Origin of the ToO

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Origin of the ToO

Post by bookworm on Wed Jan 23, 2013 3:08 pm

The Town of Odyssey was originally a subsection of another message board called The Town Hall. Shadowpaw eventually created an entire site for it, making the ToO its own entity. This new message board opened to the public on April 1, 2005. Specific information on the events surrounding the split from The Town Hall can be read below in Shadowpaw’s own words.

Spoiler:
Shadowpaw wrote:

Shadowpaw's TH Reflection

For every person out there who doesn't want to read this rather long article, I know there's at least one more who does. So if you're not that interested in hearing about the history of the Town Hall or Town of Odyssey, feel free to skim over this piece... it might just bore you to death Wink. But for those who are interested, I hope you'll find a candid look at the significant role the Town Hall has had in shaping the lives and relationships of Adventures in Odyssey fans worldwide. Some of you were there at the beginning, some of you joined later, and some never knew it existed. But to give this article some depth, I've decided to take it way back to the beginning (at least the beginning for me), and work my way through the history of that fabled board and what kind of impacts it has had on me and the members of this board.

I guess it would have been just under 6 years ago (at the time of this writing) that I discovered Odyssey on the internet. It was December 1999, split episodes were all the rage (literally), the AIOHQ and the Ultimate AIO Site were the two prominent Adventures in Odyssey websites and I was a fan who had just fallen in love with "Malachi's Message I, II, III" so much so that my love for Adventures in Odyssey finally drove me to start my own website. But before I was about to start my own website, I found a link to "The Town Hall" on the AIOHQ, a simple message board with a purple background and a handful of members, some of which are still with us today. Shortly after, I drafted up a website, launched it, and then began looking for ways to attract visitors. Back then, the AIOHQ also had a message board that Nathan Hoobler had coded himself. It was a rather small message board with the same few people making all the posts, but it was decent and a nice addition to the AIOHQ. Not wanting to feel left out, I designed my own message board... but one that was going to separate itself from the Town Hall and AIOHQ's Board. The color scheme was black and red and featured such advanced features as "Categories", "Avatars", "Smilies", and "Registration" (much to the grumblings of many visitors). Neither of the other boards required registration and so I had my work cut out for me as I tried to attract visitors to my new message board called "The Soda Fountain" (at the time, my website had no name). Eventually, a small, but dedicated, group of people latched onto the board and my "ezboard" became quite popular with AIO internet fans. So popular in fact that an independent website held an "awards" ceremony where fans voted on the best sites related to Adventures in Odyssey, and the Soda Fountain Message Board finished first overall for the Message Board category.

But things soon changed. The ezboard I had created was no longer unique, as everyone and their dog in the AIO internet community started their own ezboards and advertisements that were beyond my control started interfering with my guests. Traffic dipped off a bit and so Nathan Hoobler and I had a chat. Together, we decided that in the best interest of the internet community, both of our sites would eliminate our message board components to allow for one central place to discuss AIO. Traffic picked up on The Town Hall, and for a while it remained at the top of the AIO charts as the other ezboard startups eventually shriveled up and died (as all small message boards will do at some point). That summer, I decided I need something else to attract visitors to my website, and came up with the concept of AIO Survivor. This of course was a huge hit (far more popular than I expected) and after a lot of fan demand, lead to the creation of AIO Mole in 2002.

Enter Jared. For members who were not with us at at that time, you missed out on a wonderful weekly radio show hosted by Jared titled "Odyssey Radio." Jared, along with Josh Shelley, released a weekly radio show for download on the internet featuring commentary on the latest Adventures in Odyssey episodes and news. It was a wonderful little show that all of us tuned into whenever a new show was released. His voice was really all I knew of him, aside from the occasional chat on AIM. One day I was speaking with Jacob Isom (the webmaster of The Odyssey Scoop) who inquired about the possiblity of a sequel to AIO Survivor. As I had told everyone else, my personal life and free time took such a beating with writing it that I wasn't really looking forward to doing another. I mentioned that I would only do it if I had a co-writer and I guess word of that reached Jared's ears, as a couple of weeks later, I found a fairly lengthy introduction to AIO Mole sitting in my inbox. Jared had written so much that I hadn't the heart to tell him I was no longer interested in doing it, so we went ahead with the idea. While planning the next installment of AIO Reality shows, Jared and I came to the conclusion we needed a message board all for ourselves. We couldn't just hijack the Town Hall's message board for speculation/theories about who are mole was and what would happen next, so Jared put together a message board for our show. I then suggested we call it the Mole Boards, at which point Jared said he didn't like the name (neither did I), and I promised to come up with a better one before we launched.

