Seriously pinch me! I never expected this would happen 18 months ago.
Dogster grew out of such a simple idea. In 2003 when I was working on a much smaller photo project called FleetingImage.org (you can see a mini-viewer for it I made for it in the sidebar of this site) I realized that Molly was satisfying her dog needs by surfing around rescue sites just to look at dog photos. I figured why not make a place where people could post and share their fluffies for everyone to enjoy. I fooled myself into believing that it would be simple enough to do on night and weekends, managed to find people to work on spec (they all got paid ahead of schedule ;) and decided to make it as great as I possibly could.
The day I knew the site was going to be bigger than I knew was when Molly added a mention to a craigslist pets section and 200 people joined right away. The next hammer was getting slashdotted, and then more incredibly Wired dubbed it ‘Wired.’ Then it was beyond comprehension when I was invited onto CNN Headline News, the SF Chronicle ran a full-page story with photos and camera crews were coming to the house. Within months I was making more than I thought I would after 9 months ($500). On the negative side I was already spending 4-8 hours a day on nothing but Dogster with at least 2 hours responding to a tidal wave of emails that poured in every day.
It’s taken a lot of work, but Dogster is now Dogster, Inc, I have two amazing partners in John and Steven and the best job I’ve ever had. I’ve pretty much had to sunset all work I was doing for my client services company, One Match Fire, as we’re on the verge of getting offices and welcoming Target as our newest advertiser.
But really, what amazes me about all this is the incredible passionate use our members and even casual visitors put into the site. I work on the site 7 days of the week and there are user who log in more often than I do … a lot of them. We’ve made a bunch of neat community features like messaging, diaries and treats, and honestly, they all could be better, yet the users always bear with us. We certainly get our share of complaints (turns out many user consider Dogster and Catster their internet right, not a nice luxury) but the best part are the unsolicited emails of thanks. Considering how moved someone has to be to stop and say thanks to a stranger blows me away every time.
To help further explain why I’m so amazed by all this I thought I would list some statistics that dumbfound me. Look, I know we’re no where near a million member site and we haven’t even broken the top 10,000 at Alexa, really, can someone pinch me?
Unique friend-to-friend connections: 2,300,000
Pet rating votes: 1,400,000
Treats left for other pets: 1,200,000
Unique monthly visitors: 550,000
Corraled pet pages: 504,000
Uploaded photos: 401,000
Direct messages sent: 91,000
Number of diary entires: 37,000
Percentage of all members that log in once a month: 40%
Percentage of members that log in every day: 7%
Number of really lucky dogs typing this entry: 1