Forumshire: The First Five Years

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Post by Eldorion Wed Dec 11, 2013 2:41 am

Note: 10 December 2013 marks five years to the day since our forum first began.  In The Lord of the Rings, the Hobbits have a custom where they give out gifts on their own birthdays.  In that spirit, I'd like to offer up this thread as a present to the forum: a (relatively) complete history of Forumshire so far.  I swear this wasn't supposed to be as long as it has become, but I hope you guys find it interesting.

Another Note: Part 2 is now up.

Forumshire: The First Five Years

Prehistory: Origins

The-Hobbit-Movie.com (henceforth THM) was created on 23 July 2007 by Adrian “Ady” Calow, an SEO specialist and professional webmaster from the Isle of Man.  Ady, who used his nickname as his online handle, owned and managed several different websites with no connection to each other.  THM was created during a period of increased speculation over the possibility of a Hobbit film project.  During the release of the LOTR trilogy, it was widely assumed that PJ would move on to The Hobbit in relatively short order.  However, various legal disputes quickly threw the future of The Hobbit into question.  By the beginning of 2007 Peter Jackson and New Line had publicly parted ways, but rumors that The Hobbit would be made persisted.  When Ady created THM, the hottest rumor was that Sam Raimi, whose Spider-Man trilogy had just concluded, would direct the film.

On 18 December 2007, it was announced that Jackson and New Line had resolved their differences, and that PJ would produce but not direct a two-film project for the studio.  It was further announced that only the first film would be based on The Hobbit, while the second would be a “bridge film” connecting the events of The Hobbit and The Fellowship of the Ring by drawing on the Appendices.  In April 2008, Guillermo del Toro (of Hellboy and Pan's Labyrinth fame) was hired to direct the films; in October 2008 he revealed in an interview that the bridge film idea had been scrapped and both films would be based on both The Hobbit and the Appendices.  However, this information was not widely circulated, and the bridge film idea continued to be widely believed in Tolkien fandom for several years.

On the same day that the Hobbit project was announced, an official website (thehobbitblog.com) was unveiled.  The ostensible goal of the official blog was to be the go-to source for Hobbit movie information, and it also hosted a forum for fan discussion (the forum was removed in December 2011).  However, the blog was rarely updated, and the filmmakers continued to give most of their exclusives to TheOneRing.net.  Del Toro also famously posted on TORn's forums as “Guillermo” during his involvement with the project.  TORn successfully leveraged their relationship with the film-makers and their existing reputation to de facto center of the expanding Hobbit component of Tolkien fandom.  Most other Tolkien forums, established during the LOTR craze, were slow to adjust to The Hobbit and have been largely missed out on increased traffic due to the new films.

However, in addition to TORn, there was another corner of Tolkien fandom that embraced The Hobbit: a group of newly-founded forums specifically dedicated to The Hobbit and established outside the bounds of the entrenched LOTR-era sites.  I sometimes refer to this group of sites as the “New Wave of Hobbit Movie Forums” because most of them use the name “The Hobbit Movie Forum”.  The first fan forum dedicated to The Hobbit opened on 19 December 2007, the day after the announcement of the project, as a companion to DerHobbit-Film.de (a bilingual German-English site), which is as far as I am aware also the oldest Hobbit-centric blog, having covered Hobbit movie rumors since 2001.  However, the German forum (which is entirely in English) has never grown significantly, though it still exists today.

One of the reasons why the German site was surpassed was that, despite its advantage in age, it was quickly displaced in Google results by Ady's THM.  Having been founded by an SEO (search engine optimization) specialist, the site rose quickly in visibility.  Contrary to popular belief, there is no single “number one Google result” for any given search term, since Google has customized search results to individuals for years, but THM has consistently been one of the few fansites to stay at the top of Hobbit-related searches next to corporate sites (though its ranking has fallen somewhat in the past year or two).  With the increase in traffic came came an increase in the number of comments being posted on the blog.  By late 2008 there was a small core group of regular commenters who engaged in  wide-ranging conversations that sometimes had little to do with the topic of the initial blog posts.  The most active of these posted under the names James, Show, and Paul, though two of them would soon assume new names.

