I've been a member of the Stardock Community since November of 2002. I'm nowhere near being one of the early members, and in fact I came to Stardock by a route much different from most. I'm not a windows customization junkie. In fact, at the time my only experiences with WindowBlinds has been under Win98 on a woefully underpowered machine and the themes I was able to find weren't all that great to look at, so I was pretty much turned off by the whole customization deal for quite a while. I came to Stardock when a game news site I frequented mentioned that this company I had never heard of was having a beta test for its upcoming 4x space strategy game, Galactic Civilizations. Now, at the time I was hyped up and waiting impatiently for Master of Orion 3, and I needed my conquer-the-galaxy game fix, so I came running. I gladly plopped down a preorder to get beta access and was sucked into the game.
Over time I started to explore the other sites and products from Stardock. I gave Object Desktop another spin and found it vastly improved since I had last visited the product set, and I found that there were other games for me to play. But to play them I needed a Dregnin subscription, so I got a discounted subscription since I was a GalCiv owner and got access to the rest of the Stardock games. While I was diving deep into the other products offered by Stardock, I stumbled on this site called JoeUser, yet another web log site. The difference here was the community focus and the style of articles written. It wasn't like LiveJournal where people whined and complained because their 8th grade boyfriend/girlfriend hadn't called in the past 2 hours and they missed them so much and how their parents just didn't understand how you two are deeply and truely in love and want to get married and have kids and you'll always be together and and and *gasps for air* Here on JU, it was (mostly) adult conversation. People wrote interesting things and debate/discussion often resulted.
From there I started fiddling with Stardock Central a bit more and noticed the IRC client, so I started popping into #Stardock and #GalCiv and would occassionally jump in on some conversation here or there. in #Stardock, mostly the topics revolved around skinning and the ObjectDesktop suite of tools. Sometimes it would wander and just be about silly fluff, but it usually came back to skinning. #GalCiv was pretty dead since a fair bit of time had passed since release of the game and interest had started to drop off. I frequented the channels off and on for about a year. It wasn't until GalCiv 2 was announced and then we started the JoeUser chat room that I became a more permenant fixture on the IRC server.
Why do I write all of this? Why do I recount my path of discovery as it relates to Stardock and its products and services? Well, because for some reason there are a lot of people out there who seem to think that ALL Stardock does is Windows Customization software and services. While I admit it's the lionshare of their business, it is not all they do. I have been chastised in #Stardock for having the audacity to start a conversation on anything that didn't directly relate to skinning. I've gotten put down for talking about GAMES and TECHNOLOGY before because it strayed too far from the sacred topic. People at WC lament regularly that content that may be relevant but originated outside of the sacred WC forums shouldn't be cross-posted as it is now, as if us unwashed masses are going to dirty the pure clean waters of their holy home. I just want to remind everyone that the skinner is not the only type of community member, it's not the only interest catered to by Brad & Co. Here's a quick list of some of the OTHER things Stardock does, for those of you who seem to have forgotten/been unaware of:
1. Game Development Company
Stardock has developed and released several top-notch games ranging from Lightweight Ninja, a Sonic The Hedgehog like sidescroller, to Galacitc Civilizations a turn based space strategy game to The Political Machine, a presidential campaign simulator. Up on the horizon they have Galactic Civilizations 2, a reinvention of the series in a damn good looking 3D engine as well as Society: The Game, a Real Time Strategy Massively Multiplayer Online Game. There are a lot of people out there who buy and play Stardock Games. With the addition of TotalGaming.Net, a new online game distribution channel, gaming is becoming a big pull to Stardock.
2. Online Communities
WinCustomize is probably the site everyone is the most familiar with since Win Customization is their biggest business right now, but they also have JoeUser, a great blog community that they just haven't started charging for yet. All of their sites attempt to foster community centered on the site topic, and they also attempt to share content across them when posted in relevant channels.
3. Office Productivity
Enter ThinkDesk, the latest tool offerings from Stardock. Right now there's only Multiplicity, which allows multiple computers to be managed from one keyboard and one mouse, but they've got other nifty goodies lined up to go. These programs are catering to a COMPLETELY different crowd than their previous offerings.
4. Unrelated but cool ventures...
Poweruser.TV comes to mind as a pretty cool and really different direction for Stardock to be going in. Here they're addressing all sorts of different topics that span everything they do and more. Games, customization, new technology etc. This is going to bring to the larger community, Power Users who might not have taken notice of Stardock in the past.
Now, gamers may explore and discover that they can also change the appearance and behavior of their computers, or skinners may find a new game they adore, or maybe people from either camp would find some insanely useful ThinkDesk tool that simplifies their real life work. Then maybe they would start posting thought-provoking aritcles on topics that interest them. It's a massive cross-pollination of thoughts and opinions, and it exposes us all here to something new that we might not have considered before. I know I dabble a lot more with ODNT, and plan on buying Multiplicity the second there's a Mac version and will probably poke around with the other tools when they become available. Stardock sucked me in with a single game, but now they have a customer that has bought a wide range of their products from all categories.
I just want you, the elitists amonst the WinCustomize community, to remember all of this next time you turn your nose up at anything that isn't connected to skinning. Remember that there are people out there in the Stardock network that didn't come here to tweak DesktopX, that didn't come here to get the latest ObjectBar skin and aren't interested/capable of making our own themes or whatnot. Remember that we, just like you, are customers of Stardock, we put in the cash just like you and we contribute in our own ways and in our own areas just like you do. We are no better and no worse than you are, so please cut the sneering, jeering and condescending tone you take with us. Stop acting all self-righteous when one of us writes a RELEVANT article in the areas of technology or the Internet and it gets crossposted to your sacred site. We get your stuff too all the time but you don't see us popping in on your threads saying "I don't think this belongs here on JU/GalCiv/Whatever site).
We're all part of a larger community, I hope you can learn to become better neighbors."