The first indication that things weren't going as I had envisioned was the appearance of Google AdSense videos. I had signed up for an “ad free” experience for forum members, but Google AdSense videos began to show up whenever a member video was posted. The Google video ads were not only distracting, but when embedded into my website, they sometimes covered up the videos posted by forum members! This was, of course, unacceptable...
It wasn't long before other issues were brought to my attention by forum members. I contacted the hosting service, Hyperboards, to share my concerns. After waiting a few days, I closed my account and started to explore other forum hosting options. I then spent a week downloading and experimenting with all sorts of forum hosting software; a very frustrating process. It was about this time that the founder of Hyperboards emailed me with the following message:
I replied to your post on the Hyperboards Support Forum. I hope it is okay that I am emailing you. In my reply, I said: Forums are only "marked" as deleted and taken away from public view (for legal reasons). I can bring your forum back as nothing is actually deleted.
I have brought your forum back online. Please let me know if I can do anything to help you out. I would hate to see you go!
To say I was surprised would be grossly understating my reaction; I have never had a CEO take such a personal interest in my work before. I then logged back on to the Hyperboards support forum to check out Adam's responses to my complaints:
Mike: I tried to embed my board in an iframe on my website. Everything worked well except when a video was posted; the narrower format of the iframe caused the Google video ad to superimpose itself over the posted video! Very frustrating... Is there a way to disable Google AdSense or another workaround for this?
Adam: I didn't realize this was happening. This is definitely not good! I will fix it right away...
edit: This should now be fixed so that one won't get squished into the other, but rather one will bump down so they will appear in vertical order.
Mike: Why doesn't my "Ad Free" for guests block the Google AdSense?
Adam: It should block the video ads, but I can see that it clearly doesn't. I will fix this right away as well!
edit: Ad-free should have been and is now working to remove the video ads. I'm very sorry for overlooking this when I implemented video embedding a little while back.
Mike: Those trying to log on to my board are complaining that the process is not very intuitive (many are just "giving up"). Is this issue being addressed?
Adam: We want your users to find the process easy, fluid, and intuitive. Can you please give me as much detail about the complaints as possible? Then, I will see what I can do to improve the system.
Mike: There is no way I'm getting as many page views as is indicated on my ad-free information page. Are you making me pay for "crawlers" who visit my board?
Adam: We have a system in place to prevent crawlers from counting as ad-free page views, but let me take a closer look at things and get back to you.
edit: I've decided to just do away with tracking guests for Ad-free altogether. We've had complaints about ad-free page views going down too quickly due to crawlers in the past and I thought our system was compensating enough, but it appears it is not. It's too unreliable to try to track bots and after some thought I don't think an additional payment is fair since most page views on a forum come from registered members and I'd like to keep things as simple as possible. From now on, if your forum has ad-free enabled, guests don't count against your ad-free page views and they automatically get ad-free.
Thank you for bringing these issues to my attention. I will make some fixes and get back to you shortly.
At this point I began to suspect I was dealing with a pretty special organization and was regretting my decision to delete my forum. With this in mind I wrote:
I feel really bad right now. As you were busy tackling all the issues I'd raised, I was deleting my forum. I'm very impressed by your customer service and your forum site; I now wish I'd checked the support forum one last time before hitting the delete button...
To which Adam replied:
Forums are only "marked" as deleted and taken away from public view (for legal reasons). I can bring your forum back as nothing is actually deleted. Unfortunately, your user accounts on forums DO get deleted so I can't bring that back, but your global account is still intact and your admin account on your forum. So you will just need to re-register here to have an account again.
I am going to email you this info as well, I hope that is alright.
I was now very curious as what might be motivating Adam as he seemed to be working around the clock to take care of every issue I had brought to his attension. The answer came to me when I did a quick check on the Hyperboards website and found the following statement:
I founded Hyperboards way back in 2002 with the goal of making the most user-friendly and robust free forum hosting service out there. Helping people is a passion and I'm glad to have such wonderful users who help give back to the Hyperboards community and I want to do everything I can to help them thrive. - Adam Petersen
I was now convinced that Hyperboards was the "real deal" and decided to stay with their service despite being worried about the difficulties some were having with the registration process. Those fears were put to rest when I received the following email:
Mike, I wanted to update you on my progress for making registrations easier.
I have taken a few steps toward a more fluid and transparent signup process for a better user experience:
1. Made the CAPTCHA more apparent and added a link explaining what a CAPTCHA is.
2. Attempted to make the warning about a verification email stand out more on the signup page.
3. Added a Registration Complete page that the user is taken to after registering. This page notifies them that they have been sent a verification email and that they must click on the link provided before they are able to login.
I will continue to try and improve the registration process in between working on other projects (such as version 3). Please let me know if you have any ideas as well. Cheers!
Best Regards,Adam Petersen
Wow. Within a two week period the founder of this company took care of every single concern I'd raised and was constantly updating me on his progress with personal emails. I am sold. I highly recommend Hyperboards to anyone who, like me, is a computer-phobe and isn't fluent in "geek speak"!
Once again, I apologize to all who registered to my forum and will now have to do so again; I promise that the registration process is no longer as confusing. I truly feel this forum is important for the advancement of clawhammer technique and want to see our progressive clawhammer community flourish...
I’m hoping this Special focuses on the early history of the banjo, and especially the African/African-American connection with the instrument...
I’ve long thought that the banjo was the “missing link” in the history of American music; that one vehicle in which the music of Africa and Europe joined together to make the journey through the 19th century - creating the “American Songbag” along the way.
Here in northern Utah, the program will air on:
KUED HD Channel 7.1
Fri Nov 4th, 2011 @ 8:00 pm
Mon Nov 7th, 2011 @ 1:00 am
Mark your calendars (or set your tivo) to catch this program...
The piano may do for lovesick girls who lace themselves to skeletons, and lunch on chalk, pickles, and slate pencils. But give me the banjo... When you want genuine music—music that will come right home to you like a bad quarter, suffuse your system like strychnine whiskey…ramify your whole constitution like the measles, and break out on your hide like the pin-feather pimples on a picked goose—when you want all this, just smash your piano, and invoke the glory-beaming banjo! - Mark Twain