The First Year: Birth and Rebirth

Ady noted that the comments section was not the most convenient format for lengthy discussion, and floated the idea of creating a forum on the site.  The idea was received positively and James suggested using the free phpBB software base.  Ady created the forum on 10 December 2008, and the next day James registered as the first member under the username “Gandalf's Beard”.  Within two weeks there were several dozen members who had posted on the forum, and Ady created several subforums for discussion of The Hobbit, Tolkien's other works, and various other topics.  Show and Paul were among the other early members and formed the core of the forum in its earliest days.  Ady also posted semi-actively during this period.  Most of the discussion was related to rumors about the films, but other topics cropped up as well.  Notably, the thread “If Tolkien wrote Narnia & Lewis wrote LotR” spawned the first creative writing ever posted on Forumshire.

After several months, Ady started to drift away from the forum.  To keep it running smoothly, he appointed about nine members of the forum as moderators based on their early registration dates, and tasked them with keeping the forum clean of spam.  In addition to GB, Show, and Paul, the most important early mods were Durin, Beren, and Zackira.  All three are notable for being the only early mods other than GB to post after the first year; furthermore, Durin was notable for being the the de facto second-in-command to GB in subsequent years, Beren for being the first lore-head on the forum, and Zackira for being the first of many, many Norwegians.  Also, the Beren of the Old Forum is not to be confused with the current Beren.  The latter is a character of Queen Tin, the former was a completely unrelated person.

Despite the encouraging start of the forum, activity tailed off through late spring and hit an all-time low during the summer.  Most of the first generation of members left, and while some of them would return later, many were gone for good.  (The only members of this generation still active today are chris63 and Tinuviel.)  GB and Beren did their best to keep activity on the forum going during the late summer months of 2009, but the forum was on the verge of fizzling out entirely when it received a boost of energy and activity from several new members.  This was the second generation of the forum, none of whom had any personal contact with Ady or most of the first generation, and several of whom brought with them rather unconventional ideas of what a forum could or should be like.

I was the first of the new generation to start posting.  I had registered on the forum in April 2009, but made only a handful of posts until I became active that September.  I was the first purist debater to venture onto the forum, and butted heads with GB on this topic several times right off the bat.  Only a few weeks later, Odo Banks signed up and immediately became one of the most active members of the forum.  Beren stopped posting not long after this, though he would briefly return a year later, but GB stepped up his posting in response to the influx of newbies and the forum experienced a significant increase in the rate of new posts.  It also saw a greater proportion of short, chatty, conversational posts between members.  These sorts of posts are frowned upon on many forums as being frivolous or off-topic, but they also help cement relationships with lead to a closer community.

Ady was no longer active at this point, and would return only briefly to address technical errors in the future, so the forum was in the hands of the mods.  GB had always been the oldest and most active mod, and was at times the only active one, so he assumed the de facto role of leader of the forum.  It wasn't a position that was granted to him, but rather something that everyone recognized on their own due to his contributions to the forum.  GB would always hold the title of most posts on the Old Forum as well; despite several members chasing him, he was never surpassed for as long as the Old Forum endured.

The final significant event of 2009 occurred in December, when the forum was almost exactly one year old.  The forum had been set up using the “Dark Fantasy” phpBB theme, but the theme abruptly stopped working one day, resulting in the forum being displayed in bare-bones HTML format.  However, being somewhat familiar with forum software myself, I was able to explain to others how to change the forum theme (since this option was enabled) to the standard phpBB prosilver.  Some time later, Ady noticed the problem and deleted the Dark Fantasy theme, making prosilver the only option.  However, I was not the only technically-inclined member of the forum.  Beren took the lead in teaching people how to post images at a time when this was even more of a pain in the ass than it is today.  He also created a public THM Photobucket account, although this was rarely used.

