|South Texas Diecast Founder Robert Graves|
I have been collecting awhile now, and for as long as I can remember, I have used STDC, or South Texas Diecast Catalog as my main catalog and checklist for my Hot Wheels Collection. It was of course bookmarked, and whenever I was researching what I had and still needed, STDC was always the first place I went. And I was not alone. Most of you did the same thing. STDC was as integral to Hot Wheels collecting as HWC was in its heyday.
And then one day it seemed to just vanish. In place of the database we all knew was the news that it had moved entirely to a website called hobbyDB. Frustration abounded. hobbyDB took some getting used to, and the transition wasn't easy. Frustration continued.
For me, I had just met the guys at hobbyDB at a convention, and became very interested in what they were doing. I love the idea of a go-to database for all diecast. But even with that excitement, I too was frustrated about the integration of the STDC site. I couldn't find things like I was used to, and the listings didn't seem to be as organized.
But I plugged along, talked to the hobbyDB guys, and now use it just as much as I used STDC. But man it needed some getting used to.
Since then I have partnered up with hobbyDB, because I really believe in what they are doing. And since I have done a few feature articles on them, my confidence grows even more. From the first article I did, the daggers have come to hobbyDB, but those daggers have been valuable. Many of you have commented and criticized, but only because you are as passionate about the hobby and the value of STDC and important databases as anyone. It has been very positive to see how we collectors used STDC. And I have watched the gang take those comments seriously and work the suggestions in on their end.
But the question remains, why? Why did STDC move? What prompted it? Why can't the data from STDC move to hobbyDB but a separate STDC catalog remain for those that are used to it?
Those are all great questions, so I went to the source. I asked Robert Graves, the founder and owner of South Texas, why did what he did and what prompted it.
Robert gives a great perspective. From time, to space, to even mortality. Hopefully this gives everyone a clear idea of why it happened, and if anything, how valuable Robert Graves has been to our hobby. A guy we probably have taken for granted.
Thanks Robert for answering these questions.
- Give us a brief history of South Texas Diecast.
The STDC website was started in 2001 as a portal for our newly started Hot Wheels and Diecast Collectors club in San Antonio, Texas.
When the Diecast Illustrated website was abruptly shut down, all the collectors who had relied on these sites lost out. Our club then published the database that I had built to track what items I had and my wish list. I then updated the information on the website continuously and it grew to half a million page views every month!
That site lead to all sorts of other fun stuff. From 2005 to 2009, I did the weekly “Sneak Peek” for the HWC site, photographing new models. And in 2008 I provided the images and text for the then-new Beckett Price Guide.
- How much time a day/week did you spend on it?
Between researching, acquiring items, documenting them and actually uploading information, I estimate about 10 hours a week, so almost 8,000 hours total. It was a lot of work, but a real labor of love for me, so I never really gave much thought to how long it took me. I was just focused on providing the best possible data for all the collectors out there.
- What prompted you to combine your database with hobbyDB and what was the deciding factor?
hobbyDB approached me about the database they were building of every collectible ever produced. I thought
how is this possible? They introduced me to the concept of crowd-sourced data similar to Wikipedia. Of
course, I was familiar with Wikipedia but I hadn’t previously considered using the same model for STDC –
which is just what hobbyDB was proposing.
There were several factors that I considered for moving STDC over to hobbyDB.
As I said, I loved doing STDC, but as I am getting older, I started to realize that I couldn’t do this forever. All the work on STDC was down to me alone. I've seen so many great websites come and go. Either the owner loses interest, has health issues, or dies. And in so many of those cases, the site would fall into neglect and then just vanish when the hosting runs out. I thought of all I’d put into the STDC data and how disappointed all the collectors who visited the site would be if one day it just wasn’t there anymore. But being able to move all the information over to hobbyDB ensured that all the time I invested in gathering all this data would never be wasted and the data never lost. I also love the fact that the data would continue to be free forever.
The next main issue was the expenses of running the STDC website. The site was generating over 4 million
hits a month and being on a 'shared hosting' plan, that traffic was causing performance issues with the
other websites on the server. I was going to have to move to a dedicated server which would have cost far more than the STDC website revenue could cover.
The third factor was that I loved the idea that everyone could add items which currently weren’t documented on STDC, which was basically Mattel-issued, 1/64th cars only). Everything from prototypes, Code 3/Customs, card variations, and other Hot Wheels related products can be added to the database for everyone to see. I also liked the fact that others can add images; you wouldn’t believe how hard it is to get images of everything, especially items I didn’t want to have in my collection. A lot of your users will have seen me running around at conventions over the last 17 years taking photos of stuff they or others had for sale for that very reason!
