By now, if you’re a truly dedicated ACB devotee, you’ve probably discovered the new WesACB. To recap: Peter Frank sold CollegeACB.com to people who eventually turned it into Blipdar. To say the least, Blipdar fell below Wesleyan students’ standards.
Now, an anonymous hero(ine) has crafted a solution. Hosted at WesACB.net, this reincarnation of the ACB emulates the aesthetics and functions of our recently beloved version. If you take a look at some recent threads, it seems to be getting along pretty well by ACB standards:
To be fair, there are also the more intellectual and useful posts people actually admit to reading, like the summer’s must read books. (Now that you’ve clicked on these links, judged everyone involved, and then posted yourself) we at Wesleying have gotten hold of the administrator of the new ACB. While we’re a blog and serious journalism sounds scary (I’m no Wilkinson), we know there’s nothing Wesleyan students take more seriously than the ACB. Every new owner brings with hir interesting views and policies, so I suggest you click to read more.
WESLEYING: Are there any identifying factors you’re willing to share?
ADMIN: I’m a rising senior. Not even remotely a CS major.
WESLEYING: What’s your background in web design and programming, etc.? Have you taken classes, learned on your own time, or are you maybe just a genius?
ADMIN: I’ve been ‘coding’ (HTML and CSS, at least) since the fourth grade. That was the year I went to computer camp during fall break and hosted my first-ever website on expage.com. I’ve been active on forums for about as long; today, I still keep in touch with a few kids I met on the first forum I ever frequented. Blogging isn’t really my style, not even the sort of content-light microblogging that goes on at Tumblr and Twitter. But I’ve been intrigued by the architecture of websites from a very early age.
I never took any classes in programming. PHP is a scripting language with extensive documentation on the web. This makes it extraordinarily easy to learn it by simply studying source code, so long as you have a rudimentary background in HTML and an aptitude for figuring systems out. And the motivation to learn, I guess. The syntax for MySQL, which is the type of database WesACB uses, is even more intuitive and self-explanatory.
WESLEYING: How did you get into this? Was blipdar’s awfulness the sole motivator?
ADMIN: No, I had been planning to make a new ACB as soon as the new owners removed the search engine on the old CollegeACB site. By that point the server was returning HTTP errors every other time you tried to access it, and it seemed obvious that they removed the most resource-intensive feature of the site because they did not have the know-how to optimize it. It so happened that the most resource-intensive feature was also perhaps the most useful feature, and it was a real pain in the ass to not be able to search for professors’ names during Drop/Add. Any webmaster with a real background in programming and a passion for ensuring the functionality of their site would have figured out a way to make the search engine take less of a toll on the server, but instead they scrapped the feature and eventually the whole forum it was hosted on. I suspect this played a large role in why they moved the database to a crudely hacked version of vBulletin, which has a good enough native search engine that they didn’t have to put any extra thought into it.
Basically, it had been clear that things were in decline for a while, and the only way it was ever gonna be fixed was if somebody took action. If you’ve been a Wesleyan student at any point in the last two or three years, you know that state of the ACB is serious shit: it’s an undeniably enormous part of campus culture. I had been in discussions with an alum to program a new site since around early March, but I doubt I ever would have found the motivation to actually do so had the new owners not fumbled so hard with Blipdar.
WESLEYING: Were you a dedicated fan of the old WesACB on CollegeACB.com?
ADMIN: Oh, absolutely. With reservations, of course. I don’t think anyone can purely be a “fan” of user-generated content, at least in any sense of the word that retains its typical usage. But the ACB has provided an extraordinarily entertaining, often hilarious platform for students’ voices for as long as I’ve been here.
WESLEYING: What’s your favorite thing about the ACB, if any?
ADMIN: I suppose if you own this sort of site you’re supposed to say something like “oh, all the nice threads where students show their common humanity and are good and sweet to each other,” which is the goofy platitude that’s been circulating since even before the Peter Frank days. Actually my favorite threads are the fiery discussions, where everybody is mad at each other. Especially when they’ve got something to do with classism. You get to watch these long-standing ideological debates play out between riled-up commenters who, for all you know, could be living in the room next to yours. And anonymity means you can play devil’s argument without consequence.
WESLEYING: How exactly did you design the site and make it look like the familiar old ACB?
ADMIN: I used a minimalist message board I programmed from scratch between 2003-2004 as the base. I “skinned” the old ACB HTML/CSS over the thread and message list pages, converted it to anonymous posting, added a Captcha and did various other things I’ve since forgot – mostly security stuff. For instance, there’s a script that wipes out old IP addresses from the database that I’ll install as soon as I can get IIS to run a quasi-Crontab application. Oh, and I added the Private Messaging system, which works exactly the way the old ACB’s PM system used to work. As far as the old layout goes, all that stuff is retrievable on archive.org. And a WesACB user who will go unnamed (thanks dude!) helped a lot by sending me a cached copy of the message list screen.
WESLEYING: Do you plan on making any improvements or significant changes to the site?
