August 31, 2009

Tonight, a Little Piece of Me Died

I've been online in varying capacities since October 1998 when I first signed up for AOL and paid for a second line to be strung into my parents' house.

For the first year I just bounced around doing not much. I didn't know a lot of people online. I'd IM with a few classmates I knew from meat-space, but that was about it. I hit various boards dedicated to Xenogears (because I was a total fanatic at the time), and played around on mp3.com before it turned respectable.

Then my friend Josh introduced me to the Wheel of Time series around Thanksgiving of 2000. I devoured the first 8 books in about 2 weeks. I read at work. I read before bed. I read on the fucking toilet. Then I immediately read them again. I started coming up with wild-ass theories about where the story was headed. Who was really who in disguise? On and on it went.

Not long after New Years 2001, I stumbled across a fansite called wotmania.com. It was a fanatic's dream. Theory posts! Encyclopedias! Vibrant discussions of all things Wheel of Time! Then there was the community itself. People from all over the world were on this site. Aussies, Scandis, Brits, Canucks, you name the place and there was probably somebody from there.

I was home! But...

It wasn't until that summer that I finally stopped lurking and devouring theory posts. Somebody asked about my favorite subject: Xenogears. So I just had to chime in. Suddenly I was involved. I dove in to a religious discussion. We talked politics. I lived on that site for the next three month.

Then came September 11, 2001. The board was chaos. Nobody knew what was going on. Every whacked out theory you could imagine was being thrown about. In the following days, I was flying around any board I could think of. RPGFan, theGIA (you might be noticing a trend...) Somewhere I found a link to Bill Whittle's page, ejectejecteject.com. From there I found IMAO, USS Clueless and Instapundit. Overnight I became a blog junky. Wotmania was always where I started my day, but blogs began to quickly consume a large part of my online time.

Wotmania was always a hard place to be a Conservative. With the large numbers of international readers, the politics always tacked heavily to the Left. With the war in Afghanistan all ready in full swing, and the war in Iraq becoming more inevitable by the day, the boards became a very contentious place in 2002-2004. The craziness of the 2004 election is what finally drove me out of the Community board, and I stuck to the Games board where I didn't have to deal with politics anymore.

In the last five years, I've probably only ventured back into the Community board a handful of times, but the Games board has always been my homepage. Alas, the Games board has always been a little backwater that few people even knew existed. Eventually the regulars said just about everything there was to be said. We'd all gotten older and gaming time had become harder to find. In the last year, there were rarely more than a half-dozen threads visible (visibility was a combination of activity and posting date) at a time. On occasion a fresh face would pop in and start asking questions we'd covered so long ago we couldn't even remember where to link them.

In the mean time, the Community board, and particularly the Chat Room were giving Mike, the owner of the site, unending fits. So in late January of this year, he announced he was shutting down the whole site to focus on his research. There was a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth, but in the end there really wasn't anything to be done. No definitive date was given, but "August" was thrown about.

A couple people stepped up, and with some of the site source code that Mike allowed them to use, began trying to clone as much of the site functionality as possible in 7 months. (Wotmania has been an ongoing development project by Mike for 10 years. One single message board and simple chat room exploded into a half-dozen custom-coded forums, a custom chat room, an internal noteboard system, personal user journals, polls, theory libraries, encyclopedias, and even a miniature point system for no reason other than to have it, plus tons of other things I probably don't even know about because I haven't been out exploring the far corners of the site in years) They just managed to get the replacement site up in time for H-hour on D-day.

At midnight tonight, wotmania went off-line for good, and a huge part of my online life went with it. I managed to be there at the very end when the chat room finally winked out of existence. I got over most of the grief back in January when the announcement was made. I've had many forums I loved close on me, so I've had plenty of practice getting over this sort of thing, but wotmania was always there to come home to.

Sure, there's a bit of resentment, but then again I can understand where Mike is coming from. Robert Jordan died before finishing the series (a topic that was morbidly theorized and joked about constantly on the boards given his glacial pace of writing in the latter books.). Mike had lost interest in the series a couple book prior, so it's understandable that he was simply tired of supporting a site that no longer held any passion for him. Each new book would create a surge of excitement amongst the people still dedicated to the books, but for many, the site itself had become the reason to stick around. There was a community that evolved out of the mutual interest in the books, and the community has outlasted the books.

Whenever someone posed a question to Jordan that he intended to answer in latter books, he always responded, "Read and find out." As an homage to their roots in Wheel of Time, the new home is located at readandfindout.com. This new home has a WoT specific forum for those who still want to discuss and speculate on what Jordan's widow may be able to do with his notes for the last book, but it's really about serving as a new home for the Community.

If you find yourself bored, stop by the Games board in the Entertainment section. You'll find me going by Yaminohasha. Stop in and say hi.

Posted in Books by: Will at 10:48 PM | Comments (2) | Add Comment
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1 Bummer, Will

And, between Robert Jordan and WoW, you really need to find a better friend than Josh. He might as well be turning you on to crack

Posted by: Kerith at September 01, 2009 05:35 AM (XREOa)

2 Heh. You say that, but when's the last time I touched either of those things?

Speaking of crack... Whatever happened to getting back in to Diablo 2?

Posted by: Will at September 01, 2009 06:52 AM (9dEae)

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