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September 2007: The Ever-Changing World of Internet Business and Car Forums

Rob

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The Ever-Changing World of Internet Business and its Effects on Automotive Online Communities

by Rob Loszewski
Tuesday, September 4, 2007
©2007 Rob Loszewski, Corvette Action Center
No use without permission


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[SIZE=+3]A[/SIZE]s many folks are aware, the Corvette Forum and several other online automotive communities were recently purchased by a company called "Internet Brands." Internet Brands operates many e-commerce and online community sites and also supplies internet software services.

Within one week of publicly announcing the purchase of CF and the other sites, they filed a registration statement for a proposed initial public offering. Not surprising after watching them gobble up approximately 5-6 companies specializing in online communities and related software.

Many of the members of CF expressed concerns about the future of the site, supporting memberships, post capability, moderation, etc. Not surprisingly, many of those concerns were presented to me by our members regarding the future of the Corvette Action Center, where it's been, where it's going and what my plans are for it.

Recently, Internet Brands decided to run streaming video ads that appear in the first post, on the first page of every thread in the forums. Many CF members have expressed a public outcry against this and jumped ship to Digital Corvettes and a couple other sites. Several members here have forwarded some interesting comments and beliefs posted by CF members in a few threads that have been locked at CF. I thought I'd take this opportunity to address any and all concerns by our members and others.

The most common question I've been asked recently is, "have you received any offers to sell the Corvette Action Center?" I have in fact received several offers over the last couple of years, but I have repeatedly turned them all down.

Censorship and Moderation

Recently, I've been informed that the forums here are viewed as being too heavily moderated and censored. The censorship part makes me laugh because after reviewing some of the posts made by these people on other sites, I can totally understand their discontent about being censored. A lot of the BS I read from them would not fly here and it's really no sweat off my...

CF, DC and all the other online automotive communities, including this one, have their own unique characteristics and online dynamics. Troy Roberts and his Administration ran Corvette Forum according to their own set of rules and guidelines. Patrick Gramm and his Administration run Digital Corvettes according to their own set of rules and guidelines. Some sites have more rules and guidelines than others, and some sites let more crap fly than others. There really is no right or wrong way to run an online automotive community.

From day one, the Administration here has operated these forums more strictly than CF and DC. I established a set of operating guidelines as best I could in order to encourage across the board fairness between members as much as possible. At times, they've been helpful and at times they've been a hindrance. Regardless of whether it's an online or offline community we're talking about; rules, laws and guidelines are never 100% fair across the board, but as site owners, administrators and moderators, we always strive to be as fair as possible.

When the Corvette Action Center first started out, we ran these forums pretty strict. Over time, I've loosened a lot of that and let more stuff fly than before. I don't let as much stuff fly as CF or DC allows, but that's how I choose to run these forums. It's been successful and the feedback I've received about how these forums operate has been encouraging. I don't intend on changing anything.

Regarding the accusation of censorship here, if you post something here that falls outside the guidelines we've established, then yes, the Administration here will edit or delete your post if necessary. After observing how Corvette Forum, Digital Corvettes and all the other online Corvette communities operate out there, they too will edit and delete member posts if the content of those posts fall outside the guidelines that their site owners established. Yes, our guidelines are more strict, but unless a member(s) presents valid reasons to change one or more of those guidelines I see no reason to change them.

If you do not agree with how any of the Administrators and Moderators act here, I have always encouraged our members to contact me privately and let me know their thoughts. The Administrators and Moderators help me run the site, but they too are human and make mistakes. They are not perfect and if you feel you're being singled out for something or there is a bigger issue looming on the horizon, then you need to bring it to my attention. I'm not always in the forums 24/7 and I don't always know every little problem or detail being discussed or argued. Those of you that have been long time members here, know damn well that I have no problem removing or demoting someone from the Administration. I've done it before, and I'll do it again if necessary.

While I'm also on the topic of moderation and censorship, I've heard another interesting rumor based upon the looney delusions of a previous member. I am the only one that has direct access to the databases here on the Corvette Action Center, and NO, I do not look at member usernames and passwords, log in as them, and post under their accounts. All member passwords are MD5 encrypted in the database.

