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Farewell, Dr. Dobb's (drdobbs.com)
1029 points by andrewbinstock on Dec 16, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 320 comments



I was a founder, with Bob Albrecht, of the People's Computer Company and was the creator of Dr. Dobb's Journal. It is very sad to learn of the "sunset" of DDJ. I take some solace that DDJ survived longer than most of the other serious personal computing journals and continues to be relevant today. I am proud of the impact DDJ and PCC have had on our society. I am grateful for the contributions of the many DDJ authors and editors. Jim Warren, the first DDJ editor deserves special recognition, as does Bob Albrecht whose vision and insight guided PCC.

Dennis Allison


It's possible to keep Dr. Dobbs alive by factory resetting back to the startup mode. Announce here some share in DDJ to an additional tech cofounder with some ideas to pivot the Dr. Dobbs. Apply to YC.

Here's my offer: I'll return DDJ into a blogger community focused on newer tech (Ruby/JS/Python/Rust/Go/Closure/Scala) with the same writing pleasure to "medium" or "svbtle". A lot of 20years old would love to write under the brand of DDJ. I ask 20% share only and as a cofounder have Andrew.

Anyone has better ideas?


The brand (DDJ) should have no bearing on such a site's popularity past it's initial launch. Indeed, to associate oneself with such a brand is to guarantee a level of quality of journalism that, if not met, diminishes the DDJ brand, as well as the startup. You'd best be willing to live up to this standard before trying to co-opt the DDJ brand.

I'd say that, in all honesty, you shouldn't need the DDJ brand to achieve what you're suggesting. Just start a "blogger community focused on newer tech (Ruby/JS/Python/Rust/Go/Closure/Scala) with the same writing pleasure to "medium" or "svbtle"" and see how it goes.

Don't try to ride on the bootstraps of a decades old brand that can thankfully still retire unblemished. A rarity in these times.


It'll be extremely difficult without the popularity of the brand that will attract the readers


UBM would have to want to sell it. I'd be surprised if they didn't try that already. But could certainly win themselves some major points with the community they are selling other stuff too. I know someone there, will see if they know anything.


What you are prescribing is just a painkiller (solving the problem with low paid interns), the disease remains: how to survive as a content producer. Solving this would change the face of internet. This could be the web 3.0.


I think its fair to say you contributed to the construction of a culturally significant form of contemporary literature, whose affects can be traced throughout modern humanity. DDJ was the driving force behind a lot of free thought, about thought, and about how to apply thought to machines, and thus the universe, and for this fact I thank you, also, for the impact DDJ had on my life over decades of computing.


I'm the editor of Dr. Dobb's. I'm happy to answer any questions.


I don't know if this is an appropriate question, but:

Why would a well-known site be sunset by its owner? In one word, revenue. Four years ago, when I came to Dr. Dobb's, we had close to $3 million in revenue, almost all of it from advertising. Despite our excellent growth on the editorial side, our revenue declined such that today it's barely 30% of what it was when I started.

A friend of mine's small business observed almost this same phenomenon. Can you elaborate why revenue has declined, even though page views have continued to grow? Is advertising fundamentally changing, and page views are no longer nearly as valuable as they once were? Or is it specifically because of Dr. Dobbs' context as a software dev news/blog site?

In particular, click fraud seems to be stinging my friend's business, but I assume it's not something that simple for Dr. Dobbs. Also, apologies if this sounds stupid. I don't have a background in advertising or marketing, but I find the subject fascinating and have been trying to learn about it.

EDIT: The next part addresses this:

This is because in the last 18 months, there has been a marked shift in how vendors value website advertising. They've come to realize that website ads tend to be less effective than they once were.

What I'm asking is, in what ways has the landscape changed?

EDIT 2: Thank you for Dr. Dobbs. It's been wonderful over the years, and I'm sad to see it go.


During the last 18 months, vendors have come to realize that advertising on Websites doesn't work at all. You can verify this by counting the number of times you've bought anything by clicking on an ad you saw on a website. Most people I've asked say 0, 1, or 2 items, with a heavy skew towards zero.

For publications in markets with a large number of vendors, the pool of vendors who still see advantage in web ads (such as ads that don't expect purchases, say, as for an upcoming movie) will sustain them. But the software development tools market is small with fewer than 100 vendors, many of which don't advertise at all.

So, essentially, there just was not enough advertising to keep us going.


Andrew, in fairness this is incorrect. Web advertising on content is no more, nor any less, effective than web advertising in a printed magazine. Rather than ask the question "How many of you have clicked on something and bought it." a more relevant question is "How many of you have bought something, or from someone, you have seen as an advertisement on a web page?" Digikey ads showed up on Dr. Dobbs and I've bought a ton of stuff from them. Sometimes reading an article there, will show an ad, and it will remind me of something I was supposed to get. Then I will go over there and buy it. Almost exactly as I did with the magazine version.

That said, click fraud has really burned a lot of advertisers. That is why advertising on content needs to shift to a performance based model, ads that let you know that someone went to a site after they saw the ad on your page, and bought it. That should net you a few $. As it stands, advertisers bid for 10,000 clicks at a nickel ($500 ad spend) and compare that to what they sell, and they come up poorly. If they set aside $500 to reward the first 100 people who clicked through and bought something you would find things to be very very different. Click fraud doesn't work if the value isn't in the click. But this migration is currently not happening as quickly as we would like.


> Web advertising on content is no more, nor any less, effective than web advertising in a printed magazine.

1) Things like AdSense? You're right. The real money is in sponsored content. Just ask BuzzFeed, Forbes, Huff, etc. There's a saying from advertisers when you confront them about traditional print/broadcast advertising success "when sales go up, it just works, you don't question it".

> That is why advertising on content needs to shift to a performance based model

2) Not all advertising is about direct click through to purchasing. Coca-cola, Pepsi and every car manufacturer in the world spend billions a year on advertising simply for brand recognition alone. No one is buying a coke because they saw an ad on Facebook, but they sure as hell associate drinking a coke with happiness because that brand association is pretty ubiquitous nowadays.

I think the OP is insuitating that they should have never been a $3mil business in the first place, which is consistent with your story about your purchase behavior. How many ChuckMcM's are there gonna be have to be that purchase products on Digikey in order to provide $3mil worth of business?


   > How many ChuckMcM's are there gonna be have to be 
   > that purchase products on Digikey in order to provide
   > $3mil worth of business?
In this case we've got the numbers from the article, 10.3 million page views means they need a nearly $300 RPM in order to make $3M a year. So yeah, even Google doesn't make $300 RPMs. I wonder if that is the correct number. When I first read it I read 10M page views a DAY not a YEAR. At 10M page views a day they need an RPM of about $0.82 to make $3M/year.

Where does that leave us? Well wondering things. Alexa says they see about "40k visits/day" so 1.2M a month, (that would be closer to 14M/year). 40K visits a day though and clearing $83K/month (1M annual run rate) is like close to $69 RPM. That is pretty good for a content web site.

[1] http://www.alexa.com/siteinfo/drdobbs.com


Alexa is saying that it is the ~40,000 most popular site, not 40K visits per day.


It means that if they can keep half the visitors going to a paid model, they need to charge 2 USD a year to make 3M. Not counting what they save on not having to run or sell ads. Who here wouldn't pay quite a lot more than that not jus for Dr. Dobbs - but a much more independent (or obly beholden to its readership) Dr. Dobbs?


You'd be extremely lucky to convert 10% of web vistors to paid subscribers.

Who here wouldn't pay quite a lot more than that not jus for Dr. Dobbs - but a much more independent (or obly beholden to its readership) Dr. Dobbs?

I sorry to say I wouldn't.

There is plenty of content on the web to read, so in that sense many content sites are fungibile.

See academic publishing for an area with similar issues.


Another way to think about it is this:

There's two types of advertising (probably really more): 1) We don't care where you buy the thing we make, just buy it. (Mazda) 2) You want that thing in #1, come buy that thing from me! (Mazda dealership)

I don't think there's ever been a question of the efficacy of #1, but #2 is probably nearly useless online. Anecdotally, an advertisement might remind me I want something, but it isn't going to change my habits in how/where I buy it. Bob's House of Laptop Batteries could offer me a price that's $2 less than Amazon, but if I see Bob offering the exact battery I need at exactly the moment I need it, there's still a pretty good chance I'll buy it from Amazon because of 1) ease, 2) trust, 3) Prime, etc.


> That said, click fraud has really burned a lot of advertisers.

THIS

> That is why advertising on content needs to shift to a performance based model,

As someone in the ad biz,it's something hard to do.You still need ways to track(I understand people don't like it but...) accurately where the traffic comes from.We really need innovative tools in that domain!

Finally,I think the biggest disappointment in web marketing comes from the (un)ability of social medias to really influence sells.FB and co ad services are way worse than classic web advertising.It's borderline scammy.


Not picking a fight. This is a serious inquiry.

How do you determine whether your budget was wasted on click fraud or just ineffective landing pages?

Surely click fraud occurs, but how can you tell?


analytics.

content on 3rd party site->ad->your landing page.

analyze what happens. You can compare normal behavior - time on page, number of pages viewed etc occurring from normal organic traffic against traffic generated by the ad campaign. Did one site or group of sites send 90% of your clicks, but almost zero real traffic?


Another thing I've seen happen through Adwords was a large percentage of traffic coming through with default language set to Arabic and spending 0 time on site. (on a site intended for English speakers)


Couldn't the fraudster stimulate human browsing behavior as well, at least to some degree?


>> Web advertising on content is no more, nor any less, effective than web advertising in a printed magazine. >>

Not really true. Web advertising is in the realm of junk mail spam now. People go out of their way to block, disregard, ignore it.

It may set up subconscious triggers as you suggest but extremely doubtful and hardly measurable.

