New Comment Policy Under Consideration

You-Said-It-

We are considering a new policy on comments here at AAC and it’s pretty radical so we want to give you, our readers, a chance to have your say before we go ahead with it.

And what’s the change we are plotting, you ask? Although comments will be visible on free posts to everyone, adding comments will be limited to members of the AAC Book Club.

Now before anyone has a melt down, hear me out, there are some compelling benefits:

Benefits

Spam

Dealing with comment spam is a constant battle around here. All of that aggravation and time use would simply go away since I can’t see comment spammers paying to join! And it gets better: we could get rid of the arithmetic problem that you currently have to fill in on each comment.

Better Time Allocation

There are lots of improvements we would like to make to AAC:

  • More in depth content.
  • New editions of our Online Books.
  • New Online Books.
  • New types of content like video and podcasts.
  • Improvements to the site design.

The list is endless. But here’s the thing. As I have shared before, Phyllis and I have now reached the point where we are spending as much time as we wish to on AAC—full time in winter and half time in summer.

The point being that our time is now a zero sum game: to do something new, we must stop doing something else. And since responding to and managing comments takes a good 20% of the time we allocate to the site, reducing the number of comments will free up time for said improvements.

No Change in Quality

Now, don’t get me wrong, we are well aware that the information shared in the comments is one of the most important and valuable parts of AAC. But analysis we have done indicates that this policy would not change that. In fact, what we are seeing is that the quality of debate is actually better and more valuable on chapters behind the paywall—where comments are already restricted to members—than on free chapters—less quantity, more quality.

And no that does not mean that AAC members are more likely to agree with us writers. In fact it’s the members time after time that catch an error I have made, or add a whole new dimension that I had completely missed to the issue under discussion.

Even More Civilized

Over the years, AAC has become a place where people can air diverse opinions without the risk of the flame wars so common on the forums. But even here we sometimes get what we call a “Drive By Comment” that is hurtful to the person (writer or commenter) it is directed at and adds nothing to the debate. But that just about never happens on member only posts. This policy would extend that civilization to free posts.

Align Revenue and Effort

It’s the members that keep the lights on around here, pure and simple. Yes, we have a few sponsors—thank you—but selling advertising has proved challenging and the resulting revenue would not have kept this site publishing without the members.

So it just makes sense for us to reduce our time expenditures on non-member related activities and increase what we do for members—it’s only fair too.

More Members?

As of today, we have just over 1500 members. Enough revenue to cover our costs, but paying us and our incredible writers almost nothing—we could all make more, a lot more, flipping burgers in a fast food joint.

While we are happy to keep plugging away without getting paid for a while longer, this is simply not a viable situation in the long term.

We need more members and what we have found is that, after the initial wave who signed up to support us—you know who you are, and we are forever grateful—there is only one way to get more members: provide a compelling set of benefits for joining. This change would add one more benefit.

All of that makes a pretty convincing case for this change. And I’m sure you have, by now, figured out which way Phyllis and I are leaning.

The Downside

But what about the downside?

Traffic will drop off

Well, maybe. But on the other hand, despite dire warnings from many, since we instituted membership the number of unique visitors a year to this site has increased from about 200,000 to nearly 300,000 a year. So maybe not.

And anyway—here’s a radical thought—if traffic does drop off a bit…so what? Clearly membership is the way of the future for AAC, so if someone who does not want to become a member stops visiting, what difference does it make to the viability of this site?

Reduces diversity of opinion

Now here we do have a real worry. Will people who have valuable opinions that we have not heard from before join us? I hope so, but I don’t know.

On the positive side, let’s not forget that the cost of membership is extremely low at as little as $19.99 a year—less than the cost of one cup of coffee a month…heck, less than the cost of one beer in Norway for the whole year! Having said that, we will have to be open to reversing the decision if comments drop off to the point that a decent diversity of opinion is not being expressed.

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Meet the Author

John

John was born and brought up in Bermuda and started sailing as a child, racing locally and offshore before turning to cruising. He has sailed over 100,000 miles, most of it on his McCurdy & Rhodes 56, Morgan's Cloud, including eight ocean races to Bermuda, culminating in winning his class twice in the Newport Bermuda Race. He has skippered a series of voyages in the North Atlantic, the majority of which have been to the high latitudes. John has been helping others go voyaging by sharing his experience for twenty years, first in yachting magazines and, for the last 12 years, as co-editor/publisher of AAC.

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150 comments … add one
  • Martin Feb 6, 2015, 3:18 pm

    To me AAC is simply the best cruising website out there. At $20 a year it is a bargain for the quality of content, and I see it in that same “must have” category as say Nigel Calder´s books for any serious cruiser. On that basis I think you could increase the subscription without much drop off in numbers. It would be a surprise if a member who found value at $20 found it no longer worthwhile at a higher subscription. Thanks too for adding the 3 year subscription for those of us allergic to autorenewal.

    I´d also add to the comment above about the slightly “elitist” feeling that sometimes comes across. My own boat (which is GRP) would pretty much fit into the heavily built go (almost) anywhere category, but many people out there are cruising successfully and long term in boats that are more lightly built. Most of the content on AAC is relevant to all, and while the focus on metal boats and massive reinforcement is understandable for high lats cruising (and fits with my approach) I would make a guess that much of your current readership and certainly most of your potential readership is cruising in parts of the world without ice. This is not suggesting that things be dumbed down, not at all, or that you shy away from telling it as you see it, but rather that a slightly more inclusive tone is used more often. Examples of the more inclusive approach are your pragmatic piece on emergency bilge pumps a few months ago, and Colin´s pieces on the fairly standard and (by AAC norms) not very challenging “Atlantic circuit”.

    • John Feb 6, 2015, 6:35 pm

      Hi Martin,

      Thanks for the kind words and the input. Several people have mentioned the “elitist” feel…got it, and will work on it.

      • Marc Dacey Feb 8, 2015, 2:50 am

        Of course, the flip side to the perception of elitism is what I find: real-life experience I can make use of in my own cruising plans which is possible to find elsewhere, but not in such concentration. This is the only site I’ve ever paid for, because I get to listen to the giants gamming.

