Forumshire: The First Five Years

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Post by Amarië on Wed Dec 11, 2013 9:21 pm

It's being written with trepidation too. Wink I hope to get back on track eventually.

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Today the Shire, DarkPlanet cat. Tomorrow... THE WORLD!

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Post by Pettytyrant101 on Wed Dec 11, 2013 9:33 pm

Wheres the next bit Eldo!  bounce 

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Post by Eldorion on Wed Dec 11, 2013 9:43 pm

I'm working on it right now! :DI've been doing a bunch of research (ie, reading old threads) to make sure I get the facts right.  And -- I can't believe I'm saying this -- NotP has actually been one of the most valuable sources on hand to get information and especially dates. Laughing

The 2011 section is going to be massive compared to 2009 and 2010 (and likely 2012 and 2013 as well) though.  Sorry guys. :/
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Post by Pettytyrant101 on Wed Dec 11, 2013 9:48 pm

NotP has actually been one of the most valuable sources on hand to get information and especially dates.- Eldo


 Shocked Well there goes you credibility for sources!

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Post by Norc on Wed Dec 11, 2013 9:55 pm

Laughing
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Post by Eldorion on Wed Dec 11, 2013 10:02 pm

Laughing

{{{It's more about figuring out when exactly certain things happened based on ongoing references and jokes in the papers. Although I must say Petty, they're still incredibly funny 2+ years later. You really have a gift. Very Happy}}}
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Post by Pettytyrant101 on Wed Dec 11, 2013 10:06 pm

There will be a mega issue at some point if only because by missing a bunch of birthdays I have loads of finished pages (there are 'origins of' for Norc, Orwell and Azriel) but no complete issues- Ive had other stuff eating up time concerning the Awards.

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Post by azriel on Wed Dec 11, 2013 10:08 pm

Im looking forward to the Awards ! Its fun to vote on & its fun to see the outcome !  Nod  and its a great time for picking dresses !  cheers 

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Post by Eldorion on Wed Dec 11, 2013 10:13 pm

Pettytyrant101 wrote:There will be a mega issue at some point if only because by missing a bunch of birthdays I have loads of finished pages (there are 'origins of' for Norc, Orwell and Azriel) but no complete issues- Ive had other stuff eating up time concerning the Awards.

The Awards are definitely important. Smile Although I'll say, both "origins of" editions you've done on my birthday have been absolutely incredible. I came across the 2011 while researching and I couldn't figure out of it was more hilarious or nostalgia-inducing. Laughing
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Post by Mrs Figg on Wed Dec 11, 2013 10:52 pm

talking of NOTP where the buggeringbollocks are those promised editions?  Suspect 

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Post by Pettytyrant101 on Wed Dec 11, 2013 10:55 pm

Unfinished in the presses- I had to give some awards stuff precedent even though its not going be a huge amount of time in the Awards show, its proving a lot of work time-wise.

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Post by Eldorion on Thu Dec 12, 2013 12:15 am

Previous part here...

Forumshire: The First Five Years

The Third Year: Near-Death Experiences

The forum entered the year 2011 in a slump, still not having fully recovered from the extended downtime of the previous summer.  Even with registration working again, the flow of new members was much slower than before (when Kafria joined that January, she was the first active newbie in several months).  This led to the dedicated core of the community taking an even more prominent role, since there were fewer casual members who joined solely to discuss Hobbit news.  This decrease was probably partially due to a redesign of the blog around this time that removed most of the links to individual forum threads from the homepage.  The frequency with which the blog was updated had also fallen dramatically.

The forum was abruptly jolted out of this rut by the purchase of THM by Planet-Tolkien.com, and event that Orwell later termed “Dark Planet Day”.  (Planet Tolkien is often referred to as Dark Planet on Forumshire, both for its all-black color scheme and the initial impression that it was an evil empire gobbling up other forums.)  When waking up on Friday, 11 February 2011, the members of Forumshire were greeted with a message on what used to be the forum's homepage, informing them of the site's purchase and saying that the forum would be merged with PT's preexisting community.  Trying to view any other page from the forum yielded only 404 errors.

Many of us began scrambling to try to reconnect with the rest of the community as soon as we learned of the sale.  Many of the older members had each others' e-mails, especially Petty, who had needed them to share the download links of his purist edits.  Most of the forum was also aware of my blog, which I had shamelessly promoted numerous times, and it had a contact page.  Taz also posted an announcement of the sale on THM's Facebook page, and I posted in the comments there looking for other forum members.  However, our posts and accounts had not yet been imported to PT, so we could not post there.  The main motivation on that first day, in addition to communicating with other members, was to find out what sort of site PT was and what it would mean for our community to be merged into it.

