I think this past year was somewhat frustrating for almost everyone. There was bad news wherever you looked. Real estate collapsed, the stock market tanked and investors lost many trillions, and for a while gas prices rose so much that filling up your car became almost unaffordable. Banks and and other financial entities failed and received billions in bailout money all the while average people feared for their jobs and livelihood. A cool US$1.6 billion was spent on electing a new president, and another three billion or so for congressional races. About the only good thing was that gas miraculously retreated to levels not seen in several years. I paid US$4.45 per gallon back in June of 2008 and only US$1.58 per gallon yesterday. That won't last, which is probably a good thing or else we'd all get used to cheap gas once again and forget that there's indeed a finite amount of the stuff and once it's gone it's gone.
There were quite a few challenges for Dimensions as well but they were mostly on the technical side. Ever since Dimensions went online back in 1995, we had been running our own servers. I bought or built every server we ever had, installed and maintained the software, and made sure everything was running right. That meant suffering through systems crashes, hardware failures and all sorts of other frustrating and time-consuming problems, but at least I always knew what was wrong, what needed to be done and I was in charge of our own destiny. That changed when it simply became unfeasible to continue having our own machines located at the small ISP with whom we had shared an office building in the Sierra Nevada foothills. Too many outages, crashes and assorted other problems. So I moved us to one of the nation's largest web hosting companies, assuming that their expertise would make the transition simple.
Sadly, that was an optimistic assumption. The hosting company's overconfidence meant we first moved to a shared server that was unable to handle our traffic, then to an underpowered dedicated server, and finally to the very expensive one we're on now. Then there was the problem with Chat. Our Dimensions Streaming Chat had been running on its own dedicated server ever since I first bought and installed it back in 2002. The new hosts were unable to handle it, and for a while it looked like that was the end of chat. Eventually I managed to persuade the author of the chat software to help me out with a bit of tech support and chat became available again. It's fairly dated software by now, but it still serves a purpose. The new overall setup still doesn't run as it should, but at this point I am inclined to leave it alone as long as it runs. And many thanks to those who help with the costs!
Other than that, 2008 was another very busy year for the Dimensions community. 11,000 new members registered and there are now a total of almost 35,000. There were almost 400,000 posts for the year, and in December we passed a million posts since we installed the new forums in 2005. According to big-boards.com, Dimensions has over 6,200 unique visitors every day, and over a hundred thousand page views. That puts Dimensions in the big-boards top-100 forums worldwide. Yes, we're a sizable community in every way. And a bunch more people met and fell in love through Dimensions. That is always wonderful.
As a result of the many technical challenges, the overall look and structure of the site haven't changed as much as I had planned. After a bit of a rocky startup the Supersize Issues forum has become a valuable resource. It was a bit of a challenge to find the right approach to memberhip and all, and for a while I wasn't sure if it was going to work as there was considerable debate over the structure and running of the forum. The Health Forum has become the quality resource I had envisioned it to be, with good information and good advice. The Dimensions Clubhouse, open to community supporters, is a busy place with over 70,000 posts to-date. It's become this interesting place where people blog away on a forum. That's quite unusual, yet works wonderfully well. Yes, you can have a blog with meaningful commentary instead of spam and hit-and-run posts.
When I started the Hyde Park forum a while back I did it because I felt we needed a place where people can get on a soap box with their opinions, just like they do at the real Hyde Park in London with its famous Speaker's Corner. What I hadn't expected was that almost all discussion is political in nature, which means there was quite a bit of heated exchange during an election year here in the US. That's not a bad thing, but I wish peole wouldn't take politics so personal and go at each other with such a vengeance. It's bad enough that the folks in Washington do that. Anyway, Hyde Park sure kept our moderators busy!
The Dimensions fiction library keeps growing in leaps and bounds and has probably become the largest and most comprehensive such archive on the web. While not everyone is interested in size-related fiction, those who do surely appreciate the many contributions and the great work done by the Library moderators.
Speaking of moderators, if you ever wonder how Dimensions manages to stay free of spam and other assorted assaults and unpleasantness, it's because of them. There's a lot of work going on behind the scenes to keep things safe and running smoothly. Sometimes I wonder how they do it, especially since it is often a thankless job.
Something we've talked about many times will finally happen in 2009 -- a Dimensions Bash. It'll take place July 2-5 in the Orlando, Florida, area. Heather and her folks have been working on it for a while now, and it'll be totally special. Do mark your calendars.
Happy New Year to all of you!!!!!