Which, by the way, I’ve changed my approach to moderation significantly from that of the olden days. Everything will remain the same except that I’m actually going to delete personal attacks now. This doesn’t mean attacks on institutions, performances, works of art and the like – for instance, “everyone in [Frat] is [stereotype],” “the WSA sucks,” “such-and-such thesis film by so-and-so was awful, and so-and-so couldn’t act.” It does mean that flat out insults on an individual’s person or character that are tangential to anything the person is doing visibly on campus – which, as far as I’m concerned, includes the namedrop slut-shaming threads that seem to pop up every other day – will be removed. Obviously this style of moderation will rely upon extremely nuanced and context-sensitive value judgments, but I don’t want to hamper anyone’s discussion of goings-on around campus. In the vast majority of cases, as long as you’re not straight up dissing current students or recently graduated alums by name, out of nowhere and for no good reason, your post will stay up. So far there have been over 340 replies and I’ve removed one thread and one reply, to give you an idea of how severely this policy will crib the content influx.
WESLEYING: Do you know Peter Frank? Have you told him about your project, or do you know what he thinks of it?
ADMIN: I’ve never met him but I’d like to think that he’ll be on the look-out for me next semester, so that any time we cross paths it’ll be something like this. (I’m Avon Barksdale in this example.)
WESLEYING: I’m sure you’ve heard the various complaints about the ACB. Many people think it’s a worthless gossip site, it’s derogatory, etc. What do you have to say for that?
ADMIN: I agree, it’s a piece of shit. I love it, though, and it’s hard to stay away from it during the school year. There’s a ton of content that’s not totally inflammatory and awful, as displayed by the signal to noise ratio I just supplied in terms of how many messages I’ve deleted to date. Every owner of the ACB so far has claimed to want to get rid of the noise, but no one has actually attempted to do it until now. Worst case scenario, it turns out no one wants an ACB where you can’t call your classmate a fat retardo bitch slut and everyone moves to a new ACB for the expressed purpose of doing so. But if that happens, good luck recycling the “I’m a nice admin who only likes the good parts of the ACB” routine.
WESLEYING: It seems that you had some hosting trouble. Why did that originate? Has it been resolved?
ADMIN: It originated from Blipdar sending dubiously legal DMCA reports to the original host I was using, necessitating a change of hosts. My current host is awesome but I’m currently in talks with another Wes student to have it hosted on his server so that Blipdar will have to do more than whine to get rid of the site. Which, by the way, if the site goes down any time in the next couple of days it would almost certainly be because of that, but it seems like we’re in the clear. I’m gonna make the HTML/CSS all original before long anyway, so that even if Blipdar has a case to stand upon in the present – and they haven’t substantiated one so far, at least not from what I can tell – it won’t have any bearing upon the ACB in the future.
WESLEYING: What are the costs like? Do you plan on putting up advertisements, asking for donations, or applying from funds from somewhere?
The costs are nothing because I’m using Bill Gates’s deal for anyone with an .edu address which provides free hosting, free IIS 7 software (which sucks compared to just doing it with Apache but oh well), and a huge-ass monthly bandwidth allocation. And when the site is shifted to its final, Wes-student-owned server in the next couple of days, that will also be free. The domain name was ten bucks – that’s been my entire monetary investment into this project so far.
Eventually I’ll set up a PayPal donation thing, but I don’t want to do that until I’m completely happy with the way the site is designed and run, so that I don’t feel like I’m asking for an undue reward.
Advertisements are an abomination and I’d sooner scrap the whole website before I put one on my page. Never ever. Besides, I’d be a hypocrite to rely upon ads for cash – I’ve been using Adblock since before it was Adblock Plus. If you’ve never tried Adblock Plus, I seriously recommend Googling it and checking it out. It brings a whole different meaning to “Congratulations, you’ve won.”
WESLEYING: Are you going to take steps to protect peoples’ information? For example, is there a robots.txt?
ADMIN: Yes, there’s a robots.txt and a meta-link within the pages themselves telling robots to fuck off. Passwords are encrypted, of course, and I’m looking into a way to efficiently encrypt/decrypt e-mails, private messages, and the like – i.e., anything that wouldn’t normally be visible to someone who isn’t logged in – such that these are useless for anyone who retrieves info through SQL injection and a pain-in-the-ass for the proverbial sysadmin to snoop through. Also I’ve added oodles of little security things throughout the source code, and I will continue to do so, because security matters when you’re running an ‘anonymous confession board.’ Did I already bring up the Cronjob-scheduled purging of sensitive info? I’ll be doing that too.
WESLEYING: If you had to encapsulate the ACB in the name of a real band, what would it be?
ADMIN: Public Image, Ltd. or Shadowy Man on a Shadowy Planet.
WESLEYING: Why be anonymous? If you do unveil your identity, when do you think you might do that?
ADMIN: Because I want this thing to be about the thing instead of about me and my flaws. Either it succeeds on its own terms or not at all. Whether I’m Peter Frank or the Dalai Lama is ultimately a distraction from how the content is managed and whether everything’s in working order. Also, since I’m going to be committed to deleting personal attacks, having a public presence will make me even more open to empty accusations of bias than I already am. (Hint: I’ve never met or even heard of any of the people I’ve ‘defended’ from ‘defamation’ so far.) But I’ll put myself out there before long. It’s kinda fun servicing the whole Wes community without it being a vanity thing right now.
I’m sure you all can figure out where you might be able to ask more questions.