By: Raymond Hackney
Raymond: How has the transition been for you going from a member to becoming the admin of a popular forum ?
Eric Lyon: The transition (in my opinion) happened rather fast and swept me off my feet a few times as I moved up the proverbial ladder. I was just a lurker just browsing the forums as a guest from about 2006 to 2008. It wasn't till 2009 that I decided to take the plunge and sign-up on NamePros. I've only been domaining since 2005; that's when I purchased my very first domain name. Eventually I developed my first online service brand in 2006, which I still operate today.
Once I became a member, I immediately dove in and felt at home. I inquired about becoming a moderator after my 5th month to give back to the community as a volunteer, but I was told that I needed to be a member for at least a year to be considered. Lo and behold, during my 10th month I went under special consideration and was made a moderator a little sooner. As a moderator I was starting to put in 8 to 10 hour days volunteering my time and taking on more forums every couple weeks to help out. Within another 5 months, I was assigned to 12 forums and helping with assorted testing / troubleshooting.
Right around my second year anniversary I was asked if I would be interested in a member services position since I was already covering so many forums, and naturally I accepted. My volunteer time then jumped from 8 to 10 hours per day to 12 to 16 hours per day as I took on a larger work load and started assisting with suggestions for improvement, rule rewrites, basic data entry, meeting notes, troubleshooting, minor restructuring, etc.
It was between my 2 1/2 and 3 year point that RJ sold NamePros. I was approached (after being observed for a while) and asked if I would like to take on an administrative position, and naturally I accepted. My passion for NamePros by that point was unmistakable and I wanted nothing more than to see NamePros progress and expand into the future. Part of that mission meant that there would be lots of additional restructuring, technical hands on work, number crunching, usability testing, direct marketing, social expansion, campaign development, data mining, rule rewrites / TOS updates, public relations, etc.
I'm on my 4th year with NamePros now and still dedicating 10 to 16 hour days monitoring everything. Even with the added work load, you'll still find me participating in threads here and there as well as helping with moderation when needed. I've come a long way in a short amount of time with NamePros. I would like to think that my contributions have helped keep NamePros the number one most active and highly trafficked domain community in the world, which 3 of the leading data firms confirm (Alexa, Compete, Quantcast). However, even with my contributions, they don't mean anything without all the wonderful staff and members NamePros has that contribute consistently every day. Without our amazing members and staff, NamePros wouldn't exist, and it's them who truly make NamePros such a great place to be. I'm genuinely proud to be a part of such a wonderful community.
Raymond: It seems over the last few months traffic has picked up, I see a lot of new members and popular areas like domain discussion have a lot more people in there all day. Why do you think the site is getting busier ?
Eric Lyon: Over the last several months we've been working under the hood to get NamePros running more smoothly: the site is 2x faster than it was 6 months ago. At the same time, we've improved the security of the site by using SSL encryption technology on every page. Little things like this may not seem that important, but we want to improve the overall experience on NamePros from the ground up.
Some of the new things we're doing are really fun. One example is expanding into the social media realm. Now you can find our official NamePros accounts in the following places:
As part of our social media initiative, we've been consistently releasing new comics every week on NameProsComics.com and our social pages.
In addition to improving our technology and social media presence, we've also been sorting through old accounts and lifting bans as far back as 2003 that were forgotten about and deserve a second chance. (If anyone reading this was banned years ago for something minor and would like to be considered for a second chance, please contact me.) We've been actively participating in 3rd party blogs and forums providing support where needed. We've also been engaging members on NamePros more. We are definitely starting to see a slow rise with new members, returning members, referrals, and participation, which is only going to get better as we continue to expand and move forward with our plans.
Raymond: How do you feel the new gtlds will affect Namepros both in membership growth and daily page views ?
Eric Lyon: I think it will follow the same pattern as new extension releases in the past, with the exception that it will be amplified by the sheer mass of extensions rolling out all at once. Like with all new extensions, there's going to be lots of hype at first. We'll see debates that may get heated within the first 6 months of release about how one gTLD is better than another. These debates are actually great for stimulating activity and engagement. I can't really speculate much on whether we'll see substantial membership growth at first, but I do believe that it will slowly start drawing in new investors from all over as they find out how exciting domaining can be for the first time. As a result, I think all industry sites will see an increase in daily page views.
