The Little Website That Could
On May 25 I pack up Cre8asiteforums, turn off the lights and walk away from an online community I started in 1998 to share how-to information on what was then called “website promotion.”
I feel so many things and have so many questions, but there is no place that I know of for owners who have buried dead websites to gather around, have a drink and brain dump.
So, I’ll pretend you are sitting next to me on a bar stool, our feet dangling because they don’t reach the floor and the noise around us quiets down, so you can hear me. Ok. That would never happen in real life. I’m probably yelling because the music is too loud.
There Was No Plan, So It Created Itself
I wanted to make a difference.
That impulse remains a mystery to me. I was a newly divorced mom, with two young children, who was a SEO and webmaster. To this day I have no idea why I wanted to share everything I learned with absolute strangers who were mostly men smarter than me.
I had two mentors, brothers, who had hired me to work on a software program they had built for AT&T WorldNet when I was laid off from my software QA usability engineering position job in 2001 during the dot com crash. One of the brothers knew I had a thriving little club at Yahoo that discussed SEO. The brothers had watched me start my career as a web designer, turned SEO, turned usability engineer, starting in 1995 and were there for every struggle, every fear, and every triumph.
The MIVA developer brother lived on a farm across the river from me, about 40 minutes away. He convinced me to expand into using real forums software, leave Yahoo and take the community to the next stage. He hosted it himself, for free, at the farm, where kittens scampered about his rooms filled with computers. A few years after that, one of the members persuaded me that I needed to go bigger, and another community member took over hosting it, also for free. Bill Slawski found it when Cre8asiteforums was a club and eventually became a co-administrator. It had grown so popular that Ammon Johns and Jill Whalen were assigned as co-admins and in no time, I had a large staff of tech admins and moderators. It was all volunteer.
The Teaching of Me
I learned very early on that how you write conversational content read by anyone in the world has to be understandable, grammatically correct, unemotional, precisely accurate and interesting. The most critical piece of any contribution made to an online community had to be ego-free. If a new person entered a conversation boasting about their expertise and being all competitive, they were less likely to be welcome or listened to.
I learned that nobody wants to feel stupid for asking questions. Since that is how I always felt, I wanted my own forum to be where feeling stupid was perfectly fine. For years our motto was “There is no such thing as a dumb question.”
The co-administrators had their own communication style. Bill was famous for taking his time to explain things in terms everyone could understand. He was always polite and considerate, giving everyone time to learn how to communicate better. I learned patience from him.
Ammon was the professor who would yell at me until I got it right. “Black Knight”, as he was called, insisted that I could accomplish anything if I just got out of my own way. His role was to piss me off, teach the lesson, piss me off again and make me achieve better.
Jill was my female role model, when there few of them around. She helped the forums get off the ground and then went on to create her own High Rankings Forums until she retired.
Word spread and over the next years many great people contributed until they became famous, started their own businesses and created careers that formed the existence of the SEO industry.
In the End, Maybe the Parts Are Worth Something
Cre8asiteforums is like an invention that starts out as a prototype, moves into the testing phase to work out the kinks, explore where it might fit in the web universe of web things, and then finally it lands in the unplanned for phase that nobody tells you is coming. It is the nobody gives a shit anymore stage.
Maybe I can sell it to a junkyard for parts.
Maybe it is an internet museum piece.
The history of SEO lives in the archives section, frozen in time. It goes back to 2002 because that is when the new version of Cre8asiteforums was launched. Its previous versions are long gone, especially those from Yahoo Clubs and Egroups days when it was called the Cre8asite Website Promotion Club.
In checking out the worth of owning a relic, I discovered there are many forums that remain today that are just as old, or older, than mine. They are like castles sitting on high mountains, like DaniWeb, Warriorforum, WebmasterWorld and Digitalpoint. There are online communities for affiliate marketers, black hat marketing, and web design that have survived.
I didn’t make Cre8asiteforums a kingdom.
End of an Era
Being in the thick of closing down Cre8asiteforums is really no time to be bearing my soul at a bar talking about it. There are surprises still, so that means that the education of me is not finished yet.
(Waves over bartender and orders another Fuzzy Navel.)
I didn’t always do the right things or make the best choices for Cre8asiteforums. Sharing regrets is the sort of thing that feels illogical to share, since I was responsible. I can look into your eyes sitting across from me and yup, you really want to change the subject to something happier.
Barry Schwartz wrote:
“Kim is at a new stage of her life, she has given every bone of her body to the industry and now it is time for her to slow it down a bit.” Cre8asiteforums Shutting Down On May 25th
There really are so many parts of this process that hurt. I felt that I had failed. It’s easy to go to that place. Feeling badly about something is familiar and it can lure you into getting comfortable, grabbing a gallon of mint chocolate chip ice cream and binge watching Lost in Space.
In fact, after I made the announcement to the community, I spent the weekend off-line. By Monday word started to get out. Turns out it was not really important news.
A few friends wrote nice things on Twitter, Facebook, the forums and Linkedin when they heard I was shutting down Cre8asiteforums. There must be a use for a piece of website history, where the heyday of search engines caused bar fights and conferences with booth babes and for the longest time nobody knew who Google Guy was.
Lights Out, Server Off
Stockbridge Truslow aka “Grumpus” wrote:
“One day, I wandered onto a site called “Cre8asite Forums.” It was a place where people got together and discussed all things Internetty. It was an amazing place where little seeds of information inspired me to learn more, showed me the areas where I needed to expand my knowledge, and gave me a direction in which to grow.”
I liked our garden.