A warning before you proceed. I'm about to write War and Peace here, so if you really wanna read all this, get ready for some long reading.
The spirit and modus operandi of Sanctuary is actually old. Very old. If you REALLY wanna get picky about it, it actually probably started with the U.S. Bill of Rights, but let's restrain our scope to the old BBS systems of the 90's and onward. It all started with a BBS network started in the San Francisco Bay area. NIRVANANet. This network was operated by three sysops with mostly the same goals in mind, but we're gonna focus on one sysop and one BBS in particular. Jeff Hunter's "& The Temple of the Screaming Electron", or &TOTSE for short.
&TOTSE focused on the acquisition and storage of text files of all kinds. Text files containing information, stories, recipes, etc. This later expanded into a full-blown internet forum in 1997 and the BBS was shut down in 1998. The other BBS' died but TOTSE survived and, more than that, grew constantly. The community called themselves totseans, and the site became dedicated to the sharing of information. A place where anything could be discussed with certain rules.
^ That's the first incarnation of it. This was posted on its front page:
A lot of people have some weird idea that this web site is a Bad Place, a place for hackers, software pirates, and anarchists. The reason that they think this is that there are informational text files on here about hacking, piracy, and anarchy.
However, there are also text files on here that discuss politics; democratic, right wing, left wing, libertarian, communist, and everything in between, but this is not a political web site.
There are files on here that discuss Jesus Christ, Muhammed, Buddha, Crowley, John Smith, and "Bob", but this is not a religious web site.
There are files full of short stories, science fiction, humorous articles, and great works of literature, but this is not a literary web site.
There are files with information on rocketry, radio broadcasting, chemistry, electronics, genetics, and computers, but this is not a technical web site.
This web site is about INFORMATION. All sorts and all viewpoints. Some of the information you will agree with, some you will find shocking, and some you will probably disagree with violently. That is the whole point. In this society we go to schools where there is one right answer: The Teacher's. There is one acceptable version of events: The Television's. There is only one acceptable occupation: The pursuit of money. There is only one political choice to make: Republicrats (Or Demopublicans, if you prefer.)
On this web site you are expected to make decisions all by yourself. You get to decide who and what to agree with, and why. You get to hear new viewpoints that you may have never heard before. On this web site people exist without age, without skin color, without gender, without clothes, without nationality, without any of the visual cues we usually use to discredit or ignore people who are unlike ourselves. All of these things are stripped away and the ideas themselves are laid bare.
You will change. You will transform. You will learn. You will disagree.
You will enjoy it.
Later on, it evolved slightly to be about freedom of speech as well. The later incarnations of it had the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution pasted front and center on its home page:
It seems at first glance that TOTSE was just an interesting site, but somehow as you used the site more and more, it kind of grows into a way of thinking. Of opening your mind up to new experiences more, even if you might reject them later. That's partly what being a true totsean meant. Now, I don't want to romanticize TOTSE too much. It did have some faggotry. In such a popular and loose environment, there were douches posting crap. Spam. Edgelords. Hacking. The usual idiocy. That crap did happen, but I will say it definitely wasn't unmoderated and such idiocy was laughed at and looked down upon.
The site managed to straddle the bleeding edge of freedom of speech and anarchy. It was right in the sweet spot between too much control and not enough. And that was the golden years of TOTSE. It would last from 1989 all the way to 2009 when Jeff Hunter finally shut the site down for good. This is the start of the decline.
On January 17th, 2009, Jeff Hunter, the owner of TOTSE, shut down the site with nothing but a somewhat enigmatic TTFN (Ta-Ta For Now) post for explanation:
Not only were we left without a main backup of the site data, we had VERY little time to organize a replacement, with us all having to crowd onto either Zoklet or totse2. None of us were happy. All of us were pissed at Jeff Hunter. Now I started with totse2, so I'm kinda biased towards that, but basically how it went was that Zoklet got the majority of the userbase and totse2 got the lesser part. Very basically.
