For JoeCustoms.com's 10th anniversary, I ripped off William Shatner and his The Captains so we could bring you a little glimpse of what has helped make JoeCustoms what it is today.
pluv: Ok I'm going to keep this pretty conversational. I'll throw a topic out there and we'll try as best as we can to talk about it and move on. Let's start with some introductions: what is/was your relationship to JoeCustoms?
camper: I started the bivouac back in 97/98--forget the exact date--and then about 4 years or so later, in late 2001, handed it all over to Brad. After that, positively no relationship other than a member...an inactive one for the past 4 or 5 years, if the account even still exists.
beav: Took the site over from Dan. Had most of the coding in place as I had been working on the idea for a while just for myself as a way I could host my own figures on my own site and make it easy to update. Then I thought about opening that up to the public since Dan had been busy and wasn't able to update the Bivouac that often. I emailed him with that, just to run it by him as I didn't want to step on his toes, and he told me he was thinking about stepping down and asked if I'd like to take over the community (though without taking over the actual name/domain). Of course I was thrilled.
Fast-forward more years than I can think (pluv can fill in the date) and I've moved overseas, I'm pretty burnt out and just want to get rid of some of the headache, so I pass it to pluv. I still peek in on occasion and still owe some work in my unofficial capacity as Legacy Admin.
pluv: It was July 1st, 2009. Trust me, I remember the date. But you had gone on a little "hiatus" before then. I thought General Hawk or Sidewinder, people who had earned respect from the entire community, would step up and want to run the site. When neither of them stepped up, I called Sidewinder and talked to him about what to do next. The two of us had been holding things together but neither of us had the technical know-how. So I stepped in and Beav held my hand through every major hurdle, along with Stealth Viper. I leaned heavily on every staff member I recruited. I still do that - and still try to crack the whip on Beav to get back in the coding dungeon.
Beav, you mentioned the "headache" of being an admin. Personally I can't pick a single reason why being the admin is such a pain. For me, it is the sheer size of everything that needs to be done on a day to day, week to week, month to month basis. It is a full time job with all of the perks and all of the negatives, but with no pay. I think that little voice in the back of your mind asking you what you are doing all of this for starts getting louder the longer you do it. The whole process has certainly made me a much more forgiving person. Once I realized what it takes to do something like this, I started feeling pity for all of the other admins in the community.
pluv: So what caused you guys to finally walk away?
beav: Well, I got tired of dealing with board drama. Joe fans can be a whiny bunch. That, coupled with:
1) Moving overseas and having that take up a huge amount of time and effort
2) Moving somewhere where Joe access is very limited
3) Having this realisation prior to moving of how much I had accumulated and how much money had gone into it, only to really have nothing to show for it other than a pile of toys and thinking what else I could've done with the money
Not that I don't still have a few Joes around and not that I still don't occasionally track one down, it's just I had started this as a customizer, then became a collector. I sometimes miss the customizing, but there's no way to build up the fodder like I used to have and I'm afraid of falling back down the hole and repeating the cycle. And I'll tell you this, there's not enough room in the average British house to horde toys. ;-)
camper: You want the short answer or the long one? I warn you, the long answer is very long because I'm a long-winded SOB who soon won't see his thirties anymore, and Grandpa Simpson Syndrome has set in early.
The short answer is, it stopped being fun and more than a few people made sure of that.
The long answer...
I had a lot of personal stuff going on at the time. In the span of 6 months: my divorce was finalized, I lost a job, got a new job, had to move for that job and spent about two months pseudo-homeless living in a dorm while I waited for an apartment to open up. And to add brilliant insult to injury, the headquarters HR person handling my paperwork decided to up and retire, leaving my paperwork at the bottom desk drawer and preventing me from getting paid--for 6 weeks. I got my apartment and spent the weekend of September 8th, 2001 moving into it. All hell broke loose the following Tuesday, and two weeks later I was deployed to Langely AFB, VA, for Operation Enduring Freedom for a minimum of one year.
You know, typical everyday life stuff.
The tipping point though, was that people were getting pretty pissy that I wasn't dropping everything in my life to post their figures. Now, updating a website doesn't sound like such a big thing this day and age, especially when your grandma can build a content-rich knitting blog from her cell phone. But you have to remember that back in 2001 you couldn't download a Content Management System like you can today, you needed a programmer to do what idiot-proof gui's [Graphical User Interface] can do for you. Since I was not a web programmer capable of internet magic, The Bivouac was completely and totally updated page by page, by one person. Me. Which meant you sent me 10 figures with 5 pictures each, I was building a page for each figure and putting copy/pasting the text. To say it was a hassle wouldn't do justice to the ass-pain I experienced every time someone sent me a figure to post.
