Back in the ‘90’s, when the internet was new and I didn’t have any grey hair yet, I started the first of several incarnations of sites that offered appliance repair wisdom online. Appliantology.org was started in November 2010. It’s an old site by Internet standards. It has evolved a lot over the years and I expect it will continue to do so.
As it exists today, this site is dedicated to supporting the professional appliance tech community with teaching, training, information, and camaraderie. This wasn’t always the case.
The purpose of this little magnum opus is to relate the long and storied history of this site and its predecessor, Applianceguru.com, and to reflect on how we’ve changed, some of the dysfunctional people we’ve dealt with over the years, and where we are today.
I’ve learned a lot about running internet communities, often the hard way and by trial and error. The Internet was a brave new frontier for everyone back in the 90’s. So everyone was making it up as they went along. You’ll get a glimpse into the challenges of keeping a forum community alive and kicking.
Come with me now on a journey through the Appliantology looking glass...
History - the "Good ol' days?"
I started the old forums at ApplianceGuru.com waaay back in 2003. It was a plain-jane forum-- no downloads section, no webinars, no blogs, no galleries, just a fraction of the functionality and features of this current forum software.
The Applianceguru.com site was started as a DIYer support forum. DIYers were the focus and it was 100% funded by affiliate parts purchases from DIYers. It was a workable part time model back in the day that brought in a little beer money.
Other techs started coming to the site and helping answer DIYer questions. Naturally, techs started helping each other out, too.
I started collecting service manuals in a Mediafire account. I called this “the Stash.” Eventually, I started sharing lifetime access to this file storage with techs who paid a modest one-time fee ranging from $5 to $40. That account and file storage still exists today.
The developer of the old forum software quit or died or something and he stopped supporting it. This was at a time when smartphone usage was starting to get big and there was no possibility of a mobile-friendly version of that forum software ever being developed.
So, in November 2010, I took the plunge and started a whole new forum-- this one-- using completely new software and at a completely different web address. Thus Appliantology.org was born.
As a courtesy and convenience to tech members at Applianceguru.com, I migrated their accounts over to the new forum, even though the old forums at Applianceguru.com remained open until a couple of months ago (the software was completely obsolete and couldn’t be maintained any more).
When Appliantology was first running, there was no Downloads section like we have now. The only Download available was the access link to the Mediafire account. Techs still had the option of making a small, one-time donation to access the Mediafire account.
Eventually, I started adding files in a separate Downloads section, what is now called the Appliance Repair Manual Pot Luck Supper. Today, that library has grown to almost 4,000 files and more manuals are added almost every day and on request. All the manuals are indexed and searchable.
Several things changed that caused us to have to restructure the business model used to support this site:
- DIYers started coming to the site to get help, but then shopping elsewhere (eBay, Amazon) for the part to get it for a buck cheaper. Some would actually come back and brag about it.
- Affiliate parts sales (and hence all income to run and grow this site) dropped to almost nothing.
- Since DIYers had basically said to hell with us, we decided to change the whole business model of the site to focus on supporting the professional appliance tech community.
- The increased bandwidth from users and downloads required a more expensive server arrangement (ultimately getting the dedicated private server that we have today).
- The increased hard costs and man-hours needed to run the site as a high-quality tech support resource meant I had to make a decision: either run it like a business or shut it down.
I wasn’t ready to just shut the site down because I believed that enough people in the appliance tech community would value a high-functioning, full-featured appliance support site. So we set out to reinvent the site. We did this by making a few changes:
- We briefly offered a lifetime membership shortly after we set up shop here at Appliantology, until we realized it wasn’t going to support the features we wanted to provide. So we created a new membership group called Professional Appliantologist with an annual membership fee. This is used to pay for the operation and maintenance of the site.
- All techs who had purchased a “lifetime membership” for access to the Download Stash at Mediafire from Applianceguru.com or in the early days of Appliantology still have access to that resource. They also have gratis downloading privileges but it is at a throttled speed and one file at a time. This was necessary to ensure that limited server resources were available for the Professional Appliantologists.
- All lifetime techs likewise have access to the tech-only forums (which is now most of the site) and the live training webinars.
