Author Topic: "Where did we come from? Why are we here?" -- A short history of this website  (Read 4730 times)

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Offline bosk1

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"Where did we come from?  Why are we here?  Where do we go when we die log off?" 

For the benefit of those who may not know the history or may not understand why an unofficial website and discussion forum happens to be the largest and most active Dream Theater-related site on the Internet, a short history and explanation is below.

This community goes back to when DT had an official forum in EZBoard back in, I think, 1999 or so.  Shortly after that, the forum resided at dreamtheater.net.  It was shut down on Mike Portnoy's orders in November 2006, after which the fans from that online community set up an unofficial forum at DTF.com so that the forum community would continue.  During the 5-6 months it was there, it fragmented between (1) those who wanted it to be a DT-centered community, and (2) those who wanted it to be something else.  DTF.com became 5/8.  With help from some close to the band, I set up DTF.org the day 5/8 was launched, and the community once again continued.  (and I subsequently reacquired DTF.com, which now points here)  So, yeah, as a community in general, we date back to 1999 or so.  But in terms of this specific site run by me, we've been here since May 2007.

Here's a history lesson that I've only shared with a few people. This is basically elaborating a tad on bosk's post.

dt.net/bb was run by Itch and Balrog... er, Borlag. If I remember correctly, Itchy got fed up and the forum basically imploded because of differences between the community and the administration. The plug was pulled, so we were all left to find various safe havens to reside at. It was at this point that Thalagyrt stepped up to provide the servers and domain name for dtf.com. Over the course of my tenure as a poster, I befriended Thalagyrt. We talked on a regular basis and shared guitar chops back and forth on the then-popular stickam chat sessions frequently filled with myself, Thal, Nick, and Jen.

One night Thal came to me with an idea. He proposed an idea of dropping any association with Dream Theater, as they were rarely the focus of the forum. I, and I assume a few others, eventually persuaded him that it would be a good idea. It was on that night while we were still in our AIM conversation that fiveeightforums.com was born.

I never told anybody this because there was a backlash that none of us imagined would happen. The community was split right down the middle. On one side, there were the posters who enjoyed the laid back style of fiveeight, where the band could be freely criticized. On the other hand, there were users angry at the association drop and the apparent "hijacking" of the forum by Thalagyrt. Thus, dreamtheaterforums.org was born.

I never told anyone that I had a part in this because I didn't want to be shunned by the community that I loved. There were some very valuable members who post solely on fiveeight that I still miss to this day. That being said, I love THIS community the most, and now, at this point in time, I am proud to have taken part in its creation, however small that part might have been.

Happy birthday, DTF.

I completely get where you're coming from.  I don't think there is any need at all to be worried about being "shunned."  But I completely get where you are coming from, and at the time when the "split" happened, I can see the need to be concerned.  But since you've shared those details, I guess I kinda feel compelled to share a bit more of the history from my perspective as well.  Sherman, set the WayBack Machine!  (shoot!  we used to have an emoticon for that...)

In the last days of dt.net/bb, it wasn't really run by Borlag.  Itchy was technically still in charge.  The problem is, he wasn't really doing anything in terms of modding the forum.  I am not sure whether he was just too busy with his web design business and other things, whether he just didn't care much about the forum, or a combination of both.  But he had basically put others in charge of modding the forum, even though he was still technically in the driver's seat.  I forget now who the forum admin was at the very end.  Borlag was one of the moderators, but was definitely the most active in modding the forum and I think just kind of de facto became the "head mod" (maybe it was even officially decided that he would have that role--I'm not really sure).  In any case, by that point in time, there was already sort of a split in place.  Although it was one forum, there was a large group of posters who posted mainly on the DT side only.  There was another group that posted mainly on the GD side only.  And, yes, there was definitely crossover, but it was beginning to feel like two separate communities in a lot of ways. 

Keep in mind that during this time, Mike Portnoy was still the face of DT and was very actively leading the PR side of the band.  However, he did not really spend any time on DT.net/bb and knew of what went on there based solely on what others told him.  I think the fact that the forum felt like two separate communities was noticed by many.  And because a LOT of the discussion was not only focused on things other than DT, but in many cases was fairly critical of DT, I think some felt frustrated by that and felt that that forum was not the best reflection on DT.  This next part is where I am speculating just a bit and piecing together bits of information from a lot of different sources, but here is what appears to have happened:  Borlag, and possibly others who had direct contact with Mike Portnoy, informed him about what was going on, but perhaps a bit unfairly also exaggerated the situation quite a bit to the point where Mike felt DT.net/bb was outright hostile to DT.  My understanding is that he basically gave Itchy what amounted to an ultimatum:  Either get more active and clean house and get the place back in shape, or pull the plug because the band was not interested in having a place out there on the Internet with their name on it that reflected poorly on the band.  Perfectly understandable in many respects.  But Itchy either was not interested in taking a more active role, or did not have the time, so he went with the "pull the plug" option.

What happens when you get a group of people who have formed an Internet community they are used to posting on almost every day, and that community no longer exists?  They find a new home.  Former user Mikachu set up a temporary forum.  There may have been a few others as well.  Eventually, a member named Shawn set up a forum on a server that became dreamtheaterforums.com.  And this is where my role in this whole thing becomes interesting.  When DT.net/bb folded, I pretty much decided to just go my merry way and not worry about whether there was a DT Internet forum out there somewhere.  There had been a couple of attempts to form "fan forums" that had died pretty quick deaths over the years, and I just wasn't really interested in something with the DT name on it that wasn't really a positive reflection on the band anyway.  But I stayed in touch with a few people I had met from the forums, and they eventually persuaded me to come to DTF.com, so I did.

