To everyone still out there in Gather-land,
It's been an honor and a pleasure to serve the community over the past seven years, but tonight I must announce that my time at Gather has finally drawn to a close. Gather is a special place and I am certainly sad to be leaving it. It's been an interesting and fun ride and I've met so many wonderful people along the way. I will miss all of you.
One of my earliest memories here was helping to read and judge the entries in Gather's First Chapters competition. In the early days, as you Gather vets know, the site was more focused on cultivating a community of writers of all sorts. In those days Facebook was still very young and college-oriented, and we aimed to be a more "grown up" social network.
I was also proud to assist with cultivating the first crew of Gather "Correspondents," providing coverage from varied political viewpoints of the 2006 election and later the 2008 election. This article by Dave McGill will give you a taste of that. Our Election 06 group eventually was converted into the Gather Politics Essential, and we created a bunch of these "Essential" groups to feature the best of the Gather community's content in all genres.
Gather's marketing and design strategy certainly has changed over time, first shifting away from the early high-brow, creative-writer-focused strategy to one that attempted to create a more broad appeal. We also started trying to get better at utilizing SEO (search engine optimization) to bolster our traffic. What started as a loose experimental effort involving mostly Gather staffers and a few correspondents from the community developed into the "Socialwrite" program, which ultimately led to the development of the Skyword platform (which became the new primary focus of Gather's founding company, Skyword, Inc... originally Gather, Inc.)
At that point Gather entered a new phase. The company that birthed it was now mostly focused on making the new Skyword.com a success, with only a small and shrinking fraction of its staff devoted to Gather. And even those limited human resources were devoted mostly to the Gather News Program - the ultimate incarnation of our program paying writers for breaking news content, which still exists today. Eventually, I was the only staff member at Skyword whose role was dedicated only to Gather, and my time as well had to be divided between Gather News, and supporting the Gather community. While I tried my best to cater to both needs, I know my efforts were rarely enough to be satisfactory.
Finally, Skyword sold Gather.com to Health Guru in 2012. I migrated over along with the website. Health Guru has had good intentions for Gather, but during my time here Gather still hasn't had the resources it needs to truly flourish. In December 2012, Gather's traffic took a serious blow when Google implemented a spam penalty - old spam content that had been building up for years had come back to haunt us. And in April 2013, HG conducted an ill-fated technological "cut-over" - a migration of Gather's databases and other technology from Skyword's hardware to HG's - and this unfortunately resulted in massive technological glitches, many of which still haven't been fixed.
I also want to acknowledge that the past couple years have been rough on the Gather community. I wish that there was more I could have done to improve that state of affairs. There's a lot that I had hoped to see accomplished during my time here - from basic stuff like fixing the glitches, to eventually actually improving and modernizing the site - but circumstances just haven't worked in our favor.
I want everyone to be warned that the future of Gather is uncertain. In December, Health Guru, along with Gather, was acquired by a new company, Kitara. As far as I know they do not plan to close down Gather.com. But they will naturally be experimenting with ways to increase earnings from the site. You should be prepared for the possibility that this could mean fundamental changes that might involve closing the social network component of Gather once and for all. The best and most important aspect of Gather, to me, is the way that it has drawn strangers together to form real, lasting friendships. It would be a good idea for you to start exchanging contact information with your close friends on Gather as soon as possible, just in case that happens soon. You may also wish to save any of your articles that currently exist only on Gather. I stress that I do not know what Kitara's plans are for Gather, but I do wish them the best of luck, and I hope that they will try to find a way to maintain and rebuild the Gather community. But in my last act of service to you, I wanted you to be fairly warned.
Lastly, a confession: you should know that my name is not Chuck McGuire. In my job, as some of you know first-hand, I deliver warnings for Terms of Service violations, and occasionally close down accounts. And it's always possible that someone I deal with in this way might be a bit, well, unbalanced. So for that reason, I adopted this stage name early on just to be safe. I'm not going to announce my identity here. A few of you know, and if you want to whisper about it privately, that is fine with me.
Special thanks go to Connie, who has provided invaluable help over the past year or two with her "Today on Gather" articles, delivering messages from me, and most importantly stoking the flame that warms the community. Thank you Connie! We ALL appreciate your work as a leader in the Gather community.
Well, that's about all I have to say about that! Good luck to all of you! Hold fast to your friendships that you've made here. Keep on writing, photographing, thinking, conversing, connecting, and exploring, whether it be here or in some other community, or (GASP!) in real life ;-)
Much love to you all!