Some Websites Are Just Not Worth It
Sometimes after I create a site, running it turns out to be more trouble than it is worth, so I shut it down. Here are some examples:
1. DigitalCharity.com – It all started in 2002 when shopaholic Karyn Bosnak started asking for donations online to pay off her $20,000 in credit card debt. It worked and got her huge media attention, and soon people were begging for money for all sorts of things online (college tuition, paying off gambling debts, breast implants, etc.). So I created DigitalCharity.com to give people a free, easy way to do their cyberbegging. They did not need their own website or blog, all they had to do was fill out a form and their web panhandling plea would be published instantly on my site.
It worked, and lots of people posted heart-wrenching requests for money. I think I even made a few donations myself. But, there were 2 big problems. First, I got a huge number of automated spam submissions, and since I was running custom built software there was no easy way to block them other than manually approving all the submissions, which is what I had to do. For a site where I was only making $25/month (from the ads on it), this was not really worth it.
But, the bigger problem was much more unexpected. Instead of creating a site that helped people in need like I had planned, it turned out some people actually lost money from posting on DigitalCharity.com. What happened was that dozens of scammers trolled the site contacting the cyberbeggars, all people who were desperate for money and would do anything to get it, bombarding them with fake loan offers, advance fee frauds (fake job offers, fake prize notifications, shady business deals, etc.), and every other type of con you can imagine. I know this only because many of the posters to the site would forward these emails to me asking if they were real.
2. DialPeople.com – In the mid 2000s when VOIP (Internet phone calls) started to become popular, I created a site where people could use VOIP technology to prank call a friend or family member. They would type the text they wanted to say into a form on my site and then my server would call the prank victim and speak the text (using a computer voice). The call could be anonymous or you could give your name on the call. It cost me around $800/month in phone call fees, but the site was very popular so it was making around $800/month in ad income, so it broke even.
The problems came from people who used the site to do illegal things, like making harassing calls. For example, several times students used my service to call in bomb threats to their schools. I was contacted by the police and FBI several times over incidents like this. I was not in trouble, they just wanted information about whoever made the calls, but getting urgent phone calls from police detectives and FBI agents is not a good thing, and I was worried I could be drawn into a court case or lawsuit.
3. Confessions.net – I started the site in the mid 2000s by buying a database of 4000 confessions from another confessions site that went out of business. I then collected another 20,000+ confessions through user submissions after I launched the site, and the site became very popular, but there were problems:
A) Some of the confessions were obviously fake. They just sounded stupid, silly, or made no sense.
B) The site got hacked several times and was constantly being targeted by autoposting spam bots.
C) Many of the confessions were about illegal things.
D) Some of the confessions listed actual names or other identifying information, or slandered people.
I frequently received angry emails from people wanting certain listings removed, and they threatened to call the police and sue me if I did not do it right away. I always complied with their requests, but other times I was contacted by the police, lawyers/prosecutors, or FBI agents looking for information about particular postings. I was even subpoenaed several times.
Considering I only made around $10/month from the site (because it has some offensive/r-rated content I could not run ads from any of the major ad networks), all of this was not worth it. A year ago I stopped taking confession submissions, and more recently deleted all the confessions from the site other than a handful of clean ones that will not cause problems. I then picked out a few hundred more clean ones and used them to build a confessions section on my Dumb.com website.