Help Desk Turns Fifteen Today

Fifteen years ago today Help Desk was born. To be more specific, on March 31, 1996, Help Desk debuted in OS/2 e-Zine!, a web magazine covering the OS/2 operating system. OS/2 e-Zine! was my introduction to the world of web publishing: I wrote software reviews, published this comic, and eventually served a brief stint as editor-in-chief.

If you’d asked me in 1996 what I’d be doing in 2011, I don’t think “continuing to publish a webcomic” would have been on my list. I primarily thought of myself as a musician then (I am in fact a much better musician than I am a cartoonist)1 with thoughts of eventually becoming a novelist. But here I am, still doing it, with no plans to stop.

If you’ll pardon the brief descent into introspection, doing anything on the web for fifteen years straight is a pretty big accomplishment,2 especially for someone who never had a business plan to speak of, just a bunch of things he wanted to do, and a bunch more things he wanted to try.

What I wanted to do was publish. Before I discovered the web my goal (other than music) was to publish an independent editorial newspaper. After the web my goal didn’t change so much as the format did: the editorial newspaper became a website where I would publish an editorial in comic form. My topics became less generally political and more specifically so, focusing on an industry that, even then, seemed bent on grabbing as much as it could while delivering as little as it could get away with.

These days the comic wanders away from that, from time to time, but that’s all right. Fifteen years is a long time to beat the same drum over and over again. Sometimes you have to switch to another drum, even if only for a little while, just to keep things fresh.

I feel incredibly lucky to have been able to do this for as long as I have. The last few years haven’t been particularly easy for me, or for this comic. This is an out-of-pocket venture—at best, revenue generated from banner ads offsets my server fees, more commonly it simply mitigates them, and I operate at a loss—and as I’ve mentioned before there are risks associated with working this way. That said, the advantage is that I’ve had the freedom to pursue this comic and my additional projects exactly the way I wanted to, and how many people can actually say that about anything in their lives?

Which would mean absolutely nothing if people weren’t willing to read… but you do. So I want to take this moment to say “hey audience… thanks for reading. Thanks for putting up with the repetitive clipart, the site outages, the inconsistent publishing schedules, the repetitive clipart, the prolonged times when I would disappear without updates, the site outages, the database corruptions that required you to re-register your accounts, the repetitive clipart, the site outages, the accidental predictions of a massive cascading failure of the northeast US power grid, and last but not least, the Comic Sans Coffee pun.”

There are a lot of things I did over the course of the last fifteen years that I’m proud of. I’ve converted 100% over to Linux3 and the comic is created with nothing but free software.4 Both Richard Stallman and Eric Raymond have made good-natured complaints about comics I’ve created.5 The Books-On-Tape people threatened to sue me for violating their trademark.6

So what’s in store for the future? Here are a few goals:

  • Unify Eviscerati.net, Ubersoft.net, and Unexploredhorizons.net into a single website to eliminate the separate accounts, and make the mechanics of creating and publishing content as easy as possible.
  • Start publishing Kernel Panic regularly again (best case scenario would be once a week).
  • Resume PCTown. I have the scripts, I just need to figure out how to draw the next damn comic.
  • Create some Help Desk and Kernel Panic books.7
  • Show them. Show them all.8

Here’s to another fifteen years.

Footnotes

  1. Though it’s worth noting that I am a punk musician, which carries certain caveats and limitations that translate very well to my comic.
  2. Although it would be significantly more impressive if I’d been publishing on the kind of insane schedule that guys like Jeff Darlington and Howard Tayler keep.
  3. In the interest of full disclosure, I still have a Windows partition because I still play computers games, and WINE takes a while to figure out how to run the new games.
  4. The free software movement might find this more flattering if I could manage to produce better art.
  5. Not the same ones, though. That would have been brilliant.
  6. I created a Slashdot parody site called “Apostrophecolon.” On that parody site was a single line that mentioned it was possible to get Linux-themed Books-On-Tape. I got a suitably intimidating email from their legal representation a few days later, demanding I change it to “Audiobook.” Which I did.
  7. For the record, I have some significant technical challenges I need to overcome in order to do this, and I’m not convinced there’s a lot of demand for it. I still want to do it, though.
  8. I have no idea who they are, but dammit I’m going to show them!

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