A Report To The Members

JHHOMD1-3290101

“Morgan’s Cloud’s” home wharf here at AAC World Headquarters, taken a couple of weeks ago. “Hum, back to the office, I guess”.

We have always thought of this site as a collaboration between us and you, our readers. And going with a membership model, as we did two years ago, has only enhanced that. After all, you members (and sponsors) pay the bills and so are, in effect, partners in this endeavour that is AAC.

So think of this post as a report to the partners on what’s been going on behind the scenes, how we are spending your money, and what we are planning for the future.

It may come as a surprise, but over half of the time Phyllis and I put into AAC goes on activities other than creating content. Administration, marketing, site development and maintenance…it never ends. And so one of our biggest challenges is managing and prioritizing that time well.

Here’s a look at what we have been doing this winter:

Web Site Back Stage

Mailing List

Our mailing lists were, let me see if I can put this politely, a complete dog’s breakfast that we had cobbled together over 12 years using various free tools. Six different lists spread over two different systems with a lot of duplication, which I’m sure many of you noticed when you received two or more notifications with essentially the same message.

We have now consolidated everything at Mailchimp—dumb name, great service, although anything but free—and purged most of the duplication.

It was a huge and surprisingly complicated job, but one that has also allowed us to add services like pictures to post notifications and a monthly digest of posts for members.

Server Crashes

If any one thing has made Phyllis and I wonder why the hell we do this, it has been our two year struggle with intermittent server crashes. The root—great pun…you need to be a UNIX user to get it—of the problem is that we have over 800 pages of dynamically served content that have attracted internet robots like honey does flies.  Some of those robots are benign (Google) and some anything but.

Our security has successfully kept the bad guys out, but their constant probing was battering the hell out of our server, to the point that it would once or twice a day give up the fight and put its little electronic toes to the air, resulting in a down event lasting from 6 to 20 minutes—not good.

An interesting stat for you: We serve about a million pages a year to legitimate readers but about five times that to robots!

Anyway, after two years of trying all kinds of things to solve this problem, we seem to finally have a fix:

  • We installed a program that automatically slows down our response to badly behaved robots (throttling).
  • Our long time server host felt so badly about the problems that they upgraded us to our very own private server for half their normal price, a level we can just afford. And this thing is a real beast of a machine that eats robots for breakfast.

We have now been running for over a week without a crash and our site is at least 30% faster.

No More Flash

We used to use a very slick slideshow program that displayed photographs in Adobe Flash for many of our posts. That was fine back in the dark ages of the internet world (all of three years ago) but thanks to an anti-Adobe hissy fit thrown by the late Steve Jobs, Flash was banned from the iPhone and iPad. The result was a less than elegant display on those devices. That in turn has resulted in Flash being depreciated right across the internet.

So we have just finished going through the entire AAC archive, or rather Phyllis has, purging all Flash slideshows and replacing them with standard HTML, a real pain in the neck, but it’s done now.

Administration

Oh, how we hate pushing paper, and there is an amazing amount of it, now that we are a real company: Accounting, taxes, yada, yada, yada. Not a lot we can do about all of that.

But the other big time sink was user support, an area we could improve. This winter we went over every aspect of the site to make things easier for you, our readers and members, to understand. The result is that sign-up and renewal problems are way, way down—great for everyone.

A big thank you to several members who worked with us on this project. Without them we could not have done it, because when you have created a web site it’s very difficult to see the flaws in it.

Having said that, there is always more to do, so if you have any suggestions for improvement to an area of the site that you find confusing, please leave a comment to this post.

Contributor Compensation

Phyllis and I were very uncomfortable about the way in which we were taking advantage of our two incredibly talented writers, Colin and Matt (us too), by publishing their efforts without paying them. And never mind the moral aspects, it was simply not a sustainable model.

It’s still not a solved problem since most of our revenue goes straight back out the door to pay our expenses, but we are seeing a glimmer of hope that prompted us to think about how to fairly share the wealth (such as it ever will be) with those who make AAC what it is.

What Phyllis and I wanted to avoid like the plague was what has become, over the last few years, the typical secretive gatekeeper model used by most of the media, in which the publisher keeps 95% (at least) of the revenue and throws a few crumbs to the creatives (including their editorial staff), while treating them like indentured servants into the bargain—been on the receiving end of that crap…didn’t like it.

