Over 6 years ago, on a chilly October day in Tennessee, I stayed indoors and spent an afternoon creating a new forum for DG, called the "Dave's Garden Forum".
A week later I used that forum to announce that the Plants Database (now called PlantFiles) had been created. New features followed rapidly thanks to the excellent feedback I've always been priviliged to receive via that forum. When I asked for advice on a slogan for our site, AuntyB truly hit the nail on the head when she suggested "For Gardeners, By Gardeners".
DG has truly always been a collaborative effort from the beginning and I get an enormous sense of satisfaction in bringing thousands of people together to build something bigger than anything that any of us as individuals could build. I love interacting with all of the members here and I cherish the friendships I've made over the years. I truly couldn't have chosen a better way to spend my life's career and I'm blessed beyond belief to be in this situation.
Now, with an opening like that you must be thinking that I have a big announcement to make, and you are correct. :) The news I have is the biggest news I've ever had the pleasure of announcing.
In short: Both Terry and I (and Trish along with me, of course!) have accepted jobs with a company in Boston, MA.
This past September, a company in Boston called NameMedia contacted me and asked me what I thought about joining their company and working alongside them in building a large community-based series of websites. They flew me to Boston and spent a couple days meeting with me, introducing me to many of the people that make up their business and explaining in detail their business model and where I would fit in.
The people at the company shocked me with their friendliness, confidence, experience, professionalism and most importantly, their understanding and respect that we know DG forwards and backwards; we built it, and they want us to continue to do exactly what we've been doing all these years, plus more.
The NameMedia team has a wealth of experience building targeted media companies, online and offline. This is a group of talented and nice people.
After spending much time in thought and conversation with Trish and Terry, I decided that we would go forward and lock arms with them, trusting our futures and the future of DG to these people.
We signed all the paperwork on Thursday, Jan 11th and have actually been employees of NameMedia for about 2 weeks now. See, nothing changed! :-)
The DG staff will continue to do exactly what we have always done, except some of the unpleasant tasks (responding to lawsuit threats, processing checks for subscriptions...) and we can now focus 100% of our energies on building the site. You might have noticed that I've been much more active on the site these last 2 weeks, and this is the by-product of that.
My title is now "Vice President of Communities" at NameMedia, and I currently report to Jeff Bennett who founded the company and serves as President and COO. I have the happy task of continuing to manage Dave's Garden, continuing to build it with new features and enhancing old features. In addition to this, I am charged with building new websites that are enhancements to DG.
The first such website that I'm working on is Gardens.com. This is a website that will be targeted at newbie weekend-type gardeners who might not be involved in gardening enough to join a large community, but yet still want to learn about gardening. My job will be to build the site and convert these newbie gardeners into hard-core gardeners like ourselves. :)
After that, the sky is the limit and is up to all of us. We don't know what exciting sites, features and projects we'll end up creating, but it's my desire and hope that the DG members will always drive innovation here as they have always done. The idea of being free to build what we want, without being dragged down by financial, legal and corporate worries is actually extremely exciting to me. I think 2007 is going to be a fun year and it'll only get better after that.
I have foreseen that there are some questions that members may have, so here's a FAQ (foreseen asked questions) list:
Boil this down for me: did you sell DG?
Yes. NameMedia has bought Dave's Garden and has hired Terry and myself (as well as Ryan, our sales manager).
Why did you do this?
1) No more worries about making ends meet for us as individuals. It's been a long 6 years on that issue...
2) The freedom to really get down to business and create some really big and exciting features and websites was just too irresistible to pass up.
3) You'd have to meet the outstanding team of people in Boston to really understand why I chose to go with NameMedia. Anyone who doubts my sincerity is welcome to telephone me and you can hear the excitement in my voice.
4) Lastly, Trish thought it was a good idea, and Terry agreed. :)
Are you going to leave DG now or soon?
I didn't join NameMedia so I could go do something else. I joined them because I wanted to grow DG and continue to expand what we've been doing for the last six years. NameMedia has hired Terry and me, and has given us important roles and titles, and every resource we could possibly need in doing this job. Besides, they know they scored a huge coup in hiring me. :) For the last year I've been telling people that it's been over 6 years since I started the site, and I fully expect to stay with the site for as long as I can see into the future. This is my career and professional life and I love doing it.
Does this mean we're going to get plastered with advertising?
Some of us remember what happened on a different website that was acquired by a large public company. Will we suddenly get plastered with flashy ads that aren't relevant to gardening, as well as popups and the like? The answer here is, absolutely not. The 11th commandment for their business is "Thou Shalt Not Upset Thy Members" and NameMedia understands that thoroughly. You'll see that in the area of advertisements, little or nothing will change.
Does this mean subscription prices are going up?
Our subscription rate has been $15 per year and that is the same rate we've had since 2001. Way before talking to NameMedia, Terry and I decided many months ago that we will raise the subscription rates. The rate increase will occur sometime during the coming months, but I want you to know that it has nothing to do with NameMedia. My opinion is that these days $15 per year is lower than any other comparable websites out there and it's time to increase it.
Why are you creating Gardens.com? We already have DG!
I hinted about Gardens.com last week when I posted my suggestion about Beginner Level forums. DG is a massive website with a huge community and lots and lots and lots of data. The PlantFiles is huge and has every piece of information you could possibly want. Ditto the Garden Watchdog, Bookworm, Diaries and Journals, and the forums. There are almost 200 forums now.
I've been considering creating a more scaled down (read that: less overwhelming) version of DG for years now. Gardens.com will be a more gentle and more pretty website that is created specifically for the gardeners who want a little more hand holding. A big new feature for it will be articles written by members of DG as well as representatives from some of the highly rated companies in the Garden Watchdog (with minimal commercial plugs, obviously). We already have articles in from Horseshoe(!) and tcfromky, and commitments to get articles from other members. The articles will appear both on DG as well as Gardens.com.
I see that Gardens.com will serve an entirely unique audience. Those individuals who just want an article about growing bulbs will find that there, but those who want to dig deeper (pardon the pun) into gardening information will eventually find their way to DG where that will become their new home.
Is DG going to change in any significant way?
Absolutely not. Refer back to the 11th commandment mentioned above. We now have a world-class team of web designers (see the upcoming launch of Gardens.com for evidence of that) who may help us with tiny improvements to the look of DG, but other than that I don't want to change a thing, other than to keep improving and adding to it as we have always done.
I have created a thread in the Dave's Garden forum concerning this announcement, and I encourage any questions or comments to be posted there! Additionally, any member who wants to talk to me personally is invited to telephone me. If I don't answer, please be patient, as I would probably be on the line with someone else. Don't leave a voicemail - just try again in half an hour.