Behind the scenes at allpar: Keeping lots of balls in the air

There are few, if any, major auto sites left that are not part of large networks or corporations. Many forums and sites are owned by a single guys with strings of forums or news sites covering a wide variety of cars (each one “dedicated just to this one car!”), who sit back while his “techies” and writers do the work.

So what’s it like for the kind of person who started out from passion and never left or sold out? We have to handle…

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Money.

  1. Dealing with ad agencies, which involves a varying amount of headaches. They all pay on different schedules, and have different payment schemes, and sometimes disappear without warning.
  2. Taxes with quarterly payments so you have to stay on top of the accounting. It’s impossible to get the estimates right, there’s too much fluctuation, but underpayment penalties are small if you pay early. Some people (not me) pay an accountant but you still have to keep all the records.
  3. Paying the bills, which includes price shopping for servers, decals, and such.
  4. Related but not really “money” is the legal end — contracts, copyrights, and such. Don’t even ask me about how I feel about the US Copyright Office or Congress’ decision to not let them update their rules to include web sites.

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Technical.

  1. Security updates, mostly but not all automatic. They tend to break things. The forums and kernel don’t update themselves.
  2. Malware alerts which require investigation.
  3. Anti-hacking devices and systems which tend to lock me out as often as anyone else.
  4. Spam, which is why whole countries are locked out of registering for the forums.
  5. Layout and fashion changes, including testing to see which links are used and what menus are good, and dang it, now people are using phones and I have to figure out a way to cut image sizes in half and hide parts of the page and change the styles so things fit, and now you come out with Retina displays and you want the images to be larger? What the heck are you trying to do to me?
  6. Weird errors that come up when browsers or operating systems change have to be fixed, or when I screw something up.
  7. New features require programming, and I have to go through code ven when I don’t write it, because I don’t want to have 100K of code when 1K will do. Does everything need JQuery now?
  8. I need to link the parts of the site and things don’t want to work together, and even when they do, the software keeps changing.
  9. Did I mention security updates and the effect they have?

Correspondence

  1. Disputes on the forums.
  2. I really do enjoy some correspondence but there’s only so much time and so much I can do. There are legit questions (can I use this photo/story?), odd ones (how many 1942 Dodges were made with Fluid Drive?), and ones I just can’t answer (how many 1942 Dodges were made with Fluid Drive?).
  3. News tips come in and we have to verify them, and often run them by Chrysler. Sometimes that’s easy and fast and sometimes we send six emails and finally get boilerplate replies after a couple of weeks. Some things we can verify and some we can’t. Some things slip through the cracks while we wait.
  4. Corrections are always welcome and we do get them and they take priority. Sometimes they need to be checked and that can take a while. We do strive for perfect accuracy, but nobody ever achieves that, as far as I know, especially when history is so tattered.

Every day we have new news, and every week we have new features. I don’t write it all, but I edit most of it. We have a style sheet but nobody seems to notice or care (regular writers get the URL.) Later, I’ll write about how we do features.

It’s a full time job, all right. It’s good that I only have one other job.

Note: If you ever wonder how I get through the day, despite being on mind-numbing drugs and having a moderately full medical schedule, the answer is, I type 100 words per minute. This page took 14 minutes to write and adding photos took another 2 minutes; editing again took four more.