Now again, totse2, in my opinion, was actually a great site. Plenty of good times there. I grew up a lot there too. Learned some valuable online lessons. Got hardened up. Continuing on though, during the latter years of totse2's life, someone submitted a text file to our public collection that was a Shake and Bake meth recipe. Over time, this text began to attract all manner of cooks, methheads, wannabe cooks, and etc. to the site. Finally, a disgruntled long-time user of ours began to DDoS the site majorly. And the host of the site didn't like that one bit.
So the site was null-routed and they give the head admin (easy-e) a choice. Either pay to upgrade or GTFO. And with the pressure he was already facing with all the methheads and the other members, he finally snapped and just stopped replying to everyone that was on the site completely. And I mean everyone. Even his fellow admin in command (Idiosyncrasy) got the shaft. So we lost all the site files since the head admin was the one who had control of the hosting. The only thing Idio could salvage from the site was the vBulletin license. (This will be a little important later on.) And thus, after 5 years, the age of totse2 finally ended.
A little bit passed after totse2 was shut down. During this time, I asked all the old members if anyone would be willing to host a replacement site for us at all but no one either could or would do it. I also began to search the internet high and low for an equivalent site we could migrate to but I found nothing that suited our needs. Finally, I came to the realization that if I wanted to see totse2 again or an equivalent of it, I would have to do it all myself. And thus, on May 9th 2014, Sanctuary was first born.
Now, I wasn't the most qualified person at all to start up a website. I could edit programs but I couldn't actually write them myself. I could do a little bit of art in a graphics editor but it was hardly professional level work. And I only knew the bare basics of networking. Nevertheless, there was a gap and I needed to fill it. So I had to learn. Quickly. I started out with SMF 2.0.7 as my forum software and got a nice host in the Netherlands instead of a US one for numerous reasons, most of them having to do with legal liability. We started pretty strong and attracted most all of our members back in some way or another and soon began to build upon the site, modding it here and there and beginning to refine the site rules.
Then, one day, Zoklet was suddenly shut down by none other than Zok himself, stating he did so because of health reasons and just general tiredness I think. And so, users from there had to migrate over to our site. Of course, some more members were lost in the migration as they always are but the userbase we inherited was still pretty formidable. But this userbase would later turn out to be much more of an infection than a blessing.
When we got the Zoklet userbase, we were a little overwhelmed as we didn't really have the manpower to keep watch over everything all the time nor did we really have the rules yet to deal with them. As time went on though, this became less and less of a problem as we refined more rules and got more staff that I thought I could trust completely to handle things. I also continued to improve the site and add features to it.
However, there began to be some dissent among the new Zoklet users. Complaints began to rise quickly. Complaints about bans, complaints about a topic getting moved, complaints about the forum software, complaints about pretty much everything... And with that came the hate and the garbage posting. And not just that, we were getting attacks. DDoS's (our host actually dealt with these like a boss), flooding, and child porn spam. (Every time I saw it, I had to cleanse my eyes with flaming gasoline.)
Me and the staff did begin to finally reign it all in after a bit but soon, Idiosyncrasy began to ask around if people would like an alternative to the Sanctuary and he asked for my help. Now, I didn't approve of making any more splinter sites, period, as I did not want to fracture the userbase even more but Idio was a good guy and if I wanted anyone behind a splinter site at all, it would be him. And he had a shiny vBulletin license as well. So, I let him advertise on my site. After he started it up, the inevitable happened with some the userbase breaking off to post at RDFRN. However, this was partly a good thing as RDFRN took with it a lot of the dumb drama and things began to look up.
What I'm about to post now is a summation I gave to another member of the most recent events that happened. Rocklin is a longtime totse2 member and was a moderator at Sanctuary. hc45 is a novice cracker and a pedophile (self-proclaimed), Sigma or, more properly, S is also a veteran member of totse2 and a moderator at Sanctuary as well.
