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NDNation.com Staff: Scott Engler - Michael Cash - John Vannie - Mike Coffey - Kayo - Bacchus

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

A Word From Our Sponsor

posted by Scott Engler
For those too young to remember, NDNation actually started out as an internet saloon called "The Pub" back in 1999. It essentially began with a bunch of refugees (including Cash, JVan and SEE) from Tom Schlidt's Irish Recruiting Journal after the IRJ was sold to one of the mega sites.

Now back then we actually had to keep it secret so that we could share information and because there was no way to keep anyone out (can you imagine?) We didn't have passwords and so we had to check all of our poster "handles" against our original Pub Patrons list and our Pub Bouncers JVan and Cash (now the Board Ops with El Kabong) and Pub Enforcer Across (now you can see where this started) were the only way to enforce the Pub Rules (number 10 has always been my favorite.) This literally required us to manually delete posters, which we would have to do many times a day during a rough season. If you ever wondered where the backroom came from, it was first a place for verbal brawls... as in "take it to the backroom." You actually had to click on a picture of an old wooden door to gain entrance. That it evolved into one of the best information boards on the web is testament to those who built it along the way. Ah those were the days.

Well, thanks to El Kabong's web programming prowess (who joined us after partering with me on NDHoops.com,) that's no longer necessary. A little history as background, because there were three things that made this site work as both The Pub and NDNation.com.

The first is the community. The Pub and NDNation have always been defined by community, its cast of characters. We are no better or worse than the people who come here. We usually ask you when we make major changes to the site and, as you've seen, try to be as responsive as we can. Like any server, we're always amazed at both the incredible generosity and some times mind numbing rudeness of all those we serve. Guys like Kayo, Bacchus, Across, omahadomer, Tim Kelly, GCND, fightonformorrisey, hobbs (and many more) really are this site to a certain extent.

The second is we're advocates for tradition. We don't want to see the links that bind generations together broken through abuse or neglect. When people see all the "negativity" on NDNation about administration moves, it's simply six generations of Irish fans speaking their collective mind about the possible loss of the "binding links." It's still the one subject I can relate to my Dad about (I know I'm not alone.) And let's face it, six generations are never going to be completely happy. We've somehow evolved as a voice for tradition and, whether it's truly effective or not (please save the emails about how self important we think we are - for whatever reason people here tilt at windmills,) it's become part of who we are. That's why we're going to help realize Tim Kelley's dream of restoring the "Here Come The Irish" chant back at Notre Dame this fall.

The third is we try to do everything from a user's perspective. That's why we linked to other "rival" sites back then (we were the only one's to not "protect our turf") and try to share as much information as possible by giving you the links to all the articles. I actually wore two hats as the Bar Keep and Pub Scrounge (article provider) back then. When we formed NDNation, that philosophy of community and information sharing went into our tag line, "Ask Not What Your Nation Can Do For You..." (the other possiblity, btw, was "One Nation Under God...") Our thinking was that if it's out there, we wanted you to have it and not have to go to another place to "get your fix." We know it works, because that's exactly what we want. We're just one of you junkies taken to the far extreme.

Normally around this time we start our annual donation drive to raise money to run the site (and you probably think this is our annual sappy donation pitch,) but this summer we're going to venture into new territory and try to run this site without donations. We've always been asked why we don't have advertising and the short answer is that there was no way to do it well and we weren't in it for the money. "Pop up ads" and "Smash theMonkey Ads" weren't exactly user friendly. I mean, we didn't want to see them either. Those factors have changed. Ads are now more sophisticated, the models are better and you can delete unwanted Ads from ever reappearing on your site. In other words, we can incorporate Ads without changing any of the ways we bring you information on the site. Second, we think we can run this site without your money and might be able to realize some return for the time we've put into this over the years. I realize this will strike some of our core members as greedy, but you have to understand that this site has been a ten year second job as well as a passion. Actually, it was probably my first job for the first five years (shhh, don't tell The Tribune.)

So, shortly you'll see Ads on NDNation, but we've taken care to make sure that the overall content won't change one bit and that we're upgrading content delivery. For example, our message board rearrangement moves the posts up over an inch more so that there's less scrolling (my big user complaint.) Also, you'll see that our new front page holds three times as many stories, twice as many schedules, has scroll over menus for easier access and direct links to all of our key boards.

Still it's going to be a learning process, and rather than ask permission from you, this time we're simply going to ask for your patience as we do this in the best way that we can. We're not going to focus on "revenue generation" at the expense of who we are. We're going to continue to build who we are and we think that in turn will attract better sponsorship over time and that in turn will create a better community (we want a Guinness sponsorship!) If we can't get decent sponsors, the idea goes. We're not going to become an advertising flea market.

If the model works (i.e. we bring in more money than we need to run the site,) we'd also like to add more community features (suggestions welcome) and as the resident "idea guy" I'm never short on those. I'm sure there are going to be bumps along the way, but bear in mind we visit this site as users the same way you do, so we're always going to look at it through that lens.

The fact is we don't know how or if this model will work, but we're going to do this as best we can and strive for excellence. In the end, we think this will make the site better and more consistent because we can hire someone to help us out rather than have to ask everyone in the backroom for advice on how to hard code something or sneak away from our real jobs to deal with a message board fight (stressful.) If it works, I hope to forget every piece of HTML/CSS/PHP coding I've ever learned (which ain't much) and just focus on writing (which many of you may not see as a benefit.)

And if it doesn't work, we may be back asking for money, but hopefully instead, we'll just ask for your patience and guidance.

Okay I lied, it was more than a word.

If anyone has any experience on the ad side, we'd love to hear from you.

Particularly if you know anyone in marketing at Guinness.

SEE, Cash, JVan, El Kabong
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