Movie Mistakes - a history (1996 - present)
In case anyone's interested, the first instances of my mistake-spotting mentality came up when watching Jurassic Park in the cinema in 1993, spotting the arrow changing directions and the "live" video that was blatantly pre-recorded. The realisation that this was a bit of a niche area came in 1994 watching True Lies, when I noticed that the trails of the Maverick missiles fired at the bridge looked computer generated (back in the day when not EVERYTHING was CGI), and no-one else really shared my interest.
Anyway, initially the site was just a single page with a few mistakes and an e-mail address (The internet archive's only got the redirects left after I moved it - here, although the redirect bizarrely stayed online until 2003, even though we changed ISPs in 1998). I did some research into promoting it, swapped some links, and very slowly traffic grew, with a few people submitting more mistakes. Eventually I decided it would be sensible to split up the site into alphabetical links (first major design change - big step at the time!). I started university in Southampton in September 1997, and while I still kept it updated a bit in the holidays, for most of my first year the site was left a bit neglected, as there was no software to update it on the university machines (didn't have internet connections in our rooms back then). I'm sounding far too inappropriately nostalgic - not having a net connection in my room?! Hardly the same as being on rations in wartime. But I disgress.
Annoyingly I can't remember traffic details for that period (there's an ancient version of the site here), but it was enough for my ISP to get in touch sometime in 1998, politely informing me that the site was generating too much traffic for a personal homepage and they couldn't host it anymore. Panic loomed - I still had no major plans for it, but I'd worked on it for nigh on 2 years, so didn't want it to disappear. Fortunately I learned that the university gave all the students webspace, so I transferred it to their servers (similarly ancient version here), and before too long, not meaning to sound smug, it was the third most popular section of the entire Southampton site, only behind the student homepage and the main homepage. I was somewhat surprised!
Soon after, things picked up quite quickly. With no warning at all, in I think 1998, the Times ran a story about mistakes in films, giving the address of my site, and traffic jumped to an unprecedented (for me anyway) 800 or so hits a day (bear in mind the online population was a lot smaller, plus newspapers weren't really online). I was now a student at the start of the dot-com boom reading about the wonders of internet advertising, but wasn't allowed to on the university servers. As such, come July 1999 I registered the domain "movie-mistakes.com" (the non-hyphenated version was owned by someone else at the time), moved off the university servers onto proper paid for hosting, did another round of promotion, and traffic soon jumped to about 2,000 visitors a day (the miracle of a sensible domain name). For anyone keeping track, the Internet Archive page for movie-mistakes.com is here.
I was hardly trying to become another Amazon, but the advertising paid my rent at least, which was a nice surprise, and made me realise that there was perhaps some potential in the site. Over the next year or so traffic increased steadily, and given that this was the period of genuinely insane advertising rates, when I graduated in 2000 I stayed living in Southampton to run the site - it wasn't a job as such, but was kind of a website-fuelled gap year.
Then of course the dot-com collapse came, taking ad revenues with it, and while the site was still as popular, I knew (or rather, thought) that any chances of running it as a job were dead. Thinking back, I don't recall having any real thoughts for trying to spread its reach (such as membership, more publicity, etc.) - maybe I was just thinking small. However, in April 2001 a very shocking thing happened. A story popped up in a UK newspaper about mistakes in the Oscar-nominated "Gladiator", and that day I was contacted by the Big Breakfast (popular UK breakfast show, now sadly non-existent), inviting me on to talk about mistakes and show off a few. I went on, spouted some drivel, managed to plug the site, and figured that was it, until a few days later they called back, saying the item had gone down well and would I like to come back next week? Of course I would! So I went back the next week, and the next, and the next...
That was a major lifting point for the site - although the address itself rarely got a mention, I was on air for a year, and about 1 show in 4 on the way home I'd get a call from someone who'd seen the show and wanted to do an interview or similar, all of which helped plug the site and boost its popularity. Sadly the Big Breakfast came to the end of its run in April 2002, to the dismay of many - I owe it a lot. I'm still surprised at the memory of some people - every so often I get stopped in a pub and asked if I'm "that bloke off the Big Breakfast, y'know, movie mistakes", so it clearly had some impact.
