State of Steepster

118 Replies

I go through periods where I disappear for a time, usually because my tea drinking routine gets disrupted. But this time around I think I’ve been posting consistently for more than a year.

I mostly post for myself, to be honest. If other people find what I have to say interesting, that’s great — but I write notes to have a reference point for myself. Sort of like keeping a diary. Sometimes they bring in things that are going on with me as well as what I think about a particular tea, so it can be interesting (for me) to look back on them.

I’ve tasted a lot of teas and written a lot of notes, but I still don’t consider myself an expert. An advanced beginner, maybe.

I do enjoy reading other peoples’ notes, too, and periodically I find myself with a slow feed because folks have cycled off the site for a while. Then I follow newer people who have become more active so I’ll have more to read. ;-)

But I agree that the spam is a problem and I can’t stand the escort service posts…

I think of my notes as a personal tea diary for myself, as well. I’ve only been collecting tea since… Fall of 2016, I believe? and still consider myself a beginner when I think of all there is in the world of tea to explore/taste/discover. Just within the last year I’ve been trying to hit tea festivals/expos more by sacrificing fandom/sci-fi/anime conventions in my vacation time, because I’ve really been enjoying this new love of tea. It’s been interesting looking back and seeing how much my palate has developed/changed over time, where it has stayed the same, and how my brewing has changed since my earliest days.

Yeah, I’ve always thought of Steepster as my “tea brain”. An easy way to keep track of what I thought about specific tea…

derk said

Morgana, unlike you I haven’t had any breaks yet in my short stay here and my dashboard has remained pretty active. I also make a habit of liking tasting notes of brand new users despite my tastes not being in line with many of them in the hopes that they will stick around because I do realize that there are lulls in membership/reviews. Everybody starts somewhere, right?

It’s funny, I started posting with the aim of remaining totally on topic of “tea reviews.” As I’ve spent more time here and realized the social aspect of this site, my reviews have gravitated toward more of a personal blog and comedy show while still trying to keep my tasting notes relevant to the tea at hand. I’ve found that to be a useful process, not only in tracking my changing tastes but also in reflecting upon moments in my life that I otherwise wouldn’t take the time to do.

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derk said

I’ve been following the discussion since mtchyg started it. It is nice to see some of the older tea heads in conversation regarding the state of neglect of Steepster. This website is both a wealth of knowledge and personal experience and it brings a lot of joy to people across the globe. I consider myself a newb here, having only been posting reviews for 9 months. Despite feeling like I was entering a website-post-glory-days, I’ve been trying my best to help bring back this community to what I perceive it once was.

I had a partner who was a site administrator like Jason, so I understand the demand that front-end and back-end upkeep can take especially when the admins have full-time jobs and other responsibilities. From what I can tell, this site does not have a source of revenue, so what can we really expect? So I am not here to necessarily complain about the lack of upkeep, but rather like someone else mentioned, I am here to suggest that the administrative reigns be shared or passed along in order to keep this site functioning, relatively spam-free and inviting to all tea drinkers both fledgling and experienced.

I’m in my mid-30s, a millennial, sure, but I find other platforms for talking about tea to be too fast-paced, too image-oriented, or they do not allow for the depth of experience or discussion that I prefer both in written and face-to-face communication. I can tell based on other members’ comments in this thread that I am not alone in this and I think Steepster has the ability to serve this niche very well. Sure there are all kinds of tweaks and additions that would be nice. However, I really think the heart of this site currently lies in tea reviews and would thrive with a spam-free discussion board overhaul (both in design and function) and also an overhaul of the front page to make the site more useful to curious sippers.

For the most part, the tea review design seems to be adequate on a PC and once the spam and discussion board issues have a securely built base, that will then leave room for tweaks in other areas. I’ve seen in another thread that the development of a mobile app has been consistently demanded over the years. Accomplishing this takes even more time commitment and money, both of which seem to be lacking. If I had the skill, I would help with site administration in any of these areas, but tech is just not my area of expertise nor do I have the time to learn.

