[ Please read to the end for various updates. Listology has a new lease on life! ]
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 Listology has been superseded by blogging, Facebooking, Twittering, Flickring, etc.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?
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!