The domain industry is going to change a little and the new investors are going to be the ones that pioneer that change. They will help reshape the domain industry and NamePros into a new generation. The key is to not fear change, but embrace it!
Raymond: What do you see as the biggest challenge running such a large forum with a diverse membership ?
Eric Lyon: You find the same obstacles on any sized community, but the difference is that it's amplified by the amount of members, and we have over 200,000 members on NamePros. In general, as a community becomes more popular, the more people there will be trying to manipulate it for their own benefit. This leads to larger scale spammers, scammers, attackers, and trolls. For us, most of these are the blatant ones that can be detected and resolved pretty easily. However, some are getting smarter and using more stealthy techniques to avoid detection that end up causing us a little more work. Rest assured though, we do have several security and detection features that we utilize daily to assist in our efforts of keeping NamePros a safe place to conduct business and an outstanding place to learn about the domain industry. As we move forward, we'll be working on adding even more features to assist staff in isolating potential high risk accounts.
There are some social obstacles, too. Things like language barriers, first-time posters that have never used a forum before, and cultural differences. Language barriers are pretty common in a community that caters to members from all over the world and members raised in different cultures where English isn't their 1st language. It can be difficult sometimes trying to express oneself effectively, which leads to confusion and ultimately frustration. We do try to take language and culture differences into consideration every time we work with a member to assist them as best as we can. I would also encourage all members to try not to get upset too fast when dealing with people from other parts of the world. If you can, take an extra few minutes to explain something differently to help them understand better, so that everyone is on the same page.
Raymond: Can we expect any new features coming in the future ?
Eric Lyon: Absolutely! We actually have tons of plans for the future when it comes to features, tools, user interface, flexibility, security, and most importantly, services. At the moment, I'm unable to disclose the wonderful things we've been working on over the last several months, but I can tell you that we'll be slowly rolling out new and exciting things within the next few months. They won't all come at once, because there's still a bunch of work to be done, but I'm confident that members will be just as excited as I am once the progress begins to roll out into production. Keep a look out for an update to our forum software. It's going to be a great improvement over the existing version, and it will add many features that we've been missing. We can't wait to share it with everyone.
Raymond: The live auctions were a favorite of many members on the site, do you see them coming back ?
Eric Lyon: Live auctions were great when they first started. Sadly, the quality of the domains became pretty low over time, which discouraged investors from participating. Towards the final days of the live auctions it was common for an auction to be populated by 95% sellers and 5% investors. The auctions went from 200-300 participants in the early years (industry peak) to 15-40 in their final days. Not only was there a quality issue, but it was sometimes hard to coordinate the times where we could get enough volunteer staff to help out. Not to mention the different time zones that members themselves had to juggle just to make it to a live auction. Many people didn't want to get up a 2 A.M. to attend an auction (even though it was 3 P.M. here, it was in the A.M. in many other places of the world).
We are still undecided on the live auctions. It's on a list of things to re-evaluate down the road a little ways. If not, we'll create something even better that will serve in its place.
Raymond: Can you explain the benefits of a Business membership on NamePros and what are the fees ?
Eric Lyon: A business membership is actually a great asset for both buyers and sellers utilizing the marketplace. First I would like to point out how our marketplace posting limits work.
* Free Members: Up to 2 active marketplace threads at a time
* VIP Members: Up to 3 active marketplace threads at a time
* Supporters: Up to 4 active marketplace threads at a time
* Business Members: Up to 6 active marketplace threads at a time
An "active" thread is defined as any marketplace sales thread that you wish to keep open and visible to marketplace visitors. You can keep your thread active by adding a reply yourself before the 30 day period. In addition to better marketplace posting limits, some of the benefits of being a business member are described below.
Business Member Badge: Shows the community that you're prepared to conduct business like a professional.
Message Tracking: Ability to see if a member has read or deleted your private message(s).
Listing in Business Directory: Allows visitors on NamePros to discover your website and business.
Highlighted Threads: Draws attention to every thread that you create by highlighting it, which gives your sales threads more exposure.
Active Marketplace Threads (Qty: 6): More opportunities to sell your domain names.
A business membership is only $10 per month. A very modest price for what you get, and one domain sale will quickly pay for the entire year.
There is a lot more to come. Stay tuned! 🙂
Thank you to Raymond for taking the time to interview me.