Remember: most paid a ridiculous pittance, $5 to $40, more than 7 years ago for lifetime access at a completely different website, Applianceguru.com, not unlimited access to this site, Appliantology.org. In either case, the Download library did not exist as it does today. Extending downloading privileges at all to the original tech group was a pure gift on our part. Unfortunately, a small segment of these techs did not see it this way.
Accusations from Malcontents
Most techs at this site are really great people to interact with and value what we strive to provide for them here. The malcontents and detractors comprise less than 1%. If you think about it, this is probably true with your service call customers. It’s about the same distribution anywhere you have a large group of people.
One type of malcontent we’ve encountered are the “lifetime” members from the early days who thought they should get all of the privileges and benefits that our current PA members do. We were accused of various forms of selling out, greed, and “only being in it for the money”, despite all the access that they still had, as described above.
Again, we’re talking about a handful of users. Most of the techs from the early days either were content with their legacy-member benefits, or simply upgraded to a PA membership to get all of the new goodies.
Most people are unaware of how carefully an online forum has to be managed to keep the community healthy, to retain old members and attract new ones. This is one of those skills I had to learn by a lot of trial and error. But learn I did, and over the years I have escorted several people off the site for various reasons, which I’ll discuss in a moment. It’s always regrettable but also necessary to maintain the quality experience of the site for the other members.
In cases where a person had paid for a Professional Appliantologist membership, I refunded 100% of their money even though they had persistently violated site Guidelines and were several months into their membership term. I did this with the hopes that we could simply part ways amicably. Unfortunately, being “amicable” is not in everyone’s toolkit.
Have you ever decided not to continue on a job that you could tell was breaking bad, refunded any money the customer paid, and then they STILL talk shit about you? Then you know what I’m talking about.
Part of my responsibility as your gracious host is to maintain a positive atmosphere at the site. Occasionally this means showing folks to the door when they persistently demonstrate one or more of these defects:
- Uncouth or unpleasant in their communications with other members
- Unwilling or unable to learn, either about how to effectively and properly use the site or about basic technology, such as electricity and circuits (things about which it is not a matter of opinion-- you’re either right or wrong)
- Persistently, albeit unintentionally, giving inaccurate information even when myself and others would try to correct it
- Bullying or overbearing personality
You’ve heard the saying, “The customer is always right.” Well, that’s bullshit. The customer is not always right if they’re not the right customer. And any business that’s been around long enough will inevitably have a few of those kinds of customers that need to be “pruned.” On the other hand, when they are the right customer, you will bend over backwards to please them.
Some people left quietly, accepting that Appliantology just wasn’t right for them. But others, despite getting their money back, have gone on to spread malicious lies about me personally and even my wife, accusing us of being “greedy” and “ripping them off.”
All Content Creators are “turd magnets”
Do you ever wonder what causes people to leave nasty comments on YouTube or other places? They’re doing what envious non-creators have always done to creators: shooting off their big fat mouths because that’s all they’re really good at.
You can probably relate to this in your repair business, when a customer gives you a scathing online review that shows they know nothing about what it takes to run a professional in-home service business.
It takes a lot of time and hard work to create valuable content that people are willing to pay for. If these malcontents had any real talent, you would see the results online. Instead you see them bellyaching and lying. They have never created anything online that anyone would pay a nickle for. In short, they are entitled, envious, pathetic losers. This is the same psychological profile of the infamous “YouTube hater.”
Creating a comprehensive information and training resource takes dedication, talent, and years of in-depth education, things that envious haters are in desperately short supply of. So their lying and complaining is not really about money-- it never was. It's about rejection. And their fragile egos can't handle that.
Again let me say that the turds are maybe 1% of my interactions. But, dayyam, they sure can stink up the place! It takes the occasional sweep with the pooper scooper to keep our community a pleasant place to hang out. Before I leave the topic, let me tell you about a few of the...
Weird pathologies I’ve dealt with over the years
One of the weirdest, most perverse pathologies that all teachers deal with is where a student attacks the teacher instead absorbing the teaching that the teacher offers. This sick dynamic exists in all teaching settings, from high schools to trade schools to here at Appliantology. There have been a few techs with whom I professionally disagreed on a technical point go on to disparage me, my site, my personal hygeine, my parentage… you get the picture.
A related psychosis that teachers encounter is where someone benefits from the teaching and then turns around and resents the teacher for telling them something they didn’t know. I know- it’s absolutely insane! Yet it happens all the time to all kinds of teachers.
