Here's an old interview with Vas from Braindent.com:
July, 11 2005
Interview with Vasudeva of Linkswarm.com
First and foremost, I want to ask you, how much traffic does LinkSwarm get on a day to day basis?
I dunno for sure; I never really pay attention to metrics like that. I don't care about hits. I know most webmasters do, rabidly. To me, that's a nice yardstick, I suppose, but ultimately those numbers mean nothing. It could be a refresh-monkey just sitting there on his F5 key rocking out. Also, it seems like every program that purports to have this information for me has its own idea of just what the fuk. The one metric I tend to check every couple weeks reports that LS gets maybe 60-80 thousand pageviews a day. It goes down in the summer and peaks in the winter, which I guess makes sense, if you assume most people go outside when it's warm in North America.
I think it is great that you took a simple idea and made it into a very large idea, how has that affected your life?
Well, I've met a bunch of cool people I probably wouldn't've otherwise. Plenty of these people end up sharing meatspace with me. Last weekend, me and the LBP went up to Canada to hang out with LORDKAHUNA and his wife, who was having a birthday and celebrating the first post-partum chance to drink with us since we met (last year?), since she was all pregnant every other time we saw her. (The kid came out of her belly. I find the whole thing pretty gross.)
I also get a lot of kooky email. Some of these are in response to the automated "the link you submitted got rejected" emails, and sometimes they're startlingly pleasant and respectful, and sometimes they're hilariously pissed-off. My favorite is the latter. I open them in the mornings like a kid with mystery candy, prepared for new holy wars to wage on the Internet.
Besides making my life sparkle magically like a magic sparkling stone from the ocean with people who I care to socialize with and/or torment, it's also eaten up a assload of my time and money.
How much time do you spend on a normal day-to-day basis working on the site?
meep. There are days I can literally spend 6 or 8 hours fuking with the site, between screwing with features or bugfixes, getting peoples' links up, fixing forum post mishaps, and dealing with user issues in general. I'm not even counting just browsing the site myself. I finally smartened up and started putting in processes that offload some of the administrative meep to the more trustworthy users, like the Alpha Queue. The Alpha Queue lets Alpha members -- people who have donated to the site -- get a direct vote in whether a submitted link gets approved or rejected. It's not perfect, but I've ironed out most of the technical issues and the remaining ones are largely social (I'm looking at you, you fuks) and those can't readily be fixed with code. (Excepting maybe winnuke.exe.)
So, over time, as everyone's kind of figured out how to work the Alpha Queue, and I've put more and more trust in it, there are whole days where I can actually do my day job -- you know, the meep my employers expect me to be doing fulltime whilst paying my salary? It's kind of cool.
As the LinkSwarm audience has gotten bigger over time, I've had to trick various service providers out of more and more server space and bandwidth. I've been running LS on its own server for probably over a year now, and it's fairly expensive, but nothing beats having total control over the box. It lets me do a lot of meep I couldn't otherwise. I should note Hurricane Electric at http://www.he.net/ are a fabulous bunch of dudes, and if anyone's looking to rent some server space for a small-to-medium site, look them up. They saved my meep many a time, like the time I (being an utter meep) thought it'd be nifty to host the Paris Hilton meep Tape myself and did something like 100GB of bandwidth overnight, far exceeding my monthly allotment and incurring like $2500 in bandwidth bills in 36 hours. Many fabulous members of the Swarm stepped in to help, and so did Hurricane.
I should also point out that I originally worked with a dude by the nick of kHz on LinkSwarm. He was very involved in LS back in the day. He did the original theme design, he did all of the marketing and traffic meep, which was never my bag, and he had some very good ideas about functionality. He had just the kind of crazy pee-pants retard ambition that could convince me that some improbable thing was actually possible -- and a good idea, to boot -- and so we'd try it, and somehow it'd usually work out. Near the end of his college piece, our respective ideas about where we wanted the site to go started drifting fairly radically. I think he wasn't getting what he wanted out of LinkSwarm. I was. He's since moved on to other things.
I think one of the coolest things that you do with your members is the BBP. Can you explain to everyone exactly what that is?
