Ramblings of a Tampa engineer

I joined my first forum in the summer of 2004, I was 12 years old. I had to lie about my birth date, just to get passed registration. My interest to join the web was sparked by a Halo 2 game, in which the opposing team somehow killed our entire team and won the game in 40 seconds. This didn't seem possible and I was going to spend the next eternity until I found out. Shortly after, I had been introduced to an ever expanding community of knowledge and users. I had found my new home.My knowledge and professionalism was very poor and would come across in one of my first forum posts ever.

After i load Xored and boot halo 2. ON sniper in the mist, the mc spawn themselves and shoot me so i know yello AI is working, but i cant do any of the camera angles or anything. Any help?
I look back at that post and laugh. Where is my grammar? Did I search the forum before firing off such a basic question? This post addicted me to the infinite knowledge available online. Some polite user responded to my post depicting some perfect instructions on how to solve my problem. Other users bashed me for not reading the forum and finding tutorials covering this exact problem. I hated being bashed in the public, as I felt being personally attacked and was going to make sure it didn't happen again. I read every topic on that forum, which had links to other forums and next thing I knew I was a registered member on 10 separate forums. Now the problem with my newly acquired knowledge, is that I knew the answers to lots of things, I just didn't know why that was the case.

I could rattle off every Xbox error code, but that was from only memorizing an article on llama (an old Xbox modding site). Other users didn't care that I didn't truly know my information or that the information was one Google search away. The information I provided worked, and I was quickly being accepted into the community. Lots of users wanted more instant gratification than forum posting and wanted my msn/aim info. I had used AIM from school, like all other young kids, but to share my AIM with some kids I didn't know? I was smarter than that. I created an Alias, a name that has stood by me online for 7 years. As I've gotten older, I've strayed back to using my real name, but I'll save that for another blog post.

The boom of communication was unreal. I would sign on and immediately have 10+ people saying "hello", and 20 more talking to me as I stayed online longer. I was loosing track of which friends I should communicate with. Should I stay online and talk with a large group of kids I never met? or go outside and play with actual kids my age? This wouldn't be a blog post if I had gone outside. I became very smart with one specific portion of Xbox modding. The amount of emails and instant messages I got increased daily. It was becoming a burden to reply to everyone with some of the same questions. I wanted to redirect them to a forum that I was a user on, but I wanted something more. I googled "free forum hosting" and was met with Forumer.com.

Some young kid with next to 0 income could create his own website. The next week was one of my best online memories. I spent day and night configuring a forum. There was more settings in this configuration than I had ever seen before. The site was ready, but I was greeted with a blank homepage. There was no content. I had nothing to offer but information. I did something that I look back on as unethical and just plain rude. There was another smaller site that was disturbing illegal movies, but also had a small modding community in it. I copied and pasted the 126 topics they had related to modding. These topics were about a range of things from support requests to program releases. I felt that site's main purpose was going towards the illegal movie side, and I only cared for the modding portion.

The site was created and I communicated across my email, aim and msn of my new site where information would be provided. The results were beyond amazing. Within 50 minutes I had over 100 registrations. There were introduction topics everywhere and a larger amount of support topics. I began responding to post after post, and began linking some posts to others (to prevent re-typing). The success and management of this site is too much to explain for this blog post, and I'll save it for another day.

I then became an active member on two forums. I watched one of these forums grow from 10,000 members with 50,000 posts to 33,000 members and 800,000 posts. The success of this site was amazing and the community was even better. Everyone was willing to chip in help here and there without anything in return. Knowledge was shared and it allowed users to flourish together as one. One of the users, who had to be over 20, posted an update to a program. A snippet is below.

Patches are done by a byte by byte comparison without any sync. So if you take the data abcdefgh, and change it to abcxefgh, the patch will store offset 4, change 1 byte to x...Now, if you take the same data, abcdefgh, and change it to abcdefghx, the patch will store offset 9, change 1 byte to x, or add 1 byte x to end of data, depending on the patch format...Now, because patches do not have sync, if you take the data abcdefgh, and change it to xabcdefgh, the patch is forced to store offset 1, change 9 bytes to xabcdefgh...Because the data is shifted, when creating the patch it will compare x to a, a to b, b to c, and so on, finding that every byte has changed...This is the same for all patch formats, ppf, sppf, or serenity...
I was too young to comprehend exactly what that meant, but once again I was determined to find out. Fast forward 2 years, and I was doing the same thing learning and helping others except at a much higher level. Things had moved to Xbox Live party chats and IRC chatrooms. Communicating with a huge community and exchanging knowledge in order to modify a game for fun. Things began to slowly change. Users were getting very upset with programs that didn't work and would harshly harass the program developer. Most of the developers were 13-17 years old and did everything for free in their own time. Its amazing that most of those programs worked anyway, but this led lots of users out of the community. The owner and operator posted in 2008 about how Google Adsense would no longer cover the $150/monthly fee he had to pay for the website. He mentioned jargon that I didn't comprehend back then. He said he used around 1.2TB of bandwidth monthly solely supplying the downloads of hundreds of patches. This admin stood by a guideline that he would never charge users for this website. Google Adsense was no longer covering the expenses and every month the admin used his own money to run the site for the community. The site survived the next few months on donations from the community. I was still a 14/15 year old kid with no PayPal or money to give. The server was downgraded and all attachments were forced to 3rd party file hosting websites. This downfall was inevitable, but the site crumbled and only has about 20 active members today.

I look back at that website and that community and really wonder would I be a different person if I hadn't joined it? These users convinced me into Computer Science and gave me my interest towards computers. It was a one brief period of opportunity, and the community I was part of, capitalized on it. This community will never exist again for the following reasons.

  • Consoles are harder to mod. You could modify an Xbox with nothing more than a $15 dollar part and a certain video game.
  • The Xbox and Halo 2 were on the first truly successfully popular online multiplayers, which boomed a community.
  • The security lacked back then and could be exploited by even a 12 year old (from help from a tutorial).
  • Everything was open and free. Users didn't hide knowledge from others, and everyone benefited from an open environment.
  • There was little friendly competition. People didn't engage in unethical methods in order to attack others.
I met friends during those years that I've known longer than some of my real life friends. I talk to some people from France, Italy and Australia regularly. We all grew up together online, sharing knowledge and continue to communicate today helping each other out. Things move on though, and people are older. Those that were my age when I was a little guy, are now supporting a family and living a real full-time job. They have no time to dedicate the hours of research needed to continue modding today. The new owners are content on money and the community just isn't the same. I do see similarities in the Minecraft Modding & Android Development communities that remind me of my times in a similar community.

Lots of kids built a community with common goals and it was a peak in my childhood. It had its run, and it was truly amazing.




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