Help shape a new phase for Living Sober (Guest Post)

This guest post is by Nathan Brown (@nathanb) from the NZ Drug Foundation, the organisation which maintains Living Sober.


Let’s start a discussion about what happens next on Living Sober. Two big developments, which I will explain, mean we need your support turning them into opportunities to take the community forward.

Mrs D started this when she shared her gutsy and raw journey with alcohol so powerfully. She then invited each of you to join her in growing Living Sober into the caring and vibrant community it is today, three years later. Just as Living Sober would not exist without Mrs D, it would be nothing without you, the members. So now especially, we need to call on some of that community spirit.

Firstly, Mrs D and I received unwelcome news from our technical partner last week. Top of our agenda was the ‘lost post’ bug in the Members Feed, which I’m sure some of you have experienced. After hearing about their attempts to scour the world for a developer willing to help, we were told that the bug cannot be readily fixed. The reason is that Living Sober is a victim of its own success and has outgrown the platform it was built on. To fix this issue, protect against future issues, and allow for continued growth and improvement; the solution is rebuilding Living Sober under the hood. The good news is that we have saved money from previous years for a task like this, which means we can do this work and potentially make it better. The challenge is that this is a complex task and we must take care to preserve what it is that makes Living Sober work with the limited budget available.

The other big challenge is that we must adjust to a tighter funding situation for Living Sober. The Government agency which partners with us and Matua Raki to fund Living Sober has announced their continued financial support, but at a reduced level. This is because all the partners see the positive and real impact the community has on members’ lives. The challenge is for us to make Living Sober stronger, but with less.

While these challenges require action, this is not the first time we have thought about the future, or asked you for ideas and looked at proposals to improve the community. It’s now time to put some of these ideas into action.

Two-point plan
To address these challenges, we have outlined a two-point approach which we need your help fleshing out further.

Members moderate
Like many online communities, a new kind of member called a moderator will be introduced. Moderators will be promoted from the existing membership to strengthen the community by picking up some moderation ensuring that the community is the caring place it always was. Mrs D will manage the moderators.

Refresh and rebuild
The site will be rebuilt under the hood while taking care to preserve the most successful elements of Living Sober today. The look and feel of Living Sober will be retained but we can rethink what’s there, and identify areas to improve.

People come here for help and not only do they find it, they also find themselves generously giving much more. Above all, this is what we need to protect and strengthen. Please comment below to start the discussion and Mrs D and I will be around to listen and respond. What are your ideas and concerns? What are the most important and least important features of Living Sober to you? What parts of Living Sober need to be improved?

  1. Sparkle 7 years ago

    Hi – in order to build and maintain an improved software system to accommodate increased traffic and enhancements for the website – what level of monthly contribution would you need from members?
    Maybe start a donation box for a one off donation from members so you have a cash injection to get things going .
    Then potentially post a message next to the donation box stating what the monthly subscription would be if it was charged, so it gives members an idea of what a monthly contribution could be if they can afford it. That gives people an idea of how much to donate regularly in order to maintain cashflow for the maintenance of the site.
    Just an idea

  2. Lizzy 7 years ago

    I agree with the idea of a donation option and I would be happy to donate regularly.
    The best thing about how this site is structured is the simplicity of the menbers feed. You post, people reply, you can see their replies easily and you can read them in your emails. There is just one feed making it easy to keep up with how everyone is doing. It works.
    If you want to see how it should NOT be done (in my opinion) go and look at Soberistas. Far too complicated.
    Suggestions for improvement: counter at the top. I access the site on my android phone and dont see the categories for Mrs Ds Blog. Its not a big deal but it would be nice to see them if possible.
    Finally, like so many others have said, this site is a vital part of my sobriety. Talking about difficulties and successes, getting advice and inspiration… I dont have the option of doing that anywhere “in person”. I wouldnt go to AA or any other groups for various practical and personal reasons, and I have tried other sites but they dont suit me in the way LS does. They are too complicated, and not as welcoming and supportive as LS. There is something very special happening here and we need to preserve it.

  3. Julia 7 years ago

    Hi, this site is so important. It has helped me so so much. I would happily donate. I don’t know if someone else has suggested this but could you put the daily counter at the top of the page?

    • NathanB 4 years ago

      Hi @julia, Im just revisiting this thread and just wanted to ask – If you can remember, did you mean you would like to see the Sober Calculator on the Member’s Feed page? Any further thoughts on this now?

  4. sophia2 7 years ago

    I am happy to donate $

  5. Tim Bird 7 years ago

    I don’t look at the site often – except to check my days sober for the next milestone- and haven’t commented in ages. But knowing the site and community are there should I need them is a huge comfort. They were a great help during my first weeks sober, just over 2 years ago now. I would like them to be freely available to all who need them without restriction. I would happily donate on a monthly basis to ensure it was available for others when needed. And moderators to ensure the culture and site have a life beyond the wonderful work of Mrs D is a great move. Not saying anything that hasn’t been said by others, but thank you for the opportunity to add my voice to those who have commented before

    • NathanB 7 years ago

      Great to hear about the way you’re using the sober calculator. Is there any think about this feature that could be improved?

  6. Wildchild 7 years ago

    This site assisted in me becoming sober and has assisted in keeping me sober for more than a year. I cannot give enough praise for Living Sober, Lotta’s hard work and dedication, and the incredible support in this community. This site is incredibly valuable to many current members and many more that have been affected by people like me who have a family and operate as a high functioning member of our community. I am now an excellent role model for a whole bunch of teenagers, including my children. The net is cast wide with this site. It’s not just the 5000 members who feel the benefit.