So over this winter we developed a transparent revenue sharing process, based on the typical fishing boat shares model, where a part is kept for the boat (AAC, the company), and then the balance is distributed between the crew (including Phyllis and I), based on their level of contribution (number of posts).

The 2014 payments were small…OK, tiny…OK, a joke. But at least we now have an agreed model, so if we can grow the revenue, everyone who makes that possible will get a fair share and will be able to see exactly how that share was calculated. Also, if we ever sell AAC (no plans to do so) all of the writers will get a share of the proceeds.

Getting this right was surprisingly complicated, but it’s done now.

Marketing

Back in the day when I ran a computer systems integration company, my then marketing director’s favourite saying was:

There’s no point in being great, if you don’t tell ’em you’re great.

Like many creatives we were doing a lousy job of that, so we have:

Landing Page

Created a new landing page that shares the benefits of being an AAC member in a simple and visually appealing way.

Member Digest

Used the new mailing system to create a digest of the last month’s new content that goes out each month to all members—makes sense to remind you of all the great stuff you got for as little as $1.66 a month.

Branding

Turns out that our original branding of membership as the AAC Bookclub was…dumb, OK, really dumb.

Why? because it set people up to think that the only benefit of membership was our online books, and worse still, that once they had read all of them, they had got everything out of their membership there was. (Thanks to the members who pointed this out to us.)

Crazy, in that the whole point of AAC is our dynamic, ever improving, over 800 hundred pages of content, as well as our community of sailors all working together to make offshore voyaging better and easier—anything but static.

For example, branding ourselves as a Bookclub completely ignored that members get at least four in-depth new articles each month (as well as several shorter ones) for their $1.66, and that we are also constantly updating and improving the online books as well.

It’s a wonder that so many of you were smart enough to see through our poor branding to the real benefits and so joined—thank you!

The Pay Off

Anyway, enough wallowing in past mistakes. One thing I know for sure from founding four businesses is that getting things wrong is an inevitable part of the path to getting them right—kind of like fitting out an offshore boat.

The good news is that both new membership and retention of existing members are up since taking the steps detailed above. The increase is not huge, but it does put us back on the path to sustainability—things were looking a bit shaky a couple of months ago.

The Future

It was a very busy winter! Now let’s look at stuff we still need to do:

Secret Project

In a blacked out secret underground bunker here at AAC World Headquarters we are working on a project to provide a whole new set of benefits to members. Real tangible benefits that will save you real cash money—something that anyone who owns a boat could sure use.

We can’t guarantee it will work, particularly since it’s an innovative new idea that relies on a lot of cooperation from others, but we have high hopes. Look for a roll out in the next few weeks.

Site Redesign

This site needs a complete makeover. In the two years since our last redesign things have changed dramatically, particularly with the use of phones and tablets to read our content.

We are well on the way to that goal with a new much simpler design sketched out that will also be responsive (phone and tablet friendly).

However, the actual implementation is a huge job because of the amount AAC is customized to support membership. And now it’s spring, and the ice is getting ready to go out. And Morgan’s Cloud is sitting in her shed chomping at the bit—mustn’t ever forget what the point of all this is.

So we are shelving the new site implementation while we go sailing. Look for it next winter.

Site Speed

The new server detailed above has made the site a lot faster, but we need to do better. The planned site redesign will give us a big speed jump and we are also going to implement some sophisticated content cacheing as well as a distributed content delivery network (CDN).

The latter will dramatically increase the page load speed for our readers outside of North America, particularly those in Europe, Australia and New Zealand.

All this will (we hope) happen at the same time as the new site design.

Coming Soon

Content? Content?…Oh yeah, that is the whole point. In addition, it’s the part of our jobs that Phyllis and I enjoy most. We are getting ready to go sailing, and that always refocuses us on what really matters.

In a week or so we will publish a post revealing some of the cool new content we are working on. You will be happy, I promise.

Comments

If you have any questions or suggestions for further improvements to AAC, please leave a comment.

