As a BlenderNation.com author and editor, it's my responsibility to scour the internet for anything interesting that is Blender related: new features, new ideas, new communities. Imagine my surprise when I discovered a little site called Elysiun.com. Some of you may have even been there: Elysiun.com sports an impressive 300,000 hits a day from 6,000 unique visitors, doing up to 25 Gigs in daily data transfer. The forums there get about 360 posts daily... that's even more than Blendernation.com!
In all seriousness, though, who could use Blender without being intimately familiar with Elysiun.com? Elysiun is, for most of us, the Blender community hub that even the official Blender.org forums are not. Recently, Elysiun has undergone major changes. Elysiun users have discovered that they are being redirected to BlenderArtists.org and the forums have changed significantly. What's behind these changes? Only one person could know. In a brief interview, Timothy Kanters, founder of Elysiun and longtime Blender user, told me about his history with Elysiun and what his plans are for the future of the website.
First Taste of Blender
Timothy Kanters first discovered Blender at the age of 16. Like many of us, he was introduced to it by an online friend in a chat room (Timothy remembers this friend as â€œgtmanâ€). After spending some time with Blender and the community, Timothy was hooked. Not only was Blender powerful and free, the community also provided free, reliable help and support in chat rooms and on websites. After acquiring some skills, Timothy naturally wanted to give something back to the community. He, with the help of his online friend, assembled Elysiun.com as a place where they could showcase Blender features, art, and their own tutorials. You may have also guessed that a community forum was also included with the website.
Elysiun grew slowly at first. Timothy explains that, at the time, Not a Number (NaN) Technologies was still the owner of Blender, and the official website, Blender.nl, had been around much longer with popular support forums already in place. Things changed when, in 2002, NaN declared bankruptcy and the Blender.nl website suddenly became inaccessible. The fate of Blender was up in the air. Blender users found themselves wondering what the future of Blender would be but no website to discuss things at. Sensing an opportunity, Timothy recognized that the community needed a new place to discuss these recent developments, so he upgraded the forums on Elysiun.com, promoted it as much as he could, and hoped people would come.
Without a doubt, the people did come.
Elysiun.com became the new hub for Blender forum talk. Timothy added a Blender Foundation forum (still accessible even today at http://blenderartists.org/forum/forumdisplay.php?f=19) to accommodate talk regarding the newly created Foundation. Among the messages posted there you'll see that Ton himself used it as his primary forum for communicating with the rest of the community. Users found the website simple to use, yet powerful and flexible. Over time, Blender and community problems started to disappear. The Blender source code was purchased from the NaN investors; official Blender websites were recreated at a new domain, Blender.org. However, for many users, one thing didn't change: they continued to use the forums found at Elysiun.com as their primary forums.
Since then, Elysiun has branched out in some areas and branched back in on others. The original tutorials and galleries have all but disappeared from the site. However, the forums technology has been updated several times and several new important forums, such as the â€œFocused critiqueâ€ forum, have been added. The user base has continued to climb as more and more people discover the Blender's great community. Both text and graphical ads have started to appear (Timothy explains that he does not profit from these ads; instead, the revenue goes towards upgrading and improving the software and the servers to ensure continued stability and new features). Timothy now heads up a closely-knit team of developers, administrators, and moderators that assist him with implementing new features and maintaining a positive end-user experience at the site.
Back to the Future
No change has been more startling than the most recent one. Timothy explains â€œWe're now and have been for several years the largest community website, and it is not always easy to maintain a website like that. We have dropped the rest of the website and focused too much on the forum. We're currently just a forum and we need to grow into being a complete website again.â€ The move to vBulletin is the first step in that direction. Apparently, for a long time, BlenderArtists.org has been in the planning stages, and â€œthings are now finally coming together.â€ A new website design is in development (I got a sneak peek at it, and I'll just say that it's sweeeeet!). A new logo is also in the works. The whole BlenderArtists.org website will be leaps and bonds beyond what Elysiun was in terms of professionalism. It will have a whole new polish. Despite the professional demeanor, new Blender users will still find themselves welcome and comfortable at the new website. Timothy plans to restore the tutorials and gallery sections to their old glory (you'll notice that they currently exist in a preliminary form at BlenderArtists.org), and of course, the help forums are around to stay. A new rating system will help users quickly find the highest quality tutorials and galleries among all the content. Timothy's plan is that the newly finished website will â€œaccommodate all levels of [Blender] users.â€
Timothy will be implementing these features as quickly as he can and believes that more updates should appear within a few short weeks. Between the traffic that already frequents the site and the upcoming look and features, Timothy Kanters and BlenderArtists.org are helping shape the future of the Blender community in a great way.
Timothy looks forward to continuing to serve the community. Currently, he is pursuing a Masters in IT; undoubtedly, he will put the new skills gained from such an education to good use. Considering the fact that he started Elysiun.com at such a young age, I walked away from the interview with the feeling that ordinary people such as you or I can do amazing things to help the Blender community. In doing so, we may even accidentally become community celebrities. We only need to keep our eyes and minds open, and have to courage to put our ideas to work.
This article is the second in a series about the forces that are driving Blender on development, documentation, education, and other fronts: where these forces are taking Blender and who is behind them. The author takes no responsibility for any errors or misrepresentations in the text above. Hey, he's just a product of his environment, right? Blame his parents. If you or someone you know should be profiled as an individual that is helping drive Blender's future, please add a comment to this article and the author will be in touch.