Running a computer hardware review website is a tough gig with lots of hard work for very little reward. Combine that with a unique focus on enthusiast PC hardware and dwindling target demographic with an attention span of a gnat and it really becomes a thankless profession.
17 years ago when I started Ninjalane.com things were different. I could post a review and expect that people actually read it and might even ask me where they could get one. It also didn’t matter what I posted because my readers were loyal fans that actually cared about the enthusiast PC hobby. Sadly, It would seem that isn’t the case anymore and while I would love to reminisce about the old days, kicking back with a brew, it won’t bring any of it back.
Or will it?
2016 was a great year for Hardware Asylum. Of course there were speed bumps along the way such as missing my first Computex in nine (9) years. I’m not sure many of you know this but I started going to Computex in 2003 and have made an attempt to go every year since. The way I see it Computex is by far one of the most important trade shows in the world for the PC professional and shares a 1:1 relationship with what we do here. CES might be exciting and is definitely less expensive but doesn’t have the same impact.
In terms of success where do I start? One of the most exciting things of 2016 was getting back into modding. Casemodding has always been a passion of mine and was one of the first articles I posted on Ninjalane.com back in the day. When I changed the name to Hardware Asylum gave away several custom painted PC cases and always wanted to do more. Well, I got that chance with the Core V51 build and a lucky break from Thermaltake. They had approached me to review one of their new watercooling kits and I decided to make the most of it with a full custom painted hardline watercooled PC. The process launched a series of watercooling based articles, some reviews and gave us new things to talk about on the Hardware Asylum Podcast.
Another great success was sponsoring the Boise LAN. Boise LAN is a local LAN event allowing people to get together and play games for an entire weekend. Hardware Asylum was there for two of their events contributing prizes, promoting the Hardware Asylum Podcast and demonstrating a little extreme overclocking.
The first item on the list is the continuation of the Hardware Asylum Podcast. Darren and I have a vested interest in the Podcast and scheduling aside we aren’t planning any format changes.
I really believe that the Hardware Asylum Podcast is one of the best if not THE best show out there dedicated to enthusiast PC activities. Our topics might be a little weak at times but our audio quality exceptional, editing is awesome (thanks Darren) and we are always pushing ourselves to deliver on time. The real problem is market penetration. Yes, getting the word out. I really hate to admit it but for a great show, like ours, “not” to be discovered by now is really disconcerting.
You can find the podcast here on Hardwareasylum.com, iTunes and in Google Music. Go subscribe already.
Bring Back the Forums?
Web forums have been the bane of my existence. When I first launched Ninjalane.com back in 1999 the forum was a large part of the site and while the actual forum software changed over the years it would enjoy fits of activity and total desolation. Before launching Hardware Asylum it had become a spam magnet and I figured it was best to be shut down.
Thing is, social media has largely replaced the purpose of a web forum and Millennials tend to gravitate to reddit for their social interaction. Everyone else, who actually uses a forum, already has a “home forum” and isn't looking to leave. Needless to say, starting a forum from scratch is a uphill battle. Despite all this I still have people asking me to “bring the forum back”.
I’ve been looking at XenForo to replace PHPBB and with any luck it will keep the spammers under control. Personally I still like PHPBB for its ease of use but, XenForo has a large following and even larger database of mods that simply plug in. The only downside is that XenForo isn’t free and they have created a paid modding community meaning that setting up a forum will actually cost me money.
Readers Rigs Section
This has been a goal of mine for YEARS stretching back to when I first launched Ninjalane.com. Back then modding sites required that you to send in your mod and they would post it for you. That isn’t good for growth and becomes a maintenance problem down the road. Many forums have a way for people to post their rigs and I want to get in on that action.
Turns out if I can make XenForo work for me there is a mod called “Showcase” that seems perfect for hosting modding projects. I can then take the projects and promote them on Hardware Asylum without all of the extra maintenance.
I have resisted this forever and sadly it might be the one option that allows Hardware Asylum to survive. Funny thing is I had people telling me to get my stuff on YouTube LONG before any of these tech channels started and at the time I wasn’t interested.
During CES this year I was peddling around a show idea to gauge interest and gather support. I’m not ready to make everything public however, based on the feedback it would seem I have a winner. The realization of this idea is at least 3 months out so look for more information later this spring.
Casemodding / Overclocking
Given the success of the Core V51 project and some of the initial reports of Kaby Lake hitting 7Ghz I think there will be some more LN2 overclocking in the future. It might be short lived however I have always enjoyed overclocking and have been itching to get back into it.
Casemodding is also going to be a large part of 2017 and given my background in fabrication I’m thinking its high time I start showing off. And by showing off I’m thinking more automotive colors, welding, elaborate dremel work, watercooling, custom lighting, etc..
A New Theme
All of my plans this year revolve around a single theme. “PC as a status symbol”
The way I see it the PC market needs to be saved. Too many of us rely on our phones and tablets to get by and that isn’t right. Don’t get me wrong a mobile is a great thing and in some respects is an equal to a desktop. I know this to be true however I don’t want to believe it. What I do believe is that enthusiasts, both young and old, need to start bragging about the computers again. “Oh you have a GTX 1060?, I have a watercooled 1070 on dual loops” “Oh you have a Dell?, I’m rocking a custom painted Phanteks Ethoo EVOLV”
It isn’t so much about cost either. The real determination should be “bought or built” with some wiggle room in the middle.
For once I have some really bold plans for Hardware Asylum in 2017. In the past I have always been realistic in my goals because that is how I am . I understand what I am up against and the amount of time required to run Hardware Asylum while still keeping everything in balance. Over the past year I have realized that it might be time to change things up if I really want to make the most of this website.