This is a reworked blog post that’s been built upon over the years regarding the history of this website, wiskate.com.
The history of Wiskate.com over the years:
1998: I’ll have to call this one an “artist’s re-creation”. I haven’t been able to turn up a copy of the first version of the site, but the text is my own real and authentic key presses typed on one of those old clicky PC keyboards. (I’d estimate it was a Pentium 75 with a 850mb hard drive, 8mb of ram.) True digital archaeology, I found the text (sans images) in an old_news.html file that was abandoned on an ancient hard drive. So shy, so wide eyed. Note: the Hi-8 video grab inserted into a faux film sequence of Nate Heilberger doing a noseblunt. I was using Photoshop 3.0 that I got from an AOL “Warez” chat room. The urge to use many filters was strong.
1999: Above!: a perfect example of the essence of Photoshop pre Y2K. Achieved using a masterful(?) combination of pirated filter plugins, lighting effects, drop shadows. It’s lovely. The disc was scanned using a tank of a scanner my mother procured so she could scan photographs to sell trinkets and knick knacks on Ebay. The video grab was grabbed using a fairly expensive video capture card that my employer had to facilitate the creation of CD-ROM catalogs. These two pieces of 90s computer hardware would be critical to the operation of wiskate.com during its first couple years of existence.
2000: I think this was the very first thing that officially appeared on the wiskate.com URL. A placeholder from when I moved the site from it’s original, not so easy to remember address, to the much more serious legitimate domain name. It was sort of a big deal to have a registered domain back then. At that time it cost $35.00 a year to register a domain! Again, note the Photoshop 3.0 filter action.
2000: I don’t know what the deal was with tan plus black in Y2k, but I kept the theme going. Looking at this original layout, I think I did a pretty good job. Notice how often video clips were added. I must have had much higher stamina at that young age. The little banner ad to the CKY site (Traded links with Rake Yohn himself) certainly is a nice touch.
The video page. This is what brought people around in the early days. Today it’s the easiest thing in the world for someone to find skateboarding media online. Then it was tough. I was just recently talking to someone and they mentioned that back then wiskate was the only site where it was easy to find videos that actually played. That was another aspect of early internet. Even if you could find videos, they rarely worked.
A sign of the times. Circa Y2K tips on how to download and view video clips. Computers and the Internet were definitely on “hard mode” back then. Are things too easy now?
Our ace in the hole. It sucks to admit, but a lot of the traffic came from the video clips I bootlegged off of legit skate company VHS tapes using my capture card . People were incredibly hungry for a three second clip of Rodney Mullen stolen from the Questionable video. I phased this type of content out pretty quick to focus on the local stuff instead.
I do have an anecdote about the pro clips that I love. Over time a lot of the Rodney Mullen and Osiris the Storm clips were downloaded off of the site and saved away on the users’ computers. This was the era of early peer to peer file sharing programs like Kazaa and Limewire. “Might as well share the skate clips.” These same files were then shared to others all over the world. They all had a huge “wiskate.com” watermark on them. I’ve had people tell me they found the site because they downloaded a Josh Kasper mpeg file off of Morpheus. A more beautiful combination of words could not be spoken to me.
About the video quality. It wasn’t very good. See: side by side of original, vs web quality of the era. Typically I sized down the image size to 320 x 240 (normally 640 x 480) and I also lowered the frame rate to 20fps (it’s normally 30). This ensured the file sizes were kept as small as possible. Even with all the steps taken to shrink the files, it reportedly took some people fifteen or twenty minutes to download a fifteen second long Mini Video via 56k dial-up modem.
2001: The lovely “jizz logo” era. This is when the site was at its peak of popularity. I’d claim that this was mostly due to the fact that there actually weren’t many skateboarding websites on the internet. Sites with video clips were even rarer. Thousands of people a day were visiting the site.
This is when I got a lot more serious about filming. Things had started out as they did for most skate friends. We’d just take turns filming each other on the Hi8. Eventually it became clear that I was the least talented skater, so my fate was clear. After saving my pennies for a long time I got my first (and only, I still use the same one) 3 chip video camera so the quality of the video clips was much improved. This kept the traffic increasing. In fact, it got so popular that we were kicked off our host and were m.i.a. for awhile while I figured the situation out.
