Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Death of MedCos

About six or seven years ago, I joined a mailing list called MedCos, founded by Wendi Dunlap, who used an educational software program called Moodle to set it up as a website.  As a result, like the Yahoo groups lists, you could post from an e-mail client or at the site through a browser.

But MedCos (the name comes from "Medieval Costuming") was more interesting than the Yahoo lists (many of which I still subscribe to) in many ways.  First, it was not focused on a single period but on many different periods, each with its own forum, though members could, and did, subscribe to all the forums.  The primary emphasis was on SCA period, but because the site was structured to include multiple forums, forums were added accommodate  costuming interests from the 17th century all the way up to modern times.

Second, unlike the Yahoo forums, the software used for MedCos made it possible for members to include photographs *with* posts and have the photographs be visible when reading the list through a browser.  This fact made for a friendlier interface for separate areas like costume galleries and reading lists. Each subforum had a moderator (though some moderators were responsible for multiple forums) who were responsible for maintaining the information and picture gallery areas, fostering discussions, and generally keeping the forum well-run. Before I developed the courage to start my own blog, I was the moderator for the "Early Period" section on MedCos.  I spent a fair amount of time adding Viking-related sources to the Early Period reference areas and encouraging people to provide pictures of their Viking and other Early Period costumes for the photo gallery.

Unfortunately, as with many  good things, MedCos's most interesting features were the source of most of its problems. Because it is based on educational software, a login was always required to see the site.  You could log in as "guest" by clicking a button, and accounts were always free, but a login was always required, which made it difficult if one wanted to place a link to a forum discussion or photograph on one's own blog or on another list.  Other technical difficulties plagued the site from time to time because of our unusual hosting software.

In addition, the existence of separate forums made it tough to start, and sustain, discussions. MedCos had a lot of members but most were "lurkers" who preferred to read and observe rather than to post, and most of the members preferred later period costume (15th and 16th century). That often made it challenging for me to get discussions on early period costume started, and keep them going. As time went on, various moderators had to resign for different personal reasons. I eventually ended up moderating many of the forums, and the ones I didn't moderate went begging for attention. Fewer and fewer discussions were started. Eventually, I started this blog and spent less and less  of my own time checking on MedCos.

Last week, I visited the MedCos site for the first time in months, only to find this message from Wendi dated from May of this year, explaining that she had had to close the site, and why she had needed to do so:
Hello, MedCos folks. You may have noticed that MedCos hasn't been working well lately. For a long time. It appears that we basically broke the site. The software that was hosting this site was never meant to do what we were doing with it, and we kind of overloaded it. I tried to fix it, but was unable to. For that reason, I believe I will have to close MedCos. I do have the content that people posted to MedCos, and might be able to pass it on to someone else if anyone wants to set up another sort of MedCos. I am sorry I wasn't able to fix it!
Unfortunately, I don't have the technical ability to "fix" the MedCos software, or to transfer the site content to another type of software. All I can do is to mourn the passing of MedCos, and hope that someone else with the requisite skills will arrange for its resurrection.  For that reason, I have removed MedCos from my lists of favorite web sites, and costume resources, even though it will always have a place in my heart.


  1. Weird, this is the first time that I have heard of it, and I have been reading SCA email lists for many many years. Perhaps that isn't surprising though, since I didn't start doing anything with web pages until far more recently, since I didn't have the patience to wait for web pages to load on my early computers.

  2. It's not exactly an SCA mail list. it's more like a list that has a lot of SCA members, so it was never promoted as an SCA-related thing.

  3. After read about so many MedCos stuff from your post, I would like to learn more things about that.

  4. What sort of things would you like to learn more about, Udreamy? I can't even pull up an archived copy of the MedCos site from the Wayback Machine, probably because of the odd software used to create it.