One of the principles of Ratburger.org since its inception is Radical Transparency—everything about the site, from its source code, updates, and access statistics—shall be accessible to anybody who is interested. There are a few statistics which, due to the design of WordPress, are not generally accessible, which may be of interest. Excluding administrators and accounts they use for testing various features on the site, we now have 77 members, the vast majority of whom are active and regularly visit the site, comment, and post. Since the site went live (in stealth mode) on 2017-12-10, there have been 506 posts and 5,589 comments on them. The software that runs the site, publicly disclosed on GitHub for anybody interested in setting up a competing site, or one appealing to a different audience, has had 86 publicly-posted builds since Git management began on 2017-12-18.
With today’s release of browser-pull dynamic updates of notifications, I consider the site “feature complete” as I envisioned it at the launch last December. With all of the local modifications, as documented in the Updates Group (available for anybody to read), it provides a discussion forum, interest groups, podcasts (we don’t produce them, but provide links to those to which our members regularly listen), private messages, a weekly free conference call, and on-line chat. And all of this is completely free and devoid of advertisements and other intrusive distractions.
Did I mention that it’s free and there are no ads?
Now is the time to take longer strides. I believe it is possible, before May 10th, 2018, six months after the launch of Ratburger.org, to expand our user community from its present 77 members to at least 200. The software and hosting infrastructure can easily accommodate this, and such growth will not burden the site’s administrators if the new members are as responsible and interesting as our present audience. And this will be not just a milestone, but a phase transition. Legacy sites like to cite their number of members, but the most superficial investigation will reveal that those numbers include members with long-expired subscriptions, those totally inactive, and some banned for deplorable thought-crimes. When you actually look at those who actively post and comment on such sites, you come up with an actively-participating audience of between 200 and 250 people. So if we can get to 200, and most of them are as active on the site as our current membership, we’ll have a fulgurant conversation where people keep coming back every few minutes to see what’s happened since their last comment or like.
So how do we get to there from here? It couldn’t be simpler. I’ll bet that everybody on this site knows two or three people who are as engaged in the contemporary discussion as they, and would be intrigued by a place where they can discuss whatever they find compelling with a worldwide audience. Tell your friends and, for that matter, your well-intentioned adversaries, to check out the site and, if they want to join in, to join.
Did I mention that it’s free and that there are no ads?
Now, unlike legacy sites, I’m not making this pitch to cover the bills. The business model of this site is simple: you use it, and I pay for it. The more you use, the more I pay. So why am I promoting it and encouraging people to join? I participated in the creation of this site because I believed there was a need for a place for civil, rational conversation on the Web without the filters, cant, and banning so many have encountered elsewhere. In the 1990s, I imagined such a site which I called “The faculty club” (this was before the emergence of the toxic slaver monoculture in acdemia). I’m willing to pay for that; the cost is modest compared to what I pay to host my main site, which is entirely my own work and admits no user interaction. We can easily double or triple the traffic at this site without increasing my hosting bill, so I’m fine with doing that.
So, talk to your friends and associates, encourage them to visit the site and, if they like what they see, join and contribute. Our sign-up procedure, necessary to protect against the constant assault of spammers, may be frustrating for users on legacy E-mail services, but if they have trouble, an E-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org will remedy that.
Thank you all for being early adopters of the site, and thanks in advance for welcoming others as we make this the most interesting and free locus of discussion on the Web.
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