For quite some time I was an occasional visitor to Joel Spolsky‘snow-defunct ?off forum. I was even an appointed moderatorfor a while (a “green checkie”) , but resigned the role given thatI couldn’t visit frequent enough to fulfill the mandate.
The forum covered a huge range of topics (it originally wascreated as a political discussion outlet during the 2004 USelections), only seldomly touching upon software development, so itwas a pleasant distraction to refresh the brain with somethingdifferent for a few moments. It was frequented by a groupof top notch intellectuals, along with a very large populationof lurkers, and featured a number of very fascinating andinsightful discussions.
Some of the discussions were critical evaluations of pagespeople found on the wide open web, and often the subject of theconversation would follow the HTTPreferrals back to see what was being said.
Many bloggers were pulled into the ?off loop this way.
This past Friday, one such blogger — a relative newcomer to theforum, having been visiting us for under a year — decided touse ?off, along with several other venues (including theirpersonal blog), to announce their impending suicide. Despitesome valiant efforts by several people involved (especiallyconsidering how cynical one becomes about the truthfulness of postson such forums, and the difficulty helping someone in Chile fromEurope and North America), the individual succeeded in their quest,making this a sadly “interesting story”.
Given the perverted interest in such an event, the forum wasbeing analyzed, and of course exploited, by bloggers and meme sites (and combinations thereof).
Then Joel decided to shut the forum down.
Given that a wide community of regulars and semi-regulars haddeveloped, immediately the quest was undertaken to replace ?off,with a very faithful reproduction quickly appearing at http://www.crazyontap.com(apparently a couple of hours work). While we all casually commentabout how quickly we could throw together solutions similar toexisting products, “Almost H. Anonymous” carried through anddelivered, and the results are quite impressive (most corporateteams would take a dozen man months to achieve the same task,remarkably. Not because they aren’t good, but as a cost of some ofthe process and work patterns followed). There are efforts to opensource both the code, and possibly the data, which could make forsome interesting and innovative new solutions.
Definitely something to keep an eye on. Additionally there isanother great migration route of many of the ?off visitors –http://www.ectopia.us. Alsoworth a visit, and it as well is a quickly evolving board.