Jan. 30, 2018, 3:33 a.m.
tf2tags launched in January 2011 as a small site coded mostly over Winter break of my senior year of college. TF2 as a game was expanding in new directions and I wanted to be a part of its community and create something that the playerbase could enjoy.
The site slowly grew throughout the years, and even managed to put a few dollars in my pocket, something that I was extremely fortunate to have, if nowhere near enough to actually rely on. However, as the site grew, so did its problems. Technical issues like constantly breaking scripts as the tf2 wiki restructured, learning how to deal with a database table with over a million votes without grinding the site to a halt, and the general incompetence that comes from the site being my first time working with PHP (for the original incarnation) and Python (for the current form). I've certainly been
known for my reluctance to fix site problems, always wanting to move onto something else rather than
come back and deal with my own mistakes like the lack of any notifications for comments, or having to
acquire copies of things like unusual particles as they were added to the game.
The technical upkeep of the site has simply always been unfun, and while I have grown as a programmer in the years since, I always sort of just accepted that this site would always be a nightmare to work with, with hacks on top of hacks whenever things had to change.
But for as many mistakes I had made in code, they paled before the mistakes I made in my role as a community manager. In the earliest days, there were no rules, and I simply expected that item submissions that were just racial slurs would get downvoted into oblivion which obviously was not the case. In these times, there wasn't a community at all. Everything was anonymous, and there were no comments. I wanted there to be a community and set to adding the requisite Steam integration and commenting system. Now people could talk to each other, find out what was being submitted by somebody, and ideally meet some cool people.
I am at least glad that a lot of you have done this. You have an absolutely bizarre to an outsider wiki documenting all of it. You have a Discord. You have a Xyzzy deck. You have made friends and formed bonds on a website where you're limited to fewer characters than Twitter's original incarnation. There's a community here, but it is not the sort of community I had hoped for. There's way more hostility than I had expected, and a rather bizarre to me focus on your total points. I epxected it to be a fun little statistic, rather than this sacred thing where any downvotes become suspicious immediately.
I should have done a lot of things differently. There should have been a staff from day one. There should have been consistantly enforced rules, and punishments for breaking them. There shouldn't have been misses at any point. I should have created a way for the community to talk to each other without having to do so via a picture of a shotgun first. I should have deleted items that weren't "here's a good name for a hat" but rather "hey who wants to play Xyzzy with me". The focus of the site got diluted and the community took over its original purpose.
And it's not the first time I've seen it happen. It happened to nearly all the forums I was a part of when I was in my teens, and I was definitely one of the people that helped make those communities that way. Where they become so insular and agressive to anybody from the outside. Where people aren't going to stick around because they don't feel welcome. I have seen communities collapse from this and I have seen open and approachable communities which thrive. This site was a good idea with terrible execution. When I finall realized just how much of a mess things were, I ran off the site.
I have done several projects since this site, both on my own and with others, and have done my best to not repeat the mistakes I have here. I feel guilty that the site has become what it has, and I feel guilty whenever I try to nudge it in a different direction. So many bans that were met with people clamoring for them to be removed.
For all the hacked up code, the site did get mostly automated, except for the community management which you can never really automate. It felt freeing to not have to be around, but something would always drag me back. A new bug would show up, but it would never be "hey logins aren't working", it would always be "somebody set their name to a blank and starting downvoting everything". There was a time when I could trust people to not go out of their way to make things miserable for everyone else, but now I just have to accept that every issue the site runs into is somebody who wants to ruin things. Submissions of screenshots of vote logs, "missbombs" that are somebody downvoting 10 items and upvoting 8, and it's just so miserable to be dragged back here over and over again for the same thing.
There weren't comment limits before. Votes went from just a number, to anonymous but recored, to just straight up openly published. People would get in touch with me because they were being harassed by other users via steam where I am powerless to do anything or than play with the touchy subject of "should behavior outside of the site be bannable on the site"? It's such a mess. I hate it. It was far too late to try and hide my Steam account, but on several occasions I'd make it private so people would leave me alone. I'd avoid the site for weeks at a time, and realized that it felt good. It felt very good to just walk away and not worry.
When I saw that I had mistakenly used outdated payment info when I renewed the domain, it finally hit me that I could be completely done with the site forever. It felt good once more, knowing that I would not come home to messages on Steam about whoever the latest person was to ruin things for everybody. But I can't in good faith just vanish the site without a trace, erase its entire history, and leave its users fractured and without any way to reach each other if they didn't already have one. So that's why I decided to give you some time.
On January 16th, 2019 the domain name will once again expire, and this time, there will be no return. tf2tags is shutting down for good.
The shutdown does not need to be a plug being pulled. It can go differently if there are people in the community who want to keep it alive. I have posted the awful (and I do mean awful) code for the site to GitHub
. The code also includes a copy of the database from a few days ago if that helps to work with it. I strongly suggest that any attempts to take over tf2tags be done by creating a new site rather than working with the existing code for reasons better detailed in the repository's readme.
Should an alternative site be created within this year, I will gladly provide a up to date database dump. I am also willing to transfer ownership of the tftags.com domain as well. Other than that, I do not wish to be contacted. It is up to you now.
Thank you for the fun times when the times were still fun.