Relaunching Pitas.com, a 20-year old blogging community
Relaunching Pitas.com, a 20-year old blogging community
I'm relaunching Pitas.com, a blogging community and tool that people need right now.
I'm relaunching Pitas.com, a blogging community and tool that people need right now. Read more
Hi I want 20 thousand bucks, and I know I should make a Kickstarter video, but I don't really want to. I'll do that if this gets halfway to the goal.
I found out about blogs in I guess 1998 or so, before "blog" was actually a word. I had a domain (benicetobears.com) where I tried to write something every day, and one day I had the idea that an easy source of content would be to just post every link I visited. I created a little Perl script that let me add a link and a little comment, and it would add it to a static .html file.
After doing this for a week, a friend of mine emailed me saying "Nice WEBLOG", or something like that. I always took is as being sort of vaguely sarcastic, although I never asked. I had only heard the word Weblog in relation to actual logs that tracked who visited your website, but as soon as I read his email, I realized that Weblog must have a second meaning.
I forget if I asked my friend or just checked Hotbot, but it didn't take long to figure out that there were indeed a handful of people doing similar things to what I was. Some may have been around a while, I don't know, I didn't get into that many of them. Any time I'd check out other weblogs, there wouldn't be much I was interested in, it was mostly posts about literature, polyamory and XML.
People started reading my page and I enjoyed doing it, and it was so easy because of the script I wrote. This was obviously before you could just find any good blogging software or anything.
At some point, I realized that it wouldn't be that hard to make a service where anyone could keep a weblog like mine. I wasn't that great at programming, and I made a special trip to the bookstore and bought a couple of O'Reilly books that explained MySQL and Perl better. I sat in my basement apartment for months, reading these and learning to program a dynamic website. It was really hot and sweaty, and I remember that one day, my landlord (who lived upstairs) stopped by because he hadn't seen me in a while, and he pointed out there were plastic sheets covering the window, and that I could remove them and get some air in the apartment, which was a big relief. This doesn't really affect the story, I just wanted to point out how dumb I was.
I started programming the actual website, and at some point, I decided that it would be called Pitas. I already owned Pitas.com, because I used to look up domains when I was bored, and bought that one (so many good domains were still available then, and I decided against buying numerous domains that I saw sold later for big money, because I thought "Well if nobody owns this by 1998, it's never going to be worth anything" - great call).
I don't know when I launched the site, I'm not great with dates, but I think spring of 1999 or so. I had built up a personal mailing list of about 2000 people (it may have been less at the time), where I'd frequently send out long newsletters, and once the site was ready, I emailed it telling everyone to check out Pitas.com
Hundreds of people signed up on the first day (which was a very large amount back then for a new site), and I got a lot of comments from the general world of webloggers (which had grown by this point to be at least a few dozen people I was aware of). One person tried to be snarky and say I had created "The Geocities of weblogs", and I was insanely happy with that description, because that was my dream result. One higher profile weblog guy said the project was clearly a joke or stunt, because of the name, which left me extremely confused, because I had never heard anyone use P.I.T.A. to mean "pain in the a**". I don't know if I was a hayseed, or if that term just never got to Canada, but I remember immediately hating it. It sounded like something some 70's Archie Bunker type would say, or one of those I.T. guys who said stuff like "Hmm, seems like you have a RTFM problem.. look that one up". Again, this has nothing to do with this Kickstarter, I'm just in a remembering-the-90s kind of mood I guess.
Pitas got fairly big, for that era of website. There really wasn't much else like it, definitely nothing that I knew of. I know other people were working on similar things, and for instance the people who created Blogger all signed up for Pitas on the first day (some were on my mailing list I think). I think Livejournal started around the same time, but sort of operated with a whole different niche of users for a while, and didn't even have post-editing capabilities at whatever time I first heard of it (I think). Dave Winer had some software going I never understood at all, it seemed like it was all "outliners" that apparently you could blog on, I never got that.
Anyhow Pitas was cool, a lot of people joined, and they were mostly cool and normal, and a lot of people had really good weblogs there. Nobody wrote much about XML, which was a relief, although there was still a lot of stuff there that I never got around to figuring out. Like Electroclash, remember that thing? Still don't know what it was, the name sounded too bad to bother.
