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Below is a reprint of some comments sent to a budding webmaster. His site was quite nice. Many well though-out pages with good content. Following his question you will find my reply. Within the body of this reply questions about the nature of websites in general are addressed. It is posted here for your consideration.

> Hello Mr. Needham,

> > My name is A. T. and I'm also a webmaster of an online writing society. We're a group of amateurs that merely appreciate fine works of literature. We have a small following, but I'm working on that. I had a question as to how you acquire members and how do you keep them interested in what's going on? If you are allowed to, I would also appreciate if you could take the time and look the site over and give any suggestions that you might have. Thank you very much for your time.

> > Sincerely,
> A. T.


I looked around your site. You have a rather fine website.

If your site was merely a hobby with a few pages and no real intention life might be easier. But alas it is obvious that the site is more than just a hobby to you. So that should be good news and just good news right? And it is if you are ready to step up to the plate. ( to use a basaeball metaphor).

By "step up to the plate" I'm referring to working the site in a professional fashion.

A professional website does not belong on a hosted-free domain like angelfire or geocities. You should get a domain name. This will cost around $70. You should also put your site on an isp that does not force co-lateral advertising on your viewers. This will cost about $25 setup fee and $16 a month. Yes, this is a lot of money to some folks. But how much is your time worth. You are putting hours and hours into creating a decent professional website. You deserve to reap the reward.

If you noticed a friend throwing seeds on the ground, stomping around on the earth to loosely pack the seeds, squirting the area with a little water, and then walking away you wouldn't find it strange that he or she ignores the harvest. They have not invested enough to expect a harvest and nothing is lost by wandering away before the harvest.

But if this same friend of yours spends hours placing the seed in the ground one by one, gently packing soil over the top at just the right depth, then sprinkling day by day to nurture the crop toward harvest....would you not find it strange to see this friend walk away just before the harvest?

That is what people are doing with these freebie websites. All of the links to your site, all of the exposure you generate, all of the "name equity" you create is lost and unrecoverable.

If you want people to take your site seriously then you have to take your site seriously. That is the harsh facts of the cyber-world. I'm sorry to be bringing you this news at this time. You might not have the funds to get a domain name and you might not be able to afford an isp hosting site. $16 a month, month after month, can be a lot of money.

Okay, so if you can't afford to get a website at the moment then just confess that fact to yourself. Then turn instantly around and address the question of what is the best way to proceed given that. The answer is don't put all your effort into generating a website when you don't have one. Instead you the freebie website to generate a contact list, content, and experience. Freebie websites can be used for that.

These means the you must not ignore your contact list. You need to have a weeking or certainly monthly mailing. You need to learn the ropes of newsletters that people lookforward to and appreciate. Also the content which comes your way is of importance. And don't forget the contacts and web-friendships that you create. All of these you can bring with you when eventually a web domain is purchased and hosted by an isp.

So your challenge right now is to decide: Is it time to get a domain? Or, will you be continuing with a free hosted site? Depending on the answer to that the next steps can be elucidated. Not to fear. Whichever way you jump there are opportunities.

Claude Needham