3000GT/Stealth/GTO Forums (3SGTO)

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Preface

The story of 3sgto.org starts with 3si.org. The day to day operation of 3si had been run for alan92rttt for over 10 years. During this time the site has three owners. First was Eric Lotter one of the creators. Over time the financial needs of the site became more then he was willing to bear. He sold the site to eKool from Forum Foundry. eKool was no stranger to the 3S community he was a good friend of Matt Monet the owner of Dynamic racing and a former 3S owner. eKool did introduce advertising to the site but Alan and the other mods were left to run the site and eKool trusted their judgment. In 2008 eKool merged him company with Autoforums(AF) the company that now owns 3si. Shortly after the "merge" he was pushed out of the company. Unbenonst to anyone this would not be a good thing for 3si or it members.

The downward Spiral

While all of this was happening 3si was growing and Alan continued to take care of the site. After AF Alan started to notice things he did not like. In the summer of 2010 after being scolded by AF for doing what he had to to protect the user of the site Alan knew he had to take action.

A new beginning

Alan started the process to create his own site one that would be focused on the user/owner and their needs not how much money AF could get from the site. Taking his time as the summer progressed talking only to a very small group of people to make sure that word did not get back to AF Alan setup the new site. The hardest part of the process was the name. 3si has a great name its simple and to the point. The new sites name need to have that too, it had to be easy to remember. Wanting to make the non-us owners feel more at home Alan wanted to make sure that GTO was part of the name. He considered thing like 3000GT/Stealth/GTO International 3sgi.org but was advised that could cause some "trademark" problems with AF and it would be best to avoid it. After a lot of thought 3000GT/Stealth/GTO - 3sgto.org was chosen. Software was purchased, server space purchased and testing done. It was ready.

Things we ready for launch. IN early September in preparation for the launch Alan stepped down as the administrator of 3si.org. It was a hard thing to do as it had been a large part of his life for the last 10 years but it was a necessary step.

At this point their was one major thing left to deal with, the 3S community sponsors. Alan new that his actions would take traffic from 3si and that could hurt the the companies that had supported the 3S platform for many years. Hurting these companies was the last thing he wanted to do. If 3sgto.org it would need the support of the sponsors. After much thought Alan decided that he only had one option. Alan reached out to all of the 3S companies that were active 3S sponsors. Alan drafted and sent an email to the sponsors letting them know about the new site. In this email he offered them a deal on sponsorship they could not pass up. If they wanted it they would get the first 6 months free in thanks for their years of support for the community. Every one of them said "yes". The site was ready. The email to announce the site was ready. Alan had simple hopes for his new site he told his wife that if he had 200 members in 6 months he'd be happy....

The Launch

Alan drafted an email to be sent to the community to let everyone know about the new site. He had two email lists he could use. The one from the [3S National Gathering NG]] and one from 3SI that he had generated in 2008 with eKools knowledge and permission. In total almost 18000 emails. On September 10th, 2010 at 8pm EST the following email was sent.

The Email

There are certain events that cause you to take a close look at your life - events that force you to evaluate your job, your friends and what you do in your spare time. The loss of my father was such an event.

It's a bit scary to think that I've been the admin at 3SI for over 10 years now. When you say it, ten years doesn't sound like a long time but it is. Some of the members of this community couldn't drive when I started doing this.

In the time I've been Admin I've seen three owners: Eric Lotter, John Gonzalez, and now autoforums.com.

Eric, while he had good intentions, didn't have the time to manage the site so it just limped along for many years. In 2007, after probably receiving a lot of flack from most of the membership, Eric did the only thing he could think to do - he sold 3SI to John "eKool" Gonzalez.

To some the sale was a curse, to some a blessing. John brought two things to the site, advertising and a good server. The new server provided speed and stability, the likes of which we'd never had. To some the advertising was an annoyance while to others it was a major point of contention. Many members felt that John was profiting off their content. And he was, but the server he provided was a good exchange. Other than dealing with sponsors, John left the moderation staff alone. I still had server access for anything we needed (the wiki for example). John trusted us and left the day-to-day operations to us. Communications were open and never confrontational even when angry members or sponsors contacted him. John trusted the moderation staff and that let things work well. Then "something" happened...

