03 June 2008

The Dinosauricon Is Dead.

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.

It was also a great project for learning web development. Through it I learned HTML, XML, CSS, JavaScript, PHP, MySQL, XSL, XSLT, XPath, and more. (Not to mentioning sharpening my C++ skills—yes, I actually used C++ for one version of it.) I owe a lot of my professional expertise to that site.

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.

No promises.


  1. And you know... The Sistinas Network will be happy to host a new version of the Dinosauricon when you're ready. :)

  2. Oh sorry, Mike. This is a very sad news. Really


    I feel so sad! your website brought back memories to me! It was one of the first dino-sites I visited

    Hope that won't last forever!

    at least it seems that like Yoda or Obi Wan Kenobi, The Dinosauricon is currently one with the Force

  4. Hi Mike what a pity ... I hunderstand very well your troubles in working to such a great project - I was a devote of dinosauricon ...
    thanks a lot for your great work.


  5. Dear Mike,

    I'm a paleoartist who's just starting out. My work will soon be on display at a local natural history museum.

    I'm writing to tell you how the Dinosauricon-a beautiful website-was so inspirational for a struggling artist. Especially when being viewed at the end of a rainy, dreary, Pacific Northwest day. Thank you so much for the Dinosauricon!

  6. I have to admit I was another who was very inspired by all the artwork and time put into the Dinosauricon. I am sad to see it go, but I do hope that in time it will be updated again.

    I was never concerned about the look of the website, it was simple and it's purpose was obvious. A lot better than many sites who have waayy too much going on than necessary.

  7. This was a really sad news, because this was once a great site that is gracious, now it was a 'dead' site that is virtually 'inaccessible'

    I feel sad :'(


  8. Mmmmm... very bad news, but predictable news anyway cause Mike have already said he hadn't the time to keep he's baby healthy and alive... But Mike, please, if you still own the domain name (*dinosauricon.com) please : keep it ! it doens't must be very expensive, isn't it ? if you still own the domain (and even better the original files) then... there's hope to see the Dinosauricon on line again! or not ? :'(

  9. Yes, I retain ownership of the URL and may have a use for it in the future.

  10. Alas! The great god Dinosauricon is dead! I'm sorry to hear of this, Mike. Your website gave me a forum (besides my own site) for showcasing my work. This resulted in one of my pictures being published ("Parasaurolophus" by Capstone Press), and, much more wonderful, caught the eye of a lovely young lady in Poland named Ewa who contacted me via e-mail after seeing my pictures on your site. We corresponded regularly for the next 7 years, and I helped her as she got her Ph.D in palaeontology at the University of Warsaw. After my divorce, I began to seriously consider proposing to her, and we tried to figure out how to meet in person. Unfortunately, she was diagnosed with leukemia and died during the bone marrow transplant procedure on 1 February 2008. I still miss her very much, and I cherish the brief time we had together.

    Well, Ewa was very Catholic, so she must be in Heaven now. Ergo, there must also be dinosaurs in Heaven; it wouldn't be Heaven without them!

    Anyway, I owe a great deal of my happiness to you and your site. It was a very useful and comprehensive site, and I'd hoped to incorporate it into a rather ambitious project I had in mind. I hope that someday you can get it up & running again.

  11. What a story! I'm touched. I'm glad you two got to know each other and sorry it turned out the way it did.

  12. Remember this ?

    Introduction - you may want to read this first
    Art Gallery - sorted by artist and medium
    Finding Information - various methods of finding the data you want
    Index of Clades - shows a simple cladogram and a list of clade definitions
    Phylogeny Chart- a clickable image showing relationships and time periods of the major groups
    Genus List - lists all the dinosaurs on these pages
    Record Breakers - in the tradition of Guinness
    What's New? - shows recent additions to the site
    Locations - I'm working on a list of dinosaur fossil localities and which dinosaurs are known from them
    More Information Non-Dinosaurs - some animals commonly mistaken for dinosaurs
    Anatomy - diagrams of dinosaur skeletons
    Glossary - use whenever you find a word that is new to you
    Ages of the Mesozoic - details the various time periods of the Mesozoic, the "Age of Reptiles"

    Ask Mike! - when all else fails

    K/T - one of these days I'm gonna make a page about the mass extinction at the end of the Mesozoic
    Other Sources Books - with indices by people, title, and subject
    Links - sites about dinosaurs and paleontology in general
    Guest Book AND very
    Special Thanks to:
    Mike Keesey It was whole Ages of MikeKeeseyzoic
    in dinointernet
    Very sorry its like great lost when N.Gogol burned some of his great manuscripts, .... of the second part of "Dead Souls"

    Dinodino from Almaty citi

  13. Please try to resurrect it if you can, it was easily one of my favorite dinosaur sites, with a lot of awesome artwork. Very unique.

