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.
A very BIG THANKS to Timothy for picking up the forum pieces. I remember how bad I felt when NAN went bankrupt and wondering if that was the end of Blender. It was a comfort to hear from Ton on the forums about the possible future of Blender (and all the debates that went with taking Blender open source.)
Though I may drift to other CG forums from time to time, I always find it comforting to come back to Elysiun and my friends from around the world there and where I can usually get a quick solution to a Blender related problem.
Google Gone Wild:
Thanks to Bart for sending me this funny screenshot. I guess Google needs to continue perfecting their algorithms :)
The forum transition from Elysiun to blenderartist went fairly painlessly from my point of view. The only thing I'm missing is a nice dark grey/orange classic blender stylesheet. This blueish default is fairly bland :/
Just so we know, I bet Vbulletin is a lot more stable, offers better options for the admin and is probably easyer to back-up...
However for those of us who miss these:
View posts since last visit (instead of today's posts, cause some people do take theyr weekend off)
View your posts (subscriber threads, I know)
View unanswered posts (to see if anybody needs any help, instead of searching throught the threads)
I know I'm annoying about this, and that I might be giving Timothy the cold shoulder:
Now to the good part:
-all Elysiun posts are still there :)
-as soon as people will come out of the state of shock, they'll just go on posting
-Timothy (and support team) did and are still doing a great job
-Moderators are still keeping to the Elysiun level of tolerance and act with just and measured influence on the forums.
-We're going to get our eye-candy back asap!
I didn't think Timothy had such big plans for Elysiun, but now I can't wait!
3 hurrays for Timothy Kanters and all the blender community :)
HIP HIP HURRAY
HIP HIP HURRAY
HIP HIP HURRAY
Timothy did a great job at giving us an awesome place to talk with fellow blender users, show things and a lot more. An awesome place for a blender community. I'm looking towards all the new stuff that comes in the future. :)
Keep it all up, I'm enjoying it everyday and just can't imagine what it is without having Elysiun/Blenderartists :D
Good article. Still waiting patiently for those BlenderArtists updates!
Oh, yes, and thanks once again to Timothy for giving us a place to be at when NaN went kapowie! I shiver to think where we (and Blender) would've ended up had it not been for elYsiun.
Great article [email protected], one of my favourites to date. Really nice to get a bit more detail and history in Blenders past. I also didn't realise how great a job Timothy did for the Blender community, GO TIMOTHY! :)
@VididHaze: the article is not mine, but spiderworms :) But I agree with you: I thoroughly enjoyed reading this one as well.
Whoops sorry spiderworm! You deserve the credit and rightly so. :) Great job! (I've been going to this site since the beginning and I'm too used to [email protected] writing everything) :S
VividHazE: No problem! I'm glad you enjoyed it! We'll have to have Bart increase the font size of the article author's name, I suppose ;)
Bart: Maybe a size 52 font would suffice?
Hope you all stay tuned to BlenderNation! There will be more articles in this series coming very soon; I've already got some more interviews lined up with Blender go-getters, and another article already in the works.
spiderworm: I dunno if you mean that font size increase as a joke, but if you all had your own avatars displayed for each article it would be helpful. (or else I could stop being lazy and just check the author name :P)
I check BlenderNation every day this sites the best!
VividHazE: I was joking about size 52 font :) But Bart went ahead and increased it slightly anyways; hopefully it's a little more visible now. Avatars might not be a bad idea. I'll mention it to Bart to see what he thinks.
ah yes, I remember the early days of elysiun :)
For those wanting a bit of a background on the story of elysiun, I had gotten into blender in around 2000, and was raving about it to everyone that I was in contact with. I met Timothy, or Kib_Tph as I will always remember him as, in a Nintendo IRC channel and undoubtedly drove him to insanity with my non-stop rambling about it.
The big news on the horizon was that blender2.0 was coming out, and in anticipation, I eagerly started modelling some 3d futuristic vehicles for a racing game. Elysiun, or should I say, elYsiun, was one of the teams that was in the game, and the original logo was written in a very different font to the one used now, altho the basics where all there, lowercase letters, uppercase Y and the dot from the i on the Y (that was part of the animation, the dot bouncing along).
Me and Timothy decided to start up a website and have all things on there, blender related and also general videogame related. Originally the name for the site, and the team in the racing game, was elysium, which is a greek word I believe, all the team names where greek, but the domain elysium.com was registered, hence the name change.
It was originally hosted on a free account and had an awful design, but it was the first site I'd had a hand in building so it was pretty special. A subsequent redesign made it look alot prettier, and the content focused more on blender.
As the main article stated, it was starting to get a little bit dry, nothing was happening on there, and my own interest in blender was fading. My ancient computer could not run blender2.0 efficiently and I was moving more into programming then design. Timothy asked me to do another redesign, where I came up with the current logo and this design http://web.archive.org/web/20020602174816/http://www.elysiun.com/
Then it all went pear shaped at NaN and the rest, as they say, is history. elYsiun became a major stopover point for the blender crew and even tho I didn't have an active share in the site anymore, I was still pretty proud to see that a site I had at least a small hand in making was so damned popular, and it does make me sad to see the site lose its identity now.
Hey, I'm sorry I didn't get to interview you too for this article :( Thanks so much for adding your side of the story in the comments :) Hope to see you around the Blender community in the future.