Feedback sought on future of DCSki
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16 users
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Scott - DCSki Editor
May 14, 2007
Member since 10/10/1999 🔗
1,132 posts
Each summer, I evaluate DCSki and try to prioritize what changes I would like to make to the site. I have not made any final decisions, but am interested in getting some feedback from readers. Admittedly, readership on DCSki goes down once the snow melts, so this might not be the best time to solicit comments, but I know those of you still lurking are among the most enthusiastic DCSki readers.

Some background: DCSki has become a lot of work for me. After running the site for more than a decade, I'm a bit exhausted. I usually feel this way at the end of a season and then am re-energized as the next season approaches, so that's not new, but the past season has probably been the least amount of fun for me in terms of running DCSki. As many of you know, DCSki is something I do on the side -- in addition to a demanding full-time job.

I continually evaluate how I can reduce stress and focus my efforts on the parts of DCSki that are most valuable to people. I spend a great deal of time updating features such as the DCSki Event Schedule, for example, but is that something readers find useful or indispensable? Should I just focus on a few key features and put all of my efforts into those? I also spend time interacting with advertisers, setting up ads, etc. -- a time-consuming process that is not enjoyable for me, although I am grateful to DCSki's advertisers. Making money has never been the motivation for running DCSki, but the advertising revenue has helped keep the site going. Several years ago, DCSki began accepting reader donations, and many readers have made generous donations, but the donations amount to about 5% (at most) of the total revenue that DCSki brings in. So it is tempting to eliminate advertising from the site -- that would free up a lot of my time -- but that would
have a profound effect on the economics of running the site.

I don't mean for any of this to sound like whining -- I just want to provide some background into my thinking.

Here are some questions in no particular order. Feel free to post your response, or to send your reponses to me privately.

- What features of DCSki do you most rely on? What features could you do without? For example, do you take advantage of the snow condition reports on DCSki, or the event listings? (Please review the main menu on DCSki's home page to become familiar with all of the features DCSki offers -- there are quite a few!)

- What would you think if ads disappeared entirely from DCSki? If DCSki became an ad-free site, would you be more likely to contribute annual donations to help subsidize the operation of the site? If so, what amount would you think is fair? (You can e-mail me privately if you don't wish to post this publicly.)

- If you could add one new feature to DCSki, what would it be?

- I believe the home page for DCSki is a bit cluttered, and am thinking of redesigning it this summer. What content is most important to you? What types of information are you looking for when you visit DCSki's home page? (I'm talking about the main page at http://www.dcski.com -- not the forum page.)
Crush
May 14, 2007
Member since 03/21/2004 🔗
1,000 posts
simple, s. - i know i sound pragmatic, but i am so in the moment to be this way. i think of another site lpsg.or? (plz - if you are under 18 don't even go there) that had the same problem as you. the owner/web master sold it on eBay for $13K. and it still functions pretty much the same and none of the denizens are unhappy about the new management. if this site is a burden to you, you have to face it squarly. you know my position; i tried to help monitarily as much as possible but being in the biz i also know the real toc of this site and it can't run off of donations .... and you have the time to take care of it.

The only other thing i can think of is to make dcski like a ski club -- really. and have a board of dir. and delegate function to update and maintain the site. have admin pages etc etc will call for some more coding but maybe even snowcone can help. make it a community effort. i think there is some talent out there amongst us. me? i could write morose poetry for the site , lol.


well, heck (ohh i'm still in utah .... "oh my heck") i'm just thinking out of the box right now ... maybe this will give you some ideas.

E.
crunchy
May 14, 2007
Member since 02/22/2007 🔗
596 posts
well, im rather new to this forum, and i thinks its darn impressive that you are doing all this yourself in your spare time even! but since you asked ... \:\) the most useful things I find about the site are the forums and interactions with other local skiers. For conditions, resort profiles, etc etc, I just go to the actual resort websites out of habit anyway. If its becoming too much of a hassle trying to maintain everything and all, im sure many of us can help out if you ever need it. Heck, I work for a large network/hosting company, and could host the server and bandwidth for free if ever needed \:\) (altho if i ever switched jobs or moved, it might pose a problem)

Dcski is more personal, and mature overall than some of the bigass ski forums like TGR or Epic, which are sweet and all, but most of the maggots on those sites live out west or in bc, so most of the topics, reports, and discussions are centered around those areas with a small sprinkling of northeast thrown in.

