A Parting Shot

By , February 11, 2013 10:15 am


The measure of one’s success is an exercise in multivariate calculus.  Success is often defined in terms of money, status, power, love,  material wealth, fame and sometimes even infamy and areas under the curves of each is the sum total. To use a cooking analogy, success is frequently a combination of one or more of the aforementioned ingredients as well as the secret spices and sauces one might include to make success a personal dish flavored to one’s own taste.  Each person defines success in their own way to their own tastes.  Given that wide array of factors i can only term the success of UlsanOnline.com as having won the National Bake Off.

Just a little over four years ago, Fin Madden bought a domain name and hosting service and started a website to help residents in Ulsan.  I was asked to help integrate a small image -  a world map showing reader locations.  In the early months of 2009 we were pleased to get a few dozen readers a week. Very quickly, my role increased from part time programming to partner as Fin and I built the site up from a few static pages, an ever growing cache of outstanding photos from a Jason Teale, a few articles and reviews into a large storehouse of information.

Two years later,  with the site getting somewhere between 100 and 200 readers daily,  Fin moved on and left me to manage the site.  It continued to grow, add functionality and people.  Having finished her Masters in journalsm,  Deirdre Madden joined the site and added her considerable talents to the site.  Under her guidance, the site’s usefulness, particularly for newcomers,  expanded greatly.  Our “how to”  section grew dramatically and remains a busy portion of the site. The “travel”  articles have kept pace with the large number of festivals across Korea.  Our Facebook group has become one of the most useful of resources under her moderation with the entire community helping each other.

Fast forward to 2013 and UlsanOnline.com gets nearly 400 visitors per day with regular spurts of activity approaching 600 visitors daily.  Each month the site has over 10,000 readers.  This past year, we’ve added technical talent with Veena Srinivasan and Carl Shreep doing some much needed programming. We’ve added another moderator on the Facebook side, Hazel Smith, to help with the massive growth there. Add to that, authors too numerous to mention who have helped with restaurant reviews, nightlife reviews, travel articles and opinion pieces.

UlsanOnline.com is, by nearly all measures previously laid out, a rousing success. We’ve made money, attained status (both City Hall and the Police dept. have relied on us), gotten fame (that happens regularly when I go out and I am recognized as the “UlsanOnline guy”) and even love, although not the romantic variety, as I’ve been told by many that they love our site. Material wealth stands alone as the sole item we haven’t attained via the site, but that pales in comparison to the immaterial wealth that has flowed in to us in the form of thanks for all the help the site has been to so many. I’ve often been told UlsanOnline.com is the reason someone has come to this city rather than another. That’s a great paycheck to the heart.  We didn’t just build a website: we built a community.

As for my own personal success, UlsanOnline.com has been fabulous for me. It’s given me an opportunity to re-hone the technical skills I once had as well as learn new ones. I stand poised to reenter the technology field as a software developer when I return to the USA. Without the purpose and need of the services and information we built into the site, it’s doubtful I would have developed the skills required to be a full time technologist again. Without this site to sink my teeth into and become involved in, both socially and technologically, I would have remained in my own cocoon, spending my weeks teaching and my weekends at the local foreigner bars.  Instead, I’ve been able to translate the skills I’ve developed here into freelance web development to help other sites as well as develop general purpose Android applications, the very forefront of technology,  with a decent portfolio of bragging rights.

Now, almost nine years after first arriving in Ulsan it’s time to go back home. It’s bittersweet, as I miss my family, culture and country, but will greatly miss the friends  I’ve made here. I’ll very much miss the small amount of fame I get now and then and will be just another guy in America when I return. Most selfishly, I will miss being at the head of UlsanOnline.com and part of a great website. It’s come so far, and yet I know it will go even farther with the team I’ve helped put in place to carry on its mission. I am pleased, though, to be able to say I left Ulsan in better shape than I found it. UlsanOnline.com has helped me as well as countless others who have visited the site. I am extremely proud to have been a part of a great business venture that, while not the most lucrative, was most successful in terms of being useful, helpful, career-enhancing, and most importantly, a part of a wonderful community of people helping each other.

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