It's Time

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[ Please read to the end for various updates. Listology has a new lease on life! ]

Howdy folks,

I've been mulling this over for weeks (years, even, as this is not the first time I've posted looking for somebody to take over Listology only to relent), and I have decided the time has come for me to either shut down Listology or pass it off to a successor. While the latter would be GREAT, there are a number of obstacles:

1. Listology has been superseded by blogging, Facebooking, Twittering, Flickring, etc. There are a million different, better ways to share your passions for movies, books, and music with the world. Ways that include trackbacks, comments, DIY moderation instead of trusting my judgment, access from your iPhone, a variety of RSS/notification options for your readers, etc. Way back in 1999 this wasn't the case, and Listology was new, fairly unique, and exciting (to me, anyway!), but those are bygone days. I haven't made backend or UI updates to the site in years, and it shows.

2. Even if I find a successor the code will be hard for that person to maintain. Nine years of cruft and not enough refactoring has made for a pretty ugly codebase. If I knew then what I know now (more frequent refactoring, better version control, designing for future programmers rather that just me), if I believed then what I believe now (no online community should depend on a single point of failure, it should all be open source (or open source-able) so it can be packed up and deployed elsewhere should the original host fail, give up, etc.), then we wouldn't be in this boat. But I was young and stupid, and now I'm less young and less stupid, but that doesn't really help at this moment.

3. The site doesn't scale on a number of levels. As a community, with increased participation, it's hard to keep up with just those Listologists who interest you the most, and it's hard to filter out comments from special-interest groups if they don't happen to interest you (I say that without making any value judgment on those groups). So that's a community-scaling problem. One solution would be to add user-specific RSS feeds, but that brings us to the other kind of scaling problem: Listology is already maxing out my hosting plan, and even with the Google ads it still loses a little bit of money every month. Not a ton, but it adds up (I'm almost $700 in the hole since I started running ads four years ago ($15/month shortfall)). Even if somebody took over with great ambitions, they will run up against the limitations of the the current architecture, traffic, hosting costs, etc.

So, here's what this will look like, barring some hero sweeping in to completely take over:

A. I'll post a message at the top of every page indicating when the site will stop taking new submissions, and when it will go dark.

B. On those dates, I'll take those actions.

C. In the meantime (but not yet, I'll provide an export tool if it comes to that!), you can start copying your lists out of the system so you can post them elsewhere. Also, you can of course post links to where your stuff is going to move to, so your friends can follow you, wherever you end up. Don't panic yet, though. Let's see if somebody steps up.

Please don't think I'm making this decision lightly. The thought of pulling the plug on this wonderful community makes me literally physically ill. The level of discourse here has remained high, even as it seems to be reaching new lows elsewhere (check the average YouTube comments, for example). Such good folks here. But all things must come to an end. I started Listology in my (late) 20s, and now I'm pushing 40. Will I keep running it when I'm 45? Or 50? Eventually I'm going to have to give it up, and I feel it's better to do it now, in a gradual, controlled fashion, rather than having the site go dark suddenly due to a bandwidth price spike, or me getting hit by a bus, or a backup-less hard drive failure (although my ISP should be covering that), or some other calamity.

This isn't goodbye yet, and I will certainly land elsewhere on the web for anyone who wants to keep in touch.

Finally, I'm sorry I can't keep it up forever! Before I start the gradual shutdown process: anybody want to take over?

Thank you!

Jim

Update #1: Tell your programmer friends who might be seeking a pet project! Perhaps one of them would be willing to take the Listology data (the collective memory of this site) and give it the shiny new home it deserves. I'd be happy to provide a dump of the database to facilitate such a move, along with conveying ownership of the domain name.

Update #2: If I end up moving my own lists to some other open-source platform (e.g. Wordpress, Moveable Type, Drupal) I'd be happy to provide instructions so others can duplicate my work. I haven't given that serious thought yet though, although perhaps others out there who know those platforms have thought about how they could be bend to Listology's purposes?

Update #3: Even though I feel a fresh start for Listology--at least as far as the code goes--would be good, I don't want to make it sound like taking over the site would be impossible. Again, the $700 extra I've spent since the ads went up has been spread over four years, so it's $15 a month in shortfalls. Somebody with the time, motivation, and some skills could take this site over and make it work. I'm sure a better, more modern design would make the ads more effective, and might make up the difference.

