First, old business...
2006 was a landmark year for this site. The single biggest change was something that wasn't particularly visible to the average user, but which has made a huge difference in the direction the site has taken: it was the year that OverClocked ReMix was migrated off shared hosting and onto a dedicated server that I alone administer. Prior to this development, OC ReMix was hosted for free by ZTNET, L.L.C. in Michigan, who also host many emulation and gaming sites for free. These guys are great - if a book is ever written about the history of console emulation, they'd show up as the philanthropic web hosts of tons of emulators and news sites. Granted, all revenue generated from advertising and shirt sales also went to them, to help cover OCR's considerable bandwidth overhead, but this site wouldn't have existed without someone willing to front the cost, as it would have been prohibitive for me during the early years.
I'm happy to report that that's no longer the case - the combination of Google ads, affiliate revenue from eStarland, Zzounds, etc. and shirt/hoodie sales combined cover the complete operating costs of the site, with a little leftover to print more shirts and coordinate events. If you shop using Amazon, you can also use the OC ReMix Amazon Outlet, and a portion of each sale goes to the site. Every little bit helps, believe me.
As an interesting side note, a couple unsung heroes of 2006 were two donators that collectively donated $2000 to the site. I tried contacting them to thank them (profusely) and see if they at least wanted shirts, but it seems they preferred to remain relatively anonymous. Their combined donation was what me made confident enough to proceed with migrating the website to its own dedicated server, which was a smooth process that's been nothing but successful so far. Everyone who's donated or helped out in any way has played a part in getting OCR to where it is today, but these individuals disproportionately acted as a catalyst for this development, and for the ensuing shirt order that was made, and they deserve singling out, albeit in an unnamed manner.
So, what does being on our own server mean? For starters, the site's been faster and more stable. Sure, it was only a matter of degrees, not a quantum leap, but it's still been nice. The folks at LiquidWeb, where our box is hosted, have also been amazingly helpful when we've run into any issues, so our downtime has been limited. The increased speed of the site has also let me make more regular backups, so I feel more comfortable with our disaster recovery capability. But none of that's too sexy to the average visitor; one of the bigger things that's occurred as a result of all that, however, is that we (rather smoothly) transitioned from our old forum software, phpBB, to the more powerful and consistently updated vBulletin.
I hate to do this, but I feel like I philosophically have to... while I love the open source community, and this site runs largely on open source software, I think that phpBB represents a failure of a large, popular, and very visible OSS project to responsibly manage software development goals and operate on anything approaching a professional timeline. Sure, they responded quickly enough to the myriad security holes that were found with their forum software, and still do, but the confusion surrounding phpBB 3.x and the refusal to continue adding much-needed features to the widely-deployed 2.x line has made many admins wary of the package, and prompted just as many to jump to more powerful, more secure, or more streamlined alternatives. It's frustrating to see software that was at one point at the top of the heap stagnate for so long; when phpBB 3.x finally comes out, I'm sure it'll be great, but what about the years in between, when 2.x became obsolete and insecure? Alright, I've bitched enough about that... moving on...
OverClocked ReMix's site development philosophy centers around stability, gradual growth, and a consistent online presence. We've been doing this for over six years, now, and we've never been down for more than a couple weeks and have never gone more than a month without posting something. We've constantly added incremental features, rather than throwing the whole thing out and starting over, and I think the permanence and cumulative momentum of this path is something we can be proud of. There've been hiccups, rifts, layout additions that (ahem) took some getting used to (cough... sidebar), but I don't feel like we've ever really tripped and stumbled. This may come off as an implicit diss at another game remixing community, vgmix.com, so I'll just come right out and say that it's not - there's room on the INTARWEB for two sites about game mixes, they've got a radically different approach, and last I heard variety was a good thing.
Server migration and vBulletin weren't the only developments in 2006, of course. Far from it; here are some other items of interest, with apologies to anything or anyone I'm missing:
- First female judge appointed to panel (pixietricks)
- Blood on the Asphalt: A Super Street Fighter 2 ReMix Collaboration released
- Chrono Symphonic released
- Project Chaos: A Sonic 3 & Knuckles Arrangement Album released
- Partnership with eStarland established for selling shirts and hoodies
- OC ReMix officially attends Otakon 2006 and holds a pretty darn popular panel, where Jill hugs a guy dressed up as a tentacle and hilarity ensues
- Chipamp, a "Winamp Chiptune Plugin Bundle" and OCR project released (over 10,000 downloads to date)
In a word, we grew. 2006 was phenomenal. Expecting 2007 to be better would probably be optimistic, since many of these events could only happen once in the history of the site. Also, it sounds obvious, but throughout all these releases, additions, events, and developments, we also did a little thing that happens to be why most of you visit in the first place: we continued to post some amazing music from some very talented artists.