Pitas topped off around I think 300,000 or 400,000 users. Later in 1999, I started Diaryland, which hit much harder and got over 2 million users. I ran both these sites (and some other ones) for a long time. In 2004 or 2005, I spent a lot of time on a deal to sell the sites, but the company involved just peaced out at the last minute and bought Livejournal instead, and I lost a lot of heart in running them.
I have kept Diaryland running steadily, and people still use it, but I shut off editing capabilities for Pitas a while ago. The user sites are all still up though.
WHY IS PITAS THE BEST BLOGGING PLATFORM
The whole point behind Pitas was, and is, being a simple way to blog. You just open the site, type something into the entry box, and click POST.
Pitas will still be simple, and very usable. I've used so many blogging platforms that are kind of a mess, and I'll be avoiding all of that.
WHY PITAS NOW
I've had a number of people ask about Pitas lately, for some reason. I got thinking that it was such a fun site, it was just a really great format to create fun content, and there was a really good, cool community going.
What's more though, there's an actual need out there for an easy blogging platform that isn't polluted with Nazis, bots, psychotic political operatives looking to steal data, etc. A nice fun place to blog and chat with other people, that's all we want, right?
WHAT ABOUT PRIVACY
Also, all this stuff about having to use your real name online all the time - it stinks. Big social networking companies love you to use your own name, even if you're just talking about recipes or cameras or something boring, because it's so, so good for them (but not necessarily you). If Facebook has your real name, they can tell everyone else "Hey, your friend Jogn Smiph is also on Facebook and is talking about Icelandic cookies", and they get more people to connect with each other, which makes their site bigger and stronger. But what if you just want to chill out and do something fairly anonymously, and you don't want to worry about your persona, your image, your avatar, etc.? There are less and less choices out there, which is a bummer.
I've never sold, or given away a single byte of user data for any site I've ever run, and I always require the absolute minimum of information to get users up and running. Pitas will not have any ads or other forms of bad privacy-invading tracker garbage. It's just a website you use to blog, that's all. There will be no trackers on here, logging all your behavior and selling all your info.
WHAT ABOUT NAZIS
I guess if the site gets infested by Nazis we'll probably not do anything about it for 10 years, then make a bunch of wimpy statements, do nothing, maybe finally request free help from the community and still do nothing about it.
Just kidding, their asses will be kicked off immediately.
LET'S DO IT
I want to bring back Pitas, and keep it running for good, and I need $20,000 to work on this. My sincere hope is that I get way more and can really devote serious, serious time to this, but I think 20,000 is the correct number to do this correctly, and continue to keep it running a long time.
I know that a lot of the early users will still want to use the site, and I'm hoping that new people will also want to get in on the project. What I'm saying here is that I need you to give me all the money you can, please.
Can you get your original Pitas username back? The answer is: Probably. When you back this Kickstarter, you get the chance to prove who you were on the original Pitas. I'll check the original database and other sources to make sure you're legit, and you can have your username back.
From a technical standpoint, Pitas is not that complicated. I hate to say this, but if you've ever used Tumblr, the interface for that site is very similar to what Pitas was (at least the last time I tried Tumblr, several years ago).
The original Pitas just let you post text, and if you wanted to upload images, you had to host them elsewhere, but that's because hosting images could run to serious money back then, which isn't so much the case now. So the new Pitas will let you post images, text, whatever. Just an easy website where you go, post some text or an image, and it shows up on your blog.
Rewards-wise, backing this project will give you early access, as well as a paid membership. Pitas will still have a free tier upon relaunch, but the paid tiers will give you more features, etc. I'm sure you've used freemium services and know the deal with this.
Risks and challenges
There aren't many risks to this project. I've been doing programming for 20 years now, and I'm pretty good at it I think. I also have a very, very solid grasp on building web apps, that will let me create the site at quite a reasonable speed.
To me, the biggest risk is that nobody will back this project, and I will be humiliated, and forced to slink off. I know that to you, the person just reading this Kickstarter page, that doesn't seem that bad.
To me though, as the guy potentially slinking off, it seems extremely bad, and even as I type this final bit of the write-up, I am not sure if I should really try to get this campaign going.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)