Can't get through to the Straight Dope?

If you know of people who can’t get through to the Straight Dope Website or the SDMB, this may be because of a problem with their Internet service provider’s domain name server. On April 13, our tech guys changed the IP numbers for our site. Our ISP updated its DNS and from there the change was supposed to propagate to other servers throughout the net. However, starting around April 26, we’ve had reports of people who were unable to access our site and we’ve had a few problems ourselves. We’re not sure where the difficulty lies and at this point can only advise people to contact their ISPs. If that doesn’t work we suggest having a friend post the details here (location, type of access–dialup, etc.–ISP name, etc.) and maybe we can figure something out. We’d appreciate if people who can access the board would pass the word to those who can’t.

On a related topic, we realize that access to the SDMB is painfully slow during much of the day and we’re discussing what to do about it. We’re maxed out on our current server and upgrading it and the communications lines feeding it will entail substantial ongoing expense. Ad sales, never very strong, have tanked not only for us but for everyone. So we’re considering switching to a subscription-based approach, in which you’d pay a monthly or annual fee for posting rights on the SDMB. (Reading the board would still be free.)

We realize imposing fees will chase off many–perhaps most–of our users but at this point we’re not seeing any other way to make the SD Website a paying proposition. We appreciate past efforts to pass the hat on our behalf but that’s not a long term solution. No decision has been made regarding subscriptions–we’ll let you know when we do. In the meantime, our apologies for the poor service; it’s frustrating for us too.

Thanks for the heads-up, Ed. It’s appreciated.

Nice of you to come out of your cave and let us know what is going on, Little Ed.

I hope that the situation does not get to the point where you have to switch to a subscription-based approach. I’m too young for even a credit card and it would kill my SDMB experience.

Though, whatever is best for the boards. Keep us in the know.

Can’t you do fund drives like NPR, and guilt us into giving? The mods could take email pledges, while posting notes about the value for the dollar, and how if you’re using the board but not pledging it’s morally about the same as nun-abusing? And that our pledges could be tax-deductable, and drop us into a lower tax bracket? They could also solicit remembrances in our wills, so that when we die, $10,000 will be left to the SDMB for its continuation and maintenance. Then stealth Straight Dope operatives could assassinate certain individuals when there were financial crunches!

Makes sense to me!

Seriously, SDMB has great value, and I hope you come up with a way to extract enough of it from the teeming millions to keep it running.

I hope you don’t have to make this a subscription-based service. But if you do, allow people to pay by check or money order. We don’t all have credit cards. I refuse to get one; I refuse to legitimize usury.

I’ve always thought it would be a great idea to have this board be subscription based, as long as the fee was low (say, maybe 20 bucks a year or so). It would provide some revenue to the board as well as keep out undesirables (trolls, drive by’s, etc).

I don’t think a fund raiser would be out of line for a new server, also. OpalCat has had some success with that on her board, to defray costs of a new server.

Merc, and others without a CC, I’m sure there’s someone who’d be willing to get you a subscription if you sent them the money.

Thanks, Ed, for keeping us updated.


Suppose this became a subscription-only service. How can you assure us that you can keep our credit card numbers secure, in light of the fact that this website was broken into by hackers in the past?

Ed: thank you for keeping us informed.


  1. As I understand it, the hacking was done with HTML which is now disabled. Also, the hacking was while the old UBB software was in use, not the current vB software.

  2. IF they go the subscription route, they would obviously use software designed for secure payments. Maybe they could just add a “subscription” item to the Straight Dope bookstore, already on a secure server.

I’m also more than willing to pay a subscription fee but don’t have a credit card and I’m not prepared to get one purely in order to subscribe to SDMB.

I think many regulars would be wanting as many payment options as possible (bearing in mind not everyone is from the US).

I have a couple of questions about how the subscription service might operate Ed.

In the past we’ve been told that the Reader can’t accept donations from us to upgrade the SDMB servers, even though we as a community have been more than willing to give that money for that purpose.

One thing which concerns me about a subscription service is how many current posters will simply be unabe to afford the cost. Freely given donations take into account that we are contributing money for the welfare of the whole community; if I can afford to subscribe and my fellow poster cannot, then this whole community loses whatever that person brought to these boards.

Would the subscription fee be a “one-off” and how would it be determined? While we might know that new servers would cost “X”, we don’t really know that even if we choose the subsciption route enough other people will make that same choice to cover the cost of new servers. Is the CR going to kick in the difference should the total number of subscriptions fall short of the cost of a major upgrade? And if the total of all the subsciption fees collected is more than the cost of new servers, will the surplus be spent on enhancing the SDMB or will it go into general SD funds?

I love this place and I want to keep it accessible to as many people as possible, even if that means me underwriting part of the overheads. But, I can only say “yes” or “no” to specific proposals, and right now the concept is very general.

Do you have a short-list of possible subscription models? Is this going to happen no matter what or the boards will close?

Inquiring minds want to know.

’prise I think Ed is testing the waters somewhat. What I mean is, I don’t think the answers are ready, because not all the questions have been put together yet. Your (as always) thoughtful response will help frame the questions and I suppose they are looking for more.

I must admit I am surprised that there are so many initial responses from people without credit cards. I mean I think of myself as poor and don’t even own a computer, but I can manage a credit card. I am sure there will be a way, however, in which other forms of payment can be handled, and the current wide range of correspondents be retained.

For one of the best things I have learned from these boards is that not all those young whippersnappers are without substance.

And Ed, yes I’d be willing to pay - the experience is valuable to me. If a serious threat to my time management…

Ok, quick question. How much would you need for a new server/new line/ whatever. And, the critical queston:would the Reader be willing to accept a one time donation specifically for that purpose? That’s all we ( the TM ) need to know. The donation could be made, nay, would be made, annonymously. You would be completely out of the loop. Just let me/us know. Forget pride, we’ll save this, and y’all can just shrug and be glad. It would never show up on the boards.

Basically, I’m asking: IF the money “magically” appeared, would/could the Reader use it for the new server? And that’s all y’all at the Reader need to worry about.

I had a similar thought to Weirddave, collecting voluntary donations but channeling the money through a third party so that it would be anonymous. This would avoid the problem of feelings of “ownership,” since the names of those who gave money would not be known to the Reader. I would much prefer to see it done this way if possible, since so many of our posters couldn’t afford a subscription, and those who did give could do so as their individual circumstances allow.

I can get on at home (dial-up), but not at work (cable modem). Shall I do a test through the VPN? (I even tried to bounce through an anonomous site at work today - didn’t help.)

If enough people are driven off by the need to subscribe, CR won’t need to buy new servers at all.

Yup, I’m afraid the “weeding out” factor is the main perk of the subscription idea.

I personally think the cash can and should “magically appear”, in the interest of keeping the community intact, as has been suggested.

And yes, I know Ed is just checking the general reaction and nothing has been decided yet. I just wanted to be part of the general reaction :smiley:
— G. Raven

If it has to happen, it will – but I’m afraid it’ll mean the last of me, here. Not because of protest, heck no – but because the exchange rate between the US and NZ is criminal right now ($US 1 = $NZ 2.50 approx), so any sub would be 2.5 times worse for me here. Getting money orders and American-currency cheques incurs big bank charges, here. I wouldn’t be able to afford anything beyond $30 NZ per year. And even then, it would be slapbang in my “luxuries” file.

I do have a credit card, but I’m loathe to risk using it on the Net.

I’ll accept what comes. But if it’s subscription, then I guess I’ll just be blue, and say bye.

Another sad point, Americanizing these boards even further is the last thing they need, diversity is the key to debate!

— G. Raven