My good friend Michael Gilmour blogs under the name Whizzbangsblog. He has been writing and investigating whether or not the domain investment industry is represented by either the dan.org or the ICA. I have taken the liberty of re-publishing his latest blog and welcome your comments on the questions that he poses.
A Domain Name Association – part 6
Posted by Michael Gilmour on Wednesday, August 27, 2014
I had an interesting question in one of the forums about the topic of a domain industry association. The question was, ‘Why is Michael doing this?’ This question really caused me to think why I was spending time thinking about a domain association and it justified an answer.
I looked at the two associations (thedna.org and ICA) and it was clear to me that they really didn’t represent the interests of the typical domain owner in any way. For a start I have a real problem with any association where board seats can effectively be purchased. This is fine for companies where profit is the motive but in my opinion it is not OK for an association.
If an association is to truly represent members then EVERYONE needs to have an opportunity for a board seat….hence the concept of classes of members and an allocation of board seats per class that individuals could potentially win via an election in their class.
There also needed to be different fees per class (hence the financially modelling at the end of the presentation). The great majority of domain investors aren’t able to afford $5K/year but many would put up their hand for $250/year.
Given the challenges I saw with the current associations I wanted to push the discussion forward in such a manner that it at least reached the two associations and a dialogue established at the domain investor level. So where am I at with my goals?
1. The ICA was represented by Andee Hill in the webinar (she is not a director of the ICA). The other directors of the ICA are trying to work out when they are able to jump on a call with me…..I think that many of them have been on vacation.
2. I have been contacted by the chairman of thedna.org and he is connecting me with the CEO. They are completely open to everything to embracing domain investors. This includes changing their constitution to ensure that domain investors have representation at the board level. It was actually a refreshing conversation with the chairman.
I find that the bigger challenge is to engage the domain investment community themselves. What has surprised me is the general apathy towards both associations and the discussion itself. There appears to be a disconnect in the VALUE provided by either association for domain investors. This could be a function of us tending to be “lone wolves” but I actually don’t believe this is the cas e as domain communities do exist. Fundamentally I believe that both associations have failed to prove their value…..and more importantly for me…….I’ve failed in someway to proactively engage the community as well.
For example, out of the whole industry about 9 people said they would attend the webinar…..6 turned up. I’ve run webinars before on topics such as selling domains and had 18 people say they would turn up and 18 did. Just for the record I think that anything over about 15 people can become quite unwieldy. What’s interesting is that over 500 people have read each of the articles in the series on “A domain association”. This tells me that the topic is important to people but they aren’t willing to engage as yet.
I would be interested to know if I am interpreting this correctly. I would also like any ideas on how we, as a community, can engage more effectively on the topic. Or, maybe we shouldn’t and just let the chips fall where they fall . Should I run another webinar? Is the time wrong etc. Any feedback would be well received…..can’t promise that I can do something but I would like to do my best and try.
I liked the picture of the key for this article as it has two sides to it. If only one side was present then the key wouldn’t work. What we really need is for domain investors to speak to complete their side of the key and get their point of view across to the associations…….and myself for that matter. It’s through an engaging dialogue that a better outcome for us all can be achieved.
I look forward to your feedback and comments.
The Neu Facebook
John, you raised some interesting points that I hope to answer here….BTW, there are five more parts to the domain association series on my blog whizzbangsblog.com if you’re interested.
1. I agree with you that we are a fragmented and quite often a “lone wolf” community. The problem is that many of us view the Internet as a small pool rather than a large ocean and this brings on a competitive mindset. If you get a domain then it’s one more that I didn’t get……
2. The structure I proposed means that the large corporates can’t hijack the association as the small domain owner has just as big a voice as the large corporate around the board table.
Steve – many thanks for your kind comments and I agree with you about the new/old guard.
John – I agree with you about an association trying to be a more friendly place. Earlier this year I introduced a social network component to my blog so that domain owners could begin to engage one another.
DrDomainer – We need lots of water!
I should admit at the outset that I am, myself, rather vague on the aims / agenda and the constitution / representation of these domain organizations … with the result that I tend to be, in practice, largely apathetic to them — when perhaps I shouldn’t be.
