I was asked to write about the LumberJocks.com 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 LJ.com 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 LumberJocks.com. 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. Box.net.
But I’m beginning to see lots of benefits in implementing files support directly on the LJ.com 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 LJ.com. 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!