Jason admin said

The Future of Steepster

As you probably noticed, it has been a long time since Mike or I, the two remaining, original creators of Steepster, have made any updates to the site or generally interacted with you all. We’ve also been unable to handle support requests or address technical issues.

Steepster has been a passion of ours for many years and is one of the first web products we created when we started working together back in 2008. Over that time, we’ve come back to it periodically, making improvements, adding new features, and trying different ways to make it self sustaining.

However, our careers have taken us in a different direction. We have new responsibilities, obligations, but not the time we think is needed to truly continue supporting Steepster, the community, and pushing it to help spread tea to even more people, in the way we feel is needed.

During this time, we’ve also personally covered the costs of running the site. While it has been manageable for most of the time, recent changes have made it impractical for us to continue supporting Steepster financially.

Given the cost situation and the limitations regarding investing time and effort in building out Steepster, we were considering whether or not we needed to shut it down. However, we still care about the community deeply and all of the wonderful information people have generated over the years. So we decided to see if someone else could take over Steepster and carry it forward.

We reached out to contacts we’ve made along our journey and found someone we think will be a great custodian of Steepster.

So we’d like to announce that, effective July 15th, Steepster will be owned and operated by the people behind Adagio Teas (https://www.adagio.com/). Through our past interactions with them and their continued activity in the tea industry, particularly online and with their development of (mostly) independent tea properties (teamuse, teamap, teacritic, teachat, teachef) we are confident they will be able to do something great with Steepster and continue its original mission.

This has been a very difficult decision for me and Mike and we do not make it lightly. If there was still a possibility we could add more value to Steepster, we would pursue that. But after so many years, it’s become clear to us the path forward does not involve our direct participation and we are confident Adagio gives Steepster the best chance for growth.

We’re sorry we weren’t able to make Steepster everything we thought it could be, and sorry you’ve had to deal with the technical issues, slow or largely unresponsive support, and general neglect for so long. But most of all, we want to thank you all for your participation on Steepster and making it what it is today, it honestly wouldn’t be anything without you all.

I hope you will join us in welcoming the folks behind Adagio to the metaphorical helm of Steepster. Though it will be no simple task for them to update a site that has been neglected for so long, they have committed to undertake these long-overdue improvements.

We look forward to a bright future for Steepster in the world of tea.
Jason & Mike

270 Replies
AJ said

There’s a lot I want to say to this, but am trying to hold my tongue. Between the ethics of a tea company taking over a ratings site… One that we as a group staunchly self-moderated and policed companies’ use of.

But also because of the controversy of Teachat that lead to Teaforums.org being formed years back. As late as January this year, Adagio was still in hot water for how it was/is being handle. I hope we won’t see a repeat here.

+1 for this

Yup

LuckyMe said

Wow, I take a short break from Steepster only to come back and find out everything is changing.

I’m still processing the news. On one hand, I share AJ’s concerns about a vendor taking over a ratings site. On the other hand, this site has been in a state of neglect for so long that I welcome any attempt to revive it. From what I’ve seen in this thread, Adagio seems to be genuinely interested in listening to users and preserving the site’s content which is encouraging. Let’s see where this goes.

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ashmanra said

Steepster has been a major part of my tea growth and social life for many years now. I am grateful to have had Steepster all these years, and hope that it will continue to be a great gathering place and tea database. Best wishes to you, Jason and Mike.

Ditto. This place has given me over 10 years of fun and learning, and I have made a lot of cyberfriends along the way. Thanks so much for your vision, Jason and Mike.

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Michael said

My Adagio Teas colleagues and I are honored by the opportunity to restore Steepster as the preeminent destination for tea discussion and knowledge, especially at a time when online communities are so important to our social wellbeing. In days to come, we will listen and note your ideas for the improvements that you’d like us to prioritize as we work to make Steepster a welcome place for all.

ashmanra said

We are so hoping for a good outcome! For many of us, Steepster is our main social network. Many of us live in areas that don’t have active tea communities. Our personal exchanges, our swaps, the database that has been built here – these are all very important to us!

