Well, it's the end of 2006, and so it's time to reflect on the year that was. Dimensions is bigger than ever, and it's been quite a ride. More on that in a minute.
I ended last year's New Year's Eve message saying, "On the hardware side of it all, my resolve last year was not to get caught again with failing equipment. So I built a new server from scratch, a machine that is at least twice as powerful as the one Dimensions uses now. It is up and running, and we'll be switching over sometime soon." That turned out to have been a good decision. I didn't switch over for quite some time as moving an entire huge site from one machine to another is quite an undertaking. The decision was forced on me when the Dimensions server had a fatal crash the end of April or beginning of May. It was total failure. Fortunately I had a recent full backup and so went to work on restoring data to the backup machine. It was a tense ten hours or so of work, but then the new machine was up and running, and we had lost almost nothing. Be prepared.
I think it's fair to say that during this past year Dimensions transformed from being a website to being a community. It'd always been a community, sort of, but the tremendous success of the vBulletin forums made Dimensions into a true focal point and community. I had initially installed the new forum software towards the end of 2005 and was a bit skeptical. Early reaction was very good, and during 2006 the thing just took off. On November 27, we reached a high of 1,354 simultaneous users -- more than many rather substantial boards out there. I installed FlashChat as a backup for our streaming chat system that keeps on going. And though registration is not mandatory and most do not register, almost 7,000 have. All in all, the Dimensions community created over 15,000 discussion threads and posted over 300,000 messages.
I did make some changes during the year, mostly in response to user requests, but also whenever I had time and found some cool new stuff. We added new forums. Hyde Park was initially established as sort of a penalty box for folks who had a hard time following rules. It was then converted into a speaker's corner for all sorts of discussion. This turned out to be mostly political and at times the moderators had their hands full making sure things didn't get out of hand. The Lounge -- a place for fun, games and off-topic stuff -- remains the most popular place, another indication that Dimensions is becoming a community, a place where people gather for more than just size. The Dimensions Clubhouse was added as a special place for those who chose to join as supporting members. Chit Chat was added as a place for chat-related issues. And, we set up a large and rapidly growing Library section in the forums. This way stories submissions no longer have to wait forever until I have time to add them as web pages. Many thanks to Observer, the moderator of the section, who initiated the project and ably manages it. Towards the end of the year I enhanced the reputation system, upgraded to the latest version of the software with many improvements, and also added a mapping system that lets people add their location in the world, thanks to Google maps.
Needless to say, there's been turmoil here and there. Hyde Park often required patrolling, spammers are trying to do their dirty work, and occasionally trolls are targeting our site. Thanks to the vigilant work of the moderator team, things hardly ever derail.
I installed FlashChat as a backup for our streaming chat system that keeps on going strong year after year. FlashChat can be used by all registered forum users with the same handle and login, but I didn't advertise it because it should not be in competition with the main chat. For now, the only way to get in is by clicking on the FlashChat icon at the bottom of the Forum page ("What's Going On?")
There are a few things I haven't done. The much anticipated Health Board remains a project. It's absolutely needed, but I want for it to be done right, and I have a definite idea of what it should be. It'll happen. Soon. Another project is a resource section, or entire site, for supersize people who simply have run out of options, those who support size acceptance, but need more tangible information and help than just a cheery "Accept yourself and be happy!" And with Time Magazine declaring everyone Person of the Year, thanks to the prominence of such phenomena as MySpace and YouTube, we're investigating Zoints, sort of a much more elaborate profile section that lets people network, blog, and communicate in new ways.
On the personal front, I found yet another new hobby! In 2004 and 2005 it was electronic engine tuning and drag racing (for which I received quite a bit of good-natured ribbing). In 2006 it was scuba diving. Wowza. What a trip. The world definitely looks rather different when you're weightlessly floating deep under the surface, breathing from a tank on your back.
As we look ahead, I see the Dimensions community growing as a place for fat people and their admirers. We'll continue to be a place that supports size acceptance, but also acknowledges that people are social and sexual beings, not just activists.
Happy New Year to all of you!!!!!