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  #1  
Old 16th September 2015, 01:19 PM
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Bob S: Administrator / Manager / Editor
 
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We'll Be Written Up! But In A Good Way!

Not everyone looks at the "New Posts" or "Today's Posts" link on the menubar, so I want to call your attention to the following, posted in "Cruising for Whatever." I'm reposting this in a few of the most active Forums to make sure that frequent members and guests do see it. Unfortunately this will probably appear multiple times under "New Posts" and "Today's Posts" but that will soon go away.

The post speaks for itself, but I want you to know that I endorse the project and I am going to be interviewed myself, since I knew Keith and had worked with him from 2000 until his passing in 2012:

Quote:
Post Did you cruise in the early 90s? I want to interview you.

Hi friends,

I'm a journalist working on a feature piece about the early days of the Internet, cruising, and the legacy of Keith Griffith. So far, I've made plenty of connections with web founders, scholars, and friends of Keith, but I need the real, raw stories of those that actually use the website.

So, did you use this website to cruise in the early '90s? Please get in touch! I will happily credit you as anonymous. The piece is an oral history of the queer Internet (no pun intended), so your voice is vital.

Please email me at kwisniewski90@gmail.com
Here's a link to the post if you wish to reply there, although it would be really great if you can contact her by email as she requests.

Bob S.
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Old 17th September 2015, 10:24 AM
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Please make sure to post a link to the story when it gets published - sounds like it will be interesting!
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Old 17th September 2015, 02:52 PM
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Originally Posted by jonn3 View Post
Please make sure to post a link to the story when it gets published - sounds like it will be interesting!
I definitely will!
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Old 27th October 2015, 10:25 AM
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Any update on the article?
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Old 27th October 2015, 11:10 AM
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Yes! It was published yesterday. I had an email exchange with Katherine, the author, while I was in a doctor's office waiting room. I read it quickly, then wrote back telling her she did a good job.

I just posted a separate discussion thread here about the article with a link to it. See Atlas Obscura Article: "The Rise and Fall of Cruisingforsex.com..."

I included some thoughts of my own there but had to cut it short because of a lack of time. I hope people will read the article and then write their own thoughts about it under that discussion.

Bob S
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Old 15th November 2015, 11:14 AM
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Well at long last I got some time to read the article (I thought it was going to be longer so I was waiting for time) -

It is a fast and fun read - interesting - with a bit of history of Internet gay sex.

And they even wrote about me

"... and with the exception of a few diehard truckers and online curmudgeons, its message boards lie dormant."

Yeah - there are a few of us who try and keep message boards alive!

It is true that most of the places written up as good for cruising instantly become targets for police. I can somewhat understand the concern in public areas - parks, etc. but I will never get why police give a damn about what is going on inside an adult movie theater or bookstore! Everyone going in knows what goes on in there - but for some reason they cops think busting guys blowing each other is the same as being tough on crime.

Overall I enjoyed the article and found it an interesting piece of history
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Old 16th November 2015, 08:51 AM
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Bob S: Administrator / Manager / Editor
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jonn3 View Post
"... and with the exception of a few diehard truckers and online curmudgeons, its message boards lie dormant."

Yeah - there are a few of us who try and keep message boards alive!
And I'm glad you're here!

Quote:
Originally Posted by jonn3 View Post
It is true that most of the places written up as good for cruising instantly become targets for police. I can somewhat understand the concern in public areas - parks, etc. but I will never get why police give a damn about what is going on inside an adult movie theater or bookstore! Everyone going in knows what goes on in there - but for some reason they cops think busting guys blowing each other is the same as being tough on crime.
The worst example of this recently is at Theatair X in the Indiana suburbs of Louisville. There's been constant police raids, even one accompanied by a TV news crew. I suppose a lot of it is politically motivated along with pressure from social conservatives, religious groups (as one reviewer said), and local media seeking "sensational" stories.

~ Bob
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  #8  
Old 17th November 2015, 08:37 PM
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I also thought that this was a good article.