I later learned that the site now known as Planet Tolkien was founded by Dawson King, who posts as “Taz”, at the age of 16 in 1999.  The forum community began around 2000, making it one of the older Tolkien forums on the web.  Taz served as admin of PT for six years, until he sold the site in February 2005 on eBay.  The site passed to Grep, also known as Ant, who introduced unpopular Google Ads but failed to accomplish many of his proposed reforms.  In January 2010, Taz made an anonymous offer to purchase PT from Ant and resumed his position as admin.  He briefly posted under a different name, intending to keep his identity a mystery at first, but was found out by Amarië within a day.  Taz, like Ady, was a professional webmaster who has bought and sold several different websites.  He offered PT for sale again only a few months after buying it back, but when questioned about it by PT members he claimed to have merely been “testing the water” before trying to raise money to create a PT role-playing game.

At the time, however, all we knew about PT was what could be learned from their forum rules and Taz's public statements about the site purchase.  The rules described it as a “family-friendly site” and had apparently strict bans on crude language, blatantly off-topic posts, or excessive chattiness.  The site also disallowed political or religious discussion, two things that had become fairly important parts of Forumshire by that point.  These rules fueled existing fears that Forumshire would the elements that made it distinctive and that the community would effectively cease to exist in a recognizable form, with its members being only a part of PT.  Several people raised their concerns with Taz via e-mail and Facebook in lieu of being able to post on PT's forums.  Taz promised that no posts would be lost and that he would try to finish the transition by that Sunday.

In the meantime, at GB's suggestion, I created a page on my site for members of the forum to talk in the comments section while we waited to see what would happen.  On Saturday, 12 February, posts from the old THM forum began to appear across PT, although we still couldn't post.  However, we quickly noticed that only six of the nine sections of the old forum had appeared, along with various threads that had lost individual posts.  The latter was presumably due to technical error, but since we knew many of our discussions, especially the Big Bad Serious Thread, ran afoul of PT rules, it was unclear whether the missing forums were deleted for that reason.  Most of us assumed that the many offending posts that had been copied would be deleted.  (In the end, this never happened, but neither did the missing posts ever show up on PT.)  Meanwhile, over on PT's forum, its members noticed the influx of new posts appearing out of the ether.  Taz had apparently notified his moderators of the sale only when it happened, but the ordinary members of the forum had not even that brief warning about the merging of discussions.

Something that I want to stress about Dark Planet Day is that there was no guarantee things would play out the way they did, and I had no “mandate” to take Ady's place as Admin.  A number of people in the stopgap comments section felt that the best course of action would be to create a new site and strike out on our own, and this group included the de facto leader GB and most of the most active posters, but there were others who were more open to the idea of sticking around on PT and seeing what it was like.  I found myself somewhere in the middle, though closer to the anti-PT side, but what I feared more than anything else was fragmentation.  I worried that the community would be split between people going to PT, people going elsewhere, and people just not posting anymore far more than all of us being absorbed into PT together.

The task finding a new home fell to me largely because I offered to be the one to set up a new forum, and because I had some experience with running them from being a moderator on LOTRPlaza.com.  I suggested creating a forum through Forumotion.com because they seemed to have the loosest content restrictions of any of the free forum hosts I could find in a few hours of poking around.  Buying a domain name and hosting my own forum was out of the question due to financial constraints (I was 16 and unemployed save for a very part-time campus job) and because it would be pushing the limits of my technical knowledge.

Thus, I created a new forum with the URL hobbitmovie.forumotion.com in the early morning of Sunday, 13 February.  I had the blessing of most of the people who had found the stopgap page, though this was only a portion of even the diminished forum.  I sent the link to GB to check out while I slept (largely so that he could be the first to sign up there) and then posted the link on the comments section.  However, I then learned that Petty had created his own Forumotion website, having seen my recommendation of the service but not knowing I'd already made one, and was copying and pasting posts that had been imported to PT.  Petty offered to close it since I'd made one and, fearing fragmentation, I happily took him up on the offer.  I also locked the comments section as people began to register on the new forum.