    I have been a member of the blog site Livejournal for a decade. I paid a permenent subscription. There are also six monthly and annual subs. The site is also available free but this means you are subject to advertising. I would hate to see LS become a fee paying service — I am pretty sure I wouldn’t have paid a fee first up, until I discovered the full power of the site. But I think a donation box or even better a small monthly subscription, would work. I know I would do it. Livejournal also offers a gift feature, where you can pay for someone else’s subs.

    • NathanB 7 years ago

      @wildchild, thanks for that. Some display advertising on the site could be another revenue source???

      • Wildchild 7 years ago

        Yes I think it could work. Of course the advertising would have to to be appropriate!

  7. Janet 7 years ago

    Although I am not on the site much these days I do love to check in to the community area and the read the guest blogs. LS has been the greatest support for me on my journey of knocking out the booze in my life, especially in the early days. I would be more than happy to contribute $ to keep the site alive, I would totally put this donation in in my “sober treats” basket. From a “customer experience ” perspective I feel that some of the intimacy of communications has been lost with the huge amount of members now using the community area and it can be hard to keep up. For this reason maybe smaller break out groups could be useful? Not sure how this would work. Whatever happens this fabulous work of Lottas’s must go on!! Happy to help in anyway 🙂

    • NathanB 7 years ago

      Smaller discussion threads – now that’s an idea which it would be good to have other’s thoughts.

      • Lizzy 7 years ago

        I dont think thats a goid idea. It would make it much too complicated and you would lose the community feel. The beauty if this site is that we all post in one place which makes it easy to keep up with everyone. Most people reply to a wide variety of posts, and this gives everyone a wonderful range of ideas and perspectives. I believe this happens because there is just one feed. Sometimes as you read through the feed you see someones reply to a post and it helps you in some way, or makes you think of something helpful you can contribute as well.
        As I said in my post, check out Soberistas and you will see what I mean…. keeping it simple is key. Lots of threads would kill this site in my opinion.

  8. Oceania 7 years ago

    Hi there , not sure where to start but want to express how important this site is to me , it had been integral to my sobriety and the connections I have made through here are real and beyond supportive , I’m really shocked there isn’t enough funding for such an amazing resource which ripple effects are being felt all through out this country and the world I for one am a better parent and member of society now I don’t poison myself in the weekends , i drive drunk people home, I make meals for struggling mums, I listen to my friends who have problems all around I’m thinking of others now instead of being a selfish self absorbed egoistic drunk woman, it’s Thanks to people on this site and Mrs D that these changes have occurred and that’s just in my life one out of over 5000 ! I hope whoever is in charge of funding can see these incredible benefits that are ultimately creating a better world to live in for future generations ! I like the site how it is , would be happy to put a donation in but don’t feel comfortable subscribing , anyway thanks for opportunity to comment.

    • morgan 7 years ago

      I cannot express it better than Oceania. Having been on the site for almost 3 years, I have seen remarkable recoveries from people in very dark places, and for some who have tried everything previously and failed.
      As a moderator originally, yet still on the spectrum of addiction, in danger of real entrapment, this site has kept me from drifting back. I have seen that those who do drift back, can suffer many years of ill health and worsening addiction.
      Those who stay in the clear here, could well be saving the health system a huge amount of money, given the cancer/ alcohol statistics.
      Please keep it going. It also seems very short sighted to take any time away from the inspiration and founder of the site. Lotta is a vital force here, central, admired, balanced, always giving encouragement from a place of knowledge and success.

  9. Jenks 7 years ago

    Hi Everyone – I am new to the Living Sober site but am not new to the continual need to manage change. I agree with all the comments supporting the site and as a “New Boy” can confirm that access to the community forum is the most important step in battling this disease we all share. I understand the need to upgrade and as I have said above, this will be a continuous programme of improvement. However, whilst it is a cliche, there really is no need to fix something that isn’t broken. Allow for expansion, fix any glitches that have become apparent, give the system an expanded software and hardware base but don’t alter what the members currently need and that is what is currently available. If funding is an issue then by all means add the facility for donations but please, please understand that charging a subscription for all or part of the site will kill it stone dead. Those who can afford a subscription will pay it and those who can’t will be lost and everyone should have access to this. I have been desperate and this website and the community are helping me to save my life, be careful not to take that away.

    • NathanB 7 years ago

      Noted @jenks. Good points there.

  10. JanB 7 years ago

    I think ‘paid membership’ would be detrimental to the mission of the LivingSober website. I believe some folks who really need help at that very moment may move along to some other website instead of benefitting from LivingSober, one of the best sites available for alcohol related issues.

    I feel that a donation box on the website would overflow with generosity from those who have been literally saved by the site. I truly don’t know what would have become of me without this LivingSober Community & @Mrs-D. With a donation box, all can still benefit, especially in crisis mode. In my opinion, the appreciation from all who have been helped or saved would overflow the donation box.
    Love to all,
    JanB D214
    Virginia, USA xxxx

    • Colleenerz 7 years ago

      I agree. Donation box is the way to go!