The Second Year: Expansion and Contraction

The forum finished out its first year with about 4000 posts, with about half of them coming in the last three months of the year after the boost in activity.  Even so, the forum was still negligibly small compared to established forums, though it was one of the larger forums in the new Hobbit wave (which was growing, though most of the forums that were part of it have since closed).  The forum jumped up to the next level of activity in February 2010, following the registration of Pettytyrant101 the previous month.  Petty quickly established himself as another highly active poster and as the most extreme purist yet seen on the forum.

Petty's arrival completed what I like to call “the Four Pillars of Old Forumshire”.  More than half of the posts on the Old Forum were made by the top four members: GB, Eldo, Odo, and Petty (incidentally, the ordering is the same by both registration date and post total).  While only GB, as a part of the first generation, was a moderator, these four had an outsized presence on the forum and made significant contributions to the site's culture and emerging identity.  Much of this was made possible by GB, who with his post-hippie sensibilities was more than happy to let weirdness run wild, though he attempted to keep order in his own way.  In Ady's absence, most questions of rules and propriety were referred to GB, so his judgment had a profound impact on the forum.

Perhaps the most important example of this was the beginning of the sockpuppet craze in spring 2010 (which, by the way, still hasn't ended).  Soon after Petty began posting, he was joined by two fellow Scottish posters – Noom Chevaline and Nagual – whom he introduced as real life friends of his.  It was unclear at first to other members whether these were actually different people or sockpuppets, though they turned out to be real.  However, the question of who was real became more difficult to answer after Odo began registering alternate accounts, beginning with “Wise Odo” (later known as Wisey Banks).  He had asked GB if multiple accounts were acceptable, and although they are banned on most forums, GB approved the idea in the absence of any instruction from Ady on this matter.  Most of Odo's accounts were part of the Banks clan, but some were not immediately apparent as alts.

Another innovation that distinguished the growing forum from many other Tolkien sites was the creation of the Big Bad Serious Thread by Petty.  Most Tolkien forums do not allow discussion of religion or politics as those topics are considered too sensitive and likely to lead to flame wars.  Petty began the BBS thread as a dedicated home for such discussion, and GB decided to let it stand so long as the thread remained more or less civil.  It grew into the largest thread on the forum by a significant margin and saw a multitude of topics brought up in its pages, often with very verbose discussions resulting.  However, religious and political topics remained restricted to that single thread.

Not all was serious on the Old Forum by a long shot, however.  A leaked casting sheet in January 2010 revealed that an invented female elf called Itaril would feature in the films.  (The name, borrowed from The History of Middle-earth, turned out to be a placeholder for the character we now know as Tauriel.)  This inspired GB to pen his fanfiction story The Adventures of Bilbo and Itaril, which in turn inspired Odo to post his own writings on this theme.  Paul Erickson (not to be confused with the Paul of the very early forum), who was then writing The Wobbit A Parody, joined the forum in April 2010 and posted excerpts from his book during the writing process.  The first half of 2010 also saw the forum's first picnic, which would later become the stuff of legend.  The picnic was a mix of chat posts and pseudo-role-playing spread over several threads and featuring a mix of various forum personas and real people.  The picnic largely began the idea of a parallel Forumshire universe, which would later be explored in narrative fiction, and introduced numerous ideas that would feature in later stories, including the Tower of Lore and the monarchy of Queen Tin.  Odo coined the term Forumshire to refer to the forum around this time, as well.

Of course, Tolkien discussion played an important role in the community as well.  The Hobbit would not receive the “green-light” to move forward with filming until October 2010 due to MGM's bankruptcy, and even after that PJ's hospitalization for kidney troubles and ongoing disputes left The Hobbit's fate in question until filming actually began in March 2011.  When del Toro departed from the project in May 2010, citing time concerns, a flurry of speculation as to who would replace him ensued.  One popular candidate was Neill Blomkamp, whose directorial debut District 9 had been produced by Jackson, though a sizable contingent had always wished for PJ to return to the director's chair.  The majority of the cast was also unknown until after the green-light, and seemingly every actor in Hollywood was rumored to be in consideration as Bilbo.  Tom Cruise, Daniel Radcliffe, and especially David Tennant were three particularly resilient rumors.  The forum briefly became a source of breaking news when Noom became the first person to confirm that Sylvester McCoy would be Radagast, though I was harshly criticized by GB for passing the link along to TORn instead of letting Ady see and post it on THM first.