MD5, or Message Digest Algorithm 5, is a cryptographic hash function that outputs a message digest (or fingerprint) of the input. MD5 is an 128-bit encryption. Compared to other cryptographic encryptions, MD5 is very fast to compute under a 32-bit computer—that's why it is so widely used. MD5 is used on virtually all forums and interactive online communities that involves authentication. If you ever used Invision Power Board, OpenBB, or vBulletin (the software that runs these forums) — their user passwords are all encrypted in MD5. MD5 is also used in verifying data integrity—meaning to make sure that data has not been changed. So your password may be "moron", but in the database that password looks like "3l5k6j3h56lkj3h56lj". If you try entering "3l5k6j3h56lkj3h56lj" with its respective username, you will not be able to log into the forums.

That's why, if you contact me and tell me that you forgot your password and need to know what it is, I will either ask you to tell me what you want it to be and I'll manually reset it for you, or I'll have the system send out a password reminder to you which is nothing more than a means for you to change your password rather than find out what it originally was. Unless you tell me what your password is, it is impossible for me or anyone else to log into your account and post as you.

Forum Activity and Popularity

As for the lower degree of activity seen here as compared to CF and DC, personally, it really doesn't phase me. I've always run these forums by the motto of "Quality not Quantity," and I'd rather see a few posts with quality responses rather than a million posts with dumb-ass remarks and smilies all over the place. Other Corvette sites don't have a problem with that, and that's totally up to them how they want to run their forums.

The other interesting fact is that the Corvette Action Center was built using a much different model than many of the other online Corvette community sites were. I didn't want the CAC to be just another clone of something that already works well and is successful.

The other sites consist mainly of forums and some galleries. The forums here are just one small part of a very large web site. The History section, Knowledgebase, Portal, Model Center and all of the technical information contained within makes up the main part of the Corvette Action Center. The forums here are not the largest, but the Corvette Action Center *is* the largest Corvette web site out there.

Contrary to popular belief, running a web site, depending on its size and traffic, can take an enormous amount of time, effort and money. Just because it costs little to nothing to access the web from home or work, doesn't mean that there are no costs associated with running a web site.

A web site is nothing more than a bunch of static files and databases containing bits and bytes of data on a server - not unlike your personal computer at home or work. Servers require electricity, software and software upgrades (which require the purchase of licenses), maintenance, etc. Unless you run your web site out of your own home, the server resides at a hosting company - a company that specializes in running servers and connecting users to the web. Servers and hosting companies are, in my opinion, the backbone of the world wide web. It's web sites and their content provided that make up the filler. All of this requires money. Several site owners choose to fund their sites in various ways. Some make it their full-time job and heavily market their sites to companies and potential advertisers in order to generate revenue. Some site owners build their web site and when the opportunity presents itself, sells it off for a profit. Some run their web sites on a shoestring budget and really don't care about how much revenue it generates. There really is no right or wrong here. It's all in how you choose to run your web site and what your own personal goals are for it.

Some site owners prefer to guerilla-market their web sites while others prefer to use some pretty low, underhanded tactics to market their sites - this coming from a couple vendors who have approached me recently with some interesting comments they received. A rather sad way to conduct business in order to pad your own pockets, but I suppose...business is business and everything else is just fluff on a cake so I'm told...

Where We've Been and Where We're Going

In answer to many of the questions I've received, yes, running the Corvette Action Center is a full-time job, but it is not what pays my mortgage or all of my other bills. I have a full-time day job and the Corvette Action Center takes up most of my spare time outside of that job. Could I quit my day job and devote 100% of my time into the Corvette Action Center? Absolutely, but for various reasons, I've chosen not to. Maybe someday I will, but for the for seeable future, i'm continuing on with my career.

Will we integrate streaming video ads here like Internet Brands' has done with the Corvette Forum? No. I see no need to do so. While I'm not saying that Internet Brands' decision to run streaming video ads was a wise one, I don't really see much of a big deal with them. Obviously, many CF members feel otherwise.

