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[ The PC Guide | Articles and Editorials ]

State Of The Site: September 2001

Hello everyone, and thanks for taking the time to read this. I made the decision to write this article only after considerable internal turmoil. In the end, however, I have always felt that it is critically important to be straight with people, especially those of you who have made this site what it is with your support, both verbal and financial. Thus, this "State of the Site address", if you will.

First, let me say this. Most of you understand very well the climate of the current Internet economy. You have all likely experienced the disappointment of going to a favorite site and finding that they have shut down. Well, I am not writing this to explain that I am shutting The PC Guide down. However, the well-publicized problems with the Internet community have certainly not spared me, as I will explain.

Understanding in detail where we are now requires looking at the history of the site a bit; however, I don't want to bore you to tears with the whole story. The site was started in 1997; at the end of September, The PC Guide will celebrate four years of serving the Internet community. I left my former full-time job and began working on the site full-time in 1998. For the next couple of years the site continued to grow and was supported primarily by the burgeoning Internet advertising industry. (Disk Edition sales are also very important, and are even more so today, but have never been enough to sustain the site by themselves.) Unfortunately, in the autumn of 2000, the entire Internet advertising industry just fell off a cliff.

I hoped for a while that things would get better, but they are actually getting worse. Banner advertising is down 95% from its peak. This has led to the demise of many advertising banner networks, and many useful sites as well. It could be that after a shake-out, advertising will pick back up. This could take months, or years; or it may never happen at all.

Due to this, however, the bottom line is that the old model I had presumed to use, where I would continue working my butt off to update the site and be rewarded by increased traffic and therefore increased revenue, is broken. I have therefore been forced to make the very difficult decision to reduce the time I spend working on the site and devote my attention to other efforts.

I realize that there are sections of the site that are quite out of date. I feel rather bad about this; when I first started the site I had hoped to be able to continuously update the materials so it would always be on the cutting edge. Simply put, I grossly underestimated how much work would be needed to keep the material current given its large size (3,000 pages), the rapid changes in technology, and my desire to keep the quality of the writing top-notch. This, combined with the recent industry problems, is making continuous updates impossible.

With that said, let's look forward.

First, regarding the other efforts that I am currently working on. I can't really divulge the details of this, except to say that they are both major writing projects similar in concept to The PC Guide. I feel that I have a skill in explaining confusing technology to people, and want to continue to try to make a go of the concept behind the PC Guide. I am not sure what exactly I will do with these works when they are done, of course. :^) It depends to a large extent on what the Internet economy does in the meantime. However, part of this plan is to hopefully allow the advertising industry time to recover sufficiently to allow the free model supported by advertising to work going forward for the site. In the meantime, however, the casualty in this plan is updates and additions to The PC Guide material itself. The two projects just mentioned are more than a full-time job in and of themselves.

Now, let me clarify things a bit more. Again, I am not shutting down the site or abandoning it. I am just not actively working on updating the material right now as much as I would like. While I realize that it is largely out of date, there is still a lot of useful information here, all available for free. I don't have the latest technologies, but the fundamentals of how computers work, how you troubleshoot them, or back them up, don't change as fast as the latest specifications do. I leave it up to each of you to decide how useful the site is to you in its present state, of course. Unfortunately, given the way things are, that's the best I can do.

I think at this point that it is worth mentioning that there is one very valuable part of this site that I think helps compensate for the out-of-date nature of many of the sections here: the Discussion Forums. If you need advice or information about something not covered in the main pages of the site, it is worth checking the Discussion Forums. A wonderful bunch of folks, led by my main man Paleo Pete, dispense excellent advice on a range of subjects. The forums are, like the rest of the site, free.

Actually, I do plan, over the next few months, to release on the site a couple of Reference Guide sections that I have already completed. One of these is actually quite large and will serve as a nice addition to the site, to "tide you over", if you will. :^) Also, let me state that it is my hope that this moratorium on full-time work on the site is just that: a temporary suspension. I have every intention of coming back to working on The PC Guide full-time. I just cannot say exactly when that will be. Work will continue for now, just more slowly.

I also want to specifically address those who have purchased The PC Guide Disk Edition. I have always tried to be up front with those who were interested in the DE that I could not guarantee the frequency of updates to the Disk Edition; this is why I never sell updates in advance. Late last year, I made the decision to allow free download updates on the Disk Edition. That policy will persist, and updates to the Disk Edition will also continue, probably twice a year. As I have said, changes to the site will be made, and I want them to be reflected in the Disk Edition, but you are not going to notice a lot of changes when you update a new version, at least not for the next little while. Note, however, that when I offered free upgrades, I meant it. Assuming I am able to continue updating the site, this policy will continue for those who support the site now.

In closing, I want to thank all of you who have made The PC Guide what is is today. This ranges from those sponsors who have advertised on the site; to every site reader to load a page or click on an ad and thereby encourage the sponsors; to the fine folks in the Discussion Forums who help the readers; to those who buy the Disk Edition and help keep the site and the forums going. While the tone of this message has been somewhat down, of necessity, I do hope that with your help, The PC Guide will continue to be a viable entity for years to come.



Charles Kozierok
Webslave, The PC Guide

Next: Industry Update: February 2001

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