DTF.com was still in its early days and still finding its direction.  I mentioned to Aran, one of the admins, that since I was sort of a DT forums "old timer," that I would be happy to lend a hand modding if they needed help, so he added me to the mod team.  But there was still this sort of "dual identity" on the forums where there was still basically a DT-centered focus on one side and an almost anti-DT focus on the other.  Personally, I felt that even though the forums were a collection of fans and had no official backing from the band, that if we were going to wear the DT name, the place should be run in such a way that the members of Dream Theater would not be ashamed to have their band's name associated with the place.  So while I did not think it was appropriate in any way to squash people's ability to speak freely or to spend as much time as they wanted talking about things that are unrelated to Dream Theater, I also felt we needed to crack down a bit on criticism and bashing of the band.  I also felt that some of the forum rules were a bit loose and contributed to an environment the band probably would not like associated with the Dream Theater name.  But, again, it's a tough balance because this was a large community made up of a lot of individuals with different ideas and different backgrounds, and the community had been functioning a certain way at DT.net for such a long time that it didn't seem fair to completely pull the rug out from people who didn't see things my way.  I tried to be sensitive to that side of the issue as well. 

So what happened next was, I made my concerns known to Aran and a few others.  I basically told him where I thought the direction of the forum should go IMO, and that I understood if that was not the concensus of everyone else.  But I also told him that if they decided a different direction was what they wanted, I would likely be stepping down.  It wasn't meant to be "do it my way or I'm taking my ball and going home."  It was just intended to convey that if they were interested in keeping up a community that, again, the members of DT would not be ashamed to have their name associated with, I am happy to lend my own time and efforts.  If they want to go a different direction, more power to them, but that is not something I am interested in, so I will step aside.  And keep in mind, I did not own the forum, I was not an admin, and there were other mods and admins that would have allowed the forum to run just fine if I were not there.  So, again, I was not "threatening" anything--I was just voicing that I was only interested in staying involved if it were going to be a certain type of community.  I was actually ready to step down and was surprised when Aran responded by saying he agreed with me and him making me "head moderator." 

While all of this was going on, DTF.com was in fact thriving as an Internet community.  Thalagyrt was not initially involved (or if he was, it was just behind the scenes).  Apparently, he had some backgrounds in maintaining servers, and he offered the admins to have the site moved over to his personal server to eliminate some of the technology issues we were having.  That sounded great to those in charge, and that is basically how Thal became involved behind the scenes.  Because he controlled the server, this meant that he also eventually came to control the forum as a whole.  Important detail.

Overall, DTF.com was running fairly smoothly, although like any new forum, it definitely had its growing pains.  But understandably, there were those who did not like the DT-centered direction and saw little need for a DT-centered focus on a site that the band themselves had no involvement in.  What I did not realize at the time was that there was also a split among the admin team on this same issue.  Apparently, there was a behind-the-scenes discussion among the admins about changing the direction of the forum again and making it something other than a DT forum.  I think it was Antipopular who first mentioned this in the admin forum.  The group who were not in support of the idea, which was as I recall Aran and most of the mods, spoke up and said it was not a good idea and did not represent what most of the forum wanted.  And we were against the idea of publicly debating the issue because we felt it would be even mroe divisive and would have the potential to split the community rather than bring it together.  Antipop, Thal, etc. said they understood and backed down from the idea.  HOWEVER, one of them then set up a poll in GD asking whether people wanted a DT forum or a general music forum and mentioned that there might be a change.  Although there were definite supporters of moving in a more general direction with the forum, a pretty large majority voted against the idea.  The poll was locked, and I believe it may even have been deleted.

As one might imagine, there were a lot of behind-the-scenes discussions as a result of that poll.  The majority were VERY unhappy that the poll was even posted after we had discussed the idea and essentially voted it down as a mod team.  But we discussed possible options if people wanted a different type of forum.  The idea that seemed like it might work the best would be to have two completely separate forums, run completely different ways, that were both linked from a common home page at the DTF.com url that everyone had become familiar with.  That way, we would preserve the commonality between the two groups while having two separate groups that could be run how each of the two groups saw fit to run their separate community.  In essence, this would give the best of both worlds.  Or so I thought...

While these discussion were happening, without warning, Thal pulled the plug.  DTF.com's forums disappeared.  In its place was a page with a large Tard smiley saying the forums were in maintenance mode and would come back online shortly as...something new and different.

Well, once again, I figured I would move on to other things.  But a few people from the DTF community contacted me and said they wanted the place to continue.  Someone from the band also contacted me that night and told me he thought it was in DT's best interests if a DT-centered DTF continued on with me running it.  He, Shawn, and I talked late into the night, which turned into early into the next morning.  And before dawn broke, DTF.org was launched. 

DTF.com re-opened as 5/8, and took a much different direction, of course.  And while I personally may not agree with that direction, I have always made it clear that we come from the same history and that I am against any sort of "board war" or hostility between the two places.  (I eventually reacquired DTF.com, by the way, which points back to this forum)  And things have pretty much continued to bring us to where we are now.  Onward and upward...  :clarkkent:
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