  11. Prudence 7 years ago

    I’ve woken up with an idea. I wonder if it is a good one or not. If it was agreed by the powers that be that a donations box is a good idea, (and putting it underneath the money saved box was a brilliant idea)…….how about giving the option of a one off donation OR an auto payment of something quite small like $5 per week or $20 per month. It is still voluntary. Many newcomers may not donate at all until they fully realise the value the site gives them, and even then they could just give the occasional $10. But I suspect there would be many of us that would be happy to make a financial committment that the site could count on. It wuld cause a wee bit more to do in the back end to accommodate this feature but I’m almost certain it would way more than pay for itself. The thought of losing this site gives me a sickly panicky feeling in my stomach, and I am not an anxious person. Thank you Nathan and Mrs-D for all you do x

    • sophia2 7 years ago

      I would be happy to donate $. This site must keep going.

    • Petunia 7 years ago

      Hello Yep underneath the “money saved” box is a great idea @Prudence. Also, voluntary is a great idea, as someone else said, when people realise the personal (and wider social) value the site has to them they may be inclined if able, to donate. I’m sure the site wont be lost, thats not what the conversation is about 🙂

    • NathanB 7 years ago

      Yes! Right underneath the money saved calulator, nice. A regular donation option sounds nice. Perhaps we could identify some rewards also – merchandise etc. And don’t worry, there’s no reason to fear the site might go. We just need to make sure we get any changes right.

  12. Scared 7 years ago

    Wow, don’t log in for two days due to long work days and boom!
    As a member since the early days I access the feed mainly and little else. This is mainly due to time constraints. You see, in the early days I was only working 10 hours a week cos that’s all I could manage. I gave up the booze and neck minnit, am promoted and working full time. Funny what a brake pedal booze is…
    Personally I would hate a subscriber only feature., even if it is only for part of the site. I think people need to access all of the site for free. However, I do love the idea of a Donate button. I would be more than happy to contribute.
    I am also comfortable with the idea of community moderators. I think it’s nice to spread the load. I would love to see a variety of moderators that reflect the variety of members’ journeys here.
    Gotta dash and get to work.
    Big thank you to Nathan, Lotta and the NZ Drug Foundation for providing us a safe, free place to come to.

  13. k1W1 7 years ago

    Moderators yes, maybe from different parts of the world so all time zones are covered. Donations button yes, I would like to see contributions from professionals eg articles on nutrition (hot topic as sugar urges take place of alcohol) councillors- anxiety seems to be a big topic, as well as other problems such as how family dymanics can change as a person gives up drinking, as well as other issues. Would like to be able to added emojis 🙂

    • NathanB 7 years ago

      Good points, thanks @k1w1. Lotta does source expert posts. The Ask an Expert landing page is the 9th most popular page for returning users, and the 17th most popular page for new users.

    • freefromthebeast 7 years ago

      I agree with everything k1W1 suggested!!!

  14. Nina 7 years ago

    Definitely time for a change of government in my view. Until then, please keep this forum as it obviously works and has helped create my 473 days(all up!) hangover free. However the moderating role is worked out, and that is an ironic title, the site is invaluable in that it helps people stop where CADS, which I am assuming is govt funded does not necessarily have such success. Speaking from experience with them, and fully appreciative of their efforts to help me moderate alcohol use,(which they encourage) including phone counselling and drug treatment, Living Sober has the means to reach far and wide, so now that it has become so big, maybe we need to donate if this can work (although some say it doesn,t long term). I am happy to.

    Lotta,s courage in speaking out publicly, with her family and high profile husband,s work to consider has really given a lot of us the impetus to make change where other groups, AA etc maybe do a good job for some, The LS site means people can feel supported in what is a very personal quest. Not everyone can get to meetings, so on behalf of the people who drink at home every night and want to stop, let us know how we can help and I for one will be here. Yes I agree, if any of you rich listers want to do some good with those dodgy tax breaks you,ve benefited from, here,s your chance.

    • NathanB 7 years ago

      I had never noticed the irony of the title of “moderator” in a recovery community like Living Sober, classic hehehe

  15. gypsyrose 7 years ago

    Pleas, please,please, we all so need this site! It is such a lifesaver for so so many people! AA etc is not for everyone but this site is! We so need MrsD around.

  16. Cassie 7 years ago

    Without this site and the community within, I would not have been able to get to 265 days without drinking. I joined 2 years before I reached my point of no return.At the time I joined my sister in NZ (I’m a Kiwi living in Aussie)told me all about Mrs D and her TV interview,her book and this site,she said she had joined,although I didn’t think I had a major problem I did think I had a few issues and maybe not drinking was a good idea,so I brought Lotta’s book,and joined up to Living Sober,Read Lotta’s book,recognised myself,cried,vowed to stop and I dont remember using the site at all,although I must have briefly looked at it. iI lasted 2 weeks ,then decided I would control it, as has been said by many “Well we all know how that goes” 2 years later when I awoke with shame,a crying mess, and with the realization that I had to stop drinking,I went straight to the Living Sober site and I haven’t looked back.I wake up,pick up my phone and read all the latest posts ,I save the ones that have links so I can access or read later, or that perhaps relate more to my journey ,I read it last thing at night,and I read it whenever I feel the need during the day, In the early days I used it constantly especially at times I would be on my way to a social occasion, In tears, feeling so sorry for myself ,saying I cant do this and all the rest and I would frantically log on to LS, read all the posts and I would calm down, and from all the comments I would draw the strength to get through it knowing its the best desion I ever made.and that I can do it,I have been a lurker, Im not sure why I don’t post, I have offered a few lately and may over time I will get braver about posting,but the point of this long winded one is without this site I would not have been able to stop drinking,and I would happily make a donation,I do agree with others that to make it a pay site would be detrimental to alot of people,not only those that can’t afford it but for those in the depths of despair,the last thing they are going to be able to do is pause to reach for their credit card and go thorough that painful process before they can access the site.I also love the site just they way it is.. 🙂