  • PaulT Feb 6, 2015, 4:55 pm

    John, I say go for it. I hang out on various Sailing Anarchy forums (fori) and that pretty well satisfies any anti-social tendencies I might have. I come here for the quality of your posts and the thoughtful and civilized discussion. I agree with you that members only posting will likely just improve the quality of the discussion. And yes, I am a member.

  • ChrisW Feb 6, 2015, 5:59 pm

    Go for it!

  • Arek Feb 6, 2015, 8:16 pm

    If it save your time you should close comments for no members.

    The question about content type is more interesting.

    I joined to find more information about sailing in high latitudes. This summer I will go to Svalbard for the first time, so I will appreciate any advice.
    Looking for informations about Boreal was probably how I got here in the first place. Personally I will appreciate reviews of other boats like this even I’m not in position to buy one any time soon.
    But I agree we are not the same and not all like you. I don’t live on boat and I don’t think my family will do it even if we can…

    Maybe some survey about members and they expectations will help.
    I’m happy in general and will renew. I hope you find more subscribers and the price will not go up, but if it is needed… I have some other more expensive sailing magazines subscription I will quite first.

    • John Feb 7, 2015, 1:30 pm

      Hi Arek,

      That’s interesting and highlights the quandary us editors are always faced with: even on a web site as focused as this one is, it is hard to provide content that will please everyone. You are looking for more on the high latitudes, and several others are not interested in that. What to do? It’s a bit like offshore sailing: no perfect right or wrong answers, we just try to do our best.

  • John Armitage Feb 6, 2015, 8:18 pm

    Your suggested comment policy would be a good move. I also agree with the suggestion for an increase in subscription fee: even at $30 the value would still be exceptional.

  • Scott S Feb 6, 2015, 10:48 pm

    John, I’m a member. I don’t see any problem with limiting comments to members for all the reasons you’ve given. I don’t see your website as elitist at all. Focused on serious, intellegent cruisers, yes. Insistent on civility, yes. Highly technical as befits our endeavors, yes. But there’s nothing wrong with any of that. There are plenty of other outlets on the web for trolls and dilettantes. You don’t need to fill that role.

    In fact, I think the web broadly would be better served by abandoning this “free at any cost” meme. If more web sites were subscription only, then only the serious, thoughtful enthusiasts of any given area would be participating in forums that are dedicated to that topic. There’s nothing wrong will elevating the discussion by limiting the commenters to folks that are at least willing to pay a nominal fee to play.

    • John Feb 7, 2015, 1:04 pm

      Hi Scott,

      That all makes a lot of sense, thank you. And I agree that the web would be better place if it were more fee based. There is a lot of wisdom in the old saying that free information is worth exactly what you paid for it.

      The other thing arising from the “free” internet that worries me is the trend to what is euphemistically called “sponsored content” in which advertisers pay to have content written that promotes their products but is intentionally disguised as editorial.

      • ChrisW Feb 7, 2015, 2:17 pm

        John,
        I have to respectfully disagree about monetization of information. I did not grow up poor, but had it not been for public libraries with their free *to me* information, my life would have been a much poorer one. Books were very expensive relative to my ability to pay. By the time I was 12, I could sail every book on the subject in the library. I developed my love for and understanding of sailing from free information long before I could accumulate the resources to sail. I am concerned that just as sales taxes strike those with few resources hardest, so will fee for information models. Where this site is concerned, I suppose that most folks who can even contemplate owning a 40 footer and voyaging aren’t in that category, and I respect your right to monetize your work, but I wonder where the inflection point on price is. I pay $20; would I pay $40, $60? Possibly. Would most of the young people we have met out cruising pay that? From what we have seen of them, I’d say $20 is already a bit steep.
        Finally, I don’t think fee for information filters out much crap at all. Newspapers where we live all have steep fees for online content which is still riddled with ads, editorial, innuendo and misinformation.
        Just a perspective.

        • John Feb 8, 2015, 11:46 am

          Hi Chris,

          I think you and I are closer on this than it might appear. I’m a huge supporter of publicly funded information including libraries, public radio and TV. But in all those models the content creators get compensated. (Here in Canada we have a government system where the authors of books get payments based on how many times those books are taken out of libraries).

          I do differ with you on whether or not fees filter crap. For example I still think our Globe and Mail and your NY Times are pretty good newspapers—not as good as they once were, but pretty good—and both charge for content.

          Having said all that, both Phyllis and I agree with you. We need to keep AAC at the current price level and only raise prices as a very last resort. And we have plenty of ideas to increase revenue other than raising prices, so lots to try first.

          • ChrisW Feb 8, 2015, 12:16 pm

            Let’s see how it goes…

  • Bill Attwood Feb 7, 2015, 3:45 am

    My comments are a bit blunt, somewhat negative, but I have previewed them with John and Phyllis who felt that I should post them on the AAC website.
    There is already a good deal of informed and useful comment on the proposed new policy, from technical and marketing sides. The majority opinion seems to be that membership is both worthwhile and value for money.
    Nevertheless, I have reconsidered my membership several times recently, not because of the money involved, but more because I felt that the value of new content has reduced significantly, and the motivation to log on and check was missing. Could this perhaps be a reason for the unexplained drop off in subs over the last few months – and was it due to non-renewals or brand-new subs?
    1. The on-line books and technical discussions are a tremendous resource, but once they have been read and studied, maybe even printed out or loaded into the “Scrapbook”, their value as a hook diminishes. I also have the feeling that rather less new technical info was published last year. Would it be possible to revise, update, expand, some of the on-line books? This might motivate people to look at the original content again.
    2. The A40 project surfed a wave of enthusiasm, buoyed up by the exciting initial design studies, but now seems to have gone into suspended animation. I know that the AAC team have a life outside the A40 project, but I wonder if there is a danger that this hiatus or delay may kill the project. Is there anything that could be done to keep the pot boiling, so to speak?
    3. The articles about the visits (Colin and John and Phyllis) to Boreal were interesting and informative, but I wonder whether Colin´s articles on Rustler Yachts have a place on the AAC website? They had the flavor to me of the sort of advertorial which most yachting magazine reviews have. This could lead to doubts about editorial independence. For different reasons, I question whether John´s articles on photography really belong on the site or might be better published elsewhere.
    4. I am continually amazed at the breadth and depth of Matt´s technical knowledge, but I question whether some of his topics and the level of detail are really useful to the voyaging sailor. The same might be said of some comments, but at least there they are only a part of an article, not the meat in the sandwich.
    Enough negative comments. The AAC website is unique, and the team should be proud of what they have achieved. If my first point above could be addressed then I should be happy to pay a significantly higher sub.
    Yours aye,
    Bill Attwood