And I posted pretty much anything anyone sent me, with VERY few exceptions.
To get back to the original short version of the answer, a few persistent customizers--enthusiastic to the point of obnoxiousness--nagged me into a state where I finally decided that putting my time and money (since I refused to sell ad space) became more of a hassle than I was willing to put up with, and Dio-stories were my new passion.
Brad mentioned something else too...toy collectors can be a bitchy bunch if left to it. That gets old after a while, especially when the job is thankless. Not that I ever wanted my ass kissed, mind you -- when I attended the 2002 Joe Con I kept my badge hidden for fear of someone recognizing my name -- we just want some thanks for the work. But due to the amount of work involved, I'm not even sure there's enough thanks to compensate for it.
Sorry for the rambling, by the way.
pluv: Well, that's kind of the point of this conversation is to show people the mindset of someone who takes on these responsibilities. I can't say it has been thankless for me. I've had some awesome things happen to me because of being the admin, but times have changed so much in the community from when you guys were in charge. Before we move on, I have to mention the things that we do that people didn't/don't ever see like: resetting forum passwords, updating software, changing unfriendly code, reviewing new content, paying the server bill (sponsors or not, someone still has to send payment), swearing because something doesn't work right, responding to private messages about things that aren't working right, etc.,. That is all on top of everything people *do* see, which is a whole heck of a lot.
beav: I certainly can't complain about perks during my "reign". I think I had it in the Golden Age, so to speak. Still, the daily grind and the what-should-be-avoidable community drama stuff wears you down after a while if you let it, and I sure let it. Also caused some of it, but... yeah. ;-)
camper: I never got any perks that apparently Brad got when I was running the site. Which is fine, because props to him...he built one of those content management type sites on his own skill, so he definitely deserves them. Props to him, no question.
Still, I admit to being disappointed that Salma Hayek never threw herself at me like I expected, and I probably spent more on hosting it the 4 years or so I did, than many spent on their collections.
[Sent later by phone] One more thing to add...I know I'm coming off bitter or resentful, and that's not my intent...I think the point needs to be made that as collectors get older, they become more appreciative towards those who are helping out the community...I started the Biv when the community was essentially young...They've matured in the past 15 years or so-- I'd imagine--I just didn't have time on my side to reap that reward.
pluv: Moving on. Do you guys ever customize or do dio-stories at this point, or are you fully retired from that? I mean, I certainly don't get to as much or as often as I used to, but I don't consider myself anywhere near retired yet. Way too many ideas still floating around.
beav: No customs or dios here.
camper: As for dios & customs, no...I'm done completely. Some of my dio sets by the INCREDIBLE Eric [aka Cap] didn't make my most recent move intact, and the 3 or 4 bins of custom fodder I have will go undone by me. The interest is completely gone, and--shameless plug here--I'm going to be selling my entire collection on ebay in the next few months. All of it.
So...keep an eye on carber-7-11 on ebay for some wicked good stuff ;)
pluv: Oh definitely keep your eye on that carber-7-11 ebay seller. Good stuff coming up.
I wanted to get that negative stuff out of the way so we could bring it around to the positives. What do you feel you were able to accomplish as the admin? And does that accomplishment compare with your favorite moment as the admin?
beav: Just building the system is my biggest accomplishment. I was shocked to see we're over 10,000 figures now. That and all the little community things we run. GPs, Featured Stuff, Custom Celebration, JC.coNs (even if there's only been those first two prior to my move).
Favourite moment would be the JC.coNs, plus my attending the one actual JoeCon where we took that group photo with all those members who were there. And, tied to that, that drunk woman at the pub near the Con who we convinced Hawk was the CEO of Hasbro.
pluv: Just to clarify, [you all] convinced the drunk woman that Hawk was the CEO, not convinced Hawk that the drunk woman was the CEO. Sadly, I missed that schmoozing with Hasbro because of work and didn't fly in until Friday morning. Still kicking myself for that one.
My greatest accomplishment is that the site is still running. Having zero knowledge about running a website as large as JoeCustoms (just a smidge bigger than my old Yahoo Geocities page <-sarcasm), the fact I can run a forum update without the entire thing coming crumbling down on itself is a big deal to me. It forced me to learn some html code, sql, and how to run and install upgrades correctly by the second or third try.
