Long live The Dinosauricon.
As some of you may know, I used to run a website devoted to dinosaur information and illustration called The Dinosauricon. In recent years, it went fallow—I had no time to keep it updated, let alone finish building it. The old version stayed online—a living fossil of sorts.
Recently, someone emailed me asking where it was. I looked, and, indeed, it seems the host service (which was hosting it for free) finally pulled the plug. And, honestly, it was overdue—like putting down an old, sick pet.
The Dinosauricon was my biggest labor of love, and something I was very proud of (if never completely satisfied with). It opened a lot of doors for me. I sold illustrations to publishers who had seen the site. It was an excellent showcase for my technical skills when seeking work as a web developer. It got mentioned in books. It got me my first coauthorship on a scientific paper. It helped get me a job as a paleo-technician for the Wyoming Dinosaur Center. And it helped make me a lot of friends at SVP meetings.
Besides just helping myself, though, it was primarily meant to help others. I think it did a very good job, not just of getting scientific information out to the public, but also of promoting illustrators, especially up-and-coming ones. I used to really enjoy viewing all the submissions, providing feedback for the pieces that needed some work and marveling at the ones that didn't.
The Dinosauricon was not always called "The Dinosauricon". Back in 1995, during my first semester in college, it was a bunch of crummy HTML 1.0 pages loosely thrown together as my first website and called, rather unimaginatively, "The Dinosaur Web Pages". Around this time I started subscribing to the Dinosaur Mailing List (which I'm still on), and started hearing about newfangled (to me) concepts like "cladistics" and "phylogenetic taxonomy". (I wasn't a big fan at first, but we've seen how that turned out.) On the original site, I tried to do a blend of Linnaean and phylogenetic taxonomy. (I also illegally used some Greg Paul artwork, but took it down once I realized you couldn't just put anything in your web page.)
In 1996, I took the first-ever class of Tom Holtz' HONR 259C: Topics in Dinosaur Research. Using information I learned in that (excellent) class, I began to patch up the silly taxonomy I'd used at first, replacing it with proper cladograms. (Sometimes I get credit for inventing a style of writing cladograms in ASCII, but, as with many inventions, this was really invented piecemeal by a lot of people and I just pitched in and helped promote it.)
I also started to get interest from young paleo-artists. Rachel K. Clark and Peter Buchholz were the first to offer their work for my site. (I already had some of my own work up.) I gladly accepted, and eventually went on to build up a gallery with thousands of images, by dozens of artists from all over the globe.
Eventually the site needed a new name. After much thought, I decided on The Dinosauricon, an homage to Lovecraft's Necronomicon, and roughly Greek for "image of the terribly great lizard". Many people pronounced it wrong (like "dinosaur icon") or thought it looked like the name of a convention, but I think it was a pretty good name.
The site reached its pinnacle, in my opinion, at the end of 1999. I had procured an independent study program specifically for the project, and I poured tons of time into it. I worked obsessively, feverishly, often tallying dinosaur names into wee hours. (I didn't have much of a life.)
In December 1999 I graduated and in January 2000 I moved to Los Angeles. A new chapter of my life began with the new millennium. (Yes, O.K., technically it started in January 2001, but shut up.)
This was a busier chapter. I began, slowly, to actually acquire a life. I had less and less time for the Dinosauricon. In 2002, during a rough period, I poured a lot of work into a new version, but I never had time to get more than partly done. The new and old versions coexisted for a while, with a better gallery on the new version but more scientific information on the old.
As the years went by, web technologies began to develop at an ever-increasing rate. I always felt the site was hopelessly behind the times. There was a vision in my head of how it could be. But I only had so much time to work on it. Every time I got some time, I'd revisit the old work I'd done, shake my head at how outdated it was, and start over from scratch. Not surprisingly, this led to getting a lot of nothing done fast. (Except for learning new technologies, which was useful.)
For years I kept saying I'd have another version done, but it never came to pass. The old version, which had been hosted at a little donated computer at my college, finally went down. The new version persisted for a while. Now it is dead.
There may be hope for the future. My two big personal projects right now are related to paleontological illustration (March of Man) and biological information (Names on Nodes). Much of the ideas and code going into these could be ported to a new Dinosauricon. I have to see these two ideas through, but once they are in a stable place, perhaps I'll look into the matter of reviving The Dinosauricon.