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 Post subject: Re: RYPN as a Useful Forum is Dying (A Rambling Rant)
PostPosted: Mon Feb 06, 2017 11:46 pm 
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I asked the question above because it has been mentioned previously in other discussions that the articles section has been inaccessible for a long time due to changes in the RYPN website structure. But looking at the chronology of the articles, it appears it already had died a natural death over several years due to declining production of articles, not a sudden one due to access for posting and maintenance being lost.

If there were only 1200 registered users each year back then, 24 authors would be only 2% of the users that produced articles, in a span of six years.

PC

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 Post subject: Re: RYPN as a Useful Forum is Dying (A Rambling Rant)
PostPosted: Tue Feb 07, 2017 12:13 am 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 8:28 am
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Location: Salt Lake City, Utah
PCook wrote:
I asked the question above because it has been mentioned previously in other discussions that the articles section has been inaccessible for a long time due to changes in the RYPN website structure. But looking at the chronology of the articles, it appears it already had died a natural death over several years due to declining production of articles, not a sudden one due to access for posting and maintenance being lost.

If there were only 1200 registered users each year back then, 24 authors would be only 2% of the users that produced articles in a span of six years.

PC


I want to say 2006 was the year that RYPN almost died, when the unnamed forum user threatened to personally sue Hume and the others. The site when down for a while, and then came back under the then-new leadership. That might have been the beginning of the end insofar as posting articles.

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 Post subject: Re: RYPN as a Useful Forum is Dying (A Rambling Rant)
PostPosted: Tue Feb 07, 2017 12:15 am 

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Not every article was written by a different person. Also, we had "Briefs" which were smaller articles. The briefs which were things like progress reports are now moved to threads if left at all, but there's less technical and how-to stuff contributed these days.

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 Post subject: Re: RYPN as a Useful Forum is Dying (A Rambling Rant)
PostPosted: Tue Feb 07, 2017 12:18 am 
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Yes Dave, I noticed (subject to counting errors) about 31 articles by 24 authors in the articles section. One article was the work of several people. And some authors produced multiple articles, Sammy King did seven of them.

PC

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Last edited by PCook on Tue Feb 07, 2017 12:50 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: RYPN as a Useful Forum is Dying (A Rambling Rant)
PostPosted: Tue Feb 07, 2017 12:49 am 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 1:51 pm
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Location: Somewhere north of Prescott, AZ on the Santa Fe "Peavine"
There are a multitude of factors involved with such issues, and only a few of them are within our control.

Railroad preservation itself is changing. Dramatically. The youngest main-line steam locomotive out there in North America (N&W 611) is 67 years old this June. The youngest people who remember intercity passenger rail before Amtrak (aside from RI, SR, and D&RGW) are getting AARP membership solicitations. There are kids trackside on the Northeast Corridor who don't remember a time before Acela, or when Southern Pacific, BN, L&N, etc. existed.
The railroad industry has reverted back to that cold, impersonal, faceless borg that has no reason to interact with Joe Q. Public or his kids. No locals with friendly crews, or a discretely snuck-in cab tour or short ride.

The way we interface, on-line and offline, has changed. Who remembers when AOL chatrooms were the rage, or newsgroups? YahooGroups? Friendster? MySpace? JennyCam? The so-called "ETTS Syndrome" (for "Everything Turns To [poo]") is not just in railroading, not by a long shot.
Anyone paying attention can plainly see a "life cycle" of any online enterprise, even major players like big media corporations, where it can swiftly go from new to "the next big thing" to the "standard" to "yesterday's news" to dead in not that long a time. By that perspective, RyPN has had incredible longevity, relatively speaking.
Even in railfanning, there are multitudes trying to fight for their little slice of a nearly-worthless pie--Trains and Railfan & Railroad Magazines (and Railpace) and their websites, TrainOrders, Railroad.net, RailPictures, Rail-Videos, any number of Facebook pages, blogs, podcasts, the rail equivalent of Sheldon Cooper's "Fun With Flags," etc. So many have come to life, drawn their own tiny niche audiences, and stagnated their way into nothing in short order.

Money. Running even a basic, skeletonal website costs someone both money and administrative time/labor. Any enterprise online only survives either through the benevolence of the owner(s) or through "monetization." With an automotive forum, you have eyeballs to which to sell anything from car wax to new cars to auto parts to motor oil. Guns? Bullets, scopes, new guns, gun safes, etc. Beer? Now 4,400 breweries in the U.S., and more craft beer drinkers coming of age every day. Music? If someone has an answer in 2017, I'm sure lots of people want to know. You name it, there may be a way to monetize it.
But railroading? What do you sell us poor SOBs? Insurance? Masochism services? Pain relievers? If we could do with models, we'd be reading Model Railroader and Railroad Model Craftsman, not RyPN. This same problem confronts the railfan magazines, including Trains and R&R. We have of late seen several prototype magazines fold, notably CTC Board/Railroads Illustrated and Extra 2200 South. Trains has had to rebrand itself as somewhere between industry and hobby, leaving R&R to snatch up the news geeks, loco spotters, and train chasers.
We need a way to make this self-sustaining, never mind trying in vain to get rich off of it. (Even porn sites are having trouble making money these days.)