So if you ever had to make a decision on one feature to keep, make it the forums, so us local folks can talk about local skiing with other local folks \:\)
JimK - DCSki Columnist
May 14, 2007
Member since 01/14/2004 🔗
2,698 posts
Some quick thoughts. May have more later.
Weather and snow conditions are of only low-med interest to me. I usually go to NWS or specific ski area website for weather when planning trip.
Events section is low-med interest.
Resort profiles are fairly high interest, I often use that as a way to get to a specific resort's website.
Bargain tracker is fairly high interest, but only checked rarely.
Personally, I don't mind the ads at all. Find some informative/useful.
The Lost ski area section is medium interest to me, but I am sort of amazed at the continual string of comments it draws.

The various articles and trip reports are high interest, but only until I've read the story once or twice. (Aside on this: I like to go back and read old feature stories done on resorts I may be planning to visit in near future. I guess I can just use search, but currently the fastest way that I know to get to a quick list of most of them is John Sherwood's 2004 article buried in the Q&A section under "most popular ski areas outside the mid-Atlantic". I would find them easier to track down if there was some kind of archive section where resort reviews/trip reports were listed/organized by country, state, and ski area.)

The msg forums are high interest and checked often.
Did you ever come to some feelings about getting volunteer moderator help for the forums or do you have concerns about how effective that would be? How is that done? Through some special permissions you give to certain trusted members to edit/delete posts?

Once again, thanks for all your fine efforts.
DCSki Sponsor: Canaan Valley Resort
tromano
May 14, 2007
Member since 12/19/2002 🔗
998 posts
Scott,

Thanks for all you do on DCski! I think the forums are the most important aspect. I do check the events schedule from time to time, but only if I am looking for information on demo days. I will also read up on articles and trip write ups now and then. The weather info is helpful too but since I started using the forcastfox plugin I check it less. The nice thing about DCski is that it is a 1 stop shop for info on all MidAtlantic resorts. If you don't know whats out there then its hard to find info, DCski solves that problem. Most other sites with info on midatlantic areas have no where near the amount of info that DCski offers nor are they kept current. When I first found dcski I came for articles and resort info and stayed for the forums.
tgd
May 14, 2007
Member since 07/15/2004 🔗
585 posts
Scott: DC Ski is a great site. One of the few I check almost daily - even now with no snow in sight. Even so, there are really only a couple features of the site that I get all my value from - the message forum and the articles. The lost ski areas section is unique, the rest of the info on resorts, weather, conditions, etc...is easily available elsewhere - so you could save some effort and drop that stuff at no loss to the DC Ski Experience.

If the is one feature that you could add - I would like to see a running tally of the MOST IGNORED USERS. Might be a way to self-arrest some of the unproductive trolling that went on this season.

Tom
kwillg6
May 15, 2007
Member since 01/18/2005 🔗
2,022 posts
DC Ski has been a daily ritual of mine and the forums are, in my humble opinion, the most worthwhile feature. I have met friends here and have learned new and exciting things here. What a terrific resource. It's worth my donation to keep it up and running.
skier219
May 15, 2007
Member since 01/8/2005 🔗
1,318 posts
I think DCski is an important site in the sense that it focuses on mid-A skiing, something the bigger ski sites (Epic, TGR) do not do. So I see a lot of value in DCski as a "local" resource. In my opinion, the site serves the local ski community/industry very well (and I have to think the wide range of advertisers agree).

I like the forums the best, they are a good way to hook up with other locals to trade info, experiences, and meet up on the hill. The forums here generally have a more down to earth atmosphere than what you find on the other sites -- I certainly feel more relaxed about posting here than on Epic, and definitely TGR. There is no prevailing "attitude" here other than a general enthusiasm for skiing, and I like that.

I love reading the lost ski areas section from time to time -- ski history just fascinates me. I am not aware of any other site covering the mid-A region in this regard, so I think of this as a unique and valuable resource that should be preserved.

