As of today, I'm officially old, I guess.
So a look back at ten years. It took a little bit of time to go back through old journals and old folders full of deviantART files to recall some events from that far back. This is pretty long, and you might find it very dull as it's my personal experience of the site mixed in with bits of dA history. If I'm honest I'm doing this for my own benefit
, but if you find it interesting or if you have any questions about events from way back then do leave comments below.
I will say first and foremost- the time spent here has definitely not been wasted.
Apologies for waffle.
(Wait, 2001? Can you math?)
I've been online for a long time, and call me an old fart, but the internet seemed richer in the 90s and early 00's. Communities were stronger, you could happily share links to other cool places around the web without Google screwing you out of ad revenue, and the internet's 'exclusivity' meant that it was actually pretty hard to find things online that makes you worry for the future of humanity.
dA was just what it needed to be back then- a cool place online for people who loved art and customizing their stuff. I stumbled across it via a link from another winamp/windows/whatever theme website, something you won't find these days. It would have been around April 2001
that I first visited dA, and thankfully there's a snapshot of it.
I love going back through the wayback machine
and digging up old versions of websites. It's a great tool and an invaluable library of internet history.
Sure it had it's issues, read $spyed
's The real story behind devART
journal for details on that, but if you look at that 2001 snapshot, there aren't many sites in the partners list at the bottom of the page that are anything like what dA is now.
Anyway, my old account (which I'll have to resurrect it at some point for giggles) was formed then, and I proceeded to use dA to find the latest wallpaper or Windowblinds theme. I was still in school back then and despite taking art as a subject all the way through, didn't submit anything with that account. I was and still am somewhat of a perfectionist and I didn't really have access to cameras or decent scanners to do my pencil life drawing masterpieces justice. Thankfully I quickly grew out of that mentality and realised that I have the sketching ability of a chimp.
What I did get involved with is the dA community. I loved it. Being able to give thanks to people putting effort into designs, to ask them questions and have them reply back was awesome. Prior to dA I was involved in a forum for the UK 'PC Format' magazine, which was where I was thankfully able to make most of my newbie online mistakes. But it was also only primarily people from Britain. Here on dA, I could be commenting on a wallpaper made by someone in Indonesia, and then to a winamp theme created by someone else living in south India. It threw me out of my comfort zone, and it was definitely a time that I attribute to helping with my generally reclusive and shy behaviour.
A couple of years later the online version of 'Narfmaster' was born. I've got old bits of work from when I was in primary school where I'd scrawled the nickname at the top, and I figured it'd be a sensibly ridiculous pseudonym to actually start posting art under. Not that I uploaded anything at that time, sadly. I was going through a few years of mad exams, and I'd also discovered Enemy Territory
so spent most of my free time playing that as a bit of stress-relief once home from school.2004
Roll on 2004 though, and wahey- I'd just flunked out of most of my AS-Levels
, and decided to go down the subject of design for education with not much but my 'A's in art to back me up. Stressful time, gave up gaming for a while, as you might imagine. But you know, people on dA were supportive. For me, I remember chatting to someone else in the US who was in a similar situation and had to decide what to do next. Great conversations were had over the months as we both worked out where we were going. (Incidentally I went through College with distinctions and have a degree from University as well, so it all ended up ok!)
People in a community supporting one another. Huh? I'd never really seen that before, and even now that's rare. I loved how the members cared for more than just the artwork we created. We could share our thoughts through journals and through the art we make. We chatted about the mundane parts of our lives, applauded our achievements and consoled one another in sad, intimate times surrounding death and loss. Looking back now at the times where we have lost those from the community, every time the effect is clear as it ripples through the community.dAmn
rocked up in the August of 2004 as well. That was fun. It was rough around the edges, but it changed the site for me. The Shoutbox
had of course, been the method of choice for chatting with one another in (just about) real time. Not everyone got on with the IRC-style communication method at first, and I hope that the Shoutbox lives on for a while longer as a testament to dA history, but dAmn was cool. The admins and staffers hung out there, and while it detracted from the art a little, it was a place where you got people from all over coming together just to chat about...nothing in particular, really. I know it's a tiny part of the site now, but back then it was somewhere that I could easily keep in touch with other artists and friends within the community. #Thumbshare kicked off pretty quickly, and I enjoyed just sitting in there watching the constant flow of new(ish) artwork go on.
Couldn't tell you exactly who was brought on to manage dAmn early on. `omniomi
is someone who I remember vividly as an early MN@, and °euphoria
was the manager for dAmn, but otherwise I must admit I drew a bit of a blank. Someone will undoubtedly be able to recall if they'd like to chime in. It didn't take long for the dA top to realise they needed a larger team of people to keep an eye on things.
A few months before my 18th birthday I remember chatting to °phae
, a fellow Brit and helping her out with installing AMiP
on her machine.
There was (and there probably still is) a trend of being able to post what you were currently listening to from your computer into whatever IRC chatroom you had open. There was a long-winded method of essentially taking what would normally automatically get posted into IRC and sticking it into your clipboard, and then pasting it into dAmn, all with one keystroke. Magic, yo.
