It seems like only yesterday that we rang in the start of a new millennium and now its first decade is already over. Frankly, it wasn't a great one for most and the "Oh's" will go down in history as an uncertain time racked by wars, recession and uncertainty of where the world is headed. Not good all, and I sure hope we'll get our collective act together in the decade(s) ahead.
Things weren't all bad however. Technology advanced in leaps and bounds, making it possible to connect with people like never before. Over the course of just two decades, early bulletin board systems used by just a few gave way to an explosion of newsgroups, then online systems available to anyone with access to a PC with a modem, and finally the social networks we have today. Thanks to them, it's often easier to stay in touch with a friend halfway across the world than the neighbor down the road.
For Dimensions, it was a good year. Members of the worldwide Dimensions community started 15,000 new threads with almost 350,000 posts. According to big-boards.com, Dimensions has almost 6,500 unique visitors every day, and about a hundred thousand page views per day. Dimensions remains in the big-boards top-100 forums worldwide. During this past year, we added four new forums (FA/FFA, BBW, GLBTQ and a dimensions Market Place) and each got off to a good start.
Spam has become a major problem. It's no longer just the isolated spammer trying to use a free medium to hawk stuff. Now it's thousands of "spambots" that are programmed to seek forums such as Dimensions, automatically register and then start spewing spam. "But there isn't any spam at Dimensions," you may say. Exactly, and that's because so far we've been able to fend off the spammer and spambots with a continuously updated and enhanced system of anti-spam measures that makes us a difficult target. So while most Yahoo groups are choked by spam and even social networks are increasingly hit by spammers (I canceled my Twitter account when it became overrun by spam), Dimensions is virtually spam-free.
A great thanks goes to the Dimensions moderator team. They are the ones that make sure everything runs okay and that problems are swiftly located and addressed. Being a moderator is a thankless, time-consuming job that is not for the faint of heart. It means monitoring all those thousands of posts and knowing when to let things run and when to intervene. Our moderators do far more work than meets the eye, and their collective wisdom and dedication makes running a very large site like Dimensions possible.
We've been lucky as far as hardware goes this past year. There weren't any of the vexing problems and outages that caused frustrations and ate up tons of my time in years prior. That's not to say that things are perfect. I am not happy with the performance of our dedicated server, especially considering how much it costs to run (about ten times as much as all of my technology sites combined). With technology advancing so quickly I've been tempted to look for a more powerful and hopefully less expensive machine, but I'm just not ready to embark on yet another perilous migration. For the same reason I've held off upgrading to the latest version of vBulletin. I've spent so much time customizing the current version to make it just right for us that the prospect of customizing and debugging a major new rev will take some time.
The cost of running Dimensions remains a vexing issue. While there are a few much appreciated supporters whose monthly donations help defraying the costs of running the server, there aren't nearly enough. When I signed the server contract I had hoped not only for a steady stream of Dimensions supporters, but also for a reasonable amount of banner ad revenues from the Plus-size Paysite Board. The Plus-Size Paysite Board is a tremendous and totally free marketing resource for paysites. It has great traffic from a targeted audience (i.e. FAs), and each banner ad gets about 7,000 exposures per day. Yet only a few sites take advantage of buying an ad on a board that yields them tons of traffic while also helping to make that forum possible.
As far as the newly added forums go, I have mixed feelings. I was extensively lobbied (to say the least) for the creation of each of them. I am not generally in favor of adding too many sub-forums as they tend to split a community into ever smaller groups and because they tend to foster the creation of cliques and fiefdoms. As is, the forums got off to a decent start, but they've also created quite a bit of the bunker mentality I feared they would, with turf wars, complaints, and the formation of cliques. That is totally against what I want for Dimensions to be. I want for FAs and fat people to learn about each and interact with each other, not to be kept from each other. After all, Dimensions is where a lot of fat people and FAs have met and linked up, where numerous friendships started, and what is sort of a home for many of us.
I reopened the Hyde Park forum after much deliberation. Hyde Park came into being because I felt we needed a place where people can get on a soap box with their opinions, just like they do at the real Hyde Park in London with its famous Speaker's Corner. That worked to some extent, but all too often discussion quickly deteriorated into endless personal attacks of the "You're an idiot!", "No, YOU're an idiot" variety. It also seemed that people who otherwise got along just fine needlessly became enemies over political issues and similar discussions. Add to that the toll policing Hyde Park took on moderators, and continuing it seemed counter-productive. I closed it back in April of 2009 even though I agree that members of a community want to discuss all sorts of things, and not just what brought them to a place to begin with. After a 7-month hiatus and a modification of "Da Rules" I opened HP again. So far so good.
Perhaps the greatest thing that happened during this past year was the inaugural Dimensions Bash in Orlando that took place in late June. Heather and her crew did a fantastic job in planning and running a terrific 4-day event. It was heartwarming for me to address those who came to this first Dimensions Bash in a formal event on Saturday evening (this was my speech). Planning for the 2010 Dimensions Bash is underway, and it will undoubtedly be the premier size-positive event of the year, so stay tuned.
2009 also marked the 25th anniversary of Dimensions, which means the community has been around longer than a good percentage of our younger posters. 25 years is a long time, and overall I am pretty pleased with the way things developed. We saw CompuServe, Prodigy and AOL come and go. We saw Yahoo groups and MySpace go up and now come down. Facebook is a wonderful thing and I use it to stay in contact with many friends, but increasingly it seems to become just another place to play addictive games. So there's probably always going to be a need for a place like Dimensions, a community where likeminded people can meet free of spam, trolls and commercial messages.
For me personally, this past year was a good one. In the larger scheme of things, it's amazing how quickly one goes from rising young gun to elder statesman, but it's a rewarding journey. It's also amazing how life keeps having new twists and turns and how each decade and new phase in life somehow becomes the best one yet. Along the way you meet exceptional people and true friends, though there may also be the occasional glimpse at the deep abyss of human hatred and insanity. In the end it all evens out and more.
Happy New Year to all of you!!!!!