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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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  • James Apr 21, 2015, 7:00 pm

    I’ve just recently joined the AAC community and find the content very informative. I know, from long distance cycle touring, that the decisions made regarding equipment, levels of safety, redundancy, security and comfort, are often the result of complex decisions. Good choices usually require the weighing of many interacting variables, often founded in some core principles or philosophy arrived at over time and with years of first-hand experience. Essentially, there is a great deal to learn and a real art to making good decisions, and that’s where I have found AAC to be especially valuable.

    However, I’m eager to see a site redesign. Try as I might to quickly find the books (or their constituent chapters in the form of articles?). I just can’t seem to do it. I think each time I’ve stumbled across them has been by a series of clicks, searches and actions akin to a spell, and not something I’m able to repeat.

    Personally, I would rather pay 2.99 USD a year and see that extra revenue go into the website and general accessibility. I don’t know if anyone else feels that way?

    Generally though, I think this site is brilliant and I really enjoy reading other members comments.

    Kind Regards,
    James

  • Bill Attwood Apr 22, 2015, 1:21 am

    Hi John.
    Thanks for this post. It made clear to me just how much work goes into AAC behind the scenes. I suspect that James may have got a decimal point wrong in his post, but I should certainly be happy to pay more for membership. I would guess that around $30 would be still a bargain, and this would help to compensate the content providers. I believe also that you may have underestimated the value of the on-line books. I agree with James that both access and information as to the content of these books would be an improvement. I have loaded those chapters which are of particular interest to me into my scrapbook, where they form a useful reference. Although you covered how to do this in a post a while back, why not make the procedure part of the on-line books section? Although it would be a huge amount of work (I also worked in publishing a while back), producing an index for the on-line books, either per book, or for the whole catalogue would ad a lot of value – sort of a sailing Wikipedia. Now there´s an idea.
    😉
    Finally, I hope very much that there will shortly be some news on the A40.
    Yours aye,
    Bill

    • James Apr 22, 2015, 4:06 am

      Oh yes, you’re right Bill. I meant 2.99 USD per month. I liked the idea of starting with the books first because, not knowing much about sailing yet, I thought focusing on one long form topic would include less referencing to things I don’t yet understand. After I had had digested them I reasoned that I’d get more out of stand-alone articles. Of course, that may not necessarily be true…

    • John Apr 22, 2015, 8:13 am

      Hi Bill,

      You are right, an index is simply not practical. It would be a full time job for somebody. That alone would about $2.00/month to the membership price. Also, whether or not people of our generation like it, in the world of Google, hand made indexes are simply dead. Why have an index when you have Google search (the ultimate index), which we do at the top of the sidebars.

      One other question? I simply can’t get through my head why downloading something makes it a better reference source. After all the information remains the same but in downloading the interactivity is lost. Please explain the benefit to you of downloading that I’m not getting.

      Oh, and the download procedure is part of the online book help section.

  • Bill Attwood Apr 22, 2015, 1:27 am

    Hi John.
    As a ps, a lot less work but still valuable, would be a chapter listing for each on-line book, with brief details of chapter content.
    Bill

    • John Apr 22, 2015, 8:15 am

      Hi Bill,

      We have exactly that if you click on the title of a book at the top of any chapter (light blue background) or if you click on the title of a book in the library.

  • andy nemier Apr 22, 2015, 6:37 am

    I’m here for the A40 development. Exciting!
    The rest of course, is gravy. Incredible knowledge worth paying for. Thanks.

  • John Apr 22, 2015, 7:14 am

    Hi Bill and James,

    On your troubles finding stuff. First off, thanks for the heads up. We were under the impression that we had done a pretty good job in that area.

    We have:

    • All 800 posts categorized including a drill down menu at the top of each page.
    • The books appear as a list by title in the sidebars (blue background).
    • When you are in a chapter of a book, the other chapters in the same book appear listed by title in the sidebar (red background).
    • We have a list of all the books with a description of each.
    • If you click on a book in that list, you get a list of all the chapters with a brief description of each.
      We also have a site specific Google search box at the top of the sidebars.

    So I guess that I’m learning from this is that once again we have done a poor job of communicating. In this case communicating how to use the site? Hum, maybe a short video tour would be in order?