However, our imported accounts at PT also became live on Sunday, and so most of us were posting on both PT and Forumshire for the first couple weeks.  The members and moderators on PT were undoubtedly overwhelmed by the number of new posts, but were by and large very friendly.  However, we were still upset by the nature of our forum's closure and were very sensitive to any perceived condescension from the older and larger site.  I at least tried to hide and put on a diplomatic face, but others (such as Petty) did not.  There were also several flare-ups over posts that PT members had made in imported threads before our accounts were activated.  On the other hand, Kafria in particular tried to jump in to PT and post as a regular member in both the forum and the chat room.  We were also able to gather together a few more old members who had not been notified of the stopgap page since no one knew their e-mails.

At the same time, however, the new Forumshire was rapidly taking shape over here.  I had recreated the structure of the Old Forum from memory, and also added a fanfiction forum at Odo's request.  We did not have access to the database from the Old Forum, but several of us (most notably Petty) manually copied over one thousand posts that had shown up on PT into new threads here so that we had a record of them and could pick carry on old discussions.  It also turned out that, despite PT's age and sizable user base, they were not actually that much more active then we were at the same point.  Thus, after about two weeks, the members of Forumshire had all but disappeared from PT, although about 10,000 of our posts remained mixed in on their forums, and PT members could and did bump them.

After this, Forumshire and PT largely drifted apart for several months, though curious members of both forums lurked the other.  PT continued much as it had, while here on Forumshire we set about reconstructing our community.  We gave up reposting old threads taken from PT's copies after the first thousand because of how time-intensive it was, but the recent crisis infused the forum with a sense of civic purpose.  We doubled down on the quirky things that made Forumshire unique and introduced new elements like the newspapers, the first of which (The Archet Bugle) began mere days after Dark Planet Day.  As Admin, I promoted a “free spirits” philosophy with a minimum of rules, although this ran afoul of the new press as the Bankses accused me of lacking respectability and Pure Publications insinuated that my purist credentials were lacking.

We had seen two new members join during Dark Planet Day – Kafria's daughter Squach and my then-girlfriend Baingil – who had both joined after hearing us talk incessantly about the forum in the aftermath of its closure.  However, once we were separated from THM's enviable search position, the trickle of new members almost completely dried up.  The burst of excitement following Dark Planet Day started to fade and in March and April the forum fell to levels of activity comparable to where it had been in January.  We still watched PT and at least once posted a link to Forumshire there in order to bring stragglers over here.  Reports of someone on PT referring to Forumshire as “that other forum” also sparked (in retrospect overblown) outrage on here.

Meanwhile, Taz realized that the attempt at merging the two forums had completely failed, so on 1 May he created a brand new board on THM with no connection to the previous one.  I happened to visit the site that same day and registered on the new forum.  I posted a link on Forumshire and complained about Taz writing over our legacy, but did not post on the new forum.  Kafria left a link to Forumshire there, which enabled chris63 to find his way to the new forum, but it was deleted by Taz after only a few days.  No one from Forumshire showed any interest in the replacement forum for several months after that.

Activity picked up somewhat starting in May, as the forum began to feel less like a refugee camp and more like home.  I was growing into my role as Admin as a community leader and not just the person who knew the most about the technical side of forums.  This was largely because GB's activity on the forum significantly declined throughout spring 2011.  He returned briefly several times after that, but he never posted as much as he had on the Old Forum.  With the only other mod slipping away, I began to rely more on Baingil (whom the papers termed my “consort”) for advice on administrative decisions, and Petty took over the title of most-active poster.

Forumshire and PT unexpectedly drifted back into each others' orbits at the beginning of June due to a post by Leelee lamenting the absence of Forumshirans from PT even though so many of our posts were still there.  Her heartfelt post was shared on here, which guilted several of us into returning to PT and posting semi-actively there.  Relations with PT briefly looked positive, as Amarië and Leelee began posting here as “ambassadors” and Taz even allowed us to have a thread linking back to Forumshire.  However, when Petty posted a YouTube video he had made to advertise Forumshire, it was deleted on the grounds that it violated their rule about linking to non-family friendly sites, which YouTube apparently counted as.  Tensions also developed with PT members who were unused to and unimpressed by our “irreverent” posting culture.  This sparked several rounds of arguments and left sore feelings on both sides and a feeling of incompatibility in posting cultures.