Update #4: I've had one nibble from someone regarding taking the site over. Still WAY too early to say if that'll go anywhere, but I thought folks would want to know that at least talks along those lines are happening. I don't want to give false hope, but I don't want anyone to despair prematurely either.

Update #5: I've added a note above to this effect, but nobody should run for the hills yet! If I do indeed shut things down, I'll provide some kind of export tool that makes it easy.

Update #6: A bit more here.

Update #7: heyrocker has stepped up, please join me in thanking him!

Allow me to be the latest to say how much I've enjoyed and appreciated the site and your leadership of such, Jim. I may not have been as prolific as some listers, but I nonetheless read through it several times a day and was always glad to throw in my two cents' worth.

Seeing that you've had this going for nine years (an eternity for the internets!) had me thinking of joining up for the first time in 2004. I started out as Macheath then, and was duly impressed by your very refreshing, honest, and succinct movie reviews, lbangs' vast wealth of music knowledge, AJ's grasp of film and music appreciation at his age, and far too many other users' traits to mention here. I also started watching Yimou films, so that was a bonus.

If it all goes away, it'll be a sad event, but we'll all be grateful for the opportunity to have participated. If it continues on in some way, excellent! I'll keep my fingers crossed.

Rather belated, but I just wanted to say thanks for keeping the site running as long as you have. Best of luck with finding a replacement! :)

Awwwww crap...this is just plain depressing. I JUST recently found this site, and it has helped me out in SOOOOO many ways. I visit it many many times a day. I sincerely hope that you find someone to take over...it would make me so sad to watch as all this gorgeous work put into this site switch over to other ones.

psst... there's an 'e' in Caine Mutiny.
Greetings! Welcome! Don't despair.

There's always hope at the bottom of Pandora's box. I am hoping that someone comes up with a deus ex machinist.

There are plenty of other things to get depressed about without being dragged down by what might happen...

or Charybdis. Now that is something to drag you down. Or you can worry about Scylla...

Me too!

Hi Jim,
Thanks for the work you put in so far. The great thing about a 'small-scale' site like this is there is a feeling of community. This place has really helped me to broaden my music tastes. And THANK YOU for not doing any Web 2.0 garbage!

There may be tons of newer ways to talk about movies, but there will never be a better way than Listology. I shudder to think that the wave of the future favors Twittered sound bites rather than the substantive discussions that occur on Listology; YouTube-style pissing wars rather than the (generally) respectful disagreement that occurs between users of very different tastes (and as much as I disagree with some people's opinions here, I do think there is some value to being exposed to people you really disagree with; for the most part, the Internet allows you to either avoid them or spew profanities at them and then vanish). I completely understand you wanting to move on from moderating the site, and maybe you're right that the online world is moving in different directions, but for me this format would still be as relevant as ever, if someone were to take over.

I guess that's my way of saying you should be proud of these nine years (and certainly the six that I've been around for). Really, thank you. I've often wondered myself if I would keep posting to Listology years and years down the road. But if it continues to exist, I really have no reason not to.

I do hope we find a new moderator. I'm no use, as there are at least four things about the sentence "Nine years of cruft and not enough refactoring has made for a pretty ugly codebase" that I don't understand ["how can something be pretty and ugly?"]. But will you still post content here if the site is still around, or would you be leaving Listology entirely?

Again, thank you for keeping this community alive for so long. If we do have to shut down, we should definitely do what lukeprog suggests and create one last list of any new sites/blogs where users are finding a place to share their passions for art.

Wow, thank you!

Assuming I can find a replacement, I still plan on sticking around as a user. I can't COMPLETELY hang 'em up. :-)

And yeah, if it does come to a shutdown we'll do all kinds of stuff: export feature, list of forwarding addresses, maybe a permanent (static) archive somewhere, etc.

Thanks again! This is not goodbye.

Jim,

I hope you get lucky like I did, but I can see the writing on the wall.

Only now do I realize what a huge part of my life Listology has been for the past few years. It was a good part. Thank you.

I love wiki/RSS/twitter/blogging/trackbacks/ajax too. But Listology is my fave because it is so simple. Its simplicity is a feature, not a bug. Truly.

I fear there is nowhere for this community to go because there is no other site like Listology. If Listologists are aware of similar sites, I'd like to hear of them.

Listologists, if you haven't already, do your fans a favor and let us know where you will be online when the darkness falls.

Man, everybody keeps assuming I won't be able to find a replacement! I sure hope you're wrong.

