In the Beginning
Savage///Circuits started out in 2000 as a simple HTML web page listing of various electronics and microcontroller projects I built, or was working on. In 2005 when I relocated from NY to CA I no longer had the same ISP so the page was taken down and I didn’t put it back up until 2010 due to adjusting to my new job, home and the area we lived in. Eventually there was enough requests and I put up yet another simple HTML project index.
Over the course of the year I had many requests for a more interactive website. People wanted to be able to comment and ask questions on my projects, but I didn’t have a facility to do that. Eventually I created a subdomain called forums.savagecircuits.com and installed Simple Machines Forum software and created sections to discuss my projects and link to them. I even installed a photo gallery and blog under appropriate subdomains and linked them from my project page.
Many people felt the other parts of the site were too disconnected and lacked cohesion. The consensus was that members needed to sign up on three different accounts to access the four sections of the site. Eventually I found a package that encompassed all the aspects I was looking for and installed vBulletin 4.x in place of everything else. This package included a CMS front end for my projects, community forums for general discussion and even user blogs and photo albums.
Success Of Savage///Circuits
For a while things were going great! We partnered up with several people who were interested in growing Savage///Circuits and we started having contests, monthly prize giveaways and a travelling junk box. We had an IRC channel and integrated it with the website to make it easier to participate. We had weekly chats with famous makers and engineers and most of all we had an active base of participating members helping grow our maker community. Donations were good and we had volunteers to help with site administration.
The Fall Of Savage///Circuits
But things didn’t last. I was diagnosed with Type II Diabetes and was having some issues with mood swings and other symptoms. But the main thing is that for a while I was a bit bipolar. Some of those friends who wanted to help grow the site suddenly weren’t interested in Savage///Circuits anymore and left. Some felt they could build a better site and left to attempt that. This left only a few people to handle a large, complex site with all these activities going on.
To try and downsize I started disabling various sections of the website in an attempt to remove sections I could not maintain, however a random update to PHP by my host broke some parts of the vBulletin software and corrupted the database such that entire sections of the website no longer functioned. The frustration of this coupled with so many key members leaving and the diabetes forced me to re-evaluate my time in the website and I eventually got so uninterested in it that I let it go for almost a year. The website sat completely unusable for many months.
Rising From The Ashes
In 2012 I worked on getting the site back up but things were hindered by continuing health issues I was having with Type II Diabetes. I tried to bring back some key people, but they wanted nothing to do with me. By 2013 I was finally starting to get a handle on rebuilding the site. I had lost so much content and was struggling with trying to back up what I could from the old site. That’s when my wife was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. Suddenly getting Savage///Circuits back up and running wasn’t such a big priority anymore. With her health getting worse I stopped taking care of myself and my own health got much worse. Wendy finished her chemotherapy in February of 2014. After this things slowly started getting back to normal and I thought I could turn my attention to the website once more. The only problem was my own health was still problematic.
But the main problem now was participation. Most members had not come back and many expressed no interest in coming back at all, citing too many websites to visit or being too busy. The less people that signed up, the less interested new members were in signing up. I tried re-launching some of the old events such as weekly chats, moving us into a Google Hangouts rather than IRC channel but got almost zero interest. I started the monthly prize giveaway but then most people who signed up only ever showed up for the giveaway and didn’t participate any other time. I re-started the travelling junk box under a new name, “The Fellowship Of The Travelling Parts Box” and we got another surge of membership to participate in that, however it too was doomed to fail for lack of any other participation. Several members delayed the box for over a month forcing others to wait. These members then refused to follow-up or participate again. By the third trip the box had returned with nothing but junk and the whole endeavor was scrapped once again.
All the while participation in the forums, which was already low, was dwindling even more. In December of 2014 we got the news we had hoped to never hear. Wendy’s cancer had come back. We knew what this meant and once again my focus wasn’t there for Savage///Circuits as a community site. I tried to encourage members to help with activity and participation, but there just wasn’t enough. And then the final blow came. Once again my host made some changes to the virtual server without notifying me and once again broke the software. At the same time Parallax had been working with vBulletin to migrate their now defunct forums to the newer version in their cloud system, but the support wasn’t there and they were forced to abandon the endeavor. I found the same level of support when my site broke as well and decided to simply abandon vBulletin as well.