    Or is there something else you would like to see in addition to the above?

    • James Apr 22, 2015, 9:09 am

      I can instantly see where I was getting confused. Perhaps if I tell you will get an insight into a possibly irrational mind.
      I happened across a book that I thought was called ‘Staying In Charge’, because each chapter (except for one) begins with that name. I can now see that each chapter page has the title of the book on it, but it’s much smaller that the ‘Staying In Charge’ title. There is quite a lot of sections with information and titles for someone who is coming across the site for the first time.
      Though ‘Online Library’ is completely logical place for the books to be, the term is often used in a generic fashion for all kinds of info, even sometime a library or terms or something else. Now I know, it’s seems obvious and logical… but perhaps not intuitive, especially regarding the chapter titles/ book titles, etc.

      • John Apr 22, 2015, 9:35 am

        Hi James,

        Great stuff, thank you. We will take it aboard.

      • John Apr 22, 2015, 9:46 am

        Hi James,

        One question. What menu text would suggest the online book list best to you? I see your point about “Library” but I’m having a hard time coming up with anything better.

        • James Apr 22, 2015, 10:11 am

          That’s great to hear John.

          I think perhaps ‘Online Publications’, ‘Online Books’ or ‘AAC Books’ might work well.

          Just for reference, the first place I looked for them was the top level menu, but due to the quantity of options up there I missed ‘Library’ the first time.

          Sorry about how poorly my last message was written. I could hardly read it back myself!

          • John Apr 22, 2015, 10:14 am

            Hi James,

            Online books it is.

            Check out the top menu now and tell me what you think. Thanks for the great input.

          • James Apr 22, 2015, 10:22 am

            p.s. I know the last thing you need right now is another website suggestion. But I find it odd that I have to type my name, email and website every time I go to comment. They don’t change that often, especially my name… and I am logged in. Also when I click on the AAC logo at the top of the page (to go to home) I get a full page splash banner asking me if I’d like to join up. Again, this is when I’m logged in.

            I bet it would be a quick CSS fix to eliminate that huge wasted grey space above your header image too.

            Please bear in mind that I wouldn’t care a fig about any of this if ACC didn’t have such great content. It deserves a top notch website and design. I expect to be spending a lot of time here. and I do occasionally like to read a quick article on my phone.

          • James Apr 22, 2015, 10:27 am

            Yes, I think that’s a good example of a marginal change that reaps a big benefit to usability. I would find that instantly when scanning for ‘books’.

            It’s funny, but when you (or at least ‘I’) search for a word, like ‘books’, it’s very hard to notice a related word like ‘library’. That’s all it came down to I guess.

          • John Apr 22, 2015, 10:30 am

            Hi James

            Great observation on wording, I never thought of that,

            Want a job?

          • James Apr 22, 2015, 10:57 am

            Yes, perhaps. If you’re serious. It’s so hard to tell without hearing the voice of the writer.

            You have my email.

        • Marc Dacey Apr 22, 2015, 10:29 am

          There might be some use in the implementation of meta-tags that link to keyword searches, such as “Anchoring (11)”, or “Rigging (5)” that link to *both* the Online Book chapters and the article posts concerning this. It’s been some time since I even looked at code, but I believe this could be an automated process to construct a drop-down list.

          I would also suggest (at the risk of starting a popularity contest) that posts of surpassing wisdom be allowed a Facebook-like “thumbs up” to indicate reader happiness. Of course, you needn’t put in a “thumbs down” as I can’t recall reading anything idiotic here once.

          • John Apr 22, 2015, 10:34 am

            Hi Marc,

            Meta keywords: That’s exactly what the category menu at the top of each page does.

            Thumbs up: We already have that functionality at the bottom of each post through Facebook, twitter and google plus. Maybe I’m missing something, but I can’t see the point of reinventing that wheel when it’s already done by social media.

  • Steven Schapera Apr 22, 2015, 7:20 am

    To achieve excellence in anything takes a lot of work. So it comes as no surprise to read just how much effort John, Phyllis, Colin and Matt put into their work. This site leaves the rest for dead because of its authenticity: no ego clouds an article, years of experience mean the reader can trust what is written, and honesty isn’t distorted by commercial leanings. Thank you.