I don't think I ever look at weather or conditions here; like many others I have my own custom weather preferences / apps / habits. Weather is such a fickle thing anyhow.

I read the articles and trip reports rarely. A lot of the articles have a mature-adult / family theme to them and don't always click with my gen-X semi-hardcore skier way of life, but I do appreciate the time and effort that goes into the reports. I have written similar reports for other sites in the past, and it is a lot of work. My thinking is that if people want to contribute the reports, then there is no reason not to include them. But it would be nice if some of us younger punks pitched in as well (notice how I complain but don't really offer help!).

I don't mind the ads at all, and (I can't believe I am saying this) they have been useful a couple times. This is one of the few sites where an ad is relevant and actually catches my attention -- I think because they focus on the local local skiing market.

Craig
Laurel Hill Crazie - DCSki Supporter
May 15, 2007
Member since 08/16/2004 🔗
1,837 posts
Keepers:

1. Message Forums-friendly, mature and informative, good mix of attitude and background.

2. Resort profile and Maps- best Mid-Atlantic info (just like the rest of the site)

3. Lost Ski Areas- great and only catalog of lost Mid-Atlantic areas, invaluable resource.

4. Articles and Archives- again, Mid-Atlantic supreme.

.....more thoughts later, soccer dad stuff ta do 'n'at.
pagamony - DCSki Supporter
May 17, 2007
Member since 02/23/2005 🔗
832 posts
So what do your google analytics reports tell you about site usage ? that should tell you what people are looking at. I really think this is one of the better organized sites I visit, so a big thanks!

We all come here because we love skiing and riding. I like the trip reports and that they are separated from regular and more chaotic forum content, especially the ones from Switzerland ! I've been thinking about why I would like dcski reports in particular since blogs and opinions are profusive on the internet. The reason is that we share the context and experience of this site and our region.

- features i like: forums, articles, resort info, lost ski areas, search

- features i dont use: bargain tracker, desktop photos, lodging finder, racing, web cams (there just aren't enough)

- no ads ? ok, but 20 bucks is probably the limit. they don't bother me since the web master makes them pretty unubtrusive.

- one new feature ? hypertext relational database surfing, a'la wiki. Say I am reading a forum post and the terms that have significant content (eg: Wintergreen, K2, ... , stored in a taxonomy or start list) are highlighted and click thru to a page that has content sortable by relevance, recency, etc.... Further, what if there was a dcskipedia with articles updated and moderated by the users? A forum is similar in that the content is constantly user rated by its update frequency, but not as well organized. (This is sort of research topic for you comp sci grad students out there - "dynamic indexing and hyperlinking of web forums" - what a great dissertation !)

- homepage: i like it, but if you are looking to do something, the new web style for the forums would probably work well for the home page also. Consider that all non-ad content could be in the forum style, but some forums have restricted posting priviledges. That might be an easy change and make the whole whole dcski experience more consistent.

- weather, resort, travel info: instead of direct content, I would like a well organized set of links so that getting good weather reports for xyz resort would be no more than two clicks away. (see research suggestion above). While I can have my own favorites, I benefit more from everyone elses favorites.

- another suggestion: put Denis on staff !


PS: Come on Craig, post up those hardcore gen-x wannabe gear review articles !

PPS: Thanks so much for this site !!!!!!!!!!
KevR
May 17, 2007
Member since 01/27/2004 🔗
786 posts
How much would a subscription based service cost -- that is what kind of fee structure were you thinking about?
skier219
May 17, 2007
Member since 01/8/2005 🔗
1,318 posts
 Originally Posted By: pagamony
PS: Come on Craig, post up those hardcore gen-x wannabe gear review articles !


Here's my article: buy ski gear, anger wife, buy more ski gear, hide from wife. Repeat in annual cycles. Any questions!?
langleyskier
May 18, 2007
Member since 12/7/2004 🔗
824 posts
Scott,
I want to thank you for all the hard work you have put into this site. For me i check the forum by far the most often (few times per day during the snow/presnow season, i do also read the majority of the articles and find many of the reports very interesting, the lost ski area section is also interesting but i really only check it once or twice per year (great way to kill a few hours). Also, i like the lost ski areas page because like others have said, it is one of a kind and has much information that is available no where else on the web and is a great way of preserving the history and seeing how far the ski industry has come . Besides these features i never check resort profiles and have all my favorite resort sites memorized so i do not ever check the conditions page and the same goes for the weather page. The web cams page was something that i used when i was first joined DCSki because it provided quick access to all area cams but now i prefer just to go to a resort's main page and check conditions and cams.