Thank you, mtchyg, for starting this much-needed discussion and all the other long-time and the fewer newer members for their input. I look forward to seeing continued discussion from all users, updates from admins (is Jason the only current one?) and some changes on the horizon, otherwise

Dinosaurs Will Die.

Derk, you’ve only been posting tasting notes for nine months?! I feel like I’ve been reading your entertaining notes for ages. :D

mtchyg said

Thank you. I’m in agreement and very similar to you it seems with thoughts on the topic. It really is one of the only places I know that allows for this sort of review and discussion of teas. I wish I were more tech oriented because I would love to take over the site and make some of the needed, seemingly minor, tweaks. But alas, tech or website development is not a thing I know anything about.

I went to my first ever tea festival with Derk! <3

Mastress Alita, I’m curious, does this mean you were the one who told Derk about Steepster?

No, I met Derk through Steepster, and then we met up at the SF Tea Fes. For all its problems the community/networking is the one thing I really love about this place.

OH that’s even better then! haha

derk said

mtchyg, seriously, thanks for posting this discussion. I’ve had private message conversations with other members specifically related to the spam issue being so severe. I know a few active members, including myself, are working diligently with very limited moderator abilities to control the spam on the discussion board. It’s a bit of a downer to have to first peruse the discussion board, newly added teas, and the Explore and Recent tabs to keep a joke of a reign on new spam accounts before I even get around to reading reviews and posting my own. This topic has been a long time coming, apparently for years.

Besides basic spam deletion, the only thing I feel I have to offer since I have basically no web development knowledge is to offer ideas for a stronger user experience structure. Looking at the bigger picture of what this site is and what it has the ability to offer. Many other members seem like they would be adept at filling in the details.

derk said

Mastress Alita: I am very grateful for your willingness to trade so early into my membership here. I consider you my anchor point to this site. Meeting you in person was a treat and that experience led into also meeting mrmopar. Long ago, when it was still considered weird to meet internet people, I was a member of another board that had frequent meet-ups, so I’m loving getting back into this with a different type of community. I look forward to having tea with other members as we all travel about.

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I also want to say, I’m fully aware that Steepster is not a paying a job, and I do really appreciate all the work the Steepster team (and members) have put into Steepster to keep it going all these years. I think people just want to keep Steepster fresh. It’s comfy for members who been on a while (who won’t be looking at things like the Featured members area), but anyone returning or newbies seem to be questioning if they’re visiting a deserted site.

I totally agree. It must be a real chore to keep the site up and running. I have sysoped in the past for forums and it can get really old, really fast.

Particularly because I admit to being one of those people who sends a note, goes to Twitter, goes to FB, etc. whenever I can’t get into my notes! Like right now, I’m getting an error when I try to get into the tea notes off of explore. It doesn’t affect me that much so I’m resisting the urge to go whine about it, but I do occasionally check that list because I can’t log on to check my feed every day. And sometimes, the notes that get featured (which must be based on some sort of algorithm) are notes with a lot of comments. And sometimes, the many comments are because someone I consider a friend on Steepster had something wonderful happen, or something bad happen, and it’s a quick way to check up on big news.

And the constant amount of spam means relevant topics or well-loved/used threads get buried all the time, so of course the Discussion Forum is falling out of usage. Does anyone have the ability to Sticky threads so we have more than the same 5 that have been up there for years now? I’ve never seen a new thread Stickied so it wouldn’t be buried under the spam, and there are lots of threads that would be good candidates/be helpful to new members. Like a welcoming thread, for one, so new people can find active users to find those first few friends to start following/follow back. The cupboard sale thread is another one. Once there was a really great thread that was a map of the world where people could add their local teashops/teahouses/other places to purchase teas! I loved that thread, and of course, it just got buried/lost. This site really needs a moderation team that can do simple things like that to make it a little friendlier, IMO.