CFS did have its pre-internet age predecessors, though.

For the guys who travelled for or wanted to enjoy NSA hookups while they were traveling a copy of the 'Spartacus' guide was the most indispensable item on their shopping list throughout the '70s and the '80s.



For the guys who were mostly stationed at one place, the word of mouth somehow usually sufficed. The usual gossip of the town told you where the guys were CFS. So, if you had the guts, you made your way to that particular park, movie theater, tearoom, or whatever the place may have been, hoping to score on the fly, and quickly move on till the next time.

The '80s saw a deregulation of air travel, some rise in general wealth of population in certain countries, and mass travel started turning into a global phenomenon. A few of my buddies and I actually started traveling mostly if not exclusively for the sake of cruising in the pools of guys hitherto unknown to us, and equally so, for the purpose of enjoying our own 'novelty' bonus in such cruising pools. A few dudes from smaller, rural towns saved up enough to hitch a ride to a major metro area, with its thriving selection of spas, backroom bars, movie theaters, parks and tearooms where hooking up with the like-minded guys was very easy IF you knew where to start from and what to expect there even in most elementary terms. The Spartacus guide made all of this very easy.

Hence, a copy of a relatively expensive and bulky Spartacus Guide used to be a bit of a problematic treasure every sophisticated gay guy felt compelled to cope with in those days.

Walking into a sex store and buying it was always an option alright but hardly anyone would risk doing it in his own town for the fear that he may be recognized by the store clerk, who would be going around spreading the news of your 'perverse' sexual interest over the beers with his buddies on the Friday night.

So, you saved up some, and either travelled to the next big town or had one of your buddies buy you the Spartacus (issued annually) when he was traveling.

Now, owning a copy of the latest Spartacus used to be no trifle matter. You hid it well in your digs for the obvious reasons, and a few guys planning trips here and there would be getting in touch with you to see if they could come over to copy the relevant information into their notepads, in preparation for whatever kind of travel was in store for them. Typically, a dude would take his latest 'discovery' or travel companion along, so that you could meet yet another local dude, and possibly exchange phone numbers with. This used to be one of the subtle ways of paying back for the kindness you extended to the other guys by allowing them to use your copy of the Spartacus.

On more than one occasion, once the notes were taken, and the two guys departed happily on their way home, at least one of them returned to 're-check something' which really was a code for a quick, NSA sex with the proud owner of the Spartacus guide. As one of my buddies put in those days, 'What's a BJ compared with all the help we got from his Spartacus?' Different times, indeed.

We are still talking the pre-internet age here. Actually, we are still talking an age that even had no clue of the possibilities associated with the internet and www. So, putting Spartacus together was actually almost a global gay community effort; probably the very first of its kind.

The editors/authors of Spartacus may have had quite some first-hand knowledge of the cruising grounds in say, NYC or later on in Berlin, Germany, and quite possibly a few other major cities, too. Even if relatively extensive such first-hand personal knowledge of the Spartacus team was far too limited to produce relevant information on very many gay cruising grounds around the globe.

Once you ripped the plastic sealing of your Spartacus guide open, a few postcards, and slips of paper dropped out of the book, with notes on them that your help in keeping the guide updated and going were both needed and expected. Spartacus was not paying its correspondents, as the folks who provided the information on local venues used to be called, so whoever chose to take the trouble and write to them (typewriter, possibly a word processor, envelope or an enclosed SASE plus real snail mail) did it purely because he wanted to volunteer, and genuinely support the cause.

Some of the information provided was self-promotional, and an experienced Spartacus reader knew how to read between the lines. This is where and when most of the guys using it learnt that 'if it sounds too good to be true it ain't true.'

Yet, none of the users really expected the Spartacus to be absolutely accurate. You knew only too well, that some venues may have closed since the publication date. You knew that one or the other correspondent failed to update the Spartacus folks on such closures, and you also knew that some of the newest and possibly hottest venues may or may have not made it before their publication deadline.