Most domainers are not full time domainers. So you have the usual impediments to participation. People are busy or not fully informed; so they don’t take part. Citizens don’t always vote. Home owners are seldom eager to show up at HOA meetings — unless directly imperiled. Stock holders mostly throw away leaflets about voting for the company’s new board of directors.
That’s not the chief problem, though. I’d identify 2 issues that I think are (if not more to blame) certainly harder to cure:
(1) I regard the phrase “domaining community” as something of an oxymoron. Compared to literally every other context of interpersonal interaction I have ever encountered in my lifetime, engaging with the “domain community” has meant FAR FAR FAR less cooperation. I’m not referring simply to business partnerships. From the beginning of my own involvement about 3 years ago, I’ve noticed a singularly non-cooperative spirit.
Perhaps domaining attracts a larger share of loners or more people motivated by a get-rich-quick mentality. I’m not saying all domainers are greedy narcissists. I’m a domainer myself, after all; and I’ve met enough people to know that’s not the case. But per capita, I think the domaining world is distinctly allergic to teamwork. Maybe I’ll be pelted with tomatoes for voicing this idea, and that might partly prove my point.
Yes, there is camaraderie. Sometimes it’s sincere, but mostly it’s no more than skin deep. The typical domainer regards other domainers primarily as people to extract money from. Not everybody does so. But it’s more true of the “domaining community” than of any real-world community, united by common interests. Such common interests as domainers share are more abstract and less immediate than the usual two-sided adversarial role of buyer/seller. Further hurting this sense of cooperation is the fact that most domainers never meet in person.
(2) The other problem may be intrinsically unfixable. Different camps within the domain industry have irreconcilably conflicting interests. What’s best for a large company whose customers are domainers is often diametrically opposed to what’s best for those individual “little guy” domainers. Not all companies behave in a parasitic or predatory fashion, but quite a few do. It’s what anybody should expect from an industry that remains largely unregulated.
Michael Gilmour advocates for lowering the cost of participation in these organizations and adding some structure to guarantee wider and more equitable representation. On the face of things, that sounds like a very good idea.
But then I ask myself if I’d want to hand over my money as a tiny individual domain invesetor. Would I? Honestly, I’d expect companies to put in enough money, either directly or through manipulation of communication channels, to offset the influence of people like me. Then my small contribution could (theoretically) end up used in ways that contravene my individual interests.
There’s nothing nefarious or even new in this process or my concerns about it. Look at national politics. Large corporate interests tend to control the outcomes of nomination, election, and legislative processes that are ostensibly or nominally determined by individuals. The more or less democratic societies we (most of us) live in have evolved ways to address such problems. Specifically, we congregate in fractured, competing groups. That’s a good thing.
So I’m highly dubious that 100% of the “domain community” can be or should be represented by 1 organization.
Hopefully I haven’t offended anybody by criticizing the domaining world’s comparative lack of teamwork. I’m a domainer myself; and, to the extent that I’m dissatisfied with the culture, I’m criticizing MY OWN from the inside and hopeful that it can be gradually changed.
Sorry for being so long-winded.
I like the association model Michael proposes. It will give every group a voice. John has a point too. One reason I went to the first Namescon was to see the collision of the newbies vs the old guard. Things are definitely changing as a new group much larger than the current group(s) enters the industry. The domain industry needs to cast a wider net to organize them all and give them voices in the industry. The tld owners also need inclusion at some level.
To the average domain investor looking into this industry I’m sure it seems to him or her that there is an inside group of people, the crowd that has taken initiative in becoming the outspoken voice of the domain industry. While these people are extremely active I find it takes any initiative away from those we don’t normally hear from. I for one have so many tasks to complete from day to day that when I do read about the associations it’s almost vague what they stand for or how they can help me in any way (or whom they are trying to help for that matter). I think there needs to be a friendlier side of the association, one that invites people to introduce themselves and become part of a larger community rather than simply reading the latest UDRP or big domain that sold. Just a thought.
We need it like the desert needs the rain!!
Something like this to protect internet
real estate owners.
I would add the banner on all my websites.