My goal for the Corvette Action Center has always been to simply be able to pay its own operational costs and be a source of help and information to Corvette owners and enthusiasts. If it produces more than that, great.

The Corvette Action Center started out as a small five page web site for a class project. The entire five pages literally fit on a floppy disk, used frames, and was just plain butt-ugly. That disk was handed in as my class final. The class instructor loved it and I decided to run with it and see where I could go with it.

Is the Corvette Action Center for sale? Regardless of a couple rumors I've heard floating around the last six months, the answer is "no." I suppose everyone has their price, but the Corvette Action Center, like a lot of other things I've worked for, has taken MAJOR blood, sweat and tears to build and operate over the years. It is a huge part of me as I am a part of it.

When I hear all the positive feedback I receive from site visitors, members and General Motors Engineers that I run into at major Corvette events every year, all the hard work and effort has been worth it.

What's coming down the pipeline for the CAC? I am in the process of working on a major addition to the site. I also have a TON and I do mean a TON of new technical info to add to various portions of the site. I'm trying to work on it as much as I can. I do have a couple other projects in a planning and development stage right now. These won't come to fruition until the spring or summer of next year, so stay tuned!

As always, if you have questions or concerns about the forums, the Administration or any other part of the site, I encourage you to contact me either here on the forums or privately.
 
Joined
Jan 31, 2005
Messages
422
Location
Somewhere in Red Wings land
Corvette
1989 Bright Red Convertible (gone) 98 Jaguar XK8
When I first bought my Vette, I tried a couple of those other sites. Didn't take long to figure out I didn't "fit in" with them. Patrick suggested that I try the CAC and yes, this is home. Rob, don't change the way you and/or the admins/moderators run the CAC.

Scott
 
Joined
Jul 26, 2005
Messages
836
Location
Colorado
Corvette
08 VR Convertible 2014 TR Coupe
Rob, I agree with Scott, don't change the CAC unless it will enchance it. I too looked at the other corvette sites, didn't like many of the posts (but there is great info in many of them), and then found CAC. Then I discovered the Supporting Membership link, and immediately became a Supporting Member. The information I've gotten from the posts, to quote Master Card, is priceless because the members know and truly want to help. I found that I trust their recommendations. The highlight of my year + membership was Cruise Fest in Colorado. Got to meet some truly fine people who are friendly and helpful. Now that I have met some CACers personally, I feel at home. I wish I could help others more than I do, but I only comment on posts that I can be of benefit. I was fortunate to meet you at the blender wars room, and was appreciative of the insight you gave me on the CAC. You explained it exactly like your post. And taking your suggestion, I try to thank the CACers, through a follow-up post, who have helped me with a problem.

I am like many CACers, I love Corvettes, period. 45+ years with a Corvette and I think of them all the time. The CAC enhances this feeling. Prior to the Internet in the 60s and 70s, I found the Corvette Clubs were the best thing going (yesterday just found my 1962 St Louis Corvette Club aerial flag, faded but safely tucked away). Some Corvette Club have helpful members, some spiteful members, but all in all, a good gang of people. I am sure that many of them are members of CAC.

You have a great bunch of moderators, administrators, etc. Getting to meet some of them at Cruise Fest 07 was terrific and hopefully I'll meet more next year in Cleveland. I appreciate what you and the other administrators are doing with the site, and I look forward everyday to connecting to the CAC.

I know this is a long winded post and may seem "mushy" to others, but I just want to tell you again how much I appreciate what you have started and have achieved in such a short time.

I am sure that Scott and Claudia echo my sentiments.

Barrett
 

bradfordsvettes

Well-known member
Joined
Mar 28, 2001
Messages
549
Location
Boston, MA area
Corvette
jewel blue 61.cranberry 69 t-top.black rose 92
rob this is the best site around bar none.:beer Most of the people go out of there way to make all members old or new feel at home which it is for a lot of us just my 2 cents Steve :w
 
Joined
Apr 29, 2001
Messages
2,141
Location
Rio Rancho, NM
Corvette
1981 HD Suspension; ZN1 Option
Rob,

I do thank you for sharing the vision you have for CAC and members. And I do appreciate the fact that you know the true value of our entire community within these web pages is greater than the monetary value an assessor would adjust on a piece of Virtual Realty.

