Some more changes to the forum

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Nov 26, 2007
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from: http://www.snowest.com/forum/showthread.php?t=178596


To: All SnoWest Members
From: Harris Publishing
Subject: Big Changes Coming to the SnoWest Forums


How We Got Here

First and foremost all of us at SnoWest understand that the success of the SnoWest Forums is due to the over 35,000 passionate snowmobilers like you that have chosen to make SnoWest one of their recreation destinations on the Internet. When the SnoWest forums were first launched 11 years ago, we just wanted snowmobilers to have a place to hang out and share information, and we were glad that we were able to provide that for all these years. But times are changing and as you have seen, so is SnoWest.

Of late there have been numerous rumors making the rounds on the forums about the impending doom and demise of the SnoWest Forums. I am here to let you know that the recent reports of the death of SnoWest have been greatly exaggerated, if not outright fabricated to serve the purposes of a few disgruntled members. SnoWest magazine was launched in 1974, thirty five years ago and the forums in 1998, eleven years ago. Over those many years both the magazine and the forums have gone through many significant changes as they have both worked to stay abreast of the changing world in which we live. To set the record straight: Harris Publishing, SnoWest, and the SnoWest forums are definitely not going anywhere. To the contrary, we’re investing heavily in our future.

A couple months ago we embarked on a major upgrade of these forums, with a goal of enhancing them in many different ways, and with a desire to take the community in a new direction. Some of our members have liked the new features we’ve added so far, while others have not. But in each case we have brought them to you in a manner that provides you with the ability to pick and choose what you decide to use and what to set aside. All of the new features are intended to let you customize your SnoWest user experience. New forums have been added with more topics to make it easier to locate the information you come to SnoWest in search of, and new moderators have been assigned to help them move along far more smoothly than ever before. Those same moderators are there to help you when issues arise that need special attention or customer service.

Along that path we ran headlong into some unforeseen performance issues with our servers that have resulted in significant delays in the evenings when we see our peak traffic. For the last few weeks there has been nothing that has generated more PMs and e-mails than the "SloWest" issue. But, as you might expect, problems like this aren’t corrected overnight. It has taken some serious time and thought to make sure that the "fix" we implement is a long term solution and not just a band-aid.


Addressing the “Slowness” Problems

After significant discussion and debate, we have decided to move the SnoWest forums off of the main Harris Publishing servers and manage the SnoWest community as a separate, stand-alone entity. This means a few things:

1. SnoWest will no longer share hardware or server resources with the other Harris Publishing web-sites or communities.

2. We’ve ordered brand new switches, firewalls, load balancers, UPSs, file-servers, database-servers, and web-servers exclusively for the use of the SnoWest forums.

3. We’re upgrading the SnoWest forums to the latest and greatest versions of all our software, across the board.

The end result here will be speed, speed, and more speed. The orders for the new infrastructure have been placed, and we anticipate the new hardware will be ready in a few weeks. However, making SnoWest independent and self supporting comes at a significant cost, which brings me to the next issue.


Our New Direction

As you might imagine, the price-tag for all of these upgrades and updates is significant. SnoWest is easily in the top 100 online communities in terms of total traffic and posts, thus the resources needed to keep the site floating are significant. As the SnoWest Forums move from being dependent on the magazine for their support, to being an independent entity, we will need to pick up the costs of our own operation. With that in mind the SnoWest Forums will no longer be exclusively free of charge. We’ll be moving to a subscription model with three different membership categories, and, in order to keep the cost of the subscription low, we’ll continue using advertisements to help subsidize. This is essentially the same pattern used by the printed magazine, and it’s worth noting that many of the premium content sites on the internet have been rapidly converting to paid models over the past 1 to 2 years. A few have failed, but many are doing extremely well, most with communities that are more active under the paid model than the free model.



Top 18 Cool Things You’ll Get With Your Membership

Here is a short list of what your membership dollars are going to return back to you! All paying members of SnoWest will receive the following as part of their membership:

1. New, Super-Fast Servers and Software
More than any single other item on SnoWest, we have needed new hardware to meet the growing needs of our members. As you read above, we’re investing heavily into this area, and it’s going to make a HUGE difference. Also, as SnoWest grows beyond our current size, these new servers will allow us to add more capacity “on the fly” as required. We’ll also be leveraging Amazon’s EC2 cloud for real-time scaling of certain services.