Lastly, I liked the fact that folks who collect Ford Mustangs or Batman collectibles or whatever could also benefit from the Hot Wheels data I had assembled. Obviously, there are thousands of Hot Wheels collectors out there, but there are so many other collectors whose areas of interest cross-over somehow. I also collect LP’s and Anna is into Supernatural, so we’re adding to the site in those areas too.
- From your perspective, what are the major advantages of moving to hobbyDB?
Since moving STDC to hobbyDB and starting to work more collaboratively, the pressure has been taken off me immensely. I’m no longer worried about the longevity of the data, I have help with curating it and I don’t have to spend hours and hours adding it to the site. Adding data to STDC was a laborious manual process that often kept me up until the small hours, but on hobbyDB, it’s quick and easy. Plus there are so many features that I’d wanted to add to STDC but hadn’t been able to because of the time and cost involved, like allowing members to keep track of their collections, generating their own wish lists, a great search function and being able to add items to the database.
- What has frustrated you most about the move?
Before the 'big upload', there was already a lot of Hot Wheels information on the site, but most of
it was lacking in details and wasn't organized very well. When the data from STDC was uploaded to the
hobbyDB database, there were a lot of duplicate entries that had to be manually combined which took a lot
longer than I expected. Because of this issue, the initial user opinion of the site was poor at best. Many of those initial critics came around, though, especially after they saw all the changes that we’ve made in the last few months when we showed off the site at the last Hot Wheels Convention in Indy!
Our current issue is that we’re evolving standards and conventions for cataloging stuff in the database. We’ve got lots of curators to help us and give us input, but obviously there are a lot of different ways to document things, many of which are correct in themselves. We just need to decide on which ones we’re going with. It leads to some lively discussions in the new team forum.
It’s the same process Wikipedia had to go through and we learned from them. In a way it is easier that as hobbyDB’s Head of Data I can make a decision after having heard all the different options - something that is not really possible on Wikipedia.
- How do you suggest collectors go about using hobbyDB?
Collectors can use hobbyDB in pretty much any way they like. They can research, track their collection and/or their wishlist, share knowledge and information by updating the database or becoming a curator and, if they want to, buy and sell easily.
Researching is as easy as typing in a subject in the search bar. Tracking what’s in your collection and wishlist
keeps you up to date on what you have and what you are looking for. Sharing your expertise helps everyone
learn more, and curating subjects allows members to insure that the data is accurate and comprehensive.
Collectors can also use it to fill gaps in your collection. I am missing a few items, and I have them on my Wishlist - ready in case somebody is offering one for sale!
- There has been a fair amount of frustration expressed by collectors about the move to HobbyDB. What would you say to them?
Most of the negative feedback we received was mainly about three issues. The casting pages, list views and values.
When moving over the casting pages we first had to merge all those duplicates. And then lots of people added more variants that I had not covered, smaller decal changes, card variations etc! While that was great it made it really hard to see what was different. We’ve just created a totally new casting page solution which we just launched that should take care of that issue. Check it out here -
Also, the layout on STDC was geared towards the Hot Wheels completist (I'll admit, I'm one of them). Over
the years, collectors just got accustomed to that very basic and simple layout. For the more casual
collector, it wasn’t user friendly and it was difficult for them to search for information on their cars. We did have some people who thought that information which was on STDC is missing on hobbyDB, but all the cars that were on STDC are now on hobbyDB, no information was lost.
Lastly, I didn't realize how much the values were utilized on the STDC site. They were more for me to make sure I didn't overpay for something I'd find at a show or convention. These prices weren't updated in a timely fashion, and most were outdated. However, hobbyDB has added value fields to the database and curators are now starting to fill out this information. I also love working with the team on better ways to present the data, check out for example where we want to take the price guide!
And here is all the other good stuff we are working on - http://help.hobbydb.com/new-features-to-come/. A lot of this will take some time, but after cataloging an almost 50-year old brand for 17 years, I’m happy to take a long-term view on this.
- What can collectors do to help grow hobbyDB and make it the go-to Hot Wheels database?
The best assets for the site are the members themselves. Members can add missing items, correct wrong entries, update information/images, and flag items that need removal. Sharing their knowledge benefits everyone. Now we also have a small but growing army of Curators who keep an eye on certain pages to help protect the quality of the database. If you’re interested in curating your favorite page, visit http://help.hobbydb.com/getting-involved/curators/ to find out more.
- How do you envision hobbyDB developing over time?
Wikipedia documents the history of mankind. hobbyDB documents the history of mankind's collectibles.
It is a great way to store this history for many generations to come.