A Mostly British Obsession

More Lessons From Free Car Sites

  1. People expect home-brew free sites to perform as flawlessly as commercial software. The more “professional” in appearance your site is, the more people expect the features and “customer support” of a site where people get paid to sit at desks and help. A lot of this is probably from a misconception about how easy or hard it might be to program a website, either based on complete lack of knowledge or that gained from putting up an AOL homepage. On the other hand, there is little more frustrating that trying to use software which simply doesn’t work. Look at the classifieds I ran for awhile on the data sites: I had a “clever” idea to capture car numbers, but the hoops to jump through were just too many for them to get much use.
  2. Most people are gracious and enthusiastic. I’ve met a lot of neat people via my various web sites, and some folks get genuinely enthusiastic about them, which is very gratifying.
  3. A lot of “authorities” are pretty rude. Many of the experts I’ve invited to look at the data sites–thinking they may find it interesting or useful–generally pee all over it. I haven’t quite figured this out, other than its the same forces at work when you suggest a new idea at a meeting and the old guard immediately are skeptical and critical. My “critical moment” regarding club participation was listening to a club treasurer shout at someone who had the temerity to suggest a couple of fund-raising ideas that didn’t sound too bad to me.
  4. Clear, easy, intuitive–it’s hard to do. I feel like I do better than most in that regard, but there is still a LOT of possibilities to improve the user’s experience.
  5. Trying to put users in a box hardly ever works. People will always find a way to push the boundaries of what’s possible. You either have to limit their options so severely they don’t have fun, or accept that some folks will use the site in ways you didn’t imagine (and which you might not be too excited about).
  6. There are always critics; ignore them. It’s very easy to offer up criticism about the way things should be run–this is just noise. I’m not talking about fundamental flaws which should be fixed, but rather “this site sucks, I feel it should do this, and this, and not do this.” Oddly enough, their “much better” sites never appear.
  7. Without an audience, there isn’t much money involved, so don’t dream about it. I would need at least 1,000 times the number of users I get now to even consider “going it full-time,” and there just aren’t that many people interested in obscure subjects to ever get there. Plus, the server would explode. Be satisfied with covering the hosting costs and accept that time spent on the sites is just like time spent on a restoration: it has a value of $0, but can still be very satisfying.
  8. Blogs are better when posted to frequently. And we know where that leaves this blog. I dunno why it’s so difficult to put up even a short blurb every day, but a lot of time it’s the last thing on your mind.

Bonus: I was threatened with being banned on TTAC for offering literary criticism. Fair enough, it is in their terms of service, and I simply forgot. Much as I enjoy that site, they have some transparency issues that I feel could be handled better. For example, about three or four weeks ago there was a terrible editorial which a lot of people quite rightly criticized; it disappeared without any note at all, which does nothing but make you wonder what else disappears from time to time.


  1. chuck goolsbee

    What’s your ‘handle’ on TTAC? (mine, in a pique of transparency, is my name!)

    Which editorial vanished?


  2. Roger

    It was a Sunday, and it was in response to a Sunday New York Times article. TTAC has a very, uh, conservative set of writers anyway and this read not unlike something you would find on a right-wing political blog. Almost every comment that wasn’t a “dittohead” parrot was appalled by the vitriol of the writer. The TTAC article wasn’t quite “OMG LOOK AT THE LIBTARDS!!!!” but it was uncomfortably close.

  3. chuck goolsbee

    I must have missed that one.

  4. Kevin

    As a one of several known conservatives living in the greater Puget Sound area I have come to understand that some of my political cronies accross America do get a bit carried away. If you wish to experience new horizons in descriptive remarks about your intellect, physicial characteristics, and possible kinky activities in your own bedroom, try posting ANYTHING conservative to the The Weekly, The Stranger, or even the Rant and Rave on Craigslist. I’d post my full name, but there is already a price on my head.
    The liberals’ “Rushdie of the West”
    Hiding in the Tora bora Cascades


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