|Here's a postmortem on wetheliving.com. I'm using initials, here, since I wish to provide useful information without populating the search engines with relevant names.|
- I was one of the people who helped start the forum in 1998 or so. Together with DH (then DMB), I was one of the original moderators.
- KR (then KJK) was founder and owner of the forum, and is a long-time friend of mine.
- For many years, JW hosted the site for free, a service which he could offer easily since he was founder of a search engine company.
- KR lamented to me on many occasions, over the years, that he was not devoting more time to cultivating wetheliving's potential (by creating new features, recruiting new talent, and providing more worthwhile content). In short, he would readily admit that it was being poorly managed.
- In April of this year, I heard from DH, who was embarrassed to see what low quality the forum had sunk to. For example, it had reached the point where OWL was a more useful place to learn about determinism, anarchy, and animal rights than about reason, volition, and capitalism.
- She contacted JW and rather easily persuaded him to stop hosting the forum. Together, they pleaded with KR to let the forum die rather than trying to sustain it in its current form.
- I found myself agreeing, with some reluctance. Like many people, I probably could have arranged a way to save the forum, but I did not wish to do so because of the many negative attributes the forum had built up over the years.
Over the years, wetheliving helped many people learn and meet one another, and helped many other projects (such as my site, the Atlasphere) find their first core group of supporters.
But given the wide range of alternative (and often better-managed) Rand resources on the web today, I don't think the dissolution of wetheliving is all that tragic.
At the same time, I'm very glad that some people have backed up the archives. There's some good stuff in there, for anyone who has the time to wade through it.
So what can we learn from this post-mortem? I draw a couple big-picture conclusions:
1. Boy, do Objectivists love to argue. I think it takes vision and ingenuity to redirect this impulse into constructive endeavors. Otherwise they just bite one another's head off... All. Day. Long.
2. If your business model doesn't lend itself to making money somehow, you're pretty severely handicapped, because you'll always be limited in your resources.
According to The Daily Objectivist founder CJ, this is also why TDO died. The business model didn't work well enough to pay for all the work required to sustain the site. Ditto for the "Objectivism WWW Service" started by PV at the dawn of the internet. ...And probably for countless other Objectivist projects.
This was one of my innovations at the Atlasphere, from the beginning, and I encourage other Objectivists to explore its implications.
If you don't find a way to make money -- or at least regularly recruit and retain fresh talent -- then it's only a matter of time before your project will collapse, either out of lack of resources or lack of real-world relevance.
The dollar, you will recall, is a symbol of value. If people aren't giving you their dollars, chances are you aren't providing them with anything all that valuable.
I hope this information is helpful to some people who are in a position to do something with it.
I certainly plan to put it to use in the Atlasphere's new discussion forums, scheduled for launch this August.