  14. Many years ago, I sometimes had to have my son along during my afternoon workshops (I taught programming in high school), and the only possible way to keep him occupied was to find something a four-year-old could do with a computer. Most things were too complicated, or too unsuitable, or got boring too soon, but eventually I struck gold with the Dinosauricon. There was a lot of clicking, and printing out dino images (which he collected in a special 'Dinosaur Binder'), and much rejoicing. For my part, I suddenly had a lot more time for my students, which was of course appreciated.

    So, on behalf of my son, my students, and myself: Thank you!

    (Actually, I spent a lot of my free time there too. :) )

  15. I´ll never get used to an Internet without the Dinosauricon, it was like an archetypal tool for me.

  16. Hi,

    I had it on the links of my Hushcolours website, so you better replace it.
    Or else....

    Have a nice weekend,

    José :-)

  17. This is a real bummer. I've been following the site for years - well, until recently when my so-called real life intruded and severely limited my time on the 'net. I'm trying to convince myself that this is not my fault, but I still get the feeling that if I had continued my regular visits...

    Oh, well.

    FYI, some of the site can still be perused using The Wayback Machine, at least for now.

    Looking forward to a possible resurrection!

  18. I just found out the Dinosauricon is dead, boohoo. And you've gone from LJ? Mightyodin :o)

  19. Oho! Yeah, I'm more on Facebook now, under my real name.

  20. Rachel K. Clark09 March, 2011 15:00

    Ola! I was doing a vanity web search and I happened to find this. Sorry to hear of the Dinosauricon's fate -- it's sad when valuable however dated websites vanish, like exposed fossils to the elements. I'll have to check out what you and the rest of the old gang are up to sometime! I haven't been deep in dinosaurs for over a decade, but they've definitely never left me.

  21. Whoah! Long time no hear! (For those who don't know, Rachel was the first artist on the Dinosaur Web Pages [which became the Dinosauricon] other than myself, and also worked on a book review feature there.)

    The DML is still quite active (although past its peak, possibly). There are also some folks on bulletin boards like Tyrant King Forums.

    If you're still doing illustrations, check out my new project, PhyloPic.

    Nice to hear from you again!

  22. Hi T.Mike,

    Good to see you're still dangling around out here on the Web.

    I'm currently working on a representation of paleoparadoxia. What an odd-looking beastie.

    I've been reading Richard Dawkins's book "The Ancestor's Tale." It's an amazing book. He explains everything in such a clear manner.

    I was wondering if you've read this book and what you think about it.


  23. This is the proof that Internet is in NO way a truely faithfull substitute for books: if the Dinosauricon were on paper, it will still be proudly stand on my shelfs as one of my favorite and most consulted books.

    If I could pay to have the Dinosauricon to be back online, I would surely do it because not even Wikipedia is as good as it was. Fact!

  24. (Sorry for the delay in approving the last two comments.)

    Megan, yes, I have read it (both the U.S. version and the superior U.K. version, which has far more illustrations). It's one of my favorite Richard Dawkins books, and he's one of my favorite writers. (My favorite of his is still the criminally underrated Climbing Mount Improbable.)

    eco23, good point. (Although I'm not sure Wikipedia isn't better--it's a lot more up-to-date, for one thing. And I've edited a few of the dinosaur articles myself. Although the Dinosauricon was superior in its use of phylogenetic over rank-based nomenclature!) There are internet archive sites out there which have some of the old Dinosauricon pages, and I might have something on CD somewhere. (I need to take a few weeks and go through my archives sometime.)

  25. As previously posted...both the old and the new sites can be accessed through the Wayback Machine at archive org. Just enter dinosauricon.com in the box, hit enter, and you can choose any number of dates to view the site. Mike, if you didn't save the sites, you could snag them from there and re-up them so that the information you worked so hard on could still be accessed. The earlier poster's comment on books vs internet is dead-on IMHO. They'll pry my books from my cold dead hands...lol