I don't remember all the details exactly so I may have some things wrong a little but to basically summarize it up as best as I can, Rocklin made a TTFN thread on Sanctuary, I agreed with the reason he posted for leaving Sanctuary and wrote that I was going to try something small. (Forum specializations under one's name.) People asked about it and the thread got off-topic. Rocklin then called out everyone responsible for putting the thread off-topic including me. Sigma got into an argument with the users in the thread. Flipped out and started abusing his power, modding such wonderful members as hc45 who of course immediately flooded the forums with CP. And then started deleting THOUSANDS of threads under the impression that they would be lost forever. And also started deleting as many members as he could. And he's doing all this, not knowing that I kept daily backups of everything. So I restored the most recent backup. Sigma comes on RDFRN before I restore it though, makes an account of a person pretending to be him and then claims his account got hacked with his original account.
I verify his old account with his email and keep him modded, believing him. He does it all again. And again before I finally learn the truth that Sigma really was doing all this. Later, I find out Rocklin was helping him all along as well. Planning this thing out. I don't know how long he was though. Something tells me almost ever since RDFRN was created.
And so, after all that, around December 15th 2014, I finally decide to close down the site and post http://www.rdfrn.com/showthread.php?456-Nothing-Will-Change/ in explanation. (Site is down for good now as well. Idio had his PI exposed by this wonderful community and he got scared.) I do have the thread saved though. This is what I posted in the OP:
I've been thinking about things very long and hard these past couple days and I've finally decided what needs to be done. The truth, guys, is...
I'm done... If you guys are really going to back up someone who has just went behind my back to create chaos, delete massive amounts of content people have made, and let sick CP porn be posted "for the lulz..." I'm just done. I'm done explaining... I'm done being continually hated on by most EVERYONE for trying to fix things... Wanting to trust people to have a little bit of courtesy. I'm done with the immaturity... I'm done with people trying to look kewl...
I'm not gonna be your guys' whipping boy nor am I going to host RDFRN's "garbage bin" anymore. You guys can have the members and the kidiots now...
And none of the threads or the posts or the software. That all stays with me. I'm keeping what little I have to salvage from all this to myself. I'm also keeping the domain and will renew it regularly. You guys want me out, you got it. But you're not getting any of my hard work or the hard work other members have put into this site. There does indeed seem to be some good people left here and if I knew absolutely that some of you wouldn't give out the database to the other douchebags, I would give it to you as a parting farewell. But I don't know. And it's incredibly apparent now that I can't trust anyone anymore around here.
The time and money I devoted to all of you... I did my best but it just doesn't seem to ever be enough...
A long time ago, I used to call a lot of you guys friends... Now... What do we all have now? Nothing but hate, idiocy, and rot all around. No patience... No tolerance... Just stupid immature drama and petty games worthy of high school. Oh, and child porn. But hey, that stuff brings the lulz, right guise?
After thinking about all this for a while, it suddenly became clear to me that Sanctuary cannot grow with this core of members. There's too many terrible members in it from both the Zoklet and totse2 past communities. Too many people who want things their way. Too many people who just won't let things go and post. If Sanctuary had much more members and a steady influx, this wouldn't have mattered nearly as much. But starting out with this... Maybe I could have gotten it to all work somehow but I think it's too late anyway. It looks like I need to cut all my losses and make a clean break with this past.
Sanctuary is not dead. But it will be moving away completely and permanently. I will be shutting it down and most likely moving to another undisclosed domain. It may be a long while before I start the site back up again but if I do, I don't really plan to have any members from RDFRN or past Sanctuary on it. I will be scouting around for a while, looking in many different places. Looking for quality members and gathering them together for a new project of sorts. I already have a few in mind. Then launching the site again once I feel we have enough people to start. Away from all... This.
And now, this is where we part ways. To all who truly wished Sanctuary to continue and/or the real quality members, I'm sorry. I just can't do it anymore though.
The rest of you guys can screenshot this for your history books and post it in another quality thread. "arcox ragequits SO MAD LOL"
And that was the end of Sanctuary v1.0. The v1.0 community moved over to the niggasin.space site that is run by Lanny (who I think was Aldra). But this ride's not over yet. Get ready for...
