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23 January 2011

What Are You Doing to Serve Others? Development with a Purpose.

The “Sunday thoughts/ramblings/musings” post has become a mainstay in the domain blogosphere, but there’s something I feel compelled to write about. So hear me out.

For the past year, I’ve had the growing desire to do something meaningful. I’ve got a great job, live in an exciting city, and get to tinker around with domains in my spare time, but for a while now I’ve wanted to get involved with more projects that could directly help others. I got in touch with a local organization called A-SPAN that assists and rehabilitates the homeless, and started a campaign at work collecting mini-sized toiletries during our band’s 3-week tour in the fall. I’m in a D.C. Volunteers Meetup, but that’s just isolated projects here and there – D.C. is full of entrepreneurs and young professionals who actively serve, and their energy and ideas never case to amaze me.

There are a number of domainers who donate their time and money (most of which probably doesn’t get reported), but when you’re dealing with drop lists and sales pitches and auctions all day, it’s easy to think of domaining as a very self-centered “me, me, me” endeavor. At times, it seems like it’s all about the bottom line.

A domain is certainly valuable without a site attached to it, but it isn’t necessarily meaningful. How meaningful is a portfolio of 100, 500, or 10,000 standalone names, without a greater purpose? Do you see what I’m getting at? It’s profitable and fun to trade chips with fellow investors, but after a while, it can start to feel…well, a bit empty.

I met Robert Wray (@wraydo on Twitter) yesterday, who domainers probably haven’t heard of, but who’s no stranger to anyone who was at the recent CES (Consumer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas and is familiar with the concept of “connected cars.” Robert started the Baltimore-based company MP3Car.com in 2004, which provides custom mobile computing solutions to customers worldwide (GM, NASA, and MIT are among their customers, and he also happens to own NuclearWar.com, but that’s a whole different story).

He’s one of those innovative “out of the box” thinkers who is very passionate about technology, but is also involved with community outreach projects that help inner city students in Baltimore. In addition to learning a few things about wired and electric vehicles, he also got me thinking about how to (possibly) develop with community service as well as monetization in mind.

Before I get ahead of myself, I’ll say that I acquired a Geo .ME last week that will be one of my major development projects later this year. I’m waiting until I get a few things sorted out before announcing the name, but I’m very excited about it. The country is a big tourist and honeymoon destination, which is a no-brainer for hotel booking affiliate programs, but lately I’ve been brainstorming how to make the site valuable to local residents, as well. It’s not as much of a challenge with something like Denver.com where residents and tourists are a bit more integrated, but in this case the audiences would be vastly different.

There will be a follow-up post on Geo Developing for locals vs. tourists (an offshoot of an interesting discussion I found on a different blog), but for now, I’m approaching this new project from a different perspective. I’ll need to include cheesy “tourist trap” affiliate ads to pay the bills, but if I can figure out how to implement a section of the site that’s dedicated to volunteer/donation/employment services for the local residents, I’d like to do it.

This is all in its infancy right now. But I’d like to encourage everyone to think about whether any of the names in your portfolio could be put to good use. Parked pages add nothing of value to the user experience and to the community. So develop, develop, develop, and see what causes you can help besides just your own bottom line.

P.S.: I welcome all advice on geo development for this upcoming project I have. This is new territory for me. Happy Sunday, everyone!

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About Nadia

Nadia is the editor of DomainSushi. Her love affair with domain names and web development dates back to 1998, and she is passionate about educating the tech community, small business owners, and laymen about domain name strategy. Follow her on Twitter: @DomainSushi.

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6 Comments

  1. AndersonJan 28, 2011 at 4:16 pm

    Development for any purpose that transcends the bottom line is always a novel idea. Usually, most domain investors tend to develop only with monetization goals in mind. The integration of a community service or outreach of some kind with a strategy to monetize (without taking advantage of the same community) may be instrumental for the elevation of some domains especially the tons of undeveloped geo domains out there. But very few domain investors are doing this.

    In any case, I do own one geo .mobi. Now I have something to think about – and hopefully act on.

  2. Domain NamesFeb 1, 2011 at 4:19 am

    great thoughts Nadia. I've been thinking of this myself more and more. I have two projects in mind (maybe three) for this year that are on this bent. One would be, pretty much all volunteer, but in a topic I”m passionate about. The other could be a way to both help the greater good and monetize through development at the same time. One trick is really to step back and just re-prioritize your life and come to the realization you are hinting at, that money isnt everything.

  3. NadiaFeb 1, 2011 at 4:24 am

    Thanks for the comments, guys! Yeah, the only problem with all of this is a) implementation and b) figuring out how to balance it all. I'm always a little scattered when it comes to developing sites, but I need to be really organized with this one.

    Money definitely isn't everything – I suck at monetizing sites, as is evidenced by my one measly affiliate banner and the fact that I have zero ads and a non-working RSS feed. It's ridiculous! I have multiple things to fix before I can tackle a bigger project. :)

  4. EricFeb 24, 2011 at 1:21 am

    Over the last several months or so I've had the pleasure of getting to know Nadia. Not in person, just as someone who had done business with her. I'm still fairly new to the domaining world and she has inspired me a great deal the past few months. I find her website inspiring as well as educational. Anyone who is just coming to this website for the first time should definately add it to their favorite places list and visit often! The title of this article alone has made ME think, “what am I doing to serve others”? hmmm….what am “I” doing? This thought moved me so much so that i've decided to create a large website dedicated to charities, volunteer groups, and those who wish to discuss giving etc. Yes, i've thought about my service to the community many times in the past, but now after seeing this article I felt compelled to do something Here and Now! I was able to hand register some great .com names that nobody else had yet but I won't reveal them until I finish the site. However, If i may borrow from Nadia just a part of her slogan, with permission i'd like to make the slogan of my new site, “Musings in The World of Philanthropy” unless I come up with something better in the mean time. When I do finish the site I will come back here and post a follow up. In the mean time, kick back and think of what YOU can do to serve others! If you'd like to support me in my new endeavor why not purchase one of my domains? I'll be using the proceeds from all my domain sales to help promote my new site. I have many domains for sale through GoDaddy and i'm willing to negotiate! To see a list of my domains please visit http://www.erichatch.com/domai… Hurry, they are selling very fast!

    Eric

  5. EricMar 4, 2011 at 11:14 pm

    To follow up on my previous post…To all who may be interrested I'm working on my new website that i've eluded to in my previous posting here. You can check out what I have so far at http://www.donateforum.com I'm looking forward to seeing you there! I still have quite a bit of things to add but you can start posting at any time. You can even create your own blogs or content. If you'd like to support my cause you can do so by purchasing one of my domains or you can start writing some content on my new site. Either way i hope you enjoy it!

  6. NadiaJan 30, 2012 at 3:17 pmAuthor

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