The History of Chrons

Brian G Turner

Fantasist & Futurist
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#1
THE HISTORY OF THE CHRONICLES COMMUNITY

The chronicles community began life on chroniclesofempire.net as a support forum for my own writing. The main website was set up in the summer of 2001, and by December 2001, a fledgling community had been set up on MSN Communities.

However, MSN was quickly dropped - admins had little control to keep out spammers and trolls, and I wasn't comfortable putting the forums under the control of a third party.

In the summer of 2002, I'd managed to set up a forum on the chronicles website, using software known as YaBB SE (Yet another Bulletin Board, Second Edition). The main structure of the forums was set up - and the sections would define how chronicles would evolve over the years: announcements, lounge, general discussion, writers' help, general sf/f, books, and film.

By the end of December 2002, the forums had nearly a 1,000 posts!


screenshot1.jpg


That's despite that in the autumn, the forums crashed so badly I had to rebuild all member data by hand.

April 27th 2003 saw the hosting I used go FUBAR. The hosting server had been so badly hacked that the datacentre refused to re-connect it to the internet.

It took 9 days to get everything back online.

At that point I realised it would be better to set up my websites in a network, hosted on different servers, so that it would never happen again.

And so the forums were set up independent of the writing site, on chronicles-network.net.

The trouble with the forum software we used is that it wasn't Google friendly. I only knew of one that was - the new vbulletin 3. Except that it was still in beta development.

We needed Google to show our discussion topics to potential new members, so I took a risk, and in September 2003 upgraded chronicles to it.


screenshot2.jpg


Moving forum databases on dial-up was not fun! And vbulletin 3 did not become officially launched until March 2004. But we grew faster than similar forums because of that move.

In July 2004, to help with branding, I also moved us from the .net to the .com version of the domain name, to become chronicles-network.com.

We continued to grow and develop, but I became a little obsessed with making chronicles the biggest sff forum out there. I kept an eye on other similar forums.

A particularly big one, Ascifi.com, had a huge amount of discussion on books, films, and TV, but had little activity by chronicles standards.

I made a couple of approaches to the owner, and eventually he agreed to sell it.

Even though it was 50% bigger than chronicles, in August 2006, I merged Ascifi.com into chronicles-network.com.

And in doing so, resulted in the biggest general sff forum I knew of.


screenshot3.jpg


Though we were a sff site, nothing about the name said we were about sff. I wanted to change that, so that we could attract more members.

In October 2007, we became known as sffchronicles.co.uk.

The approach seemed to work - in December 2007 we reached the 1 million posts mark.

But running a big and successful forum came with its own challenges.

We were repeatedly targeted with spam, and spambots became very sophisticated.

Additionally, there were hack attacks, server moves, server crashes.

None so bad as in October 2008, when what began as a small error cascaded into wiping out major sections of the database - including all posts.

My nearest backup was 3 months old.

Though that was restored, it was a low point to lose so much posting.

2009 proved a challenge as well.

Long before this time chronicles had needed to run on a dedicated server, along with a couple of other big websites. One of them became a DDoS target periodically through 2009, until I moved it to its own server.

screenshot4.jpg



Everything ran fine, until a security flaw appeared.

I used a software plugin to make the boards and threads more user and Google friendly (ie, instead of reading as /forumdisplay.php?=25 it would read as /gameof-thrones/). It helped make chronicles more visible on Google, and bring in more members.

Unfortunately, that software had a security flaw - someone could hijack it to insert their own code. And they did.

Visitors from Google were redirected to a malicious site which would try and infect them with a virus.

May 2011 was the worst attack, because as soon as I found any code and removed it, it would re-appear the next day.

It appeared the hackers had set up an automated program to keep reinfecting the same forums. It was a bugger to find and remove any infection.

The worst part was, the software developers for the plugin wouldn't patch it - they shut their website down instead. Support would no longer be provided.

Luckily, a security fix was found by other users and chrons was patched.


screenshot5.jpg


The problem now is that I would never feel safe while using the current software configuration. This was made worse by the fact that vbulletin no longer supported the main forum software platform.

I remained open to upgrade options - and in October 2013 we nearly moved to vbulletin 5 (having ignored vbulletin 4 due to stinking reviews).

However, poor support at vbulletin meant that the forums were left closed for nearly 3 days, waiting for a paid-for upgrade.

I aborted that - and by all accounts, we had a lucky escape, as serious bugs and security issues continue to affect vbulletin 5.

The only other suitable forum software options were IPB and xenforo, but I held off upgrading to either until I could watch their development and support.

It became clear that we would have to move at some point - and that the forums would look different in significant ways, not least avatars showing in forum lists of discussions.

So I created a new theme, sffchronicles2, to try and help members get used to a coming, inevitable change.

Server upgrades on my other hosting accounts showed that time was running short - at some point our vbulletin 3 software would be too old to run on modern server requirements.

xenforo - created by the original vbulletin 3 developers - looked like the best option, so in August I began preparations to move, resulting in a test install.