And now, some new business...
2007 will probably be a less eventful year for OverClocked ReMix, at least from the perspective of major site changes. We've got more powerful forums, we've got a better server, we've got mirrors and we've got shirts and hoodies (or had them, until they sold out... more on the way!!), so those issues have been addressed. In talking about this year, I'm going to split my comments into two sections. First, I'm gonna get all mushy and talk about my personal life a bit. I rarely do this in these addresses, but it's pertinent... I think... and I feel like it warrants expressing. Secondly, I'm gonna address some of our tangible plans for this year, which is probably the more exciting stuff for most if not all of you.
How does a site like this come into existence? Better yet, not to pat myself on the back, but how the hell does one dude who works for a living find the time to administer it, develop it, participate in it, and also create ReMixes of his own? I'm gonna try to make this the only time I discuss this particular point about OCR, because if repeated it'd sound dangerously close to emo whining and livejournal fodder.
Running this site has had a severe impact on my personal life. Especially from 2000 to 2004, when I (arguably) should have been doing a lot of things that most people in their early twenties do, I was focusing an inordinate amount of time and energy here. In recent years that's changed and I've managed to reconcile having what most people would call a life with running OCR, but that's a four year dent that I can't get back, period. Do I want it back? If I could trade it for everything OverClocked ReMix has come to represent, would I do it? I think not. Nevertheless, in recent years I've focused on delegating more, streamlining where possible, not getting overly involved in dramarama and intersite/intrasite politics, and I've also gotten better at software development and administration, which has reduced the overall workload.
I still have plans for this site, some minor, some major, that still require significant investments of my personal time and the time that our site staff so graciously contribute, but more and more I'm also making sure that I devote time to living my life. For the last couple years, it's been working out, and in recent months I've barely spent a single weekend at home, as certain drunken IRC ramblings that were unfortunately logged will testify to. The moral of this story is, while I might be a little scarcer, I'm focusing on spending the time I do have to work on OCR more effectively, and it's been successful thus far. I'd advise anyone that spends tons of time on personal projects or other goals like OCR to take a step back every once in awhile; I don't regret the investments I've made, but I also don't regret refocusing and adjusting so I could spread things out a bit more.
(begin second, more specific, part)
That's all rather relevant to one of the themes for 2007, which is integration with some of the larger social networking sites on the Internet, and other relevant services. Some of you may have noticed that an additional field was added to your forum profile for storing a last.fm username, if you have one. This is the first of many planned steps to integrate not just last.fm, but other large networks, into OCR (and vice versa), to whatever extent is possible. Plans include:
- Prominent links to OCR groups on Facebook, MySpace, and Last.fm
- Integration with various aspects of Last.fm's data feeds and services
- Additional user profile fields for other identities, such as Xbox Live gamertags, Wii numbers, etc.
- Integrating forum threads with more areas of the site, potentially consoles, game series, etc.
Another big goal is for OverClocked ReMix to be registered as an L.L.C.; while this doesn't mean much for the end user, it's long overdue, protects yours truly should we ever get into legal trouble, and will pave the road for other developments by making me more comfortable with our official status.
Of course, there are some fantastic site projects on the horizon, more great mixes on the way, and we'll continue to refine aspects of the site that benefit from it - all of that's almost a given, but shouldn't be taken for granted. The expansion of our site database to include data not explicitly linked to individual ReMixes is also something I've been toying with, that may or may not happen depending on time constraints. A new release of Chipamp should definitely be expected, with support for even more formats. Bumper stickers may finally show up over at eStarland.
And... who knows? These are just a few of the ideas that I've got right now. Feel free to chime in on this thread about how you think '06 went, what you think of our plans for '07, and any specific ideas you think would also be worth considering in the months to come. As always, I'm grateful to have the privilege of running this site, and thank each of you for your varying forms of participation and support.
David W. Lloyd
President & Founder, OverClocked ReMix