The MVS Beginnings
MatthewsVolvoSite Turned Eight back in the Fall. How do I know? I found the
first MVS page as it existed on January 6, 2002 via the Wayback Machine. (Update: that link no longer takes you to the Wayback Machine’s cache of MVS’s humble beginnings.)
Until tonight, I’d forgotten just exactly when I started this site. True story. The domain matthewsvolvosite.com is easy to date using a “whois” search (5 September 2002), the phpBB-powered forum birth is easy to date by looking at the forum administration panel (14 September 2002 10:03 am), but the site actually started before, at the address http://evenfive.com/volvo. Of course to be indexed into Archive.org a page has to be up for at least a few months, so the real birthday is some time in mid-2001. For historical reasons the birth of MVS is 14 September 2001, one year before I started the MVS Volvo forum.
So what’s with evenfive.com?
It was a business. In the Fall of 2001 I’d been mostly out of work for about a year because of the burst tech bubble. I’m a web developer, and that era was the Apocalypse for me and most everyone I knew who was involved in creating web sites.
Four ex-coworkers and I decided to start our own design and development business, and evenfive.com was the domain we chose. I piggybacked my new Volvo project site onto it. We didn’t have much work anyway :-).
I was active on Brickboard, but I found that a) the search function was extremely frustrating to use (also known as “downright awful”), and b) the good stuff was getting lost in the sea of posts. Necessity is the mother of invention they say, and to me it was necessary to start a repository of 850 information. I wanted to pull out the good and set it apart from the rest. I actually would email Brickboard users who posted great fixes and tutorials and get their permission to use their writing on my page. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was creating what is now the Volvo Repair Database.
The First MVS Interactivity with Users
In addition to wanting to separate the good from the mundane, I wanted to automate it. I was successful at getting permission to use fixes, but that obviously wasn’t going to fly long term. I could troll the web for good Volvo 850 information all day, emailing here and there to collect good information, but I needed to eat. The tantalizing realization of you guys being free to add your own content day or night in a structured system it occurred to me was many many times more efficient and powerful.
The answer was of course to start my own forum, one that had a fast, accurate search capability. After that, the next job was to highlight the best forum topics… somehow.
At the time I didn’t know how to install or use databases, so the page was still “static”, with the exception that anyone could add a Volvo tip by posting it to a text box that would add it to an XML file. There was no proper forum, no registration, no accounts, nothing. Anyone could add anything to the page just by typing and submitting it, and it would appear instantly on the “home” page. If that sounds crazy, remember that web spam wasn’t sophisticated or common back then. Email spam was, but not web page spam. Some of those submissions still exist on the Tips page. Slowly I’m moving those off of that page into their own Repair Database pages, so if you go to that URL and there’s nothing there or you get redirected, you’ll know they’ve all been moved.
Interestingly, at that time the page came up first for a Google search for “Volvo 850”. Eight years later, with stunningly more and better content about Volvo 850s, I’ve somehow lost that position :-(.
The First MVS Volvo Forums
After a few months I added an unsophisticated forum. It also was not database driven, and actually created a new static HTML page for each post. It was clunky and inelegant, but it worked ok. Those posts (pages) still exist in the MVS Forum Archives. Do you feel like a Volvo information archeologist yet?
Then I registered matthewsvolvosite.com and bought a hosting account at Dreamhost.com. It was a legitimate website. And finally I could use a modern database-driven forum, because Dreamhost made it easy to create and connect to databases. I did some research and chose the free, open-source phpBB forum software (version 2), and that is what we use today (version 3). Finally, I was doing it right.