    • Petunia 7 years ago

      hey @cassie You saved up all your posts for one big one!! Very cool stuff you’ve said and so relate – able. Can you use this site on ph? OMG, I’ve tried and its been a mess, I’ll try again, Id use it more if I accessed it from my ph instead of at home when logged in. 🙂

      • Cassie 7 years ago

        Sorry @petunia have only just seen this,have you found your way on your phone ☺

      • NathanB 7 years ago

        @petunia believe it or not, more people access the site using mobile than desktop. In the past year there has been a 30% increase in mobile traffic, while desktop use has decreased 1%!

    • NathanB 7 years ago

      Valuable comments. It’s valuable to hear from the people who don’t post so much but still get so much value from the site. Thanks @cassie

  17. Pegret61 7 years ago I am 334 days sober.This morning I logged in with great anticipation on reading the newest post on Mrs D’s blogs.I do this everyday.To see that there is a possibly of changes in the format is devasting…for me.I’ve been lurking on this site for my entire 334 days but was so compelled to write my first post to voice my opinion.I love this site,it has been my entire support system in my sobriety.Reading others struggles and achievements and the support given has been truly inspirational.It’s hard beginning your sober journey in a world that is soaked in alcohol….on this site I’m not alone.I understand things change and need upgrading,I just hope you keep it as simplistic as it is…

    • NathanB 7 years ago

      Keep it simple – got it. Wow, thanks so much for adding your comment.

  18. Amy 7 years ago

    I want to echo what so many others have said, this site has been so valuable to me as I take this journey. It is something that I have tried to do for years and have not found any success until I found this community. I am still early in the process and am hoping that this site continues. Thank you to everybody who is working so hard behind the scenes to help make this site possible

    • NathanB 7 years ago

      Thanks Amy 😀

  19. Emjaycee 7 years ago

    Thanks Nathan for kicking off this important discussion. This site is a positive, supportive and safe environment that is continually proving it is working to help people give up alcohol. It has been truly life changing for so many people in NZ and around the world. Where do you start placing a value on that.

    Firstly, I like the idea of moderators helping Mrs D keep an eye on things. Since I’ve joined I’ve rarely , if ever, seen comments that were abusive or unsafe, so people a generally aware and respectful of the rules. The people who are online the most could inform Mrs D of anything requiring her attention, or you could add a section to the site which any member can use in order to report directly to Mrs D. In that way Mrs D would be able to act when required but not have to be online so much. The other thing that is so awesome about Mrs D’s role is the comments of support she frequently makes. Other lamplighters do this too, but members get a buzz when Mrs D chimes in.

    I find it particularly galling that Big Alcohol is making such large profits , while alcohol counselling services, the health sector, and govt funded sites such as Living Sober – who are all trying to pick up the pieces and mend the damage caused by alcohol – struggle for funding and in sine cases to exist. Could we organise a petition to lobby the govt for more funding?

    Can we use the media to highlight this funding issue, spread the word about the site. I’m sure the are plenty of members (including me) willing to support Mrs D and speak out. Hayley Holt (now sober and running for Parliament) might support our efforts .

    We could apply to suitable organisations for ongoing grants to help fund LS.

    I’m also happy to make a donation but recognise this is not a reliable income stream. This site MUST remain free to members!

    Mrs D could farm out some of the interviews for the Sober Stories to writers / journos on the site . I might know a journo

    • Emjaycee 7 years ago

      The bottom of my post got cut short: I also suggested more guest blogs/content could help.

      Thanks for the opportunity to contribute Nathan. I’m sure we’ll come up with a sustainable model!

      • NathanB 7 years ago

        There is something unique about Living Sober. Many of the comments under this post underscore that and I’ll certainly do my best to reflect these. It’s also nice to hear from a guy who uses the site regularly. Is there anything that you think could attract more guys without taking away from what we have, @emjaycee?

  20. QuietlyDone 7 years ago

    Thank you for all you do for us Nathan!
    I’ve been active on this site from the very early days. Life saving! I can’t think of any other sober tool that could possibly be as valuable. I will be happy to donate to see it continue.
    Was wondering if you could expand a bit on the role of moderator. What are the responsibilities? Lotta does the job so seamlessly that I’m not sure I understand all the aspects of the role. Thanks again!

    • NathanB 7 years ago

      Hi @quietlydone, Lotta is working on the responsibilities of the moderators at the moment and we’ll hear from her in the coming days about this.

  21. IslandOne 7 years ago

    Hi @nathanb,
    Keeping the site simple keeps maintenance cheap-I’d rather have a long lived site than a fully featured flash in the pan. That said, transforming to https from http (relatively straightforward) would help in two three ways:
    1. Generally improved security
    2. Will support payment gateway, so you can take donations
    3. Some search engines (Google is one) preferentially rank HTTPS sites – and it’s good to make the site easy to find.
    * Finance *
    I’m certainly happy to donate – just land the button on the site (I know this is actually rather hard – I’ve done a little web developing). I do think that there are a lot of folk who might find it hard to make a donation financially, and a two-tier (paying members/non-members) solution would be contra-ethos. There are some sites out there with multi-tier memberships and near constant upsell – they just look (and probably are) exploitive. Is it possible to coordinate with any other government-supported health sites to share infrastructure and development costs?