Finally, we're about to move to it.

Things will look different - again. But as you'll see from the above images, chronicles has changed a lot over the years.



Why move to sffchronicles.com, instead of staying on sffchronicles.co.uk?

It makes the upgrade much cleaner, and safer, too. And gets away from various junk that built up on the old server over the years.

It also means we don't need to appear as a UK-only site. It's time to show ourselves off as an international site.

What happens in future?

Well, now we're on an actively developed software platform, our security and stability should be assured for a long time.

And, one day, I may finally become a published author. In which case, I'd like to see the forums joined back up with my writing site.

Then if anything happened to prevent my keeping chronicles safe and secure, then the publishing company would have a vested interest in doing so.

In the meantime, the forums will be unavailable through much of Saturday, but I expect to open them in the evening. Then I can spend the weekend sorting out any issues that may arise.

In the meantime, many thanks for your patience. And for being such a wonderful community - still the biggest, and friendliest, online. :)

Brian
 
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chopper

Steven Poore - Epic Fantasist & SFSF Socialist
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#2
& thank you for being part of my life for so long! :D
seriously, there were some days when Chrons was the only place that kept me sane, and the friends i've found here are some of the best.
avanti! ad astra! Never Give Up, Never Surrender!
 

Alex The G and T

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#7
A fascinating read, this history,

Thanks so much for all of your hard work, Brian; and for the personal e-mail informing me that my handle no longer contains a comma.

Much appreciated, so I feel bad about adding to your workload: Clicking the "Last Page" for a thread, kicks up the first page.

*slinks away, coughing*
 

Grimward

Where matter vanishes...
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#8
I don't go back as far as some, but I remember October 2008, and appreciate your efforts Brian, both then and now. While I've always thought friends were better than followers (or following...see the famous quote about walking beside me, etc.), I expect I'll get used to it. :)
 

markpud

Former Ascifi.com mod
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#10
Very interesting to read the early history as one who came from the ascifi side... although I'd ceased to be active in the forum by the time it merged into the Chron!
 

Highlander II

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#11
Very interesting to read the early history as one who came from the ascifi side... although I'd ceased to be active in the forum by the time it merged into the Chron!
Ditto - re: the early history part. I was still somewhat active when ASciFi moved over. =)
 
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#14
I'm one of those ones who's perhaps gladder than most that you've stuck beside Chrons under such circumstances, Brian. It's my home, well and truly. It's more a home to me than the house I live in. It's the place I was accepted for who I was when I could find no other, and it continues to be. It's that perfect little niche that I can fit in smoothly with, and know that I can relax and let my guard down and know I won't be shamed or shoved out.

You deserve your entire life in happiness and peace, Brian. I honestly feel like there's times Chrons has saved me, if not from physical issues, than from emotional and mental. It's not easy for me to be a part of anything for so long, but everything you all have given me...I can't think of a way to thank you properly.
 

dannymcg

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#15
Just looking back at these like sixteen year old posts and am curious. .. Apparently this site was then called Ascifi - when and why did it change? Any people from those days still on here regularly?
 

BAYLOR

There Are Always new Things to Learn.
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#16
Just looking back at these like sixteen year old posts and am curious. .. Apparently this site was then called Ascifi - when and why did it change? Any people from those days still on here regularly?
A good question .:unsure:
 

Cat's Cradle

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#17
I'm also curious about this...what did 'ASciFi' stand for (I see the science fiction there, but wondered if 'A' was short for something)? And I rarely see joined dates of 2000...but here we have two for July 21, 2000. Is that the earliest-possible join date? Or is there an Eru Ilúvatar out there who created the site earlier, and the July 21s are the Ainur of the site? (Sorry, I'm reading The Silmarillion right now. :))
 

Dave

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#18
Chronicles and AsciFi merged in 2006. Myself, Markpud and Highlander II are still active. There are probably others too. No one ever leaves Chronicles! :devilish:

When the sites were merged anyone with a duplicate name became "imported_*******" so you might see some of those old member names in threads.

ASciFi doesn't stand for anything. Padders added the "A" to "SciFi" so that it came at the top of lists - like "Aardvark Plumbers" in a telephone directory. In those days before Google, the only way to find websites was by consulting lists or by surfing from other websites.

ASciFi first started life as "TalkStargate." Padders then began a number of similar forums such as "TalkStarTrek" with similar names before merging them all into ASciFi.

ASciFi was older than Chronicles. That is why some members here, such as me, have join dates that are older than the forum. I joined in Jan 2001. I think that the July 21, 2000 date is probably the formation of "TalkStargate" but even I wasn't here then. ;)
 

dannymcg

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#19
Awesome update . I remember browsing the web autumn 2009 looking for science fiction forums but didn't find this site ( I think my boss came and handed me a new technical project partway through my hunt ; I was afterwards insanely busy for a couple of years ) .. Thanks for this info
 

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