Until the days when AOL made internet a universally accessible aspect of our daily lives at $19.99 a month, Spartacus Guide reigned supreme.

Soon enough, many sites sprung telling interested cruisers where to head to for their specific kind of fun. The expense/trouble associated with the good, ole Spartacus became a relic of the past.

KD
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  #9  
Old 18th November 2015, 10:41 AM
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I remember that time well, as a teen in the 70s and young adult in the 80s. In college I bought the Damron guide - more of a travel guide and bar directory than a cruising guide - and I used it when going on a trip or looking some places here in Texas.

I moved to DC for grad school, left halfway though, and my first "real" job had me working in an office starting around 7:30 am. I was allowed to arrange my schedule to be in front of rush hour, come home, and then wander around the city before the museums and other special DC attractions closed for the day.

There definitely was always an awareness of the time and my schedule and my responsibilities. I took some evening classes for work at GWU and discovered quite a few cruisy toilets on campus. Then there were the cruisers on the Metro and the guys sitting in Dupont Circle who might have a nearby apartment. Those looooong escalators at the Dupont Circle Metro station were great for seeing who was looking at who and who was looking at you.

Of course, this is also referencing the other discussion Cruising 1970s, Cruising 2015 and the time and cost considerations that make cruising more appealing than going out to some "conventional" meeting place: “I have to work early tomorrow. This is easy.”

Both Spartacus and Damron have online versions now. Spartacus seems to be down at the moment, or at least inaccessible from my laptop. Damron now requires paid membership to view the places in their database, although non-paying members can view "featured destinations" and "upcoming events and tours."

About CFS, I think what distinguishes it from these predecessors is that it was the online successor of STEAM Magazine and that both STEAM and CFS always had a sex-positive editorial context born in the early years of HIV/AIDS. That came from Scott O'Hara and from Keith, and was part of their response to sex panic. STEAM and CFS were unabashedly about finding and having sex and sort of celebrating it in the face of fear and stigma. CFS has always also included public and semi-public places as well as adult bookstores and such that are not gay-specific but which are actually frequented by men seeking men.

I wish I could reach the Spartacus site now, partly to look it over and see their current online model (free? paid? both? both with restrictions? - this is important as I develop plans on how to make CFS profitable again, although I intend to keep all the content readable by anyone, whether member or not, whether or not there is payment in some form, etc.) but also because they have always had so many more international places than CFS. I've bookmarked so many web sites of bars, clubs, resorts, etc. that need to be added to the Sex Listings but I haven't had time to add them. I know the CFS Sex Listings will always be incomplete and have inaccuracies, but it's important to offer our members and guests the best information possible.

~ Bob
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  #10  
Old 18th November 2015, 09:13 PM
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I was unable to reach Spartacus online yesterday from Europe, too. So, the site seems to be really down at this time.

The 'old', printed, relatively expensive and somewhat massive Spartacus used to list places like parks, train stations and college libraries tearooms, etc., too. Originally, were trying to provide the best and most accurate and complete information to their public. And, indeed, they were also trying to be as global as possible. Hence, they so heavily depended on the informal network of volunteers and correspondents to provide them with accurate and timely information.

The onset of massive, almost universal use of the www. spelled the end of Spartacus/Damron as being the only trusted and available sources of relevant cruising venue information.

Soon enough, local LGBT sites started providing specific and relevant, at times even frequently updated local information on the cruising venues in their respective towns and regions.

Spartacus lived well off the increasing revenue generated by the ads various commercial gay venues were placing with them. The non-commercial cruising information was naturally receiving less and less prominence. Its accuracy ceased to be anyone's concern.

I went through a printed edition of Spartacus few years ago. It really felt like holding a fossil in your hands. Information provided was useful, i.e., legal standing, age of consent, etc.. The rest of it was nothing else but an expensive Gay Yellow Pages of the world. Not that anything should be wrong with the world having its Gay Yellow Pages...