I do remember Jason mentioning for some reason or another that he didn’t want too many more sticky threads, so that they would take away from the unstickied below…

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YuNow said

steepster is well indexed in google and pops out as search results in many occasions , so this site has a revenue potential. I have done few websites and familiar with this kind of platform / web concept. Doesn’t cost much time and money have simple maintenance ( spam issues ) . I guess it takes more time to manually delete them each time ;-)
Global rank 111 599
Daily visitors 7.30K
Daily pageviews 17.5K
Page views per user 2.4
….. it’s hard to say for sure what are real numbers , since lot’s of spam comes trough the site, but I believe it has a potential a least to cover the effort / maintenance costs.

derk said

Oh for sure, there’s money to be made. Steepster is often within the first 5 results in various search engines I’ve used. I admit, though, that I love the lack of advertisement on this site and would hate to see it become riddled with such things. As it is, I use uBlock Origin and I’m sure other more internet savvy members do the same. It sounds like Yu might know a bit about generating online revenue. Perhaps you know a source of revenue besides advertisements to fund more thorough spam detection and maintenance.

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YuNow said

Of course there are other options but humble banner on the side is the probably the painless and honest way to support the running costs. I believe we would all get over this in sake of non spam steepster, right? Other practices are usually more marketing based , where money mostly would flow from the vendors / sponsors , therefore it could jeopardize the genuine cause of this website.

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I’ll just jump in at this point and agree that I am sick of the constant spamming. I have had to clear out spam two or three times already today. Something desperately needs to be done about it. It takes away from what can be and often is a great site and community.

mtchyg said

Precisely. I wish I knew how to fix it.

I sent an e-mail to Jason on the first asking if I could at least be one of the people that gets to help clear out spam, and still… no response. I want to help out this community, have tried taking the steps to help… and still can’t, which is just frustrating to me, too. Sigh. And agreed. Even if you add more “firefighters”, if nothing is ever done to stop the arsonists, what is, honestly, the point of just dropping water on the flames knowing that more are going to replace it in a few minutes? Ultimately, that is just unencouraging to the rest of us…

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YuNow said

mathematical captcha , logical captcha , google captcha with pictures or shifting some banner stuff. Anything from that is not more than 30$ and it takes just to purchase, download and install. As a double protection is the confirmation email.
So if they don’t bother, means they just abandoned the site ( for whatever the reason they have ). The spams are generating the traffic quite a lot here so it helps certain way but it gets bad ranking on google bot so it will be pushed down to last pages eventually ( question of time ) .
If you have your tasting notes which you want to keep, I would suggest to download them and store on your computer, because u never know what is going to be future here.
In this tread you can also see how many users here are actually active , that will tell you something , and I believe the owners are aware of it , so that could be a reason of “don’t care” attitude …just guessing.

a one time of $30? I didn’t know it was that cheap… It seems a lot of work for people to keep fighting spam if it only costs around $30.

mrmopar said

I am in for a share of the captcha cost.

I would also contribute to that cost.

My friend still had his e-mail from when he signed up not all that long ago, and he said it had no confirmation on it. I was kind of shocked and appalled by that. I can’t think of any site, forum, or… well… anything I’ve signed up for within years that didn’t have e-mail confirmation with a link or something I had to click to activate my account.

And I would totally pitch it too to help get captcha/e-mail confirmation employed to help the spam.

And I’ll admit that when I first joined this site, since day one I’ve always written my tasting notes on a NoteTab file I keep offsite, and copy/paste all my data onto the site. I’ve seen the site go down for days before and often without any status updates being posted onto Twitter or anywhere else informing anyone about why the site is down, if it is coming back, etc., so I always worried about data loss. So I protected myself against that with an external backup since the beginning. I made the choice to move off a Wordpress site where I wasn’t getting any readers because of the community here, and don’t regret that choice ultimately because I did find a focused group of people who like tea that now read my thoughts on tea… but I’m not going to lie, I did keep a backup in case I ever had to “move back” because it always did look like this site wasn’t getting a lot of maintenance.

