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Why Cloudy Nights is Born to Succeed
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2. Reason 2 is our moderators. This is equal in importance to number 1, because without the 50+ active Cloudy Nights moderators and administrators, there would be no Cloudy Nights. They donate their time and knowledge out of their love for astronomy and Cloudy Nights. They are unpaid volunteers who cannot be thanked enough for their daily contributions.
3. Growth. Cloudy Nights grows every day. Our forums in one month generate as many posts as other “popular” sites have over their entire run with a forum application.
4. Family. It could be seen as cheesy, but Cloudy Nights really does feel like one big international family that shares the common bond of astronomy. It feels nice to belong to something as solid as Cloudy Nights.
5. Content. We have many well known and respected astronomy authors on the front page and sprinkled throughout the forums. In fact, we will add another well-respected astronomy author and voice of astronomy as a columnist in June. The forums are filled with information for the beginner as well as the seasoned astronomer.
6. Reasons 6 through 99 . . . fill in what you think is best. There are so many great things about Cloudy Nights it would take a book to list them all.
100. Me. It seems very vain to even list myself as a reason, but let me explain.
I was very fortunate to take over Cloudy Nights when I did. The site had taken on a life of its own and was becoming too expensive for Allister to keep running. At that time the site very literally had a good chance of going away.
I took the site away from the pay model and made it free. I quit charging the supporters. (People have asked about this, so here it goes. Cloudy Nights supporters are not charged a dime to advertise on the website. They appear for free because they “support” the mission statement of Cloudy Nights and the growth of the astronomy hobby in general. I think we will change their status from supporter to “stars” or something in that vein for clarification.)
I injected considerable needed cash into new servers and software. I have a full time web developer who has to get the forums to work using a totally different platform then he had ever worked with before. This in itself causes major issues because of the “number” of people on the site.
The numbers are never correct and they don’t take into account the review side of the site. The actually number of people online at any given time is roughly quadruple what is listed on the forum member count. Soon that statistic will be gone as I don’t feel the need to judge myself by the “number”, but by the actually growth of the site and the people that use the site.
Are we the best astronomy site on the web . . . ? I would like to think so, but I am biased.
Here are some questions from members that I have received over the years.
Q. Why don’t you have auctions?
A. While we are very happy to help, we assume that leaving auctions to the experts at eBay makes much more sense.
Q. When are your classifieds going to work better?
A. The classifieds are really not what Cloudy Nights does. We were offered to purchase a “popular” ad site for roughly $60K around a decade ago. One of my many mistakes was when I politely declined. Too busy trying to get Astronomics running the way it should. Anyway, we feel that particular site does an excellent job with classifieds and they are the place to go . . . for now.
Q. Don’t supporters pay to be part of Cloudy Nights?
A. Earlier on I answered this. No, we don’t charge supporters or members a dime for using Cloudy Nights in its current form.
Q. Well then, how do we support Cloudy Nights?
A. Cloudy Nights support can be done through really two things. 1. Buy a hat, shirt or whatever CN-emblazoned goody we sell. 2. Buy from Astronomics. A good portion of the money Astronomics makes goes directly into supporting Cloudy Nights. We even give you a discount when you tell us you are Cloudy Nights member.
Q. How expensive is it to run Cloudy Nights?
A. This is an area that is best for our accountant. I can tell you that the servers alone run several thousand a month due to the amount of traffic we have on the site. Our web developer spends at least 25% of his time on fixing the site and improving it, so tack on 25% of his salary (and good web developers don’t come cheap). Then there are other expenses, like equipment for NEAF and various random expenses like training classes and such. Needless to say it is multiple tens of thousands of dollars . . . easily high 5 figures every year.
This particular industry has been very hard hit over the last two years. Just look at the filings from some of the publicly traded companies to get an idea. Look at the magazines to see just how thin they have gotten. Astronomics still advertises full pages in both magazines as well as 1/3rd page for Astro-Tech. We try to keep our logo and name off of Cloudy Nights as much as possible. Heck, I bet a bunch of you didn’t even know Astronomics owned Cloudy Nights.
It appears that the hobby is starting to trend to a web-based society rather than a magazine-based society. I don’t want the magazines to go away; heck, I don’t even want our competitors to go away. I just want Cloudy Nights to continue to grow and prosper in the hobby and provide a place of knowledge and camaraderie for all those who wish to participate, either as a bystander or as a contributor. I am only 36 years old and have been working at Astronomics since I was six. Astronomics and Cloudy Nights will go on as long as I am able to make it so.
Is Cloudy Nights born to Succeed . . . ?
I hope you all have figured that out by now.