Thanks, Luke (and others above I've missed), for making Listology what it is. I may have set the tone early, but everybody else carried the tune.

Damn. It was fun while it lasted. (Hopefully, it will continue in the hands of another.) Thanks for having us, Jim. You should be quite proud of what you've created here. We'll miss ya when you go, dude.

Darn... this site has been one of my very favorite sites for years now and I hope it stays around. While it may be "behind the times", it's by far the most civilized of all sites of its type I've ever been on. I think this is due in no small part to its creator (thanks Jim), as well as the many others (such as lbangs) who've been around for the long haul. You guys set the foundation and also drew the lines that gave listology such a great community, one that we now probably take a little bit for granted.

Thanks to everyone I've ever been in contact with on this site! I enjoyed most of the conversations and even with those I didn't enjoy as much I still learned from and got something out of them. For any of you that are interested, over the coming week or so I will be posting info on where I will be moving my lists to, unless I am forced to do it sooner or listology ends up getting saved and run by someone else.

Thanks for the years of hard work, Jim. I know that I personally have greatly enjoyed the site, and will be sad to see it go.

Thank you for what is one of my favourite websites. Wouldn't have seen so many films if it wasn't for this site. What makes this site great is the simple format along with the content of users. If there's a better site for listing i'd love to see it.

Oh! =( I guess all good things come to an end. I've been more of a lurker over here, but I really like this site. Congratulations Jim, for bringing about such a great community. Listology is definitely unique, and the level of discourse on this site is way above any other place I've seen. While you may feel Listology has fallen behind, I haven't come across another site which combines a simple UI, the chance to create personal webpages, and an awesome, intelligent community. Facebooking, Twittering, Flickring might attract a great audience, but the transient interactions (read 1 line messages full of "lol" "haha") cannot come near the depth of the Listology article. Managing Listology on your own for so long, coupled with the deficit couldn't have been easy so....

THANKS!!!

P.S. An export tool would be nice, if it isn't too much bother.

A potential takeover? Ooh, good news, no matter how early in the game talks are..

:-) Yeah, I don't want to raise false hopes, but I don't want anybody to completely give up yet either. And don't let this news stop you from beating the bushes among your programmer friends (if any) looking for a successor!

I've made so many friends on this site, I can't but be a bit sad about this, although I completely understand the situation.

Thank you for all the great work over the years and, especially, your friendship!

Now I've got to figure out how I'm going to copy my buttloads of lists over.... :)

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

I sure do understand the sadness. I think this is the right thing for me to do now, but that doesn't make it a happy thing.

For me, the best thing to have come out of this site was the new friendships, including yours. I take comfort in knowing that even when this site changes hands or closes, those will persist.

Don't copy your lists out yet! See updates #4 and #5 above. The site may yet live on (without me as fearless leader) and if it doesn't I'll make it easy to get your lists out with a click or two.

Thankyou jim for all your hard work in creating this wonderful site, it's completely understandable that you would feel the need to shut it down now though.

Thank you!

A Call For Tolerance and Understanding:

I just want to say that I’m OK with Jim’s decision to shut this site down. I’m a little bothered by all the pressure that is being put on him to keep the site up and running. I’m as obsessively compulsive as the next guy on this site, but I don’t think it will kill me to move my content to a new location. I don’t think we ought to be trying to put pressure on Jim to stick with this site just for our own selfish reasons. If it is time for him to let this thing go, then it is time for him to let this thing go. All we can do is say “thank you” to Jim for providing a good service for so long. It was fun while it lasted, and it’s not like blogger or wordpress (my personal choice) require their users to have advanced degrees in computer science.

As another user mentioned above, this is not Jim’s first attempt to shut down the site. I admit that I was part of the last wave of pressure on Jim to keep the site up and running. It was a selfish thing to do then, but in my defense, I think it was a bit of a different situation. The last time Jim made this proposal, he said that he was worried that the site was not keeping up with the look and feel of all the “fancier” sites on the internet. It was one thing to reassure our host when it was just a matter of bells and whistles, but it is an entirely different matter to keep pressuring him when he explains that this phase of his life has come to a close. He has obviously given this decision a lot of thought and he seems to be making plans to ease us all through the transition. I appreciate that. I have truly enjoyed being a part of this website for the last four years and I just want to wish Jim the best of luck as he pursues his own personal path.