Ah, the Boston Beer Party, the light of everyone's life. To defeat some common misconceptions right up front: it doesn't always happen in Boston, and it doesn't happen exactly annually, but it does always involve a lot of beer and some of the more efficient instruments of self-medication. (Sometimes I regret calling it the Boston Beer Party, thinking I was being clever by referring to the Boston Tea Party, and wish I had called it something more accurate, like the Roving Get-Your-Face-Kicked-In-By-Partying-And-Exhaustion Party.)
Simply put, we get together and drink booze. This is the entire agenda. I've learned there is almost zero point in trying to plan anything else, because when you get more than six or eight people onboard, it's just chaos. They're three- or four-day blurs of booze, espresso, bar food, bars, strangers, wierdos, hotelroom shenanigans, the biggest table(s) the restaurant has, sharpies, lots of smokes, sore feet, violence, late-night drunken revelations and/or epiphanies and/or displays of lewd/retarded behavior, and a lot of camradery masquerading as abuse -- or perhaps the other way around.
The BBP was originally LOki's idea, and it was a damned fine one, and appropriate, since (and I can remember the conversation vividly, which is notable in itself) it happened in a bar near my apartment over many beers, as probably all good ideas have since the dawn of time. (LinkSwarm itself was spawned in a different bar near my apartment, and fleshed out later in a bar in Amsterdam. I still have the beer coaster bearing the original sketch.)
We've had five or six BBPs since, going back three or four years. I think the first one had like four of us. The second one, double that, and so forth.
People come in from all over. I think the greatest distance travelled was when Meta flew in from Kansas to Boston for BBP3. Kahuna also flew in to Boston from Canada for BBP5.1, though, and mundhra drove to Syracuse from the DC area once, and chex drove from Michigan to Boston, and I haven't done the geography math, so maybe Meta's got competition on most-travelled member (who always gets the sleeping place of honor for their efforts, though is by no means relieved from getting-written-on-whilst-you-sleep duty).
When mundhra drove from DC to Syracuse for BBP2 (Syracuse Halloween Revision), I joked that when he got here to my parking lot, I was going to sit four floors up in my apartment and not answer the doorbell. Well, as luck would have it, we had been drinking all night and even with caffeine onboard, I woke up at like 2:30 AM to the sound of the LBP going "Baby! I think mundhra's here!" and groggily l look on the coffee table and there's the phone ringing. Turns out he had shown up in my parking lot, rung the doorbell (which didn't work), rang my phone (which nobody answered) and stood there in the rain for a bit, and then sat in his car for at least an hour, and almost drove back home, having entirely missed everything good. My joke had come true. I still feel bad about that. Haha.
There're dozens more BBP-related stories I could type that would make you simultaneously laugh and feel like a loser for not showing up, but that's the one that springs to mind first.
Over time, more and more people join in, and we've managed to get quite a few people who are "strangers" in "real life" to come along. Some people find that wierd, and I guess I might have too, at some point, but I don't really see any need to distinguish between the people I know online and the people I know offline; whether we're talking on IRC, or in forums, or in a bar, it's really all the same, except it's more challenging to make fun of AOLSpeak without typing. I'm used to these people coming over and sleeping on my furniture. I feed them and make espresso for them and write on their faces when they fall asleep. Then we're friends forever and they can never get away.
We just had BBP 5.1, in fact. You can see it here:
BBP Pics 1
BBP Pics 2
We ran into a LARP gathering. meep was fuxing MAGIC, baby.
Where do you see Linkswarm going in the next few years as far as growth or new technology?
I'd like all the various interfaces to be more streamlined; right now they're a hodgepodge of different features, so I've had this massive rebuild-the-LS-engine project percolating for a while. The company I work for got bought out a while back, which I suspected was going to mean layoff, but instead, I've been put in a really cool department and I'm getting to do some really fun meep, so that's taking up a lot more of my time. It's like I got hired by a whole new company all over again -- a real one, this time.
As for technology... it doesn't really seem to be about that. The technology is a means to an end and the end-user doesn't give a meep how or why it works, as long as it does. There's a lot of hype about Ajax right now, but as far as I can tell, it basically boils down to being able to update a webpage without having to reload it, which, while 'neat,' isn't that big a deal in the scheme of things, as far as I can tell.