    • John Feb 7, 2015, 2:39 pm

      Hi Bill,

      Lots of great thoughts. Let me take then in order. First off, a general comment. I think that part of what you are feeling is caused by the fact that Phyllis and I have not, due to my broken leg and some other reasons, done any serious sailing since 2012. This has left the burden of the in-the-moment posts that built this web site in the first place on Colin. That will change this summer…as long as I learn to stay on my feet!

      1). Actually we are constantly revising and updating the Online Books. Where we have fallen down on the job is in telling you and other members that. One of the items on my mile long to-do list, but nearing the top, is to have a page that automatically shows chapters that have been recently updated and also have a last update date on each post.

      2). On the A40. I have to confess that the lack of A40 content is a lot to do with my own emotions: I was quite frankly becoming resentful about the amount of work an A40 post takes, not just to write, but even more in answering the comments. And the thing that really pissed me off was that only 20% of the people who signed up as wanting an A40 have joined. I even sent out a nice letter asking them to support the site and only one, yes one, did.

      But here is the bright side, this new policy changes all that, and has already motivated me to start working on more A40 content since I will no longer have to spend hours in the comments explaining the basics of the boat concept for the five hundredth time to some drive-by who can’t be bothered to read the A40 Online book.

      3). Rustler Yachts: I think this is a good example of the fact that we simply can’t make everyone happy with every post. You will note that several people in this thread have said they want less on metal boats and more on fiberglass. And just to clarify, I checked with Colin, and Rustler did not even give the poor man a cup of tea! Yes, the tone of Colin’s review was very positive. But that is the reflection of what a gentleman he is. One who truly believes and practices the old mantra “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all”. Or to put it another way, if Colin had not liked the boat and the firm, he would not have reviewed that boat.

      One final point. Colin is deeply worried about that state of boat building (he and I have long Skype chats regularly) and the precipitous drop in the quality of boats being built today, even those from builders who used to build good safe boats. He proposed the Rustler review to us primarily because he genuinely wanted to help one of the last independently owned boatbuilders in the world who still build a quality boat and are making a go of it.

      4). Matt’s stuff. One of the things that I am most concerned about in offshore voyaging is the level of basic engineering ignorance that is prevalent, both among us sailors (I include myself in this) and the “professionals” we rely on. For far too long we have relied on rumour, rules of thumb with no foundation, and dogma, instead of arithmetic rigour and common sense. This ignorance ruins cruises and even sometimes kills people and we need to fix it.

      Matt has a almost unique ability to explain highly complex things in a way that we lay people can understand…at least if we make the effort. And making the effort will make us better and safer sailors. Take his recent article on GPS. You could argue that we don’t need to know how our GPS works to use it. In fact, even though I’m an electronics technician by trade, I fell into that category of thinking.

      But after reading Matt’s article I learned enough to understand that there is a lot of difference between units and that some units have weaknesses that can wreck my boat or kill me. Using that understanding I now have a punch list of things to check on our three GPS units, in the spring.

      Sure Matt could have just given us a dumbed down list of GPS tips, but because he did an in-depth article I now understand the intrinsic weaknesses of the GPS system, which will, for the rest of my sailing life, make me a safer user of GPS.

      And what did all that cost me? Less than half an hour of reading the original post—OK, I had to read it a couple of times to get it—and following along with the comments. Yes Matt’s stuff is harder to read than some piece from me on bilge pump switches. But as I always say, seamanship is about doing the hard stuff—reading Matts post is just good seamanship.

      OH, and look at the comments Matt’s posts provoke. On the GPS post we had a really smart professional mariners, several professional engineers, one of whom was actually on the committee that oversaw the development of GPS!

      Bottom line, we will dumb this stuff down over my dead body.

      Now, having said all that. I’m not in any way dismissing your concerns. It would real help us if you could take a moment and scan through the posts over the last three months (just go to the home page scroll down, and when you get to the end click on “Older Posts”) and give us a list of say the top five posts from your point of view. The point being that it is always easier to get better with a clear positive goal in mind.

    • RobertB Feb 9, 2015, 7:03 pm

      Hi Bill…. I don’t think your comments are negative. Here are my personal thoughts:

      1. Yea, I agree with this one.

      2. I am very interested in the design notes and progress on the A40. However, since I am not in the market for a boat like this, I don’t miss the A40 “pot boiling.” To me, the A40 articles are good technical articles on aspects of yacht building and not so much an A40 thing. Another perspective.

      3. Perhaps. I like them though. I don’t read many sailing blogs or magazines so reading an article about some lifestyle topic in cruising or some manufacturer that has an interesting product is nice once in awhile.

      4. This is the only one I have a strong opinion about. I’ve been a practicing engineer and electronics manufacturer for almost 30 years. Matt really has a gift for explaining technical topics at a lay level. I’ve taught many of the subjects he has discussed and I don’t think his articles have introduced too much detail at all. They seem to me to be quite in the sweet spot of understanding for a user versus a designer. Too many magazines water down a topic to the point of not being useful for learning (or flat out wrong). I expect that a non-engineer may have to read through a few details in Matt’s articles more than once, but that is what cements the learning. One can always ask questions in the comments. My opinion is that a voyaging sailor needs, and should want, that level of understanding. I’ve not seen any articles that I felt were too detailed for the audience….some might take a little work.

      I’m looking forward to your list of the top 5 posts of the past several months. Perhaps everyone should do that. It would be a valuable piece of data for John.

