Today is a pretty big day for us – for James (@Aibohphobia), John (@confusis) and I, for SFF Network and SFF Forum… This moment has been one that I personally have been looking forward to for a good while. So let’s get to it.
1. You asked, and we delivered… SFF Forum swag is now available for a limited time! It’s been requested before, it’s been suggested in our last request for comment, and it’s now live: we’ve just launched a two-week campaign on Teespring where anyone and everyone can purchase stickers, coffee mugs, t-shirts, and hoodies. We’ve gone with reasonable, no-nonsense pricing for all of the items, and we’ve used Teespring in order to provide the most reasonable international shipping rates that we can find. There’s been a lot of thought expended on our part in order to provide the sorts of items and price points that will be of interest and financial access for everyone, and if we haven’t completely nailed that balance, I think we’ve come pretty close.
To be completely transparent: although swag sales generally aren’t terribly strong revenue-drivers, we do generate some income from the sale of each item, and these proceeds will go towards our operational costs, our constant forum enhancements, and – perhaps most notably – to our reporting for SFF Network, which we hope to bring directly to Computex this year. Mostly, though, we just wanted some cool swag – and to provide the same to all of you!
2. We have a refreshed logo for SFF Network and SFF Forum. You may have noticed an early incarnation of this in our last announcement post, as Drew (@3lfk1ng) wore a shirt during his reporting at CES that bore the design, but we’re finally rolling it out to our respective sites.
Normally, this is the point where I would wax poetic over the change and spend three or four paragraphs explaining why it does a 36% better job of ‘subliminally messaging the brand ethos to the target demographics essential to SFF Network’s KPIs’… but suffice it to say that it’s a refresh that we made because we just think it feels better – and maybe because it will play well with intended enhancements and design updates planned for later in the year. Maybe. We’ll see…
3. We have a new TLD you can use to access SFF Network and SFF Forum. We’re still waiting for a certain TLD to drop so that we can have a consistent and canonical URL scheme across all of our sites, but starting today we’re happy to share that the suitably compact sff.network URL will now work for accessing the news site. Likewise, sff.network/forum will now direct you to the right place as well. Just note that this is live as of today, literally – so it may take a day or two of DNS propagation and the like for it to work properly where you’re located.
4. We are introducing a new policy regarding referral links on the forum. It’s been called to our attention on multiple occasions that some users have been using referral links when discussing products or services on the forum. In general, these take the form of links to online marketplaces that have an associate or referral ID appended to the URL, such that the person who is associated with that ID is compensated whenever a user purchases items though that link. Although we don’t feel that there have been any brazen examples of unethical conduct as a result of the use of these referral links, we have ultimately decided that the best course of action is to ban use of these links moving forward. Simply put, this is meant to be a straightforward policy enhancement that we think is the right choice to make for the community, with respect to ensuring that financial incentives don’t induce biased discourse.
We’ll have a bit more to share and to discuss with respect to referral links more generally, but for now we ask that everyone recognize this new rule and refrain from posting referral links moving forward.
5. And one more thing… But first, a story.
As a matter of context, I want to share an anecdote about why James, John and I came together a few years ago to create SFF Forum, SFF Network, and (later on) Low Volume – which is that, while we are all indeed very interested in SFF, we are enthusiasts at our heart. Of SFF, among other things, sure – but the defining characteristic that became the impetus to build what we did was the passion and care behind our interest in SFF.
The thing is, we’re hardly unique in this. Almost everyone would describe themselves as an enthusiast of some sort, if not of several things at once. Further, what we’re enthusiasts for will often change over the course of our lives. Humans live to find joy and enthusiasm in the things we do – and the only real point of differentiation between us is what specifically ignites that enthusiasm to begin with, in that moment.
We couldn’t be prouder of what our work in the SFF space has become, and we’re tremendously excited to see where all of that goes. But we don’t just want to succeed in the enthusiast SFF space. We want to succeed in the enthusiast space, period. We want to make possible the awesome content and community we have, in all areas of life. We want to rise above the vitriol that plagues places like Reddit, the corruption that takes down places like Gawker, and the difficulty of building a sustainable website that brings places like SFFReview to decay and death.
We want to make a new world, a new constellation of enthusiast publications and communities, possible. To bring the unexpected success we’ve had here, and make it systematically accessible to a growing list of enthusiasts and communities.
This is why I couldn’t be more excited to reveal Minutiae’s final form, for the first time. But rather than repeat myself, I’ll just quote the mission statement we have on our website for Minutiae to explain what this is all about:
So what does this mean?
- SFF Network, SFF Forum, SFF Wiki, and Low Volume will move forward the same as before. We love all of these projects and won’t invest an ounce less effort into any of them. If anything, we’re hoping to do even more, since we’re aiming to increase revenues such that we can fund the sorts of enhancements and content that have been out of reach for us up to this point.
- Minutiae will begin to add to its portfolio of curated publications and communities starting in 2017. Some of these will be bespoke projects created within Minutiae from the start, and some will be existing properties that will be brought into the Minutiae fold. Some will be related to SFF and technology, and some will not.
- Minutiae – and thus SFF Network, SFF Forum and Low Volume by proxy – will begin working with sponsors directly in order to provide a user-positive, ethical, and productive means of helping to finance operations and content. As the anointed chief of revenue, I will be the sole individual responsible for conducting this work.
- As a consequence of this, I will no longer be responsible for editorial content on SFF Network. I have a few items in the pipeline that will be published, but once those are complete I will let our kickass team take over, and focus wholly on working with sponsors and doing everything I can to execute on our stated mission. This will ensure that our content and revenue functions are completely separate – a crucial consideration in order for us to be able to maintain our editorial and ethical integrity.
- Finally, speaking of ethical integrity – all sites within Minutiae will be held to a universal standard of conduct, effective immediately, which you can read here. This is a living document, and will likely be updated over time, but all current and new sites within the Minutiae portfolio will be expected to comply with these obligations without exception.
Whew… that’s a lot to unpack! We’ll obviously have more to come in this area moving forward, but for now that captures the gist of what we have going on, and what we’re looking forward to.
As always, we’re appreciative of any and all thoughts and feedback! We’ve got a lot in flight presently, and even more in the pipeline, but we’d love to engage in a commensurate amount of discussion with the community about it.
Thoughts? Discuss them on the forum here.