Moorcock's Miscellany
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By Reinart der Fuchs at Jul 9 2006 - 14:03
Introduction

Welcome to Moorcock's Miscellany! This site has been on The World Wide Web since April 1996 in one form or another (with a couple notable outages!) Michael Moorcock has personally been involved with the project since 1997, enthusiastically answering readers' questions when time and health permit: difficulties with one of his legs limited Michael's participation between 2007 and 2009, but since his 70th birthday in 2009 his health has significantly improved, though his time is still limited by tight deadlines. However, Moorcock's Miscellany was not always the repository of interesting and relevant information about Michael that it is today - it wasn't even originally called "Moorcock's Miscellany" for starters...

Before There Was A World Wide Web

In the early 80's my friend Robert Wivel turned me onto Michael's work by loaning me Elric of Melniboné. We used to hang out in the La Mirada High School library with our friends who all enjoyed reading Science Fiction and Fantasy books, as well as playing Dungeons & Dragons, which was quite a popular game at the time. In 1985 a Psychology classmate attending Cerritos Community College gave me his copy of The Eternal Champion, a long sought after book. As he handed me the book he said, "Yeah, this guy's dead." After dropping my English class (due to an unfortunate event with a critical English paper and a computer in the computer lab) I did much drifting in my work life and never finished college. I eventually went to work for a software retail store.

TanelornThe City Of Peace

The first computer related job I had was at Software Etc., a small computer software retailer that sold game carts and software born from the B. Dalton "Software Etc." shelves. I worked at the very slow Lakewood, Washington store, so had plenty of time to read technical manuals while waiting for customers. One day a dude came into the store who was raving on about HTML, web pages and The World Wide Web. He said these new technologies were going to change the world. Since I was pretty low on cash and he used the word "free" numerous times I knew I had to check it out! As a store manager I was entitled to a free Prodigy account: I joined up and discovered that I could surf the WWW with a version of Netscape 1.0. As Prodigy offered a free web page builder, I created Tanelorn – The City Of Peace. It consisted of a paragraph proclaiming my love for Moorcock books and links to the very small handful of websites already out there on the same subject. TtCoP was my tribute to the dead Michael Moorcock (a 'shrine' in Internet lingo).

Tanelorn 2.0

Tanelorn 2.0 was a period of great excitement and learning, sprinkled with moments of great frustration. The World Wide Web was still in its infancy and finding information about Michael Moorcock was by no means easy. I had no understanding of Internet programming, databases or infrastructure, so spent my days figuring out graphic image software and HTML, while writing all the original content for the site (really - the whole thing was awful!) This experience however lead to my first job in the industry as an HTML grunt. Because Prodigy's website templates were too simple (Facebook and MySpace look pretty much as good), I decided to build my own site from scratch, so searched out some (free) hosting that gave me much more control. While hunting down James Cawthorn’s maps for the Cartography Section of Tanelorn, someone named Bill (Michael disguised as his book-writing cat) got back to me saying that I should just contact Cawthorn himself for permission. I didn't know at that time that Michael was in fact alive and well - only while communicating with John Davey regarding The Nomads did I begin to understand that Michael was still alive! It was John who engineered the first 'proper' communication between Michael and myself.

Multiverse.org

In 1997 Michael and I had our first telephone conversation about what would later become known as the Q&A. Michael said he would love to be able to communicate with his readers, so I wrote an ASP web application to achieve that goal. My favorite author had just given me the chance to expand my earlier projects in a way that I could learn even more technology! Who wouldn’t jump on that project? The ASP application was so bad however, plus my own inexperienced at writing database transactions, that several questions and answers were corrupted. After fixing these teething issues, we were off and running well: our first 3,500 or so questions entertained one and all. During this time, multiverse.org was ported to a system using JSP and Java Servlets.

I very much enjoyed building multiverse.org. However, after a couple of years it became clear that many of Michael’s business contacts and friends were having trouble using our "unique" navigation system. I felt sick - my chance to impress people in the industry had been blown away. I festered over this for at least two years but couldn’t find the time to resolve the problems the site was having: hairballing of the code over time; great amounts of time required for fixing problems or adding information; lack of understanding of some of the code a couple of my friends had written; preventing hacking situations and other very technically boring problems. A community was coalescing and I didn’t know how to preserve it in the overall difficult-to-manage portal I had built. I had to port multiverse.org from one server outage to the next. I had started working for Web-X who allowed me to be on their servers but later had to move to Chris Handy’s network, then to my own computer on his network, then my own DSL based network as time progressed. Eventually a terrific windstorm knocked the site off the Internet for about six weeks. It was an emotionally turbulent time. Since my hardware was dead, I turned first to phpwebhosting.com (a horrid experience) and eventually to Axign. At this time I chose to abandon the original codebase, moving away from programming and concentrating on system engineering.

