When I was chairman of the board of the National Association to Advance Fat
Acceptance (NAAFA) for all those many years, I usually summarized my
thoughts and sent a New Year's Message to my board, the chapter leaders and
key volunteers. It summarized what'd been happening, what I thought about
it, and what I felt we should do next. If you look at this Editor's Corner
section of Dimensions, you'll see that I continued this tradition with New
Year's messages to the Dimensions community. I haven't really been doing it
so much lately. Too much other stuff going on, and for years now we've had
the bulletin boards and chat rooms to talk real-time instead of writing
special addresses. However, today I want to talk a bit about things, and
where I think we stand, plus some general thoughts and observations on this
last day of the year 2004.
Dimensions itself has both changed and it's remained the same. Changed in
the sense that for several years now Dimensions has been a website and a
community of like-minded souls, a haven if you will, rather than just a
print magazine. There were times when my life and schedule pretty much
centered around getting another 64-page issue of Dimensions Magazine out
every other month, and we did a surprising 89 of them over the years. I
don't think there are many special interest publications that last that long
and create that many full-blown glossy issues (well, the first 25 were
smaller and not that glossy).
Yet, at some point things changed. The
internet and the web came along, Dimensions Online became one of the very
early websites. I think we first went online in 1994 when few people even
knew what the web was. For many years the site and the magazine co-existed,
but by then I was an independent business man and publisher and no longer
had a nice corporate salary to support things. So more and more of my time
was taken up by my technical magazines, and when it looked like it was being
closed down for good, we took on BBW Magazine as well (a costly half-million
dollar mistake that, however, I would gladly make again). It's been much too
long since we've done a print issue of Dimensions. Gradually,
Dimensions has morphed into being a community with many discussion boards
and a very lively chat system. We still report on news, still add to our
massive library of fat fiction story that likely has no equal anywhere. We
still add things to the site every now and then, but mostly the site has
taken on a life by itself, and most contributions come from you, the people
of this Dimensions community, and not from me. I just provide the venue, and
occasionally make a few decisions.
Exactly a year ago I wasn't in a very good space. The internet and web tidal
wave made print publishing ever more difficult and things looked dismal for
my ventures. I knew I had to make some major business rearrangement, stuff
that I should have done a long time ago. Resources were extremely scarce and
at the end of the year 2003 I had to lay off people and really didn't know
what would happen next. Fortunately, a friend and colleague of many years
had by then just returned to California, and that gave me some hope.
The beginning of 2004 was truly horrific. My 25 year involvement with NAAFA,
most in the organization's leadership, turned very painful and came to a
colossally hurtful and disappointing end. I felt lied to, stabbed in the back,
and assaulted, but decided to take the high road and refrain from public comment.
Yet, it was the end of a
quarter of a century of complete dedication to a cause that I deeply believe
in, and still believe in. The original mission of NAAFA remains as valid as
it was back in 1969 when a man to whom I still look up to founded it in New
York. At times I still look back and fondly remember what all we
accomplished over the years, all the good stuff that we made happen on my
watch. After I implemented my plan NAAFA had over 5,000 paying members and a
database of 25,000 affiliated parties. We were a force to be reckoned with.
And a family that included everyone, the young, the old, women, men, FAs,
I look at the many filing cabinets full of documents and reports and
minutes, and wonder if I should hold on to them. I look at the Lifetime
Achievement Award I was given in the summer of 1999, with the glowing words
of thanks and praise for my work, and it brings up feelings of anger, cynicism, and bitter-sweet
era of my life is over now, completely over and gone. I don't regret all the time and money I spent,
but I know it's in the past now. I know that even under the best of
circumstances I'd think twice about ever again involving myself in something with such
monumental emotional, physical, and financial drain. I also met some truly
mean perhaps because they were damaged people, but evil still. And that I do
not wish to encounter again, not even at the cost of the 98% of the
experiences that were good, and the many, many, many terrific people I met.
The final cost was too great. The final affronts were too awful. But enough
Interestingly, as if fate decided to give me a break, it was all uphill from
those very hard first few months of 2004. I tore down my old publishing
business model and totally restructured my companies. I found a new business
partner and that turned out exceedingly well. The core group of people I had
assembled over the years was still there, and together we worked harder than
ever on new projects. We had fun again, finally, and there were good
rewards. I hope it will continue.
As for Dimensions itself, I really have had much less time for it over the
past two years than ever before. Not in the sense that I forget about it or
no longer care or neglect it totally. I still read the boards and make sure
everything runs. I still update things here and there, I am still in
contacts with people who help me with the site, and I still make sure the
servers run okay. The latter, as many of you know, has been (or was, touch
wood) a drag for a long time. Over the past 2-1/2 years we've had more
hardware trouble than ever before. In 2002 and 2003 there often didn't seem
a week when something didn't break down, and we just couldn't find the
source of the problems. It was as if the machines were jinxed. We replaced
absolutely everything, sometimes several times over, and the problems
At some point we took some drastic action and it's been much
better since. It's still not an ideal situation as for the past year or so
Dimensions has been severely bandwidth-limited. I truly have no idea why
this is. Our offices are in the same building as an Internet Service
Provider and we have direct lines. And Dimensions isn't even a very
picture-intensive site. Yet, we're constantly maxed out and the ISP tells us
that Dimensions alone takes as much bandwidth as 400 of their customer sites
combined. Very strange, and frustrating to me because I do pay quite a lot
for the bandwidth. I would have switched to an external co-location
arrangement a long time ago, but I like the direct control over my machines,
and many of the affordable co-lo places would give Dimensions a hard time
even though we're hardly an "adult" site.
