Resurrecting Talker after almost two decades and why it matters.
Sixteen (yes, 16!) years ago, I started working on my biggest project ever. It took me almost 5 years to finish it. Later, when I realized people weren’t using it anymore, I put it in my digital archive where I left it untouched for almost 11 years.
It was a discussion server based on PHP and MySQL. It was something similar to simple chats, but more sophisticated. I didn’t invent this type of application. I was inspired by even older discussion server called Cyberspace which I regularly visited since 2000. Even though I loved Cyberspace because it was a great place to meet new people and discuss on many different topics, I wanted to create my own version with some improved features.
In 2001, when Mark Zuckerberg probably didn’t even think about Facebook which he launched 3 years later, I published the first version of Talker. It was called TIRRANN — CyberNET and it was truly ugly as you can see in the image below.
TIRANN — CyberNET (2001)
TIRRANN — CyberNET offered virtual chatrooms where users discussed specific topics and also a private messaging. Imagine Facebook Groups and Messenger to get the idea. Users had different rights based on the number of ATs (Action Tokens) that were assigned based on the activity of the user. Each click inside the system meant some number of ATs and to limit frenzy clicking, I counted only some of them within a specific timeframe.
Later, I renamed TIRRANN to Talker and bought a domain talker.cz for it. I added some new features, changed the UI, introduced themes and so on. Building Talker was first and foremost a lot of fun. As a side effect, I learned a lot of technologies, but fun was the main force that brought me back again and again to create something new and to fix some bug here and there.
A few days ago, I was thinking about my next steps in online teaching. I am sick and tired of short, run-of-the-mill classes I have created partly for fun, but mostly for money. I want to bring back that feeling of pure joy that I had when I worked on Talker. I spent 5 years developing it just because I wanted to, just because I enjoyed it, not because I was trying to hunt down some more premium enrollments or minutes.
I believe it’s time to bring Talker back to life. Not because it has any real chance against Facebook, but because I can bring back that feeling of joy with it. I want to resurrect it and make it work again.
A lot has changed since the time when I started building Talker. There was no PHP framework, no Bootstrap, nothing. I started from scratch, I literally started with a blank new document.
These days, everything is pre-made. Frameworks, libraries, whole systems you can just grab, slightly modify and have your own product in a matter of minutes. Even though frameworks, libraries, and SDK can greatly improve developer’s productivity, I am pretty sure that if you want to really understand something, you should dig deep and take a look under the hood, behind the curtains.
This will be another step. After Talker is back, I will remake it from scratch once again. This time, I will write everything down and record my every move. Finally, this will serve as a material for an online course and a book.
I have decided to disclose these goals because making them public will help me stay on tracks. It will push me forward with this project.
I will also publish my progress as a series of articles on Medium so anyone interested in web development will have a chance to take a look at what it takes to build something like this from scratch.
Yesterday, I uploaded the latest version of Talker from 2007 to GitHub. I didn’t even try to run it yet. Most of the code is untouched for a decade. I can almost feel the dust! It’s available here: https://github.com/zavrelj/talker-reloaded
- I need to decide what development environment I will use to resurrect original Talker. I can install Apache, PHP, and MySQL as individual services, or I can use some stack (WAMP, LAMP). Maybe I will create a specific Vagrant VM for it, or I will make use of Docker.
- I will try to run the code, see what’s working and what needs heavy changes.
- I will fix everything to have 2007 edition up and running.
- I will redesign the UI, probably with the help of Bootstrap.
- Finally, I will recreate Talker from scratch with the current version of PHP and MySQL.
- The result will be Talker | Reloaded, the online course, the book and the system itself.
To give you an opportunity to shape the look and feel of this project, I will regularly ask you for your opinion on different aspects.
This time, I’d like to start with a logo. I have created two different versions.
Please, let me know in the comments below which one do you prefer.
Thank you and wish me luck, it will be a hell lot of work! 🙂