I have had two sorts of emails recently. This is one sort:
"Paul how do you do it? You are my hero fishing all those great spots, chasing beautiful women, eating great food. I must have done something wrong as I have to work for a living."
And this is the other:
"Again! I have to hand it to you Paul you certainly know how to put the work in on your site. I wish I had the time to do it."
Interesting and of course I take both as compliments. Thanks guys!
Of course one assumes that I spend all my time fishing, chasing women and eating beans and the other assumes that I spend all my time on a laptop. Both are pretty accurate as it happens and I oscillate between the two. Yes, I'm a very happy man indeed.
How it came to pass
The site evolved three and a half years ago. Initially it was a simple one-page advert promoting my activities as a casting instructor. I wrote the site using a text-editor and html learned through the web. Somewhere I have that old site on disc and I will try and find it next time I'm in the UK. Basically, it was crap. And when I say this I mean it whole-heartedly and without reservation. It was crap for about six months and then it became psychedelic.
I'm not entirely sure why, looking back, but purple marble seemed like such a cool colour for a site. The psychedelic stage lasted for all of a month until, and with a headache, I chose some thing subtler and marginally more professional. This formed the basis of the site for over two years.
That layout was formed using Frontpage express and a merging of two other sites I had lifted from the Web and some inspiration (standard practice I am told) and I maintained it using a Psion 5 and a mobile phone. What this means is that I had to understand and be able to write html (the language of webpages). At times I would think in html. Sometimes I still do. This has proved invaluable.
That site included casting tips, a New Zealand section and a tackleshop. It was ok when I put it together but pretty quickly it became dated and for a while, I let it sit on backburner while my pursuit of other things (women to give it a name) took priority.
Summer before last, in one of life's coincidences, I met Steve. Initially Steve tried to buy some tackle for the price of the discount as opposed to the discounted price. I was so impressed by this display of ingenuity, that when he suggested becoming my website manager, I jumped at the opportunity.
Steve rebuilt sexyloops from the ground up. The introduction of CSS and SSI changed this site making it quicker to load, far more flexible to maintain and created consistency (something we discussed for about six months). Steve redesigned the layout (based on two other sites and some inspiration of his own – remember he's a professional) and especially the current front page.
Content, content, content
But this isn't Sexyloops. This is layout. If layout was all that Sexyloops was, we wouldn't have an estimated 30,000 visitors per month. Sexyloops is about content, content, content. This is where Steve and I work together.
The Experience was Steve's idea. The Discovery was mine. The Flow; a bit of each. At any one time there are several dozen ideas in development. Sexyloops is about to go through yet another transformation. The last time this happened we opened five new sections in three weeks, changed Pic of the Day to just that, started changing the frontpage daily and made the sexyloops newsletter weekly. The impending transformation is going to be every bit as far reaching and will involve a site integration and delivery as yet unseen :-)
Where Sexyloops differs from any other site of which we are aware, is in its development. Sexyloops evolves. The three major sections I have just listed are not fixed like a book or a magazine, but are actually continually forming. We are moving the whole site into this arena. This is the power of the Web and why I am prepared to put so much of myself into this. Sometimes it's almost as if it breathes.
How much it takes
Nick's comment at the top of the page indicates some comprehension of just how much work is involved in maintaining a site like this. Asides from simply answering emails and posting on the bulletin board, there are always things to be done. During periods of massive site activity, such as for the six weeks leading up to last Christmas, I was working over 100 hrs per week.
The Front Page
There are two sorts of front page. There is the sort of front page that simply links to some old content. The beauty of a front page like this is that I can do it in advance and then go fishing. If I do two I get a fishing trip :-) A front page like this takes about an hour to put together from conception to uploading. Pic of the Day can take the same again, although if I'm doing lots of fishing, PoD can be extremely quick since I have lots of suitable photos. Remember these images have to be cropped and resized (twice) and then archived.
The ideas for the front page come from emails, the bulletin board or my current flyfishing. Naturally this is a good incentive to go fishing :-)
The second sort of front page is related to new content. This page is a little quicker to write since I don't have to think so hard ;-)
New content takes time to put together. A page such as this one will probably take between six and eight hours. First of all I have to write it, proof read it, spell check it and then put it into html. Neither Steve nor I use html editors such as Frontpage or Dreamweaver, preferring instead to write by hand. We both use Arachnophilia.
I'll add images, a sidebar, upload and check for errors.
Newsletters take more time since more time is spent on the writing. A newsletter can be written over a couple of days and edited four or five times. For me it's very much like article writing.
Lots of new stuff
A new section can take months to appear. Steve and I will email backwards and forwards trying to form the bones of an idea before putting it together. Each lesson in the Experience, for example, took over a week to assemble. In many ways each section is like a site within a site.
Money or your life
OK let me say this right now; I don't live for money. If that was all that mattered I would be doing something else. This is not to say that Sexyloops isn't a business; of course it is and it has solid foundations: I have carefully partnered with Kate Fleming in Scotland. Sexyloops is in effect a tackleshop, but it is also much much more.
It is an expression.
"Thank you for a great website"
I believe that through this site I can put something of myself "out there". It is this that drives me and the emails that simply say "thanks" mean the most. Life reflects back exactly what you put out. Sexyloops allows me to work on me. After all that is what we are all here for I guess. Sexyloops is one of my teachers. It is my path. If I can spread some happiness then I have given something worthwhile. That is really all that matters.
As Sexyloops grows in depth it attracts like-minded souls; people whom I respect and feel honoured that they choose to put themselves, and their energy, into Sexyloops. I'm talking about the moderators and members of the Discussion Board. There are some genuinely nice people involved who simply give with no other thought. These guys inspire me.
I'm not doing this to achieve anything. I don't want anything out of it. I don't have an end-plan. There is no end for me. All there is for me is right now, and right now I'm doing this.
And who is Steve?
Of as much if not greater interest, I think, is why Steve is doing this. There is as much of me in this site as there is of Steve. Unbelievably Steve and I have never met in person (he lives in France, works in Switzerland and is English) however after emailing each other countless times every day for the last 18 months, we have come to know each other rather well. I feel very privileged indeed to know him and have him as a friend.
About a month ago I asked why he is involved in Sexyloops (it seemed like a pretty important question) – I should explain that, as of yet, neither of us has gained financially out of Sexyloops. Sexyloops is only now starting to make money – it's been a long road.
Steve on Sexyloops
So yes, it is work, but not as we know it; it's also flyfishing and life :-)