2. Full Digital Copies of SnoWest, Mod Stock and SledHeads Magazines – Current and Past Issues

All paid members of the SnoWest forums will now receive full copies of each month's edition of SnoWest, Mod Stock and SledHead in digital format. This allows you to see and turn each page exactly as it appears in the printed version. So anywhere you have your computer, you can browse through your copy of the magazines.

The team at SnoWest has been putting out some of the best Snowmobile content in their magazines for decades, but never has it been accessible online. Now we will begin the process of going back through those past issues and extracting out the articles, product reviews, editorials and destination write-ups and transferring them to the SnoWest Forums.

3. Steeply Discounted Subscriptions for the print versions of SnoWest, Mod Stock and SledHeads magazines.
As part of your new subscription to the SnoWest Forums, SnoWest Magazine is going to make you a killer deal on becoming a magazine subscriber as well. While you will be getting the digital version included in your membership free, there are always times when it’s just nice to sit back and read the real thing.

4. Video-Chat, Text-Chat, and online Webinar Broadcasts
This is likely the biggest single new feature ever brought to SnoWest. Our new commercial grade chat room will support Video, Audio, Text, Handwriting, Image Transfer, File Transfer, Whiteboard, You-Tube, MP3, and more. This is where you can come to converse, in real time with other SnoWest members, watch (or make) a webinar presentation, and see movie debuts. When you have a few minutes and just want to hang out, or attend a presentation on moding your sled or avalanche safety, this will be the place.

5. Instant Messaging
We’ll be launching a high end instant messaging system where you can build groups of friends and interact with them in real-time while you’re on the SnoWest site.

6. Favorites system
This will allow you to pick and choose from the entire inventory of SnoWest forums only those that you want to display on your screen and make all the others become invisible to you. The goal being to make it much faster for you to sign in and keep up to date on exactly what interests you and not have to wade through the thousands of daily posts not related to your interests.

7. Live Topic
This feature was introduced on SnoWest in October for a few days in a trial run, and then removed because of the massive amount of server power it required. How many times have you replied to a post in a thread, only to find that someone else replied while you were typing. Live Topic will automatically update your thread display to show their post the moment they submit it, making sure that what you see is always current.

8. Manufacturer's Forums
At last, a whole new area that will be dedicated to the manufacturers that produce the products we all use. Each forum will be specific to one manufacturer only, where we will invite a company representative to come and interact with our members. This will be a place for product reviews, manufacturer feedback, new product announcements, customer support, technical bulletins, ect..

9. Private & Public Social Groups
Would you like to be able to create your own SnoWest forum, for any topic your heart desires? The new Social Groups feature will allow you to do just that, and you get to choose who can come in and participate as well by making it open to the public or by invitation only. You’ll also be able to mass-PM all members of your social group. Set up your own special interest groups, riding groups, or create and manage that section on SnoWest that you’ve always wanted.

10. SnoWest Business Center
Imagine a Snowmobile Mall, where every store in the entire mall was filled with nothing but snowmobiling gear. The new SnoWest Micro Business center will become a comprehensive directory of who's who in snowmobiling, a Business Directory, Links Directory, Business Ratings, Business Reviews and stores you can go shopping in.

11. New Search Engine
We’ve created a proprietary search technology specifically for our forums that allows you to take advantage of advanced earch features (include, exclude, put items in quotes, etc.) – it’s a quicker, more accurate way to find the content you’re after.

12. Treadmill
This is a feature that our Moderators have been using for the last couple months that allows you to see ALL the posts on the entire SnoWest site in Real-Time. Are you a SnoWest junkie who just can't get enough? The Treadmill will open a page that will show you the Post Title, first sentence of the post, which forum and the posters name the moment they press the Submit Reply button. This is a live scrolling display that is extremely server intensive and can only now be offered to all the members after our new hardware is online. Ask any Moderator and they will tell you this is one of their favorite goodies..

13. AME (Auto Media Embedding)
No longer will you have to leave SnoWest to view a linked video. AME will embed and display YouTube, Myspacetv, Google Video, Bolt, iFilm, Yahoo, Dailymotion, Amazon and MetaCafe right from within SnoWest!

14. Automated Answer Forums
This will be a new forum where members can post questions and select the best answer given by one of our members? This is similar to yahoo answers, a very effective website where users can post questions and seek answers from registered users.

15. Individual Blogs
Would you like to have your own personal Snowmobiling blog? This will be a feature-rich blog application, with support for fully formatted WYSIWYG posts, attachments, comments, trackbacks and pingbacks, draft posts and categories, as well as seamless integration with the overall SnoWest system.

