Over the course of my career, I've had many projects get forced into retirement, for many different reasons. During my years of self-employment, we created sites and applications for lots of small businesses. I learned during this time that small businesses are very volatile and our hard work on an application might never pay off because the business might fail regardless of its software (and we might not even get paid). But I also built a system for large company and the division was sold off; the software ultimately became useless. When building systems to run businesses, the software is never immune to forced retirement.
This year marks the retirement of another system I helped to build--Statsworld.com. When I joined BIG back in 2003, Statsworld was the first project I was assigned to. I worked with Jess Tedder and the owners of BIG, and we "ported" a thick-client program BIG had been running for many years over to the web. We used ASP.NET and built a terrific system. Statsworld had an excellent reputation in the industry even though the site was never advertised; we only gained customers through word of mouth, but we got quite a few of them. Now, 5 years later, Statsworld has been retired, merging with MyFantasyLeague.com.
I wasn't much of a football fan when I started working on Statsworld. Ironically, neither was Jess; there we were, the two of us, building this fantasy football application, and we'd often have to ask questions about whether a certain position was on offense or defense. I remember when I was working on the "Sports Page" feature of Statsworld, creating generated game summaries, and I was asked to make the screen look like a newspaper's sports page. I had to go buy a paper so that I could see what a sports page looked like; the bosses thought that was hilarious.
After a very short development cycle, we launched Statsworld July 1, 2003--right on schedule. If we'd missed our deadline by much, we could have missed out on the entire football season, but we hit it and as soon as we launched, we had customers signing up (and paying money). It was a great feeling. Inevitably, I got interested in fantasy football, and football in general. I thoroughly enjoyed playing in our in-house leagues the seasons of 03-04 thought 07-08. Statsworld often saw over a million page views on Sundays while tens of thousands of league members watched their scores real-time. The system was a huge success, and it went years without any developers being assigned to it--it was incredibly stable. I'm very proud of what we built, and it was exciting to be at BIG and watch the continued success of the product I helped to build.
When I resigned from BIG earlier this year to join Microsoft, I actually wondered to myself whether or not I'd play fantasy football this fall. I was leaning toward not playing, because it's just another time-sucker that I didn't want to get into. And it wouldn't be the same not being in the office to talk trash on Monday and Tuesday mornings. We used to load up the game summaries (that I engineered) and laugh about the auto-generated quotes, such as "It's Official: Deadly Vipers have no backbone!" When I was asked a couple of months ago if I wanted in the league, I said I didn't think so, but I went out to the Statsworld.com site for grins and giggles, only to find the announcement of the merger. That solidified my "no" answer.
So for me, it's somewhat fitting that Statsworld has been retired, since I've also left BIG. But at the same time, it's yet another "child" of mine that I don't get to watch grow up. Sometimes it feels like I've had too many awesome projects get forced into retirement. In the end, I don't feel badly about this one though, because I think it was actually for the best. And I hope that by joining Microsoft, I'll get to see my work be much more long-lived.