The Beginning Of The End
I was forced to start backing the site up before it suffered the same fate as before. Backing up the site when you know you will be forced to migrate to new software means backing up all the content (pictures, text, attachments) manually and then having to repost everything manually when you put a new site up. I had zero interest in going down this road again and my web host wasn’t willing to work with me so I found a new host (Bluehost) and new software (Joomla). Joomla is a free, open-source CMS, unlike vBulletin which costs money and offered no real support. Unfortunately, by the time I decided to go this route I was no longer interested in trying to support a community site with no community.
I had the traffic of a community site with over 16-30 GB of traffic per month, but no active members to show for it. Google AdSense was employed back in September 30, 2012 to try and provide some compensation for all the traffic. Advertisements were shown to any visitor not signed in as a member. However as of April 22, 2015 Savage///Circuits earned a whole $211.44 from ads on the site and revenue from YouTube. That wasn’t even enough for one year of hosting fees and that total was from all the way back to September 30, 2012. Donations to the site had dropped off years ago so I was supporting the site entirely myself. An old friend offered to do some contract work for donations to the site to help, but he was overwhelmed with requests from people that didn’t want to pay even a modest fee for his work, so that source was tapped out too. Then, my wife passed away.
The End of Savage///Circuits
While grieving the loss of my wife I turned to the only thing I had left that was important to me…my career; the thing that I uprooted and changed my life for. Working gave me somewhere to direct my attention. It helped me focus. It was the only semblance of happiness I had left and was the most effective coping mechanism I had. Unfortunately, after 12 years of dedication to the company, I was told that my career was over. The announcement came 2 weeks after buying a new house and only a month and a half into a 6-month lease at my temporary home. The next 10 months saw me burning through my savings while losing everything I owned. Eventually I was forced to sell my new house rather than lose it to foreclosure and I ended up living in my RV for the next 6 months while trying to pick up the now shattered pieces of my life. Having lost my career, I also lost my benefits, including medical insurance. Since I have Type II Diabetes, I need certain medications every month and found myself now unable to afford them. Because I was unable to maintain my Type II, things got worse and my Neuropathy got so bad that I found myself unable to walk or stand for any length of time. I lost all feeling in my feet and was in constant pain. This also made it impossible to focus on any type of programming or design work, even if I wanted to.
While living in my RV I rarely had internet access. I was nearly impossible to keep up with anything online and when my domain expired, a squatter snatched it up and held it hostage for $500.00, which I did not have at the time. What’s worse is that Bluehost had already shut down access to my three websites saying they were infected with malware. They wanted me to pay $30 / month to keep them clean. Extortion. I had already lost everything I owned. Now I lost my digital property as well. I gave up.
The New Savage///Circuits
My health issues forced me to have to stay put for a while. In doing so I decided to try and go back to the only hobby I know. I’ve spent some time getting new test equipment and bench tools. Starting over. My current goal with Savage///Circuits is to get back to my roots. Originally Savage///Circuits was a project index with no forums, no blogs and no need for user accounts for a community. I was able to focus on posting content and not worrying about what others wanted to see. So by not having a forums, I have removed the source of the stress, frustration and time sink of supporting a community that doesn’t have time and / or is too busy to participate and support the site back. The site will now focus on projects, reviews and videos. I may or may not allow comments and / or questions in the future, but if I do it will not require you to sign up. That said once everything is back up I will put my donation link up in the hopes that those who find the site useful will support it. If things go good I will continue to post projects, reviews and videos. I may even take requests. If not, I will reevaluate things later.
What About Forums?
So you want to post comments and / or ask questions about projects? Comments are allowed if you’re signed in. If you have direct questions or comments, please send email (see the contact link). I have no interest or plans to go back to a community forums. Three times I have tried to maintain it and three times it was a failure. No participation means no point in having a forum. If you want a more personal forums then consider joining the ZappBots forums. But remember…a community is only as good as the effort you’re willing to put into it. If you don’t support it you may just come back later to find it dead and / or gone. I’ve always believed in helping others help themselves, but people need to realize it works both ways.