I started Cyburbia in 1994, on a hacked Web server that I set up (without the knowledge of school officials) when I was in grad school at the University at Buffalo. PAIRC, as it was known then, was one of the few urban planning-related Web sites out there. The site got a lot of attention, but not many visitors -- that was to be expected, considering that the Internet at the time wasn't the phenomenon it is now.
I put perhaps thousands of hours into creating and maintaining Cyburbia, and if/when I install the new database program, I'm looking at even more of my life devoted to this exit of the "Information Superhighway." Unfortunately, not many people are getting off here. Cyburbia used to be the equivalent of a lone gas station on a little-travelled road in the desert -- EVERYONE has to stop there. Now, there's the equivalent of an Interstate highway going by, but it seems as if Cyburbia is just one of those anonymous exits without a name, a diamond interchange in the middle of New Mexico, leading only to some obscure ranch road. Hundreds and thousands drive by, but only a few exit.
As I type this on a Saturday night, there's only two people looking at the site -- me, and one unregistered user. Meanwhile, over at another Web-based bulletin board devoted to general urbanism and city talk, one that was just started a couple of years ago, there's 50 folks logged in, and hundreds of messages posted daily. That board is down about half the time, but its traffic is still 10 to 20 times that of the Cyburbia forums. Consider that APA has 30,000 members, there's probably 100,000 professional planners in the world, millions more interested in planning and urban issues -- and only 400 registered users of this board, with maybe 30 or 40 that are really active.
The database of links was always the core of Cyburbia, and I just can't keep up with new sites that are out there. Links are going bad, I have little time to fix them, and 404s are preventing this site from reaching its full potential. Large planning-related sites, such as the growing number of new urbanism and sustainable development sites, more often than not don't have links to Cyburbia.
To be selfish, those thousands of hours I've put into the site have resulted in ... nothing. No money, no donations, no awards, nothing. Cyburbia never got any sort of formal recognition or award from the APA or any of its chapters -- nothing. The APA California chapter got a national award a while back just for having a Web site up, but I got nothing even for having a Web presence two years before they went live. In fact, in a recent poll the APA did on what planning-related sites people used, NOBODY voted for Cyburbia. NOBODY. Maybe their polling was flawed, but the fact that they didn't see anything wrong with the results isn't a good sign. If I fix up the database, will traffic increase? Will there be any recognition of the site? Would anyone be interested in advertising or financial support? I don't know.
I've been battling depression the past year, and the past couple of months I've been putting in 50 to 60 hour weeks at work. If I do install a new database program, its maintenance would probably have to be a cooperative effort -- there's no way I could do it myself.
Help me out here, gang. Would anyone be interested in helping with database maintenance, if I get a new database back end? How do I increase traffic, and get more people who are interested in planning, or just the built environment, over here? Is it really worth it to go on, or should I just throw in the towel on December 31, sell the domain name, and go dark?
No poll here. I need participation, ideas, encouragement, connections, something. Anyone?