Fifteen years of CoasterBuzz

posted by Jeff | Thursday, January 29, 2015, 10:08 PM | comments: 0

This kind of crept up on me... CoasterBuzz has been around for 15 years. OK, it didn't really creep up on me, I was thinking six months ago that I wanted to redesign it in time for this birthday, but that didn't happen. I can't really wrap my head around the time, because it feels like I just wrote about 10 years with the site.

That previous post does a good job of telling the story, so I don't want to retell all of that. Since that time, I rebuilt everything again, and put out the new bits in April, 2012. Working from home that year, every day, and dealing with winter in the months leading up to that time, I was totally stir crazy and really committed to that rebuild. My priorities were really different that time around compared to the previous re-do. I was all about developing POP Forums, because open source is good for the career. In fact, the development in general was more of the motivation over the idea that I was creating this thing for an audience. In 2000, I was still in that career transition, where "the show" was what I was all about. In fact, I might even credit the wanting to build something on the Internet with the transition. I never thought about that before, that the site may just be a factor in my professional life.

That 2012 technical endeavor actually helped out with search optimization and brought in a lot of traffic, and boosted the performance too. That's not that interesting to most people, but you know, it's what I do. It's my playground to build stuff.

As a business, it isn't what it used to be because of the way the ad market has taken a shit over the years, but I'm surprised how so many people still maintain club memberships. That's gratifying because a lot of the time, maintaining a site is a thankless job. I'm fortunate that the community that resides there is largely self-reguating, and low-drama, but it wasn't always that way.

My observations at 10 hold true at 15, with regard to how things are with online community:

We've seen a great inversion between the number of content creators and consumers. Back then, people went out of their way to build Web sites, rich with pictures, stories, communities, etc. Sorry, but posting when you take a crap on Facebook and Twitter is not creating content (it's more like noise). Meanwhile, the users of the Internet went from a tightly connected community to a mass of humanity that doesn't stop long enough to look at anything.

Last weekend, at a wedding, a couple of guys thanked me for my role in the coaster nerd community, which I generally shrug off and get a little uncomfortable about. But one of them made the point that it was improbable that he would be there if it weren't for CoasterBuzz. Indeed, if I think about it, I wouldn't have been there or known one of the grooms, and there were at least 15 people there ranging from a best friend to decade or more acquaintances I don't think I would have ever met. It stands to reason that if my social circle was affected that dramatically, it's likely true for others. That's probably the most important thing that this 15 years has brought for me.

That same conversation also surfaced some observations, maybe even regrets, that things have changed so much since then. The connections we make online aren't nearly as deep, and we prefer more generalized mechanisms like Facebook and Instagram over niche communities. Everyone has an online identity now, while back in the day, you had a minor online identity that wasn't particularly indicative of who you were, surfaced in forums and such, and the rest of the time you were meeting up in real life. It was more special then.

I've said for years that online community is only as good as its members and the effort put into it. As the group that I know graduates to their 30's and 40's, it's hard to say if another one will appear. It seems like online interaction is all about selfies and check-ins, and not about getting to know people. I don't entirely blame the seemingly narcissistic tendencies of the medium, because it seems we tend to expect that people are creepy and not trustworthy when we meet them online in certain contexts.

In any case, CoasterBuzz has been with me now for a third of my life. I can't think of anything other than school that lasted that long. I think it will continue to be around for as long as I enjoy maintaining it, regardless of what the motivating factors are. It has played an important role in my life, even if it's something that rarely comes up in conversation among friends and coworkers. And maybe, just maybe, I'll get a new version out this year!


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