    I agree that the site design could be better – its getting dated. A re-design may even streamline the administration, saving you guys time. I would be happy to pay a higher subscription fee for a better design. Alternatively, see what it would cost and do redesign, then spread across all subscribers as once-only charge. I bet its a very small amount, easily justified by the enhanced functionality, as per James’ suggestion.

    Finally, I am intrigued to learn more about the “fishing boat share model”. I tried Google and got nowhere. Can you post a link, or tell me where I can get more info?

    Warm regards

    Steven

    • John Apr 22, 2015, 8:23 am

      Hi Steven,

      Thanks for the kind words. Interesting idea on a one time charge, but there is no practical way to do that in that we can’t charge a member, rather a member must buy something.

      As to a redesign, that’s coming, but, as I said in the post, the problem is time. Even if we hired a developer to do that, I would still have to supervise every step, which would probably take more of my time than just doing it myself. The point being that modern tools are very quick to use. The tricky bit is figuring our the actual design—as we are seeing in the comments—and most programmers are absolutely terrible designers. They get mired in making it slick, but miss the usability stuff.

      And designers, generally, don’t understand membership sites.

      Bottom line, it still takes a huge amount of time for me to translate what I’m learning from members into something that works.

      By the way, I used to run a bespoke programming company and I have done a lot of usability and systems analysis work in my life, so I can do this. Once again, it comes down to time, and more importantly, how much time I take away from creating content and sailing our boat—it’s a juggling act.

    • John Apr 22, 2015, 8:27 am

      Hi Steven,

      On fishing boats each crew member, from the skipper on down, is an independent contractor. The revenue model is that the owner takes a cut off the top for the boat and gear and then the rest of the revenue is split between the crew. Not sure where to get more information. I have several friends who are commercial fishermen and I got the idea from them.

      Best
      John

      • Steven Schapera Apr 22, 2015, 9:08 am

        Thanks John – much appreciated. All clear now.

        • Coen Oct 7, 2015, 9:49 am

          Hi John,
          I wholeheartedly agree with Steven’s first paragraph, but frankly do not care that much that the site appearance may be getting old. For me the real value lies in the collective experience shared here. I am not currently sailing, but am on the site a few times most days,
          “reliving dreams of past glory” and preparing for the times when I will be again. Although I feel that I get to most of the excellent information and comments that were published before I became aware of AAC, my real need is for new articles and the comments that they evoke. When my membership is up for renewal next month, I will be “buying ” the most expensive product that you offer, purely to express my appreciation for the enjoyment and valuable information that I get. The articles and comments are more important than any slick or more sexy presentation. Please keep this coming!
          I very much appreciated the effort that you, Phyllis, Matt and. Colin put into this and am sure that I am not alone in saying this.
          Fair winds

          • Coen Oct 7, 2015, 9:51 am

            And I should have thanked all the regulars who comment with so much experience!

          • John Oct 8, 2015, 6:31 pm

            Hi Coen,

            Thanks for the kind words and the commitment, much appreciated.

            And never fear, we are planning a complete new design for the site, including mobile responsive, for this winter.

  • Bill Attwood Apr 22, 2015, 9:09 am

    Hi John,
    Thanks for your reply and here are my comments in return. Hope they are helpful.
    1. Home page after signing in
    a. List of books – how do I see the library? No obvious link, but eventually clicked on “membership” and saw “Library”.
    b. Not intuitive for me, would it be possible to enter the library by clicking on the headline “Library”?
    2. Click on “Anchoring made easy – Vol 1, Gear”
    a. Chapters listed in blocks vertically, with content in free form, not as user-friendly as I suggest below.
    b. Click on “Things to know about chain”:
    “There are probably more misconceptions and just plain wrong information circulating about anchor chain than most any other piece of cruising gear. For this chapter I went to the experts at Peerless Chain to get the real facts”.
    c. Suggest that following form of content description shorter and easier:
    i. Standard definitions of chain strength
    ii. Chain grades relevant for sailors
    iii. Effect of galvanizing on chain
    iv. Toughness of chain and shock loading
    d. When in a chapter, the list of other chapters in the book to the right is excellent – I hadn´t noticed this before.
    3. Not sure what you are referring to with “All 800 posts categorized including a drill down menu…”, please could you explain.
    4. Loading the most relevant chapters into my Scrapbook means that I can access off line.
    Yours aye,
    Bill

    • John Apr 22, 2015, 9:33 am

      Hi Bill,

      Lots of good suggestions, which I will incorporate into my notes for the new design.