      Robert

  • Danny Briggs Feb 7, 2015, 6:18 am

    I am a member and find the site useful and entertaining. I like the technical discussions as they help me gain a better understanding of all kinds of issues. I also like the opinionated discussions as long as they remain civilised which you manage very well. Moving to member only comments is just pragmatic and I think you should do this if it will lead to better utilisation of your time. If you expand into the things you have mentioned, this will, without doubt, enhance the site so go for it.

  • David Feb 7, 2015, 7:39 am

    I agree. And you should increase the membership fee.

  • Olianta Feb 7, 2015, 8:10 am

    I am a member. I find the AAC site the most useful of all I others I visit and think mebership is good value for money. I share the already expressed opinion that the content should not be specified only to high latitude “elitist” sailing and therefore not predominately on metal hulls. I like very much the articles provoked by events/disasters occurring in the boating world. And I agree that the right to comment should be limited to the members, because if you do not have access to the full content of an article, how would you be able to post a well thought article relevant comment?!

    • John Feb 7, 2015, 1:09 pm

      Hi Olianta,

      That all makes sense.. And very good point about the problems of non-members commenting without the full story. I can’t tell you the amount of time I waste answering questions and comments from non-members on free posts that we have already answered in an Online Book.

  • Dick Stevenson Feb 7, 2015, 11:36 am

    Dear Bill,
    Bill, I, in no way, considered your letter negative. Such a thoughtful and considered critique is exactly the manner in which I like discussions to range. Permission to disagree is fostered by John et al, but the skill to do so has an example in you.
    I hear all your points, but my vote would go for the wider range of reporting, some of which you feel should be elsewhere. Some is clearly over my head and some is not of compelling interest, but I can always turn the page. I tend to get something out of most streams and a lot out of others.
    My best, Dick Stevenson, l/v Alchemy

  • Dick Stevenson Feb 7, 2015, 12:41 pm

    Dear All,
    I would like to say a few words about the fee aspects of being involved with AAC.
    I suspect that John’s comments that one could spend $20 on coffee or beer over the course of a year shooting the breeze about boating with friends without second thought is a good place to start. I believe the discussion has very little to do with the actual amount of money, but much more that, contrary to shooting the breeze with friends where everyone is buying a round, this money is going one direction and that changes the nature of the relationship in subtle ways.
    I would suggest that we look at the fee in the same way as we look at other issues related to cruising and the importance of being safe on the water: pragmatically and objectively and attempt to sweep away the emotional and historical conceptions we come in with.
    My take is that anyone actively engaged in boating (and many who are more armchair at this time) will get their money’s worth. A quick list of benefits (in no particular order):
    Might not go down the wrong road with gear (this alone could save big $$)
    Might be safer when on the water (invaluable)
    Get your own habits challenged and benefit from a new look
    Save hours of research
    Enjoyable hours with good company and thoughtful, experienced people
    Get an international perspective
    Opportunity to get your wise questions addressed (and, possibly more importantly, your “dumb” questions out in the open)
    I know I have forgotten a good deal, but each one of the above could be worth the fee. So pragmatically, a powerful case exists for being a member of AAC. For the vast majority of us $20 per year is a meaningless fee. We would all likely prefer to think of ourselves as sitting with Matt and Colin and Phyllis and John around an oil lit cabin table, shooting the breeze and benefitting from what they have to offer. The $20 fee could be thought of as a “cover charge” for participation in a forum that is as close as we are going to get to the oil lit cabin table. What is lost in atmosphere is more than made up by the numbers of us involved and the quality of discussion as well as the documentation. How many times, after a get together, have you wished for a tape recorder or note pad when good things are being revealed (and then forgotten)?
    My best to all, Dick Stevenson, l/v Alchemy

    • John Feb 8, 2015, 11:50 am

      Hi Dick,

      Brilliant! I learned a lot from you comment and I run AAC! Lot’s of great stuff that will help us refine our marketing going forward.

      Thank you!

  • Michael Feb 7, 2015, 1:05 pm

    Member here and glad of it. I have subscribed and unsubscribed to all the major and some minor crusing mags. I have visited and quickly left several forums due to the rude, negative, dogmatic, or preachy comment streams. I get exactly what I need on this site: a reasoned discussion of basic, intermediate and advanced topics related to keeping on the boat, keeping the stick up, etc. I may not always agree; some of the content is less relevant to me than others; but I have found time and again that the next article is very relevant and the other sailors providing their input have knowledge, experience and generosity. I approve of the proposed new policy.

  • Steven Schapera Feb 7, 2015, 4:04 pm

    Like most sailors I spend hours thinking about sailing and my beautiful boat. I spend a lot of money on maintenance and annual running costs. I place significant importance on my safety and that of my crew.
    I come to this site to learn from those with a lot more experience than me, to develop my skills, improve my judgement, and get other opinions. All of this makes me a better sailor, saves me money, and makes my time on the water safer. If I needed to pay more in annual subscription to keep the quality of this site as it is, or improve it, then I will gladly do so. There is no better site of this type than this site, and I agree absolutely with the policy that you are proposing: if it saves you time, and that translates into better content, then its a no brainer.

  • Daniel Feb 7, 2015, 4:38 pm

    John,
    I totally agree with your proposed changes. Your site is informative, well researched, and pertinent to everyone who is doing serious sailing or those aspiring to and yes it is very opinionated and yes that last one is also quite alright.

    I have not found any website or blog that gives me more value then AAC. I agree with an earlier comment that sometime there is a hint of elitism, but then again, every site or blog has a certain “flavor”, but none has the independence in irreverence of AAC.

    As far as the online books are concerned, they present a difficult challenge as I see it: I have read most of them and as you mentioned you could o a better job in letting us know when they are updated. But let’s face it, unless they have bee completely re-written, who will go back to read a book that has, say 15-20% update, sometimes even less. I don’t have the answer on how to improve on that, but it is an issue worth looking into.

    Thanks for all the hard and very informative work you, Phyllis and all the other contributors are doing. I am a member, I will renew and I would be willing to pay a little more.

    • John Feb 8, 2015, 11:54 am

      Hi Daniel,

      Thanks for the encouragement.