There's one other vital change to the site which warrants a mention, which occurred during the Big Breakfast run, on 27th August 2001, to be precise. That was the day when, thanks entirely to the mighty Rux (a genius friend of mine) this site moved from a horribly clunky design (which despite a few facelifts hadn't changed much in 5 years) to an all-new singing, dancing, database-driven, funky-graphicked (is that a word? You know what I mean, anyway) look, a slightly more mature version of which you see before you now. In one fell swoop updating the site (which had always been a huge hassle) became a breeze, new entries could be highlighted easily, and a world of opportunity opened up. Rux still has the promise of a Lotus Elise if ever this site becomes successful enough, a promise which I sincerely hope I can make good on one day.
In 2002 I finally managed to get hold of the moviemistakes.com domain name, the owner of which had been surprisingly hard to track down, and that caused another jump in traffic. The Movie Mistakes book came out in August 2002, with an update every year since, along with a TV Mistakes book, and most recently "Movie Mavericks", a collection of movie trivia. The days where a newspaper article caused a slight blip in traffic are long gone (for the better) - the rapid spread of the internet means that the occasional stories that crop up about mistakes in a big new release spread round worryingly fast, and with a mention in the right place traffic can get so high it's in danger of crashing the site. The first example was December 2003, when a story about mistakes in The Return of the King was posted on Slashdot, causing traffic to top 100,000 visitors in a day, well above my average 25,000 a day at the time, which is itself rather more than the impressive-at-the-time 800 a day back in 1998.
I hit a new all-time visitor record somwhere around 150,000 on both the 3rd and 4th of January 2005, largely due to a "top mistakes of 2004" list which got picked up by a few places. As ever, the site crashed a bit, prompting both a server upgrade and a hurried re-write of a few pages (you never realise how inefficient some areas are until they're busy). The site tends to get about two major traffic spikes a year - one because of a big summer movie, and one for the same reason around new year. Currently the site gets around 25,000 visitors a day.
Membership proved a popular feature (again initiated by the multi-talented Rux), and managing that since April 2003 taught me huge amounts about developing features for the site myself, resulting in various improvements/additions/alterations, after I learned how to put them together myself. Ultimately this site is nothing without visitors - it's in my interest to make it as good as possible, and to that end I'm always keen to hear suggestions for new features. Thanks to the hard-working members OneHappyHusky and Tailkinker, as of 2008 the site now has its own Wikipedia entry, which is quite cool (yes, I'm a geek).
At the end of 2012/start of 2013 the site had its most ongoing traffic spike (can you have an ongoing spike?) - the 2005 numbers are slightly questionable as they're going by visitor logs (so 150,000 people visited, but quite possibly a large number of them never even saw the homepage due to the server being so overloaded!). On the 3rd January 2013 however, there were a Google Analytics-confirmed 124,784 visitors, preceded by 96,000 the day before, 95,000 a couple of weeks earlier, and 96,000 a month before that, with consistently high traffic between those spikes. Most of that was from various news stories, so it may yet return to its 30,000 people a day or so normal levels, but this may be the start of an influx of new regulars. Shame they all saw the old site, not the shiny new one! (See below).
The site's scope is now widening slightly, as a result of suggestions and my own random thoughts, to take in areas such as movie quotes, trailers, and the like. Not mistake-related in particular, but of interest to enough people to make them worthwhile. As of the end of 2012 I'm working on a complete rebuild/redesign, partly due to some technical things that need to change, partly because it's long overdue - while the site is functional, it's certainly not very pretty, and it doesn't work the way I'd expect a modern website to, so that's in progress. Or maybe long-since finished, given how rarely I remember to update this page!
I never intended this site to be anything more than just a random experiment to work out how to design a web page, which is possibly why it's done so much better than I could ever have imagined. Finding a topic I was interested in and learning more about films, mistakes, and web design as I went made it a labour of love, rather than a chore! If you've lasted this long, through the waffle and random remembrances above, I've got great admiration for you. I'm very grateful to everyone who's helped make this site what it is, and hopefully it will continue to go from strength to strength.