Richard "Lowtax" Kyanka on how to run a successful message board

Something Awful creator Richard “Lowtax” Kyanka recently spoke at the University of Illinois. His lecture, apparently titled “Enabling the Online Community through Vertical PSOTs and Automated Adverse Content Delivery Systems,” (full 104MB video available here) covers, among other things, Lowtax’s tips for running a successful message board. The guy runs the 6th largest forum on the planet (it’s the largest pay-to-post forum, I think) and manages to cover $2200/month in bandwidth expenses, so maybe he’s onto something. For everyone too impatient to download and/or watch the 90+ minute lecture, I’ve taken a few screenshots of his powerpoint presentation.

[ul]
[li]The top secret way to create an online using ordinary household products[/li][li]Establish, maintain, and constantly monitor the feel of balance[/li][li]Refuse third party advertisements[/li][li]Momentum[/li][li]Kill drama[/li][li]Kill trolls[/li][li]Do it because you love it[/li][/ul]

Hah, that is hilarious! I’ve always enjoyed Something Awful, thanks for the link and teasers.

I used to visit SA a long time ago but kind of drifted away. I had no idea it had grown into such a popular website since then. Lowtax is definitely a funny and clever guy, so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.

Yeah… but Cecil doesn’t really care, I mean he does but it’s dutiful kind of caring like when you tell someone who’s young and mentally slow, like college interns, that they have “really interesting ideas” before kicking them out of your office. And Cecil would certainly never stoop to some lame, stupid PowerPoint presentation.

This website is more like some pot seeds from some really fine bud you tossed out the back door, and they took root. Now they’re staring to grow and it’s decision time. Do you let them grow and maybe it’ll be worth something, or are the cops gonna come and bust your ass and you won’t be able to make the payments on your scooter while you’re sitting in jail cause the lawyer fees will eat you a new asshole. Rip it out or let it grow? Cecil must wrestle with that question every single day.

Cecil’s tired of the whole thing, he just wants to live his life and be done with this crap. Lotax* cares * … the little pussy.

My still-waking-up brain read this as “Cecil must mud wrestle with that question every single day.” I think I like my version better, even if Cecil’s more the type to fire off death rays from a lawn chair.

At last, a genuine, if grainy, photo of Cecil at work.

Interesting links. I hope that our managment takes at least some of it to heart.

Whether the Something Awful model would work here is certainly an interesting question. The SA Goons outnumber the Teeming Millions by something like 17,000 members, yet despite what appear to be much higher operating costs—the bandwidth consumed by allowing users to post high-res images must be insane—SA gets by charging less for a lifetime membership than a one-year membership here costs. Of course, that income is supplemented by allowing members to purchase additional perks like custom titles, forum searching (not covered by basic membership, oddly), etc, as well as by merchandise sold in much higher volume than over here.

That said, the demographics here are pretty different. I don’t know how many people here would pay for a custom title, and most users here dislike colored text, nevermind avatars and other images. Similarly, besides Cecil’s books, I don’t know how much SD merchandise would appeal to enough of the board’s population enough to make it worthwhile to try to expand in that way.

For the record, in case I come off as shilling for Something Awful, I’m not a Forum Goon; I’ve spent a grand total of maybe twenty minutes lurking on that board. I’m much more interested in looking into how to improve this board than trying to adapt to a new one.

Ya hear that, Chicago Reader Inc.?

More and more these days, I get the feeling from the folks in charge around here that running this board is a real chore, and I’ve always gotten the feeling that the Chicago Reader feels like this board is just a big drain on resouces that they just haven’t gotten around to pulling the plug on yet. I’m surprised this board has lasted as long as it has, really. A testament to its members, I think.

A comparison:

Demographics (guesstimate)
SDMB: college-educated, 20-50+, ~70% male
SA: college-educated, 20-30, ~90% male

Software
SDMB: vBulletin 3.0.7, stock
SA: vBulletin 2.2.9, very heavily modded

Cost
SDMB: $15 annually
SA: $9.95 once, enhanced features (avatars, search, access to posts more than one month old, etc.) $5-$10 each.

Members
SDMB: ~55,000, ? paid
SA: ^67,000 paid members

Posts/threads
SDMB: 6,651,055/329,669, all visible.
SA: 31,432,274/1,339,284, about 10% visible (all visible with upgrade)

Banning
SDMB: Usually last resort, usually permanent.
SA: Short (6 hours -1 week) timed suspension for most minor rule violations, banning for racism, AOLspeak and admin peeves. Membership reinstated by paying membership fee again. Permaban as last resort.

Safe for work
SDMB: Some adult language and subject matter. Two-click rule for NSFW links.
SA: Some adult language and subject matter. Blocked by many employers. Direct links to NSFW sites/images. FYAD subforum definitely NSFW.