      I think you make a really good point about the Online Books. Your comment, together with others, got Phyllis and I thinking and I think we will be redirecting our time away from the Online Book concept and toward more and better new content, albeit still curated in a coherent way.

      • Daniel Feb 8, 2015, 3:31 pm

        John,

        I thought about this conundrum since my earlier comment and maybe a good way to address this would be to do both: update the e-books and if changes are significant enough make it a whole new post. I know this may be more work, but you would address three different groups:
        – those who are new to ACC with up-to-date ebook resources
        – those who need to go back to a re-read a specific ebook because of an upgrade project
        – keep regular readers interested with updated information in posts.

        Just a thought…

        • John Feb 9, 2015, 1:25 pm

          Hi Daniel,

          Good idea, in fact that is exactly what Colin’s reefing 2.0 post is.

  • David Feb 7, 2015, 4:40 pm

    Agreed. Love the succinct information source.

  • Jim_G Feb 7, 2015, 6:02 pm

    I don’t think it’s unreasonable to allow members only to comment, ad if this reduces workload/frustration, allows focus on the fun stuff (content) and helps offset costs?..sounds like a plan. I wouldn’t too much about losing your readership…”build it and they will come”. Appreciate what you and your team does. Thanks.

  • Marcos Feb 8, 2015, 5:43 am

    I’m a member and agree with the approach only members can comment, its logical and wise.
    Also would like to emphasis in Bill Atwood comments, at least in my personal case, each time I log in less frecuently since I find less intersting the new posts, even though I think this site is one of the best in the web.
    Remember, quality has a price, and I prefer the quality of this site, than the run an buy gadgets of most of the sailing magazines.

  • Bill Attwood Feb 8, 2015, 10:40 am

    Dear John,
    Thanks for the comprehensive answer to my comment – should I have expected anything less?
    😉
    I shall certainly do as you ask, review the posts of the last 3 or 4 months and list those which are the best in my opinion. I shall take the coming week coming to do this and aim to reply by next weekend. Should I post the result as a comment?
    Yours aye,
    Bill

    • John Feb 8, 2015, 11:56 am

      Hi Bill,

      That would be great. Yes, please make it a comment to this post. And once again, thank you for taking the time to provide input in such depth.

  • david e Bell Feb 8, 2015, 7:05 pm

    One could argue against this idea, and it reflects the reality of the land borne world.

    Therefore I agree and lend my support (in word and dollars). It a reasonable decision reflecting practicality and the desire to provide quality, above and beyond the standard.

    Keep up the good work.
    D

  • Ken Good Feb 8, 2015, 8:16 pm

    Hi John and fellow ACC members. I would like to add only my second post to this discussion. Bill Atwood and others are concerned the site has posted information which is overly technical with an elitist tone. I am a fresh water sailor and in some eyes we freshies just don’t cut it, secondly I have limited experience compared to the main contributors to ACC. Now comes the however, if you can sail and navigate in Georgian Bay (the 6th great lake) you can sail anywhere and to the techies, keep it coming. I have used the technical information provided here to upgrade my s/v from bow to stern and from mast head to keel. Do I know or understand all of the terms and theories, no. Thats why I paid the fee, to learn, to expand my knowledge base and in the process become a better sailor. To that end the admiral and I are embarking on a journey to join you salties with no pre-determined return date. Thank you John, Colin, Mark and all the rest of you for your wisdom gained either through experience or education. When things breakdown the ACC site will be consulted and John, keep the photos coming, they are great stress relieve when I am working on a project that I have never tackled before. Ken

    • John Feb 9, 2015, 1:00 pm

      Hi Ken,

      Thanks very much for reminding us of our core mission!

      As to photography, you are just like me: When I have completely bodged something on our boat, I go make some photographs—a great stress reliever.

      Of course that begs an embarrassing question: Is there a direct correlation between the huge number of photos I make and the number of boat bodges? I’ll never tell.

  • Franco B Feb 8, 2015, 8:34 pm

    I read you from Pisa (Italy)
    I like very much your site and I wuold appreciate an offer for 3 monthes first subscription in order to realise if the contents are useful for me and if a can understand them.
    Thanks.
    Franco B

    • John Feb 9, 2015, 12:43 pm

      Hi Franco,

      On reflection I think a three month membership would be problematic—too much administration for too little revenue. We are now thinking of a five day free introductory membership. Would that be good for you?

      • Franco B Feb 9, 2015, 2:49 pm

        Hi John,
        Even if five day is a rather short time (you have to be ready at the start..) I think could be a good occasion to look at the books and to have a general idea of the the content and I certenly would applay.
        Thank you for the attention.
        F.W.
        Franco

  • Laurent Feb 8, 2015, 11:03 pm

    I first found this site some time ago, when there was no question of membership and the point was about presenting and debating a project of affordable blue-water cruiser, defined by John, who was willing to accept and publish any comment intended to help him improving his project. The idea being that the cost of this Internet operation should be balanced by the success of the project and the deserved revenue that John would get from that success.
    Later, the “how to improve your own boat” sections did grow notably, while the commercial perspective on the A40 looked somewhat delayed, so the paying-membership scheme was developed as a reasonable answer to the economic question relative to the existence of this Internet site.
    Now, I understand that the first target (“A40”) and the second one (subscription to get access to part of the available documentation that does not directly concern the A40 project… ) did not succeed in solving the economic equation, and that the current debate is to decide whether a paywall in front of the comment-posting functions might help this equation or not (perhaps yes because of the lower burden, perhaps no because of the possible reduction in number of comments….).
    Personally I have been interested for some time by the A40 project (although I am not a prospect for this boat), but less so by the available documentation that does not directly concern this project, so I take opportunity of this (perhaps….) last post to say that in Internet-related stuff, the usual answer to slow-reacting market has generally been to go toward more open projects or product in case of weak economic figures instead of going toward more closed ones.
    Here for instance, I think that one marketing weakness of the A40 project is how it is supposed to relate to modernity. All customers don’t necessary request the latest technology or fashion, but they need a clear understanding of what kind of “induced positioning” a highly visible product like a car or a boat will convey to them.
    In that perspective a civil version of the latest US Navy sail training craft looks like an very good example of something very difficult to sell, because, at first glance, it looks like a “modernity adverse” product (which might be perfectly OK for quite a few prospects…), but, when you look at the details, is is on the contrary, quite modern and “high-tech”, so the message about induced positioning as it relates to modernity is inconsistent, and I guess that commercial perspective for such a project can not be very good unless this point is resolved.
    I understand that the A40 is not a civil version of the latest US Navy sail training craft, however I understand that it would benefit commercially if its positioning vs modernity, and to what kind of modernity, could be clearer that it is now. I understand that discussing this kind of topic was the initial purpose of this Internet site, and that the current problems you mentioned mainly stem from the fact that the A40 project commercial whereabouts are a bit slower than anticipated initially. As far as I know, usual recipes in that case is to go toward more open approaches and not toward more closed ones.

