Hi Christyzhongs and thanks for your very kind words. I really appreciate all that you and others have done here in commenting and sharing essays. That was exactly what I hoped would happen!
I hope the closure of the forum will be temporary, not permanent. I'd like to look around for other solutions to help people more.
Here's some of the reasons for closing it at the moment.
What's happening more and more...
When a new person comes to the forum, they look around for a very short while and then post. Usually they haven't commented on someone else's essay first, although some brave people do! (A small number of people just sign up, post immediately, and demand a response with a band score. Sigh!)
But very often the problems with new member's essays are the same problems other people had with their essays a few days, weeks or months ago. That means I'm repeating, and repeating, and repeating.... and repeating. I'm going over the same problems again and again.
Classroom teachers are used to repeating themselves (and students are used to hearing them!), Eventually, the dripping water wears away the stone, the students do the test or exam and graduate, and the cycle repeats next semester. Fine!
But in this case, new people are coming online all the time - which is great, but very tiring and boring for regular members. Individuals improve and go off and do the IELTS, but there doesn't seem to be a logical beginning or end or a logical approach to dealing with the most common errors.
Discussion forum: Format to blame?
The format of a discussion forum is not very helpful. It's not realistic to go back and look at many threads or discussions. It's hard to find information that seems to match for your essay. So many new people just go ahead and post without really looking around or seeing if others have had the same problem.
Forum format: Hard to find information
At the moment, the forum is arranged by topic. Looking back, this was not the best way to arrange it. It would be better arranged by problem - word count, sentence length, topic sentences, thesis sentences, articles, standardized phrases, paragraph layout, subject-verb agreement, fragments and run-on sentences, coherence and cohesion.
I have a lot of ideas floating around in my head for changing the forum and for making it easier for people to contribute. But I can't do them right now - I have to work on something else for a couple of months.
Forum format: Hard to comment and reply
Another problem with the forum is that it's very difficult to comment. The internet crashes, you lose your comment. There aren't any easy ways to insert commonly-used comments (e.g. word count or sentence length or even just 'well done!'). It would be great to have a template or a set of tools in a toolbar which would have ready-made comments, perhaps color-coded,l or with links to places where you can read more about a problem.
Forum format: Very time-consuming
As a result of this awkward forum format, it takes me 40 minutes to an hour to write one response to an essay. Every week or so I tidy up essay titles, delete spam, add tags, tidy up formatting, check questions, and do other maintenance. That takes a couple of hours as well. It's very time-consuming. And that's not counting the time it takes to read the comments of all the great people who help out!
Forum format: Comments are confusing
Another problem is that it's sometimes hard for writers to understand other people's comments. Should you quote? Highlight? Underline? Rewrite? Change the color? You can see sometimes that people spend a long time commenting, but the original writer doesn't understand the comment.
Time to think of alternatives!
So until I get around to coming up with a better solution and until I finish up another project I'm working on, the forum will be closed to new essays.
But I really hope to have something bigger, better and faster back up soon!
Where to in the short term?
There are other websites, such as the amazing essayforum.com, where you can comment on other people and upload essays. (Once on their website, search for IELTS, because there are lots of other kinds of writing there.) I know that they would be very happy to have some of the talented writers from here.
Again, thanks for all the contributions - the essays, the comments, and the questions. They will stay here so you can refer to them. One thing I might do is to try to categorize them by errors, so that visitors can sort by errors. I don't know if that's a good idea or not - sounds a bit negative! Suggestions welcome!
Your contributions have been very useful and very helpful. Please check back from time to time to see if I've had any good ideas yet.