Print advertising in a magazine does not have this same perception of "junk"


Indeed, magazine readers greatly prefer print ads as their most favorite way to be marketed to (61%, Nov 2014). More than twice the percentage as the #2 way which is trade shows, and way more than annoying banner ads (13%).

And why not> Print ads gently invite you to investigate a product on your own terms. Didn't you all look at the ads in Dobbs and every other special interest magazine? It's universal, still is today.

But since online advertising became more measurable than print, print slowly disappeared. In a nutshell.

Ted Bahr Founder SD Times Last Man Standing (almost)


> That is why advertising on content needs to shift to a performance based model, ads that let you know that someone went to a site after they saw the ad on your page, and bought it.

Is't that what affiliate programmes are?

I must've gone about using them in the wrong way, but I didn't make any more money from then than I did from displaying Adwords.


The problem with performance-based model is that is it simply a slower race to the bottom (of quality). Publishers will continue to find ways to trick people into responding and advertisers now consider a lead to be a lead to be a lead. Lowest common denominator wins. Quality loses.

Example: HuffPost. You consider any of that eye-ball grabbing stuff to be quality? (not making a political statement)


I agree with this point. The purpose of an ad need not always be to make a immediate action (like a purchase or signup), but also about creating awareness and reminding people about a brand and its products. This is what most ads in printed form do anyway. RIP DDJ.


> During the last 18 months, vendors have come to realize that advertising on Websites doesn't work at all.

I think that's the wrong conclusion to draw.

Advertising on web sites works very, very well and thousands of companies depend on it on a daily basis.

What doesn't work so well is advertising on a web site that's just an online version of a magazine. The problem has a lot more to do with the magazine part than the web site aspect.

I've been reading DrDobbs for a couple of decades and I'm a fan, but the simple truth is that it's become less relevant these past years. First switching to a download only model and then progressively nagging me pretty aggressively to download my own issue (which I stopped doing because the summaries I saw in the email were of little interest to me).

Andrew, reading your editorials has always been a pleasure and you should be proud of what you accomplished.


There is a bit of a feeling that advertising on web sites, much like SEO, is a bit of snake oil business....I agree with the op's statement-- when have you bought anything from a web advertisement anywhere? Maybe you have signed up for a service from one? But bought something? Even something very targeted.... although it does seem that "paid placement" in search -- (google search advertising) does provide some sales... Dvorak has been calling this out for some time.... advertisers seem to be catching up.


The value of the advertisement is not just "# of people who click and pay money", it is a very complex thing to analyze.


I think the irony is that the ability to see a path from view->CTR->action has severely devalued online advertising even though the theory behind it is no different from other, less introspectable forms of advertising.

In other forms of advertising, the advertisor is forced to confront the fact that the connection between advertising and purchasing is not a direct process because they can't see it anyways. They can see that they advertise and somewhere down the line they can observe a general rise in sales or brand knowledge, but they can almost never tie that to even a campaign, let alone a particular impression.

So you have this market for advertising where the advertisers can point to abysmal CTRs and say "See? I shouldn't be paying this much for such terrible action!" while still reaping the benefits of less tangible brand recognition down the road. And thus is born a race to the bottom.


Something that shouldn't be ignored is how many publishers have burned themselves by taking advantage of the technical aspects of online publishing to sell dozens of ads where print media would have sold one. It's enough to compare a magazine article to its online edition. The magazine edition might have four ads if the article spans three pages. Online, the article will span 10 with half a dozen ads on each page. These animated, aggressive ads will vie for the readers eye to the point that they will start using ad blocking software just to be able to actually read the article.


Yes, but those publishers are getting dimes, nay, pennies, compared to the print ad revenue (should say "were" in terms of print).

Publishers did not burn themselves. They were desperate for survival. If they only ran, say 3 banners through an online article they would have simply been out of business. There was nowhere else to turn for many of them as the advertising disappeared. Evolution.


You could also make the argument that publishers are getting pennies for those ads because they're running thirty of them on a page. I've done tons of ad work online, many specs have limits on how taxing the ads can be for the end user's computer not because they don't want to degrade the experience, but so they can run 10 ads on a page at once.


A few days ago: "Google Just Admitted More Than Half Of The Ads It Serves Are Never Seen": http://www.reddit.com/r/technology/comments/2ojl90/google_ju...


That is silly, so I see why /r/technology liked it.

Of course lots of ads are never seen. Lots of newspaper ads and magazine ads -- if you were to count each individual printing of the ad as its own entity -- are never seen by a human being before the thing ends up in the recycling bin.

This is completely separate from the old saying in marketing, "half my advertising budget is completely wasted, but I don't know which half." That's saying that half of all ad buys are completely worthless.

The only thing Google did wrong was to actually measure if their ads were viewable (for more than a second, mind you).

edit minor fixes


It's obviously difficult to generalize about ads and I don't think ads were the way to promote Dr. Dobbs.

My personal experience with Google AdWords (take it as an anecdote) is depressing. 10 years ago I had a real and measurable ROI using it. Fastforward a few years and I didn't receive a single customer from them until one day I turned off all my campaigns. In parallel I received many customers from our blog articles, links, etc.

There is another force against ads: AdBlock. The use of adblockers is growing, more in our field.


I don't quite follow the difference between an "online magazine" and any other content site.

But I think I see where you're going. There are a lot of ways to reach developers with ads online. And, frankly, developers are not a very good demographic for advertisers. As a group, they don't spend all that much money. (Compare to e.g. CIOs who may be in charge of million dollar IT budgets.)


"First switching to a download only model..." Downloaded issues were supplementary content. Our main delivery vehicle was the website.


At the same time, I don't buy a coke by clicking on the ad' when it airs on TV... The impact of commercial is beyond the simple immediate relation "click & buy".


Yes, but with so many alternative online advertising vehicles that can be measured more precisely, or that can be attributed to purchase in a shorter and more direct cycle, website display advertising gets deprioritized in media plans.

There's a very real value to awareness campaigns, but awareness campaigns are out of fashion at the moment. It's all about attribution and measurable response right now. The pendulum has swung too far in that direction, if you ask me. But it's very hard to argue with numbers you can tool around with and impact directly, or with placements that you can buy into programmatically, and not on fixed sales cycles. Also, no one site or publication -- no matter how valuable its readership niche -- can outcompete the scale and the addressibility of the dozens and dozens of ad networks out there these days. (Or, at least, very few sites are perceived to be able to outcompete networks.)

Ad-supported publishing is in an unfortunate and precarious position, as this piece sadly but correctly identifies.


There are different goals of advertising. Brand awareness and purchase oriented (I forget the technical names). Most online advertising has revolved around driving purchases, with brand awareness only establishing even a non-negligible online presence fairly recently.

When someone creates the ads the ad almost always focuses on one of those two things. Purchase oriented ads are expected to produce a certain number of actual purchase, have metrics to measure their success, and have one set of techniques. Brand awareness has different metrics and generally takes different means to be successful.

My understanding (as an outsider who doesn't work directly in advertising) is that failed purchase-oriented ads are not viewed as successful brand awareness ads. If they wanted brand awareness they'd do a separate ad campaign that targets that specifically and would do a better job. So if a purchase ad fails to drive purchasing, it's still considered a failure.


> There are different goals of advertising. Brand awareness and purchase oriented (I forget the technical names). Most online advertising has revolved around driving purchases, with brand awareness only establishing even a non-negligible online presence fairly recently.

What?

> My understanding (as an outsider who doesn't work directly in advertising)

Aah. Yeah, in our market, you're not correct about brand awareness campaigns being a) recent and b) neglible. Most of our biggest spending campaigns are branding campaigns, and have been since 2007. Big caveat - I'm not in the US market.

The technical terms tend to be CPM/CPC/CPx/CPO, depending on who you're talking to - cost per thousand impressions (branding), cost per click, cost per conversion, cost per order.


Yeah, I am in the US market. My impression was that impressions were much less popular campaigns to run. But that's really an aside, and I might be wrong. :-)

My point was that (by my understanding) an ad aimed at generating clicks or conversions was measured for success by whether it generated clicks or conversions. It wouldn't be redeemed by being getting a lot of impressions if it failed on those counts. If the advertiser cared about impressions, they'd be running a campaign targeted at impressions.


Well, CPC/CPx/CPO campaigns only pay on those events, so yeah, impressions are a cost only.

But those campaigns tend to predominate on low-value inventory, whereas the branding campaigns naturally want a higher end of the market for impressions and the demographics viewing them.

Non-CPM is where Google really shines, their click-through on CPC is, AFAIK, an order of magnitude above the industry average.


I think the words he's looking for are brand awareness vs. direct response.


As I mentioned elsewhere in this thread, you're quite correct. However, that kind of advertising works primarily in the consumer market, where repeated exposure via many different channels ultimately leads to a purchase. In software development, which is dominated by small vendors, that approach is not as workable.


In order to make you actually want to view an advertisement, though, the cost of doing so has to be low in comparison to the cost of skipping it. For TVs, this means that short spots and commercials on live content work well, and others not as well (which is reflected in the pricing for 30 second spots). For the web, adblock and "click to skip" means not even seeing an ad for the many (most?), which removes the chance to have any positive impact.

The ways forward as I see them are

Make your advertising compelling in and of itself, so that people want to see it.

Make the content that is being shown after or around the advertising so compelling that people will put up with your attempts to advertise to them (there's been a lot of pushback on such attempts on the web; does anyone bother with popups any more?).

Do something that's not advertising.


>During the last 18 months, vendors have come to realize that advertising on Websites doesn't work at all.

Adsense seems to do pretty well (~$12 billion/year). It's been dropping a bit, and many individual sites don't do well with it, but some do quite well. Did you guys ever experiment with it and test the earnings? Adsense and networks like it have the benefit of showing retargeted ads, so you can get considerably better CTR's and ad inventory relevant to each individual user than you would get from just showing static IDE maker ads.