So, in an effort to lessen the load I shut down a few of the ancillary
services, like the old UBB boards and the HTML chat. It made a bit of a
difference, but not as much as I thought. And I HATE shutting down services.
I much prefer adding new stuff.
I don't really know which of the many resources Dimensions offers, for free
as always, are the most popular. I suppose that depends on the people who
come here. In a sense, Dimensions is like a massive archive with thousands
of pages and you can truly get lost in it. A lot of the content of past
issues of the print magazine is online, there are those 1200 stories or so,
there are the bulletin boards and their massive archives (and I haven't even
hooked up all of them), numerous columns, success stories, tidbits, artwork,
philosophical essays, wishful thinking, one-of-a-kind compilations, and there's the Dimensions Matching System, and there is
the streaming chat.
I still haven't recovered from the massive crash that ruined the Dimensions
Matching System back in August of 2002, days before it was supposed to go
online as a much improved system with both a free and a premium pay
component. I had spent a great deal of time customizing the code to our
community's needs and desires. At some point I knew the code practically by
heart and made daily changes and improvements. Then we had that major server
crash and found that a software glitch had taken most of the backups with
it. We eventually resurrected a lot, but the Matching System code was gone
for good, and I never found the emotional strength (and time) to re-create
it. So in a sense it's like an imposing monument from ancient times that people still can
use and enjoy. The Matching System essentially runs itself. 2000 people are
enrolled. And I think it still is probably unique in what it offers in terms
of customization for the needs of FAs and fat people.
I am immensely pleased with the ongoing success of the chat system. It's
been up now for 2-1/2 years. I spent almost as much time on customizing that
as on the Matching System, and I also spent a considerable amount of time
chatting with friends in there. I had never chatted before, but it can be so
I don't chat much
anymore, but it is tremendously gratifying to see how many people meet in
chat, and the amazing number of people who meet in what is just cyberspace,
then meet in person, then actually start relationships and get married. Now
that is in the true Dimensions spirit. Bringing two very special groups of
people together, make them understand each other, talk to each other, and
hopefully help making that match in heaven that is theoretically in the
cards when two groups come together who are drawn together by their special
circumstances, that has always been one of the cores of Dimensions' mission.
Also, I've met some truly wonderful people in chat. I don't know what it is
about chat, but there is often a warmth and spirit there that is not always
present on the bulletin boards, a medium that by its very nature actually
appeals to me more than chat. I like to think about my opinions and
carefully craft them, rather than punching out words as quickly as I can,
without much of a chance to check for typos and such.
By and large, I am also pleased with the Plus Size Paysite board. Veterans
of the Dimensions community may remember the decision process I had to go
through when the Weight Board became just a bit too flooded with thinly
veiled advertising for commercial paysites. I decided to embark on an
experiment. We'd have a separate board for Plus Size Paysites, but it
wouldn't be just any board. In order to be able to post and promote a
paysite, the posters would have to actively participate in the community and
post pictures. I encouraged potential and paying customers to use the board
to interact with the paysite owners, with the overall goal to make the new
board sort of a clearinghouse. For that reason I also installed software
that allows people to rate paysites and post their feedback. The board is
fun. When the bandwidth limitations became severe, I had to remove the
ability to upload pictures to the Dimensions server directly, but
fortunately that wasn't much of a problem for most. Needless to say,
whenever you add a new board, you sort of split traffic, and so the original
Weight Board has less traffic these days, though it still is considerable.
Personally, I am in sort of a down-phase these days when it comes to
posting. There's simply too much crap that is being posted anonymously.
There was a time when I believed in people's inherent goodness, but
apparently as soon as there is the ability to be anonymous, some folks turn
to ugly ogres (no offense, Shrek). That's not overall a major problem here, but it is something
that currently disillusions me. I just hate it when people are mean to one
another, and I have almost no tolerance for rudeness.
So where do we go from here? Hopefully we'll go on pretty much as we have.
At this point I have no grand plans to reshape Dimensions. I have always
believed in the power of longevity and steadiness. Many fancy sites come and
go. I'd much rather have Dimensions be a place that's always there, one that you
can always recognize, one that people know and love to come to. I leave the
fancy stuff to others, and I never even advertised for Dimensions anywhere
else. Those who are interested in the Dimensions community will find us.
I really do want to resume print publishing. It's clear by now that while
the internet and web have forever changed the way we disseminate information
and find entertainment, they have not replaced print. I am a car guy and
subscribe to many car magazines. Yet, I never read their stuff on their
often vast websites. It's just not the same. So new issues of Dimensions the
magazine are needed. I hope I'll get some help with that. The old templates
are outdated, and the old general content structure as well. I've had
several offers to help, and I really appreciate that, but what I really need
is a true project manager, heck, in Trumpian terms An Apprentice. Someone who can pull it all
together so that, in the end, it won't all fall in my lap again. It'll
eventually happen I hope.
So there. Over 2000 words of contemplations. I could go on, easily. There's
much that needs to be said about size acceptance, about some fatal flaws,
about what Dimensions represents and needs to represent, and so on. But this
is enough for now.
Happy New Year to all of you!!!!!