Something special for y’all today. Andy Bailey of CommentLuv fame, has agreed to an interview on CommentLuv, plugins, and business in general. I don’t think I’m going out on a limb in saying this was one of the most important plugins of 2008, in my mind, and has helped the blogging community greatly; at least those who use it. This is great stuff; I hope you enjoy it:
1. Tell us about your business/businesses/websites.
The Comluv network was set up to act as a hub/portal for the 10,000+ users of the Commentluv plugin so they can register their site urls, see who clicks their links and looks at their info. It’s also a place where anyone with an internet connection can start a WordPress blog with the Commentluv plugin already installed for free.
There are lots of features on the site that are set up so new bloggers or those with limited free blogs can move to the next step of blogging. They can try out a new blog or import their old one and if they are happy with what they can do on a WordPress platform, they can carry on (for free). If they then go on to take their blogging a bit more seriously or want to make some income, they can become a supporter and get access to things like domain mapping and other awesome upgrades in the future like a global commentluv search engine or custom CMS themes and an ecommerce shop theme.
I have a number of other sites and run a web design company too. (oh and a Chinese Takeaway & delivery shop)
2. What made you think about doing CommentLuv in the first place?
It was to fulfill a need, I wanted to reward my blog readers. Not the ones who came, looked and went but the ones that took the time to comment and build a discussion around my posts. There were a few other widgets that got released at the time that were supposed to do that but I found that they only rewarded the blogs that were already popular, the more hits you got, the more links you got etc. I didn’t think was fair just to reward those who needed it the least, that didn’t make sense! so I wrote commentluv to level the field and reward every blogger who comments with a titled backlink to their site.
It was only for my own site and the first version only worked for people that commented who had wordpress blogs themselves, but as soon as it went on my blog, people started asking for a copy. The rest, as they say, is history.
3. How do you find the time to work on it?
It’s my hobby, my passion. It consumes every spare moment!
It’s harder and harder to put the time in because it’s getting more and more complex with a hundred new ideas and (sometimes) bugs to fix every day. If it was my entire job then I’d be fine but I run a Chinese takeaway and a company too so it’s even harder to find the time to go through code, answer support, write new content, make tutorials, market the site, visit bloggers, catch spam, delete spam and all the other ‘normal’ things that having an online life means.
But, after saying all that, I wouldn’t change it for anything. I luv it.
4. Have you only received positive comments about it?
The comments I receive are wonderful, I regularly get emails, phone calls and sometimes donations via paypal from happy users. It’s what keeps me going when I see someone write a long and detailed post about commentluv or start a series of posts about how to use commentluv blogs with proper comments to increase site traffic/community.
The only negative comments I get are from users who didn’t read the instructions properly or are trying to do everything too quickly without making proper backups. I can fix most problems pretty quickly because there’s only a few things that can go wrong with a script include so they normally cheer up when it starts working!
Overall, there always seems to be something positive to read about it every morning in my inbox.
5. Have you made any money from it?
Nope. Not a dime. In fact, it costs me money from my own pocket! That’s ok though, there are avenues for passive revenue like the Adsense that appears on the search page and some of my own 125×125 ads I show create a commission payment now and then which helps with the server costs.
There’s plenty of time to make money! I think I can just worry about making the site good, the features work and keep it improving and when that happens, just the sheer amount of traffic and being able to communicate with over 10,000 registered users (now) and the millions who see the comentluv badge below a comment form in an instant will surely open up monetization opportunities.
I do have ideas and code ready for when the site is fully stable as a free option and the userbase goes over 50,000. Things like a supporter option where a user can pay a small monthly fee and get more space, use their own domain name, access to a newsletter software, CMS themes and other ‘premium’ options for paid subscribers only but I think it’s important to get the free side of the site completely stable first before I start trying to make money from it.
I have implemented adverts on the main site and users of comluv can signup to be an affiliate for selling those and make 50% of the fee, maybe that can bring in some revenue to pay for the awesome server I had to upgrade to but, this is my hobby, I enjoy it and if I didn’t do it, I’d spend more on radio control helicopters or start drinking at the pub so I’m not too worried about getting-rich-quick. (unless I get completely bought out by one of the blogging/commenting platform companies!)
If I do it right and get the site and plugin popular enough and used by enough people, there wont be any need to charge anyone anything. If I can continue to find ways for people to make money from their site, all I’ll need is a tiny piece of it for providing the platform they use to make it and I’ll be set. 1% of 100 peoples effort is the same as 100% of my own. Imagine if I got 1% of a million peoples effort? No need to do the math.
6. Have you won any awards from it?
Yes, I won the WPMU plugin contest with it when it went to the new 2.0 version. I got a free WPMU premium account as part of my prize which has been instrumental to me being able to build the new network site. Best thing I have ever won from my pc (apart from a massive lottery syndicate win from my online lotto business).
7. How does one go about creating a plugin?
It’s easy peasy, I didn’t know anything about php before I got a version of wordpress installed! Everything I learnt about programming came from the web, for free. Just start simple, find some tutorials to get you started and the rest is just making the format of the file correct. Don’t try to make a new akismet or cforms straight away, try a flickr image widget or other simple get and display plugin and ask around on the wp forums or visit the squillions of wp specific blogs.
8. With everything going on, do you still have time to blog?
Blogging helps me release the words in my head that have no place elsewhere, it’s my inner-monologue on screen sometimes. It helps me remember what I’m doing if it’s down on paper/keyboard too! I wish I had more time to make the type of posts that are floating around in my head but, I can’t have commentluv and have that type of blog experience at the same time so I try to do the best I can with what time I have.
That to me is the best thing about blogging, I do it because its fun, its nice to reach out and touch people without ever leaving the comfy man-cave that is my office and there are no obligations or standards of performance quotas to reach. If you think it, you can blog it. If you don’t have time, never mind!
9. Do you have another plugin on the horizon?
I have about a billion ideas and quite a few proof of concept scripts floating around the pc. I have a cracking one in mind for twitter and some “make it so anyone can do it” plugins too but, with the popularity of commentluv and the sheer amount of effort it takes to keep a plugin and site up to date, there’s not much hope for releasing them (yet)
10. Have you achieved everything you expected or hoped for with CommentLuv?
All I wanted to do was reward my readers and provide a way for others to do the same without needing a degree in computers or an established community so I guess you could say I have achieved everything I first expected from commentluv but there is so much more to be discovered and added. I really want another day in the week, hell, even an extra hour a day would make a difference!
11. One last question; what’s up for Andy Bailey next?
I’d really like to get a good company as a partner, someone with a team of programmers, developers, designers and marketers so I could hand over the maintenance and feature updates to them and concentrate on coming up with the good ideas and seeing them through to fruition. I already have a book of notes and folders of code for what I would like to add to the site to help people with the blogging, even make them an income but as always, time (or the lack of it) and supporting the users of the existing fruits prevents me from working on them enough to share them.
The sky’s the limit though, as long as I have a keyboard and an internet connection I will always have something to do ‘next’.
As I said, great stuff from Andy. If you’re not already on CommentLuv, you should be, and if you are, let Andy know how much you enjoy it. I did.