In addition to speculation about The Hobbit, there was wide-ranging discussion of the existing books and movies, especially since the young community had not yet tread over all the ground that older forums had worn out years before.  The debate between purists, represented by myself and especially Petty, and “Tolkien liberals” (as Odo, who has always had a way with words, termed them) represented chiefly by GB, sometimes Odo, and later Ringdrotten defined many ta thread.  But there were more cooperative discussions as well, such as GB's “Origins of Hobbits?” thread, which blended Tolkien analysis and real life biological and archaeological topics.  Beren was original “loremaster” on the forum, and I had cut my Internet teeth in Tolkien discussions on one of the most self-serious Lore forums on the web, but a number of different members posted in these discussions.

While I am largely focusing on the origins of modern Forumshire here, I don't want to imply that community-oriented posts were the only thing going on at THM during this time.  The movie discussions were always by far the biggest part of the forum.  While Ady was not posting on the forum anymore, he was still updating the blog fairly regularly.  The comments section that was the original home of the forum community continued to see posts from a mostly different group of people, although GB continued to frequent the comments section actively.  Several Hobbit-related threads were linked to from the main page of the blog for a long time, which drove many new members directly to those threads.  THM also hosted an online story, selling LOTR-themed jewelery (mostly replicas of The One Ring).  The developing community was important to the people who contributed to it, but it could have disappeared at this point with minimal impact on the rest of the site.  It was, as far as anyone could tell, pretty low on Ady's list of priorities.

The first half of 2010 was a wildly successful time for the forum, easily the most active it had yet seen and the beginning of its own distinctive identity that would differentiate it from the many other small Tolkien forums that had and still did exist.  However, this growth was sharply curbed by a series of technical troubles in the summer of 2010.  The registration page broke on two separate occasions, cutting off the flow of new members, and each time Ady took weeks to fix it.  The forum and sometimes the entire site also experienced considerable downtime, sometimes only for a few hours, and at least once for a full week.  Many people drifted away as a result of these problems, and when the forum stabilized again by fall (in the process gaining a new skin with a black and gray color palette), it was noticeably smaller and less active.  While the winter and spring of 2010 had seen the arrival of, among others, Petty, Halfwise, Ally, Paul Erickson, the mysterious Lester Cat, and most of the Banks clan, summer 2010 had seen only Ringdrotten join as a long-term member.

Frustration with Ady and his absentee approach to forum administration, was growing.  Furthermore, the mod roster had not been updated in over a year.  Aside from GB none of them posted regularly, and even he was unable to perform many forum maintenance tasks, much less reforms as simple as adding an off-topic forum, which was sorely needed (the New Members forum was essentially turned into one).  The forum gained about 12,000 new posts in 2010, but there was a feeling that the forum could do more if it were given the opportunity to.

That said, the forum closed the year on a positive note with the first ever Forumshire Awards.  Entirely the brainchild of Petty, who was nearing the completion of his first year on the forum, they were a huge hit and provided a retrospective of the many milestones we passed in 2010.  They also provided unexpected drama with the surprising victory of Ringdrotten in the Most Respected category, defeating the award's previously self-proclaimed holder Odo Banks, and the drawn result in Best Nose between Tinuviel and Ally.

Next part here...


Last edited by Eldorion on Thu Dec 12, 2013 12:19 am; edited 7 times in total
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Post by Eldorion Wed Dec 11, 2013 2:43 am

Given how long this is, and how little I slept last night, I'm going to have to wait to finish this and post the rest later (hopefully tomorrow).  I really wanted to get at least part of it up on the actual anniversary though.  Now to see if anyone actually makes it through all this.... Laughing
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Post by halfwise Wed Dec 11, 2013 3:33 am

It's been fascinating so far, Eldo! And we haven't even reached Dark Planet Day, which I'm very interested in since I was AWOL at the time, and have only heard extremely fictionalized accounts of it so far.