      Drill down: Just click on any category in the top menu, say anchoring. You will then see a drill worn menu to the right of an magnifying glass icon.

      Downloads: Yes, but why would you want to read offline…really?
      Most people are online 100% of the time through phones. (Reason we must do responsive). That will only get more so.

      I’m not just being argumentative here. I must design for the future, not the past. And the fact is that content is now moving to the web so it can by dynamic. Static content will soon be as dead as the dodo. That is the trend we must follow.

      Search: I note from a lot of your suggestions that you are coming at the problem in the traditional way that people of our age think. Nothing wrong with that, and that’s why we have all the categories etc. But do realize that no person under 35-40 would look at it that way. They would just go to the search box and enter “chain grade”. They have never used an index or a table of contents and couldn’t care less.

      • Marc Dacey Apr 22, 2015, 10:38 am

        I’ll tell you why I would want to read offline, John: My boat yard takes the external wireless routers from the clubhouse and the docks indoors for the winter, just when I would wish to consult a reference work such as your chapters constitute.

        Same with actual sailing: I wouldn’t want to incur cellphone (within three miles of shore, depending on where you are) or satphone charges (ruinously expensive for all but text) when offshore. I actually have PDFs of several refence works on my phone AND my netbook just to be able to look stuff up when the data tether is cut.

        When we go offshore, I will have to stop reading the articles until we hit a Wi-Fi-equipped anchorage, but I would love to use the online books saved as files for reference. There’s a lot of good stuff in there regarding best practices and “things that work”. An example: Yesterday, I bought two Crosby shackles instead of the first shackles I saw because of things I learned right here about the importance of shackle metallurgy. Clearly, this site is starting to define my actions and purchases. I’ve also learned that Tef-Gel and/or Duralac is hard to find in Toronto, although I have a lead on a single 20 ml tube of the former (I’m not kidding!) in a suburb.

      • Matt Apr 22, 2015, 11:23 am

        Downloadable-for-offline isn’t something I think AAC needs to explicitly support. The options at https://www.morganscloud.com/2013/06/10/downloading-our-online-books/ should work fine, and Evernote Clipper should also work just fine.

        We should be careful not to dismiss the offline use case so easily, though. There are still a lot (quite a lot) of places where an Internet connection is flaky, slow or just not possible, and that will continue to be the case for at least another decade.

        While I would like to have an “AAC app” that serves up the entire library from local storage and syncs with new content when a connection’s available, that represents a lot of expensive development effort that is just not in the cards.

        • John Apr 22, 2015, 11:34 am

          Hi Matt,

          You got it. An app would be the ultimate but not anything that this small a revenue stream would ever support. As you know, it’s not just writing the app, then you have to support the damned thing, in at least two platforms, (iThing and Droid) and update it every time Apple or Google has a bright idea.

  • Terry Mason Apr 22, 2015, 10:42 am

    Further to Bill’s thoughts about downloading content, it would be nice to have some things available for reference when outside high speed internet coverage areas. They still exist; one such desert is central New York state, as surprising as that may seem; we had to get a Mi-Fi to get past dial-up, and that was recently. Another such desert would be at sea, and we are not getting a sat-phone, at least not for that purpose. Yes, almost everyone is online 100% of the time, and that is one of the reasons to escape. That’s my $.02.

    Terry

  • Alan Bradley Apr 22, 2015, 10:43 am

    Hi John,

    Thanks for the detailed, behind-the-scenes look at AAC. Having started and run a couple of businesses for a number of years, it’s always interesting to me to see how other people run theirs. Always a lot of challenges.

    I failed to chime in on the discussion awhile back about the price of membership, so here it is now. I think this site is a huge bargain. $30 or so per year would still be a great bargain for all the information available here.

