Why IP Tech Has Closed Its Doors
A few days back, I closed In Populus Technology down. For those that don't know, that was my hosting and SMF theme/mod commission service, and it did quite well for several years, considering how few people actually use SMF for their role-playing sites nowadays. I realise, however, that I will be disappointing a few people when I say, I'm done. So this long messy post is mostly to explain it to those that haven't pissed me off in some manner, so they understand why exactly I came to this decision. It wasn't one I took lightly, and I'm not doing it to be spiteful (well, maybe somewhat).
Fair warning, this is pretty ranty. I'm done apologising for my feelings so I'm not even sorry.
Once upon a long time ago, in an era now far behind me, I was a doe-eyed socially-awkward youngster that discovered the joy of online social interaction. I never got into anything dangerous, but my mother did, so I was pretty smart about what I did on it. Role-plays were both a creative outlet, and a way for my anxious ass to be able to make friends. It was, and remains, the only means of social interaction my messed up brain is capable of handling; full stop end of story. Going anywhere makes me nervous in reality. I can't even go to the gas station alone most of the time. So one can imagine how happy I was to help others. Obviously, they liked me when I did, and given I so craved approval and someone liking me, yeah, it was magnetic. Up to that point, I'd never actually had someone like me before. One good thing about being so messed up, my particular combination of ways I'm messed up in the head does make me learn very, very fast, and pick up on things like coding at the speed of friggin light. SMF was pretty big back then; everyone wanted to use it, because it was self-hosting without the huge upfront investment IPS was and is, but nobody could crack its secrets.
This sounds boastful, but if you've ever seen my work you know it's really not; I eventually became the best SMF coder in the RP world. I have yet to find evidence anyone knows it as well as I do around here. At this point, I'm also the last one. The joy of helping people, seeing sites that I helped with do well, used to be enough to keep me going and make me keep learning, even when I wanted to just give up. SMF and learning it were never easy, and I had no guide. I had to just dive in screaming yolo and hope for the best, because no one in the RP world knew how it worked, and the official SMF community is elitist as hell. "I can't stop," I'd say to myself. "There are all these other SMF admins that I need to stay on my game for and help out. If I stop making SMF themes and stuff, there'll be no one left to do it anymore." The last remaining decent SMF coder went away about a year or so ago. Now was my time to shine, and I felt like my life was finally just beginning.
But you know what? I'm going to be real for a second. I have basically never personally stepped in and helped someone with a theme or a mod or their board in general, and not had them stab me in the back, or at least slap me in the face, somehow. Every SMF admin that has a husband in IT or server management or networking or... fuck, I think that one just fixed computers, thinks he knows better than I do, and will be a misogynistic turd and she'll let him because she trusts him. I should hope she does, but he never has any inkling of an idea of what the hell he's talking about, and I can usually prove it - being undermined and invalidated in the one thing I do really well, by someone that doesn't even know how to write a basic database query, is frustrating on many levels. Especially since I can't call him out for the dumb prick he is. Oh, they all love me and sing all my praises, sure as can be, until I start having opinions, feelings, or god forbid request something.
I've had people turn against me; straight up drop their site in my lap, and then bail on me to figure it out on my own; lie to me all the time; smear my name all over the internet in any corner they can; call me every name in the book; act like my best friend to my face and then be talking shit on me elsewhere; waste all my time and then blame me for it; go around in godawful circles about what they even want in the first place (and still blame me); treat me like their personal butler here to do their bidding immediately and on the spot when they want something; one posted my full legal name in a very public chatbox on a very large resource site; undermine and invalidate my efforts and skill; rip apart something I made because it wasn't good enough without asking if they can even edit it; steal from me; blatantly and right to my face tell me they are stealing while giving me the full overexcited rundown and details of what they're stealing and how, and expect me to be okay with it; treat me like their personal therapist; talk shit on my friends and their role-playing style; underhandedly and covertly question my intelligence; treat me like I'm a 12 year old; blame me for all their mistakes that mess up their board even though I told them not to do that; ask for my help and then defer to their husband that doesn't actually know what the fuck-all he's doing, because I haven't been doing this work every single day for over ten years or anything, surely he knows better; and basically just piss all over whatever semblance of joy and self-esteem I got from helping others without even the courtesy of calling it rain.