Closing down an institution like Dr. Dobb's can't be something you're doing lightly, but I cannot believe that there isn't some way to generate revenue from millions of engineers visiting your site every month. There are other tech publications that seem to do quite well.


>Adsense seems to do pretty well (~$12 billion/year).

No offense intended, but profitability of the entity selling the advert space does not mean return was generated for advertisers.


Adsense for publishers worked about 10 years ago. My revenue (sdtimes.com) was about $700/month in 2004-5 or so. Not bad for virtually no work and 100% profit margin. Then $600/mo. Then $400. Then 2-3 years later down to $200/mo - meanwhile we were generating 3x the pageviews! When it got down to $140,mo we said forget it, not worth it. As did many many other publishers.

There are trillions more ad venues (pages) to advertise on vs 10 years ago. Digital advertising may have gone way up, but it's way more spread out.

Ted Bahr, SD Times, still printing!


How much would you need keep an operation like Dr. Dobb's alive, or to setup a similar type of operation? I have no experience around content generation or media management, so am curious if figures could be shared around the cost structure.


Alas, I can't share that information with you WRT Dr. Dobb's, much as I'd like to.


I figured as much, but never hurts to ask :) Thanks very much!


I've never clicked on a TV commercial, I've never clicked on a magazine, and yet both do influence purchasing behaviour.

Would you say that the online marketing fixation on hard metrics, like click-throughs, conversion rates, and page views have poisoned the well here? The engagement metrics for print and television are far softer because the complete data isn't available, they have to extrapolate from samples.

I'm surprised that sponsorship isn't more of a thing. The rise of crowd-funded projects should be studied to see if a similar thing can't be done for magazines like this journal except instead of person to creator, more company to company.


advertising does more than sell things directly, brand recognition is another big purpose.


True. However, brand recognition ads occur more in the consumer space than in technical market. Especially in a market of mostly small vendors, they're trying to sell, rather than establish a perception of the brand.


I'm not sure why DDJ should be limited to software tools vendors as its core of advertisers. There are hundreds of companies with solid budgets who want to get in front of developers in general to influence technology choices and purchase decisions - especially in the SaaS, platforms, infrastructure and cloud spaces.

I don't think the problem is yours, editorially, but being a little blunter than I like to be.. I wonder if the right company owns DDJ, because this is as much as a gold rush period as any other and DDJ remains in the upper echelons of its niche.

(Disclaimer: I sell advertising of this nature on developer related properties.)


Were the ad buys primarily sold direct? Was the site connected to any programmatic ad exchanges in any way?

I visit the site and I see the same ad over and over (Interop Convention).

Did you have anyone dedicated managing ad operations for the site? We're you selling any of your users data points to third-party data providers?*

* For the people who hate the idea of a free content site selling your data, this is a good example of what happens.


Programmatic Advertising is another way for advertisers to pay virtually nothing.

The reason you see Interop over and over again is that this is a house ad - placed by UBM on a UBM site - in lieu of having any paid advertising.

We run house ads and banners too - free to us - for our conferences on sdtimes.com

Ted Bahr SD Times


But why serve house ads repeatedly when you can tap into programmatic exchange and monetize at least a portion of those impressions? Programmatic doesn't need to be first look on all impressions.

If I'm on drdobbs.com in one tab and only being served house ads, but in my second tab I have retargeted ads being served to me, that's lost revenue for drdobbs.com


I disagree with your conclusion. I am familiar with several sites who have no problem taking in significant ad revenue on content websites. The problem is that you can't just dump random ads on a site and expect that to work, it takes a lot of effort. The best ads tends to be curated to the point of being recommendations basically, but that may or may not work for every site.


Anyone likely to read Dr. Dobbs probably has an ad blocker.


How true is this? Sure, they're technically sophisticated, but that narrative could be overwhelmed by:

1. they aren't teenagers

2. they run websites that depend on ad revenue

3. they realize content creators need to get paid


Truthfully, I've never run an ad blocker before, until over the summer I got extremely fed up with a particular web site that I keep going to out of old habit (slashdot.org). A couple times I left a browser tab on the site, and in the middle of the night some video ads started playing through the computer speakers. And over the summer, I was at the camper on a hotspot connection, and accidentally burned through my entire month's bandwidth allotment because accidentally left their front page open when I went hiking for a few hours. Again, those aggressive video ads.

So I installed an ad blocker, which actually made my 3g wifi hotspot usable over the summer. (Yes, I should stop visiting sites that get too annoying with aggressive ads, or I should just selectively block those sites).


Omg, what the hell kind of dark pattern is it that waits 10 minutes to start playing an audio ad?

It's one of those "I bet someone got a nice bonus for that" ideas that destroys user trust: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/oldnewthing/archive/2006/11/01/92244...


Omg, what the hell kind of dark pattern is it that waits 10 minutes to start playing an audio ad?

Slashdot's audio ads don't wait 10 minutes to start. Slashdot's much hated auto-refresh "feature" is to blame.

It periodically refreshes the page and brings you a new crop of ads, some of which might be audio ads.

The auto-refresh "feature" merely exists to increase their ad revenue. Nobody I know likes the auto-refresh feature, as it just causes you to lose your place on the page.


If you serve audio ads on site with text content at all, you are a complete moron. The only thing they'll do is advertise the use of AdBlock.


Truthfully, I've never run an ad blocker before, until over the summer I got extremely fed up with a particular web site that I keep going to out of old habit (slashdot.org). A couple times I left a browser tab on the site, and in the middle of the night some video ads started playing through the computer speakers. And over the summer, I was at the camper on a hotspot connection, and accidentally burned through my entire month's bandwidth allotment because accidentally left their front page open when I went hiking for a few hours. Again, those aggressive video ads.

Slashdot's auto-refresh, which can't be disabled without some technical tinkering, is horrible, just horrible. I've left feedback that they should include an option to disable auto-refresh, but was ignored. I guess it's more profitable to ignore your users and force more ads on them.

I installed Adblock Plus and tweaked some Chrome settings to get the system to mostly ignore Slashdot's horrible auto-refresh. It still sometimes scrolls my page a bit, though, which is still annoying.


A lot of us install ad-blockers because :

1. We want to speed up web-browsing experience.

2. Save internet bandwidth.

3. Are quite tired of highly intrusive, epileptic-seizure-inducing flash ads (some of them with audio).

4. Security reasons ( I personally use Noscript which has the side-effect of blocking ads)

5. Simply refuse to accept tracking cookies.

I wouldn't mind viewing unobtrusive text or image ads without tracking cookies (eg: StackOverflow) but very few websites actually implement those. I asked the owner of Phoronix.com about this a while back (who also seems to be having issues with the financial side of things)- Basically unobtrusive ads have much lower value than the obtrusive ones.


Just to add a data point: I occasionally read Dr. Dobbs. I don't have an ad blocker installed.


I am really fascinated that this has only happened in the last 18 months? Why? It seems to have always been true?


You know someone who bought 2 items based on ads they saw on a website? You must keep interesting company.


I can guess as to a few reasons:

- Many websites these days are designed to get you to "accidentally" click on ads if you're using a mobile device. I'm not at all surprised that advertisers are catching on to this.

- Websites (CNN, I'm looking at you) that move around to trick you into clicking on ads.

- Autoplay video ads that almost make ad blocking software mandatory.


The view I've seen chucked round a lot is that social ads (i.e. Facebook) are much more effective than almost anything except a Google ad that is on a Google search results page. This is especially the case if you're trying to build awareness of a product a viewer would have no reason to otherwise search for in the first place.

This point is likely to prove very contentious thanks to a critical mass of HNers with vested interest on either side.


Agreed; social ads are just a more refined version of banner ads. You can push ads at your target demographic until the cows come home, but ultimately the effectiveness of that strategy will be upper bounded by that of sending Shutterfly link to somebody who just Googled "photo prints". Anecdotally, the only ads I have ever clicked and not regretted it were served up by Google.


The ads I clicked and actually found a lot of value in were for small speciality stores on small specialized websites. The thing is, I never see most ads because I run ghostery and https everywhere (no adblock necessary, not sure which of the two does the job though). The ones I see are mostly the useful ones not served by a network.


Adblock is pretty ubiquitous in developer circles?


The sad thing about ad blocking is the advertisers and website owners essentially forced me into using it.

I didn't use any adblocker software until earlier this year (much to the surprise of many other developers I talk with who adopted it much earlier). While I also didn't click many ads, I figured the least I could do for all the free content I was consuming was keep the ads showing.

Then the line between what used to be "real" sites and clickbait sites began to blur rapidly (see, for example, the weather channel site which is now basically a clickbait digital tabloid) and advertisements on "real" sites got really pushy in ways that would previously only be done on sketchier sites, popping open tabs I never requested, etc.

I eventually hit an annoyance level where I was forced to install an adblocker just to keep using the web.


Yeah, I couldn't stand seeing all of those content marketing advertorial blocks with the photoshopped-to-be-eyecatching/vaguely disturbing pictures anymore. I finally gave in earlier this year.


Same here, I always liked to support sites by having ads on or buying things I like on them.

But I have recently switched to ad blocking as well due to tracking and worse due to broadband caps.

I refuse to fill up my 400GB Cox cap with ads except on sites that deserve it. The content and marketing industries need to lobby hard against broadband caps to limit cuts into their industries, the broadband mafia wants their cut of every download and all ads run.


Yeah I would never want to sell a software product to attorneys (for liability reasons) or to software engineers (for piracy reasons).

