History of The Zero
The Zero made its debut on the Web in July 1995. It was the brainchild of Greg Bueno, then a journalism student at the University of Hawaii, whose goal was "to create a modest, grassroots fan page modeled after the Enya Unofficial Home Page."
In his own words:
"While the Enya Unofficial Home Page was a labor of love by and for fans, the idea behind its creation is deeply rooted in learning. [It] included articles, music transcripts, translations, and background information about the Irish artist. In short, it was a library with a specific focus. That was the idea that drove The Zero. I wanted to supplement Andrew's fiction by providing his non-fiction, and I wanted to do it in the most conservative traditions of the Internet—that is, academically."
Bueno started by inputting reviews of Vachss' books onto the site. "A deluge of fans mailed me printouts from the page and there were always references to it at booksignings," says Vachss. "Greg himself never contacted me directly until well after it was up." Eventually, Vachss, leery of "fan pages" in general and having turned down several previous offers to establish one for him, made contact through a friend's e-mail account.
"Andrew's crew mailed me about 40 articles," says Bueno, "and it took me a good year to get them all up."
Vachss found the page to be a surprisingly useful tool:
"I especially liked the Guestbook, and learned a lot from visitor reactions. Plus, I developed the whole "cyber-chump" theory as well as the need for "rumor control" by observing traffic on the page. I thought it was amazingly well-done considering the time constraints on Greg, and I know, for a fact, that it opened avenues of communication throughout the world which would not have otherwise existed. Hell, the only way I learned Shella was on the bestseller list in Japan was through Greg's page, and I finally realized the huge potential of having a 'one-stop shop' for information people were always requesting."
The Zero quickly found its audience. In fact, its daily-viewer population grew so quickly that Bueno found himself the subject of dubious notoriety on the UH campus. "I managed to appear on the campus' 'Nethogs' list, i.e., people whose pages generate loads of traffic."
In March 1997, Bueno had to pass control of The Zero on to others. He was still a student—nearing his finals—and was also working long hours every week at the school newspaper. "The site would go for months without updates," says Bueno, "but even so, those 'dry spells' allowed word-of-mouth to spread. I would get an average of twenty to thirty e-mails a month from people who appreciated the page's existence."
Greg Bueno is now working for the Austin American-Statesman, publishing their news stories on the web. "My work with The Zero pretty much prepped me for the job I have now," he says. For more information on Greg Bueno, check out his website, vigilantmedia.com.
Once under new management, www.vachss.com became The Zero's new address, replacing the original jawbreaker, www2.hawaii.edu/~bueno/AVachss/.
One of the first professionals to step into the new mix was Eric Jacobsen, who designed and programmed The Zero 3.0, our initial "framed" design. This made the site far more accessible, and the feedback we received concerning navigational issues contributed significantly to subsequent designs.
After Eric moved on to other assignments, Shannon Jones, who had been contributing to The Zero for several months in various capacities, took over as webmaster. It was during Shannon's tenure that The Zero began being updated on almost a daily basis.
In 1997, Michael Christian upgraded the security of The Zero, by then up to Version 4.5, and provided a new, no-frames, appearance. In 1998, his custom-designed Message Board went up, later to be redesigned and coded in Cold Fusion. That Message Board is no longer active.
In 1999, after various interim steps toward a website that would incorporate viewer requests from all over the world for improvements and enhancements of various sorts, Olaf Havnes, the Wizard of Orgdot, so totally reinvented The Zero that the current version is called 5.0laf in his honor.
In that same year, the Resources section was completely revamped by a host of volunteers anchored by Mike Lowry, who has since attained his MSW and now brings his talents and dedication to his chosen field of child protection.
Currently, The Zero averages thousands of visitors (not "hits," that number would be closer to 175,000) per day, with traffic inexorably increasing every month.
The Zero has even spawned a German-language version, founded by Michael Dewes and now run by Andreas Huettl. The Zero has been voluminously "vacuumed" into many other languages, but the German Zero is the only officially sanctioned foreign-language site to date.
In 2009, Grace Junkie started a fan page for Mr. Vachss on Facebook, registering more than 600 fans before turning it over to The Zero volunteers to administer. It now operates as an interactive satellite to The Zero.
The collective structure of The Zero continues to operate to this day. Volunteers work to shape the site in a variety of ways, from security consulting to feature design. Volunteers also edit and proofread copy, scan photos, collect and research relevant information for display on the site, and respond to (and, occasionally, fax-and-forward) e-mail, amongst other things. A great many people of astounding talent have contributed. Most wish to remain anonymous, allowing their contributions to speak for themselves. We believe The Zero does just that.
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