Growing A Successful Forum: Interview With Michael Shackleford of Wizard of Vegas

Michael Shackleford is the mastermind behind Wizard of Vegas, a website hosting an active forum with over 10,000 members. Despite being in a hyper competitive space with a lot of sensitive topics, Michael was able to find success by leveraging the user base of his other sites (Wizard of Odds and Wizard of Macau) to build the initial user base of his forum using some clever tactics.

We were fortunate enough to pick Michael’s brain on how he grew a successful and active forum. If you want to read more on Michael Shackleford, you can access his wikipedia page. Enjoy.

1. If you were in an elevator and had to describe the Wizard of Vegas forum to a stranger before reaching your floor, what would you say?

It is more than a forum. It is a whole Las Vegas travel guide. Besides the forum it has hotel and show reviews, articles, gaming guides, and detailed coverage on bike trails. If it were the MGM elevator (which is really slow) I could go on.

2. Your forum is in an extremely competitive space, why do you think it has resonated so much with people?

My philosophy of web sites is that if you offer quality content and actively maintain it, then people will come. Also, we don’t use off-the-shelf forum software but hand-coded every line of code according to the effect we were going for. That unique look I think sets us apart.

3. The “Dropout Rate” (quitting while trying to build a site) is extremely high with new forums because it’s not easy to gain traction within a new community, how did you do it? And how long did it take to generate traction?

Fortunately, my Wizard of Odds site already had a large following. So there was an immediate fan base when Wizard of Vegas started. However, there is still the issue of building up a critical mass. I helped get the ball rolling by no longer answering Wizard of Odds questions by Email but making people ask questions in the forum. Still, the first several months were a little slow but within a year the forum grew to have a nice volume.

4. Now having almost 10,000 members, can you describe the moment when you knew that the forum was going to be a success?

I never thought about that before. Early on some other gambling forums closed threads on some sensitive topics or avoided them to begin with. However, the Wizard of Vegas has always had the philosophy that truthful information is a good thing and we invite discussion of advantage plays and exposing cheating. When the Wizard of Vegas forum was the only major gambling forum to invite discussion about such things as the Mohegan Sun triple down promotion, the Revel “You Can’t Lose” promotion, the Spielo G2/Finsoft cheating scandal, and lately problems associated with the Mission2Game casino I knew were were onto a good
thing. So, to answer the question, it was a gradual process but when topics like these flourished I knew the site was going to be a success.

5. At what point in time does a forum administrator need to bring in (or appoint) moderators? Is that something new forum owners should worry about when launching?

I suppose there should be ideal ratio of moderators to active members. I’ve never quantified that ratio but go on feel. When launching, one moderator is probably enough but as a forum grows it will need more. I personally read at best only 5% of posts on my site so need help catching rule breakers and trolls.

6. What sort of technical problems (if any) did you endure along the way that you didn’t expect?

Surprisingly few. Private messaging is probably the thing we’ve tinkered the most with. It always functioned as intended but the members found out ways to abuse it.

7. What advice (practical or conceptual) would you give to someone who wanted to start their own forum?

Try to keep the focus on a particular topic. You need to find the right balance of how strongly to moderate it. Finally, be active with it. It is important that the hosts spend time with it and avail themselves to the members.

8. Final thoughts? Advice?

I think that with a forum or with anything, do your best with it. Be proud to put your name behind it. Whatever you do in life – do it well or don’t do it at all.

And that’s all, folks! We want to give a special thanks to Michael for taking time out of his busy day to answer these questions and provide some knowledge and insight on growing his websites and forum.

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