A third sickness is where someone sifts through the mountain of information that a teacher has produced and offered over the years to find some insignificant (usually imagined or misunderstood) flaw and tries to use that to discredit everything the teacher has ever done, despite the fact that they benefited greatly from the material. This is a pathetic attempt to pull down the teacher to make himself feel better. This is the ugly face of pure envy.
I’ve gotten pretty good at spotting these diseases early on and terminating the relationship before it festers.
This site is a business
I appreciate and value the many awesome techs who have joined me in my online appliantological adventures over the years, but let’s be clear about something: this site is my virtual dojo. I work here for a living. I don’t do this for free. Nor do I do it as a public service. My time and talents are valuable and I produce high quality content that many people are happy to pay for. I may give some away, but the best stuff I reserve for paying members. To those people, I strive to overdeliver on value for the price they pay.
This site is not a hobby run out of some guy’s basement. It is a business. That means a couple things:
- It is professionally managed in every way: hardware, software, and content.
- Professionals get paid for their time and talents. I am one of those professionals. So is my son, Sam (Son of Samurai) and my wife of 28 years, Susan (Mrs. Samurai)
All businesses are based on voluntary exchange: people value the information and services we offer more than the dollars they’re holding and thus a free market transaction takes place. As a business, we’re always looking for ways to please our valued customers in the hopes that they chose to continue doing business with us.
Membership here is a two-way relationship, not an automatic right or an entitlement. I choose not to associate with boors, bullies, and boneheads because life is just too short to piss it away with the wrong people. I know that most of my fellow Brethren in the Craft at Appliantology feel similarly.
At the same time, I try to make this site an appealing value, even a “killer deal,” for techs looking for a positive, full-featured information resource.
Reasons to be or not to be here
Appliantology is open to all and all are welcome within the terms of the site’s Guidelines. Professional appliance techs may choose to purchase a membership to enjoy all its many benefits. But Appliantology is not trying to be all things to all people--an impossible goal for any business.
I’ll go over some reasons to be here and some reasons to not be here.
Appliantology is probably a good fit for you if...
- You want to learn new things and become a better tech
- You want to help other techs learn to become better at their craft
- You understand what it means to disagree without being disagreeable
You learned what yo momma taught you when you were little:
- Share everything (i.e., information, technical literature, etc.).
- Play fair.
- Don't hit people.
- Clean up your own mess (i.e., close out your topics with the solution).
Appliantology is probably not a good fit for you if...
- You have something to prove to yourself or others
You are unwilling or unable to learn new things like
- How to use this site correctly and effectively (Hint: it’s not at all hard if you just READ)
- How to read schematics, understand technology and think like a real technician
- You're only looking for parts changing information
- You resent the rare instances that I may correct a post you made (in the spirit of being helpful) or hide it altogether when it is not helpful, may only confuse the OP (original poster- the guy who started the topic), or is a distraction from the teaching point I'm trying to help the OP to understand.
Do you value a tech support site that...
- uses state-of-the-art software with lots of features and functionality?
- has nearly 100% uptime?
- is hosted on its own private server which enables consistently fast page load times and download speeds?
- is monitored and maintained 24/7?
- has no Google ads or popups for Professional Appliantologist members?
- is 100% mobile-friendly and the full functionality available on desktop is also available on mobile?
- emphasizes understanding the underlying technology behind specific failures, applying good troubleshooting techniques and clear thinking to problem solving rather than merely parts changing info (“if this problem, replace that part”)?
- has three full-time people (one of which is me) dedicated to constantly improving this site, adding enhanced features to continually add value for members?
- uploads new service manuals and technical literature almost everyday and on request?
- offers regular, live tech training webinars on topics and technologies that you will never learn anywhere else?
- makes many of these webinar recordings available for you to watch at your convenience?
- prizes accuracy and clarity of information?
- maintains a positive and professional environment by flushing the occasional turd?
If you value these things, then Appliantology is your home because we value YOU as a member of this tech community! We are constantly looking for ways to add value to your membership and welcome your suggestions.
Appliantology has come a long way and Team Samurai works hard to make this site the premier professional appliance tech resource on the web. If you are a member, I sincerely thank you for being a part of this community. If you're thinking about becoming a member, I hope some of my comments were helpful in that decision… or at least entertaining.
Lemme know what you think. Post your comments below.