When I was a computer consultant, I helped an attorney client install a software package that was specifically designed for attorneys to use. It didn't work as he had intended it to when he purchased it. So he asked for a ridiculous concession from them, was denied it so he filed a lawsuit against them. I imagine the company probably gets sued a few times per week with their litigious client base.


Most developers I know buy software if they like it, or perceive it to add value to them. Stealing software, as a developer - especially if it's good, and you depend on it, makes you a massive hypocrite if you get paid to create software other people use, and I think most of us have at least one time thought "Someone's job depends on purchasing this".

But you're spot on with attorneys. Worst customers I ever had was in the legal space. Not only do they get lawsuit happy, but there are a lot of attorneys out there being paid a lot of money because a very bad paper based system is still in place, and tech is not their friend.


I agree that software engineers certainly have more ability to pirate software, but I doubt that the rates of piracy are any higher than with the general population. For one thing, developers tend to have fairly good salaries, so there's less financial incentive for piracy. Also, you're depriving people in your own industry of income—I certainly wouldn't appreciate it if people pirated my products.

Regarding attorneys: I can't imagine that it's really that prevalent. Anyone who was that litigious would quickly gain a representation as such among the legal community.


Some people in tech will lie directly to your face about pirating your software and not feel at all bad when they are caught in it.


No doubt. But I'd posit that it's probably no more prevalent among those in tech compared to the general population.


And it's so effective I forget it's running until I use a web browser without (like say my iPad) and realize how much ads some sites have.


Yes, and if everybody will do like you you'll soon find nothing interesting to read, because every free content website will end like DrDobbs.


The unscrupulous advertising practices out there (e.g. straight-up malware deliver) make it too dangerous to not run ad-blockers. Until the security issues around advertising are addressed adequately, I consider blocking entirely ethical. Compare it to the idea of Target shaming users for not trusting them with their credit card info.

Besides, I expect direct patronage models to supplant advertising for smaller sites sooner rather than later. And yes, I already use Patreon.


Any recommended reading for how direct patronage will work, and how it differs from a paywall? Thanks.


I can't think of any reading off the top of my head, but Patreon and other services usually work this way: many creators provide their primary work (the web comic, the podcast, etc.) for free, regardless of backing. Backers typically get extras. For example: I received a digital sketch of my choice for backing a comic artist.


Look-up Patreon.com. It works by people opting to either donate money for a specific project, a certain amount of money a month, or a certain amount of money per article/comic/video etc.

There are no paywalls, it is like a wealthy patron paying for a public concert.


> Yes, and if everybody will do like you you'll soon find nothing interesting to read, because every free content website will end like DrDobbs.

Ad-blocking is a necessary form of protection from corporate stalking.

It wouldn't be necessary if advertisers would restrict themselves to tracking what's necessary to create a functional ad (browser, capability, etc.). But they are bound and determined to mine for every possible bit of information they can and that's where I draw the line.

If you wouldn't want an individual doing that, why on <deity>'s green earth would would want some anonymous company doing it in an automated fashion such that they can almost guarantee a far more exact picture of you? Does this not completely subvert the idea of privacy? Especially when security is not absolute guarantee?

I think if people really, truly understood just how easy it is to collect the data, store the data and then still manage to get it wrong, they'd be horrified beyond belief. I'm sure a lot of people here have some inkling of how that's done, but if that could be communicated to the people who aren't as tech-savvy ...

Well, sad to say, there'd be a lot of pitchforks and torches and still nothing would be truly done about it.

But it's nice to think about burning down some corporations and lining up a few executives against the wall.


> Ad-blocking is a necessary form of protection from corporate stalking

To give a concrete example in support of your statement, here is what Dr.Dobb's does in the web page of the article on topic (and I did have click-to-play enable, might have been worst without it) for someone without a blocker:

    cmp.112.2o7.net
    a.adroll.com
    d.adroll.com
    ct1.addthis.com
    m.addthis.com
    s7.addthis.com
    ib.adnxs.com
    secure.adnxs.com
    adserver.adtechus.com
    imp2.bizographics.com
    js.bizographics.com
    www.bizographics.com
    admin.brightcove.com
    i.cmpnet.com
    disqus.com
    content.dl-rms.com
    drdobbs.disqus.com
    googleads.g.doubleclick.net
    www.drdobbs.com
    a.disquscdn.com
    img.drdobbs.com
    s2150.t.eloqua.com
    s657486201.t.eloqua.com
    img.en25.com
    connect.facebook.net
    s-static.ak.facebook.com
    static.ak.facebook.com
    fbstatic-a.akamaihd.net
    www.google.ca
    www.google.com
    www.google-analytics.com
    partner.googleadservices.com
    www.googleadservices.com
    ajax.googleapis.com
    pagead2.googlesyndication.com
    tpc.googlesyndication.com
    www.googletagservices.com
    ml314.com
    platform.linkedin.com
    www.linkedin.com
    static.licdn.com
    i.techweb.com
    ins.techweb.com
    ng.techweb.com
    platform.twitter.com
    cdn.syndication.twitter.com
    twimgs.com
    thewallstreetwiki.com
    i.ubm-us.net
    dev.visualwebsiteoptimizer.com
Ads are just the visible tip of the data-mining iceberg.


Also, this load error. If your user name is dblake, watch out! "Not allowed to load local resource: file:///Macintosh%20HD/Users/dblake/.launchpad/cm001.ubm-us.net/cache/defau…ache/default/main/Images/ddj/WORKAREA/ddj/v2/css/SeanStuff/superfooter.css"


I like you, think that ad tracking is a little "overbearing". That said, I'm interested in knowing if you have any type of rewards cards or saver-club cards (super market, clothing stores, etc) from the physical stores you shop at?


Not the addressed poster, but regarding rewards cards (that I avoid as well) vs ad tracking: You only show your rewards card when buying something in the store the card is valid in/offered by, not when entering a random 3rd party building or when crossing the street. But ad tracking (especially retargeting) spies on you whenever you browse the web without precaution.


No, I don't have rewards cards, etc. Aside from my grocery store, I don't shop at any one store regularly enough for the savings to overcome my queasiness about the information gathering. I have had so-called Loyalty Cards in the past, but they didn't increase my loyalty. My opinion is that the stores are instead ripping off the people who don't have them.

There's no need for my grocery store to know that I, personally, use a particular type of condiment or toothbrush. The aggregate sales should be enough to determine what they need to buy and advertise.

None of this should suggest I'm some kind of altruist, except in the sense that I believe in level playing fields. Also, I'm human so some irrationality or self-interest is sometimes OK.


In the internet era you simply don't need a multinational corporation to publish your blog post for you. They're already being published for free.

You still need a trusted editor to collect and curate... but that editor certainly doesn't need the multinational corporation, not anymore. Its not 1975 and ink on paper.

The future probably looks a lot like "Clojure Gazette", which is a curated edited list of links to blog posts and projects focusing on a rather small field, and THE (emphasis, "the") only human involved is a trusted editor and he gets beer money plus considerable fame out of being the editor.

Reading between the lines, at Dr Dobbs a small team can pull down less than a million bucks. To a multinational megacorporation, thats hopeless, sunset it. Divided among a very small team, however, that's one heck of a lifestyle business...


You could make exactly the same comment in regard to clicking ads and buying things from ads. If everybody stopped doing that then ads would become valueless and ad revenue would go away. The thing is, a lot of people who use ad block never click on ads to start with.

The idea that people should be forced to suffer, by viewing ads that are useless to them, in exchange for viewing free content is a very silly concept born of puritanical ideals. If a site can't sustain itself with users running ad block then it needs to figure out a better business model, period.


No, there will be left free some small percentage of useful content, maybe 00,01% or less. And personally for me, these several tens of millions of pages left will be enough.

Additionally some will survive on subscriptions.


No, that's not strictly true. People will always do what they enjoy whether money is attached to it, whether they'll go to jail for it, or otherwise.


Disagree. I'd rather pay (a reasonable amount) for a subscription, than put up with cluttered UX.


Are you currently subscribing to a mag/journal/newspaper?


Especially of a magazine in the area of software development.


Get some Ghostery on that iPad. It's horribly buggy, but at least it's better than the web with ads.


Certain circles but I don't install AdBlock because of the huge performance hit and because I've seen plenty of false bug reports caused by malfunctioning ad-blocking extensions.

It's much easier, not to mention safer, to uninstall Flash and stop visiting sites which don't respect their audience.


for the first part, try µblock[0], it's incredibly better than AB and ABP.

[0] https://github.com/gorhill/uBlock


I am think that almost all people in tech would be using adblock.


I don't run AdBlock, but I do run Disconnect. I have nothing against advertising, but I don't like being tracked around the internet.

Running Disconnect without AdBlock is an interesting experience. It shows whose ads are trying to track you, and who just wants to show you ads.


I'm one of the few then. I feel so special! (To be fair, I have to click to start Flash, because I haven't updated it and Firefox says it has security holes, which helps a lot.)


It's amazing you got downvoted for non running ad-blocking software.

I've never run AdBlock or any "stop viewing ads" software. I have run NoScript and those variations, which sometimes kills ads as a side-effect.


This, then, is the price of adblock?


Well, it seems that vendors have decided web advertising is not valuable even among user demographics that don't block ads. AdBlock may not be making all that much difference if the basic problem is that people ignore ads even when they see them.

That said, there must still be some value in brand recognition. I guess it's just not as much value as vendors had previously ascribed to these ads.


Its the price of ad models that (generically) overwhelm content and users.


I think the reach is well beyond tech now. People have figured out they can watch youtube without ads by installing adblock. For me that was a huge incentive and it effectively have made my online experience better.

For those that claim this is stealing, that would imply that there was an explicit price with click to purchase button to view the webpage. There is no entitlement to the website operator, any ad click or donation is completely up to the discretion of the visitor. To claim people are stealing by using adblock is arrogance.