As for the adds, i absolutely DO NOT mind them and actually click on them fairly frequently. I agree with others that it may be a good idea to make this forum into a community effort. I am sure that there are many of us here that have at least minimal skills to help with policing the forum, making changes, updating when necessary, or whatever else. I know it may take a good deal of time to reformat the site to do this but in the long run i would think it could save you a lot of time and hopefully make this forum a little more enjoyable for you!!
langleyskier
May 18, 2007
Member since 12/7/2004 🔗
824 posts
just to comment on the idea of subscription service, i really think it would greatly subtract from this forum if it were changed to subscription based. There are so many readers that join this forum as newcomers to the dc area looking for information on local resorts and i am very happy that we can help them get aquatinted with the ski scene in the DC area. I would rather see more adds on the site then force people to pay.
bawalker
May 18, 2007
Member since 12/1/2003 🔗
1,547 posts
When it comes to the forums... that part of the site takes on an entirely different life of it's own compared the the frontpage and other pages here on DCSki.com. The idea of having volunteers police the forums is one many other larger sites have used to varying degrees of success.

I think in this case, Scott you should setup a model where say people who have proven themselves via their posting in the forums, possibly even donating, or such to evaluate for policing. They should have the ability to temporarily remove a thread/post, warn users, edit other posts, and keep a weary eye out for those insane posts. I get the feeling that DCSki.com is large enough to have say 2-3 of these maximum to help keep control over the forums per your standards.
Scott - DCSki Editor
May 18, 2007
Member since 10/10/1999 🔗
1,132 posts
Hi everyone -- I appreciate the ongoing comments and am reading all of them carefully. One quick note: I have no intention of ever *requiring* subscriptions to access DCSki. Although there may be some value-add for those who donate (e.g., the "Supporter" icon in the forums), I have said before that DCSki will always remain free to access and I plan to stick to that.
tromano
May 18, 2007
Member since 12/19/2002 🔗
998 posts
Brad,

I was unaware that moderation was needed at DCSki. I have found this to be one of the most friendly and down to earth ski forum. Not to say that this will never be needed, but I think Scott has moderated like 3 threads in the past 4 years I have posted on DCski. It might be more, but I didn't notice any major problems.
snowcone
May 19, 2007
Member since 09/27/2002 🔗
589 posts
Crush is right ... DCSki really should have a operations staff ... I believe EpicSki has, so why not us? I would be happy to volunteer for any labor you might need whether as moderator or coder or whatever.

Really, Scott, you have to start hitting on some of us to support this. Its a small price to pay in time and/or funny money for the pleasure and information DCSki supplies. And ... if you want to make this a subscription based site, just let us know, I'm sure a goodly number of us wouldn't mind a reasonable yearly ante.

Contact me via PM and let me know what I can do to help.
bawalker
May 19, 2007
Member since 12/1/2003 🔗
1,547 posts
You are right, there is none really needed, I'm just offering the possibilities software/tech wise as I've setup and helped work with forums before. \:\)

Which on the other hand can lead to quick devistation if a 'mod' decides to take their power and gain too much control before Scott yanks it. Think back to MM and anyone agreeing with him getting banned by a overzealous 'mod'...
pagamony - DCSki Supporter
May 19, 2007
Member since 02/23/2005 🔗
832 posts
speaking of which, is MM banned or just not hanging around anymore ?

