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Inside The Looking Glass Evolt Org Turns 1

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Daniel Cody

Member info

User since: 14 Dec 1998

Articles written: 146

A year ago today, December 14th, circumstances made me realize that the interests of the common Web developer weren't being served. I(and many others)revolted against the commercial establishment that claimed to serve Web developers like myself.

What were those circumstances? Many of you may in fact remember the day one year ago that I suggested we start a mailing list and Web site not only for Web Developers, but by Web Developers as well. The corporate types made us realize that our merry little band of web monkeys weren't really a community, but potential revenue and click-throughs. We wanted to show the suits that we didn't need a corporate entity that paid writers to produce Web development articles. We wanted to show them that we, the real live people who spend ungodly hours developing Web sites, could provide a better resource to educate, inform, and help our fellow developers than they ever could. We wanted to show them we could do it all for free, without the hindrance that having to turn a profit brings. Most of all we wanted to show them, indeed the world, that a community is only as good as its motivation for becoming a community in the first place: to share and foster common interests, problems, and ideas. I believed that the interests of the Web development community weren't (and still aren't) being served by the commercial sites out there like Webmonkey and Thankfully, a group of people agreed with my post to the monkey list, responded, and we hatched the plans for what was to become

The first couple weeks were insane. Literally hundreds of ideas flying around about just what kinds of things we could do. It was seriously the most exciting time (professionally ;) of my life. After a couple months, we settled down, and quietly began to understand just what an undertaking we were getting into.

You see, the buzzword these days is 'community'. I read articles in all the trade magazines about creating 'online communities' and steps one through eight on exactly how to do it. In reality though, building a community of Web developers was a lot harder than it sounded. In early March '98, the evolt 'community' consisted of about 25 people all of whom were 'admin' members (those of us that take care of the day to day operations of evolt). Not really impressive. You see (in retrospect), we were too worried about what domain name to choose, what shade of red our logo should have in it, and whether Cold Fusion or ASP was the best choice for our Web site. We were too involved in the unimportant parts of making a successful community rather than actually doing what it is we had set out to do in the first place. People ask me from time to time what the secret of building a successful online community like evolt is. A year ago, I would have replied something about having enough bandwidth to serve all those people. Now I tell them that the single most important thing about creating an online community is actually getting all those people of common interests together and talking; forget the details!

At any rate, we finally got some things decided, and put up a small mailing list to discuss Web development issues that same Spring. When we had 75 Web developers collaborating a short time later, I thought, "Geez, that's a lot of people, how cool!". Then on June 1st, we launched our Web site, as a place where fellow Web developers could come and not only read and learn about current happenings, coding techniques, and development articles - they could post about them as well. The evolt Web site relies on posts from people like you to help out other developers, so share something!

Over the summer, our numbers grew steadily, and people started to take notice that a bunch of disgruntled monkies had created a pretty decent Web site and discussion list. A while later in August, we introduced the Internet's largest browser archive which some pretty big Web sites took notice of and mentioned. Then we got published on slashdot and saw another huge growth spurt, finding along the way that more Web developers than ever were interested in the whats and whys of evolt. Our mailing list has a reputation for being one of the best in the industry, we're an active and listened to voice, we're from the biggest design houses, the best consulting firms, and have been quoted by industry leading publications. A year after evolt's inception, the Web is starting to realize our dream. They're starting to see that a group of dedicated, active, and enthusiastic individuals can become something larger than themselves. That we react in Internet Time. That we don't need a commercial focus to succeed. That we don't need hype to attract interest. That we evolved. That we did it.

So here we are a year later. Everything might sound peachy, but we're still hungry. We still have lots of work to do, more developers to help, more issues to raise our voice about. What's in the future for evolt?

  • Upgrades! Our link on made it all too apparent that our current architecture (Access and Cold Fusion on NT if you're keeping score) just can't handle the kind of traffic we're getting lately. Consequently, we're moving to Linux, Cold Fusion, and Oracle. We're pretty confident that we'll be able to keep up with the demand after this conversion. If you're interested in our discussions on making this happen or have something to contribute, feel free to join "thesite" mailing list we have set up for the backend workings of evolt. We could always use the help!

  • Activism! Probably the thing that makes me most proud about being an evolt member. Recently some evolt members got together to voice their disgust with -- read more about it at their Web site.

  • Improved content! We've recently started seeing some excellent tutorials and articles from evolt members on our Web site. Without worry of compensation or recognition, it's those of you that share your knowledge about the Web development industry with your peers that truly embody the essence and principles of evolt. A big thanks!

  • Fame, fortune, and hundred dollar bills y'all!!! Well, this is the one thing you can count on not happening. Evolt will never sell out, cash out, or bow out in response to corporate offers. It would just go against the very reason evolt was founded to do so. And besides, no one person owns or has any claim to anything evolt, so the temptation is never there. We are a community in the truest sense of the word. If you want to show your appreciation, send beer and brownies! :^)

Now without getting too sappy, I'd like to thank a couple people here. First off, to the admin group, past and present members. Thanks for putting up with my incoherent, bitter, angry, emotional, drunken, stupid, self indulgent, proud, annoying, and off topic email for the last year. Thanks for listening to the problems I (and all of us) have shared, and helping through tough times. (Hopefully you won't have to listen to me bitch about no girlfriend anymore ;). I've really learned a lot from each of you!

Second to Taylor, Kristin Windbigler, and all the fine lawyer types at the former Wired Digital for giving us the motivation to create!!! Where would we be without you?? (You should really be getting around to putting a search engine on that archive though!)

Third to those of you that volunteer your time and energy to making things happen. You know who you are! Also to those that dedicate bandwidth and server space to us, allowing evolt to worry more about content than paying bills.

To jwz for inspiration, S.M.T. for more inspiration, and Jim Morrison for even more inspiration.

Finally to everyone involved with evolt for making what it is today: a truly successful community of Web developers!!!

Dan lives a quiet life in the bustling city of Milwaukee, WI. Although he founded what would become in 1998, he's since moved on to other projects and is now the owner of Progressive Networks, a Zimbra hosting company based in Milwaukee.

His personal site can be found at

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