it is a hard one to know the answer to. Just about every automotive repair site, and a lot of other metal and woodwork forums have sections for homemade tools, but as you say, it costs money to keep it all up and running.
Charging is the quickest way to lose people who are "browsing" - similar to when I walk in a store, if the sales persons keeps hounding me to buy something, it just makes me defensive and unwelcome - it's as though all they want is my money. HMT is about people sharing ideas on tools they make/ modify. It has a feel of people all contributing, so anything which made that feel change to one of "give me some moeny to look at this" starts to rankle on some people.
I'll also add, never won tool of the week, not sure if I ever would. If the bar of entry is too high, it will be harder to get fresh blood, and the forum could easily become an echo chamber for the group who already have been here a while, know what it takes to win tool of the week, etc.
If I was looking to reduce costs, I wouldn't give physical awards for tool of the week - bragging rights are enough, or one off discounts at the store.
my 2 cents,
Selling things that are not tools or relevant materials seems to me a not-core activity with a lot of hassle. I am living in Europe and delivering to Europe from the USA is always very expensive. I feel $60/y fee as too much money for value. For me $25/y would be acceptable. Selling plans, pdf's, tools and materials could be a good means to generate some income. Site entrance for any body seems to me a must. Otherwise newcomers will be scarce. So a three level system: free, limited, full, seems to me a good approach. And, Jon, thank you for the lot of work you are doing for this site!
I do appreciate this forum very much. I also understand most, NOT ALL, of the costs involved with running a forum like this. I have always wondered how someone has the incentive and the time to run such a busy forum as this. Jon has to be spending hours searching for and posting the things he finds, moderating the forum, keeping the infrastructure running, etc
No matter how much you love something, it is not easy to spend hours and hours and pouring money into it, if the reward does not make the effort worthwhile.
In regard to selling items to fund the operation, that simply adds several layers of complexity, more work, and added expenses; ordering, storing inventory, book keeping, shipping. Then there will be customer complaints, and the time spent dealing with all that stuff.
Of course there is the time it takes to solicit advertisers, I have never tried to do that, so I am not sure how difficult that is.
I am on a number of forums, all free, all advertise, a couple send out a yearly request for donations.
Personally; I do not mind the ads, my concern is a fee structure will have a negative effect on participation in the forum
There are no solutions here, simply my thoughts on the subject.
Philip Davies (09-06-2019)
I am on this site almost every day looking at the posts and thanking people for posting there work. Although I don't contribute I do enjoy watching other members solving some problems that I'm having.
I agree that that charging to use the site is acceptable I also think that what your proposing is a bit too much for the likes of myself thats works from my garden shed on diy projects.
I hope that you take into account the members with lower posts when determining what you are going to do.
Thank you for reading this.
It seems to me that the majority of people that post, peruse, comment etc. do so as a result of not having the resources to purchase new tools themselves and their only alternative, to feed their manias, addictions, bolster their hobbies or what have you, is to build their own. Having a website that might cost you what a small tool would, seems to exclude a fair segment of visitors that might otherwise be willing to build things and post their efforts for everyone's benefit after they build something. I totally understand website maintenance and related costs and certainly don't blame you for looking for funding. I wish I had the perfect answer but do like the merchandising aspect although that will also come with additional costs and/or time demands. That being said I greatly appreciate your polling existing contributors and lurkers like myself for ideas. Many minds and approaches will definitely glean better answers to this dilemma and from what I have seen here, there are many great minds to shoulder the task. Unfortunately for me I was given a strong back and a weak mind!
Last edited by Hoosiersmoker; 09-06-2019 at 10:43 AM.
For non-paying members, and non-grandfathered members who weren't given free lifetime membership, the initial plan is that there wouldn't be much of a difference from what you get now for free. You may not get a membership graphic, a larger signature, a custom user title, or ad-free browsing. But those are ultimately just perks.
The real value that paying members would get is access to more curated content; stuff that costs money to organize and publish, but delivers more value than $5/month. For example, I plan on launching the program with three new ebooks for paying and grandfathered members, similar to our 173 Best Homemade Tools ebook, our 36 Best Homemade Metal Benders ebook, and our 101 Best Automotive Tools ebook.
The Best Vises ebook is done, the Best Bandsaws and Bandsaws Tools ebook is almost done. Any recommendations for a third one? I'd like to publish ebooks like that regularly, maybe once a quarter. Paid membership can support that.