LuckyMe said

Count me in to contribute to that cost. Would be sooo much effective than a team of people chasing down spam every day.

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Does anybody really wanna know how bad this spam situation is? In case it isn’t glaringly obvious by now, I just had to delete a likely spammer from this very thread, and I am even starting to catch spammers responding to the spam thread. Why do any of us even bother? There was a spam problem when I joined this site just over three years ago, but I don’t recall it ever being this bad. Steepster was a different place then. There was much more reviewing activity, much more camaraderie, and many more discussions. There was also still a handful of longtime members still around. Even the vendors were more involved. I started noticing a real change in the demeanor and activity level of the site back toward late summer or early fall of 2017. Since then, there have been occasional prolonged spikes in activity, but I also feel there have been many more pronounced lulls. There is a very solid community of active and semi-active members trying to keep this site alive, but I wonder how long we can hold on. I’m just throwing this out here, but at this rate, I doubt this site will hold on much longer. It’s been on life support for a while now, and I don’t know how much the site owners really care or what their vision for the future may be. If it keeps up like this, I’ll probably gradually migrate elsewhere. Several people have suggested that I do my own blog, and I have been meaning to get involved on reddit and in some of the other online tea communities. I kind of have it in mind that I’ll give it until the end of the year, but in the meantime, I’ll be preserving my content just in case I do end up bouncing.

Yeah, I just noticed the spammer posting here. oh boy.
Anyway, this isn’t fun if so many longtime members are thinking of bailing. I really like Steepster and I don’t want to be the last one at the party. But I will if I have to be. I don’t really use any other social media. I’d say maybe we can think of things to keep the site fresh, but the spam definitely should be priority #1. Does anyone know if Jason is around on other sites? I had to go and look at my e-mail, I know he answered an e-mail on February 8th.

mrmopar said

I hope you stay!

I just noticed Twitter was updated yesterday. (not sure who updates it) This is the first time I’m looking at the Steepster twitter: https://twitter.com/steepster

I saw that spammer in this thread too, eastkyteaguy.

Honestly, I started with my own tea blog. But it was so hard to get readers to an isolated blog, that’s why I saw the potential in a place like Steepster. I ended up leaving the Wordpress blog to come here, where I knew the whole audience would be teaheads, and in the end that worked out, as I got readers that like me, liked tea. But from day one I always backed my writing up, writing externally, since like you, it didn’t seem like the admins had any interest in ever fixing bugs, improving the site, fixing the spam, even just keeping people informed on socials when the site went down. Whenever it went down I figured, “Welp, it’s gone now for good,” figuring that was it, it wasn’t coming back up. Anywhere else you can find some kind of status update somewhere. But not here.

I love the community here, and the friends I’ve made here. I am not happy with how the platform has been left to rot. If I knew there was another platform like Steepster that served the same function and everyone was making the jump together, my bags are already packed, I’ve got 500+ tasting notes already on an external file. Just saying. But I wouldn’t leave without the rest of y’all.

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Also, I’m sure spammers have a list of sites that are easy to access and I’m sure Steepster is on it.

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I came into Steepster originally from searches for tea reviews; one of my local coffee shops has Kusmi for their tea selections. I was mostly hoping to interact with the reviews as an inventory for my collection, but logging in to say “today I drank PG Tips for the umpteenth time” didn’t seem worthwhile.

Paradoxically, I think I get better tea when I don’t measure for leaf mass, water volume, etc but rather eyeball it. I am guessing that I prefer lighter-than-label brewed strength (one sachet per pint) rather than a strict 6-8 oz cup.

Yeah, that’s one of the things I suspect about the slowdown in tasting notes: I think many people don’t like posting every cup of tea they drink (but if others like doing that, that’s completely fine). I’m drinking a ton of tea but I only officially try to write about a tea once, unless I have something else to say about it. So I’m not writing about the same tea 20 times. I’ve seen many Steepsterers are trying to sip a ton of their tea down this year and not buy new tea for a while, which might mean not a ton of new things to say about the teas they’ve already talked about.

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