For the record I am not encouraging Jim at all to keep the site running. All I really need to know is when the lights are going off so I can plan accordingly. All I was asking for was an export tool if it wasn't too much trouble. And I was encouraging those who have used and enjoyed the site these past 9 years to contribute some $ to him to make up the shortfall he has dealt with during this time. I am _not_ encouraging money be given to him to keep the site going, rather the opposite.

Thanks fellas, I hear where both of you are coming from and I appreciate it. I'm not feeling pressured (except for the pressure I put on myself). I'm grateful (and sad) that that there are people that feel so invested in this site.

Jim, i'm sorry to hear the site may be closing down. I've been a user since 2004 and really enjoyed it. When ever i thought about putting my lists on other sites, i never bothered because this site had everything. It's tons better than most blog sites i know. The community is by far the nicest on the net i have had the plessure to share opinions with, friendly, yet dedicated enough to the genres to spark great debates without immature comments.

Again, if the site does close (which i hope is not the case) i will misss the site and thankyou for all the work you put in keeping it going

Thanks Rushmore, it's been great having you here! I do hope the site carries on. Working on that... :-)

Noooooo! I love this site too much. Im too OCD to settle for any other format! If it was just the cash, I would suggest a paypal donation add-on thingy, but if youve moved past this part of your life, what can be done?

One thing I have to say is that I REALLY REALLY appreciate the level of communication from you to us. There have been many sites that Ive spent time submitting things, tracking stuff, etc and then one day I go to the site and its gone -- no goodbye or apology or explanation or anything. So, it really means a lot that youre taking the time to keep us all informed. For now, Im going to copy text versions of my list to a simple tex document and then when you get the export tool, I'll use that, all the while crossing my fingers that someone else can take this over...

:-) Thank you, I certainly wouldn't leave anybody hanging! Don't waste time doing the copy/paste by hand yet, I'll definitely get an export tool up and give you time to use it.

Hey, Jim,
Sorry to hear this is happening. I knew that it would happen eventually and I'm not going to try and talk you out of it like I have in the past. :-)

1) Since you have lost $700 over the past 3 years I think it is imperative that everyone who has used and enjoyed this site during it's duration should send you some money. If 70 people send Jim $10 each that will make up the money that you've had to eat to keep things going. I think that's only fair that we should do that for you as you close out the site or even if the site ends up in new hands.

2) If you do end up shutting down the site I hope you can code up a quick export tool for our lists. If I could just specify a location on my hard drive and then dump every single list and article each into their own txt or htm file with the name of the file being the original name of the list or article that would be all I need.

Hey there Dan,

I'm afraid this time I'm determined, even if it does break my heart. Alas!

As for the money, I certainly appreciate the gesture, but I don't want to be paid back. Last thing I want is to be paid for abandoning this site! :-)

If it does come to a shutdown, I can certain code up an export tool.

I realize this is more of a time issue for you than a money issue, but I really would be happy to pitch in a bit as well :)

Yes, me too.

Thank you, you two, but you've contributed more than enough by being such great participants here over the years!

I guess I'm not looking it as paying you for abandoning the site. Rather throwing some money your way for keeping the site going as long as you did. I'm just strongly encouraging to give a little something.

As far as the export tool goes...Awesome! :-)

It was good while it lasted, i got to stalk some of my favorite people, and i met Lukeprog.

Does anyone know a site similar to this where I can transfer my stuff?

I revised my post above to make it clear that nobody should jump ship yet. I should never post my first draft, always too bleak. :-) I hope to find a successor. And if I don't, I'll give you plenty of time to get your data out.

Reading this made my stomach turn over.

I desperately hope someone else can take over. Sure, I can keep my lists elsewhere, but it just wouldn't be the same.. other Web 2.0-type sites are too bloated, and hosting them on my own site would mean losing any sense of community.

If things do shut down (and oh how I genuinely hope that doesn't happen), thanks for the years of work you've put into this site, Jim.

I'm sorry mine isn't the only stomach doing flips! Thank you very much for the kinds words. I hope this is just the end of a reign, not era. :-)

Regarding community, I have a few thoughts as to how that could be preserved in the worst case, but let's see what happens over the next few days before I think about that more.

Jim, it's perfectly understandable why you're planning to shut down...but that doesn't make it any less sucky for those of us that love the site and use it on a daily basis. I hope to hell someone can step in and take it over.

TOTALLY sucky, believe me, I've agonized over it. I hope somebody steps up. I've made some updates above to make it clear that a takeover would be feasible, just a lot of work. I'll keep my fingers crossed.