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History of PerlMonks

by SiteDocClan
on May 07, 2021 at 20:38 UTC ( #11132245=sitefaqlet: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

The (unofficial official) History of the Origins of PerlMonks

It is impossible to understand the history of PerlMonks outside the context of its origins. Namely: Slashdot, Everything, and the people involved in those projects.

Slashdot was, and is, a social news website. It is the flagship implementation of the codebase called Slash.

Everything2 could be called a social encyclopedia site. It is the flagship implementation of the codebase called Everything (aka ecore, aka the Everything Engine). The site was intended to showcase the engine and be commercially successful like Slashdot.

Dramatis Personae:

person PerlMonks Slashdot Everything2
Rob Malda CmdrTaco CmdrTaco CmdrTaco
Nathan Oostendorp nate oostendo nate
Jeff Bates hemos hemos
Kurt DeMaagd kurt kurt kurt
Jonathan Pater CowboyNeal CowboyNeal CowboyNeal
Darrick Brown dbrown dbrown dbrown
Tim Vroom vroom vroom sgtbaker
Ryan Postma dem bones dem bones dem bones
Cliff Lampe clampe clampe
Rob Ooostendorp Robo Robogoatgruff Robo
Chris DiBona chrisd (also dibona) chrisd chrisd
Rob Rozeboom Samzenpus
Chris Nandor pudge pudge
Jay Bonci JayBonci jaybonci jaybonci
chromatic chromatic chromatic chromatic

Chronology

Nate, Kurt, and Tim went to elementary school together. Rob, Nate, Jeff, Kurt, and Kurt's brother Dave all interacted during their middle school years through the local bbs scene in Michigan. Jeff and Rob attended the same middle school; Nate, Kurt, Dave attended another. They all attended the same high school, "sharing many a lunch hour together as well as various other activities like school plays and such," says Rob. They all went to Hope College, where they were dorm-mates, roommates, and housemates all through college. Jeff first met Jon (CowboyNeal) Pater during his freshman year in General Chemistry, though Jon got more involved with the gang when he changed his major to Computer Science. Jon is notable as BSI's first non-founder employee.

Rob (CmdrTaco) recalls:

I originally used the name "slashdot" in 1996, at Hope College. Since then, I had been maintaining a little news section on my homepage called "Chips & Dips". It was a primordial Slashdot: rants, reviews, and URLs often seeded by friends via email or IRC. I quickly got annoyed with the tedious process required to update the static HTML that powered it. This was early in the days of "the web". The notion of "a blog" was years away, so I wrote my own code. I didn't have huge ambitions so I stored the data in flat text files loaded from scratch, on every single page view. I knew this was grotesquely inefficient but again, I had no idea what was coming.
Rob registered the domain name Slashdot.org on 5 October 1997, and within just a few days, Slashdot.org was live. "I quickly added polls [and other features]. The code was in constant flux: adding user accounts, moderation, the submissions bin. My friends began contributing more and more. From code, to old hardware, to posting stories and coordinating advertising..." In about August of 1998, the crew established the company BlockStackers Intergalactic (BSI), which would cash checks, pay employees, and so on. "We formed Blockstackers with a purpose. Slashdot went from from something with a stupid name that I was building into something we were building." BSI was the legal owner of Slashdot, as well as various other properties they were developing. These included an ad-serving platform called AdFu, which was used by Slashdot and Everything to bring in revenue.

By the end of November 1998, the "Chips and Dip" page was gone, replaced by a redirection to Slashdot.

While working on Slashdot, CmdrTaco and the crew came up with the idea of a "be all, end all" web site. It would be not just about news, but about... everything. They called this ideal web site "Everything" and began developing the code for it.

By January 1999, they had this new engine up and running at everything.slashdot.org. This was what is now known as "Everything 1". However, they started developing a new version, a complete rewrite, which was to be known as Everything 2. This new engine would be powerful, and extensible — usable for a variety of website types.

In late June 1999, BSI sold Slashdot to Andover.net. This was mainly to raise capital for funding BSI's other projects - most importantly, the Everything engine. The crew established a new company, the Everything Development Corporation (EDC), to own Everything, but BSI owned EDC, at least partially. CmdrTaco said:

After the sale of Slashdot, hemos and I worked full time for Andover so our involvement was more Slashdot than BSI/EDC. But all four Blockstackers were involved to varying degrees all along. It was largely in the same office.
With the infusion of cash from the sale, EDC hired additional staff to help with Everything development. These included vroom, dbrown, and clampe.

A number of sites were set up to demonstrate the power of the Everything engine, including the EDC's own site, www.EveryDevel.com, as well as "personal" sites like hemos.net and kurt's ThePope.org.

In October 1999 BSI fired up the PerlMonks and Everything2 servers with the latest version (0.8) of the Everything engine, just a few days apart — on the 4th and 7th, respectively — and began populating their databases with infrastructure nodes. However, it took several weeks of work before they were ready "go live".

13 November 1999 is the official "birthday" of Everything2, because that is when the nodebase was migrated from the old "Everything 1" (everything.slashdot.org) to the new system. Even user accounts migrated over; users of Everything 1 found that their logins worked just fine on the new system.

23 December 1999 is celebrated as the day PerlMonks "opened its doors", via a public announcement on Slashdot, and the first user (outside of BSI/EDC) registered.

Development of (what is now called) the PerlMonks engine continued for quite a few years, as did the Everything engine powering Everything2, to the point where the two instances are now virtually irreconcilably different. In recent years there has been some discussion of trying to port some improvements from one to the other, most notably by JayBonci. So far, this has not happened.

There are no longer any other sites of any significance running the Everything engine.

Epilogue

In Everything Engine, Swap writes:

When the dotcom's bubble burst was complete in 2001, it became clear that this commercialisation [of Everything — but also PerlMonks] was never to be. The vagaries of fate decreed that Slashdot's slashcode should succeed but Everything2's ecore should fail. All of Blockstackers Intergalactic's employees were laid off.

Subsequently, CmdrTaco hired vroom to go work with him on Slashdot.

However, it appears that BSI may have reunited at some point, probably in 2002. In April 2002, hemos posted on his personal site (hemos.net) that "the BSI office will arise again - CmdrTaco, myself, CowboyNeal, Samzenpus, and Nate will be back in the same office." A few years later, the E2 Community Development Newsletter, Summer 2007 noted that "Everything2 is fully owned by Blockstackers Intergalactic," consisting of the original gang of four.

Of course, the situation today is different. Everything2 is owned by JayBonci; PerlMonks is affiliated with The Perl Foundation and run by volunteers, including chromatic.

Further Reading


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