As Sgt Pepper sang, "it was 20 years ago today" ... that I made my first post on my first forum.
I obviously didn't put too much thought into what it should say although I must have burned 45 posts testing things and was too lazy to reset the counter before going live (?):
But somehow, it worked and grew and here we all are, 20 years on. All at home because of a global pandemic - no one saw THAT coming eh?!
A lot of the credit for the site being here so long goes to Angharad who's helped run the site and more importantly tell me when I'm doing something wrong plus the moderators who's helped us over the years.
The first version used an open source forum app called "Snitz" but we soon outgrew that. I developed my own software to keep the costs down and at some point we went from using the .com domain to .net (I think to make some changeover easier) which is why people went from calling it JWD to JWN. Eventually, we moved back to .com with a later update until we reached the current version which is all cloud based and easier than ever to run. No more waking up with some "database full" message and the forum down for 4 hours! Good times.
My personal life has changed in many ways since then, I'm 20 years older for a start!
Our two toddlers are now grown up and are good, decent guys. I'm so glad they are not wasting their lives limiting themselves to the WTS world. Everything else has been worth it for that alone.
We moved to Canada and I got to have some more regular contact with my dad before he recently passed away. It was great being able to catch up for some of the lost time.
At the same time I've been cutoff by my mother and most of my still-JW family. Ah well, you gain some family, you lose some family.
There's definitely been some price to pay for running the site, but overall I would still do it again. I see it as a privilege to build something that other people want to use and have made connections with others by sharing part of their journey over the years. As with most forums, many many times more people read than post and I do get emails from people that say they site has helped them. So your words do matter and the experiences and knowledge you all share do make a difference.
We've had meetups, marriages, births and deaths and everything in between over this time. I miss some posters that are no longer with us while I can't seem to get rid of others no matter how hard I try, LOL
So what about the next 20 years?
My first reaction should probably be "oh god ... !!"
But I just can't stop tinkering!
I was hoping to have this ready for today but the last couple of months have been a bit mad with work and the outbreak, but I've been working on a new version of the software. Partly to just update the code and technology it uses but also to have something that will work much better on mobile devices (and can be installable as an "app"), with live-updating (so you don't have to refresh to see changes), support for offline use (read without being connected) and many other new features, social sign-in, Markdown formatting and so on.
If you want to preview of where it's up-to, checkout: https://jw.forumserver.com/
Note: it's just a snapshot, and many of the things have yet to be finished but the core engine is working and it should load faster than the current server-generated site, especially if a page has videos in it, for example:
I'm going to work on getting it completed over the next couple of weeks (although it might stretch to months, who knows!) but when it is I'll switch the domain over. So don't stop using the https://www.jehovahs-witness.com/ address to get to the site.
Here's to the next 20 years!