Moorcock's Weekly Miscellany

Excited about the various features I had been wanting to add to the previous version of the site, I adopted and rapidly deployed PHP-Nuke, which became the basis for a future disaster... Using PHP-Nuke I learned much more about web applications and unifying the site navigation, including the introduction of forums (a.k.a. fora). We entered a very active period for the site, where grassroots projects were formed and Michael spent plenty of time socializing with readers. We established an amazing image gallery with the help of visitors and volunteers (which still exists and continues to grow and amaze to this day!) Eventually the underlying security weaknesses in PHP-Nuke became our undoing as we - like every visitor participation site on the internet - were subject to constant attack by spammers and crackers. It became a miserable burden and I was not a successful administrator due to complications in my career (which continued to progress thanks to the things I learned at multiverse.org!)

Moorcock's Miscellany

Since the site was being horribly affected by attacks, it became clear we had to change the software to something more secure. We also had to figure out a way to free me up to take care of the technology and have someone else foster the community. So I bought VBulletin and invited David Mosley to become my 'social management' counterpart. Together we invited friends to become moderators: I felt it was important that the social side of the site be represented by members of the community to ensure that the site developed from the community's demands rather than my edicts that had, at times, damaged the community. We began to reintroduce the media we had collected and began to repair broken aspects of the site as David and the moderators took the huge load of day-to-day content management off my shoulders. After a few years of repair and build up, spam yet again became a problem and I instantiated a number of common performance tweaks and security measures. With all the information in our forums and the media available in the Image Hive and Media Hive, our moderators have built out an amazing resource in the Wikiverse. David and I invited Rothgo to join us and since the beginning of 2010 we have attacked some of the various site deficiencies caused by our chaotic history. For a couple of years, Michael's leg gave him a lot of trouble and so unsurprisingly the site become less active during that period - fortunately Michael has recovered from that setback! Recently, Michael agreed to write a Doctor Who novel which is due for publication soon: we are confident that the site is now tuned and ready for any massive influx of traffic with the resources we have through Dreamhost and the volunteerism of our moderators and administrators.

Many of us would very much like to have the site back to the white on black portal that I had created back in the late 90's. Even Michael has said he wished that the site was more like the old idiosyncratic version. I sometimes wish we could have the peak level of activity we once had, but that drop-off is the effect of those two catastrophes and my own lack of time. Hopefully what the site has become, and will become, is enough for us all and meets everyone's expectations of quality. I know we haven't always offered that but what we have provided has always been offered in the spirit of sharing and appreciation and good will.

Time Table

1996 Prodigy "Tanelorn The City Of Peace" -- tribute page comprised of simple links.
* Leverage free or near free resources
* Learning the ropes of HTML

1997 Seek permission to host Cawthorn's Maps (and others)
* John Davey (of Nomads of the Time Streams) negotiates introduction with Mike
* I discover I have been communicating with Mike already (Mike's cat named Bill)
* I talk with Mike the first time over the phone
* Mike and I agree it would be great to provide access to him through a portal
* Employer (Web-X) allows me to set up a website with their resources
* Learn to dislike ASP and programming in general
* Deploy new website to production
* MSSQL truncates 1500 Qs&As

1998 Introduction to Linux by Chris Handy -- Redhat 6 and Apache (PHP too)
* Migration to MySQL and JSP/Servlets begins
* Struggle with Linux, programming and hosting
* Site redesign
* Contributions start to roll in

1999 Site begins to flourish
* Purchase of domain name
* Data grows
* Regulars appear
* Mike begins to direct contacts to the site
* Features remain stark, new features are introduced (news, forum, uploads, counters, guestbook -- anything to draw data and ad relevance)
* Experimentation with navigation
* Elric Prospectus
* Exclusive comic for the website

2000 Site in its stride
* We add news section
* limited file uploads
* expansion of Q&A archive
* book promotion

2001 Site continues its stride
* added mp3z
* added forum
* 2nd book promotion (site re-brand)
* Reader Fiction added
* Chapter of New book hosted
* Essay Contest for free book
* News evolves into announcement center

2002 & 2003 Disaster
* migrate site from one host to my own servers at my apartment
* site continues in its heyday until...
* Tacoma experiences a windstorm that destroys my servers
* arrange new hosting
* deploy phpNuke

2004 Extensive Data Repopulation
* deployment of many new features
* unified navigation
* forum takes off and becomes central to site

2005 Second wind
* Very active period
* online magazine born
* social difficulties
* trolls
* nasty people
* logo contest
* deployment of photo gallery

2006 Second wind cut short
* redesign of site considered
* spam
* Host change
* April, 28 2005 website gets hacked
* host change
* multiverse.org temporary forum hosted by Etive at Rotwang's Robot
* June VBulletin is deployed
* We change from "sole administrator" ala webmaster to multiple admins and moderators
* multiple popular International languages added to site

2007 Site catches 3rd wind
* wiki project takes off
* lack of unified navigation effects
* relevance at google potential impact
* reintroduce media clips
* archived books, comics, videos and audio files, but hid most of them

2008 site has settled down
* Mike is less active at site due to health concerns

2009
* Spam becomes major issue for the site
* Mike turns 70

2010
* Site gets much need under-the-hood overhaul
* Mike's health greatly improved
* April Fools Day joke (Tolkein's Miscellany)

 
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