Off-board community
SDMB: ~5 spinoff boards, IRC, LiveJournal, member photo site, former Teemings online zine, occasional local Dopefests.
SA: Lots of specialized goon-themed specialty spinoff boards, Internet radio and TV, and more, frequent local and national Goon Meets.

Images
SDMB: None
SA: [img] tag enabled, image leeching a suspendable rule violation.

Avatars
SDMB: None
SA: With $ upgrade

Colored/different size text
SDMB: Yes
SA: No, just bold and italic vBcode tags

Front page information
SDMB: vB stock: Forums, posts, threads, last thread, last poster.
SA: Forums, subforums, moderators, private message info, number of users logged in.

Advertising
SDMB: Google ads at bottom of posts.
SA: Goon-purchased banner ads, pay for sticky posts in classified ad forum…

SDMB forums and SA equivalents:
[ul]
[li]About This Message Board: none[/li][li]Comments on Cecil’s Columns: SA’s Frontpage / The Daily Dirt Discussion[/li][li]Comments on Staff Reports: none[/li][li]General Questions: Ask/Tell, Serious Hardware / Software Crap[/li][li]Great Debates: Debate and Discussion[/li][li]Cafe Society: Anime Death Tentacle Rape Whorehouse, No Music Discussion (and subforums), Cinema Discusso, The TV IV, Batman’s Shameful Secret, Creative Convention (and subforums), The Film Dump, The Reading Dump, The Music Dump[/li][li]In My Humble Opinion: General Bullshit (and subforums)[/li][li]MPSIMS: General Bullshit, Pet Island[/li]The BBQ Pit : none[/ul]

SA forums and SDMB equivalents
[ul]
[li]General Bullshit: IMHO, MPSIMS[/li][li]SA’s Frontpage / The Daily Dirt Discussion: Comments on Cecil’s Columns[/li][li]Hot Topic: Hurricane Hoedown: none[/li][li]Fuck You and Die: none[/li][li]Ask/Tell: GeneralQuestions[/li][li]Goons with Spoons: none[/li][li]Elementary Education: none[/li][li]Games: none[/li][li]Guild Servers: none[/li][li]Private Game Servers: none[/li][li]Traditional Games: none[/li][li]Serious Hardware / Software Crap: none[/li][li]Debate and Discussion: Great Debates[/li][li]Sports Argument Stadium: none[/li][li]Fantasy Island: none[/li][li]Poker in the Rear: none[/li][li]Anime Death Tentacle Rape Whorehouse: none[/li][li]Automotive Insanity: none[/li][li]The Crackhead Clubhouse: none (drig discussion not permitted on SDMB)[/li][li]The Firing Range: none[/li][li]Pet Island: none[/li]li Finer Arts forums (NMD, Cinema Discusso, etc) and (4) Review Dump forums: Cafe Society[/li][li]SA-Mart (and subforums): none[/li][li]SA Goon MeeringsL none[/li][li]Comedy Goldmine: none[/li][*]Comedy Gas Chamber: none[/ul]

A few more differences:

Editing messages
SDMB: no, “that’s what preview is for”
SA: yes, “edit by [user]” eppears under post if edited more than one minute after originally posting.

Posting by board owner
SDMB: Ed Zotti seldom posts; more often than not when something is wrong. (552 posts) :frowning:
SA: Richard Kyanka is a regular participant. (13676 posts)

Board culture: enemies of the people
SDMB: Sizeists
SA: Emo kids, furries, juggalos (Insane Clown Posse fans), Fark.com

Board culture: catchphrases
SDMB: I burning you dog, Hi Opal!, 1920s death ray, I burning you dog!, Once, in 1960, for 20 minutes, penis ensues, The Marianas Trench, I’m masturbating like a motherfuck!, Band name!, etc.
SA: Use of catchphrases generally shunned after a couple of weeks of intense use.

Actually, this is something I wouldn’t like to see change. The only sort of editing I’d support on the SDMB is maybe a five-minute window after posting to allow for typo and coding fixes. Beyond that, maybe allow users to delete their own posts (provided some notice of the deletion is left); plenty of us have posted things we’d rather not have anyone dredging up later.

[Tongue mostly in cheek]
Really, it’s anyone preceived as discriminating against anything in any way. Besides Republicans and Christians. They’re fair game.

But you listed “burning your dog” twice.

I guess you really like “burning” your “dog.” :smiley:

You point out error! I burning you dog! I burning you dog! :smiley: :smiley: :smiley:

What are the 5 spinoff boards?

I’ll quite myself from an old post:

I’ve always wanted to serve as an efuge. Been my life’s ambition. :stuck_out_tongue:

“NADS” - never heard of this one, though I’d visited the first two on your list - has a latest member called Socky McSock. An efugee from SDMB no doubt…

In contradistinction to NADS’s warmth, G’Dope welcomed me with the following message: ‘You have been banned from this Community’.

Talk about proactive moderation!

elmwood, thanks for that comparison. I think there’s a lot the SDMB could learn from the success of the awful forums if they were willing.