Well, we never did come up with a different name and the Mole Boards launched with that very unexciting moniker. This board, of course, was very different from the Town Hall and once again required users to register. There was everything the old ezboard had and more. After creating the board, Jared and I decided that we would utilize the categories to add three boards for AIO Mole Related discussions and three boards for everything else ("Adventures in Odyssey", "General Discussion" and "Off-topic"). As a result, the Mole Boards took off and became a huge success with AIO internet fans. Jared and I were quite pleased with the result, but the Town Hall traffic came to a grinding halt. However, something we hadn't seen much of on the Town Hall became very apparant on the Mole Boards... members were zany, loved having fun, and were all incredibly creative. This creativity gave birth to such infamous stories as the "duckies" and "war on food", legends that live on to this day. Dan, the owner of the Town Hall, took notice of the Mole Boards popularity and in early October 2002 (while AIO Mole was starting to wrap up), overhauled the Town Hall completely. Gone was the purple background, the green text, and the "inverted colored Eugene falling from a rope" logo... in its place was a board very similar to the look and feel of the Mole Boards, but based on phpBB instead of YABB. Members also had to register for the message board, something that is so common place now that it's funny when I think back to people complaining. Once AIO Mole concluded, the Mole Boards continued to thrive and the Town Hall struggled to find an audience even with the new board.

All was not well though. For reasons that are unexplained to this day, strange things started happening on the Mole Boards. Posts were being attributed to members who had not made the post, post counts were changing at random, every member was banned for a period of time, passwords were being changed (the last letter of every password was duplicated at the end), a normal member was appointed moderator, and whenever I posted a message, other posts were deleted immediately. One other strange occurrence targeted me directly. Josiah, a member of the Mole Boards, had "Hawkeye's real name is Justin" written inside their signature line. During this time, the signature was changed to "Hawkeye's real name is Corey van der Laan." Incredibly odd, considering Corey van der Laan is my real name and not Hawkeye's... but also because at that point in time, my real name was not public knowledge (nor was it even private knowledge). With posts randomly deleting themselves and strange things occurring, Jared and I realized we were probably dealing with a hacker, even though some of the errors that were occurring didn't seem to line up with that theory. Without much luck in tracking down the source of the problems, we shut down the board and tried to determine a course of action. Jared tried reinstalling the board and well, the entire board was lost as a result. We looked at our options, reasoned that with AIO Mole finished and the Town Hall sporting a new coat of paint, maybe it was time to move on. We closed the Mole Boards for good and packed our bags for the Town Hall. Our members came with us, and they were zany and creative from that point forward Wink.

Shortly into the life of the new and improved Town Hall, Xhan (also known as Dan to those who had visited the old Town Hall and was currently known as "Switchflood" at this time), asked for applicants to apply for moderator positions for his board. With my experience and background, I applied, and thankfully got one of the two jobs he was offering. The second job went to The Top Crusader... a familiar name to all of those here! For a few weeks, it was just Switchflood, Top Crusader and myself monitoring the boards. In early-December of 2002 (I believe that's when it was), Jared was added to our moderating team and our numbers increased to four. A month or so later, Switchflood asked me if I would be interested in a co-administrator position since he was going to be busy for the next little bit. As I was a security guard at this time (working night shifts), and my schedule just didn't allow it and I turned it down. A few months later, Jared was appointed administrator (after winning the original "Town of Odyssey" elections), and so Jared and Switchflood were the admins, Top Crusader and I were the moderators. Over the next couple of years, several more moderators were added to our ranks. Hawkeye was the first (added before 2002 ended), followed by Arthur Dent, Coralfish, and Amadeo (though I'm not one hundred percent sure on the order). We had our own private board and if nothing else, that board was arguably one of the funniest places on the Town Hall. Everyone had a great sense of humor and I had a good number of laughs during my time there. We also knew when it was time to make tough decisions regarding members and improvements for the board, and we made a great deal of them.

