The Rise and Fall and Rebirth of a Website

In 2003 I launched MangoFalls.com and had three goals in mind for the site.

1. Have the site accepted into the 9rules network.
2. Be featured as a Yahoo Site of the Day.
3. Receive a nod from the the people at BoingBoing.net

At the time I thought it might be possible to reach one of the three goals.

When I first started sorting through the thousands of slides that were in our basment, it was an interesting activity that made it easier to stay awake into the early morning hours. Our 18 month old daughter, Willow, had just been diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes and testing her blood glucose is a task that must be done every two or three hours. Parents with Type 1 kids understand how long the nights can be. When you’re just about ready to get some sleep, a glucose test reveals a number that’s a little too low, so you give the child some juice and then have to retest in 30 minutes. I found that working on the slide project helped me stay awake to take care of her.

With the slides in hand, it was then time to address the template that I wanted to create for the site. I wanted it to be over the top and similar to some of the digital collages I made for the Cassie Carlyle experiment. I spent a few nights building what would be a design that some would love and others would despise. There seemed to be no middle ground as people and both sides felt compelled to email their opinions regularly. My skin thickened a little as I told myself that I was happy with the look.

When the site first launched I was posting 3 new slides every day. Each slide had to be digitally scanned, edited in Photoshop, and then uploaded as a post within the application. At times it was difficult to keep this pace and, quite honestly, it started to feel more like work than fun. I soon transitioned to posting one new image per day and found my groove.

It was in the early summer of 2006 when I noticed that 9rules was accepting applications so I took a few minutes and entered MangoFalls. I didn’t hold much hope that I’d be accepted since the site was quite new so it was quite a shock when they welcomed me into the network. I proudly added the 9rules leaf to MangoFalls and contributed what I could to the photography community and even acted as their community leader for a while. Number 1 on my list of goals had been accomplished.

In the fall of 2006 I received a cool email from Kelly at Yahoo. She was informing me that MangoFalls had been chosen to be a Yahoo Site of the Day on October 11th. This was a huge surprise and I was really excited about the additional exposure. I had experimented with contectual advertising on the site and it rarely converted so I instead decided to push some residual traffic to the JDRF instead. Any exposure for them will only help their quest to support funding to find a cure for Juvenille Diabetes. I saw a healthy bust of traffic that actually lasted a few weeks since Yahoo does a weekly mailing with links to the daily sites. Number 2 on my list of goals was accomplished.

In December of 2006, we welcomed a new baby boy named Desmond into our lives. I was tired, my wife was tired, and Willow was tired. People who say having two kids is not that much different than one are simply lying to you. Don’t believe that or anything else they try to peddle. The MangoFalls site received only sporadic updates for many months. I made a slight effort to update the site in the spring and summer but I never seemed to have enough time. I’d also run through the better quality images that were in my stash and the thought of posting lesser images didn’t help my motivation.

At this point I had all but given up hope of ever being featured on BoingBoing.net. I’d emailed them once to suggest the site and had received emails from others stating that they had done the same. It seemed apparent that I would have to settle for meeting two of the three milestones.

The 9rules network had morphed several times since I was inducted and to be quite blunt, each change seemed to downplay member content more and more. I was seeing fewer and fewer referrals from them yet still sending a steady stream of outclicks to them. The balance had been disturned and many of my friends had either been removed or opted out of the network. It was evident that the relationship was over so I sent them an email asking to be removed. And then I sent another email asking again. It ended up being sorted out in a Notes post and while my intention was not to anger or hurt anyones feelings, I’m afraid that’s how it may have come across. I stand by my assesment that they are now more interested in having the public generate content for them and less interested in showcasing the content of their members. We parted ways. It happens. I’m over it and I’m sure they are too.

In September of 2007 I decided that it was time to end updates to MangoFalls. There were other projects on my plate now and my interest was elsewhere. I modified the code so the index page would show a random image and started working on a new kids website.

Just when you think you’re done with a project it comes to the front of the line. In November of 2007 I happened to check BoingBoing during lunch. I was happy to see that they had a post dedicated to MangoFalls. I checked my site and found that it was responding very slowly. I was curious to see what the traffic levels were like so I logged into my hosting account and saw that my monthly bandwidth had almost been used, so I added some more to tide me over until my quota for the next month was available the following day. The site was still not responding so I sent in a trouble ticket asking for an explanation. No reply 24 hours later so I sent in another and after 3 days had heard nothing in return. After all of this time I was finally featured on BoingBoing and was not even able to even enjoy the additional exposure. My host let me down and never even replied to the tickets. They did in turn disable my account though. The next time I logged in there was a message stating that my account was locked because of a DDOS attack. I think DDOS attack is code for ‘We Can’t Handle BoingBoing Traffic’.

A somewhat unforseen issue with the boingboing traffic is that a couple of people who were able to view the site before it was locked seemed to take issue with the privacy rights of the people in these old slides. Their overall argument seems to stem from some the photographs being taken inside houses at events like Christmas. Some feel these people did not consent to have their photo placed online while others counter that the film was long ago discarded and with it so goes their privacy rights. I had a discussion with a lawyer before launching the site and it was agreed that I’d not have any problems as long as I didn’t sell rights to the images or use them in a demeaning manner. I think I’ve been selective in my choice of content and respectful with their presentation. In short, I feel that I’ve handled this project in a responsible manner.

Some of the images are funny, some touching, some sad… just like our lives. It seemed such a shame to have these wonderful glimpses into the past and not share them. From the emails that I’ve received over the years I think that 99.9% of the public has enjoyed the site. People have been reminded of the way their Mom’s kitchen smelled on Christmas morning, riding in the backseat of a car that had no seat belts, and the clink of ice cubes into a glass when Dad came home from work. Those are the memories that I hoped to stir with this site and that may have been the most important goal.

Update 12-02-2011
It’s been over 3 years since the site has seen any attention or updates. While I’ve moved on to other projects and don’t plan on adding more scans to the site, I have ported it over to a more robust platform so it may live on for a few more years. One loss during this migration was the old design. It took all of 4 hours before someone emailed asking what the hell happened. I’m sorry to say that the old site layout is gone. It’s novelty was fun while it lasted. For those that never had a chance to see it, here’s a screen shot.

2 Comments to Site History

  1. James B.

    I actually like the new design very much.

  2. glad i stumbled upon you. as a scrapbooker, i too value photos, even those of unidentified persons. i have a small file of pics called “who are you?” in which I collect these often vintage shots.

    I am sorry I never saw the original site, the screen shot cracked me up.

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