I do hope for a bright future for Steepster! Thank you for listening!

Many of us have stuck it out here in spite of the MANY bugs, spam posts, and creator abandonment because of the long term time investment and community we’ve established. I really, really hope you will take the time to listen to those contributors who have been actively using Steepster for years and invested, in some cases, hundreds of hours to writing reviews and self moderating the website BEFORE making changes…

Step one would be committing to preserving the tasting notes/reviews and discussion board posts that people have spent time and effort adding to as, bottom line, they’re the reason Steepster has value in the first place.

That said, it is good to hear SOME KIND OF news/update on the site and I am cautiously optimistic about improvements that could be made to improve functionality and engagement without compromising the impartiality of the site.

Agree completely, Ashmanra & Roswell Strange.

AJ said

Seconding Roswell. Because I’ve been holding my tongue on this and waiting for others to speak so I didn’t open the thread on a negative note.

I don’t want to see past mistakes repeated. Steepster needs to be preserved as-is, before anything else. So many of us have been here for years despite the problems. Many of us were given semi-moderator powers to help combat the spam issues, and still diligently log on just to clear them out even when not posting new notes. There is an important archive here that should be kept. Yes, I’m mentioning how Teachat was treated.

gmathis said

Long-time user here; there’s nothing more I can add other than my support to the comments that have been made here. Many of us have a huge review history we would like to see retained. The veterans who visit the site daily love the community and the consistently encouraging and positive tea chat. These are good people. You truly want to keep them around.

I would like to see better search capabilities within my own tasting notes and cupboard. Right now, I can only filter using the drop down filters. An actual text search within my own notes and cupboard would be very helpful.

Shae said

Oh I agree with Morgana – I would love a text search or some kind of ingredient search.

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Jason & Mike! Thank you for not completely pulling the plug on Steepster, as this community would be terrible to lose. And THANK YOU for inventing Steepster in the first place. I wish you both success in whatever you happen to do in the future.

To Adagio: I’m fine with Steepster the way it is, except for the technical issues and spam. But welcome!

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Michael said

Ashmanta, Roswell and anyone else reading this post, I welcome your thoughts on the improvements you would like to see us tackle first. How might you like Steepster to evolve to meet your needs? Please share your ideas.

I think, before making improvements, the most important thing you can do is commit to your active user base that the thousands of tasting notes and reviews that they’ve written will be preserved.

Speaking personally, I’m approaching nearly 10,000 individual tasting notes/reviews spanning over 3,000 unique teas – as much as Steepster is a valuable resource for other people for learning/tea blend comparison/recommendation it is also a living journal and reference guide for years of personal tea learning/development.

Second to that would be preserving the discussion board topics/threads…

From there, a longer conversation can happen regarding what should be prioritized to improve overall functionality and engagement of the website as well as additional changes/features.

Agree, my first concern is that nothing is lost that has been built all these years!

LuckyMe said

+1 for Roswell Strange’s comments. The massive tea database built over the years by dedicated reviewers is Steepster’s most valuable treasure. The ratings system could definitely use some improvements and I would welcome that as long as the reviews themselves are preserved.

Sil select said

There’s also a whole pinned post on bugs/issues that can be looked at….

Shae said

I agree with Sil – the Steepster Bug Status Thread and the Which new features do you want the most? discussion posts would be good to look at. Even though a lot of the comments are old, there are still recent posts in both (even as recent as a few weeks ago).

Same here. I was away for about a month and totally panicked the last few days when I couldn’t get online. I’ve been posting notes for over 10 years and hope they are preserved (for myself, more than anything else) or if not, at least there’s the ability to export them so I can continue keeping my own log of my tea experiences.

The other main thing I want to preserve is the “culture” of Steepster. While we may disagree with each other, we are generally a respectful bunch who can disagree without name calling or hostility. It is really hard to find that sort of environment online now, and I truly hope that can be preserved.