Beyond that, I really tried from day 1 to get the JoeCustoms name out there into the community. Long time Joe fans knew we were there, but then I'd run into people who weren't active in the online community or just stayed on other sites who had no idea we even existed. "Oh JoeCustoms, I like all of your customs," would be a typical response thinking the entire site is one guy instead of a full community. And if they don't know about the site, they certainly don't know about all of the resources we [the community] have put together to help people get better at customizing.
Part of that push was doing the CustomCon Charity, where we had a bunch of great customizers pitch in custom(s) for the Fury Force and Spookssets and then auctioned them off - with all proceeds going to the Hasbro Children's Hospital Child Life Services program. Through the auctions and member donations we raised $1100. Having everybody chip in and pull something like that off and do something good... I mean, really make a difference kind of "good"... I'm proud of that.
camper: I originally started the Bivouac for dioramas, and while I can't recall exactly who approached who first, I took over the customs that Eugene Son, Conor Malone, and Corey Stinson had, because they were combining their sites into Yojoe.com. I then put my focus on customs.
What did I accomplish? I guess I built the foundation of the customizing community, if the community is centered around Joecustoms at this point. I don't dare claim I created the community, each customizer did that brick by brick, custom by custom. I simply laid the foundation on a small plot I made available on the net.
I threw up the message board as an afterthought, trying to experiment with that to use as a method to post customs. At the time the Pit emailing list was pretty much all there was for "joe talk", and I figured the message board could be used just for custom talk. I didn't expect much chatter. I was wrong. VERY wrong. Original Board.pdf
Don't know if I have a proudest moment, but if so, it would probably be the Group Projects. That was the most fun I had in the community, I think. It took some time, and some modification, but I think I finally found the person who spawned the idea, or at least the initial discussion that generated it: Psychogunz.
It was originally called the "Bivouac Support Force", and if you search the PDF I sent you Main Biv Board 2.pdf you'll find it on Page 2.
I've also included all the conversations regarding the first group project, Shadow Ops Shadow Ops Discussion.pdf...and the choosing of the Nightmares Discussion.pdf. That's all I've got for board history, and editing it into something readable is will stand as my final contribution to the community. None of this has been seen in over 10 years, I've given it to no one else. For those who enjoy such things, I do it for them...for those who don't care, then it's not for them.
Earlier I complained about how it got to be a pain in the ass, and how it lost it's fun. I'll tell you now, reading all of those old posts, if things stayed that way I'd still be doing it because it made the crap worthwhile. Yeah, looking back and reading those old posts, that was the glory days, IMHO. The group projects definitely got people excited about customizing, I have no doubt. The proudest I am is of that time right then and there, and if that's my 'legacy' in the community then that's more than I deserve.
pluv:I skimmed through a lot of that and feel like Doc Brown should be popping out of a DeLorean any second now. Some of those names. I know what would become those customs very well, but seeing the discussions for them from back in the day is a fun read I'm looking forward to. To think General Hawk really liked this new fangled GI Joe message board thing cracks me up. I'm so glad you were able to dig that up.
beav: Hawk excited about something Joe-related? No way!
camper: I remember a 1/18 scale DeLorean out there, would make one heck of a dio if you could swing it...
pluv: Its time to bring this home. How have your lives changed since moving on? I ask because just in the short time I've been the admin: I had a kid, moved across the country, and got a job that equals a big promotion, but also has big responsibilities. I imagine you both had life altering events happen to you as well.
beav: Mine is pretty obvious. Moved to the UK. Spent most of the last three years in Scotland, but am now down outside London. Just had my first (and only ;-) ) kid, a boy, two months ago.
camper: Well, my wife and I have 4 kids now, two boys--two girls. I've got a good job working as the only IT person for a famous national park, and I'm thinking about retiring from the national guard within the next year or two. Free time doesn't come easy these days, in fact I'll bet I have less now than I did back in my busiest days working on the Biv. Still, I wouldn't trade it for anything because kids are the ultimate "customs" and they make sure life isn't dull.
Are you going to see the movie?
pluv: Lastly, and this one is mainly for me, but I'm really curious if either of you plan on seeing the new GI Joe: Retaliation movie?
beav: Yeah, I'm seeing the film. Probably not in the theatre though... mainly because of the kiddo.
camper: Will I see the new Joe movie? Of course I will. Just because I'm not into the hobby anymore doesn't mean I won't watch the film. I've never been into the Transformers, yet I can appreciate it enough to enjoy the movies.
My only hope is that it won't suck as massively as the first one.
pluv: I really want to thank you both for taking this little trip down memory lane with me. I hope it gives a bit more insight into what has made JoeCustoms what it is today.
camper: Glad to help.