IMHO: 3 November 2006
Ten years is a long time on the internet.
The World Wide Web was only a couple of years old when this website was born. It's perhaps interesting to note that, with over one hundred million sites now online, mine was one of only about 20,000 back in 1996.
I've noticed some overenthusiastic fans have called TAF "the first Avengers website." Well, I hate to disappoint, but TAF was preceded by about five or six others, assuming I found them all at the time... Piers Johnson from Australia, I believe, has the distinction of being the first to bring The Avengers to the net with his still-constantly-growing Mrs Peel... We're Needed! Other early adopters included James Dawe's now defunct The Unofficial Avengers Home Page; Jackie Lane's still-up but sadly neglected Diabolical Masterminds and Extraordinary Agents; Alistair McGown's equally rather dusty Elan Avengers; and there was a now-extinct French page.
Although it began as a tribute to the Emma Peel era (as was Piers Johnson's site originally), two years after The Avengers @ dsmith was launched, its name and its mission changed: The Avengers Forever would become "all things Avengers"—every season, indeed every incarnation, of The Avengers would receive as much detail as I could muster. It has come a very long way from its roots, but it has yet to reach the lofty goals I had set for it.
While many visitors remark that it is quite comprehensive, in reality TAF comes up short in some respects. For starters, I've only provided a "Cliff's Notes" version of the series' history. Only a hundred-some actors have biographies, out of over a thousand actors who have appeared on the program, and I've wanted to provide bios for them all. There is virtually no information on the series' music, which has been a frequent request from visitors. Plus, there is a considerable amount of general housekeeping left undone (updating all of the video information on the episode review pages, validating hundreds of external links, and adding a boatload of items that have been collecting in my email box), which leaves me exhausted just thinking about it.
Realistically, it's quite impractical to make one website truly comprehensive, and thankfully other webmasters have plugged some of TAF's major holes. Mike Noon, for instance, has amassed a wealth of references to print materials in Deadline, and provides copious information on Avengers merchandise in Dead Duck. Alan Hayes covers the radio series in astounding depth in his magnum opus, Avengers on the Radio. And Tony McKay has published years of research on location shooting in A Guide to Avengerland. Just to name a few.
For some time I've had visions of making TAF database-driven, which would streamline much of the technical aspects of the website as well as permit sophisticated searches. For example, instead of hundreds of actor biography pages, there would only be one, which would dynamically access the database and display the information on any actor. Likewise the episode review pages would all go away, replaced by a single script that would assemble the appropriate information from several database tables.
If this sounds like a lot of work, believe me, it is. Would it be worth the effort? That's hard to say, because I must balance the Herculean task of re-creating everything within a database against the current chore of maintaining well over a thousand static pages. Consider this single aspect: a database-driven website would automatically build its own intra-site links, whereas currently I must manage over 30,000 intra-site links manually.
The bottom line, however, is available time, of which I have almost none, so the high-tech TAF of tomorrow will remain a pipedream for the foreseeable future. But even if I stopped and did nothing more at all to this site, it could continue to serve fans and historians quite well. So I'm in no hurry to wear out my mouse-finger playing catch-up.
Countless other sites have come and gone, and TAF is still standing proud—and in good company, I hasten to add. It wasn't the first, but I've done everything in my power to make it the best. I may not be updating it daily (or even weekly) any more, but you know, it's hard to make an 800-pound gorilla go away.
And that's my humble opinion.
David K. Smith, 3 November 2006
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