When I was in high school, my brother and some of his friends decided to start a website for reviewing music and movies from a Christian perspective. This website was called (for reasons I was never quite clear on) The Rebel Base.
My brother and his friends were always starting some sort of club or another, which I think were really just outlets for their creativity and passion for writing. Given that my brother now teaches college and his friend is a professional music writer and critic, I suppose they were just sharpening the saw.
As the site grew, occasionally they would need technical help, which I would provide. I helped them set up their website and served as backup webmaster. I also designed their logo, which was just about as awful as you would expect a logo to be which was designed by a high schooler with no actual graphical design talent.
I also served as an occasional reviewer; unlike the music-and-movie focus of the sites main reviewers, I would review literature and occasionally video games as well as writing articles on faith or culture. Some of them were pretty OK, by the standards of the site. Most of them were bad. Not quite as bad as the logo, since I did have some writing talent, but Samuel Johnson said, “What is written without effort is in general read without pleasure,” and I assure you I put very little effort into the pieces I wrote for that site.
A couple of years into the evolution of the site, my brother and his friend Josh (by that point most of his other, flakier friends had wandered off to other pursuits and it was really just the two of them) also set up a free online forum hosted by EZBoards (now defunct). The ad-to-site ratio was nearly 1, but it provided a place for folks to talk about the reviews. It also gradually began to provide a place for the contributors to the site and its fans to get to know each other and build online relationships.
At what I believe was my senior year in high school, I decided to join these online forums. I began contributing to the conversations, gradually integrating myself into the budding community there.
At the time, there was another member and occasional contributor on the site who was also named Nathan, so they asked me to choose an alias to keep it from being confusing. In a fit of whimsy and a desire to choose the most ridiculous name possible, I chose Vlad! The Mighty Armored Assault Duck (the exclamation point is part of the name). It was a reference to an online game I played at the time.
(Amusingly, the other Nathan was never very active, and completely fell off the radar just a couple of years later. Yet I kept that name for the duration of my tenure with the site.)
After some time, the members kept complaining about how slow and lame and ad-filled the EZBoards forums were, and some folks claimed that the pop-up ads (remember those?) were even links to malware. The founders of the site decided to move to a new forum system, called proboards.
The proboards site was…not amazing, but compared the the clunky EZBoards site it seemed like the starship enterprise. My brother and Josh themed the site in the orange and gray that had sort of become the official color palette of The Rebel Base. They also made me an admin, because the running of the proboards forums was more complex than the previous EZBoards iteration.
Because the proboards forums were so much cooler than the EZBoards ones, I decreed that the proboards forum would be called the Phorum, the ph spelling conferring a significant upgrade in coolness. For some reason, it caught on. And The Phorum was born.
These forums lived on for many years, but the rest of the story will have to wait for another time….