    • NathanB 7 years ago

      Hi @islandone, good suggestions there re https. In many ways, Living Sober is unique in that there are few other government funded online communities focused around a health issue. Can you think of any that use a similar functionality to Living Sober?

  22. soberlynn 7 years ago

    @nathanb – I honestly don’t have much to add to what has already been said above (or below?) except to say that this site has been a life saver for me. When I joined almost three years ago I was in a black pit of despair and thanks in part to this site and some hard work I’m on a mountain top with the sun shining down on me.
    I mainly use the Members Feed and Lotta’s blog posts. I like being able to see my journal entries to sometimes remind me where I’ve been and where I don’t want to be ever again. I no longer use the Sober Toolbox as I’ve built my own, but it’s very useful to newbies I’m sure.
    I believe the section that lists all the members’ screen names and how long they’ve been active on the site from one moment to the next is unnecessary – for me at least.
    The only time I’ve ever lost a post has been due to my own fault and has happened when I accidentally hit delete instead of save. I’ve simply learned to select and copy as I go along.
    Although I think that over the years we’ve done a pretty good job of moderating ourselves, if have appointed moderators would help Lotta then I’m all for it. Could you expand a bit the moderators’ duties?
    And, another little orange box for donations right next to the one for money saved would be a great idea. After all, this site is the reason most of us have been able to save the money in the first place. So being able to donate the cost of a few bottles of wine here may be a very good idea if it would help.
    I am absolutely opposed to this site becoming a subscription only site thereby having to turn away persons in crisis because of their financial inability to pay. That would be so terribly, terribly sad.
    Basically, streamlining this site and doing anything we can do to help Lotta’s workload you’ve got my vote. 🙂

    • NathanB 7 years ago

      Thanks @soberlynn. Great input on the areas you like or don’t use. Also noted on your paid member views. A donation option seems like it could be a good idea.

  23. jo14 7 years ago

    First, this site has made all the difference in my ability to stay sober. Here I am, a few days away from my 3-year sober achievement. I am wondering why we need moderators? I might have missed something along the way, so if that could be clarified, that would be helpful. The main thing that sets this site apart from other sites, in my opinion, is the ease of use. It has been fun to make friends all over the world who understand and are so supportive. Hopefully, the changes that are being discussed will not stray too far from the original format. I appreciate all the time, effort, and support, that has been given, and continues to be given, to keep this site the wonderful site it is. Thank you!

    • mullycatNZ 7 years ago

      I think the idea of moderators is to reduce the workload of Mrs D now membership is so huge? A site like this needs someone to be monitoring activities just in case rules are broken (e.g. abuse between members) and to provide oversight, guidance on occasion?

      • NathanB 7 years ago

        @mullycatnz, that’s right. The ethos of Living Sober which makes it so valuable doesn’t happen automatically. Also, we need to prioritise the limited amount of Mrs D’s time she has to put into the site day in and day out. This is one way to ensure she has time to focus the editorial content which so many find incredibly valuable.

  24. Lilly67 7 years ago

    Hi – I’ve only been on the site around five weeks but I can honestly say it’s helped me more than anything else to get on top of my drinking issues finally. There is a sister site in the U.K. Called Soberistas. I just googled it -they have a yearly membership fee of £34.00 (which is around 65p a week!) I know membership fees are a sticky point so I’m just throwing it in there to see what people think. 5,000 members x 34.00 = £170,000 for example… Having spent HUGE amounts on wine weekly! It’s certainly something I would happily pay! Happy to support in any way needed. X

    • NathanB 7 years ago

      Thanks @lilly67 for going a step further to consider the paid member option. Based on others’ feedback the introduction of a member hierarchy doesn’t sit too well with people. However, there does seem to be an appetite for allowing donations. This could take the form of optional annual memberships like you suggest.

  25. freedom1025 7 years ago

    First off, let me start by saying what an invaluable tool the Living Sober Community Forum is. I truly would not be where I am today on my sober journey without it. It is an integral part of my sober portfolio and I check it every morning and every evening.
    In terms of changing things, there really isn’t much I would do differently. The beauty of this site is in its simplicity. I love the layout … you can scroll through all of the posts at once vs having them grouped under a particular theme or topic which is very common on other forums. Also love the sober toolbox section and sober stories. This site doesn’t need to be flashy. It’s the caring non-judgmental support of the members that is most important.
    I’m not sure if this is addressing your specific “ask” of us. If you need any more follow-up, I’m happy to oblige.

    • NathanB 7 years ago

      I think you’re calling for a steady as she goes, don’t change much approach! 🙂

      • NathanB 7 years ago

        Hi @petunia, thanks for your comment. I was wondering if something like a T-Shirt could be a nice way to reward someone for donating, since it may also help promote the site offline.

      • Petunia 7 years ago

        Hello @nathanb, yes steady as she goes would be an appropriate Kiwi way to do things. Plus, somewhere you mentioned the possibility of merchandise on this site, OMG please No! What we don’t need is more bits of stuff!!

