A Brief History Of Diysearch
Not that anyone cares, and this is mostly just here under the guise of full disclosure and completeness, this little page describes the history of this project. Again, I’m sure this page hit count will number in the low single-digits, but that isn’t going to stop me from writing it.
The story starts around 1987. That was two years after I was introduced to punk/hardcore (via skateboarding). In that year two other guys I knew at school wanted to start a zine. I was amassing a small but very obscure record collection and was asked if I might want to write record reviews and other pieces for this zine. Not knowing exactly what I was getting into, I agreed. The zine was called Empty Words. It was focused completely on the local Erie, PA hardcore scene (what a terrible scene it was, by the way - absolutely no redeeming value in that place). I was responsible for getting it xeroxed and “manufactured” and also did some of the layout. I got really into it, and while the two other guys involved were only using me because I had ready access to a xerox machine, I took it upon myself to start my own zine when I moved to upstate NY in 1990. It was that year that I started UPState Zine. A small hand-copied zine that chronicled the Syracuse NY hardcore/straight edge scene. It got to be a pretty popular little zine, branching out into a record label in 1992 (UPState Records).
In 1996 I put out the last issue of UPState, with my career starting and life getting busy I just didn’t have the time. But rewind a bit. In 1993 I started getting more curious about the whole web thing. I had a local ISP account that gave me some webspace for simple HTML pages and within a few months I outgrew that and went looking for something more. That’s when I found Pair Networks. I got a domain name for my zine and signed up for their webmaster hosting program. This gave me access to Perl/CGI. Wow, I was so in over my head, I didn’t know what to do. I was (and still am) a graphic designer. What did I know about programming? Well I’ll tell ya, nothing!
Over the next six months I crammed every bit of information I could squeeze out of usenet and the local Borders bookstore. I taught myself Perl and how to write CGI scripts to enable some basic interactivity on my zine site (like a guest book, message board and, well, a search engine). As I finished and graduated from college, I went to work for a local (upstate NY) web design firm as a web designer and soon to be art director. It was around that time that I started getting more and more into the engineering side of web development. I basically got completely into software development and wanted to start applying what I was learning to my project.
In 1996 I did just that. I found this CGI script that basically searched through a text file database and would produce a screen of results. It was also this time that I was starting to branch out on the Web and was finding it very difficult to find other DIY project sites (zines, indy labels, distros etc.) In fact, I was down right frustrated. Well, instead of just sitting around and waiting for Lycos, Alta Vista, Yahoo and the rest to send out their spiders to find the stuff, I took it upon myself to make it easier for folks like me to find stuff. I adapted the original CGI script to enable not just searching, but for folks to submit their own links to their projects and then have others search the “database.” It was a pretty original concept in that I wasn’t going to “spider” anything, but have projects come to the search engine and enter their own information. You know, DIY!
By October 1996 rolled around, I posted to alt.zines and alt.punk about this new search engine project and within a few weeks had a few hundred links!
Within a year the site had outgrown its existing framework and I did a complete re-write in ColdFusion using a MS Access database. This was doomed to fail, simply because of the lack of any real high-traffic scalability in that architecture (of the time). After about 4 and a half years of dealing with crashing servers, corrupt databases and flaky ColdFusion implementations (including an upgrade from MS Access to SQL Server) and the loss of my dedicated hosting space, I went out, in 2003 and found Server Beach, and leased my own server. The existing ColdFusion site was scrapped and I put in place a PHP-Nuke based site with some custom modules to handle the search engine.
This was a huge mistake. There were so many security holes in PHP-Nuke that script kiddies drove a truck through. The site wasn’t targetted, it was simply harvested by bots looking for PHP-Nuke driven sites. The site was taken down three times within a two year time span. Twice requiring an entire server rebuild. Each time resulted in me having to patch togther my own ill conceived “fixes” which never fixed anything. I blame, partly, the terrible state of PHP-Nuke code, the other on myself.
The last time, which occured late last year was the final straw. I realized that what I had wasn’t working. It couldn’t work. I was so amazingly frustrated over everything with this site. It was also at this time that my personal life went into a tailspin. Ugh, that was not a good time. I’d like to just write off 2005, or at least big portions of what happened in that year… 2004 can go with it as well.
It wasn’t until February of this year that I decided to give this another go. But if I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it right this time. No more compromises, or short cuts. I’m going to put my nearly 13 years of professional software development experience to work. That’s what is going on now. My sweetheart has been a major motivating force in that, in she has really encouraged me to do this up right and not just give up on it (as I was wanting to do).
No, I really wanted to give up on it, sell the domain to the diy network and just wash my hands of it. I was that discouraged. Yeah yeah, that was just frustration talking. I’ve spent ten years with this thing and I’m entitled to my frustration!
There were two things buzzing in my mind that turned it around. Apart from the words of encouragement from my sweetheart, was that, one, I don’t like to quit anything, and two I didn’t want the somewhat snarky piece in Wired that was written in 1997, to come true about this site… about it not being able to handle growth. I suppose they were right for the most part, but now I want to correct that legacy.
Also, I just like this project. I get frustrated with it, sometimes pretend it wasn’t there, but at the end of the day, the passion I had in 1996 that started this, is still there.