    Hope this help…..

    • John Feb 9, 2015, 12:41 pm

      Hi Laurent,

      Lots of interesting points to ponder, thank you.

      I should just clarify one thing. The decision to go with membership had nothing to do with the A40. I never conceived the A40 as a revenue producing project, so how long it takes to get to reality is neither here nor there in relation to making this site viable.

      Yes, it is possible that AAC will make a small licensing fee from the A40, but that is by no means a given and even if it does happen (looking good now) it is a separate project with a separate revenue stream and separate expenses.

      Also you can stop worrying about market positioning of the A40. Why. Simply because we have well over 200 people interested in a boat. Our marketing is working, it’s that simple. More to follow in an upcoming post.

      By the way, you never did answer my question about why joining AAC is not worth $20.00 a year to you? I really want to know as it will help me refine our membership marketing, which, frankly, can do with a lot of refinement!

      • Laurent Feb 9, 2015, 1:31 pm

        I didn’t join because I am chronically ill up to a point that blue-water cruising is extremely uncomfortable for me, with no hope of recovery. 20.00$ is not a huge sum for me, but I consider I am not supposed to pay for things I can not use because of my health problems.

        • John Feb 10, 2015, 11:31 am

          Hi Laurent,

          Phyllis and I are really sorry to hear of your illness and wish you all the best.

  • Ben Tucker Feb 9, 2015, 7:40 am

    Hi John, Phyllis, Colin and Matt, as a particularly frugal sailer this site, and practical sailor (as recommended by you I think?) are the only sites I have ever paid to access. So of course I am happy with the members only posting policy, and am keen for more of your typically good content.

    As far as the site goes, I think that you should play to your strengths, and stick with serious offshore boat setup, management and high latitude sailing posts, rather than trying to be everything to everyone. Plenty of other sites are doing the how to go tropical sailing in a production boat thing.

    I would also love to hear, and know more about some of the regular and experienced contributors, and their boats and voyages. Perhaps the odd feature article might be possible?

    FWIW Occasionally I view this site on my phone. It works OK, but can be a bit hard to read at times. I dont have a big problem with this. And it’s fine on my tablet.

    Cheers Ben

    • John Feb 9, 2015, 12:54 pm

      Hi Ben,

      I think you are right. I’m absolutely convinced that the secret to this site’s success is that we write only about stuff we are both passionate and knowledgeable about. I know for a fact that if I try to write about something I don’t care about my writing turns to…well…crap. So if we were to try and write pieces just to broaden our audience it would not end well.

      Having said that, I think we (actually more I) could change our tone a bit so we don’t come across as quite so elitist—suggestion from several other comments.

      Features from other writers? Stay tuned.

      We will tackle the phone reading issue (responsive) but it will probably be next winter in that it will take a complete site rebuild.

  • Palmerbr Feb 9, 2015, 11:29 am

    Guys … You’ll get a better dialog all over, payers are invested in the process… As an example, I run a business where we occasionally offer customer training – and I charge for it! Not for revenue, but I find the interest and exchange is much better when folks are invested… Too many places on line today where you can ‘dump’ a free comment with little thought and no consequence… $20 is well worth the value.

    • John Feb 9, 2015, 12:44 pm

      Palmerbr,

      I think that’s a really good point: people value what they pay for.

  • Svein Lamark Feb 9, 2015, 3:58 pm

    Hi John, I have reflected on the price. I am member of a webside for fishermen. The price is 400 USD a year. That is hard to accept. Your 20 USD is easy. I would accept 40 USD for AAC. Good information is never free. Good luck with the skiing!

  • RobertB Feb 9, 2015, 6:24 pm

    My $0.02…I’ve financially contributed to AAC since before the requirement to join. Interestingly, I contributed more BEFORE the membership requirement. That was not on purpose. Without John asking for funds to continue I just go on my merry way thinking $20/yr is covering what is needed.

    I think a tiered membership would work where a free signup allows one to comment (and frees up the spam policing labor) and the annual membership gives online book access. The latter could very reasonably cost more than $20/yr. I would happily pay more.

    My reason for this is I am also interested in comments by people outside of the AAC community. We have our regular contributors/commenters and we also sometimes get intelligent passing comments from non-members. I’m afraid that charging $20 just to leave a comment or enter a single discussion is probably off putting for most. For example, and of curiosity, did Bob Shepton join AAC (or was he a member)? I was interested in what he had to say and the responses to his comments. My feeling is that getting people into the community discussion is what will entice them want to join.

    Regarding the online books…..they are great and I enjoy them. I agree there could be improved notification when content changes. Overall, it is a wonderful resource and I thank you very much for it. As mentioned by many people, it’s worth more.

    All that said, I’ll support whatever keeps the AAC community active.

    Robert

    • John Feb 10, 2015, 11:59 am

      Hi Robert,

      Thanks for the encouragement and suggestions. I hear you on the desirability of having a free comment membership, but unfortunately that would pretty much negate all the benefits of this change:

      Spam: There are now “spam factories” with real people registering for site memberships in order to leave spam comments.
      Support: Members require an amazing amount of support. I just can’t see expending that time on something that has no revenue attached.

      So we are thinking about a five day free introductory membership that requires a credit card but does not charge said card until the end of the five days and gives the person the option to cancel before a standard one year recurring membership kicks in.

