IMHO: 24 June 2004
Eight years old. Pardon me, but I feel compelled to toot my own horn.
What has been of the greatest value for me is the learning process this site has provided. Some of the lessons were tough to take—such as the fact that it is impossible to run a visitor voting system to rate episodes because there are always, always scumbags out there willing to ruin the fun. Some of the lessons have been deeply touching, such as how people scattered all over the world can become friends—without ever meeting (although I have met some and would love to meet more).
Probably the most useful lesson has been how to build a successful website. I've been asked this many times: How did you do it? I believe there are three necessary requirements: commitment, patience, and a good idea.
I'll start with the last item because it is the trickiest. A "good idea" is not something one can conceive without fail. There are no "universal" good ideas, and there is no knowing in advance that any given idea will fly. And even the best ideas can flop if they're not well executed.
So I chose carefully. I selected a subject about which I had knowledge and passion, a subject with a degree of known popularity, and applied a very simple philosophy: I will gather and present as much information as I possibly can. No gimmicks, no overpowering style or personal slant, just information, plain and simple.
The second requirement is commitment. Far too many potentially good websites die on the vine because their webmasters lose interest or give up too soon. The only way one can have any chance of success is to be committed to achieving it in the first place.
That means keeping the site alive through thick and thin. That means making those updates even when the hit counter is in the single digits for the sixth month in a row. It can be pretty disheartening to realize that one is slaving away knowing that, in reality, "no one is out there."
This leads into the third requirement: patience. The Avengers Forever did not happen overnight. The site itself took years to grow—eight and counting. Likewise its fan base has grown very slowly over the course of those eight years. It's a waiting game—waiting for the fans to trickle in, waiting for the site to be "discovered" and for the links to start appearing.
Sometimes a little creativity is needed to get through the hard times. To help encourage some sort of following, I used a little trick: I created the illusion that the site had legions of visitors by dropping lines like, "I've had many requests for..." when in fact I might have had one, or maybe even none. To the stray visitor who just wandered in, the site looked like a "happening place," and they'd tell their friends.
All too often I hear, "I can't do it—I don't know anything about computers." Well, commitment encompasses the willingness to learn. One need not have a degree in computer programming to build a decent website. Trust me, I have seen it happen: people with no computer experience can turn out brilliant sites because they really want to, and commit themselves to learn how to do it. It's not hard, and it gets easier every day as software improves.
Want proof? When I first met Carlos Pagés, he had no webmastering skills at all, and after a little coaxing from me, look at what he as accomplished. Alan Hayes was the same way, and now see how far he's come. Myself? I'm completely self-taught. My career used to be in marketing, and now I earn my living by programming web applications and building commercial websites.
In the end, success comes to those who wait—and who demonstrate commitment to making it happen. But is TAF a success? While I've not won any awards or been cited by any major commercial entities, an average of 3,000 hits a month is a respectable amount of traffic. Not to mention that the site has been around almost as long as the internet has, which makes it ancient on the internet timescale. Perhaps TAF is a miniscule success in the grand scheme of the world wide web, but a success nonetheless.
While TAF may get slower as it gets older (don't we all?), I am still committed to keeping it the biggest and best website on The Avengers. Back in 1996, it seemed like a good idea at the time. It still does.
And that's my humble opinion.
David K. Smith, 3 September 2004
materials copyrighted per their respective copyright holders.