It can’t be understated how hard it was to find a place to share your video clips. The internet just wasn’t set up to share large files, and it was expensive to do so. Eventually I ended up hosting the video clips on a different server for a site that posted video of live shows of indie and punk bands. Soon after we started hosting clips there, they seemingly lost interest in their site and gave up on it. I had only paid them once for the hosting, but their server stayed online in an abandoned state for several years. I never could’ve afforded the hosting anywhere else, so this really was a huge lucky break.
A typical video clip page for one of the local homies. It’s great that it was necessary to list the tiny file sizes so the user would know how long he was tying up the phone line.
Another popular section was the trick tips. I felt incredibly corny making them at the time, but in retrospect we should’ve made more. The kids couldn’t get enough of that shit and it brought in a ton of traffic.
2002: As soon as I saw the baby punch in Nate’s sketch book I knew that it had to be used for a new layout. I’m not sure what’s up with the Halloween year round color scheme, but those were much scarier times. I think this is when I got more serious about trying to make a video and I wanted to save the good clips, so this is when the neglect started.
2002: Speaking of scary times! I had almost forgotten about this layout, no trace of it exists on my computer and I think it was used for only around one year. I found the monster images on a weird mask website that had super high resolution images. Then, you guessed it, the photoshop filters.
The Lutzka haiku contest! Got me laughing in 2021. I have no memory if anyone was ever awarded an Illenium board through this contest of the arts.
Solid nostalgia score here. The post and banner ad for the premiere of our my first full length vid “Hurry Up and Die”. It was shown before “This is Skateboarding”, and there was a huge snow storm that night so a lot of people didn’t make it. Bill Kaschner premiered the trailer for his video “Look At Those Beans” that night. He didn’t finish the video for about a dozen more years.
2003: Here we have the evolution of several (thankfully) unused layouts into…
2003: …this stupid thing. Some of you may remember this quite well as it was used for three, maybe even four years. In fact, some remnants of this layout still were used in some of the backwater sections of the site for many years after the main areas of the site were updated. I wanted it to be as obnoxious as possible and I think I succeeded because it bums me out just to see it. This layout represents the ups and downs of the site quite well. It featured times of updates several times a day, and also periods of no new stuff for months. Most of those updates were just non-skateboarding nonsense, but a little bit of shredding related stuff did sneak in there once in awhile. The site wallowed in this disgusting mess of a layout for way too long.
This also marks the first version of the site that had a CMS and could handle contributions from several users. All the updates from this period, god knows why, are still available on the current version of the site.
2004: Cell phone cameras were the new gadget on the scene, and a few people in the crew had recently obtained such devices. The phones were able to send their relatively low-res pictures via email to other phones or computers. I wondered if it was possible to write some kind of program to check an email address and automatically copy the image to the server and post it with no human intervention. This was unheard of at the time, nothing was automated like that. I’ve never been a great programmer, but through much trial and error I was able to get things working. Basically, if you knew the ‘secret’ email address and had a picture phone from Sprint, you could post to the Moblog. Kind of like a 2004 version of Instagram. In the end, throughout its existence, around 1,000 photos were ultimately posted to the Moblog by roughly 10-15 users.
I actually uploaded and temporarily got the Moblog working to obtain this screenshot, the 8 pictures shown were the first 8 ever uploaded. They look so crappy because I didn’t know how to make a thumbnail from the original image and retain any amount of quality. I eventually figured that out, not that the pictures looked great in the first place.
Mid 2000s: This was the last layout of the site before we switched over to the current WordPress version. Most of the content switched to “blog style”, by that I mean there was no longer any archive of photos or videos where you could locate everything in one place. All of the content remained within a blog post. While it kept everything easier to update for the various contributors, it also made all of the content much more disposable. The design stayed around for a long time, did what it needed to do, and looked stupid. All of the posts from this era were also moved over to the current version of the site.
Our buddy Jeremy Pettis made several headers for this version of the site over the years.
February 2012: Quite honored to have this very blasé interview appear in Thrasher Magazine!
In conclusion: That brings us up to date with the various versions of wiskate.com over its two decade+ long existence. How long we’ll keep it up, god knows. We certainly don’t know when to quit.
I don’t have any screen shots of the various versions of the message boards that were on the site over the years, and for that I am thankful. That level of stupidity deserves to be forgotten.
Thanks to all the contributors over the years! Without you, maybe we would’ve actually quit!