    And one suggestion… A way for members to add a photo or two to their comments would be very useful. I’m thinking of the recent discussion of the many uses of soft shackles on snubbers, etc., where a couple of photos would have been very helpful. Not being a programmer or web manager, I’m not sure if this is at all feasible, but it would be nice.

    Thank you,
    Alan

    • John Apr 22, 2015, 11:00 am

      Hi Alan,

      Thanks for the kind comments.

      Photos in the comments is coming. Problem is server load, but now we have a new server, that will be better.

  • Marc Dacey Apr 22, 2015, 10:45 am

    One last thing before I become completely annoying: the New Comments list is too short in my view, and will only look shorter as more people join and contribute (and make no mistake, the erudite commentary around here is a huge part of the appeal for me). I would suggest a couple of things: Make the comments list “drop-down infinite” by allowing a “see more recent comments” option, and/or add a timestamp to the comments list so that if I haven’t checked in in seven days, I can go seven days back in the comments list to follow what’s been said.

    As it stands now, particularly when you post articles that elicit a lively response, the current “Comments” list is eclipsed in 18-24 hours, meaning I don’t know what I’ve missed without re-reading in its entirety the comments section of the article I was following. That said, these are good problems to have.

    • John Apr 22, 2015, 11:27 am

      Hi Marc,

      Thanks for the thoughts.

      I’m looking at a special comments archive page for the new design. I will look at adding that functionality.

      I could make the comments list longer now, but there is a trade off: Making it longer will make every page load slower. Ever change of that type adds load to the server. So, as with all things (boats too) it’s a trade off.

      Also, we must be careful not to let the tail wag the dog. While I think that comments are a vital part of AAC, the fact is that only about 8% of our readers scroll down far enough to read them. Yea, I was surprised too! That’s why I prefer to have a separate comments archive page that the hard core can check, rather than slowing down every page.

      • Marc Dacey Apr 22, 2015, 3:12 pm

        Fair enough, John. I guess I’m in the minority, because I find I learn a great deal from the comments, to the point that I try not to miss any. Of course, I learn a lot from the baseline content as well, and that must, I agree, take the priority.

        Thanks for the rapid replies.

      • Carl E Oct 5, 2015, 5:50 pm

        Hi John and Phyllis,

        Like many WordPress-based sites, there is a site-wide comments feed:

        https://www.morganscloud.com/comments/feed/

        in addition to the per-post comments feed (e.g.:

        https://www.morganscloud.com/2015/04/21/report-to-members/feed/

        …) that is already published.

        I don’t know whether exposing this would mean a significantly higher server load and/or higher Feedburner/Google costs if you used them for the site-wide comments feed?

        Thank you for a wonderful site!

        • John Oct 6, 2015, 5:41 pm

          Hi Carl,

          That’s an interesting idea, but out theme does not support a comment feed. I could, with a some coding, add one, but the thing is that fewer and fewer people are using RSS feeds, so I have to think about how I allocate my time.

          The other issue is that I’m not sure I want to set up a situation where people are visiting the site and zooming in on a comment without reading the post. That’s more like a forum and would result in long off topic conversations.

          The point being that AAC is not, and never will be, a forum. Rather we write a post and then others add value to that topic. So, to support that model, I prefer that people are brought to the site to read the post first, before diving into the comments. This reduces duplication and leaves me more time for my primary job: creating and editing content, not being a forum moderator, a job that would cause me to do myself physical harm.

          • Carl E Oct 6, 2015, 7:09 pm

            Hi John,

            I very much get the non-forum (and non-moderator) part. Just to be clear, the site-wide comment feed already works as part of your WordPress install (I’ve been subscribed to it in feedly for the last couple of days with a few dozen comments showing up). Given that, do you mean you don’t want to adapt your Following Us-section or otherwise expose it, or that you want to block the current site-wide comment feed wholesale?

          • John Oct 7, 2015, 7:05 am

            Hi Carl,

            Yes, I now get (after you pointed it out) that it’s available. And no, I’m perfectly happy to have tech savvy users like you use it.

            But I guess what I’m saying is that I don’t think I want to put time and effort into imbedding it in each page, promoting and supporting it.

