(Bear Of The Day)
Well, friends, that's the last of the bears. I had a lot of fun running
BOTD over the last 8 years. I promised you the story of BOTD, so here it is.
I started BOTD in the summer of 1997. I was fresh out of college and asserting my independence. I got my first "real" job, and had just moved to Boystown, the gayest neighborhood in Chicago. I was living alone, and had just celebrated my 22nd birthday. I spent a lot of time online. A lot!
Having attended the U of I at Champaign-Urbana, I was around of lot of internet technology in its infancy. I walked right by the NCSA every day. Some of you may recognize this as the birthplace of Mosaic, the precursor to Netscape. We're talking about the first graphical web browers here. I'd done a lot of web surfing. But I wanted to give something back to the online community. I wanted to produce content, not just consume it. Keep in mind this was an era before blogs, livejournal, and friendster. If you wanted your content online, you started your own website. But what could I provide that wasn't already out there?
I realized I had a rather sizable collection of bear pictures. Most of these R to X rated pictures I'd downloaded from the internet in various places. I still remember the first time I got access to the BML ftp server. Hello! So I decided to share my pictures to the online world. I remember being inspired by the woofwatch website. I wanted to do my own bear site. But that's not terribly original, now is it? I thought maybe an original format would make my site stand out. I realized that if I really wanted to get a lot of hits, I'd have to update my site often. Daily would be best. Aha! I'll make a website of bear pictures that updates every day! Now what to call it... There is a command I regularly saw on my UNIX shell account called "motd", or "message of the day." I thought I'd call my website "Bear of the Day" as an homage to my geek heritage.
Okay, now I had an idea, but how to do this? I knew how to write basic html by hand. In fact, I've alway written all the html from scratch on a plain text editor. Does it show? ;-) However, I didn't know how to automate everything. Luckily, I had a friend who knew much more than I about perl scripts and cron jobs. He wrote some scripts for me and helped me get set up.
Okay, now to get some visitors! I posted on the BML (Bears Mailing List) about my new site. The first day I had 11 hits. The second day 111. After about a month, I had about 300 hits a day. I was very pleased. The traffic was growing steadily. I added a few things. I had a "BOTD Gallery" of some of my viwers. These were bear pictures people had send in to me that I kept separate from the other pics. I added a page about myself and a FAQ.
Then in early 2001, I got an email that changed the direction of the site. A guy emailed me complaining that I'd posted a picture of him on BOTD without his permission. I didn't know who he was, as all the picture on BOTD were just reposts of things I found online. He was very angry and threatened to try to sue me for copyright enfringement. It seemed that BOTD was becoming a victim of its own success. I took the site down for a few days to rethink things.
Then I remembered how successful the BOTD Gallery was. People loved that you could email the bear in the picture. I decided to go to submissions only for the bear pictures. Once again, I put out the call on the BML, but this time to ask bears to send their pictures to me. Because a lot of guys knew of the site by this time, I got a bunch of submissions. I even solicited a few bears that I found attractive. The format proved even more popular, and attendance grew further.
Another big difference in the new format was that there were fewer explicit photos. This threw a lot of viewers at first. I got a lot of letters asking for more flesh. They were worded more crudely, but you get the idea. Over time, the nude bears became more rare. January of 2004 was the busiest month ever for BOTD with 105,506 hits. That's about 3,400 hits a day. I'd see hits from countries were viewing this content was likely a capital crime!
I also had a guestbook for a while. But that brought a lot of bitchiness. I'd have on a bear that had some enemies, and they'd let loose with a lot of really nasty comments. And I had some hecklers that would regularly post insults to almost any bear on there. So I got tired of monitoring the guestbook, and removed it.
In 2004 and later, more and more bear sites cropped up online. Despite many new viewers, the viewership was shrinking. And fewer submissions were coming in. And I was being flooded with SPAM. Urgh. The site has always been a fair amount of work, and I had thought of winding it down a couple times. I'd actually thought of shutting it down much earlier. But every time I was about to, I'd get an awesome email about how BOTD helped someone to feel better about his body image, or about helping him to accept that not all gay men look like the guys on Queer as Folk. I had a couple emails thanking me because they met their boyfriend as a result of being on botd. These always tipped me back to doing the site.
But in 2005, my life was getting really busy. I bought my first home, which is a whole lot different than renting. I also spent about 2 hours a day commuting. Urgh! My time was always short. So with the 8 year anniversary of the site looming, I decided to announce my retirement. Better to go out like Michael Jordan's first retirement, and not his last retirement. ;-)
So, that's the story! Yes, it's been lots of work, choosing thousands of bear pictures to post. But it's also been fun, exciting, arousing, and fascinating. A very grand social experiment of sorts to involve myself in. I really freaked me out to be recognized in person a couple of times from having my picture on BOTD. But it is kind of an ego boost to be a minor online celebrity.
So what do you do now for daily bear pictures? I got email a while back from Mark of dailybear.org. I helped him out with code and some pointers on running a daily bear site. So he's kinda picking up where I'm leaving off. So, in closing, thanks to everyone who's watched BOTD over the years. And special thanks to those who sent pictures in. I received way more pictures than I had days for, so please don't feel bad if you sent a picture in and didn't get on. Also, special thanks to those that helped me create BOTD and who sent me pictures early on when I really needed them. And finally, thanks to my husbear, Jay. You know it's kinda weird when you're in a monogamous relationship, and your partner is constantly having guys sending him nude photos.
So where are you going to get your daily bear fix once BOTD is gone?
Here are the sites I visit for regular bear pictures:
|dailybear.org||Mark's daily bear page|
|KINGFURADAY||Brian's excellent website. Check the daily page.|
devin at xnet.com
BOTD became operational on 8/19/97
BOTD had it's last bear on 8/19/05