Now, most of us know Google.com, too. If anyone is traveling to Anycity, Anystate, and wants to know where to go cruising for sex, or drinking in a gay bar or hooking up in the baths, Google will give you as accurate information as you can hope to get. I doubt that too many people will go to Spartacus online (or offline) and pay a fee (or not) to get that information. Why would a number of people needed for a commercial operation to be viable want to do so?

I imagine that the modest advertising revenue may still keep Spartacus and its listings alive for some time to come. Yet, new, far more efficient and far less expensive technologies invariably replace the outdated ones. Hence, the outcome is both known and inevitable.

KD
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Old 19th November 2015, 11:41 AM
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For what it's worth, the paid option I'm considering is to have a version of the site with minimal advertising (and possibly some new features) for those who wish to pay an optional fee. That would supplement CFS's income, since the sites are losing money and it's problematic if we can stay online. This was an issue even several years ago when Keith was still with us. Obviously massive upgrades are needed, but I'm hindered both by time and budget.

With this model, the CFS site would still available for free, albeit with lots of advertising, for those who don't want to pay.

Obviously this model has its weaknesses. It's used by FetLife and a few other sites in this market space. It's also used by a number of newspaper sites, such as the Hearst Newspapers including the Houston Chronicle that I read most days. Hearst is adjusting it, and recently sent me a survey which implied they were considering changes to their pricing model.

As for CFS, I don't know when I'll be able to try this, but it certainly would be no earlier than sometime in 2016.

And the Spartacus site is back online, too. Wish I had time to look at it today!

~ Bob
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  #12  
Old 19th November 2015, 10:13 PM
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It is no small task changing the habit of users to enjoy 'free' (i.e. paid for by the advertising revenue) contents towards the user paid content.

Not being an expert in this field, I am free to speculate that at least two models have some chances of success, pretty much as Bob outlined.

First off, you could provide premium content a la NYT. Quite a few people and many corporations and institutions will agree to pay a modest fee to have the access to the content they feel, is of some importance to them.

Second off, you can cater to a narrow community of very special interest whose members may not find sufficient free content on the web to meet their daily needs, and will be prepared to dish out a modest fee to get access to the contents that they want to enjoy.

The devil is always in the detail, as they say. One of the key elements of your big equation may be to establish financial targets, and then do some research on the viability of your project.

See, I see myself as a rational person. I have very few spending limitations, have never been frugal but pride myself in being reasonably careful with my money. By far, not out of need but out of attitude and belief.

I also enjoy gay porn as much as the next dude. Yet, I am not subscribing to any of the commercial sites whatsoever. There is so much perfectly free gay porn online showing precisely the very same movies that the commercial sites offer against subscription that I cannot, in all honesty, see any reason for me to pay for exactly the same content that is available through the very same media FOC.

I understand that all the studios would have closed a very long time ago if ALL the guys out there shared my opinion on this matter. And frankly, no one should object to people spending their money as they find fit. But I would really love to know why would anyone, (regardless of how much discretionary spending he can afford) be paying, say, $300.00 a year for the annual access to a typical premier porn site when each and every of their flicks, scenes, movies, etc. show up hours after the release on the free sites, at least one of which allows downloads, too, for free?

I would also love to know what would be the benefit (if any?) of subscribing to say, Spartacus online? What information would Spartacus online subscriber now access that Google does not provide for free?

At this time, my working theory is that those sites (porn & Spartacus; not NYT) depend on people who are basically giving donations because they have it in them to donate; they grew up in the culture that praises and holds donations in high esteem, etc.. I cannot see any rational/commercial/business sense in paying for something that is apparently available for free, too.

(One more side note: my ad blocking software works beautifully, so I do not get to feel much of the downside of the ads popping up out of nowhere.)

I would be very grateful to whoever chooses to enlighten me on these subjects.

KD
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Old 20th November 2015, 11:39 AM
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I know I'm a rarity, but I actually do not use ad-blocking software and never have. Working in the field almost two decades, I think it's a fair trade off to see ads in exchange for free content.