One site related issue — it used to be that the admins would merge multiple entries for the same tea, but that stopped a while ago resulting in some teas having a number of different entries each with a set of tasting notes under them. I would love to see that cleaned up as long as no notes are lost in that process. Also, the tasting entries used to have a logic to them — they were presented by number of likes/comments with the most first and the least last. Then that stopped, and new notes for the same tea were added at the very end regardless of likes/comments. It would be nice to restore some logic to how notes are presented. I don’t feel strongly about how that is done — it can be reverse chronological, or by popularity of the note, or whatever, as long as it has some sort of logic that I can internalize while I’m perusing notes.

Shae said

I don’t think I was here when there was logic to the tasting notes, lol. They’ve always been so scrambled up to me. I’m assuming you’re referring to the notes on each tea’s page, Morgana? If so, it does seem like we should be able to sort them in some way or, if not, that they should be sorted by Steepster in chronological order or something. That would be nice, for sure.

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Michael said

Roswell, the compilation of reviews and comments is a valuable trove that must and will be preserved. No part of Steepster will be erased. The purpose of my query was to focus on the question of what might you like to see added?

That is a big relief to hear, thank you for that confirmation. It will put many people (including myself) at ease. In terms of additions/improvements, I know many people will want to weigh in and I will think over the next few days about things that could be changed – however some things that immediately come to mind:

1. Many users currently cannot consistently log in or post to the discussion board, which is a contributing factor as to why the user base has dwindled.

2. Additionally, the messaging system is very buggy/inconsistent as well. For over three years now I’ve had “two new messages” in my inbox that I cannot clear the notifications for (even though those messages do not exist), and sometimes my messages wont send at all. Messages can also only be sent to people who are mutualy following one another; I imagine this is to reduce spam but a better solution could be having a divide in the inbox for messages from “mutual follows” and anyone else.

3. Some tea pages have hundreds of reviews; it would be great to have a way to filter what reviews you’re seeing on the page. There are probably many filters that would be ideal, but I’d like to see these ones in particular:“top users”, an input username (ex. “reviews by ashmanra”), rating (high and low), most likes, most comments, and most recent/oldest reviews…

4. When I look at my tea cupboard or tea ratings page, I can see the number of times that I’ve reviewed a tea – in an ideal world I’d like to be able to click on that number and be brought to a page with all my reviews on that tea. As it stands now, if I want to look for my own reviews for that tea I have to then go to the tea’s page and scroll through pages to find my reviews.

5. A search bar for each users cupboard and ratings page would be great so that I could, as an example, type “Earl Grey” into my rating page and pull up quickly all of the teas I’ve historically rated with Earl Grey in the name or type “Tetley” and see all the teas from Tetley instead of just searching through hundreds of pages until I hit the “T” section of the alphabetized list…

6. Should go with out saying, but obviously a better filter for all of the spam. It’s not just the discussion boards, but often spam accounts create “tea companies” that are just spam products or tasting notes that are spam. “Moderators” (such as myself, tea-sipper, etc.) can delete spam accounts that are less than a month old – but many spam bots have “learned” to stay dormant until they’ve passed that one month time frame. It would be great if vetted (which I say cautiously) moderators should have the ability to delete older accounts…

7. Several years ago the typed out formatting for strikethroughs stopped working; I’m not sure why. I miss being able to type them out the same way I can for bold or italics though – would be nice to fix that, even though it’s a small thing. Sometimes I read old reviews of mine and they look wonky because areas that were once struck through (for whatever reason) no longer display that.

More thoughts to come, I’m sure, but that’s what immediately springs to mind.