16. Group Rides
SnoWest will be sponsoring group-rides for our members and their immediate family. We’ll try to do this a few times a year in different areas.

17. Emergency Alerts
A new automated emergency alert will send a text to your cell phone alerting you of any emergencies in your specific geographic area. We hope to use this to generate more interest and participation for search and rescue operations, as well as a service to help keep you safe.

18. Club Forums
Would you like to see your local sled club represented on SnoWest with their own dedicated forum? We will be adding a new section to the state forums for each of the state snowmobiling associations, and for your local organization as well. We can even offer discounts on memberships to members of your club, and your club will have full control and full moderator capabilities in your section.



Looking forward:

With over 36,000 members on SnoWest, we know that there will be some, for whatever reason, who will choose not to join with us and support the forum as it moves forward. For those members who choose not to participate with a full membership, all is not lost. While they will not be able to fully enjoy all of the coming upgrades and enhancements, neither will they be locked out.

SnoWest will have 3 categories of members in 2010.

Guest:
* Will have the ability to see all the forums and read a portion of all the threads
* Will be able to READ SwapMeet Forum
* Will be able to READ the SnowSafety Forum
* Will be able to READ the SnowMembers Forum


Basic Member:
This level will be completely free. Members here will have all of the privileges of a guest, but will also get:
* Full posting ability in the SwapMeet forum, the SnowSafety forum, and the SnowMembers forum
* Limited posting ability in the other forums
* Limited ability to read other topics and forums
* Private Message Capabilities with limited storage

Premium Member:
All of the above privileges, plus:
* Unlimited viewing and posting privileges across the forums
* Unrestricted private-message capability
* Unrestricted access to all of the new features (chat rooms, treadmill, live-topic, etc.)
* Instant-Messenger
* Personal Blog
* Photo Albums
* "My Garage"
* Polls
* Enhanced Search Engine
* Social Groups
* Invitations to meetups and group rides
* ... And MUCH MUCH more!!!


A Few More Goodies

In order to attract high-quality members who are as passionate about snowmobiling as we are, SnoWest Magazine has agreed to run ½ and full page ad in most of the print issues They have also agreed to let us run contests for articles to be published in the magazine from our forum members, and we might even begin to see some of the best photos from our forum members appearing in futures issues of the magazine!

From time to time we’ll be seeing the editorial and publishing staff drop in on threads here and there, or show up at one of our forthcoming SnoWest member's rides.

We are also exploring the idea of a “one paid membership per household” policy. That means we would offer your spouse and your children free memberships to the forums as long as you stay current. We haven’t finalized any details around this yet, but we’d like to make a serious effort to reach out to lady riders and the upcoming generation (our kids). Getting our wives, sisters, daughters and girlfriends out on a sled next to us would likely do more for this sport than anything else. And, quite frankly, we need to start growing this sport again!

You can also look forward to SnoWest Forums taking on a greater role in becoming an advocate on the core issues affecting our sport, such as Avalanche Education and Land Closures.


So What’s The Cost?


A 12-month membership to the SnoWest Online Forums will cost $29.95. However, we recognize times are tough for a lot of people right now, so we’ll be doing a few things to keep the subscription affordable:

All Current SnoWest Forum Members:

·1 Year Forum Subscription: $14.95/yr, 50% off (thats just 4 cents a day)

·2 Year Forum Subscription: $12.50/yr, 58% off

·3 Year Forum Subscription:
$9.99/yr, 66% off (Only 3 cents a day!)

AND with any paid forum membership you qualify for either a SnoWest or SledHeads magazine subscription for only $14.95!


Free Membership Extensions:

For every person you refer to SnoWest that enters your user name when they join, your account will be credited with 3 months free membership. Recruit 4 members a year, and you will pay nothing for your next year's subscription!

Now, before you go running off into the woods howling at the moon, gnashing your teeth and wrenting your clothes over this, you should know that we intend to put the subscription revenue to extremely good use.


Supporting Snowmobiling:

A portion of every membership fee received at SnoWest will be set apart to create a fund from which donations will be made to organizations that are dedicated to supporting the sport of Snowmobiling. Organizations such as SAWS, Blue Ribbon Coalition, ARRA, American Avalanche Association, ect.. will all be available for you to choose from as a recipient of your contribution.


When will all this happen??