(I'd like to think if I hadn't been AWOL it never would have happened: there's a whole slew of clubs, music groups, and even entire countries that have disintegrated when I left, whether I feel I was a cornerstone or not.  Shrugging Just my burden, I suppose. )

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Post by bungobaggins Wed Dec 11, 2013 3:39 am

I look forward to reading more of this. Smile

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Post by Eldorion Wed Dec 11, 2013 3:53 am

Thanks a bunch, guys. Smile It means a lot to me to know that other people find my historical notes to be interesting!  Dark Planet Day is the next event to cover, though unfortunately I have to rely a little more on memory with this.  For the old forum, I can check archive.org and a few other places where posts were saved, but a bunch of "historically" significant threads relating to DPD on Planet Tolkien and Bree were deleted by Taz before they could be archived.
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Post by Tinuviel Wed Dec 11, 2013 4:33 am

I did, and I had no idea I was hear from almost the very beginning! I feel so old!!!! I must say though, I really do love this place and the people on it, which is why I keep coming back, even if I've been away a while. And that forum picnic was probably one of the best things I've ever gotten to write and be a part of!! We seriously need to have one again, perhaps in honor of our 5th birthday!!

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Post by azriel Wed Dec 11, 2013 8:58 am

That,Eldo,was SO interesting I cant tell you ! Its made it all more closely & tightly knit for me. The feeling of "Home" or "Family" is more warm,cosy & secure. Ive only been here 14months ? but, its the most fun a person can have,even if you DONT post, the atmosphere is wonderful. Ive really enjoyed reading this, Its brought a fresh insight & clarity to me. I enjoyed the flow of your words, how easily acceptable it is to read & understand. The history of this place is addictive & so interesting ! Im really happy I read this ! I now understand in house jokes better..like Lesters cat... and to watch this place grow is as watching a child grow & become something special. For me,it has brought a new feeling.It shows how things can last, how friendships can endure & how the camaraderie cannot always be broken. Thankyou Eldo.

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Post by RA Wed Dec 11, 2013 9:18 am

It was a really interesting read.  Very Happy 
Forumshire has had a sorted history. I found this place through Bree. I was a lurker for some time before posting anything. I found the thread about Tauriel leading the dwarves out of Thranduil's palace first; that was quite a while ago now, huh?

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Post by Pettytyrant101 Wed Dec 11, 2013 10:46 am

he was joined by two fellow Scottish posters – Noom Chevaline and Nagual – whom he introduced as real life friends of his.- Eldo

For the record they were real people (still are for that matter!) not sock puppets )how could you think Nagual is a sock pocket when I once put up a picture of the two of us having a cuppa in a blizzard?!  Mad .

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Post by Eldorion Wed Dec 11, 2013 11:10 am

I remember that picture. Very Happy In my defense, I did say that it was unclear "at first", but I can add a line clarifying the situation. Smile
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Post by Norc Wed Dec 11, 2013 11:21 am

why am i not mentioned here?
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Post by Amarië Wed Dec 11, 2013 11:30 am

We know you are good at Photoshopping, Petty...

I think the reason there are only creative versions of Dark Planet Day is that nobody in either lair knows what the heck was going on. Laughing

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Post by Orwell Wed Dec 11, 2013 12:02 pm

Well, it's like Odo and Eldo and Petty and GB were some kind of Fellowship of the Forum! And still are....though GB has sadly fallen. And there's now the Fellowship of the Fjordians. And the Fellowship of the Bree-landers. And the Fellowship of Unattached Free Adventurers. But, in the beginning, there was the Fellowship of the Forum!

Actually, that makes me from the Fellowship of the Unattached - which makes some sense in a way - putting aside that sock-puppet nonsense of Eldo's, now quite well proven as nonsense by the Petty, Nagual and Noom Chevaline case.  Rolling Eyes   

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Post by Eldorion Wed Dec 11, 2013 4:48 pm

Norc wrote:why am i not mentioned here?