During the early days of the Town Hall, Switchflood had created a sub-section to the Town Hall. It was called, "The Town of Odyssey", and featured a little space for people to post their pretend jobs and to sell their pretend items. Oh, and they could run for mayor (which meant they would get to be moderator of the board). The elections really brought out the creativity people had (once again), and there was some hilarious little campaign ads that I recall (in particular Ferder's and Mellow's). Jared won the first election and Arthur Dent won the second. By Arthur Dent's win, the board had gown a little long in the tooth and a lot of people thought it was becoming rather pointless. Arthur Dent's platform included shutting down that board if he was elected. He did so, and Jared allowed him to remain as a moderator of other sections of the Town Hall. Around this time, a board was created for debates. It was called "Impolite Company" and Coralfish (an active debater) was added to the team of moderators. At some point during all of this, a mysterious seventh admin (not including Xhan) was added to the team named Amadeo. I did not agree with the appointment of Amadeo, a user who none of the users (and majority of admins) did not know very well and was now in charge of enforcing rules. I kept it quiet for a time, but after hearing other members complain about it, I spoke up and let my opinion be known. It's not that I didn't like Amadeo, quite the opposite (and I was even friends with the user prior to the board starting), but I did not like the idea of a secret moderator who suddenly appeared to the surprise (and dismay) of hopeful moderators everywhere. This appointment was something that stuck with me for a while and planted a seed for the future Town of Odyssey.

Now, I don't remember when it happened, but in either late 2003 or early 2004, our numbers were trimmed a tad. We lost Hawkeye, who was a valued member of our team, and missed him greatly. After his departure, everyone on the administration agreed to keep tight lipped about any and all discussions we had in our private board, and we also had the moderators shuffle around a bit to accommodate the vacancy. I stayed at my post in "Off-topic" and "The Town Hall" (the Adventures in Odyssey board) where I certainly enjoyed my time. Things continued like normal for the next little bit, with the board running smoothly and everyone doing their jobs. Then one day in early August, I showed up on the Town Hall and notice an extremely peculiar scene. Jared was no longer the only active administrator on the board: Amadeo, Coralfish, and Arthur Dent's names no longer appeared in the moderation green but instead in the administration yellow. There was also an announcement made in "Off-topic" announcing these latest promotions. Ironically, The Top Crusader and myself, the first two members of the staff, were completely passed over in favor of the other three. Now, those three were terrific people and I bring this situation up not to knock them down, but to illustrate a significant point for me and the Town Hall. No discussions had taken place prior to these appointments, in fact, none of us knew Jared needed an extra hand... let alone three. It was sudden move, unexpected by all of us, and lead to a few heated discussions in the administrator board, of which I steered clear for the most part. Jared stated it was simply an oversight, one that he was not going to correct, and as a result, three very important things became clear. First, the staff of the Town Hall was finally divided... the tight group we had before no longer seemed to exist. Second, with The Top Crusader and I being singled out, our input amongst the administrators was clearly diminished. And third, the focus of the Town Hall had shifted.

From the start, the board was designed to be about Adventures in Odyssey, with the radio show at the center of attention. Switchflood (now known as Xhan) had left the site, Jared had grown up and no longer listened to the show, and the same was true for Arthur Dent. Coralfish was not an active member of the board, and Amadeo was the only bonafide fan of the show in the new administration. Perhaps not coincidentally, all 4 admins were prominent members of the Impolite Company sub-forum. Contests, RPGs, Wars, and other fun things that members had created were not popular with the college-aged administration and things started being removed or outlawed because the administration no longer approved of it. Our average age was probably around 20... the board's average age was closer to 14. Unfortunately, decisions were being made based on personal preference, and the popular things that members were creating just didn't appeal to most of us. These creations were no longer allowed or were restricted to the point it was no longer fun for members to do them. We also had a problem that with so many administrators off in college, decisions became impossible to make. We had tried to implement a system (which failed miserably) where we voted on issues. But waiting for the other administrators to give their input often took weeks. Decisions just started being made, without waiting for more input, and some decisions would be reversed or else privately disputed. A thread would be deleted, we would question why, and we would never get an answer. It was just a mess of a system.

Finally, in November of 2004, the Top Crusader and I finally got our day. Jared appointed the two of us administrators. I also learned something that greatly disappointed me... this entire time, the administration had access to our private messages and were able to read them without any members knowing. Xhan had installed this mod to monitor possible chatter that would indicate members were trying to cause problems (I assume). I don't know how often it was used, if ever, but the fact it existed made me uncomfortable and I felt like I was lying to members. However, with Top and I back on the same level as the other 4, it was time to hopefully make some changes. But only about a week after Top and I were appointed, lightning struck the Town Hall (or to be more precise, Xhan didn't renew), and the board was suspended. Like the lost sheep we were, we needed a new home. I used my resources at the Soda Fountain to construct a new message board, a different message board, and try to steer the shifting focus in the right direction. For two weeks, things were great. I had even asked the same administration team at the Town Hall to lead the new board, with the understanding things were going to be run differently than they were at the Town Hall. It didn't last though, and the Town Hall returned two weeks later.

