Two bits of personal info to share with the community.
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The first is that this summer my family and I are moving to Vancouver, BC.
As some recall, we spent last summer in Vancouver. Dorota and I fell in love with the city. I was born in Montreal, making my kids and I dual US/Canadian citizens, but I haven't lived in Canada since I was wee. I've always thought about it — though I grew up in California, I took hockey lessons in grade school and studied French rather than Spanish in high school — but it never seemed like the right time.
After this summer we decided that if this is something we want to do we need to just do it, so we began the immigration process last fall. We've now cleared enough of those hurdles that we are preparing to relocate there soon. We are super excited about it, though quite nervous, since it is still unclear precisely where we'll live, where and how much work I'll find, where my kids will go to school, pretty much everything about what our new life will look like. We have leads for some of these, but still this is a big step into the unknown for us. Wish us luck!
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The second bit is that recently I was approached by a suitor wanting to buy The Fresh Loaf. This happens from time-to-time, but this was the most credible, substantial offer I've received. After much thought and many conversations, I turned the offer down.
The suitor currently owns a number of other websites and online forums. They purchase web properties with high Google PageRank and good growth potential, both in terms of traffic and advertising revenue. "Online value investing" is the way I think of it. TFL is a good candidate for that kind of portfolio.
I declined the offer because I wasn't convinced that this company's management would continue to prioritize the well-being of the community. Mind you, I don't believe they would intentionally do it harm - among other things, they offered to include in the contract the hiring of a professional moderation service (I didn't know such a thing existed either) to help keep things civil here. But I wasn't sufficiently convinced that their approach to site management would foster a thriving community. Increasing the amount of anonymous traffic and ad views here is clearly the easiest way to monetize the site and there is plenty of good content on the site already to sustain traffic growth for many years, even if the community disappeared tomorrow. The financial incentives to maximize the one type of traffic at the expense of the other are high and seem nearly irresistable to anyone not passionate about the community side of this site.
So I let the opportunity pass. That was hard, given the uncertainty of our near future. Vancouver is one of the least affordable cities in North America — if not the world — and we are not wealthy. I work for non-profits, rewarding work but not terribly lucrative. That money would certainly have made our transition to Vancouver easier. But still I think I made the right decision.
Maybe it is just my ego, but I feel like there is more to this site than what's captured in the traffic stats. It isn't just another website or message board, it is different: it's a tight-knit community, a community of folks who share a passion and try to treat each other with support, courtesy, and respect whether they are baking newbies, serious amateurs, or professionals and regardless of age or country of origin. That makes it really special to me and, I think, a lot of other folks too. I don't want to see that get messed up.
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Through this period I've reflected a lot about the future of TFL, what TFL means to me and what I mean to the community, and what would be be best for both my family and for the TFL community.
Without question, I am an imperfect manager of this site. I am not a terribly advanced baker, and I personally don't have the capacity or capital to put as much energy into improving this site as I think it deserves. There is a lot of cool stuff that could be done here, things like making the site easier to use on mobile devices and better integrated with social and multimedia, and that is just on the technical side. There are tons of cool things, editorial and content-wise, that could be done here. Or I could imagine getting more involved helping organize community get-togethers like Lumos did recently. The possibilities seem endless.
Amazingly, despite my recent negligence due to all of my other commitments (two jobs, two kids, the immigration process), site traffic continues to grow.
My plan is to chip away at some of these projects this summer, after my family's transition to Vancouver. Let me rephrase that: my hope is to chip away at some of these projects this summer. I can't offer a plan or a promise until my family is well-situated and provided for in our new home. But, that said, if you or someone you know is looking for an interesting business opportunity and has the time, energy, interest, and capital to do it right, by all means, get in touch with me. Were the conditions right, I would not be adverse to passing on the baton to another individual or company. You wouldn't need to convince me that you'd steward the site exactly as I have, only that you'd continue to keep the well-being of the community foremost in your mind as you carried on.