October 5th, 2016
SMNetwork was my second website. The first was a personal site (archive) hosted on Geocities, which was online in 1999. The second was inspired by my freelance work as a stage manager. I was bouncing between theaters and rehearsal halls all over the city and wanted somewhere to stash all my form templates online for easy access. So I made a little site for my stage management paperwork.
As my projects are wont to do, before the project went live it had grown substantially in scope. The first incarnation of SMNetwork (archive) to be seen by the public in January of 2000 was a rudimentary community meeting place for stage managers around the world.
It was small at first, but was (and still is) a great testing ground for a new developer. I had my first experience with web frameworks there with PHPNuke. I learned about customizing bulletin boards and working with databases. However, in about 2002 I went away from it completely for a couple of years. Other projects took focus. When I stopped stage managing for a living in 2004 I stopped by with the intention to shut it down, as there was for me little sense in maintaining a website that I had no personal use for. I discovered that its membership had grown to about 2000 people while I’d been away and decided to keep it alive.
Today SMNetwork is still going, and I’m still the site administrator. It’s one of the oldest operational meeting places for backstage technicians online. It’s also one of the few that allows students to participate at the same level as professionals. It’s ad free, supported (sparsely) by donations. If it were a human it would be old enough to drive. We’ve got close to 5000 members. The traffic from SMNetwork drove me off of shared hosting and over to Linode, for which I had to learn how to maintain a real web server. I moved it off of PHPNuke over to Simple Machines. I built some custom addons as I got more adept with PHP and JQuery. Some of the first members are still around and chatting away. There have been meetups of SMNetwork members across the country. People have gotten jobs because of it. Our content has been included in stage management textbooks. All in all I’m pretty happy with how it turned out.