I've been thinking for a while about things people might like, like building in the ability to use a camera phone to email a photo in to your journal, like mobog, only better, cause it's the Swarm. Every now and then I get a cool suggestion from somebody and I'll implement that if I can. I think people were bugging me to do the Alpha Queue for a year.
As for growth... again, and I know I'm either totally blowing your mind, or just the most unambitious webmaster ever, but I don't really care how many users we have. It's kind of neat to have a big fat number (10,000) but those numbers are really useless, too, unless everyone posts regularly. They don't, though. (I think thre's a certain brand of human that signs up to a website and then never visits again, maybe just to feel like they belong to something somewhere.)
There are between 200 and 400 Swarmers who visit at least weekly, and as I scan the list of them now, most of them aren't strangers to posting. That's fine with me. I much prefer quality over quantity.
On the other hand, expanding the LinkSwarm Social Experiment to 100,000 unwilling subjects is a pretty entertaining idea too.
Now, I run a fairly small forum here on my site, and I know it can be difficult getting members to participate. What do you think you may have done to make your forum so successful?
If building a tiny little fraction of the web has taught me one thing, it's that every single human who looks at a web page is thinking something different, and trying to create any sort of conventional seamless anything is like herding cats.
With a flaccid meep.
And no peanut meeper.
No, that's dogs.
The Forums don't see quite as much traffic as the Link Comments do. (But they're more successful than yours, so at least I have that, you meep-horse.) I think it's a matter of expediency; it's easier to toss out a comment on something than it is to Contribute to a Legitimate Discussion.
To the extent that the site is successful, I think a large part of it is that I've always tried to make it clear that Anything Goes. Anything. As long as it doesn't create more work for me as an admin, it's fine. Tasteless, retarded, insightful, kind, cruel, stupid, brilliant, whatever. Sites that censor their users seem to miss the point. "Hey, let's all stand on this street corner and talk, but you can only say nice things to each other. Keep your hands to yourself, and no farting." Who the fuk wants to hang out there? (Madville.com, I'm sneering at you here, you heap of sad cretinous [USER WAS BANNED FOR UTTERING A CURSE WORD]).
As it turns out, this doesn't work as well as I'd like in reality. I've had to ratchet back on the utopian Anything Goes routine a bit, mostly because, if you're not careful, you end up with an environment where newbs are afraid to post, and that's kind of self-defeating too. On the other hand, I expect them to come in and be able to handle quite a bit of fukery, because otherwise, they won't last long, and plenty don't.
If I could boil it down to one rule, it'd be this...
You can be dumb, or you can be boring, but not both.
Retardation, on the other hand, I tend to welcome in all its forms.
So cue the uplifting end-of-film speech about the outcasts and the misfits inheriting the earth just after winning the crucial soccer match. To posthumously assroger Hunter S. Thompson with a misquote, we tend to get the people too smart and too wierd to exist anywhere else.
I've got to ask, what do you enjoy doing when you are not working with Linkswarm?
I leave work and I come home and sometimes it's All Internets All Day. Or we'll read. We keep reading long three- and nine-book series at the same time. (This is not the royal We: this is me and LilBabyPissmouth.) There's always the Random meep option. In the past year, though, I have to be completely honest, BitTorrent and related private tracker sites have changed my life. I watch a lot of movies with the LBP on the futon now (most especially zombie movies). It's gorgeous. Plus she built a MythTV box so that's like Tivo action and every so often we'll have Daily Show/Futurama marathons once they've stacked up on the disk.
(I enjoy taunting my kid-having friends (almost all of them) with reminders of the lifestyle that's possible when you don't have kids. Haha. Suckers.)
Weekends, I always wake up super early no matter what, even if I went to bed at like 4AM with a head full of booze, which, while leaving me somewhat bleary around the edges, if my biggest problem is "More Life," then fuk it. Weekends are the meep. At my pad, it's morning from dawn until about 8PM. Espresso, breakfast, meep, nap, movies, books, video games, Internets, nap, meep, eat, all meep day. Then maybe later we go out. Or maybe not. We lead lives of spectacular indolence and hedonism. Kind of the opposite of how the Holocaust Jews made out.
What do you plan to do in the short-term future?
Rock out motherfuking continously. Thank you. That is all.