Pretty Tyrant (Petty's sister sockpuppet) and Orwell (who had recently become Odo's primary account) began posting more aggressive “advertisements” for Forumshire and demanded that Taz turn over the forum database to us since he hadn't delivered on his promise that no posts would be lost in the transition.  Pretty and Orwell were both banned (and any attempt by them to visit PT was redirected to Forumshire) and deleted our advertising thread that contained links to Forumshire.   However, the diplomatic intervention of Leelee convinced Taz to give us the Old Forum's database.  He even offered to host an archive of the old forum on THM, though this is no longer online.  Nonetheless, the banning of Pretty and Orwell had soured relations and fully disillusioned many Forumshirans with the Dark Planet.  Amarië and Leelee would ultimately stick around here, but relations between the two sites have remained cool since then.

At the same time as the PT detente, Forumshire underwent two major structural changes.  First, Baingil designed a new green-themed forum skin and banner (the same one we use today), which was adopted with widespread approval, despite initial complaints that the leaf icons were reminiscent of a salad.  We also purchased a domain name through Forumotion with donated funds, moving to hobbitmovieforum.com and adding the word Forumshire to the site's official name for the first time.  Baingil was made Tech Admin for her efforts (the first and so far only Forumshire admin to not have also been webmaster) and Petty became a mod in recognition of his contributions to the forum, and because GB was absent.  A little over a month later, in early August, I replaced the forum hierarchy which had existed since December 2008 with the two-category system we still use today (with minor tweaks).  In the process, the two Hobbit sub-forums were combined into one, we finally gained an Off-Topic forum, and the Big Bad Serious thread became an entire forum of its own.

The forum enjoyed an unprecedented period of activity over summer 2011, perhaps slightly more active than early 2010, but by the end of the summer the situation was worsening again.  Overall forum activity declined significantly, as did my own personal activity once the fall semester began.  In August we had our first new member (Lorient) who had not previously been a member of the Old Forum or PT, but overall we were still seeing very few new members.

I thought I saw an opportunity to remedy this in early October when I discovered that the new Hobbit Movie Forum, which I had not visited since its creation in May, had developed a rather free-spirited community of its own despite almost complete neglect from Taz.  I saw a thread asking who was in charge of the forum and how to contact them, and I posted an explanation of the forum's origin, Taz's identity, and his PT e-mail address.  This was the thread where I met Mrs Figg and Norc, and began the relationship between the two forums by linking back to Forumshire and making a thread on Forumshire linking to Bree.  Several people ventured back and forth, but the overall flow of members was from Forumshire to the nascent Bree.  I was roundly criticized for this by the papers, who were still smarting from the outcome of the attempt at free spirited friendliness with PT.  It didn't help matters that Taz deleted the thread containing his e-mail and the link to Forumshire.  However, Petty and Orwell stuck around on Bree and posted regularly there as well as on Forumshire, and their ambassadorial efforts laid the groundwork for the future relationship between the forums.

The situation took another turn for the worse with my near-complete absence for most of the rest of October and Baingil's departure from the forum when we broke up that month.  Petty, being the only remaining mod, staged a faux-coup with the assistance of Orwell and paid off Queen Tin by giving her control of his buckie stash.  I returned at the end of the month, which was very nearly the worst month we have ever had on the new forum in terms of activity.  Obviously, the coup was a joke, but it has left a mark on forum culture in discussions of “treason”, in fiction, and in Petty being beholded to Queen Tin when it comes to buckie (which he still is to this day: a fitting punishment for his crimes).  Despite all the ups and downs of the year, we were back in a very similar position to where we had been in January, with many missing regulars and too few newbies to make up for it.

The forum's fortunes began to rebound in November.  More regulars were posting actively, including myself, and we also saw our first immigrant from Bree-land who stuck around.  Mrs Figg had signed up mere days after the meeting of Forumshire and Bree, but began posting here actively in November after being convinced to by Petty.  She was closely followed by Norc, Dave, and Sinister71 (though he took a while to start posting actively), and later by many others as well.  Activity from Bree-landers on Forumshire increased further when, in later December, the Facebook Connect registration system on Bree broke down and no one could sign in or post for several days.  Once I figured out how to work around the problem most people resumed posting on Bree, but it further brought our two forums together and many who had joined or heard of Forumshire would later become active members here.