      • RobertB Feb 10, 2015, 1:48 pm

        I didn’t realize that a free registration would still require so much labor to maintain. In that light, the free introductory membership seems reasonable.

        I whole heartedly agree with you about spending time on non-revenue generating tasks. That’s a business sin and a sure way to sink a company. Even non-profits and labors-of-love need to be careful in this regard.

        Robert

  • Paul G Feb 9, 2015, 9:11 pm

    I’ll throw in my .02 coming from the perspective of a wannabe cruiser currently doing lots of research. I came across your site based on the Boreal book and quickly subscribed. At $20 a year it’s a bargain based on the unique content and if subscription based commenting enables greater time for content then I’m all for it. In addition, it will likely eliminate some of the ridiculous comments and flame wars that take place on the likes of some of the dedicated forum sites.

    I do think you have a unique niche with the focus on more adventure related cruising. I don’t think we necessarily need more focus on the traditional trade wind cruising since that seems well covered by the magazines, but a continued focus on what really works offshore, no matter the destination seems to be generally lacking so definitely something to capitalize on. A few additional thoughts in no particular order:

    * A way to easily see new comments would be great. I may be missing it since I’m new here, but once an article is posted a way of tracking new comments on the site across all the content would be great. I don’t necessarily want all of that filling up my email.

    * I’m posting this from my iPad, but device sensitive layout would definitely good when accessing from phones.

    * I’ve enjoyed the destination oriented posts since they cover areas typically not addressed through the magazines.

    * Consider user submitted content. There are some good examples of sites that rely heavily on user submitted content as well as there own developed content. You obviously need an editorial process before posting, but it could be a good source of additional content with minimal additional overhead.

    * Consider what you feel is your unique value add compared to the segment and then focus on ways to expand and capitalize on that. Probably an obvious comment, but sometimes in the effort to grow we can overlook the obvious.

    In closing, love the site and it has been a tremendous source of knowledge for me as I look to begin cruising sometime in the future. My renewal is guaranteed.

    • John Feb 10, 2015, 11:28 am

      Hi Paul,

      Thanks for the kind words and thoughtful suggestions. Here are some answers:

      Seeing comments: Already done, see side bar list of “New Comments” in the sidebar.

      Phone friendly: It’s on the list, but it’s also a huge project and will need to wait until next winter.

      Destination pieces: Phyllis and I are planning an interesting cruise for the summer of 2015 and will be posting regularly on the places we visit. We also have stuff coming on out of the way places in the southern hemisphere. Stay tuned.

      User submitted content: Yes and no. The yes: We are interested in new writing, and in fact will be featuring a new writer in the next few weeks. The no: It takes decades of experience, practice, and plain hard grind to learn write well for publication and the hard truth is that very few cruisers can write clearly, and succinctly, and fewer still can add entertaining to that skill list. (Matt’s just a freak, in that he seems to have been born with these skills!)

      In addition, the writing here at AAC is based on decades of voyaging experience that very few have, or in the case of Matt, a full engineering education with a strong focus on boat design. Bottom line, we won’t compromises quality just to get more content. There is also a personal angle to this: Phyllis and I far prefer writing our stuff, to re-writing stuff from others, which is often what “editing” degenerates into.

      Unique vale: Good suggestion. Over the last few days, as we have read and responded to the comments to this post, Phyllis and I have thought a lot about that. Bottom line, we have renewed our commitment to quality over volume in all things AAC.

  • John Feb 9, 2015, 9:31 pm

    Hi All,

    Well, based on the overwhelming positive response to the idea of restricting comments to members on all posts, we went ahead and did it.

    Please tell us if you have any problems at all. I think I got all the changes right, but the law of unintended consequences is even more active on web sites than offshore boats, and that’s saying something!

    Thanks to all for the great suggestions, many of which will be reflected in future changes to the site over time.

  • Dick Stevenson Feb 13, 2015, 11:52 am

    John,
    I just discovered one down side to the new policy. I have just written a reply of some length and pushed submit. The message to sign in emerged, but the message was lost. I could not find a way to just go back one step. The members might benefit from having this flagged for them. My machines seem not to automatically sign in (which is what I prefer in most cases actually).
    Dick Stevenson, l/v Alchemy

    • John Feb 13, 2015, 12:00 pm

      Hi Dick,

      Sorry, I thought I had things set up so that should not happen.

      Let me do some more testing and revert.

    • John Feb 13, 2015, 12:17 pm

      Hi again, Dick,

      I just tested it, and what I see is when I’m not logged in as a member there is a large message in bold just above the comment box that says:

      “Please login (scroll up and look in sidebar), otherwise your comment won’t display.”

      That message goes away if you are logged in.

      Then if I miss the message above and type in my comment and press submit I get:

      “Sorry, only logged in members may comment. Please click on your browser’s back arrow and copy your comment to a safe place on your computer while you login.”

      Then if I hit the back arrow on my browser, my comment is still there and I can follow the instruction to save it while I login.

      Is that not what you are seeing. And if not, can you tell me what you are seeing. Clearly I need to fix this.

  • Bill Attwood Feb 15, 2015, 7:39 am

    Hi John.
    The job of selecting my best n posts has been a bit more difficult than I expected. I took a slightly bigger sample, from June 2014 to February 2015. I was surprised at the number of posts, 66 if my sums add up, and decided to pick my top 10.
    Of course, my selection is entirely personal, without thought for what might appeal to another audience. This accounts for the fact that posts on reefing, staying attached, etc don´t come to high up on my list. I´ve sailed all my life, and although I always read all the articles, many of the important points about safety are second nature, and were driven home by bucko captains and mates in formative years.
    A quick and dirty analysis of the categories of posts (ie type of article) it seems to me that they could be divided into soft (philosophy/ethics/etc of sailing, travel/cruising guides) and hard (technical, seamanship, equipment etc).
    The quality of writing in all posts is good, so that didn´t become one of my selection criteria. However, the number and content of comments was important as they often added as much as or more value than the original post.
    So, here is my list:
    June 2014
    How To Get A Better Marine Survey
    This would save much money and heartache if it was compulsory reading before buying a boat.
    July 2014
    You Need More Than Money
    This is a difficult one. No question that being able to maintain all, or most, of your boat and its equipment is vital, but how does the busy executive finding the money in his late 40`s find the time to get his hands dirty? The post does make clear that diy is an important part of boat ownership, particularly if going off the beaten track.
    HF SSB Radio or Iridium Satellite Phone?
    I don´t agree with John´s conclusion, but well argued and with excellent comments for and against.
    August 2014
    Twenty Adventure 40 Core Principles
    Could be the definitive checklist for buying a voyaging sailing yacht – and maybe a motor boat too.
    (The Right Way to Buy a Boat…And The Wrong Way – this would have been in the list, but most is already covered by the A40 post above)

