Merry Happy 2014!
Those of you who pay attention to such things will notice that I haven't sent a member newsletter in quite some time. There are many reasons for this, but the biggest one is that, if you're like me, you started receiving holiday emails in early November. The flood continued on on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. And on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.
Enough already. I did not want to contribute to that flood.
So here it is, Sunday, January 5th where I live, and this is the first member newsletter of 2014.
The 6th Anniversary of TheChocolateLife
Mid-January marks the 6th anniversary of TheChocolateLife. It's hard to believe that we've reached this milestone. I think TheChocolateLife is where it is because it offers experiences and opportunities that other sites don't. TheChocolateLife is not just about reviews and it's not just about bean–to–bar production. Those are both topics for discussion, but really, there is no limit to the discussion as long as it's about chocolate.
My main reason for writing this message is to say Thank You to everyone who contributed in any way to TheChocolateLife in 2013.
I did not start out wanting to grow TheChocolateLife into some huge behemoth generating millions of page views per month, for me it has always been about building community and focusing on quality over quantity. Nonetheless, we topped the 8000 member mark and now count members in well over 150 countries.
While I knew a good deal about chocolate when I started TheChocolateLife, I know a lot more now and I can chalk it up in large part to the discussions I've read here. TheChocolateLife is a place for people to learn, share what they know, and share their passion for chocolate. Thank you all, again.
What's Most Popular on TheChocolateLife
The most popular parts of the site, by far, are the main Forum discussion area on the Home Page and the Classifieds Group.
In addition, over 8,700 photos have been uploaded and more than 240 videos have been posted. There are nearly 3000 discussion topics and uncounted comments (I estimate that the number approaches 50,000!), nearly 600 blog posts, and over 400 event listings.
Taken as a totality, I think that TheChocolateLife represents one of the largest, if not the largest, bodies of collected wisdom about chocolate on the Internet. That's a pretty remarkable achievement, and one that we can all be proud of.
What's New on TheChocolateLife
I have started a new feature that I hope will become a monthly series. These are "Group Reviews" of chocolates. These reviews are designed to foster discussion about specific chocolates that are very popular, have been hyped in the media, or that have performed well in awards programs. For January 2014, the chocolate I have chosen is Fortunato #4. Click here to learn more about Group Reviews and to contribute.
What New Things do YOU Want to See on TheChocolateLife in 2014?
I am always open to new suggestions for features and functionality as well as new groups, forum topics, and more. I do what I can to implement the features within the limitations of the software. One thing I am very interested in working on is creating some sort of cocoa bean exchange that will help connect buyers and sellers of cocoa beans.
Post your thoughts there for all to see and comment on. The more discussion there is about a particular feature, the better I can gauge the popularity of a request. So - don't be shy, especially if you have never contributed before.
Thanks To ...
I also want to take a moment to thank those businesses that have shown their support of TheChocolateLife in 2013 by taking out Member Marketplace ads and Sponsorships. The monies collected from these placements primarily go to covering the hard costs of hosting and maintaining TheChocolateLife. They make it possible for me to not incorporate third-party advertising. These include Truffly Made, Micelli Molds, and CocoaTown.
My ongoing relationships with FBM, Chocovision, Packint, and others also make it possible for me to work on and grow TheChocolateLife. I will be expanding these relationships in 2014 in some new areas with the intent of providing new equipment for the confectionery kitchen as well as bean-to-bar chocolate makers.
No Thanks To ...
Spammers and others who want to take advantage of TheChocolateLife community in 2013. As you know, I work hard to keep TheChocolateLife free from spam and spammers. I am not perfect, and there were a small handful of incidents in 2013 where I got fooled. Every single request for membership is reviewed manually before being approved. At one point, spambot membership requests outnumbered real requests by 50:1 or more. Some days, I would sit down to review requests and find that not one came from a person. That can be disheartening at times as you might imagine. But it it a part of my commitment to the community to continue to do so.
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Here's to a Merry Happy Chocolate-y 2014 and beyond,
Thank you, Clay, for not contributing to the flood. And thank you for CHOCOLATE LIFE.
You may be happy to know that, encouraged by the community, our Pure Cacao Tablet producer has started to gradually fulfil their dream of producing chocolate. This Christmas they managed to create their first real chocolate, which taste as good as real: RAW and DARK, and SPICY too! We hope to be able to contribute more machinery to them so that their CHOCO will become even more divine next Christmas.
Fanny-Min Becker, Fair-and-Healthy (FMIR)
Thank you Clay for everything you've done with this website. It is so nice to be able to look at the forums and see things that really matter to me. This is the best site for chocolate information and discussions. Though I might not be involved on a weekly or monthly basis, I always glad when I do need information and I can find it on The Chocolate Life.
Thanks again for all your hard work.
I live in Singapore, and find it very hard to get any information on chocolate. This website is such a big support - I don't have the words in my vocabulary to thank you enough.