> People have figured out they can watch youtube without ads by installing adblock

I've seen AdBlock Plus fail on YouTube in a particularly annoying way--the ads that consist of a long video (often 2 minutes or more) with a "you can skip this ad in 5 seconds" overlay that counts down and turns into a skip button are shown--but with that overlay and skip button removed!

I recently installed AdBlock (at home) and AdBlock Plus (at work), and I'm not really impressed. At most sites, ads did not bother me. I installed these because of one particular site that was getting too obnoxious. That was gocomics.com. They started running frequent ads that expand on the left side of the page, which would often push the end of the comic I was reading off the right side of the page.

I'd much prefer if I could have these off for most sites, and only block ads on specific sites that I find overly aggressive. They support this, but there doesn't seem to be a good interface to manage it, and it looks like it would get impractical to deal with a lot of sites that way.


I use adblock plus and haven't seen a youtube ad in a few years now.


Adblock is stealing. I'm pretty sure it's not the case that "amost all" people in tech have no integrity.


On your commute, you're passing a McDonald's store every day. You know it's there, but you never buy food there for whatever reason. Are you stealing?

I'd rather pay the site directly if they'd stop displaying ads. Several companies experiment with those kinds of revenue stream: OkCupid shows you this [1] banner encouraging you to pay 5$ if you're using an ad blocker. Reddit has the "gilding" concept. While I don't know if that pays out at the end of the day, I'd rather pay the site directly than having them to rely on distracting and sometimes malicious ads which load 3 embedded flash player objects and destroy the site's performance.

By relying on ads, sites naturally introduced a terrible usability. Notice how many times you encounter a complete page reload where a simple AJAX call would have done the job better? That's because you sell a certain number of page impressions to advertisers, and the sooner they're used up, the sooner you get paid. The complete system is a mess.

[1] http://cdn.okccdn.com/media/img/template/image.png


> On your commute, you're passing a McDonald's store every day. You know it's there, but you never buy food there for whatever reason. Are you stealing?

That analogy doesn't work very well in this context. A more realistic example would if they were giving away cookies in exchange of you getting inside and see their advertising and one friends of yours gets inside and take several cookies so you and your other friends don't have see the ads.

It wouldn't be stealing because the cookies are "free" but still you might feel like taking advantage.

I am agree with you and I would rather pay for the site but many people won't and that's exactly why several content providing are having troubles with ad-blockers.


If you want a physical cookie analogy, its more like going to a real estate open house knowing you have no interest whatsoever in buying that house, yet still eating a free cookie. You walk in, the house reeks of cat pee, no Fing way, but those are tasty looking cookies...

I wouldn't break into your house and steal your cookies, but if you put up signs all over advertising your open house with free cookies, if you twist my arm enough I'll cave in and show up and eat a cookie. Just don't be annoyed at me when I don't buy the house. Practically no one purchases, anyway.


> Just don't be annoyed at me when I don't buy the house. Practically no one purchases, anyway.

Exactly my point... just are just taking advantage of the "free content". And everybody go for the cookies. Then they will be stop offering cookies (even though there were really good cookies)


> I'd rather pay the site directly if they'd stop displaying ads.

Me too. Problem. All sites that offer subscription require way more money for it than their revenue I gave them by watching ads.

There is no convenient way to give a couple of cents to a site, to replace lost revenue.


Tiny payments and payment gateway fees ~_~


I've never purchased through an online ad, I don't have any disposable income. If you don't want me to visit your site then you're welcome to paywall it - but I'm saving resources by blocking ad loading. If you put content on a website then you put it there free, that's the ethos of the web, I do it too - you're welcome to put up adverts of course but there's no contract between us that necessitates my consumption of those ads.

If you want to block those using adblockers then it's possible, any indication that those with adblockers are unwelcome will certainly be respected by me; I'll just find another source, maybe Google's cache. Oh, you don't want Google to cache your site, well you know what to do, it's easy to prevent.

Personally I started with adblockers when ads went dynamic, motion distracts my eye too much and means I can't read the content. In-your-face-ads make me determined not to buy from those companies - most of which don't sell in my country anyway, it seems.

If Adblocking is stealing then so is shutting your eyes during ads at a cinema, or going to the toilet in a broadcast-TV advert break, or looking at an amusing billboard without checking who the advertising company is, ....


Not even close to it. You could say the opposite, in that some of these more obtrusive ads are stealing from the business they are supposed to be advertising with. Many times a small banner ad can inline flash objects, all kinds of mess to take over real-estate on a site, and the owner may not even know it. Then, an ad collects usage data on you, and sells it, without your consent, or worse?

And you say people with ad blockers have no integrity?


Stealing from who?


Content producers whose stream of income comes from ads.

I don't use an ad blocker. It's a form of piracy like torrents are. Getting content without paying. I'm also a content producer and i know it really hurts the already weak sustainability of content websites.


I don't understand why a comment like this gets downvoted.


Considering the Veronica Mars movie[1] hit 5MUSD funding, I wonder what it would take for a subscriber-only Dr. Dobbs journal to hit 3M with the premier tier being a one year subscription? At 10 USD/month, that's 25 000 backers?

[1] https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/559914737/the-veronica-...

[Edit: I forgot a big thank you! I still remember reading the article on red-black trees in my teens. Took me many years to realize the significance - but we learn best by streching up, to that which is just out of reach.]


>Dr. Dobb's, we had close to $3 million in revenue, almost all of it from advertising

Is that actual quote from the site? Since now it just says: "Dr. Dobb's, we had healthy profits and revenue, almost all of it from advertising"

I'm just curious how they would manage to spend $3 MILLION in 4 years and how it wouldn't be profitable to run a website that was ONLY $1 million revenue.

I've never even heard of the site until now, so I have no idea what they are doing, but it really seems odd that money was an issue if you are raking in millions.


It's mostly before my time, but they used to be a prominent tech journal, started in the late 70s and were fairly popular in the 90s.

In my head I picture them as a small company, not just "some website". $1m in revenue doesn't make for a very large company. I'm curious how they morphed in size over time and what their expenses were.


As I said I have no idea what they did and maybe I'm just being naive, but $1 million per year seems like plenty to keep a website online.


$1 million per year is plenty to just keep a website online. It's not that much if you also want to pay people a decent wage to produce world class content to put on the site.

I'm guessing the choices they faced was between a slow multi-year slide along:

cut costs->lower quality content->less viewers->less money->cut costs...

and simply seeing the writing on the wall and calling it quits before they hit rock bottom. I guess a third option would be to take The New Republic route and throw out everything the current audience loved about the magazine and try to create a new, entirely different product, with the same name but focusing a potentially more profitable market. But I respecting for not wanting to go that route either.


Rather than repeat the same information, see my response to this question asked earlier: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=8759328


That still doesn't answer how to managed to spend $4 million a year


Jeez, I'd be pretty happy with $1 million in revenue.

I guess if that doesn't cover the expenses to create the kind of content that gets you $1 million in revenue, then the numbers are wrong, but I find that hard to believe.


We paid our authors, columnists, and bloggers. And paid a staff of 2.5 full-time employees and a salesperson. Add benefits, insurance, rent, hosting costs, and taxes--and you're not looking at a lot of profit left over.


That's the sad thing: you're saying that it still turns a net profit after paying all of its staff and costs, and yet that's apparently not enough to keep it running.


It will turn a minimal profit this year, but we could find no way to project a profit for next year or the year after.


Personally I would do like RailsCasts.com and ThatGuyWithTheGlasses.com (now ChannelAwesome.com), two sites I frequent, did... offer pro accounts.

Pro accounts could:

1) remove all advertising from the site. 2) have access to content early like drafts of upcoming articles 3) have access to revised or updates to articles 4) allow people to recommend articles

the list could go on, you'll probably think of a thousand things that I couldn't since I'm not in marketing.


At first, I was wondering why not just sell the business? Who knows, you might have tried? After thinking about it some more, since it's your baby--why take the chance of letting some with more money than taste/knowlege blow it up? I understand your decision to close it down. I hope you keep talking about the efficacy of Internet advertising--the real truth. I'll follow you on Twitter.


$1 million is what a medium-sized bakery turns over.


Andrew, it's been an honor and a privilege to be able to write for Dr. Dobb's, the greatest of the programming magazines. Dr. Dobb's has been an enormously positive influence on the industry. I am very sad to see the end of the era.

Thank you and Deirdre and the rest of the DDJ staff for your awesome work!


Thank you, Walter. It's been a pleasure having you blog for us. Good luck with the continued advancement of D.


Thank you to both of you and all the staff. In the wasteland of "computer" magazines, DDJ was a real gem, it stayed true, there was something interesting in every edition (truly impressive) and it really had a great f-ing run. It was the "good stuff"

thanks


It sounds like there was no vetting of alternative monetization strategies for the website. I say this because it looks like the site is still running direct-to-advertiser deals, when they could open their remnant inventory up to auction systems via an SSP and tie in yield optimization strategies with their sales team.

If the site has high quality traffic and 10MM pv/month they shouldn't be closing the doors. Based on a 5 minute look at the website and some of the ads seems like the site is restricting its ad revenue to software industry vendors when they could open it up to the rest of the advertising world that wants to pay to serve an in-view ad to a real person with a software engineer's salary.


Do you think that no one at UBM, a company with more than 30 publications, thought of that?


I don't think anyone has.

I've never heard of UBM, but the article portrays it as a company with a vertically focused print and tradeshow revenue model that has a few web properties.

The 1996 website monetization model has been disrupted within the last 5 years with ad exchanges that hold auctions in real-time, and most companies with roots in print don't have a clue whats happening in their industry - see new york times, time magazine, plenty more whose traditional ad sales revenues are plummeting

IMO a web property would fail to adapt to the modern revenue model because 1) C level execs don't know what to change it to, 2) they don't understand the new model, or 3) they think that auction based CPMs will be too low so they haven't tested it. In the case of DrDobbs.com with solid traffic and a high quality, established b2b audience, not sure it makes sense to fold the property.

