A Decade of Bulba
by, 29th December 2012 at 02:34 PM (473 Views)
So this is a weird post to write, but I've now been on Bulbagarden for a decade. Which, weirdly, is longer than some of our youngest members have been alive. This is a little look back on my perspective of Bulba over the last ten or so years.
I've been able to watch a lot of change on Bulba. It started as a board where a few dozen people - basically a circle of friends - chatted on a regular basis. So the board was more or less dead during US school hours and then picked up after school and quieted down again after 1 or 2AM when even the folks on the west coast had to go to bed. And slowly but surely we grew, in large part because we had an awesome community that was IMO more highbrow than anything else out there except Azure Heights (look it up, kids!). Probably the coolest part of this small community is that we basically had no rules - because everyone knew each other there was a general social compact and trolls were banned and everyone else was more or less OK. Bulba then was basically like an especially active social group today.
One of the big projects for the first few years of the site was working on a Pokedex. Every other major site had one and we just couldn't get the coding resources together to do it. At the time I was in charge of the games forum so it was sort of on my plate to do it. And there were probably three or four serious but failed attempts to put one together, none really getting off the ground. At about this time Wikipedia was really picking up - it wasn't a mature product like it is today but was definitely well-known On The Internet for being on a great growth swing. And that combined with the sort of general "Web 2.0" feel of the time meant that we went on a Mediawiki bender. With Zhen, myself, and a few other members of the team, we threw together the first hundred and fifty or so pages (not even a page on every Pokemon!).
Bulbapedia was by far the most secretive project I've ever worked on at Bulbagarden. We kept the thing on lockdown, and for good reason - it was in our view our one big innovation, and we didn't want anyone beating us to the punch. I put a lot of time into it for the two or so months between creation and go-live. And then opened it to the public and the rest is history; we got 1000 articles in a few months and Bulbapedia proceeded to blanket the Pokemon web by putting all information about all parts of the fandom in one place. It may be the thing I'm most proud of working on here, but there were a lot of things that I've done.
I spent the first year or so of Bulbapedia's life as its EiC, stepping back slowly as some things started bubbling up in my real life. Zhen took over and did an admirable job, and then TTE came in and gave it some polish, and @Magnedeth brought direction and stability back to the organization after TTE's departure. On the whole that's had an excellent almost-8-year run and I expect its growth will continue and its depth will increase into the future.
After I moved off Bulbapedia I worked with the senior staff to revamp the forums, working through multiple reorganizations and consolidations. We worked to modernize the discussion space and clean up a lot of the old and arbitrary aspects of the forum structure and rules. That proceeded from 2006 to late 2011, at which point I had to step back further because of real life obligations. I think the legacy of that is reflected really well in the culture of the forum today - a vibrant center of discussion in a now-mature fandom. And now we have an excellent group of second- and third-generation senior staff who are doing an awesome job of making the site run smoothly.
I couldn't be prouder of them. It's one thing to basically come in (as I did) from the start, know everyone, and work as a single group to accomplish something big. A lot of successful tech organizations have pulled that off -- Facebook, Google, Foursquare, etc. But it's much harder to pass the torch to the next group; look at Apple after Jobs or Microsoft after Gates. Both are still doing OK and continuing the legacy of their core products, but neither is able to really reach the heights of years past. Bulbagarden isn't suffering that problem, though - we're the IBM of Pokemon fansites (that is the first, last, and possibly only time IBM will ever be analogized to a fansite on the internet). There may be ups and downs as times change, but we've built a system that enables continuous innovation and successful management transitions. The result is a place like this - where I can blog right after checking what level Snivy evolves and then look for a place to trade away said Snivy, if I want to.
I'm super excited to see what the next decade brings and, as much as I can, contribute to another 10 years of Bulba.
"All alive and brand new."
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