This isn't all one or two people. This is every non-friend I've ever helped. And I've helped a lot of people over the last 10+ years, and they all hit one or more of these unless they were my friend already. I could've handled a couple toxic people out of a larger bunch. All of them? I'm afraid to help people I don't know real well, right now. At all. With anything. No, I really am. Because every dang one I do help turns into a nightmare. And certain genre admins are the most picky, finicky little fucknuggets I've ever had the displeasure of interacting with. I have a site I really like that's looking for staff, and I was going to, but now? Nope. Bruh I got too many trust issues now. Y'all be acting like lil angels and then turn into sociopaths when you don't get your way and the world doesn't conform to you. Sometimes things aren't all rainbows and lollipops. I'm always willing to talk through those times, but I have never had anyone actually talk to me about whatever it is, and work something out. I just immediately became the bad guy.
I have so many horror stories from helping people with their sites that they literally outnumber the ones I have from running a shonen animanga RP with no combat system for 12 years (listen, that's a nightmare; I have mild PTSD-like reactions to some of what that site put me through, and it is the main reason I am now such a hands-on admin, but also I have OCD so that doesn't help, and I wouldn't call myself much of a delicate snowflake). I never intended to stop offering my theme and mod services. In fact, at one time, a personal grand dream of mine was to use the revenue from hosting sites and doing theme commissions to create an official, registered hosting business specifically for SMF. I even started coding an updated new software similar to SMF that meets current web-standards, and has a bunch of features RPs really need by default, because I thought I'd found my tribe and I wanted to shower it with love. I went above and beyond for people, and I suppose my biggest mistake was thinking I was even vaguely valuable to them. Hey, everyone on the internet's expendable, right? If you don't like this person, there are plenty of others. You know what they say about never doing work for your family or friends, because they turn into clients from hell? I had the opposite experience. The only people that weren't a client from hell in some manner were the ones that were already my friend, which basically tells me I was seen as a beneficial accessory. Nobody actually liked me, they just saw an opportunity to get what they wanted with minimal effort. The moment I started having feelings, or boundaries, or even just had a bad day, I wasn't beneficial anymore. There was one that loved to braindump and vent about all their real-life problems and whatnot, more than one actually, two or three, but the moment I actually did it back about something more impactful than my allergies were acting up, woo, hold the phone. No no no, you aren't supposed to be a person, stop right immediately now.
Yeah, that is how that came off. If you don't want the heat, man, don't walk into the kitchen. And it is this mindset that is destroying the RP community, it's not just the SMF people. It's everywhere. I see it everywhere. Nobody cares about anybody else, whatsoever. They're all just text blocks on a webpage, but y'all can be doing some real, serious damage to someone with your selfish bull. Yeah, take care of you; ultimately only you really can. But have some damned common decency and act like your momma raise you right. If I did and said half the crap y'all be doin and sayin my momma like'a pop me in the teeth. Other people aren't here merely for your convenience, and those of us that help others aren't going to tolerate your crap forever. Someday, there won't be anybody left willing to help you, and then where will you be?
I shut down everything, even my RP sites. I don't run any sites now, and I don't intend to anytime soon. I'm not doing requests or commissions anymore, and have absolutely no desire to code. Being blunt, if I ever release the updated version of the SMF Character Manager for 2.0.x, it will not be anytime soon, and it will not be free. I may release some of the themes I have lying around that I'm not using anymore, but those won't be free, either, nor will any of the other mods I still have about. Maybe someday, someone will step up to the plate and fill the gap I'm leaving behind. Maybe not. I'll do my job here at the Initiative, but I'm not doing any more than I have to. I need to take care of me, now, not ungrateful pricks on the internet. Now it's my turn to be a selfish jerk. Maybe I'll have occasion to RP with some of you. I did join a couple sites, and I apologise to them because I am a salty, stressed-out wreck right now.
I'll wrap up this salty, autism-sleepiness-and-ADD-fuelled mess with this. Just because someone isn't talking about it, doesn't mean they're not having a hard time. It just means they're not talking about it. Be kind. Everyone's fighting a battle you know nothing about. Thank you for tolerating my ranting long enough to make it here, and I'm sorry it turned out this way, but I can't do this anymore.