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Greetings Virtual Railroaders and Operators!

We’ve nearly completed the major overhaul part 1, and we’re moving into the next part of the major overhaul: Downloads, Ads & Newsletter. If you have any comments, please comment on the post on our website, or send us a message on Facebook or Twitter.

Downloads

As Albert has so eloquently put it: “we’re victims of our own success”, and the amount of projects that have been submitted to us has been overwhelming over the years. Awesome! The current way we manage our downloads has proven to be somewhat cumbersome and prone to errors (empty (?) files, projects unwilling to download at all, etc.). To provide a more reliable way to handle the downloads, we’re moving to a different plugin: WooCommerce.

Yes, I know, WooCommerce is a webstore, but no worries, we have no plans on charging you for the downloads. We just need a better and more reliable way to keep track of the downloads and be able to edit them afterwards. I hear people asking “You cannot edit them afterwards?”, well, yes, we can, but editing them afterwards resets the downloads counter… And contributors like to see how many times their project was downloaded over time. It is by no means a measure of success, but it is great to see that in x years your project has been downloaded over 500 times or more. This motivates both the creators as well as ourselves to continue the website and offering this service.

So we are slowly moving all the downloads into WooCommerce, and as soon as all the projects have been added, we will switch to using the catalog instead of the individual pages we have now. We are aware this move has pro’s and con’s, but at this point in time the pro’s outweigh the con’s by a landslide.

Some Pro’s

  • Better statistics on downloads.
  • Less prone to errors.
  • More ways to sort the downloads (name, popularity, etc).
  • More & better ways to spotlight new submissions.
  • Easier management.
  • Can expand almost infinite.
  • No counter reset after editing.
  • Feedback integrated and people can actually “rate” the project.

Some Con’s

  • Users may have to register to download.
  • Still no (easy) way to have authors manage their own submissions.

Ads

This service, although sponsored, isn’t free for us. It costs us money, and we don’t mind as long as we can display a few ads on our website. Over the past 5 years we have seen the ad revenue drop from $50 (£35 / €40) a year in 2012, to almost nothing ($8,10 / £5,80 / €6,50) in 2017. We understand people have installed adblockers and this is showing. We do understand the reason behind adblockers, but you, as user, also have to realize that what is free on the internet really isn’t.

We will maintain the same level of ads on our website, so no change there, but we will start warning/nagging visitors using adblockers that they are doing us a disservice by blocking our ads. Advertisements are not paying our bills (far from it, actually), and are merely there to provide a few cents towards the costs of running and maintaining this website. The ads we serve are served by Google AdSense, and that ought to be a reliable partner without malicious ads. We know ads are not popular, and we promise to keep them to a minimum.

If you are really inclined to help us, click on an ad every once in a while. It may sound stupid, but if every visitor on this website clicked on one (1) ad once a month for a year, we would be running break even. We do not expect you to start clicking ads en mass now, but keep in mind that there is a reason why they are there. After all, if Albert wanted money for it, he would not have made the program freeware…

TL;DR: So please, IF you run an adblocker, which is totally fine (I do as well on some websites that are more ad than content), consider disabling it on our website. And if you really want to help us out, click one every once in a while.

Newsletter

As some of you have noticed on the homepage, we’re pushing the newsletter a bit more. We have plans to send at least 1 per year, and preferably 1 per month, but no more than that.

“Why?” you may ask, and that has to do with convenience. Our old newsletter-system was hopelessly outdated, and the new version that the author was pushing was so exorbitantly expensive, that it literally wouldn’t “pay” to buy it (pun intended). We have switched to using MailChimp, a semi-free service, that we can lift along with our hosting provider (Ergens in NL) without having to pay much if anything at all.

So you will get the latest news (if there is any) delivered to your mailbox free of charge. If you visit our website regularly, you may not need it though. It’s free, it’s convenient, it’s without spam (news only) conveniently delivered to your mailbox to read whenever you feel like reading it.

That is it for now, Stay tuned, I will keep you posted.

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