In the mid-late oughts I poured myself into creating a social network for list lovers that came to be called List Central. I was a young & eager web developer with an entrepreneurial spirit. Facebook was new & I wanted to build something great. A social network seemed like a neat idea. I got the idea for a generic pinboard type site where one could keep track of anything, text, links, images, videos, in an orderly fashion. Quite like Pinterest really, but the idea was morphed by my love for lists, and List Central was born.

For two years I worked on this site… learning a ton along the way. I built it out using Perl on mod_perl & MySQL on the back-end, and the usual suspects (handcoded html, css & javascript) with the help of the mooTools Javascript framework on the front-end.

I released List Central almost exactly 5 years ago to little fanfare. I had some super supportive friends & family, but the site looked so sparse with few active users. Asking myself: How can I make this go? All I got were ideas of fake accounts to make the site look more fun & active. I enjoyed using the site myself, particularly for private lists, but driving up excitement for the network seemed beyond likely. A tepid submission on YCombinator brought down my sails, then getting hired at a new job sealed the deal. I would bring down List Central and call it a a great learning experience. Don’t build without a vetted business model.

Yesterday I decided to check out the state of List Central to consider re-skinning & to have it up to show potential employers. I put it back up at… It took me a while to get it working again, I moved servers since then, so I was missing some modules. I had to update my name throughout & remember how it works again.

I have mixed feelings looking at it now. It looks clearly dated, and it fell short from my vision, that is clear, but there are some nifty features within it that I am proud of myself for designing & implementing, including…

  • Edit list items & descriptions in place
  • Reorder list items
  • Utilizing the Amazon API to add linksof products to list items
  • Utilizing the Flickr API to add Creative Commons images to list items
  • Lots of admin features for managing users, lists, themes, ads, emails & reporting
  • Theme creation that propagates the automatically written css code to the site
  • Well done & attractive html email formatting
  • Email routing through Google Mail SMTP

In retrospect I am definitely impressed with past me for the depth & breadth of this project. I accomplish lots. I let it go fairly easy too… Maybe I didn’t fail as quickly as would have been advisable, but I never beat myself up over letting it go either.

If I were to start over I would use the Catalyst framework with Template::Toolkit & DBIC. I built the templating system in List Central myself, which works, but isn’t sustainable. So too my models for interacting with the database… what I built was smart, but not re-inventing the wheel is intelligent.

If you are interested in checking out what was List Central,  go to the List Central About page… it is both explanatory & a demonstration of how the list functionality works on the site. I love when the form illustrates the content…  so elegant.

I still have the notion in the back of my mind to reskin List Central one day, but have other projects of higher priority going on… for now I’ll leave it where it is, likely make some lists & see if my desire drives me in that direction down the road.