February 2017

Message Boards

The Internet Movie Database is shutting down its message boards. Acquired by Amazon in 1998, ongoing expense of community management and backend maintenance no longer justified itself to the bean counters. Sending it off, Colin Strickland recalls the harrowing days leading up to launch of a rewrite of the software behind the boards in 2001. While the technical details are of nostalgic, nerdy interest (mod_perl!) this passage on the message board community stands apart:

"I watched people fight and friend. Saw a few romances and a marriage or two emerge from the regulars. I read, and occasionally got involved, against my better judgement, in fascinating and productive conversations. I still bump into people IN REAL LIFE who reminisce about the boards and are to this day impressed with me when I tell them I had a big hand in their genesis. I once spent an evening in a darkened restaurant patio overwhelmed to tears as a kind man explained to me his young daughter, hospital-bound and dying of cancer, had used the Harry Potter IMDb boards as her main social life in her last year, and how much that had meant to him and her. Stories like that are just a profound privilege to have had even the most tangential involvement in."

For all the social and technical challenges of online communities at scale, the amazing impacts of these cultural corners, niches, and cupboards still make the web great.

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