should start that immediately.

-- keeping myself entertained ... Humor and fun lubricate the brain

View newguy's profile


59 posts in 4161 days

#11 posted 10-15-2007 02:55 AM

Your at the crossroads. Get bigger or stay as a free site as is. Although it’s dollars for the website development when you consider 1771 patrons at 35 per year it’s 62k. It’s a start but not nearly enough to employ additional people, increase software and hardware etc. The money is with the sponsors and I believe you and the others creating websites for woodworkers are on the cutting edge of replacing or at least competing with magazines and subscriptions and of course getting the advertising dollars…

Maybe you need some strategy sessions with some of your competitors like the wood whisperer and others with some experts from this field to strike on an idea that will generate revenue required. You now this is how the Google, Amazon, and others started-don’t give up your the next generation…. All we desire is to be on the ground floor and know when you IPO the site…...

Look forward to seeing the site continue at cost or free..Also look forward to hearing about your next move.

-- Fred, Parker, Colorado

View jpw1995's profile


376 posts in 4533 days

#12 posted 10-15-2007 03:01 AM

I say we all visit the LJ store and buy ourselves a T-shirt! I already have a couple. Did you ever get one, Obi? I think if all 1800 of us coughed up a few bucks for a shirt that not only would it be a nice short term boost in revenue for Martin, but it would be a good recruiting tool since you’d obviously have to wear it every time you left the house. In that case maybe we should all buy two… I’m sure that first one would wear out pretty quick with daily use. Oh by the way… I’m in on the subscription idea. I still can’t believe that everything we get already isn’t costing us anything!

-- JP, Louisville, KY

View Bob Babcock's profile

Bob Babcock

1809 posts in 4321 days

#13 posted 10-15-2007 04:29 AM

I’d happily pay a subsripction fee Martin. I think a little of all or the above works as well, already bought the t-shirt…:)

LJ could be a great on-line gallery. Commisions on items sold, etc…

-- Bob

View RAH's profile


414 posts in 4112 days

#14 posted 10-15-2007 05:27 AM

I have been watching this site for awhile and like the information and love all the projects, I would be willing to pay for the site also.

Like many others I like small boxes, they are a challange for me.

-- Ron Central, CA

View sandhill's profile


2128 posts in 4159 days

#15 posted 10-15-2007 06:04 AM

Well you sure have a winner here! For me it was the tool bar. I wish I had that going for me when I use to do hosting and publishing web sites. The only thing I would do is to try and keep the community environment. I am not sure about the Map with people’s addresses. I am not real comfortable with the security issues of that; you have photos of some expensive tools and the inside of there home which you can tell if they have something that would be of value by looking at there home. I was not aware this information would be posted and I have been thinking of taking it off. Anyway it’s a shame we have to be that careful but in today’s world that’s how it is. I would be concerned about the liability it posses to you.

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