This is somewhat of a complete history. So if you’re just trying to get to where we are now then skip ahead to the heading, “The New Savage///Circuits” toward the end.
In the Beginning
Savage///Circuits started out in 2000 as a simple HTML web page listing of various electronics and microcontroller projects I built or was working on. In 2005 when I relocated from NY to CA I no longer had the same ISP, so the page was taken down and I didn’t really put it back up until 2010 due to adjusting to my new job, home and the area we lived in. Eventually there was enough requests and I put up yet another simple HTML project index.
Over the course of the year I had many requests for a more interactive website. People wanted to be able to comment and ask questions on my projects, but I didn’t have a facility to do that. Eventually I created a sub-domain called forums.savagecircuits.com and installed Simple Machines Forum software and created sections to discuss my projects and link to them. I even installed a photo gallery and blog under appropriate sub-domains and linked them from my project page.
Many people felt the other parts of the site were too disconnected and lacked cohesion. The consensus was that members needed to sign up on three different accounts to access the four sections of the site. Eventually I found a package that encompassed all the aspects I was looking for and installed vBulletin 4.x in place of everything else. This package included a CMS front end for my projects, community forums for general discussion and even user blogs and photo albums.
Success Of Savage///Circuits
For a while things were going great! We partnered up with several people who were interested in growing Savage///Circuits and we started having contests, monthly prize giveaways and a travelling junk box. We had an IRC channel and integrated it with the website to make it easier to participate. We had weekly chats with famous makers and engineers and most of all we had an active base of participating members helping grow our maker community. Donations were good and we had volunteers to help with site administration.
The Fall Of Savage///Circuits
Unfortunately, things didn’t last. I was diagnosed with Type II Diabetes and was having some issues with mood swings and other symptoms. But the main thing is that for a while I was a bit bipolar. Some of those friends who wanted to help grow the site suddenly weren’t interested in Savage///Circuits anymore and left. Some felt they could build a better site and left to attempt that. This left only a few people to handle a large site with all these activities going on.
To try and downsize I started disabling various sections of the website in an attempt to remove sections I could not maintain, however a random update to PHP by my host completely broke some parts of the vBulletin software and corrupted the database such that entire sections of the website no longer functioned. The frustration of this, coupled with so many key members leaving and the diabetes forced me to re-evaluate my efforts with the website and I eventually got so uninterested in it that I let it go for almost a year. The website sat completely unusable for many months.
Rising From The Ashes
In 2012 I worked on getting the site back up but things were hindered by continuing health issues I was having. I tried to bring back some key people, but some wanted nothing to do with me. By 2013 I was finally starting to get a handle on rebuilding the site. I had lost so much content and was struggling with trying to back up what I could from the old site. That’s when my wife, Wendy, was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. Suddenly getting Savage///Circuits back up and running wasn’t such a big priority anymore. With her health getting worse I stopped taking care of myself and my own health got much worse. Wendy finished her chemotherapy in February of 2014. After this things slowly started getting back to normal and I thought I could turn my attention to the website once more. The only problem was my own health was still problematic.
But the real problem now was participation. Most members had not come back and many expressed no interest in coming back at all, citing too many websites to visit or being too busy. The less people that signed up, the less interested new members were in signing up. I tried re-launching some of the old events such as weekly chats, moving us into a Google Hangout rather than IRC channel but got zero interest. I started the monthly prize giveaway but then most people who signed up only ever showed up for the giveaway and didn’t participate any other time. I re-started the travelling junk box under a new name, “The Fellowship Of The Travelling Parts Box” and we got another surge of membership to participate in that, however it too was doomed to fail. Several members delayed the box for over a month each, forcing others to wait. These members then refused to follow-up or participate again. By the third trip the box had returned with nothing but e-waste and the whole endeavor was scrapped once again.
All the while participation in the forums, which was already low, was dwindling even more. In December of 2014 we got the news we had hoped to never hear. Wendy’s cancer had come back. We knew what this meant and once again my focus wasn’t there for Savage///Circuits as a community site. I tried to encourage existing members to help with activity and participation, but there just wasn’t enough. And then the final blow came. Once again my host made some changes to the virtual server without notifying me and once again broke the software. At the same time Parallax had been working with vBulletin to migrate their now defunct forums to the newer version in their cloud system, but the support wasn’t there and they were forced to abandon the endeavor. I found the same level of support when my site broke as well and decided to simply abandon vBulletin as well.
The Beginning Of The End
I was forced to start backing the site up before it suffered the same fate as before. Backing up the site when you know you will be forced to migrate to new software means backing up all the content (pictures, text, attachments) manually (copying and pasting text and downloading images) and then having to re-post everything manually when you put a new site up. I had zero interest in going down this road again and my web host wasn’t willing to work with me so I found a new host and new software, which meant starting completely over. I wasn’t happy with Joomla and even tried going back to SMF, but just did not want a forums. Finally I opted for WordPress, which you’re reading this post on right now. WordPress is open source software you can use to create a beautiful website, blog, or app, unlike vBulletin which costs money and offered no real support. Unfortunately, by the time I decided to go this route I was no longer interested in trying to support a community site with no community.
I had the traffic of a community site with over 16-30 GB of traffic per month, but no active members to show for it. Google AdSense was employed back in September 30, 2012 to try and provide some compensation for all the traffic. Advertisements were shown to any visitor not signed in as a member. However as of April 22, 2015 Savage///Circuits earned a whole $211.44 from ads on the site and revenue from YouTube. That wasn’t even enough for one year of hosting fees and that total was from all the way back to September 30, 2012. Donations to the site had dropped off years ago so I was supporting the site entirely myself. An old friend offered to do some contract work for donations to the site to help, but he was overwhelmed with requests from people that didn’t want to pay even a modest fee for his work, so that source was tapped out too. Then, my wife passed away. Once again I stepped away from the site.
The New Savage///Circuits
My current goal with Savage///Circuits is to get back to my roots. Originally Savage///Circuits was a project index with no forums, no blogs and no need for user accounts for a community. I was able to focus on posting content and not worrying about what others wanted to see. So I have removed the forums and in so doing shed the stress, frustration and time sink of supporting a community that doesn’t have time and/or is too busy to participate and support the site back. The site will now focus on projects, tutorials, videos and reviews. I will also be doing some design consulting again. Going back to my roots, if you will.
What About Forums?
So you want to post comments and/or ask questions about projects? You can post comments on those projects or send us a message (see the contact page). I have no interest or plans to go back to a community forums. Three times I have tried to maintain it and three times it was a failure. No participation means no point in having a forum. As a former employee of Parallax I already participated in a support/discussion forum for 12 years and found that you can’t make everyone happy. No matter what software I run, what the color scheme looks like, how many forums and/or sub-forums I have, etc. someone is going to wish it was different.
Remember, a community is only as good as the effort you’re willing to put into it. If you don’t support it you may just come back later to find it gone. I’ve always believed in helping others help themselves, but people need to realize it works both ways. One of the members I mentioned leaving Savage///Circuits to start his own project was Jeff Ledger, who started PropellerPowered.com as well as a community forums, but which now appear to be defunct. I don’t know exactly what happened, but if it’s anything like what I went through or the lack of participation at the ZappBots forums, I can totally understand just giving up.