I do think that on many sites ads have become more pervasive and annoying, especially auto-play video ads with sound. This probably is happening out of desperation because they aren't meeting their revenue needs. If the companies have enough money, they'll also create apps and separate multi-platform channels to publish their stuff. Very small companies often can't do that.

I pay for the Houston Chronicle site because it has local and world news and the people who make it deserve compensation, but I won't pay for NYT because I don't have time to read it. Links to NYT oddly come up free from Facebook and certain some other sites but restricted from other sites and from emails. Certainly there are ways to bypass that, and NYT knows it.

I've also tried as much as possible to delete the old Flash-based ads that Keith had used. It's an obsolete technology and is not supported on mobile devices. As a programmer, it seems like a waste of time to set up alternative Flash and mp4 versions of whatever you need to show, whether it's content or ads. I also tend to be impatient with videos since I'm a speed reader. Again, that's a quirk for me, not the general public who seem to prefer video content and image memes.

Looking at Spartacus it seems to have evolved into essentially a travel guide and not the type of thing it was years ago. It still has useful information about resorts, saunas, and bathhouses, and it's nice to see that all in one place, but it doesn't have the depth of user-generated content compared to, say, Yelp or even CFS in our niche.

If I can implement that pay option, it would rely on the fact that we do have a lot of unique user-generated content in the Sex Listings. Besides the presence or absence of ads, there are other technical ways to make a possible paid version faster, more accessible, and more user-friendly.

Juggling time and responsibilities is a major challenge for me that delays many projects. Here I am writing this when I should be doing other work, after having stayed up until 2 am last night so I could have quiet time to work uninterrupted. This sort of thing, especially the household and personal concerns as well as the way I get caught up in writing - a basic need to connect and express myself - and also editing and correcting bad data tends to consume too much time.

About Google, with a true mobile-friendly version of the site, Google would improve CFS search rankings considerably. Although Google also has reviews, they do not seem to be sexually explicit and certainly do not include the ones from people who write at length about their sexual experiences at any particular place. Many of these are worthy of the "Dirty Stories" section of this Message Board, and I typically include a few of these in the CFS Weekly Newsletter.

I also agree that paid porn is not panning out as a significant revenue source. Our pay-per-view provider restructured their payment schedule this year, which caused a large drop in revenue from them. Since it allows people to see HD or other very good quality movies on a pay-per-minute basis, it's still a cheap and very appealing option for guys who don't want to get sucked into costly monthly recurring fees at the regular porn sites while still supporting people - models and those behind the cameras - who need to and deserve to earn a living. So, I've been promoting it on the CFS Home Page illustrating this difference, and the pay-per-view revenue is slowly improving.

One last thing, and it's just another personal opinion. I think the increasing presence of mainstream advertising as well as big pharma advertising starting in gay publications in the 80s (Absolut, Miller, Budweiser, RJ Reynolds, Phillip Morris) and 90s (the drug cocktails, exotic vacations and cruises) contributed to a image of gay men - lesbians, too, in their publications - which does not match the real lives of most LGBT people. You may have taken Viracept, but that doesn't mean you were able to run a marathon and in fact, you may have had a lot of diarrhea.

After 2000 and on to today, this "mainstreaming" through media and advertising has exploded more and more, with large retailers and companies who make everything from breakfast cereal to soup to who knows what, all integrating us into a sort of "conformity of diversity."

A lot of the gay men I know are retired on fixed income, facing illnesses and housing challenges. Many LGBT youth who are homeless or struggling to make their way forward. A huge number of people have complex multifaceted identities that defy labels, or maybe they prefer not to be labeled: opposite-sex married? on the DL? polyamorous? swinging? On CFS, what matters is what you do more than how you're labeled.

Maybe we're all buying the soup or the cereal, and I know we bought the beer and the cigarettes even if we couldn't afford the premium vodka. That doesn't mean that a rainbow coffee cup or two dads with a toddler is relevant, although it's nice. Often media and the advertising doesn't "look like us" and in many ways isn't meant for us, except possibly in an aspirational sense.

~ Bob
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