  • John Apr 22, 2015, 11:14 am

    Hi All,

    Several people have mentioned downloading online books for offline reading.

    The fact is that there are a lot of tools out there that allow you to download any internet content for offline reading, including all of our content.

    We suggest a couple of these tools here, but there are many more.

    The point I’m trying to make is that we, like every business, have limited resources (time and money) and therefore trying to fix an already solved problem—even if we could make it more elegant—like downloading internet content is not a good use of time.

    Of to put it another way, do you want me to mess with that, or get on with the next chapter of the anchoring book?

    To maintain the dynamic content on the site and duplicate that as say PDFs (the best download option) is simply not practical. That would, again, be a full time job—trust me, I have been building and selling PDF ebooks for 12 years and doing it right is huge.

    In addition static content is dying and dying fast—look at what Active Captain is doing to cruising guides (not pretty)—so we need to expend our limited resources on making dynamic content better (video is an example) not make it more static.

    Bottom line, if you want to download out content, you can, but you need to do the work to make it happen and put up with the fact it’s not as elegant as we would all like it to be, I can’t allocate any resources to it.

    Sorry, I know that sounds harsh, but there is no other way to say it. The future is dynamic and AAC will be there.

  • Brandon Ford Apr 22, 2015, 11:40 am

    John and Phyllis,
    Thanks for the update and all the hard work you two put in on making AAC such a great resource. This was a fascinating look behind the scenes and I enjoyed reading it more than I anticipated.

    I am especially impressed with your revenue-sharing model for compensating your contributors. I look forward to Colin and Matt’s articles as much as you two. Bless them for their contributions pre-compensation. I had no idea they previously received no pay for their wonderful articles.

    I hope your revenue-sharing model shakes up the publishing industry, they need it. I’ve seen it from both sides and it seems designed to take advantage of writers and photographers.

    Again, thanks for all your hard work on behalf of the members.

    Brandon

    • John Apr 24, 2015, 8:18 am

      Hi Brandon,

      Yes, we all owe Colin and Matt a huge thank you for contributing so much…for so long…for so little—hum, a Churchill moment.

      I too would like to see our model adopted widely but I fear that is not likely. Most media is now owned by large corporations that care nothing for the creatives and worship at the altar of ever increasing short term profits.

      My guess is that historians will look back at our age and determine that the currently prevailing abuse of creatives was a huge contributor to a general decline in civilization.

  • Dick Stevenson Apr 22, 2015, 4:55 pm

    John and all,
    As someone who is often in marginal internet access areas, and even when we have internet through our phone, it usually is not good enough to do you-tube (but skype is getting better), I copied and pasted the books of interest to me (when at my son’s where there was good internet). Took a while, but it was just busy work while listening to a book on tape. There were likely easier ways, but if I figured it out on a computer, it is not rocket science.
    Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy, Lerwick, Shetlands, Scotland

    • John Apr 24, 2015, 8:11 am

      Hi Dick,

      Glad it worked out for you. I’m guessing that this whole issue will go away in the next five years as internet over phone gets better and cheaper. And it is interesting to note that Iridium is talking of G3 speeds and unlimited data plans within two years.

  • Coen Apr 23, 2015, 12:43 am

    Hi John and all,
    Although I have not sailed much in many years, I plan on changing that in the near future. ACC has been a marvellous resource to update me in so many different areas and I would certainly be prepared to pay more for all this great information and especially comments from people who do have practical and current experience. I think this report clarifies many of the issues and compromises that you have to make in running ACC and I think you all are doing an excellent job. Paying the people who are part of what makes this so useful to me, seems like a very good idea and I look forward to new articles and their comments, to the point where I will log in to check (for comments) between seeing patients (hope that my practice manager does not notice this……:)). Keep up the good work!!

    Regards,

    Coen

    • John Apr 24, 2015, 8:08 am

      Hi Coen,

      Thanks very much for the kind words. And most especially for your support of our intent to pay our contributors properly.

  • Bob Ramsay Apr 26, 2015, 7:44 pm

    Hi John and Phyllis,

    Thanks for the update, it’s easy to forget or simply not to know what goes on behind the scenes, behind the web pages. Your efforts are very much appreciated.

    Kind regards

    Bob