As of today we do not have a firm date set for these changes. So please, don't be worried that everything is going to suddenly change tomorrow, or next week or even next month, its not. Rather than having a preset date, we have chosen to use a progress line that will bring us to that point in time on it's own.

During this time period, all 36,000 members will have full and unrestricted access to everything on SnoWest.
Then, only after all of these goals have been met, will we determine a date to convert the forums in 2010.

#1.
Get the new servers & software installed and operating smoothly.

#2.
Firmly establish that all speed, performance, and throughput issues have been completely resolved, and that there are no lingering mechanical issues left unaddressed.

#3.
Resolve the current issues concerning the layout of the forums and their sub-forums.

#4.
Upgrade the SnoWest Search Engine.

#5.
Activate the Treadmill, Live Topic & Personal Blogs.

#6.
Install the basic Chat, Theater, Webinar Room.

#7.
Install the Social Groups Module

======================

Some Personal After Thoughts.

Now that all of this has been clearly laid out, and all the various rumors and debates officially set to rest, I thought I might take one last moment of your time for some personal comments.

I know all too well that the forums have been in a state of turmoil this Fall, and that all has not gone nearly as smoothly as we had hoped for last summer. What we are trying to do here can be likened to taking a 2 lane road and transforming it into a 6 lane Freeway, but all the while never closing the road to traffic. There have been huge traffic delays, potholes, detours, short tempers and some serious road rage from time to time.
We simply thought we could do far more with what we had than we could. In sled terms, we modded our rod till it broke! And for all that, more than anyone else, I am responsible, and I offer you my apologies. But with this new roadmap I am absolutely confident we will have our Super Highway, just as smooth and straight and fast as could ever be hopped for!

I also think it's important for you to know that over the last 11 years the SnoWest forums have slowly and consistently grown season after season, but have always ridden on the coattails of SnoWest Magazine. Yes, the forums have banner ads and they do generate income, but at the end of the day, the forums have never covered their actual operating costs, and have been a drain on the magazine, which is the chief reason it has never had the infrastructure or full time staff it has so badly needed.

I am told that for the last 5 years SnoWest Magazine has investigated various ways of making the forums self supporting, but had never come up with a viable solution. Then just last week they made the unexpected decision to try something bold and daring, to ask you, the member, to take a direct part in supporting your forum. The moment that decision was made they started investing in these forums in a BIG WAY knowing full well what would have to be done to convince you to spend your hard earned money here.

That investment in the future of SnoWest has already hit $30,000 in the first week in just our initial hardware and software alone, and there will still be more to come as 2010 rolls along. And if all goes well, and you and other members like you choose to get behind SnoWest (ignoring all the naysayers who will predict nothing but Doom and Gloom), and support these forums then just maybe, by the end of 2010, the forums will break even for the first time in 11 years. And when that happens, you can rest assured that there will be even bigger and better things coming here than have ever been seen before.

My friends, the future of SnoWest is brighter than ever before. Don't let the "doomers" get you down. Together we can make SnoWest the absolute best snowmobiling site in the world!
 

Mag

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Nov 26, 2007
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I don't like to see it but I'll pay, no big deal, yes there are free forums out there but this one has been the most informational for me.

Beside's I have a snowest sticker on my truck and I'm to lazy to take it back off. :D
 
Nov 26, 2007
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Beside's I have a snowest sticker on my truck and I'm to lazy to take it back off. :D

I'm glad I didn't put mine on...could be a collectors item in a couple years :rolleyes:

I'll pay once just to see what happens, but I honestly think this site will be worthless within a year of becoming a pay site.
 
Dec 31, 2007
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Eagle River, AK
Did you guys read all of it? It really isnt that bad. You can still read and post for free. You get added features if you pay. Personally, full digital subscriptions to three sledding mags is worth $15 alone imo.

Now the $30 might be a bit steep for new people though, I don't know how many will join once this is in effect.

Although I do agree, It was the first thing I told Obama, I mean Chris when he started mentioning "Change", keep it simple and the way people like it and everyone will stay happy. It's quite obvious that the slowdowns are due to all his new features, look at number 7. Live Topic, he says right there that it's very server intensive and guess what, it's been running in the background all this time for mods.

Just my 2c.