Increased activity in November and December also meant that we were finally able to hold the first Forumshire Mayoral elections, which had been in discussion since that summer.  The election became a project in community-building and activity-encouraging, as well as just being a lot of fun, as numerous candidates were introduced for the newly created position of Mayor of Forumshire, an office that had conspicuously few (no) rights or responsibilities attached to it.  The main candidates were Pretty, Orwell, and Kafria.  Pretty cut a deal with me and undertook a smear campaign to knock Odo out of the race.  This was accomplished by me registering an alternate account called “Diamond Banks”, the first and I think only time someone other than Odo created a Banks account, to post unsavory but plausible rumors about Odo's forum past.  Odo withdrew from the race in a pique of respectability, but Pretty ultimately fell in the final ballot to Kafria, whose first act in office was to threaten to ban the Page 3 Hobbit Lass of the Day.

The forum closed out 2011 with a new admin, a new site, a mostly empty archive prior to that February, but nearly 20,000 new posts.  This was a significant improvement over 2010, but the posts came in highly irregular bursts of activity and there were several points when it seemed as if the forum might fade away completely.  However, many of the elements that distinguish Forumshire's culture were strengthened, and at the end of the year the free spirits policy finally paid off as we regained access to THM's search position, albeit indirectly and unofficially.  All the ups and downs of 2011 set the stage for the forum's next stage of growth, in which an influx of Bree-landers (the first distinct forum generation in over two years) challenged the existing forum culture.  But Forumshire has not returned to the depths of inactivity that had plagued it off and on during 2011 since then.


Last edited by Eldorion on Thu Dec 12, 2013 8:21 pm; edited 7 times in total
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Post by Pettytyrant101 on Thu Dec 12, 2013 12:30 am

Excellent piece Eldo- I was nearly crying into my buckie from nostalgia, but then I noticed you claimed responsibility for my (in)famous Bree Outreach Programme and I got crabbit again! I shall be writing to the papers about this  Mad 

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Post by Eldorion on Thu Dec 12, 2013 12:36 am

I did give you credit for convincing Mrs Figg to post here, but I can try to make it clearer that it was you (and Orwell) who actually stuck around and posted in the trenches of Bree. Smile

{{{And thank you, it means a lot. And by all means guys, correct me if I get something wrong here!}}}
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Post by Mrs Figg on Thu Dec 12, 2013 12:53 am

cheers this is fantastic cheers I asked a lot of people to visit though so I have done my fair share of recruiting.

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Post by Orwell on Thu Dec 12, 2013 1:27 am

I personally am appalled at your attacks on the Free Press, Eldo!   Suspect 

{{{This makes marvelous reading btw --- but I'm not admitting that in public!  Mad }}}

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Post by bungobaggins on Thu Dec 12, 2013 3:25 am

Great work, Eldo! I really enjoyed reading this, and I find it to be very interesting and informative.

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Post by Tinuviel on Thu Dec 12, 2013 3:47 am

cheers Such an interesting history!!!! We can direct new members to this thread so we don't have to explain ourselves and so they don't have to read the entire forum to understand things!

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Post by halfwise on Thu Dec 12, 2013 5:06 am

Wow, very detailed.  I can see that quite a bit happened during my absence.  Very curious to see how things are described since I returned.

This is an immense amount of work, Eldo, but obviously a labor of love.  I love you I think we all feel the uniqueness of this place, which is why we stick around, even many of those that threaten to leave.  Kissing

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Post by Eldorion on Thu Dec 12, 2013 5:21 am

I'm really glad you guys are enjoying this. Smile

halfwise wrote:This is an immense amount of work, Eldo, but obviously a labor of love.  I love you

All I'm saying is that I'd better get a Special Achievement Award or something for this. Mad
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Post by RA on Thu Dec 12, 2013 10:07 am

A really cool history, Eldo. It ended before I showed up though  Laughing 

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Post by Amarië on Thu Dec 12, 2013 10:26 am

I like that you added a bit about the PT history too. Nod And me being a super snoop. Wink

Although "Tarrant" is not the secret identity. It is Taz's name before he changed it to Dawson.

I don't recall what the 'secret buyer' was called at first, but he sounded just like Taz, so I went looking to see if older posts by Taz or Tarrant had changed usernames. Taz was using some super surveillance thingie and he noticed me searching for his name, and a little window with a message popped up on my screen. He is ever so clever. Nod

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Post by Amarië on Thu Dec 12, 2013 11:20 am

{{{Also, I would prefer to be called Amarië not Amarie in such an historical document.}}}

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Post by halfwise on Thu Dec 12, 2013 2:17 pm

is the final ë not silent? I guess so or you wouldn't go decorating it.

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Post by Amarië on Thu Dec 12, 2013 2:46 pm

Not silent at all. It's a name from the Silmarillion, pronounced similar to Namarië.

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