Scott, I hope you get the picture we love the site. Hope you get to ski a lot more next year and the site is not too stressful !
bawalker
May 20, 2007
Member since 12/1/2003 🔗
1,547 posts
I feel about as bad as Scott does. I only made it out on the slopes twice this past season. Part of it was due to the amount of work I was doing, but also I was in this snowboarding 'funk' that I couldn't get myself motivated to go out by myself. I felt the need to just get out and ride with friends or what not. Hopefully that changes next year and this summer I'm making every attempt at getting alot of work projects wrapped up by thanksgiving.
KevR
May 21, 2007
Member since 01/27/2004 🔗
786 posts
In terms of subscriptions or donations -- is DCski organized as a not-for-profit? Are donations tax deductible for charity giving?

If not, I would say all advertising based, or all subscription, or a mix -- but if you offer a subscription, then the subscriber should get some well defined set of services the non-subscribers do not... (e.g. no ads, etc...)
RobertW
May 21, 2007
Member since 10/14/2004 🔗
199 posts
Scott:

I know I'm a little late with this but I wanted to say that I love the DCSki site and thank you for your efforts. The things I use most at DCSki are:

Message Board/Forum: The information I get here is invaluable and unique for the Mid-Atlantic region. The people you will find here are the most friendly, interesting and best mannered group you will find on the internet.

Lost Ski Areas: The only resource I have ever seen for this region. It's great to read about and share memories of these old ski areas. Perhaps it would be interesting to add a section devoted to history/memories/photos of existing areas. As time permits, I have been sifting through my parents old photos and movies and have uncovered some 8mm film from Seven Springs and what I think is Wisp from sometime in the 50's. I have also found old pictures and area patches.

Resort Profiles: I use this area several times a month if just to find phone numbers or other info. I enjoy the comments from other readers.
Scott - DCSki Editor
May 21, 2007
Member since 10/10/1999 🔗
1,132 posts
 Originally Posted By: KevR
In terms of subscriptions or donations -- is DCski organized as a not-for-profit? Are donations tax deductible for charity giving?

If not, I would say all advertising based, or all subscription, or a mix -- but if you offer a subscription, then the subscriber should get some well defined set of services the non-subscribers do not... (e.g. no ads, etc...)


KevR: DCSki is organized as a for-profit Limited Liability Company (LLC). So deductions are not tax-deductible.
KevR
May 22, 2007
Member since 01/27/2004 🔗
786 posts
Well, my recommendation then if you decide to keep things pretty much as they are -- would be to provide a mix of advertising and subscription base if that would pay the bills. But I think the potential subscriber would have to get something extra in return for the direct payment. ( less or no ads, etc...)

I have no idea how many people would really be interested in subscribing to this site -- I personally have pay subscriptions to two other online mags ( no not porn! ) -- and so I would consider this one.

No idea on pricing though and how much would really be needed to make this site happily (& motivationally) profitable!

I think at the other two sites, I pay roughly $40 per year which isn't a heck of lot really when it comes down to it.

But they probably have 1000s or 10000s of subscribers.... maybe more.
bousquet19 - DCSki Supporter
May 23, 2007
Member since 02/23/2006 🔗
687 posts
Scott, I discovered DCSki less than two years ago and am a frequent reader. At least a dozen of my skiing jaunts are a direct result of posts on the Message Forum, DCSki Articles and/or Resort Profiles. Even met up with pagamony and skier219 for some good runs at Wintergreen, and I'm making plans for Snowy Luau 2008.

I didn't know much about mid-Atlantic skiing, and this site has become my one-stop shopping destination for skiing information.

The Lost Ski Areas section has been fascinating. It's enlightening to read the descriptions and then scroll through the comments to get a sense of what skiing at some of these places was like. This past season, several discussions of lost Pennsylvania areas on SnowJournal were the direct result of DCSki postings and tips.

I read the Bargain Tracker too but rely on various online sites for forecasts. The ads? Hey, if they help pay for the site, fine. They don't bother me and, I think, they serve a useful function in reminding advertisers of the vibrant online communities that have an interest in their products.

There are probably loyal readers who could help by moderating forums and perhaps accepting responsibility for some of the features if that would help you. I'd happily ante up, say, $25 a year to subscribe but am glad that your near-term plan IIRC is to keep the site free so that new skiers and online readers can gain access to the information on DCSki.

This is a high-quality site and an important part of the skiing experience for me. Thanks again for your talent and hard work.

Woody
DCSki Sponsor: Canaan Valley Resort

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