10 years ago, my humble website vrotvrot.com contained a number of Blender tutorials. Many Blenderheads started their journey there in those days - do you still remember A Ride in the Mines, Cutting through steel or the High-Tech Corridor? (See the full list here for some nostalgia ;-)
In 2000 and 2001 I worked for Ton at Not a Number and I became one of the earliest 'Community Managers' in the world. We had no idea what that meant, but during those two years we discovered that community building was all about sharing community stories and amplifiying community members' voices. Our weekly Community Journal was the predecessor of BlenderNation if you like.
After NaN's bankruptcy and several years later, I found that I missed reading those community stories. Sure, people posted about their work, but there was no central place where you could read up about the awesome art, development and tutorials that was created in the community. It was time for a new Community Journal.
So on January 3, 2006 I wrote:
It has been years since I have last updated my website. To my astonishment, still over 300 people visit each day and I figured I need to put in some more effort. I still need to integrate the layout of my tutorials with the rest of this site, but we'll see where this goes :-)
I installed a copy of WordPress and started collecting stories. Slowly at first, but always at least one story a day. Here's the earliest copy I could still find on the Internet Archives, from February 6, 2006. The format still looks very familiar, doesn't it? :)
On February 4, 2006 I had already decided that this wasn't just a 'vrotvrot' project anymore, but that it needed its own name: BlenderNation.
And the project certainly went somewhere! As I'm writing post number 9,595 now, BlenderNation averages 10,000 unique readers per day. In those ten years, I think I haven't missed posting on more than 10 days - like in the days after my son and daughter were born. The numbers of comments on those pages still warm my heart.
Another thing I always enjoyed (a little mischievous perhaps) was what people came to refer to as the 'BlenderNation effect'. Many sites were 'BlenderNationed' back then - ones I posted about some project, the immense amount of traffic would kill unprepared webservers within minutes. Usually to their owners delight ;-)
Another awesome side effect of running this site is meeting people internationally (I frequent quite a lot of 3D and 3D Printing events), learning that they are Blender users and finally learning that they're fans of BlenderNation! My favourite story about this is working for three days on a 3D Print show with a volunteer and only at the very very end he learned who I was and he freaked out :) Other people traveled for hours with their entire family to have a chance to meet me at a meetup. It still amazes me :)
I mostly run BlenderNation on my own, with help from a group of volunteers that is always in flux. These days, I post between 4 and 8 articles a day and that takes me between one and two hours of work. My day starts with coffee and BlenderNation - before my real job kicks in, and it usually ends late in the evening with the last posts. It's become both a habit and an addiction - checking my mailbox and social media for new stories is always a lot of fun :) Still, it has also become real 'work' and I always appreciate some financial support - some options, like starting your Amazon visits on my affiliate links, don't cost you anything but they really do help! For a full overview of how you can help, see the Supporting BlenderNation page.
All in all it has been a very fulfilling ten years and I feel truly proud that I've been able to provide you this 'home' for your Blender stories. I'll certainly keep it up for another 10!
But enough about me - I'd also love to hear your stories about BlenderNation! What does it mean to YOU? Do you have any cool stories to share about BlenderNation? Did an article about your work ever REALLY help you, like land a project or a job? I'd love to hear what your side of the site looks like :)
Thanks so much for being such loyal readers!