Sometime in late August 2008, all of John's sites changed hands and we had new owners. Nobody told us about it - it just happened. We were owned by autoforums.com The initial meetings with the AF(Autoforums) staff were very rough and IMO a bit unprofessional. The moderation staff on 3SI has been around for several years and nobody from AF could even be bothered to introduce themselves. Had there not been a server outage I don't know when I'd have actually made contact with someone from AF. Over the last two years one thing has become clear: AF doesn't care about us as a community, all they care about is money. The advertising has become more intrusive, blatant and less focused (gay dating sites? really?) The last few months there have been several blatant examples that show how little they care. There ad system allowed two viruses which caused several members major computer issues. When the first virus hit I couldn't get a reply from anyone at AF because it was a weekend so to save members I set the forum to default settings. This action, while it probably saved several members, got this reply from autoforums:

"Also in the future please do not switch the skin to a default option with no ads. The ads were not the problem in the first place. I know your heart was in the right place in thinking it would protect the members really it had no affect at all on safety. "

Two things of note:

1) They deny the virus came from an ad. Several very knowledgeable members have confirmed that the viruses were in the ads. These were viruses that users running adblockers never saw and viruses that magically went away once I made the change. For a change that "had no affect at all on safety" it sure did the job.

2) This bears repeating: "do not switch the skin to a default option with no ads." The site ran for most of a day with no ads. That's what the real issue was. No ads = no money to AF.

When we got hit by the second virus, One of their techs confirmed it came from an ad.

The viruses are only the start. There have been several events that really drive home the kind of people that run and work for AF. Three former members have had their accounts reactivated because of sponsorships. At no point during the process did anyone from AF bother to ask us why the accounts had been deactivated to begin with, they just moved forward without consulting us. Think about the ramifications of this kind of action to the security of buyers on 3SI. To me it says pay a sponsor fee and you can post no matter how much you've scammed people in the past.

While I do not know the exact figures, based on what I have been told they make a lot of money from 3SI. If the information I have is correct, the sponsors alone pay enough in the course of a year to keep the site running for the next decade. Add to that all of the Google, inline, sidebar, and between-post ads and they make a lot of money. Based on the ad revenue alone there is no need for paid memberships, yet they gleefully take money for annual and lifetime paid memberships.

With all the money coming in they give nothing back to the community. They could sponsor events; they could give prizes to the ride of the month/year. Hell Eric did that on his shoestring budget. To AF It's all about the money in their pockets. They really don't care about us beyond how much money our activity earns them.

We should not tolerate being treated in this manner. We deserver better.

I am resigned as Admin of 3si.org because I can no longer support the way they are taking advantage of the community.

In my opinion, this community needs a home that is focused on it and where income beyond what is required to run the site will be funneled back into the community. We deserve a site where paid members are actually supporting the site, not lining corporate "fat-cats'" pockets, and a site where the 3S business advertising isn't buried under all the other ads. We should be able to surf without feeling the need to load Firefox and ad block just to be safe. Most importantly, we need a site where the needs of the community come first. If this sounds like the kind of site you want to support please join me at http://www.3sgto.org. I hope to see a majority of you there. I know it'll take time to build it, but if we all pitch in together, I believe we can replace 3si with a site that is much less corporate, much less bullshit, and much more community-based. I really hope you'll make the decision to help me.


Alan "Alan92RTTT" Sheffield
3SGTO.org Owner/Operator
alan@3sgto.org

The "Oh Shit!" Moment

As previously mentioned Alan expected that the site would take time to build its new membership... Boy was he wrong! Within an hour of the email being sent over 100 people had joined 3sgto. By the time midnight rolled around the site was pushing 200 members. By the middle of the 11th problems arose as the membership pushed close to 1000. The base setting were not set to keep up with this kind of influx of people. Alan spent most of the day tweaking and nudging the site through its birth pains to make sure it did not crash completely. The response was far better than had been expected.

The registrations on the forum were not the only response. Hundreds of people replied to the email with thanks and support.

The result of the 1st day was over 1300 registrations and several hundred emails of support and wishes of success.

Where are we now

With the road has been rocky www.3sgto.org is running smoothly now with over 3000 registered members. With the growth of the site far exceeding Alan's plans within the first year the site moved from shared hosting to a VPS if the growth continues a larger VPS or a dedicated server will probably be in its future. Thanks to the support of the community and the sponsors 3sgto has sent prices to 10 3S events, was the autocross sponsor at the 3S National Gathering for 2011 and 2012. Alan has started www.3sg.org an to house 3S related content and sites free. He has brought back content from the original 3si message board, 3000gt.com one of the original 3S sites and the Multi-site Classifieds Index.