It took a good hour to do, and I probably stayed up a bit too late on a school night doing it, but at the time I thought it was worth it just to help someone out with something that I thought was cool, that someone else had previously taught me how to do, and if I'm honest, just to chat to an admin for a little while. dAmn was somewhat sidelined by my aim to see as much art as possible and to do a bucket load of comments every day, but I kept going back to see people I chatted to almost daily, and pretty much out of the blue I received an email from °euphoria
asking me whether I'd want to help out with the dAmn Army, as it was called back then.
Now as an aside at this point, I'll post a section from a note that I'd got during the last few days of 2004.
It seems (and I have noticed things on dA, in his journal, and other areas), that Spyed (Angelo), his partner and co-founder of dA, is trying to underhandedly, without Scott's knowledge, get Scott to leave, by trying to initiate a takeover of dA. Scott has put his life's blood, literally, into dA, 24/7, without thought of compensation. Angelo, on the otherhand is extremely money hungry. Therein lies the problem.
Now that was an interesting time as well. Stirring within the ranks? Sneaky takeovers? These things weren't massively new to me in the offline space. When I was young my old church had gone through a somewhat messy fallout between its leaders and had essentially left volunteers to run the Sunday services until the rent for the venue ran out, so I was used to seeing what happened when founders and leaders of communities have tiffs. (Another incidentally, while my parents moved to another (my current), the church changed hands and is apparently running stronger than ever.)
I hadn't seen it within an online community though. The ones I'd been involved with previously were company-run and the largest issue the people running it had between each other was if someone cheated a bit at foosball in the office that day. I must admit I found it quite funny. The rest of the note goes on with info about a secret underground movement of support, and it all seemed very one-sided and far-fetched.
Anyway, more on that later. At the time of getting a message from °euphoria
, I was still 17, and about to go on holiday. Thankfully, they apparently really wanted me on the team and so a few days after my 18th birthday once I'd returned home, dropped her a reply, and shortly afterwards I got a lovely little snail/hat/thing prefixed to my username. (@Narfmaster
Won't it be weird to think that some people won't ever know about the old symbols? The FAQ entry is changed already, and there'll likely be almost no signs of them apart from if they're manually entered into journals or comments. The squiggle is dead. Long live the squiggle. ~*=`@^+$! etc.
And so began my long reign of terror where I caused mayhem and havoc among all the chatr-
Alongside me joined a young $fourteenthstar
and people like $dxd
, if I recall correctly. (There have been so many amazing people I've worked along side that it's hard to remember when I did.) For a time, dAmn ran great. #devart
was modded well, people and the MN@ were having fun, the team was huge, and it was all cool and groovy. One of the first things I remember was °jark
asking me what email address I'd like. In hindsight, should have asked for email@example.com but just having an @deviantart.com email was sweeeet. Those were also the days when volunteer admins received 50 'deviant-dollars' a month to do what they liked with. How they got away with that with tax I'll never know, but the amount of prints and subscriptions that I bought over the years for people over the years is probably obscene.
This eventually got canned, for the reason if I recall correctly, "It was a tax nightmare". So there you go.
A few months later was the first time I attended a devMeet
. That was a first for me, and I think nowadays I would suggest bringing a friend along if you're going to an internet meet, whatever age you are. But I went along as I figured I should, given that I was an admin and all, and was blown away by how sensible and normal people all were. Yes while in most places where people from 'the internet' meet up you have the kids just after free hugs and to possibly trying to drug you with weed-spiked rainbow cake, generally speaking, devMeets in London and the UK start up with picnics in the park, gallery visits and trips to the pub for the older lot. Lovely. What more could you want out of a day? I admit the day didn't start out well, as I walked up and down Green Park trying to find everyone for an hour before finally spotting `blackice
's face along a crowd, but the rest of the day was a blast.
A week or so later a shitstorm kicked off.
For those who care, I don't need really to repeat in its entirety what happened on the site. Suffice to say the site was split in two, there was mass
spamming all over and the site galleries turned yellow. Half the dAmn team left, the Gallery Moderators also suffered losses, and it took a little while for the site to recover. But recover it did. In the admin backroom chatrooms we talked about rallying together and putting in as much effort as we could to keep the community running as best it could. And you know, we did it. The camaraderie between the volunteer team was like no other, in my opinion. We all pitched in to keep dAmn modded 24/7, stayed up half the night to stop people spamming #devart, and took the brunt of countless people calling us names for supporting the site and not 'its founder'. I made a small reference to it in a journal
back then but at the time I didn't feel it necessary to go too in-depth. The site and the community needed to come first, and so I just carried on doing what I felt right.
And that's an important part of why I agreed to be an admin- yes right from the start I loved being 'in charge' and being able boot people out who messed around too much, but for me, being able to run dAmn in a way that I felt would best serve the users was a huge privilege. That was always in the back of my mind- when I was just a regular user, what would I have want out of the chat? I think those years were the best times to have been involved in the +chat
part of the site. Events and featured chats regularly organised, and people from the darkest corners of the site joining together.
Part 2 coming later.