If you had told me ten years ago that a casual hobby of posting news online for federal employees would grow into one of the leading news sites on the Internet for the federal workforce, I probably would have laughed out loud at such a seemingly outlandish thought. Yet ten years later, that is where FedSmith.com now finds itself.
Our site officially got underway in 2002 when our first email went out to a very sparse number of recipients introducing them to the FedSmith.com concept. Back then, we were more of a conglomerate of links to various web sites related to federal employment across categories such as human resources, labor and employee relations, and laws and regulations. We learned over time though that our users were more interested in news rather than a database of links to web pages and have subsequently evolved in that direction over time.
FedSmith.com grew out of a vision dreamed up primarily by Ralph based on his work and experience with founding and running FPMI Communications, Inc. Before the Internet was really a hip place to be, Ralph was dabbling in providing news electronically to his customers but had never really had an opportunity to refine the concept before he retired from the company in the late 90s.
I’ve been building web sites going as far back as high school, so I had an innate interest in taking on Ralph’s challenge of putting his ideas onto the computer screen (saying I put them to paper is SO last century!). Susan has worked in and around the federal sector for decades and was also instrumental in shaping what the site was to ultimately become. The combination of our experience, ideas and skills just seemed like a natural fit in bringing FedSmith.com to fruition.
If you are a truly long time reader of this site, the image below might look familiar to you. It’s a snapshot of the FedSmith.com home page taken in its infancy in 2002:
The site opened on a small web hosting company’s server running many other companies’ sites in addition to ours. After a couple of years, traffic to FedSmith.com had grown to the point where it was overloading the server and causing problems for not only our site, but the other sites who had the misfortune of running on the same server. Our regular influx of morning traffic from users reading the day’s news would arrive and the site would slow to a grind. I still remember the day when Ralph came to me and said, “So what do you want to do about the hosting company firing us?” He was referring to a letter sent to us by a member of our hosting company’s management staff informing us that we were overloading their shared web server to the point that they could no longer accommodate hosting our site.
We went from that small environment for our single site to one today which has three dedicated servers to power not only FedSmith.com, but our other web sites we’ve added along the way, FedsDataCenter.com and TSPDataCenter.com.
Over the years, we’ve tried different features on the site, some of which were popular and some that flopped.
As mentioned previously, we began largely as a database of links to other sites related to the federal government.
We have always had links to news articles from other sources, but we gradually began to add our own content written by us or the many authors who now write for FedSmith.com. We are fortunate to have a number of authors who are willing to share their expertise on topics ranging from retirement or labor and employee relations to writing skills with our readers, and they have helped us produce a lot of great content over the years.
Our articles initially didn’t have the ability for readers to add comments to them, but that feature has grown to become one of the more popular ones we offer.
But then there were some not-so-memorable experiments. Does anybody remember the FedSmith.com e-postcards, federal calendar, or our job board? And at one time, we even had a customizable page where you could add (among other things) the weather forecast for the city of your choosing. It’s funny for me to think about some of these features now since a couple of them seem about as relevant to the federal workforce as a Dukes of Hazzard rerun, but they are some of the more memorable flops that were part of our learning process over the years. It’s not that these were necessarily bad ideas or products, they just didn’t really fit with our site’s primary purpose.
Our mission has been and always will be to bring timely news of importance to the federal workforce. We don’t give preference to any one topic or story, regardless of whether it leans left or right or paints a flattering or unflattering picture of the federal workforce. That leads to frequent criticism from all sides, but since the critics are coming from every direction, I take that to mean we are succeeding in our mission of providing unfettered news that you need to know as a member of the federal community.
But as I reflect on the last decade, I am reminded that this milestone is really about you. FedSmith.com could not have become what it has today without you, our site visitors, so my heartfelt thanks goes out to each of you for reading each day and continuing to share your feedback with us to help us continually improve. And your feedback is always welcome by the way – we are unable to respond to every email or comment we receive, but we do take the time to read all of them.
As we celebrate our tenth anniversary, we will be bringing you some other fun features to mark the event, so stay tuned for more.
Here’s to another ten years!