Because the tale so far only goes up to the end of 2010, and you weren't active here until late 2011.
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Post by Eldorion Wed Dec 11, 2013 4:49 pm

Amarië wrote:We know you are good at Photoshopping, Petty...

I think the reason there are only creative versions of Dark Planet Day is that nobody in either lair knows what the heck was going on. Laughing

I am awaiting with some trepidation your reaction to the Dark Planet Day section of this history. Very Happy

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{{{Thank you very much, Orwell! Smile}}}
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Post by Amarië Wed Dec 11, 2013 9:21 pm

It's being written with trepidation too. Wink I hope to get back on track eventually.

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Post by Pettytyrant101 Wed Dec 11, 2013 9:33 pm

Wheres the next bit Eldo!  bounce 

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Forumshire: The First Five Years Empty Re: Forumshire: The First Five Years

Post by Eldorion Wed Dec 11, 2013 9:43 pm

I'm working on it right now! :DI've been doing a bunch of research (ie, reading old threads) to make sure I get the facts right.  And -- I can't believe I'm saying this -- NotP has actually been one of the most valuable sources on hand to get information and especially dates. Laughing

The 2011 section is going to be massive compared to 2009 and 2010 (and likely 2012 and 2013 as well) though.  Sorry guys. :/
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Forumshire: The First Five Years Empty Re: Forumshire: The First Five Years

Post by Pettytyrant101 Wed Dec 11, 2013 9:48 pm

NotP has actually been one of the most valuable sources on hand to get information and especially dates.- Eldo


 Shocked Well there goes you credibility for sources!

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Forumshire: The First Five Years Empty Re: Forumshire: The First Five Years

Post by Norc Wed Dec 11, 2013 9:55 pm

Laughing
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Forumshire: The First Five Years Empty Re: Forumshire: The First Five Years

Post by Eldorion Wed Dec 11, 2013 10:02 pm

Laughing

{{{It's more about figuring out when exactly certain things happened based on ongoing references and jokes in the papers. Although I must say Petty, they're still incredibly funny 2+ years later. You really have a gift. Very Happy}}}
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Forumshire: The First Five Years Empty Re: Forumshire: The First Five Years

Post by Pettytyrant101 Wed Dec 11, 2013 10:06 pm

There will be a mega issue at some point if only because by missing a bunch of birthdays I have loads of finished pages (there are 'origins of' for Norc, Orwell and Azriel) but no complete issues- Ive had other stuff eating up time concerning the Awards.

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Pure Publications, The Tower of Lore and the Former Admin's Office are Reasonably Proud to Present-



A Green And Pleasant Land

Compiled and annotated by Eldy.

- get your copy here for a limited period- free*

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1yjYiz8nuL3LqJ-yP9crpDKu_BH-1LwJU/view



*Pure Publications reserves the right to track your usage of this publication, snoop on your home address, go through your bins and sell personal information on to the highest bidder.
Warning may contain Wholesome Tales
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Forumshire: The First Five Years Empty Re: Forumshire: The First Five Years

Post by azriel Wed Dec 11, 2013 10:08 pm

Im looking forward to the Awards ! Its fun to vote on & its fun to see the outcome !  Nod  and its a great time for picking dresses !  cheers 

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Forumshire: The First Five Years Empty Re: Forumshire: The First Five Years

Post by Eldorion Wed Dec 11, 2013 10:13 pm

Pettytyrant101 wrote:There will be a mega issue at some point if only because by missing a bunch of birthdays I have loads of finished pages (there are 'origins of' for Norc, Orwell and Azriel) but no complete issues- Ive had other stuff eating up time concerning the Awards.

The Awards are definitely important. Smile Although I'll say, both "origins of" editions you've done on my birthday have been absolutely incredible. I came across the 2011 while researching and I couldn't figure out of it was more hilarious or nostalgia-inducing. Laughing
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Forumshire: The First Five Years Empty Re: Forumshire: The First Five Years

Post by Mrs Figg Wed Dec 11, 2013 10:52 pm

talking of NOTP where the buggeringbollocks are those promised editions?  Suspect 
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