Disclaimer: I used to work at an ad agency and I now work at a data company for ad exchanges.

Edit: here is a 3rd party source on growth in the RTB channel, to which UBM has no exposure: www.emarketer.com/Article/US-Programmatic-Ad-Spend-Tops-10-Billion-This-Year-Double-by-2016/1011312


It seems to me like this article is a concession towards the fact that they haven't thought of anything. They are already profitable. That means that they have money to experiment with additional monetization strategies that would NOT involve simply closing.


Thanks for that.

A few years ago, that would be 20 or so, a friend loaned me a CD with all the magazine text from inception until that time. Is there any chance for a final "all of ddj" DVD?


Good idea. I'll look into that!


I'd be interested in this too. Linux Journal puts out their annual DVDs; I tend to buy the latest and gift last year's onwards.


Oh, how I wish back-issue collections also included the advertisements that ran in them.

Just the same as old comic books were filled with brine shrimp and muscle building ads, I would look forward to seeing those old ads about compilers that were _only_ $199.99! and programs that "look the same on Windows, and on Macintosh!"

Seeing these things helps gives a context to the times in which they were printed, and allows for an appreciation for just how far we've come.


I would be extremely interested in this too. There's just so many fascinating articles.


Oh, yeah. I'd pay good money for that. It'd be fascinating from a historical perspective, as well as interesting and useful for the content itself.


Also put me down in the "shut up and take my money" category for this.


Good idea. And the project seems fit for a Kickstarter campaign.


I'd order one.


Me too.


Did you ever consider hosting your own job ads site? This is how Slashdot is still alive and maybe why Stack Overflow was made.

At $300 per ad, you'd need about 800 ads a month to reach $3 mil/year. Achievable?


There may be one thing companies might be willing to pay for that is specific to Dr. Dobbs. If you read that advanced article on C++ a few days ago, and you are now reading this in-depth description of scaling Linux internals, I very much would have a job for you. What other site can say the same?


Yes, this is actually one case where as a privacy conscious user, I would be ok with browsing data being used for job ad purposes. Also job ads are probably the only ones I click on. And if the ads are intra-site I don't think AdBlock would touch them (even if they do, their AdBlock detection script could say, "looking for a job? make an adblock exception for us", which is valuable data in itself). Besides, a link in the header to a job board might generate enough traffic alone.

Dr. Dobb's Jobs has a nice ring. And a freelancer board could be Dr. Dobb's Odd Jobs :)


Dr. Dobb's was such an integral part of my education that I feel like I've failed you in some way. I hope that the staff consider transfer their archives to archive.org.


They're currently selling version 6 of their developers DVD for like $75, also containing TPJ and sysadmin and dr dobbs up to -09 or so. I paid for my copy. Historically they've been civil about upgrade policy from old versions.

I would guess if that revenue stream dried up...


No questions, just sad to see it go. So long and thanks for all the fish.


Sad to hear about it.

I bought it every month since the early 90's until it went digital. Alongside Computer Shopper UK edition and The C User's Journal (latter The C/C++ User's Journal), Dr Dobbs was my door to the computing world.

In a country where BBS were too expensive for most families and the Internet was yet to come, I waited religiously for the next issue delivery.


Just to say thanks! I am 34 and and live in Brazil. The magazine was really expensive here, more than USD 30 per issue but still I got all issues. It helped me make my career path and I still cherish them a lot.

Thanks a lot for the hard work!


Not a question, just saying thanks. Your articles in the 1990s on VGA's modeX were the basis for a long-time obsession of mine: writing VGA graphic drivers to support better ways to display fractals. My college senior thesis was based on it.

Since then, Dr. Dobbs has been the shining example of highly technical material.

Thank you for everything your magazine meant.


Presumably UBM is willing to sell the brand? I can't say I'm terribly familiar with Dr Dobb's but it seems a terrible shame and quite inefficient that something in such high demand can't find a way to survive. Feels like there's a win-win situation hidden in the world somewhere that needs uncovered.


You could probably buy this brand for low 5 figures. 90% of magazines that have gone under in the past 15 years weren't even sold. The few that I've heard of that were went for super duper low numbers, like low 5 digits.


Is there a date to shut the site down forever? Or you will continue to operate "forever" with no new stuff?


No, there is no date currently planned. Parent company has guaranteed all content for at least a year, but I expect it will be available a long time beyond that. As I mentioned below, static content is cheap to host.


I'm very sorry to see it go. A nice collection of Dr. Dobb's magazines is an incredible personal resource. Any chance of donating a digital collection of the magazine to archive.org for posterity?


Will another dvd or download of the full content be made available? It's been quite some time since the last and it would make a nice parting gift to buy.


I've found Dr. Dobb's hugely useful over the years. I suspect mostly as a result of search queries; as I hadn't realised what a formidable team of contributors you had until this post. Sorry to see it go, and thank you!

Edit: I guess there's a lesson to be learned here, to try to be conscious of the things I use (I wasn't, really) and do what I can to support them.


hey Andrew,

I wonder if you could make enough revenue via crowdfunded support? Recurring subscriptions and one time contributions can really add up.

At Beacon, we helped Techdirt.com raise $70k to cover Net Neutrality full time.

I think your community is incredibly passionate and probably would cover what you need.

Email me (adrian@beaconreader.com if you're keen, we'd love to help (and give you a big discount on our cut).

cheers Adrian


Did you ever write up anything about that process? It sounds like an interesting story.


Thank you for the incredible work and continuing the Dr. Dobb's tradition for as long as you have.


You're very welcome. Thank you


Hi Andrew,

I'm curious to know - have you explored other forms of revenue like sponsored content. For instance there is a great deal of paid software out there and a great number of companies create infrastructure for complex software out there like (e.g. Hadoop). Today companies more than ever are pouring their advertising budgets into marketing budgets to create content around their brands... this could perhaps let you stay on mission creating valuable content for the most difficult software while providing a revenue source. I'm throwing out there what I'm sure you have already considered, but I hate to see a good thing go!


Under what company / trade name will you be operating your analyst business and what will your focus be? Will you be running a subscription-style analyst business or just writing white papers for hire?


I'll be working at pacificdataworks.com. My focus will be technology, with a special oritentation towards software development. The analysis will mostly be done privately for clients. For example, they'll say "we can't figure our why our JIRA competitor isn't getting any traction. Can you review our product, JIRA and these two lesser competitors and give us unbiased info on the pros and cons of each?"

It's amazing how difficult it is to do that kind of analysis in-house. For example, it's very difficult for companies to look at a special feature they added at great cost and figure out why it's not getting traction or attention. Or they know but have no way to communicate the reality because of internal politics. So, having an outside voice say "this should be removed" or "this needs to have an API" or the like makes it much easier to have the conversation. And so on.


No questions here either, just condolences and thanks for everything.


Since Dr. Dobb's has some amount of brand recognition, would it be possible to capitalize on that? For example, maybe come out with a line of authoritative technical books that are Dr. Dobb's branded, that would end up having the same recognition as O'reilly's nutshell books? Then the website / magazine would end up functioning as a loss leader to promote the book series (or other ventures).


I wonder how much brand recognition Dr. Dobb's really has though. I certainly grew up with it, but how many 20 year old programmers even really know what Dr. Dobb's is, let alone have a strong positive association with the brand?


Well I for one had no idea who or what Dr. Dobb's was before this submission.


Me neither. I am 25 and have never heard or come across this site through Google or any other way. Judging from the upvotes this article has, a lot of HN readers clearly know and care about this. I am curious as to what demographic, age-group, was drdobbs popular with. Was it something like Slashdot which was popular back in the day?


In the 80's and early 90's Dr Dobbs was probably the eminent source of advanced programming knowledge, and a pretty huge influence on programmer culture in general. It was for example the place where the GNU manifesto was initially published, and many of the big name programmers of the day where regular contributors.

It also published a number of fairly legendary article series where many of its readers got their first introduction to topics like operating system design or writing your own C compiler. So basically if you programmed in the 80's or 90's it was most likely a huge influence on you.


Ah ok. I wonder whether they ever truly made the transition to the web, or how successful they were at attracting new readership or driving in search engine traffic.(I am basing this purely on the fact that I had never heard of them until now and that their website has never come up in search queries i make)


There was once a time, back in the mists of history, when we had to print our websites out and buy them from newsagents.


I've been programming off and on for about 35 years. Dr. Dobb's has been a part of that life the entire time.

Thank you. Best of luck to you.


First of all, I'd like to offer my appreciation to the Dr. Dobb's staff, along with Andrew Binstock (I thoroughly enjoyed and found myself nodding my head at articles such as "Just Let Me Code"[1]).

I still have some of the magazines from 1994 floating around. It's amazing how nostalgic they are now—but the pouring back over those magazines brings me back to my younger days where computers were more mysterious, and creating things was more magical.

Dr Dobbs provided a great service. They offered informative articles on not only programming, but also on the user experience, design, IDEs, math, and the whole "programmer" gamut—and they did such a wide spread without losing quality. I do wish you could name an alternative to this, but I find myself coming up empty, as well.

The same as you mentioned in regards to events, these types of information are now spread througout multiple sites: HN for general 'tech' news, MOOCs for programming, sometimes Reddit for actual helpful information. I look forward to seeing if people will try to fill this gap of an all-in-one hub, that also has quite knowledgeable authors.