-Cameron
 
Last edited:
Jan 4, 2008
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Palmer AK.
I agree there are free sites but I know that the cost of upgrades for servers is just like the up grades for our toys (expensive). I will shell out the money for snowest Just like I do for my winter toy. I just hope that we dont lose a bunch of our members CAUSE there's alot of knowledge on this site that I dont want to lose .:cool:
 
Dec 8, 2007
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East Side A-Town
Not that I frequent snowest enought to call myself an addict, but I do frequent other sites in the car modding community that I use on a daily basis. I also co-own the largest motorsports based/car forum in alaska as well.

One of these sites has 95,000 members, I dont forsee them asking or requiring a membership to gain access to any of the info or services provided.

Gotta pay the bills I guess....usually you have your site sponsors pay the bill for the most part, not your members, especially when you have some rather popular sponsors who advertise here.
 

AKSNOWRIDER

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I agree there are free sites but I know that the cost of upgrades for servers is just like the up grades for our toys (expensive). I will shell out the money for snowest Just like I do for my winter toy. I just hope that we dont lose a bunch of our members CAUSE there's alot of knowledge on this site that I dont want to lose .:cool:

that in a nutshell is the whole problem..how is everyone going to feel if all the knowledge leaves this site right after you pay your dues ...who ever gets the majority of the knowledge guys wins....period...it is the knowledge that brings and keeps members.........
 
Jan 4, 2008
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Palmer AK.
I agree with that. But I would be able to pay the fee just for the # 17 option of Christopher's letter. that option of texting all our local members in case of a Search and Rescue that could be hundreds of members that might help come save my dumb arse or one of my family's That option alone is very COOL in my opinion.
 

AKSNOWRIDER

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one thing I did notice..bringing the manufacturers on here...alot of people are going to be loosing their warranties due to mods.....its not like you can open a thread " whats the best turbo for my sled"...and you sure cant go to the rep and say..hey I cant get my D-8 to run right on top...is it ok to put a PC-3 on it to fix it? My sleds are all out of warranty now so it wont matter to me but I think its a bad idea to allow them the manufacturers on here full time....I doubt they would share any meaningful info anyways other then contact your dealer..........and come buy our latest greatest, it slices, dices and peels them better then any others....
 

Mag

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that in a nutshell is the whole problem..how is everyone going to feel if all the knowledge leaves this site right after you pay your dues ...who ever gets the majority of the knowledge guys wins....period...it is the knowledge that brings and keeps members.........

I don't think the knowledge guys will leave, alot of members will bail but I think the majority of actual contributing members will stay. If they can provide what they say they are going to ie: factory reps the forums will succeed.
 

Mag

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Fairbanks Ak
one thing I did notice..bringing the manufacturers on here...alot of people are going to be loosing their warranties due to mods.....its not like you can open a thread " whats the best turbo for my sled"...and you sure cant go to the rep and say..hey I cant get my D-8 to run right on top...is it ok to put a PC-3 on it to fix it? My sleds are all out of warranty now so it wont matter to me but I think its a bad idea to allow them the manufacturers on here full time....I doubt they would share any meaningful info anyways other then contact your dealer..........and come buy our latest greatest, it slices, dices and peels them better then any others....

Oh ya... well I rode my sled today did you :p

I don't expect the dealer to warranty my sled after it's been altered even if the alterations have nothing to do with warrantied part. I deal with people all the time that use the wrong product or improperly apply a product and they want me to fix it or pay for it to be done the way it should have been in the first place.

I think there's a big difference between warranty and recall. :beer;
 

Winter Project

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An uncertain future....

First off, i just burned my DiGiorno personal pizza while reading that post, so we're off to a bad start from the get go....

For the record, i think a fee based forum is a bad idea. It will be interesting to see what happens when the dust clears.

After the few small changes and the griping that went on(i personally favored the changes), that is a pretty good indication that the users of snowest weren't really wanting a change. So right off the bat, after standing by and observing this situational rhetoric, again, more changes + a fee is a bad idea.

That being said, I will probably be inclined to pay the 1 year subscription price, if for nothing else, to see how this economic/social experiment pans out. BUT, before I shell out $15 dollars, i have to figure out what that amount of money means to me:

$15...

1 Scooner & 6 inch sub @ Pizza man
Half jug of oil from AMDS
Splitting a bottle of Jager with a friend
3/4 of a lap dance @ Bush Co.

I guess $15 really isn't much these days. The digital magazines is a definite plus. There is no way i would pay any price beyond the 1 year because the future of this forum is uncertain.

Oh well, we will see what happens. I would like to wish Chris & snowest the best...
 
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