Where the heck do we (the SDMB that is) stand as an entity at this point?

Re the SDMB, what the hell are we are we exactly?

Are we this subterranean “thing” sitting on the readers servers? Are we Cecil’s “thing”, or the Readers “thing” or what? Does the normal Reader employee even know we exist in the bowels of their server system? Over the years there’s always been the kinda-sorta implied threat/promise that if the SDMB got to be too much a PITA moneysponge thy’d cut it’s 'nads off.

Now that this is (nominally at least) a commerical enterprise a few questions re the SDMB come to mind.

1: Who’s really driving the car?

2: Where are we going?

1: Mr Bean.

2: Back to the future.

  1. Profit

With apologies, this has been a rough week for Staff, what with holidays, spring break, vacations, illnesses, and assorted miscellany from real life. I’ll try to have someone knowledgable (like Ed) speak to this, but give us a li’l time, he’s on vacation.

I don’t leave on vacation till the end of the week. As to where the SDMB is going, just a couple observations:

  1. I can’t speak for the honchos at the Chicago Reader, but I venture to say the gratifying response to our subscription drive shows you can make a viable commercial enterprise out of a message board. That’s good news for anybody worried about the long-term viability of the SDMB.

  2. As for the SDMB community - well, he may not post too often, but when the Master goes to the columnists’ convention, all you hear is, MY Teeming Millions are cooler than YOUR Teeming Millions. Suffice it to say Cecil is very proud.

I’m sure Ed will have more to say, but here’s a bit of history. I did assume most everyone knew this.

Any personal comment is just that, personal; I do not speak for Cecil, Ed, or the Reader on this matter.

The Straight Dope Message Board was born when we were featured on AOL. When we left AOL in 1999, the board was such a popular feature that we wanted to find a way to continue in cyberspace.

At that point the Reader had a rudimentary website, but was still contemplating online options and had not committed to anything. The SDMB as a separate entity was going to simply be something that ran in the Reader’s placeholder online; an “interesting experiment in cyberspace” was what it was called at the time. We didn’t know if people would still be interested enough to hang around and contribute, but we thought it was worth a try.

The SDMB has proven to be pretty successful, to our delight.

Since then, the Reader has invested over 100K to keeping this going, even as it expanded its own online options.

We have never made them a profit and have not even covered our expenses, though we have had occasional little bits of ad revenue.

The SDMB has grown into quite a community and of course we want to see it continue if at all possible. The Reader is entitled to recoup some of what it has spent on us.

Technically, the board resides on the Reader server, uses the Reader’s hardware. and software, is administered by the Reader tech staff. We share the Reader’s online resources with all the other Reader functions, including online classified ads and personals.

Legally, the SDMB is the property of the Chicago Reader. But the board really belongs to you; it’s the community that makes it what it is. Where we’re going from there, can’t say for sure. It’s really up to our members. If you don’t support us, the Reader will draw the appropriate conclusion, I’m sure.

The Reader does not consider us a profit center (which is a good thing; we’d be shut down in an instant if they did, Donald Trump would fire us all in a heartbeat), but I’m sure they would like to see us earn a little. The Reader is neither a nonprofit nor a charity, it’s a business. We cost them money every blessed minute.

Unless and until you hear otherwise, we do expect to be open for business today and tomorrow and the day after that, as we have been nearly every day since we first opened on our own in 1999. And with any luck and support from our friends, today and tomorrow and the day after that will be pretty much the same as we’ve been and maybe even better.

Hope this answers your question.

your humble TubaDiva

But how much is the Reader aware of the SDMB? Does the head honcho know we exist? Do the look at our profit/loss statements? Are there any reader staff who are active contributors on the board?

They are very aware of us; they pay our bills, after all. Management is very aware of who we are and what we’re doing. Going to a subscription basis was their call.

The Reader is not active in the day-to-day operations, they’ve had no reason to be.

To the best of my knowledge, while there are occasional sightings of Jerry (the Tech God) and Mike Lenehan, mostly when circumstances warrant, no one at the Reader posts regularly to the board.

your humble TubaDiva

You better believe they’re aware of the SDMB, particularly in the afternoon when Internet access slows to a crawl because of the traffic on the T-1s. Reader staffers look in on and even post to the board occasionally, although no one is a regular that I’m aware of. I don’t think Reader management considers the SDMB an irritant, although Jerry has been known to heave the occasional exasperated sigh; on the whole I’d say they’re amused. Think Dudley Moore in Arthur, only without the money, which I suppose is pretty significant difference.

Er… do you really mean to suggest that the collective leadership of the Reader cannot be distinguished from a squealing, staggering, ivory-tinkling alcoholic, except insofar as they’re broke and he’s not? Surely I have drawn an improper inference… :wink:

As to what goes on in their personal lives, I cannot say and refuse to speculate, but they are amused by some of you and amazed by most of you and disgusted by only a few of you. (You know who you are.)

It’s mostly the general air of amusement I think Ed was referring to. We make 'em giggle.

your humble TubaDiva

A few more questions:

  1. Are there any rules for Reader staffers regarding the posting here? For example, could a person who works in classifieds or circulation post here without any sort of limits? If there are no limits, couldn’t they end up throwing around their status as an employee in situations where they shouldn’t? As far as I know every Reader employee that posts here has a fancy-schmancy title and carries some weight. What if Joe Schmoe the assistant editor thinks he does too?

  2. Could a Reader employee be fired for spending too much time surfing the company website? :slight_smile:

  3. Now that the SDMB is revenue generator, has there been any consideration of running ads for it in the Reader? Just as a fill ad, maybe?

With very few exceptions (like Ed, Cecil, and Mike Lenehan), any READER staff who is posting on the Message Board has a normal title like anyone else – member, charter member, guest, banned, etc.

The titles of “Moderator” and “Administrator” are given to the Moderators and Administrators of the Message Boards, respectively, not one of which is “READER staff” – not in the sense of being paid by the READER. We’re all volunteers.

From what I gather, just running the business of the Reader is such an intensive thing there’s not a lot of woolgathering and lollygagging in a workday over there.

Having spent some of my life in periodical publishing, I can tell you that the life cycle of going to press is such that it usually starts pretty slow and then accelerates like a motherf–I mean, it goes faster and faster until you’re running as hard as you can just to get stuff done.

It does not leave much time for running around on message boards – or much of anything else.

As far as preferential treatment, “Reader employee” is not a current user title and never has been.

Besides, why are you worried? You’re the paying customer, that makes you the Big Cheese as far as we’re concerned.

your humble TubaDiva

We’re their pets!

Hmmmm, I guess Perry Ferrell was right.

I heard he got all “In your face, Newsweek Boy!” on George F. Will.

He goes to the columnists’ convention, huh?

starts researching names

OK I’ll admit it, I have no clue whatsoever as to what/who/where/why The Straight Dope is/are. I wandered in here one day following a link from another site, and liked it so much I bought the company … err decide to stay.

My name is not Victor Kiam