I do wonder, this article mentions Dr Dobbs staying constant; constant in delivering quality articles, constant in its design, and so forth. Would you say this is an issue of not adapting to current trends (or "with the times")? It seemed [to me] that the move from print to digital was a late move that could have been done in a better way. While the content is great, I've ironically found the online site not as engaging as having the print copies in hand. I do not know many people who subscribe to online only publications, and of the ones I do know, they usually will go through a service such as Amazon.

Also, while I understand the anecdote about ad revenue and clicking, it does bring up a fair point. I do not know many tech saavy people who knowingly click on advertisements (if they're not blocked, to begin with). In fact, as a technician at an old job, we were told to warn the general public about what sites they visit, and to make sure they're not clicking on ads, as they might be "unscrupulous" [former manager's words].

Could this offer an opportunity for a company to come along and create and display advertisements that the majority of people will know are safe? While Googles ads have their name displayed, I know many people who feel "odd" seeing text ads, and feel they're trying to trick them. There must be a better way to make the user feel comfortable clicking, as well as letting them know the content and site they will go to are safe. Flash ads, and a mile long URL being pointed to are not going to do it.

[1] http://www.drdobbs.com/tools/just-let-me-code/240168735


What a sad, sad day. I grew up reading Dr. Dobb's, and learned a lot from it. Still remember some of the articles, more than 20 years later.

I used to buy the paper magazine every month. There was only one newsstand that would sell it, in a city 25 miles away from where I lived. It was worth it every time.

It'll be dearly missed.


Do you think there could ever be a revival of print programming magazines like DDJ? Blog posts on the web and whatnot can be nice and timely, but I really miss the older style of longer-form, curated, edited articles that I could physically hold in my hands and flip through each month.


I'd love to go back to a print magazine. The problem is that they're hugely expensive to produce, print, and mail. The economics of them are much worse than publishing online.


FWIW, I enjoy my monthly "Communications of the ACM". I'd recommend a membership if you don't mind spending the cash.


E.g. http://hackermonthly.com/

There is little editing going on there, though.


I saw this coming after the printed version was closed down and as a former subscriber I am very saddened by this news.

I believe the need for a high quality publication oriented to professional developers there still exists.

Where do you think people would be going now that Dr. Dobbs won't be available?


As I say in the article, it's hard to know where to go. There is nowhere I know of that covers the same ground (long-form articles, lots of code, algorithms, and serious reviews).


Thanks for your response! You guys will be missed for sure. Maybe the group (editors and contributors) could start a spin off?


Hey, not really a question, but.. thanks for making sure that all previous content stays up. I can't claim to have been an avid reader, but I've read several excellent articles on your mag, and knowing that it will always be available is a very generous gesture.


How about pivoting to a stack overflow model? You guys have a lot of smart people on staff, you could have them answer questions and form the core contributors and moderators of a question and answer site. You could then have a job site for backend revenue, etc.


The big lesson of StackExchange 1.0 is that the StackOverflow model does not so much create communities, as give existing communities a migration path. Unfortunately, Dr. Dobbs's legacy is largely a community of readers, not necessarily a community enthusiastic about crowd-source Q and A.


When will the site be switched off? I.e. when will links/bookmarks stop working?


UBM has guaranteed a minimum of 12 months. But I expect it will last much longer. Hosting static content is inexpensive.


Will the site's content be archived or published in some form or the other?


Do you think UBM would be amenable to a "Final Cut" of the Dr. Dobb's Developer's Library to include everything from Dr. Dobb's, C/C++ UJ, Sys Admin, etc?


Andrew: Alex Handy, here.

So sad to hear this. Dobbs was an institution, and a very respected one at that. Drop me a line, let me know what you're up to next.


Sorry if I missed you mentioning already, but did you attempt a paywall option like New York Times?


I'd just like to say thank you. Dr Dobb's was superb.


Have you guys thought of maybe opening up to allow submissions instead of paying the writers? I know plenty of people including me that enjoy writing and would submit to have blog posts as content on your site as well.


Did UBM attempt to sell DDJ before taking this step?


The only future for journalism might be reader revenue. Without it, everyone in this field were in danger of becoming a public relations or advertising company disguised as journalism.

I'm an editor at Programmer Magazine in China (http://special.csdn.net/programmercovers/), as a coincidence, after 14 years operation, we just release the last print issue last week and withdrawal towards the electronic version only. I think we share the similar experience and feeling about how the tech medias evolved recently.

But media is still a very active field, if you have read the New York Times innovation report that leaked earlier this year, you may get a mixed feeling that with the risks, there are still opportunities to build an independent site with in-depth articles, code, algorithms, and reliable product reviews, which quality media should have.

But unfortunately, most decisions were not made by the ones who love this career, have ability and skill to lead the change, and do not fear to face the risks.


We need more serious competition in the Ad market, someone that interrupts the status quo like Uber did for taxi business [and Google Ads previously did]. Let website owners host the Ads on their web server (no 3rd party scripts; would help also with noscript/adblock).

Today Google Ads and Amazon Referral with the new greatly reduced payments are the new problem. IMO pay per click (PPC) is a big problem (1. click fraud, 2. most people don't click anyway but seeing it still influence by seeing it, 3. adblock/noscript blocks 3rd-party scripts) and it got popular as Google introduced it in AdWords in 2002. Til 2002, cost per thousand impression (CPI) and cost per mille (CPM) where most used. CPI/CPM are the better model for website owners and company that run Ad-campaigns; PPC for Google an other ad networks.

Paywalls are not the answer, the WWW is successful because it is open.

Learn from the history: Microsoft's MSN started as serious competitor to WWW, and it was a fiasco in 1995. (I mean the original The Microsoft Network that came with Win95: http://winsupersite.com/windows-live/msn-inside-story (incl. photos)). Bill Gates even completely rewrote his "The Road Ahead" book half a year later - I have both editions, and almost every page has different wordings (MS Network, Information Highway -> Internet/WWW)


You do realize there is already heavy, impression-based competition going on in the ad market (google "real time bidding", for example)? That is exactly the kind of disruption you are asking for. AdSense is usually only used to fill remnant inventory; any big publisher uses a hybrid of real time bidding, direct sales and ad networks nowadays.

Running your own ad server is a big, big liability. While running a news website is mostly a read-operation, adservers are extremely write-heavy (every adview results in at least 2 write operations). Do that 10 time for every page view, and have 100 pageviews a second during peak times, and you suddenly find yourself becoming and engineering company instead of a publishing company.

Anyway, the scenario you are describing to "disrupt" to ad market is exactly the scenario we had in the 90s. Everyone was using phpAds, which could be embedded directly from within php, and advertisers ran almost exclusively CPM based campaigns. What happened? Publishers found out that their adserver was eating >95% of their server resources because frankly, adserving is HARD, and advertisers found that their ROI was crap because people didnt click ads.

The real disruption is already happening, in the background, far away from where the public looks -- real time bidding has completely disrupted the adserving market in the last two years, and more and more ad networks find themselves becoming irrelevant.

Disclaimer: i was co-founder and cto of an adserving platform.


RTB may be an answer, I am not sure it is the answer. It introduces some latency to the visitors, is very data heavy process and is realistically more a supplement than a disruption. (some fellows are a bit skeptical: http://adage.com/article/digitalnext/rtb-overhyped-technolog... )

If it's a race to the bottom like Uber than that's not good for website owners. And RTB automates just one side, the buyer side could/should be automated too.

All hassles aside, the best advertisement method for visitors and website owners would still be the old fashioned way of hosting the ads on the webserver itself and doing CPI/CPM (best as in not sitting in a glass house, and no need for Adblock/Noscript as last resort). Google used MySQL for Google Ads until ~2012, it should be fast enough for 95% of the websites. RTM is write heavy, old style CPM isn't by today's hardware standards.

The disruption could be to get more ad-buyers on this bandwagon (again). Only the website owner (theoretically) and (as good example) Amazon.com can provide good matching advertisement. I have yet to come across a Google Ad or one of the other ads that displays content that interests me at all.


> best advertisement method for visitors and website owners

The problem is, they are not the customer -- the advertiser is the customer. The measurability of internet advertising is also its fallacy: while in traditional media outlets, advertisers just keep buying and buying "because our managers will fire us if we do not get the advertising slots before black friday", on the internet, advertisers discover that their ROI of black friday ads is very low and adjust their willingness to pay premium prices for them accordingly.

You forget the constraints that advertisers have been putting onto CPM based campaigns also: for example, frequency capping is a common targeting mechanism since the 90s: only show my ad 3 times to the same visitor within a 30 minute timespan. It involves a lot of cookie processing, session logging (think about race conditions when multiple ads are requested in the same pageviews, etc).

If you have 20 campaigns running with a decent frequency cap, you can get a LOT higher average CPM than otherwise (because advertisers get a certain guarantee of the amount of exposures / visitor).

Anyway, I'm all for disruption, and I've been the technical lead of an adserving platform for almost 10 years -- and I'm glad I had an exit and can leave the market behind me. It's complex, margins are extremely low, and you are only able to disrupt if you cater to the advertisers, not to the publishers/visitors. The things that are currently disrupting the market are only in the best interest of the advertiser, because hey, that's where the money is coming from. One of the more scary startups I encountered in the last months I was active was a startup that linked location data to visitor cookies -- buying "bogus" facebook ads to link a cooke to a location, and using that information as feedback for offline advertising (for example, how many people are able to see our billboard daily? how many people were in the football stadium when we ran our ads?). All kinds of red flags privacy-wise, but that's where the market is moving. Google is moving towards abusing their cookie (they have one big "super"-cookie both for advertising and gmail and search -- you cannot opt out of targeted advertising without opting out of gmail) and linking mobile location data with the cookie on your desktop.

Disruption on the publisher/visitor side is nice in theory, but I am very afraid it does not work in practice.


> Without it, everyone in this field were in danger of becoming a public relations or advertising company disguised as journalism.

We're rather far along down that road already, from what I can tell, and the place it leads terrifies me.


