Ok, some quick stats ...
We're the 21,365th and 26,760th top website in the UK and US respectively. Well, according to Alexa. Ok, that means we rank ~23.5k for the demographic of people who install browser toolbars. Hmmn, it doesn't sound as good when you say it like that.
Ok, never mind, moving on ...
In the last month we've had ~267k visits from ~146k unique visitors who collectively viewed ~1.8m pages. Ah, that explains the log files filling up the HDD! Yeah, that sounds better ... and it's from Google Analytics so more trustworthy. Traffic is defintely trending upwards as are registrations. Also, even though the majority of traffic is from the US, Canada, UK and Australia we actually had visits from 204 countries in that time. Greenland definitely looks like a potential growth area for us because we got no traffic from there. Also, some places in Africa that and one of those 'istan' countries between Russia and Iran.
Re: the credit card donations - actually, in one of the early growing stages of the site we also had a donate button and a few people contributed and it helped keep the site going and I was grateful for the support. That was oooh, nearly 10 years ago though (?) and now the site is mostly self-supporting through ads. I think people should know some things about hosting websites in 2012/13 though:
It's a lot cheaper and easier now than it was a decade ago.
Yes, it takes effort and energy and even money to host a big site with a decent amount of traffic but you can run a new site for peanuts, or at least for pistachio nuts. Any new site that says they need money to keep going before they have a lot of traffic always makes me wish I could raise one eyebrow in a quizical way like Spock because they are either paying more than they should be or imagine that they will make money from people.
What's the secret of our success? Why have we kept running so long?
I don't think it's any great secret really. We just try to keep a balance and keep order and civility. The rules we have are here to help us do this and we don't consider anyone above the rules. No one is considered 'too important' to have the rules apply to them and we try to give new people visiting the site the same consideration as older visitors.
Thankfully, I'm perfect and never make any mistakes. Unfortunately, my wife doesn't agree and blames me for actually contributing to lots of arguments and leaving her to deal with it all and make peace with people. Women, they are crazy aren't they!
Seriously, one thing that is constantly levelled at us is "you're not being fair". This is frequently by both sides in any disagreement so we take that to mean we are actually being fair. Or at least equally mean to both sides which is close enough for me. If anyone is expecting perfection then you're going to be disapponted and we're not trying to please everyone because we know we'll never be able to do that. Yes, it would be easy to offer 'no moderation' but there really is no such thing (or I think it's called anarchy). Anyway, the point is we decided the tone we want for the site and what we would and wouldn't be comfortable with and really the site is there for people who feel likewise. I know some people want something different but as I've always said - don't go into a steakhouse if you're a vegetarian and bitch about what is being served (or vice versa). Find the site that is right for you and if this one isn't it, why are you complaining?!?
It is sad that there is a turnover of people though - especially looking back at old topics as I've been working on migrating the forum software it's amazing to remember all the personalities that we've had on here, the drama, the joys, the sadness and the loss of some. Overall though, I think the turnover is healthy and inevitable. If it was just the same bunch of people whining for the last 11 pr 12 years it would be a pretty sad place.
Wait, how long have I been here now?
I think we still have a few years yet and more things we can accomplish. The WTS is still there. They send the odd legal notice. I pretend I can't read and tell them to "kjshfkjladgfhklasdjfh". I doub't they're going to turn up with a big bag of money but it would be interesting if they did. Ha, I remember the judicial committe where they were basically giving me the ultimatum to take down the site and asked how many visitors it got - even the 16k a week (I think at the time) made them make faces like they had wasps in their mouth which made me feel good so I figured I'd do it some more. "You guys messed with the wrong marine erm, publisher" (Ok, ok, lame I know - just run with it).
Please let me know if I can provide any other info!