The only wish I have is to see you soon attend a Cruise Fest gathering in your own Vette...;LOL:rotfl ...I mean...I mean...:ugh

Seriously, thanks for the words and sense of direction, Rob. :beer
 
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Rob

Site Administrator
Staff member
Administrator
Joined
Sep 16, 2000
Messages
13,865
Location
New Hampshire
Corvette
1990 Corvette ZR-1
Rob,

I do thank you for sharing the vision you have for CAC and members. And I do appreciate the fact that you know the true value of our entire community within these web pages is greater than the monetary value an assessor would adjust on a piece of Virtual Realty.

The only wish I have is to see you soon attend a Cruise Fest gathering in your own Vette...;LOL:rotfl ...I mean...I mean...:ugh

Seriously, thanks for the words and sense of direction, Rob. :beer
wow....harsh...just harsh. I know nobody will believe me, but...I had the ZR out all weekend long - driving up the coast of NH into Maine. It was 75 degree, not a cloud in the sky, roof panel off...and just perfect.

It's amazing how much those Franklin Mint models will move on smooth pavement! :chuckle
 

LT4man

Well-known member
Joined
Jun 25, 2003
Messages
2,217
Location
Chicago
Corvette
96 Collectors Edition LT4
Rob,

Thanks for such an articulate explanation of how you see CAC and where CAC is headed to in the future.

The info I have learned here is (in the words of Barrett) PRICELESS!

Thank you for your time and talent.

SAVE THE :w
 

bill81vette

Moderator
Joined
Jan 17, 2004
Messages
4,340
Location
Troy,NY
Corvette
1981 dark blue metallic
Thanks for the insight Rob,love the site the way it is !!!!!!!:upthumbs:upthumbs
 

Edmond

Well-known member
Joined
Aug 1, 2001
Messages
5,218
Location
Louisiana
Corvette
2003 Z06
Thanks for the insight, Rob. I thought that maybe my computer was hijacked when I started seen those ads on CF. When I realized that it was happening with every thread, my first thought was that I hope that it would never happen here and the reason why it happened there was probably because of the new ownership.

I've been a member here for a few years now. I've met and talked to some of the finest people on earth. Where else could you just have someone you know online call you up, ask you to check out a car and end up spending thousands of dollars on that car because of your input? :D

There's a reason why I've been here for so long. It's a great site.
 
Joined
Feb 4, 2007
Messages
297
Location
Plano, Texas
Corvette
2001 MilleniumYellow Rag Top
Damn the torpedoes, full steam ahead.....

Hey Rob, I love this motto, and was really said by one of our great American hero's. I can see this is where you are at, and god bless you for it. I am new to this way of living, but I am loving every minute of it. You not only have a forum, but a community of the most unselfish people I have seen in a long time which brings me to another motto, if its not broke, don't fix it. What ever you are doing you are doing it right, and I am glad to be aboard. Scott:beer
 
Joined
Mar 3, 2003
Messages
575
Location
Somewhere in Michigan
Corvette
2002 Torch Red Convertible
Rob, IMHO you got it right at CAC! I was put onto another Corvette Website by a friend several years ago. It just didn't do it for me.... and, then I discovered CAC. Been here ever since. Thanks for a great Corvette Website.

Rocket
 

Pseudomind

Well-known member
Joined
Mar 9, 2005
Messages
668
Location
Jacksonville, FL
Corvette
2002 MY Roadster
Rob, IMHO you got it right at CAC! I was put onto another Corvette Website by a friend several years ago. It just didn't do it for me.... and, then I discovered CAC. Been here ever since. Thanks for a great Corvette Website.

Rocket

Ditto to what he said! :upthumbs

And yes I have and I am also a member of most of fthese other Corvette sites, but which do I prefer?