AJ said

At this moment, nothing. I’m with Roswell. In the short-term, I’d say commit to cleaning up the problems we have:
• Anti-spam account prevention is not robust enough and needs to be addressed (one glance at the Explore tab, or any Early Morning on Steepster will show that). Many of us have partial mod powers and have been addressing those that get in as best we can, but the system needs a fix.
• Cleaning out spam accounts, tea entries and places: A deep clean to the database is needed, because it is INFESTED with escort-girl companies creating ‘teas’ to list ‘girls’ for sale, and random non-tea businesses listing under ‘places’, among other spam listings. To the point that spam accounts advertising on twitter link to their steepster spam-profiles. These we can’t deal with, since we can only moderate the forum. (I’d almost say, freeze account-creation until there’s a handle on these first two…)
• The log-in and posting issues that have forced so many people to leave Steepster. Rooting out and fixing the cause of this bug would bring back many more people who would gladly offer suggestions.
• In the longer term: taking a look at our old ‘suggestions’ thread, but I think that’s outdated and too long now. A new one is probably needed to start ‘fresh’.

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mrmopar said

We also need to keep the moderator powers. We clear a lot of spam when each one of us logs in. The already infested spam where users are too old need to be cleared as AJ said. Maybe giving the mods enough power to remove things that are too old under the prior site. Lots of times they join in wait a few weeks and spam us to death.

I will echo a lot of stuff above. The site isn’t broke in terms of what the users log , share and learn from each other. Improvements on the bug issues would be nice. Thank you for listening to the voice of the users on here.

AJ said

Yup. As I typed that post, I checked the Explore tab and spotted a spambot for an IT company mass-following dozens of users. But had sidestepped the month cap.

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mrmopar said

This site has been a part of my daily life for almost a decade now.

Yep, me too. This is the only “social media” I care for, really.

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Michael said

Your offer to assist in the clearing of spam is much appreciated and your powers as moderators will remain and grow. We’ll gladly look into the settings of the one-month deletion cap to see how moderators may gain more power to prevent and erradicate spam. Solving the problem of spam will be atop our list of improvements. Thank you for contributing others. Once the transfer is complete, we’ll start to work on implementing your suggestions.

mrmopar said

If you check the live feed there are spammers joining almost every few minutes. I sometimes try to catch them early but after a few weeks they are labeled as too old. Many of the spammers use the same profile template to join back up as well. I want to say thanks for taking the time to read our views. Jason has been a great help and inspiration on here. I was hesitant years ago to join but I am glad I did because a lot of people on here I consider family. They may be a continent away or 2 blocks down the road. So much good stuff that really happens on here.

mrmopar said

Here is a spammer right after I wrote this. Too old for me to delete. Linked to an essay writing site.
https://steepster.com/elania

Michael said

The Adagio team will begin working on addressing the issues raised in this thread as soon as the transfer is finalized. I welcome your input and invite your participation in helping us build a better Steepster.

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Thought of a few more small changes that would be nice to see as options when you add a new tea to the database…

In tea types I’d like to see these additions, in order to better categorize teas:

Purple Tea
Heicha
Guayusa/Yaupon
Kombucha
*Shou Pu’erh
*Sheng Pu’erh

And in the “available in” section these additions:

Powder/Instant
RTD/Bottled
**Cake/Brick

*Currently a pu’erh category exists but with no separation for sub types.

**Possibly just a general “compressed”

Categories for teaware classification should be revised too; I recently reviewed a teapot and was shocked that there was no teapot designator.

LuckyMe said

Another small but very necessary feature I’d like to see would be the implementation of decimal points in tasting notes. It drives me crazy that the “Amount” field only lets you enter whole numbers and not decimals for tea weight. Many of us use precise leaf to water ratios that can’t be rounded off.

Harvest date for teas would be good option too as teas vary from season to season. I feel it would be helpful for people reading the reviews to know what harvest the review is for and help cut down on the # of redundant entries for the same tea

Another feature to consider down the road would be social media integration. A lot of Steepster users including myself are active on Instagram. Being able to include social media feeds such as tea pictures could get a lot of former users who’ve drifted off onto other sites interested in using Steepster again.

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