SharperIron

SharperIron Facebook “Fan Page”

SharperIron now has a Facebook page.

If you enjoy Facebook, you can now visit the SI page to interact with other SI fans and easily share content with your Facebook friends. Stop in and say hello, and maybe become a fan. The page updates daily with links to new articles and (soon) Filings posts.

(Since a “page” is more easily updated than a “group,” we’re retiring the old SI “group.”)

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New Year Greetings and Reflections

If my calculations are correct (they often aren’t), I put on the SharperIron “Publisher” hat 19 months and two weeks ago (May 15, 2008). So I missed my opportunity to write some reflections on the one-year anniversary. Since we were preparing to move the site to Drupal about that time, things were hopping. Plan B was to write some retrospection at the year-and-a-half mark (“sesiquiannual reflections”?). That time “swine flu” got in the way. Plan C was to combine these thoughts with some Christmas greetings, but—well, that’s passed now too. So welcome to Plan D: “New Year’s greetings and reflections on 19 and a half months heading ShaperIron.”

Family times

“SharperIron” has gradually become a household word at our place. With the exception of my youngest (Joel, age 8), everyone in my family now has a pretty good idea of what SI is. They’ve watched me work on it quite a bit. To the degree they’ve been interested, they’ve provided feedback. My daughter (Jenna, age 11) has been vocal about how the site looks. My wife (Marilyn, age—um, 29) has shown interest but is not yet a regular reader. That would require a much larger quantity of content that is warmer, more personal and more devotional than what we currently provide (note to self: more content that is warmer, more personal and more devotional).

My son will really get interested the day we offer some kind of game. (I’m sure he’d be delighted to see an online real-time strategy game where armies of “Fundamentalists” throw Bibles at armies of “Neo-Evangelicals.”)

But life was mostly non-SI-related in ‘09. In January, we heard that my dad was having some worrisome symptoms: some peripheral vision problems, dizziness and disorientation. First, docs looked for an inner ear problem. Nothing helpful surfaced there. Another doctor said Dad had cataracts. Wrong again.

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Survey Update: Who's Talking and What are They Saying?

(Read the survey introduction.)

The ‘09-‘10 SI Reader Survey has been in progress for a few weeks now, and the results so far are quite interesting. The survey will continue for another month or so, but I’d like to share some results now in the hopes that first, many of you will find them interesting and second, many who have not yet taken the survey will take a few minutes to go to that.

At the moment, 428 have completed surveys. 55% of these are readers who signed up for membership after June 1 of this year. The rest are split about half and half between readers who used to have memberships at SI (but no longer do) and readers who have never been members.

Here are some survey results so far.

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Introducing the SharperIron Reader Survey

By the end of January 2010, SharperIron will have been on the Web for a full five years. Those years have seen quite a bit of change. At SI, members have come and gone, the moderating team has changed and one owner/publisher has passed the baton to another. And SharperIron’s context has changed as well. Fundamentalism’s self perception has shifted, the Internet has continued to morph. Blogging has passed out of the “amazing new phenomenon” phase and social networking is now familiar to all. We can only assume that SI’s readers have changed in various ways as well. But we have no idea how they’ve changed. 

This survey can partly solve that problem. We didn’t know a great deal about who SI’s readers were and what they thought in the early days, so we lack a baseline. But if participation is robust, we will be able to get a much clearer picture of who reads SharperIron now and what they value most and least about it.

Please take the time to complete the survey.  You’ll note that the survey is divided into three sections. The first gathers some demographic information. The second focuses on evaluating reader’s use of, and opinions about, SharperIron. The third polls for views on some issues. A few of the questions in parts one and two are required in order to turn the survey in. The rest are optional, but we’d like to see as many complete surveys as possible.

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And Now This: New Advertising Options at SI

SI is funded from four sources: donations, advertising, Amazon purchases from our links, and what the site’s owner throws in now and then. The first source pays nearly all of SI’s server-related costs. The second has been the largest single source and funds everything from phone bills and PO box rentals to traveling expenses, editing fees (this expense ended during the 2nd quarter of this year), and compensation for article writers (this year this took the form of contest prizes). Ad income also funds site development and upgrades and—once in a while—a portion of equipment that has a site-related purpose (like a cell phone, for example). The third source—the Amazon links—has not yet yielded much revenue, but it’s growing. Finally, the fourth source—Aaron’s pocket book—funds all of the above whenever the other three sources fall short. After cutting some costs this year, that source has been—thankfully—marginal.

New Advertising Options at SI

With that as context, on to the point of this brief post. Advertising. SI averages 12 to 15 thousand “Absolute Unique Visitors” per month (per Google Analytics) and 40 to 60 thousand “visits” (also per GA). Active membership is just under 1,050 at the moment. So SharperIron remains a good way to reach the conservative evangelical and Fundamentalist niche.

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Just a Few Days Left

Fund drive ends on Friday

As of this writing, about three dozen of you have chipped in to help cover SharperIron’s server and bandwidth costs for 2009 (more info here). A few contributed especially large gifts. You know who you are (though, in some cases, I’m not sure I know who you are). Whether your donation was large or small, I—and all who benefit from SI—thank you for your help!

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They're Back!

The complete article database is now online!

Saturday evening, July 25, we were able to successfully migrate more than 900 full length articles and more than 2000 Filings posts into SharperIron 3.0—that’s the entire collection of material from before June 1, ‘09.

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SharperIron Financial Update

Though SharperIron is not organized as a nonprofit, it has never earned a profit. The site basically broke even in 2008, but it had some debt before that. And, so far, 2009 has accumulated a deficit. Though deficit spending seems to be the “in” thing these days, I’d like SI to operate on wiser principles!

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