NP has been around for almost 11 years. The first version had frames, animated GIFs (both in the navigation menu and as the background), a scrolling marquee, and a background MIDI all on the front page. I've watched the internet change quite a bit during that time and to a lesser degree, I've seen NP also change. The focus has more or less always stayed the same: teach people stuff. Maybe noble-sounding on paper, but also a bit naive in the landscape of the modern internet.
In the grand scheme of things, I have relatively weak Google power these days. Sure, I'm on page 2 of the Google results for Rubik's Cube Solution, but that's pretty much the only thing I have to my name after working on this for nearly 11 years. In order to gain a ranking, I need credibility enough for people to link to me. In order to do that, I need lots of people reading. To get lots of people reading, I need lots of content. To get lots of content, I need to either write a lot, or get tons of other people to write a little bit. In order to get tons of people to write a little bit, I need tons of people reading. And to get tons of people reading...(you see where this is going).
The model of content generation of NP is like a pendulum that keeps swinging back and forth. NP1 through 3 was closed. NP4 was open. NP5 was closed. NP6 and onwards was open. I'd say the most success I've had was during NP3 and NP5. The open systems failed for different reasons. But ultimately, I now believe it comes down to this: getting people to write a tutorial-oriented article is no longer a valid working model for a website. All other sort of content has no direction because I didn't specifically guide or encourage any other content.
In fact, there are probably only 4 or 5 websites on the internet that pull off writing technical information and tutorials and meet the minimum quality bar that I would desire for NP. Two notable ones are Wikiversity and WikiHow. Both of those websites have absolutely no personality, which is one thing I love about NP when people do happen to be present. Any specific topic NP could hope to be The Ultimate Source on is far toppled by sites that are specific to that field.
Perhaps I was too focused on the goal of forcing the content in the direction I envisioned back when scrolling marquees were acceptable on professional webpages, that I lost focus on what made NP great in the days of NP3 and 5. Even though content generation was closed off, it was still slightly open to a handful of people. Mostly just me, eofpi, Omni, and a few guest appearances by 1NPH1N1TY and a few others. In NP5 I made a commitment to post every day. I put this commitment over my goal of focusing on teaching skills or writing tutorials, so half of the time (and by "half", I mean 92% of the time) I would post something ridiculous or just too silly to be taken seriously. Clouded by my initial goal, I personally felt like I had deteriorated NP for the sake of posting and it felt dirty. With no real negative symptoms, I tried to cure NP by making NP6 and that's when it all started to go to hell. And as you can guess, my posting rate went from every day to 8% of that. People stopped reading. During this time, Google became the ultimate source of people asking questions that begin with "How-do-I..." and my market share was pulled out from under me. The Rubik's Cube solution and now a few random articles that get massive hits for a brief period of time from StumbleUpon are the only things keeping NP alive.
So I give up. I give up on keeping NP dead for the sake of making it perfect according to my 1999 goal. Any site that tries to provide wide-scope technical information is almost certainly doomed to fail without some sort of magic infrastructure or massive starting off point. There are about a dozen sites that do this, and about a billion sites in existence. Probability of success is, well...do the math.
I will close off posts by other people. (Hooray! No more gatorhost.com spam!) But for those few of you who have been loyally using the blog feature on NP these days, don't panic just yet. I will close off NP to posts by random people in the sense that NP3 and 5 were closed off. I will return to the small staff model of content production. Personally, I need to feel more empowered to handle NP's fate than kindly ask strangers on the internet to write random stuff for me and expect it to just take off. I will not decline posts from regular NP'ers if their writing meets the quality bar. I or one of the admins will proudly post it for you.
I also own a dead blog at blakeohare.com which I've always wanted to revive for people that wander over there. But I always felt silly writing something on blakeohare.com where only a few people would read it when I could post it on NP where a few dozen more would. But there is something unique about nerdparadise.com and blakeohare.com. They are hosted on the same server! This presents an opportunity to link both blogs to the same database. I will not only be keeping NP up to date, but also be keeping my own website fresh by filtering out just my posts and presenting them there also. I will kill two birds with one stone.
From now on, I'll just start posting whatever comes to mind. I'll try to post every day. I'll even set up the same queue system I had back in NP5 so that I can get a few things in there and not worry for a few days. Sure they won't be massive posts, but they'll be something. Basically whatever went through my mind that day of interest. Yes, this will turn into a basic blog. But hopefully this same mind that brought you the giant origami monkey attack, the Boloney[sic] Cannon, Xe Treats, and Proper Technique for Closing a Rectractable Window Blind still has it in it.
Hopefully I won't be doing this alone. I'll try to encourage others to join in but only if they feel inspired to do so and to do so regularly. Readers follow blogs because they enjoy the reputation that the writer carries with them. With a closed and somewhat small staff that posts regularly, the personality is more distinct and you get that hanging-out-with-4-friends-from-the-same-dorm sort of feeling that makes people come back.
There is one perk I will offer to anyone who posts on NP regularly. I will offer them a website (including a domain) setup similarly to blakeohare.com in that it will have their posts filtered out and shown as their own personalized site/blog along with any other stuff that they want to post on it such as a resume or whatnot.
My Goal from NP6 onward was 1) Quality, 2) Quantity, 3) Regularness. My Goal should actually be 1) Regularness, 2) Quality, 3) Quantity.
Contests will come back. And commentaries. And random silliness that passes through my head. Reviews for movies, video games, etc. These things are easy as compared to writing a decent end-to-end PHP tutorial. NP just isn't the right medium for presenting technical information on 2010's internet. As far as programming tutorials and reference goes, I will be working on another site this fall that will specialize specifically in that. It will be optimized for this type of information way better than generalized NP could ever be. In fact, while designing this new programming website, I toyed with the idea of just adding it as a feature to NP instead of creating a new site. The answer I arrived at was 'no' which lead me down this thought path of why I couldn't. That, and also realizing there is an ongoing contest that Cosman recently created. These are the types of things that NP can do and does well when it attempts to. And now it will.
This would be one of the more drastic rewrites of NP. Please let me know what you guys think before I start up the bulldozer.