I started working on the mapofstrange in 2006. It seems like a lifetime ago. I don't know the exact date.
I can't believe how successful it was.
It was just running on some free hosting for the first couple of years, and that was a bad idea. One day someone put it on Digg. And the other people on Digg liked it. A lot. It got onto page 1. Which is usually a good thing. It wasn't. The free hosting couldn't cope with it and it died. The free host put a message on to say they had taken down. Which kind of meant that the front page of Digg became a bunch of people slating the free host, and slating me for using them.
I moved to a VPS host instead, and that went well to begin with. The number of hits went up, and it started to get noticed. It was featured on German TV. I still can't believe that. It's on my CV. Seriously.
I then put a widget onto the site for iGoogle. Which was overly successful. It was getting a few million hits a month. And every hit was hitting the database. I brought down the VPS. In the end I cached it and I haven't looked back. You live, you learn.
Then I had another problem. The number of new submissions had gone through the roof.
I was getting hundreds of new submissions a day. And 99% of them (or more) were crap. It was all "I live here" or "this is Fred's house", or "sdfdsfdafewfrgbbmkomsiunsdunf". I didn't have time to check them all, and I couldn't let those in. So I turned off submissions. That was the beginning of the end. I still have a 6,000 entry backlog of crap entries to go through. I still haven't checked them.
So I've just left the site alone for 5 and a half years. And with that has come the decision to switch the thing off.
I couldn't find the video from German TV, but this is another time it was featured on youtube
I didn't take the decision to switch it off lightly, but the time is definitely right.
It was a culmination of three factors that made me decide to close it down.
Couple that with the fact that it was written in PHP and I haven't done anything with PHP since I built the site says to me that I either need to rewrite it completely or switch if off.
And Google Maps isn't the novelty that it was 7 or 8 years ago.
I thought that switching it off was the humane thing to do.
I have plans for it, but I don't know how long it will take. And I currently don't have time to do anything with it.
I really don't know what the best option for me is going forward.
I could redevelop it in Django. I don't use Django in my current job, but have done for the previous 4 years, and really enjoy using it. So it would at least keep my skills up to date. And I know that I could redevelop it really quickly and make something awesome. After using JSP, I really miss Django
I could always try and bring my PHP skills up to date. That probably means using an MVC framework, but everytime I've looked I decide on a different frawework. I started looking at Cake, but then thought that Symfony looked quite cool. Now I'm thinking maybe Laravel is the way to go.
But compared with Python and Django they all look awful
Once I did think about finally learning Rails and doing it in that.
And I like the idea of doing something more front-end-heavy, using node.js and mongo for the backend. Just for the fun of it.
So I'm pretty sure that mapofstrange.com will be back, but I'm not sure when. Watch this space. For updates you could follow me on Twitter