Seminars Dominate GPF Opening

The first day of the first Gay Phoenix Forum got off to a promising start on Friday, when several webmasters attended the first seminar of the day, the Newbie Panel.

PrideBucks’ Rainey Stricklin served as the moderator for a panel that included NakedSword’s Holly Ruprecht, TopBucks’ Juan Figueroa, Mansites’ Craig Tant, TrafficDude’s Scott Rabinowitz, and PrideBucks’ Joe Sterner.

The panel touched upon many topics relevant to webmasters who are just starting out—topics included budgetary concerns, traffic tips, and building relationships. As Tant put it, “Coming to shows [like this one] is a big part of building relationships.”

While a few of the panelists spoke of using community networking sites such as MySpace, qPeeps, and webmaster forums such as GoFuckYourself, most of them stressed the importance of listening to webmasters who have been in the business for a while. “The best piece of advice I got was to shut up and listen,” said Ruprecht. “Don’t come in to the industry thinking you’re going to set the world on fire with your site. Be respectful of those already in the industry and listen to what they have to say.

“The main thing you have to have is personality,” Ruprecht added. “Don’t come to the shows and sit in the back. Get out and meet people. Have a sense of humbleness, but also be aggressive.”

Rabinowitz echoed Ruprecht’s statements, stressing the virtue in keeping an open mind about the people in the industry. “Recognize that some people not represented at shows might be some of your best resources. Embrace the entire market and look at participation in this industry,” he advised. “People will be your single greatest resource in growing your business.”

Others on the panel spoke of the importance in researching one’s niche (“It’s not just a website; it’s a lifestyle,” commented Tant), while Figueroa championed a “tenacious drive.” “You’re not going to see results immediately,” he warned. “If you stick with it, you’re going to be able to grow your business.”

After a buffet lunch in the Cirque du So Gai tent, several attendees reconvened for the Legal Panel featuring attorney Chad Belville, the Free Speech Coalition’s John Flynn, and ASACP’s Joan Irvine.

Moderated by XBiz editor Tom Hymes, the panel was dominated by Flynn’s documentation of several important legal cases that have emerged from the adult industry and his subsequent call to arms to “put your money where your liberty is” by joining the FSC and supporting other advocacy organizations and individuals.

“It’s very important for us to pool that money so that if you’re the one who gets prosecuted, the money is there to defend you,” Flynn said.

Belville spoke of the outdated law passed in 1973 that pertains to adult content being prosecuted under certain “community standards,” and he talked of the need for a unified sense of support among adult webmasters—gently reprimanding many who audibly scoffed when he mentioned the arrest of a webmaster whose site featured literature depicting such as acts pissing, fisting, vomiting, and scat.

“Don’t say ‘ewwwww,’” he warned, “because that’s a community standard. That’s what [the government] is looking for. They want 12 people they can put on a jury who will say ‘Ewwww, that’s gross, so you should go to prison for it.’ So, I would like for webmasters to get to a point where they no longer say, ‘ewwww’; but, [when they hear about someone being prosecuted for ‘questionable’ content], will instead say, ‘That could be me.’”

Irvine spoke of recent efforts on the part of ASACP to keep porn legal by adopting a communally approved “label” that warns surfers of adult content, as well as the need for webmasters to create a “warning page” featuring little to no explicit conduct.

The third and final panel on Friday was the Content Panel, which allowed panelists Andy Fair (DirtyBoyVideo), Harlan Yaffe (PrideBucks), Karl Edwards (YouLoveJack), Brian Randall (Gunzblazing) and Chip White (GayBucks) to pontificate on the importance for making solid original content and warning against some of the most common mistakes made by content providers.

A meet-and-greet “happy hour” followed in the Cirque du So Gai tent, where forum sponsors mingled with attendees and hawked their wares, while porn stars Colin O’Neal and Jake Deckard performed striptease dance numbers.

Later that night, attendees gathered at Club Miami for a “Back to the ’80s” party, which was sponsored by PrideBucks and Badpuppy in conjunction with the club, and eventually made their way back to the Best Western for the second of three All Night Fag Bashes thrown by DirtyBoyVideo. Once again, that party kept webmasters up way past their bedtimes.

Although the forum got off to a somewhat subdued start with Thursday’s pre-forum events, it settled into its own groove on Friday and seemed to be running smoothly for most of the day. “This is a great show,” commented Stricklin. “I like the smaller shows, because it really gives you the chance to connect with the people you’re doing business with. This is a really nice, solid event for us to do that.”