  26. reena 7 years ago

    This is one of the easiest sites on the web to use, the notifications, the journal feature, links to my emails, and moving around the site itself are all done easily and quickly. I use other sites around the web that are much trickier to use. That being said, the community feed has helped me tremendously not only by writing my goals and thoughts and thereby cementing a plan for myself but by listening and caring for others who share this addiction.. You are not alone is the hallmark of LS and someone searching for light at the end of the tunnel will certainly find they are not alone when logging in here. I am ready and willing especially as a USA member to help in any way possible including a fee or donation, as long as people who can’t afford it can still get on at first for free. This is a valued and much used tool in my sobriety toolbox.

  27. Wvlheel 7 years ago

    I have no idea how much a site like this costs to run or how much time is spent moderating posts. I certainly support adding moderators if it gets @mrs-d a bit of free time (and she is on board). Is the upgrade of the technology primarily driven by the lost post issue? If so, I’d much prefer an occasional lost post to a fundamental change in how the site works. It works!

    I agree with others who’ve spoken to the simplicity of the site being the key for me. I like the way this is set up – if you have a thought, type it up, hit post, done! The functionality of Facebook for something this important is not necessary – simpler is better.

    I am nearly 500 days sober and this site plays a huge, incredibly important role in my ongoing sobriety. I am not sure if I could’ve gotten sober without this community. That is how important the site is for me.

    I am absolutely willing to donate to the site if that is presented as an option. However, everyone does not have the financial means to do so. Voluntary donations are better than a subscription option for that reason – BUT, I’ve participated in forums which were “voluntarily funded” in the past and they inevitably shut down for lack of funds.

    It would be quite interesting to track the success rate in maintaining sobriety for members of this site and compare it to traditional programs like AA. Perhaps some research would indicate that relatively small amount of money required to fund this site is well worth it.

    • NathanB 7 years ago

      In the interests of making it even more simple, are there were any parts of the site that you think could be removed???

  28. JM 7 years ago

    Hi Nathan, thanks for explaining the situation. I’m a Canadian who loves this site. I think the true anonymity of this site and the amazing support people consistently offer to one another make it unique and wonderful. And indispensable. As some people wrote above, if we were okay with the odd missing post, and the issue were finding and training new moderators, could it be possible to have an idea of how much $ is needed? We could fundraise among ourselves and also put it out there in the wider world, perhaps another organization could step in and help fund the site? Thanks so much.

    • hummingbird 7 years ago

      like 🙂

      • Freyfreya 7 years ago

        I like the idea of moderators Nathan. Tell me how you see their role developing.? This gives me an opportunity to discuss my one concern. We all want new people to stop drinking and enjoy the success being AF . However a 2bottle of wine nightly person stopping suddenly causes side effects from the annoying shakes and sweats to the more dangerous seizures on day 3 or 4. Heavy drinkers stopping suddenly should be directed to their GP for important meds. It’s always been a worry to me.
        Donation boxes? Great idea. Give what you can afford. I still wonder where the 5000 members are? Are they all still using the site.? Lots for you and Lotta to sort out . Good luck

  29. Kirst 7 years ago

    I agree with everyone above. This site is essential for those of us who use it. I lurked for a year before I posted. But don’t underestimate how much I relied on it. Reading the latest posts in my room before getting my game face on for a bbq or reading posts at home alone on a Friday night instead of swill in wine. I can truly say this is the only formal support I have used but I am still here over a year and a half later. I agree with the moderator support by members. I like the idea of donations but think this would prove an unreliable funding stream. I wouldn’t Iike to see a subscription as the beauty of this site is that it is inclusive and I would hate to think someone couldn’t access it because they couldn’t afford it. What about grants from the pokies or some other philanthropic charity?

    • hummingbird 7 years ago

      great idea about the grants, maybe some of that booze tax money, I am sure most of us here have been large contributors 🙂

    • Kirst 7 years ago

      Haha, sometimes your missing posts turn up…

  30. Kirst 7 years ago

    I agree with everyone above. This site is vital for helping us stay sober. I lurked for my first year before I was confident enough to post but if I counted how often in that first year I gained support from the site before I crossed each hurdle it would soon add up… sitting in my room, reading the latest post before getting my game face on and heading out to a BBQ or sitting alone at home on a Friday night, wanting a wine because I was bored but lurking on the site instead . I can truely say this site has been my only formal type of support on this journey. And I am still here over a year and a half on. I agree with getting moderator support, I am happy for members to do it but wonder if we can’t tap into some other volunteer services like lifeline or similar. I also agree with the donations but recognise that this will be an erratic funding stream. I don’t think subscriptions are right for this site as it is the inclusive nature of the place that makes it so special and I would hate to think that someone couldn’t access the support because they couldn’t afford it. Why can’t we try and access grants from the pokies or some other type of philanthropic grants?

    • NathanB 7 years ago

      Interesting idea about Lifeline and the like. We are looking at offering formal peer support training to moderators if there are any that would like to do it, as another option.

  31. Temperance 7 years ago

    Moderators, yes. Donations, yes. Perhaps a Testimonial page.

    • NathanB 7 years ago

      A testimonial page, what a bloody good idea!

  32. Aria 7 years ago

    The easy access to this site through the Internet has been very valuable to me. The manaaki, caring for each other and the preservation of each individual’s mana encourages my participation and my attempt at sobriety.
    I have also noticed the wisdom in feedback in posts that ensure the safety of distressed members and their whanau.
    I particularly like the access to the website from my i phone. This means I can access support when I need it where ever I am.
    This forum needs to be valued for the wide ranging support it offers to members, at a reasonable cost to our public health system.
    For this reason government financial support should be forthcoming.

