You might be wondering why you've gotten this page instead of a more traditional registration screen. For the answer, please read on.
In the beginning, when we were small, registration was completely open. You filled out the signup form, and you were instantly given an account and could post. This worked well for awhile.
Then on January 13th of 2007 we had our first spammer sign up and post a topic spamming some diet product. I banned the person and nuked the topic and didn't think much else of it. Over the month that followed we had a few minor spamming incidents, dealt with in the same manner. Then on February 5th, 2007 we had someone sign up and post a topic full of links to porn sites. Sadly, before any moderators saw the post and nuked it, one of our unsuspecting members clicked on one of those links (not realizing what it was) while they were at work. I was upset that it had happened and then realized we were getting too big for open registrations. At that point registrations were set to require my approval before becoming active.
At first, approving new members was not a big deal as most signups were legitimate, and the spammers were still relatively few and easy to spot. As the site and our membership grew, we became a more visible and attractive target for the spammers. Not only did the number of spammer signup attempts increase, but their sophistication in trying to conceal that they were spammers also improved. Fortunately, most of these spammer account signup attempts are automated "bots" and I've developed a good knack for spotting them. I'm happy to say that since I've been manually approving new members, we've not had a single incidence of spamming.
Unfortunately, the situation now is that the biggest labor I have in keeping up the forums is screening and approving new member signups -- with spam signups outnumbering legitimate ones. I think the fact that members are manually approved has contributed greatly to the amazing sense of community that we have here. "Altercations" are rare, and the members genuinely care about and for one another -- something that could never happen on "open" sites where people sign up for an account just to "make fun of the fat people" (which I saw on so many other forums). Unfortunately however, this administrative duty leaves me less time (or sometimes no time) to do what is more important, which is post and support people.
Sadly, once I do all the work to approve people, many times those new members then do not post or contribute in any meaningful way (or at all). Many post once or twice and then drift away, and some post one or two rehashed questions (that are answered by the FAQ) and are never heard from again. With these members, I end up feeling like my time was not well invested in approving their account because the net benefit to our community was small, or even negative. That said, there are likely many people who would like to join, and are not yet ready to post and be fully active, but who's donation could nonetheless support the infrastructure of the forums, thereby benefiting all.
Also, we have many people that sign up for an account, just to use the ticker system and get access to the before/during/after picture gallery (which is visible to members only). This has the effect of increasing our bandwidth utilization (which costs money), using more disk space (which costs money), but with no benefit of them participating in and contributing to our community.
Administrative issues aside, there are costs to keeping the site online. For the first year or so of operation, my friend Frank graciously hosted us on his server and bandwidth and we weren't paying for anything. As the site grew and our disk and bandwidth demands increased, I felt it only fair to share the expense with Frank (he'd never ask for it). When hardware upgrades are needed to accommodate expansion, improve reliability, or make repairs, I always volunteer to pick up that tab because I think it's only fair. To this point I have absorbed those costs.
As the site gets more popular and more well known, all of these factors scale.
In looking for solutions to these issues, what I found is that many sites with similar type subject matter to ours (and presumably similar administrative and expense issues) have "solved" the problem by simply closing the site to any new members (with a "we have enough people" attitude). Some only allow new-member-signups during a brief window every once in awhile. These options certainly would eliminate the problem from an administrative standpoint, and limit growth, but then people who really need the support we have here would not be able to get it, and it would have the effect of denying everyone, including those who would actually be a valuable asset to our community. More-so than some other topics, new Dr. B dieters really have a timing-sensitive need for support at the beginning of the diet when things are the hardest -- they can't wait months for a "registration window" to open.
Rather than taking the shotgun approach and just shutting down new memberships, after conferring with some folks whose opinions I value and trust, and discussing options, the solution that was suggested and most strongly supported was to require a small donation to sign up for a new account. This would be a one-time donation, not an ongoing thing.
This accomplishes several things at once:
- The problem of spammer signups goes away instantly, because you can only sign up for an account as part of the payment process. This alone is a huge elimination of administrative burden.
- People who don't really value the site and don't plan on really becoming part of the community would not sign up as even a small donation would be more than the site is worth to them. This works out well as I would not be investing my time approving an account for someone who isn't planning on being around long or being a real part of the community.
- People who just want to use the forums for the tickers and gallery, but don't plan to otherwise contribute will at least be contributing to offset the cost of those resources.
- The contributions as a whole will offset the costs of hosting the site and maintaining the hardware.
- New members will be approved faster (I will still manually approve) because there are no bogus signups (so far) and people won't get impatient and register two and three times (as they have done in the past) because of the long wait for approval.
So, that's why you got this page instead of a normal signup page. Now that you've read all that, you need to decide if having a membership to the site is worth a one-time $10 (USD) donation. If it's not, that's no problem, you can still read the vast majority of the site, and just not post. There is a members-only section that's not visible, and the photo gallery is not visible, but you can read everything else.
If you'd like to donate and become a part of our community, please click here to get started.
P.S. I've been contacted by some current members who wanted to donate monetary support even though they are already members. I do not expect this in any way, but if you are a current member and want to donate, you can do so by clicking here.