Another example - in looking at our Homemade Tools by Website listing, we now have 5,888 homemade tools listed just from our forum, and 34,830 total. I'd like to go through all of them, and isolate the tools that have associated free plans or drawings with them, and carefully organize them in one place so that people can see, for example, all Lathe tools that come with plans.
Another example - our previous "Ingredients" organization of homemade tools was helpful, but needed more work, so that people can choose an ingredient, for example "rebar", and then see all of the tools that can be built with rebar.
This kind of organization is tedious and time-consuming, but the value that it delivers to people is worthwhile.
But I read the emailed threads nearly every day. Follow up on posts that are related to my (freaking huge) list of interests. Don't usually log in, and honestly would hate to see the site go to a subscription model. That said, I know that it needs support. I am one of the owners of the (formerly Yahoo and currently Groups.io) metal shapers group https://groups.io/g/Metal-Shapers-and-Planers/topics which is large enough that it needs a Groups.io premium subscription to maintain. That costs $110 a year. I pay out of pocket through Paypal, and solicit donations on an occasional basis from interested members. So I won't bore anyone who doesn't want to be bored I'll include some of the history of the group and how it got to this point, but I'm doing this as a hobby, not for profit. You need to figure out who you are (as a group, and a site) and deal accordingly. What works for me may not work for you, and may not always work for me. I will also note I'm going to be following this thread, as I may steal some of this group's ideas to assist mine! Hats, and t-shirts. Maybe bumper stickers and those car window stick figures could be of machine tools...
So: history. I've been interested in metalworking, and dabbling in it, for at least 54 years. When I was 10, I had one of the GI Joe 12" figurines that was an active toy, not a collector's item. My brother and I, and out next-door neighbor, extensively landscaped the neighbor's back yard to play with our GI Joes. We had a small viking longship large enough for a couple of them to float in the trench that served as our river, and I made working swords, bows, arrows, and spears for our group out of coat-hanger wire cold worked with a cheap claw hammer and a rock for an anvil. That wasn't the start, just one of the steps along the way. Took a machine shop class in my senior year of high school, and loved it, but wasn't smart enough to realize I should take more classes in the subject. Maybe get a job doing it. Got into photography and lapidary work, did a little gunsmithing with hand-tools, worked on cars and fighter jets, joined the Society for Creative Anachronism and learned some stuff about making armor to fight in, et cetera. Did 24 years in the US Air Force, as an aircraft mechanic, photographer, and satellite & wideband communications tech, then retired. Several times, in those years, I looked into learning to be a machinist, and looked for a lathe & shaper, the two tools I'd used most in my 1-semester machine shop class. Bought and read books and magazines, hand tools, and some small machines like a bench shear, combination lapidary unit. No real focus, and too many hobbies. Twice I found a lathe that I could lay hands on, but not actually buy. Had a serious brain fart when I retired, at age 43, and decided to become a teacher. Spend 10 years, all my GI bill, and $100K in student loans to get a bachelor's in Social Studies, Secondary Education, and about half-way to a master's in Special Education. Last three of those ten years I worked as a teacher while going to school myself, and gained enough weight to develop obstructive sleep apnea, and destroy my right hip joint. Ruined the teaching career, as nobody wants a teacher who can't follow a lesson plan, or write one. Took about 4 years to recover from the surgery, and realize that I wasn't going to be a teacher after all. And realized that if I didn't get some sort of lathe RFN I might not ever be able to get one, so I bought a Harbor Freight 93212 7x10 mini-lathe. Roughly 35 years after that machine shop class. Part of my recovery from the medical stuff was trying learn how to use the lathe again. I could do some really simple stuff, but not well enough to get good at it. Finding time to play was hard, $$ to support play time was nearly non-existent, but I had internet and found the Yahoo groups. That ate a lot of my time, but it was also good for my mental health. I joined over 100 Yahoo groups on various sugjects, including the Metal Shapers group that Scott Logan was running on Yahoo, and joined because I still wanted a shaper, too. Scott got too busy to run the group, and wanted to pass it on to someone, and I had nothing better to do, and there were no qualified candidates, so Scott gave it to me. The group survives, and even thrives, despite me. I have enough in donations hanging in Paypal to cover the next renewal, as long as I throw in a bit for my share, and I've gotten a great deal of fun and information from it. For the past four years and change, I've been taking a Precision Manual Machining class at the Francis Tuttle Technology Center in Oklahoma City, and I can do decent work on a lathe now, too! Among other things. Have had a decent job, as a mechanic, for the past 7 years, now, and that's gotten me two more lathes, and a shaper, and a monster drill press, among other things, as well. On the Yahoo and Groups.io sites, I sign as Bill in OKC.
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