  33. Seizetheday 7 years ago

    I too mainly read the members feed and every sober story. I think the way it is set up is fine, and easy to use.
    There are so many of us that would not be where we are today if we did not have the support we get from living sober.
    It is gutting and senseless to cut funding to something so successful. But also I understand the load needs to be shared in moderating. I don’t know what the options are, I just can’t help thinking there must be someone somewhere that would help prop it up. I’m sorry I don’t have much in the way of suggestions, but all I know is that the wee mishaps we have of losing posts are nothing compared to losing this precious safe haven we have. We’d happily put up with them to have this site continue

    • NathanB 7 years ago

      Thanks @seizetheday. I plan to collate the feedback on this post and will ensure the partners understand the feeling of community.

  34. Liberty 7 years ago

    Hello Nathan and Mrs D. Thank you for the opportunity to give input, this place is so important to so many of us.
    I love that the site is pretty simple and easy to use. I understand what you’re saying about needing to rebuild it under the hood, but I don’t think it needs to be more flash or more complicated to use.
    Some people join and post here once and we never see them again. I don’t know if they lurk or never come here again. Others post in the beginning then get to a certain stage in their sobriety and then they go. Some come and go over time. Then there are people like me who are here all the time and who don’t know what we’d do without it. It’s not even the sobriety – this is my community. This is connection I absolutely need.
    I think it works that the site can accommodate all of this variety.
    I think it works that there is an open forum – we can’t talk behind each other’s backs or form cliques. I think that keeps some of the less pleasant aspects of human behaviour under check.
    Also it works because of who Mrs D is and how she is – accessible, real, one of us, modelling openness and authenticity. But at the same time I want Mrs D to be able to have a break and I know as the site gets bigger she’ll need help to run this.
    I’ve been pondering subscription options – could we pay to join? But that would significantly disrupt what works now and really change the nature of the site – truly I think that would be a loss. At the same time, I”ve been here only 16 months and about 2000 more members have joined since then! At this exponential rate things will change anyway. How can we keep the beautiful judgement-free supportive community spirit here? That, to me, is number 1 priority.
    Could some of the site be subscriber-access only? I don’t know what though. Maybe your blogs Mrs D. Maybe something you provide just for subscribers.
    There is much of the site I don’t look at – I hang out in the community area, read sober stories and blog posts and look at drink recipes. Those are the spaces I frequent. Would ‘streamlining’ (if possible) help with costs?
    I’m here almost every day and 100% back what others are saying about how much I and we need this place. I absolute believe that connection and community is part of overcoming alcohol abuse/addiction. Given what I’ve seen here since I joined, I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say lives have been saved by people being in this community. Thanks again.

    • NathanB 7 years ago

      Hi Liberty, great comments. The community has certainly grown rapidly and that’s an important consideration as we consider how to accommodate more members.

  35. Prudence 7 years ago

    It’s the connection and communication, and the ease with which we can go about it that works for me. It’s perfect. It works for busy people with busy lives. It works for shy and introverted people. It works for people who are truly desperate and reach out and find nothing but kindness and support. It works for professional people who have an important profile in their community and can enjoy the anonimity and feel supported. So bottom line…..IT WORKS AND WE NEED IT. (I would never have got and stayed sober without this site, and even three years down the track it is still a big part of my life…….I would feel at sea without it).
    I’m wondering if we should just put up with the missing post issue, it doesn’t happen all that often, maybe keep the money you’ve got put aside for it until it becomes more seriously necessary. I think we need to find a new backer. Write to some of those people on the new NZ Rich List perhaps! We might need to put the plight of LS out there publicly somehow, and see if anyone pops out of the woodwork. How much do we need per year? I’m sure many of us would be happy to pay a membership fee, but it would kind of bring down the tone of genuinity and it would also create a big admin job requiring payment, and there are many on the site who could not afford it. I do think it would be a reasonable idea to have a DONATIONS WELCOME icon somewhere on the front end of the website and when you press it you get the bank details. Those that could afford to could put $50 in every now and then and those that can’t could probably manage $5 or $10 now and then and it will all add up. Like Gilbert, I mainly only visit the feed as it takes me alot of time just trying to keep up with most of that. I read the sober stories and Blog posts but don’t often visit the toolbox, or drinks but think it’s great that they’re there. I think it really sucks that it is the government agency that has cut the funding on this. What are they thinking FFS!!! Do they think we are just a wee minority of alchy losers that don’t count for much in society. Idiots!! We are the people that are beginning the charge to change this booze soaked culture. Grrrr……

    • marmite 7 years ago

      Yep, I’d be ok with just putting up with missing posts. It’s be ok with donations too. I too only use the members feed, blog posts and sober stories

  36. Sobersocks 7 years ago

    Could you maybe set up a donations box to help fund the site? That way people don’t have to pay to access it but can donate if they can afford it. You could post what the donations have been used for in improving and helping the site stay live to keep members who donate aware of how it helps . The site has been so helpful to me, thanks so much for that :).

    • NathanB 7 years ago

      I like that idea!