    September 2014
    Adventure 40 Rig and Deck Design
    Needs no justification! I had been waiting for this.
    Taming The Wild?–Tips For Cruising The Western Isles of Scotland
    Loved this as I was cruising this area in the late 60`s, early 70`s, and it brought back many happy memories, and whetted my appetite for this summer.

    October 2014

    November 2014
    Adventure 40 Interior Design
    Also a no brainer. I still have real problems that the A40 will have no nav table, and don´t believe that the cockpit will be suitable for navigating offshore in heavy weather. Morgan´s Cloud is much bigger and has a centre cockpit, the cockpit of the A40 will be regularly awash in big seas from astern. I crossed the Indian Ocean in 2012 with 10 meter waves and swell nicely mixed together coming from the port quarter. The cockpit was definitely not the place to be writing up the log, and if I´d had to do it in the saloon I should have disturbed my off-watch wife. Other than that, the internal design is a masterpiece.

    December 2014

    January 2015
    Being Green On The Blue
    A very worthwhile post, with excellent comments.
    The Three Biggest Lies Yacht Brokers Tell
    Probably belongs with the “better marine survey post” but important in its own right.
    February 2015
    John and Phyllis Visit Boréal
    Built on Colin´s earlier article, and confirmed a) what a wonderful series of boats Boreal is building and b) I can´t afford one.
    Hope that this will be of interest, and that it may motivate others to say what they like. I have avoided listing my “rotten tomato” candidates on the chance that I might offend someone. You can´t be too careful today.
    😉
    Yours aye,
    Bill

    • John Feb 15, 2015, 11:52 am

      Hi Bill,

      Thanks very much, very useful.

      Your comment also highlights a couple of other important points:

      1). We publish a lot of posts here at AAC. Far more in-depth stuff than just about any magazine.
      2). Even though we have a narrow focus, different readers have different needs. You, for example, are very focused on the A40, but I have had other readers write to me to say they are sick and tired of that subject. The point being that no one article or even subject will every please everyone.

      To help address those two points we are looking at new and even better ways for readers to zero in on what interests them among our 800 article archive and 100+ new posts a year.

  • Bernd Feb 15, 2015, 1:51 pm

    Hi John,
    my view is this: we are all benefiting from the high profile contents here. Subscribers and to some extent the non subscribers as well. If the shortage in manpower does not permit you any more to answer to all comments, then by all means don’t. I did subscribe because of the contents and if this has to suffer since you guys are busy answering comments, then I am rather selfish in the matter.
    Cheers
    Bernd

  • Jim Trefethen Feb 16, 2015, 3:40 pm

    Hi John and all.
    After years as a bludging admirer of your fine site, I have bit the snap-shackle and sighed on for a three year trip. My signing up wasn’t caused by this shift in policy as I wasn’t aware of it until just now, but I think it is a wise decision that will stand you well in the future.
    As a long time marine writer who has voyaged the seas on and off for over 40 years, I find your articles and books and those of your crew to be insightful and a refreshing change from the blatant advertorials of the conventional marine press. And because of the painstaking research and frank honesty characteristic of your material, this website has become a valuable resource to my own writing. I often use it to verify (and often change) my own position on various subjects. (Most recently, your chapters on battery charging revised my thinking that AGM batteries had no place on a full-time cruising boat.)
    In a past life I wrote and managed a 600-page commercial web site so I am well aware of the problems of paying the bills through generated revenue, so I can humbly offer two suggestions:
    1) The focus of my own writing is on ocean cruising for average folks. Cruising is no longer feasible for poor people (although I know many who are doing it) but it isn’t just for the well off either. Your A-40 is a brilliant concept and has been a long time coming, but even at a sail-away price of under 200k, it will be out of reach for most of us. Perhaps a few more articles focused on those multitudes of us who are forced to wallow in the used-boat market and who can’t afford to outfit a new boat with expedition-quality gear would draw in a few paying subscribers. I would be surprised if it didn’t.
    2) Your concentration on the high latitudes is refreshing, and I agree that white sandy beaches, sundowners, and palm-tree cruising have more than enough coverage from hundreds of excellent blogs that focus on the milk run and the tropics. But you do focus on the North Atlantic and perhaps just an occasional mention of the North Pacific, Tasmania, The southern tip of the Americas, and the South Island of New Zealand would increase interest. It’s true that cold-water sailing is generally the same no matter where you do it, but a few specific mentions of specific places might make more of us feel at home. I am presently in Panama waiting to transit the canal before heading north to spend a few years in Alaska and the Aleutians, and already I’m feeling left out. (I could be mistake on this one as I have not read anywhere near all of your books)
    Anyway, free advice from an old worn-out (but not yet used up) sailor is always worth every penny you pay for it. So steady on, don’t give up the ship, stay the course, and damn the torpedoes.(Ummm . . . maybe not damn the torpedoes)

    Regards
    Jim

    • John Feb 17, 2015, 12:55 pm

      Hi Jim,

      First off, thank you for joining and the kind words about our content, particularly valued considering the source.

      On your suggestions:

      1). A very good point. As you say $200,000 is a lot of money and way above what most people can spend on a boat, particularly these days. We will think about that one and what we can do about it.

      2). We have concentrated on the Atlantic simply because that is what we know, but I agree a wider net would be good. The good news, is that we have a new writer joining who is currently in the southern hemisphere, so more to follow on that.

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