So: Are there any answers? No, not easy ones.

I've long advocated that the only way this can survive long-term is under the direct support of some other organization--the NRHS, Heritage Rail/ATTRRM, the R&LHS, another rail society/museum, or some newly-formed 501(c)3.

The overwhelming problem is that any group assuming control of this site in whatever form is going to want to exercise a degree of control over it--and that will instantly kill any sense of the free-wheeling exchange of ideas that has kept this forum independent, frank, and productive, no matter how many disclaimers may be posted.
Can you imagine, for example, the NRHS being willing to leave untouched many long threads criticizing the organization and questioning its relevance in the modern scene? Do you think that member lines or museums belonging to ATTRRM/HRA are going to allow a forum hosted by them to leave up threads negatively criticizing their operations? And once there's actually an entity to actually sue, do you think for a moment that the certain blowhards that threaten totally fantastical and baseless litigation over words posted by some future equivalent of the guy asking about a sunken loco in a quarry aren't going to turn around and do so again, forcing the board of directors of THAT organization to quiver and shake as badly to that threat as others do about the mere mention of asbestos being anywhere in the same Zip code as their rail line?


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 Post subject: Re: RYPN as a Useful Forum is Dying (A Rambling Rant)
PostPosted: Tue Feb 07, 2017 7:38 am 

Joined: Thu Aug 19, 2004 2:19 pm
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Location: Washington, D.C.
Preston, editing the articles was enormously labor intensive. For several years, it was done mostly by Hume Kading and me. We were each for separate reasons finding it burdensome. In particular as primary moderator of the Interchange I burned out in trying to maintain the Interchange guidelines as Hume and I understood them, and wanted to step back.

Hume's solution was to set up a 501 (c) 3 and recruit a new board to bring in fresh blood so he and I could step down. That got up and running and was conveyed to new Board members to carry on. It failed when the board resigned as they felt their individual lives would be too disrupted if they had to defend against a threatened lawsuit by Ross Rowland (he's not Voldemort guys, we can use the name if we are putting the history down for the record). I by the way never faulted them for that.

There never again assembled people around the site who wanted to maintain or reboot the editorial operation. And there also was no structure of people energy and money to keep Hume's early self-taught HTML, which included a lot of hard rather than relative links, accessible.

Preston you wrote great stuff and I am sorry some of it is gone. But I have to say to you brother, it is a little unfair to keep asking why RYPN isn't Pentrex or Kalmbach. RyPN Version 1, that included the editorial operation, was a few people who did the best they could until they burned out. Which I suppose makes us no different than many museums and tourist lines that failed to professionalism and disappeared without much trace except our memories. We tried to transition to a less founder-centric structure. We failed. But I think you may have always thought we were more than what we were, which was two guys (three with Bob Yarger but his person hours were fewest) with spare time who tried to make a web magazine. We kinda did, but we failed to sustain it. Sorry we let you down.

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 Post subject: Re: RYPN as a Useful Forum is Dying (A Rambling Rant)
PostPosted: Tue Feb 07, 2017 9:02 am 
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Erik, thanks for the excellent discussion of what was happening in the background.

Your experience with the amount of time it required to edit articles and make them usable is precisely in line with what the editors of numerous railroad historical society publications have told me over the years. The number of submitted articles that are immediately ready for publication is very small. Most submitted materials are "article kits" and the editor ends up having to search for additional material and nail down the loose ends. So publishing articles requires the support of some dedicated individuals who are willing to put in a lot of time to make the final product presentable. And in a volunteer organization those editors are harder to find than.....authors.

I brought up the percentage of the group that submitted articles because it appears to be almost exactly in line with the active percentage of authors in many railroad historical societies (about 2% or less). Which leads to the obvious question, if the articles section were available again, is there any reason to expect that the percentage of site users who would contribute material would be any more now than it was in the 2003-2008 time frame.

PC

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 Post subject: Re: RYPN as a Useful Forum is Dying (A Rambling Rant)
PostPosted: Tue Feb 07, 2017 9:44 am 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 1:51 pm
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Location: Somewhere north of Prescott, AZ on the Santa Fe "Peavine"
PCook wrote:
Which leads to the obvious question, if the articles section were available again, is there any reason to expect that the percentage of site users who would contribute material would be any more now than it was in the 2003-2008 time frame.


Maybe if someone else--ATTRM/HRA, NRHS, R&LHS, whomever--were "in charge"?

(And, please. Spare those of us who have been here a while the repeat chorus of how badly these places treat your pieces and how they're not willing/able to pay you what you think they're worth.)


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 Post subject: Re: RYPN as a Useful Forum is Dying (A Rambling Rant)
PostPosted: Tue Feb 07, 2017 9:57 am 
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Bottom line of Mr Mitchell's previous posting:

"(And, please. Spare those of us who have been here a while the repeat chorus of how badly these places treat your pieces and how they're not willing/able to pay you what you think they're worth.)"