      • soberlynn 7 years ago

        I like that idea as well. We’re all aware of how much we’ve saved by not buying booze – how about a donation box to put some of that saved money to a good cause? After all, LS has assisted us in saving it in the first place. 🙂

  37. marmite 7 years ago

    I’d be ok with certain members being moderators, and I suspect they would moderate each other if necessary. Glad that Mrs d will get a break from having this responsibility on her own too!
    I would like to push for more funding. This site should be fully funded. Along with Mrs D’s books, it has got and kept many of us sober. That means that pressure on local health services has been reduced and we are all more active, contributing members of society. Are there some facts to support this? How many active Kiwi members do we have? Would it help if members wrote a piece each on how this site has got and kept us sober and sent it to the relevant place?
    I love this site and I credit it for keeping me sober (Mrs D’s book got me sober). I’ve struggled a little with the massive number of members we have now, sometimes it’s hard to keep up to date with the members I’m closest to. Having said that, it’s lovely to be surrounded by so many new members and that we have regular members at all stages of recovery.
    I don’t get email alerts as you end up with so many but I’d like to be able to follow a post sometimes (currently you only get a notification of someone mentions your name, not if they just reply to a post).
    I’m sure I’ll think of more but this will do for starters!

    • Prudence 7 years ago

      Yeah I don’t get email alerts either and I’m sure I miss stuff sometimes.

      • NathanB 7 years ago

        My sense is that these sorts of glitches or omissions could be tidied up nicely in a rebuild with a newer software.

  38. Nic1963 7 years ago

    This place is a lifesaver and I think Mrs D is great. I have absolutely no idea how much something like this costs to run. No idea at all. But I am sure there would be a solution to the problem if it is down to finances.

    There is an orange box that tells us how much money we have all saved since we stopped drinking. I’m sure we could all afford to donate some of that to this very worthwhile place.

    Thanks once again Mrs D for all you do.

  39. Gilbert 7 years ago

    Gutted to hear about the funding when many thousands are impacted. I thought the moderator thing might happen and it’s a good idea if it helps Mrs D. Please,please don’t change too much. Mostly as an old timer I just follow the feed. Maybe a search engine to look up friends would be good.

    • Prudence 7 years ago

      But we can look up friends, we can look up anyone by going into Members on the left hand side and it brings up a box to type the persons name in. You see all their comments and can view each conversation. It has always been there. Took me about 2 years to realise! Took me even longer to discover the funcition of Mentions….which was right in front of my face the whole time…….ah well I’ve always said I’m not very observant.

    • marmite 7 years ago

      Ooh, yeah, I’d like that too @gilbert and that would solve what I said, about it being hard to keep up with so many members

      • NathanB 7 years ago

        @marmite and @gilbert – a search function seems like something obvious that is missing, I tend to agree there.

  40. Stella 7 years ago

    I know this site means many different things to many of us.
    But for me, to be totally honest, I don’t know what I would do without it.  Or indeed where I would be.
    While I’m still struggling with the whole forever  sober thing, if i didnt have this safe place to come and lurk and post and read others experiences, I would be completely and utterly lost.
    I would be back to 1-2 bottles of wine a day. Every day. And that’s not an option.
    AA isn’t for me.  And nothing else has ever worked. Until this.
    I can’t stress how much i need somewhere like this to help me. It keeps me in check. It makes me take a step back. It makes me think.
    The members on this site are so helpful, supportive and caring.  And the most important thing is, they all get it.
    I’m not sure if this is what you wanted, and i know there are others here who will put it more eloquently. But it’s how i feel.
    Stella x

  41. Freyfreya 7 years ago

    To see this site go would be catastrophic. However I hear what you say. That the site has to function and be supportive to all the members who come here. The financial implications have to be taken into account.
    As a 24/7 support group what is financially viable?
    i think you need to advise us what the options are as this site moves into the future.
    Until we know what the options are for LS it is hard to advise what might Work moving into the future.
    I would suggest we need more intimation about our options.
    The only certainty is that this site works in its current structure. It has saved lives no matter how you view it.
    ..This site is recommended by all the A and D dhb people before coming under their umbrella.
    It must be seen that the LS site works well and must absolutely be funded to continue in its current format

    • NathanB 7 years ago

      You’re right, many of the 5200 people that ever registered on LS are no longer active. But nonetheless Google Analytics tells us that returning users account for around 73% of all traffic, so that confirms that many are coming back again and again. We’re devising a more detailed plan in response to the feedback here and we’ll keep you updated.

    • NathanB 7 years ago

      Hi Freyafreya, I think in the next post I could go into more detail about possible options. One thing that we are thinking to do first is to implement the moderators. So ideas on how this needs to be done to be successful are good. So far we’re looking at perhaps having a special profile photo for moderators, reviewing and elevating the moderation policy, and creating a page with special moderator profiles and information as ways to get this going. Moderator job descriptions, monitoring and selection process will be led by Lotta and mostly developed behind the scenes but ideas for these are welcome also.

      • Freyfreya 7 years ago

        Helo Nathan.We all have an online knowledge of who moderators could be. There are up to 20 to 40 people who have been very successful in their battle against alcohol addiction.
        Where are the other 4 thousand.? What happens to them and are they counted in statistics in the LS group?
        When funding is challenged we need to know how many are using this site and how successful they are and hiow we support them ?
        I have no answers. My fight was with GP opioid prescribiers and I dealt with this in a public forum with some success.
        The fallout was the wine I started drinking. The LS site seems to to be the only way i have found in moderating with the short term and stopping in the longer term.
        To change this forum because of funding constraints would be a backward step indeed.
        Regards Denise

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