But I was able to make at least one major change. With my new found "power", I upgraded the Town Hall to the latest version of phpBB. This effectively removed the ability to read private messages and at the same time, protected us from future hacker attempts. However, things got a bit sticky a couple of weeks later. A hidden 18+ over board had been created earlier with members who were known to be over 18 manually added to group. In this board, I made a joke that Jessica (known as Continental Admiral) and Jared were dating. It wasn't true (at least it wasn't at that particular time), and the two denied there was anything between them. Jared wanted to pull a prank and asked if it was ok with me if he de-admin me and put Jessica in my place as an administrator. It was to last a short while and it would appear quite comical to have me lose my job while Jessica replaced me. Well, it was kinda funny... but more in a strange/awkward way. There was a lot of people confused by my de-admining (especially on the administration team who were not told ahead of time) and I regretted agreeing to it. Things got worse once I was brought back to the admin team, and Jessica remained... and remained... and remained. Jared soon announced that he would leave her on the administration team indefinitely. Looking back on that moment, I guess it could be considered the spark that would lead to the end of the Town Hall... at least the Town Hall that we knew.

Aside from the many discussions we had had in the past about the need to discuss things thoroughly with one another before any decisions were made, we had also (countless times) informed the population that we were not looking for new administrators. Continental Admiral's appointment was not a popular one with the board members or the administration. Now, don't get the wrong impression, Jessica is a wonderful girl Wink. She's also a fantastic and bright administrator, and a joy to speak with. But it wasn't who was appointed (just like the case was with Amadeo), but how she was appointed that made things incredibly awkward for everyone. We were once again blindsighted by a power shift without prior consultation and infighting amongst the administrators became rampant. Having been thinking about leaving the Town Hall for nearly 6 months, I knew I needed to step down.

But then I was left with a dilemma. I could either just leave the Town Hall the way it was, focus on the Soda Fountain and just hope things changed for the best. Or, I could be pro-active and create a place I enjoyed visiting. In the years of the Town Hall, so many message boards rose and fell with little interest being shown their way. I needed something radically different that made it feel like there was a reason to visit. So, I recalled a conversation I had with -mellow the summer prior. We had been discussing the famous "Town of Odyssey" from the early days of the new Town Hall and I had, at that time, expressed interest in creating a video game around that concept. Well, the game was not going to happen, but a message board could work. I sat down with a friend, threw some ideas out, and then started looking at the modifications available to me. I then got it into my head that this was what I needed to do: Create a board where the administration was elected, not appointed. A board where creativity was encouraged, not stifled. A board where people could act their age and not get in trouble for doing so. But most importantly, I wanted a place that stayed true to the roots of Adventures in Odyssey. I wanted to create the Adventures in Odyssey message board and allow the Town Hall to continue to thrive on what it did best... debates and older age discussions. As I pitched it, it would be a cage for all the unwanted material the Town Hall was no longer allowing. I gathered a team of creative individuals, showed them my test board and got their input. I then started a countdown clock to April 1, 2005, handed in my resignation to the Town Hall, and launched the Town of Odyssey to a wonderful response.

That same weekend, Xhan returned from afar. Sweeping changes were made immediately to the Town Hall, and from what I hear, these changes didn't sit too well with the remaining administration. A couple of months later, Xhan vanished again and that was the last I saw of him. For the first several months, I fought hard for the two boards to remain as two separate entities. But, as is the case with a population as small as ours, the traffic was clearly one-sided. Part of me was extremely pleased that my board was doing so well, but the other part of me wished it didn't have to be at the expense of such a wonderful board as the Town Hall once was. Well, in October of 2005, 5 months after the Town of Odyssey opened, lightning struck the Town Hall again... and the board was once again suspended. At this point in time (the end of 2005), that is the way the situation still remains. The Town Hall will always mean a great deal to me, as it was the first Adventures in Odyssey message board I visited and so many wonderful things occured there. But, I was also in a position where I did not agree with the direction we were heading, nor did I feel the needs of the members were put above the needs of the administration. I can't say enough that I absolutely loved the administration team at the Town Hall, they were all terrific people and I respect them all so much. However, there came a time where we went our separate ways... and the Town of Odyssey was my separate way. While this board is not the Town Hall and no board can ever replace it (nor should it), I hope the members of this board can grow to love The Town of Odyssey as they have The Town Hall. Whether or not it ever returns.
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bookworm
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