Enough hints
 

aqua93

Active member
Joined
Jan 21, 2007
Messages
25
Location
Kansas
Corvette
1993 bright aqua metallic coupe, stock
Rob -
Just wanted to add my thoughts to the above posts. I also tried out several other forums before joining CAC. Each of those had their own 'personality', probably obtained by what the administrators allowed to be posted. For my own preferences, and, as is evident by comments of so many of the other CAC members, I chose CAC because of the way you are administering it.
Thanks for keeping us updated regarding CAC. You don't get thanked enough for your efforts. You should be proud of what you have accomplished so far.
 
Joined
Aug 19, 2004
Messages
485
Location
Denver, CO
Corvette
'72 Targa Blue Coupe
What they said...

I'm with the previous posters. Rob, you have done a great job, and you have a top staff of Mods and Admins.:upthumbs

I, too, checked out the other sites and forums, and was not impressed. Then I found CAC. Adult, fun, honest, sincere, helpful. CAC rocks!:_rock

Like the others have said, don't change your vision. And, thank you for sharing these thoughts with us. We do care. Congratulations on your success, and be proud of your great efforts.

Rick
:gap
 
Joined
Mar 27, 2003
Messages
3,676
Location
Mustang, OK
Corvette
'13 427 60th vert - '21 Silver Flare Coupe - CTS V Wagon(4-door Vette)
CAC and Rob get my vote also. This is the place to be in the Corvette hobby for me.

Thanks Rob!
 

Bonnell

Well-known member
Joined
Nov 15, 2002
Messages
599
Location
Lake Mary, Florida
Corvette
2008 Convertible
I joined this site when I purchased my second vette. Since then I have been a member here and on CF.

I do not agree with the new advertising on the CF. I fully agree that they have the right to do as they please. I have the right to vote with my feet.

This year I will become a supporting member on the CAC and I'll put my money where my mouth is.

This is a great site. Thanks for your continued hard work Rob.:beer
 
T

Topless_Ruby

Guest
I agree with the previous posts.
Rob this is by far the best and most informative site around.
I am signed up on several of those "other" sites, and I always come back to the CAC.
Keep up the good work!
:CAC
 

John Robinson

Gone but not forgotten
Joined
May 3, 2005
Messages
1,555
Location
Muncie, Indiana
Corvette
1993 Polo Green Coupe
Rob like the others I looked into the other sites. When I first started to post in those sites for help I became jaded with the sarcasm and useless banter. When I came to CAC I found a site with knowledgeable enthusiast who were willing to help no matter how silly my questions might be. Here every body's input is welcomed and accepted for what it is a genuine desire to be helpful to someone with a problem. As others have said if it isn't broke don't fix it. Keep your vision Rob it is spot on for this forum.
 
R

roxeye1

Guest
Rob, I've owned my 2k vert for 4 years now and have had multiple, annoying problems with it. I've often thought about selling the vehicle and removing the stressors from my life. But I LOVE the car - even as-is. I'm not in a possition to take my car into the dealer and pay whatever the cost for every little nuisance that occurs. I would not only rather LEARN more about my car, but also to be able to pass on that knowledge to those who need it. About a month ago I became a CAC member and I wish I would have been aware of this site the day I bought my car. I've found answers to my questions and threads that have made it FUN to own my car again! I don't know anything about these other sites you've mentioned, but as of now I can only thank you and all the contributing members for a job WELL done! Selling-out could prove to be a detriment to the quality of info offered here. Please don't ever jeopardize that! THANKS!
 

Hib Halverson

Technical Writer for Internet & Print Media
Joined
Jan 10, 2001
Messages
13,453
Location
CenCoast CA
Corvette
71 04 12 19
Rob---I've supported you almost from Day One and, after reading your post--sort of a cross between a mission statement and an editorial---I know why I'll continue to make the CAC my Corvette Internet home.

Yeah, I have a very limted presence occassionally on the CF but it's not that important to me.

Digital Corvettes?
Not even.
Anyone with crediblity and some character will not endorse that forum.

Keep up the good work, boss.
 

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