If the days of Sanctuary v1.0 were marked with turbulence and in-fighting, then the v2.0 days can safely be marked with the opposite problem. So after the mess that was the end of v1.0, I mostly posted on a site called The Escapist afterwards. But things were not so great in the town of the Escapist either. Namely, the maintainers and content contributers of the site were all let go by Defy Media, the business that owned the Escapist at the time, except for one, and the maintainers were all let go as well, leaving the forum in the hands of the volunteer moderators pretty much. But there was little they could do, having no access to the site backend. And so, during the worst of the glitches and errors that were cropping up with alarming regularity, I decided to come out of my semi-retirement and reopen Sanctuary as a refuge for any members of the Escapist who actually wanted a working site.
Not everyone took kindly to this though. Some of the users there accused me of trying to poach members from the Escapist. (A little true.) But then, what was the Escapist anymore? Just a dead husk in almost every sense of the term, and everyone knew it. All the contributers that made it what it was and the things that I loved were all gone. And I'm sorry, but I do not feel guilty for trying to rescue members from a dying site that was on its last legs. I'm not going to pretend my motives were entirely selfless, but at the same time, I wouldn't have brought Sanctuary up at all if I wasn't willing to take care of the remaining community or if I didn't have the knowledge and resources to do so.
But I did have the knowledge, and I most certainly had the resources. So, after running a forum poll for a few days to gauge interest, I dusted off the domain, resurrected the site, cleaned out everything from the community of Sanctuary v1.0, and reopened it to anyone who wanted to join on May 8th 2018. Thankfully, we did get a surge of members, but not as many as I'd hoped. But we all seemed to believe in the site, and for me, that was enough. As the months went by, I renovated the forum a bit, and began to start making content for it. We started with Twitch but quickly dropped it due to numerous issues.
During this time, the Escapist was finally bought out and the rights transferred to someone else, that someone else being Russ Pitts. While not too relevant to our story here, this transfer made me somewhat optimistic for the existing Escapist community, and if the site was good enough, I might have even closed Sanctuary down and moved back over. But alas, it was not. After the announcement of the buyout, the site began to get somehow even worse, and remained like that for some months.
Coming back to our story, I began to ask around as to what people didn't like about Sanctuary as it was. There were some complaints about the overall (supposedly) dated forum design and the logo plus our general modus operandi. Specifically, that a forum dedicated to freedom of speech and information was just not a good sell without the users to back it up. And we certainly didn't have the users to back it up. Thus, it was decided that we would be focusing on a singular subject or subjects, and would be upgrading to a paid forum solution. XenForo.
XenForo was not a random choice. At the time, my absolute favorite forum software was vBulletin 4.x. Also, XenForo was developed by the same developers who did vBulletin 3.x and some of 4.x as well. And finally, out of the many pieces of forum software there were available, XF always seemed to come out on top with glowing user reviews. So of course, XenForo 2.0 was chosen. I can tell you as well that I haven't had any regrets with it since, and it's now my new favorite piece of forum software.
But this isn't an advertisement piece for XF, so moving on, on November 8th 2018, SMF 2.0 was swapped out for XenForo 2.0, our server was been upgraded from simple web-hosting to a VPS, and all the old content was transferred. I was also able to finally bring back Sanctuary v1.0 in archive mode for anyone who wanted to view it. It's been years now since that mess happened, so I decided it was finally time for it to see the light of day again.
And then on January 1st, 2019, we officially became Sanctuary 3.0, and the final list of additions and changes was quite long. We also started up forum games as well as begun hosting the MS23 build of Halo Online. In the end, I'm excited and hopeful for the future. No matter what we decide to focus on, Sanctuary will always be a place of user freedom, just as it was in the TOTSE days. And it will be so or I will shut it down myself. This is who we are, like it or not. And if you are willing to accept that, you may find that what we offer here can not be found anywhere else on the internet. If it can, I would surely like to know.