Thanks for the insult Sandy. I resent it very much. Over the last 55 years I have written dozens of articles for railroad historical societies that do not pay for publication. R&LHS, ELHS, NHRHTA, and many others.

I helped you when you contacted me about the history of the EMD Halethorpe branch.

Preston Cook

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 Post subject: Re: RYPN as a Useful Forum is Dying (A Rambling Rant)
PostPosted: Tue Feb 07, 2017 10:22 am 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 3:40 pm
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Location: Downers Grove, IL
It turns out that 100 At-A-Boys can be defeated by 1 Aw-Shucks as I have had personal experience. Quite a while ago I purchased old copies of Railway Preservation News from the IRM Used Bookstore, and was able to get more issues from the clean out of original stock (Thank you, was it Hume Kading?) after the publication was bought and possibly, speculatively shut down to eliminate a supposed competitor. The articles are useful to this day, especially the wood car series and locomotive topics. Looking at the first few posts today I feel that the RYPN website is doing its original tasks, and I accept the broad range of subjects, any bordering on hysteria or needless repetition I scrupulously avoid. And yes, I accept those who will always expound with 100 of their own At-A-Boys to my ever present Aw-Shucks as I try to do my best! I try to stay off this type of topic but here is one too good to pass up.
Best of luck to you all, have at it. But keep it up and don't confound the real service on these posts. I just made one post elsewhere that I hope keeps to the original theme, the reader to decide. And I applaud those who stand by the original purpose of railway preservation by whatever means they might perceive, though more thought before posting might help. I use the message board for personal communication to eliminate anything that has limited relevance to the main topic. It might make the other posts a lot easier to read and understand. I do concur that nothing is perfect but hope that the moderators accept that there are those out there who are in a similar situation of service, and I appreciate their willingness to keep the beacon lit.
Ted Anderson (my own view)

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 Post subject: Re: RYPN as a Useful Forum is Dying (A Rambling Rant)
PostPosted: Tue Feb 07, 2017 10:34 am 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 1:51 pm
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Location: Somewhere north of Prescott, AZ on the Santa Fe "Peavine"
PCook wrote:
Thanks for the insult Sandy. I resent it very much. Over the last 55 years I have written dozens of articles for railroad historical societies that do not pay for publication. R&LHS, ELHS, NHRHTA, and many others.

I helped you when you contacted me about the history of the EMD Halethorpe branch.

Sorry you don't offer us a way to contact you back-channel on this, but simply put, it got tiresome over the years to read said complaints here, however valid.


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 Post subject: Re: RYPN as a Useful Forum is Dying (A Rambling Rant)
PostPosted: Tue Feb 07, 2017 10:54 am 
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You have my e-mail address Sandy, you have contacted me on several occasions.

Now can we get back to discussing RYPN.

PC

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 Post subject: Re: RYPN as a Useful Forum is Dying (A Rambling Rant)
PostPosted: Tue Feb 07, 2017 11:10 am 

Joined: Mon Aug 23, 2004 8:10 am
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Ted Anderson wrote:
It turns out that 100 At-A-Boys can be defeated by 1 Aw-Shucks as I have had personal experience.



'tis true.

A handful of us bought into what Hume, Erik, Bob et al were doing and liked to help. During the all-too-short period when Boyd Mason and I were editing the briefs section, it was quite enjoyable. We felt like were performing a needed task - bringing to light the stories, the projects and the people worth knowing about.

In fact, there was a time when a bunch of us contributed funds to RYPN help defray the costs.

I shut down my own stuff online because RYPN was the bomb. It was that good and that worth it.

That all went south (and we all know the story).

It was the start of a painful lesson that took me years to learn. I was, and still am, a believer that all of us interested in rusty iron should have great interest in coming together, sharing and encouraging.

However, there are those who don't see the value of community and that relates directly to Ted's remark. No matter how hard anyone tries, there are always going to be pricks in the rose bush.

I am not talking about encountering people you don't like (that's always going to happen, we can't all be best friends).

I am talking about folks whose sole motivation to participate in online forums is to deceive or cause distress while degrading projects and individuals.


Rob


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 Post subject: Re: RYPN as a Useful Forum is Dying (A Rambling Rant)
PostPosted: Tue Feb 07, 2017 11:44 am 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 1:51 pm
Posts: 8689
Location: Somewhere north of Prescott, AZ on the Santa Fe "Peavine"
In case anyone thinks this is unique to RyPN, this just floated across my Facebook feed a few minutes ago:

Image


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 Post subject: Re: RYPN as a Useful Forum is Dying (A Rambling Rant)
PostPosted: Tue Feb 07, 2017 12:19 pm 

Joined: Mon Jun 13, 2016 10:40 pm
Posts: 155
Location: San Francisco, CA
Folks,
I have also noted the changes here. As a reader from the beginning; and a poster in my field of electric railway preservation. I am sad to see the changes.

The drop off in the Flimsies is especially troublesome. I can not be a member of as many groups as I would like; in retirement. Those articles helped fill the gaps.

Facebook is a fact of life. I find most of it focused on beginner rail fans; and most of that for steam people. But the pictures are nice.

Please keep the historical and preservation flowing; some of us are still out there!

ted66


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