We are almost there folks. I want to write each of the main forums directly and share that we have spent a decade together, growing expanding, learning, education others, making friends and going on our 6th year with an annual gathering at Bud1's home in Macon, MS.
It has been a wonderful time and the growth here in the forum and in our incredible growth on Facebook, we have expanded beyond all expectations I had a decade ago. None of this possible without great moderators and members willing to live within our bi-laws. In both cases, congratulations to us all.
The part many don't understand is the forum is totally member supported. So many of you have given and helped us always meet our bills. Sadly, i have heard that some members missed the donation links on the website - Robo made it simpler to see by adding a donation button toward the top right of every page. This single change increased donations by over 100% over the previous year.
It was suggested that we have a Pledge Drive for our 10th anniversary so we can build a bit of a nest egg for the future updates we are planning. I don't want to go right out and say "please donate if you can, and if the forum is of value to you." But that is what a donation tells us, it lets us know that we are doing well and that you support our efforts. I don't find anything wrong with pledging, the donations of the past (especially in the last 5 years) has kept the forum and related software like Ventrilo Chat for the members to talk and write each other live. Prior to that, the dollar amount was close, meeting server and backup server fees, domain registration renewal fees, all that was partly out of pocket.
I would fully pay all expenses on my own to keep this forum going, it is that important to so many people - but when we see funds come in as contributions, it is a feeling that we have done something special for that contributing member. Everyone who has donated has gotten something from the forum, it has educated them, saved them money in their beeyard, kept their bees alive, or helped them understand what went wrong in their beeyard and hopefully made the following season a success.
The point I tried to make above is that there are few places on the Web where you can go without being bombarded with commercials, often content that is vulgar and certainly off topic. So I'll share a story that made me decide that we will NOT, NOT EVER have advertizing on Beemaster Forums: I belonged to two forums, one on RV camping and a second on Para-planes (those go-karts with parachutes on the back) and I enjoyed the sites very much. Then one day on the camping site, I noticed in each forum a banner ad placed every 4 replies in a post and large ads at the top of each page and a running banner (one that follows you as you scroll up and down) all over the site. Nearly the same thing happened to the Para-plane site. Filled with ads that had nothing to do with the subject. I hated it, as did many others and I was banned from the RV forum and I left the Para-plane forum after expressing my dislike for ads. In the case of the RV forum, they were owned by "WORLD"s largest "CAMPING" publishers, you can figure out who by quoted words in this sentence. The had multiple publications, the had the largest RV/Camping forum in the world and still they wanted to milk their members by disrupting their forum time. 10-12 years ago we were mostly all on dial-up or something far slower than we are today, the page load time was ridiculous and it went crap before my eyes because PROFIT was worth more to them than their community service.
So I pledged to myself if I ever had a website of my own, I would NEVER force members to scroll through spam commercials of any kind. I chose to make a site where NOTHING comes between you and you experience. When I first got Beemaster.com I worked hard creating a place when my ideas of what should be a forum and should not be was something the members chose, not just me. Over this decade, a dozen topical forums have been implemented directly from the members, because it is YOUR FORUM, your returning here and posting makes the forum what it is, and all the ads revenue could never make a forum as easy to navigate and responsive to your wants as this.
I wanted a place where beekeepers could not only talk about beekeeping, but have places to interact with each other. A place where members could get to know each other as people, not just as beekeepers. And the Coffee House and other forums allowed for that. It isn't a ploy to get you to click on other pages to subject you to more ads - it is a place where you can toss of your bee suit and kick back and express your thoughts on nearly any topic, getting adverse replies and have a game of brain-chess, where you state your side and debate the side of others. To this day, the Coffee House remains a huge part of Beemaster Forum and the fact that members sometimes spend hours a day here attests to how well these many forums meet the needs or wants of members.
In about 2 weeks, we are a decade old and our membership numbers are accurate and our Facebook Group is growing by hundreds a month - we stand today at over 2500 Facebook members, many who are also here in the forums. The goal of the admins this year is to expand the forum into even more Social Networking sites, since many members today use programs like Tapatalk to view and post in the forum. More and more people see our forum over sites like Facebook and Twitter, and other sites like Instagram will be joining in too. But we promise that here on the forum you will NOT see ads, the third party apps have their own profit making schemes which we have nothing to do and profit nothing from. Again, you pay the bills for the forum and if you can afford it, any donations are welcome and will be put to use exclusively in the forum and improvement as time goes on.
I hope the second decade explodes with technologies we can only dream of now. Our forum software has unique feature that make upgrading the forum SMF software a tedious job, and until (if) we upgrade, or switch to another software is not on the plate except in the talking about it phase. But rest assured, when you come here, you will always be free of ads that many people find very insulting. Mind you, I understand why most forums have advertising and it isn't just to pay the bills, it is to turn a profit as well. There is a company out there that (to me) is killing forums by buying them up and turning them into a page full of ads and saving room for the forums. I can see the temptation, but I don't know of anyone who has done it that wouldn't take it back if the could pay the bills otherwise. Some forums do both, the ask for donations and yet they still have ad placement on their pages - I'm not shaking my head at them, but if you build a forum on any topic with the goal of making money, then I wonder where your hear is. I just hope that someday, opportunity allows you to correct what might have been a terrible mistake. To lose control over your property, especially right at launch, I believe makes you a member with admin powers, and I would hope that members would come forth and support you enough to pay the bills - anything after than might put a few dollars in your pocket, but you are now an employee and not the owner any more. Getting someone else rich is sad when you give up Intellectual property. It is yours, you wrote it, laid it out, made it yours and then someone who don't know a honeybee from a baked potato has everything you made making him money. I just don't understand that.
I was approached several times to sell our forum, it has a proven track record and easily met the needs of the prospective buyer. I flatly told them NO and to not approach me again, Beemaster is not for sale, it belongs to the members and no one is going to take it away, I would be breaking my promise to all of you and to those who have donated, it would be a slap on the face. We are not for sale, and that promise will be around long after I am dead and gone.
So, happy 10th birthday on the 20th to the forum. It has been a wonderful ride getting to where we are today. Our team does everything they do for free, no one makes a penny and STILL our promise to protect members from spammers and enforce the bi-laws are done out of pride in everything we have set as our goals. To all the members, you have made the job easier than most forums. Still, there are procedures that are time consuming and our great staff makes everything appear seamless - we could fill many pages on the things that are done behind the scene to keep members time here fun and educational.
Thanks for reading this. A decade together is an amazing thing. And we did it without the need to sell the forum to the devils that buy up forums just to have more places to post their ads. I like to think of it as Beemaster Forums is one of the few places you can turn AD-BLOCKER PLUS off and NOT notice a difference. That is all because of member support, and to all of you who has donated over the years (many of you have donated several times) to all of you, we thank you so very much and you have made the forum an Ad free zone for everyone who visits here. That is pretty remarkable, thank you all.