The good news is millennials seem to really want to pay subscriptions for things rather than own them.

https://www.moviepass.com etc. I think even big chains like AMC are now offering subscriptions.

Maybe paywall is going to become less of a dirty word. Subscriber revenue/data is definitely more valuable & predictable.


I think what these guys (https://snowdrift.coop/) are doing might be useful for journalism, too.


And what about publications like AnandTech? Their editorial seems to be independent of sales, and they are still doing fine.


I remember when I was a 10-year-old kid and had just got my first computer, someone told me that if I really wanted to learn to program, I should get a subscription to Dr. Dobb's and read all the articles. So my dad dutifully got me a subscription and I read all the articles. A lot of it was over my head - there was a lot of C and assembly, a lot of optimized graphics or numerics algorithms - but still, it was one of the few sources of programming tips back then. There was no WWW, so you learned by buying reference books, magazines, playing around with the computer and seeing what happens, or getting the official reference documentation from the manufacturer.

I think that what killed Dr. Dobbs is ultimately that the Internet sparked a huge availability of quality programming info online, which drove the price of this info through the floor. I've spent my morning Googling obscure corner-cases for Django form validation; there are dozens of pages freely available in the official docs, StackOverflow, GitHub, blogs, etc. It's hard to compete with free.


I couldn't afford it every month but some of the ones I did get I read again and again. I remember Abrashes articles and thinking that I had so far to climb. I still do but the thing is I don't think I've ever come across content like it since. Another one I remember was an article by Douglas Hofstadter about metaphors. It wasn't just tech but a way of thinking about everything. And Swaine's flames for dessert!


> I think that what killed Dr. Dobbs is ultimately that the Internet sparked a huge availability of quality programming info online, which drove the price of this info through the floor.

I think it broke the market - but at the same time, very little online is of the same quality IMNHO. But some of it is just good enough that too many seem to stop paying for the really good stuff. Or paying for the privilege to get the ads that come with the really good stuff, more like. I'm actually a little shocked that something like DDJ would be happy on 3M revenue - feels like that should be easy to rack in on subscriptions for such a solid brand. I guess it isn't


Andrew,

this is sad news. Dr. Dobb's was always a beacon in the computer and software publication landscape, one I grew up with and I've cherished till today.

I still remember the moments of pride and the feeling of recognition when we've seen the first positive reviews of our work in Dr Dobb's many years ago - something that could only be achieved by the high standing and excellent editorial work of the magazine's team and efforts.

While it might be understandable from a financial or commercial point of view that it's better to stop now than later, hopefully there will be an agreement found with one of the big data center providers (IBM, MS, Google, AWS)to keep the current site online and the archives open for the many who certainly will find inspiration and guidance in much of what had been written in Dr Dobb's during almost 40 years.


It's guaranteed to be up for a year at least, and probably much longer after that. If a major host or ibiblio wanted to guarantee its availability by hosting it permanently, I expect UBM (the parent company) would be amenable. Not right now, but perhaps at the one-year mark.


Presumably, if the content will no longer be changing, one push it out to a set of static pages and host it on a single instance in EC2, if it is clearing several hundred thousand a year in its current ad clicks that would pay a system administrator and general "minder"'s salary.

I find it particularly poignant because I recently scanned in my copies of the early compendium volumes "running lite without overbyte" which I had bought at the West Coast Computer Faire so long ago. Unwilling to keep the large format books around, they live on as searchable PDFs on my iPad.


I think archive.org can almost certainly be relied on to ensure Dr. Dobb's remains available for a long time to come.


DDJ and CUJ (C User's Journal) were two very good magazines that I used to read a lot. BYTE (more so in its earlier years) was another one on the same lines. Can't forget some of the regular contributors to BYTE, for example (and I don't mean just Jerry Pournelle, though his column was entertaining too). Heck, I used to read Steve Ciarcia's Circuit Cellar column out of interest, even though I was not into electronics. So well done, the articles, the photos, etc. I still remember, in one of the first BYTE issues that I read, a very good introduction to Huffman coding by Jonathan Amsterdam. And so many other such good articles, in all three of those magazines ...


I loved Creative Computing. I'm very happy the issues are in archive.org.


I think there are some BYTE issues in there too.


Yes. Incredibly fun to read.


Back in the 80's DTACK Grounded and Micro Cornucopia, then later Computer Language and DrDobbs (remember those Cauzin soft strips?). Now I just depend on HN posters to TLDR stuff for me unless a subject really grabs me.


Had read about those strips but never tried them. Cool.


They can pry my stack of paper magazines from my cold, dead hands.

Seriously now, I read Abrash's stuff on Dr Dobb's, and it was that magazine (above all others) that instilled in me the idea that coding was above and beyond the drudgery we waded through in college - that it was an art form that emerged from systematic thought process and a deep understanding of how bend technology to your will.

I just hope they don't dilute the brand -- I can see someone having the bright idea of setting up a Programming 101 kind of site under that name a couple of years down the road, and really hope someone, somewhere, somewhen, will pick up the torch and make sure it stays associated with "true masters" (if there is such a thing).


Ugh! God no. You've just depressed me even more!


Apologies, I've definitely spent too long in big corporates :(

(like many folk, I sometimes feel Scott Adams is drawing Dilbert while watching a live feed from our office)


When I was still a boy, I would run down to the local pharmacy nearly weekly and eagerly check the magazine rack for new copies of Dr. Dobb's Journal. It was the main pipe through which I learned about the beautiful and intricate world of programming.

I tossed all those magazines in a fit of purging when I was leaving home and heading to college. There may be a handful still in some storage box.

Thanks, Dr. Dobb's.


I was a loving subscriber in the 1990s, and looked forward to each new edition. I even succeeded in having an article of mine in the 25 year anniversary edition (at http://www.drdobbs.com/cpp/making-c-extensions-more-pythonic... ).

It was at the same time first visited Sweden, where I now live, and I remember the thrill of seeing Dr. Dobb's, with my article, on the newsstand in this foreign land.

Now I read blogs and HN links to some of the things I once got from Dr. Dobb's, that newsstand no longer exists, and neither is Dr. Dobb's.

Life is change. Thanks, Dr. Dobb's!


10m views, $1m rev. $100/cpm seems like they're overachieving when based purely on views. Nothing to be done there.

It's a shame I've read Dr. Dobbs for I don't know how long. They should sell to someone, keep it alive.


Agreed, a $100 RPM is insane! That means a few years ago, they pushed a $300 RPM.

For that kind of revenue, it sure seems like there's a viable business there...

What am I missing?


Indeed, it appears that the root problem is not that web advertising is in decline (which it isn't), but that there aren't enough M's in that very respectable RPM estimate. Probably due to the site being a cluttered, unfocused mess with errors galore. (Not just dated but often literally broken. http://www.drdobbs.com/database/image-compression-via-compil... )

I say that in the spirit of tough love, as Dr. Dobbs has always been a brand I trust to deliver quality content - when I can find it and it's legible.


So I decided to read some stuff on there today and after a couple of articles I got sent to a forced "login or register" page as my 2 article limit was up. No wonder the Ms are limited!


Our RPM was always comparable to the rest of the industry. Revenue, especially three years ago, had multiple components other than pure ad placements. I can't get into too much of the details (for obvious reasons).


It's not obvious to me why you can't share lessons from a failed business model?


Because he doesn't own that information and most likely signed legal documents forbidding him from revealing it.


Programming has changed substantially from when I first started. It used to be I'd have to wait for a ride to the local mall or book store from my parents, and then quickly wade through the programming books looking for one or two to purchase and thereby expand my knowledge.

I remember when I bought The Waite Group's Turbo-C Bible that came out in 1988. I practically had the thing memorized.

Today, my IDE does a tremendous job of guessing what I'm trying to do. Google does great work at telling me what's causing error messages that occur while I'm debugging. It can also give me example code of almost exactly what I'm trying to do in the exact language I'm trying to do it in (and probably a dozen other languages to boot).

We seem to have gone from an era requiring pre-knowledge programming to an era allowing just-in-time-knowledge programming. Dr. Dobbs was a great part of the old era and I'm sad to see it go.


What I found most interesting from this post was revenue. Here is a respected brand, with reasonable amounts of traffic, and multiple employees (Andrew mentioned himself and a sales team), that is doing < $1M in revenue. Even 4 years ago, they were doing ~$3M in revenue.

This is the reality of most businesses. Yes, most people know they won't be a Facebook or a Instagram, but those insanely high numbers have skewed what "success" means in a lot of people's minds. 99.999% of businesses don't making tens of millions of dollars with a handful of 20-somethings.

Success in business is surviving for a non-trivial amount of time

http://www.inc.com/magazine/201407/jason-fried/the-challenge...


That's silly. 38 years is longer than the 25 year threshold for "long haul" used by that essay.

Success also means knowing when to stop, but even then "sunset" in this context doesn't mean to stop. Doug Kaye did an excellent closing-up-shop podcast for the end of IT Conversations describing why he chose to "sunset" the site, rather than work to keep the site going or shut it down completely.

For that matter, I've closed my consulting business in the US when I moved away. That company was a success, even though it no longer survives.


I think you misunderstood. I believe Dr Dobbs has been very successful.

My point is that "success" for a company does not mean billions of dollars or hundreds of millions of dollars. Success can mean hundreds of thousands or even less. Success can mean a business that supports its employees for years and years and years. Dr Dobbs is a good example of a success without all that craziness.

Unfortunately, HN and the tech scene as a whole focuses a ton of attention on these massive massive valuations and exits. This distorts what "success" means and places it on an near impossibly high pillar.


You are right; I misunderstood you. My ex-company should instead be seen as one of many examples of a successful, short-term (<10 year) companies that have since ceased to operate.


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