Revisiting Old Memories, Part 5: Launch of Wired In To Recovery

I was greatly inspired by the book Community Building on the Web by Amy Jo Kim back in 2002, before Facebook was launched. Through reading this book, I became convinced of the power of web communities for helping tackle social issues. My vision was to build a Wired In virtual meeting place for peers to communicate with, and help, each other. A place where ideas could be developed and exchanged, and stories told.

However, I was never able to raise the funding required to develop such a web community. After taking early retirement from my Professorial position in the Department of Psychology, University of Swansea in late-2006, I made the decision to use some of my redundancy payment to finance the development of a web community focused on addiction recovery, which we would call Wired In To Recovery

The money was used not to just pay Nathan Pitman of Nine Four to build the website and its associated content management system, but also to pay my full-time Wired In team members (Lucie James and Kevin Manley) and consultants such as our filmmaker Jonathan Kerr-Smith. We also had a team of volunteers, all of whom who were on their personal recovery journey and enjoyed working with us. Many months of work went into the developing content (written and film) for our unique web community. In addition, we did a great deal of testing of the website and content management system.

I’ll pay more credit to our full-time team team and consultants, and our team of volunteers—Chris Goodge, Chris Hobbs, Chris Ling, Patrick M, Kerry Manley, Mark Saunders, Brian White, and David Wright—in future blog posts.

For now, I want to revisit the memory of what happened on launch day. But first, a little an additional piece of background:

‘I had decided back in April that it was time that I joined a gym, as I was fast losing the fitness I once had, and I was putting on weight. I thought I should do weights as well as lots of cardio exercise, even though I had always found weightlifting very boring. I was also concerned about my back, which sometimes had caused great concern in the past due to deterioration at the bottom of my spine.

Therefore, I decided to hire a personal trainer for some of my gym sessions, to ensure that I didn’t do anything silly, and also to monitor and motivate me. What a great decision, as Lewis was a godsend. He pushed me to some extremes and I really loved it. We had long talks about the nature of motivation, and his sister eventually became a volunteer with us.

One day, I was lying on a bench pushing up a massive weight, or at least as I thought. I then looked to my side and was surprised to see Scott Gibbs, one of the great all-time Welsh rugby players, pushing a weight that made mine look like nothing. I mentioned this to Lewis after the session and he said I had seen nothing yet. If I came in next week he would introduce me to a current Welsh rugby player, Lee Byrne I think it was, who pushed the heaviest weights of anyone in the gym. I was excited!

By this time, Tessa [my dog, a faithful companion for 15 years] has passed away, and I had decided to move to Australia. I was slowly getting rid of my furniture. My neighbour came around on the Sunday before I would meet Lee Byrne and asked if we could move the wardrobe I was giving him. I ran upstairs and without any preparation started to lift the wardrobe.

Snap! My back went completely. I couldn’t get up off the floor initially. I had to drag myself to the loo and then scream in pain as I lifted myself onto my knees to urinate. And this happened just three days before we were due to launch Wired In Recovery.

“We soft-launch the Wired In online recovery community at 17.00 on Weds, 19 November 2008. No fan-fair about it, Nathan [Pitman] just strips off the ‘/site’ from the domain name and goes live. Lucie and I high-five and she heads off to run her recovery support group. It’s almost anti-climactic.

I have written a launch piece entitled, A Vision Begins to Unfold which describes briefly how the community came about. I have also written an article, The Wired In Online Recovery Community for the Practitioners’ section.

It’s not been an easy week as I damaged my back on Sunday. It’s been very painful and restrictive—I’ve mainly been in bed. Launching a website whilst on one’s back, not the most usual way of doing things. 

It doesn’t take long before Jim spots the first omission, contact details for the sponsorship page. Rather critical. We’ve now got to get on and raise funding to keep the site running and develop it much further.

I spend the evening ‘lurking around’ the site, too drained and in pain to do much else. I hope that this does not become too much of a home for me. But I feel very proud of what we have achieved. My long-lasting dream and vision has been realised—at least the first stage.  

Dave McCartney is one of the first to come through with a congratulations. Jim [Young, formerly of our Daily Dose news portal] and Sue [Jim’s wife] spend part of their evening doing a fast trawl around the site. Jim says, ‘Dave—this is like watching the bells go off when Amazon started up.’ 

Pavel [Nepustil] comes through with a new blog in both English and Czech! At this stage, we have 57 community members.’ My Blog Post, 19 November 2008

“An early email from Bill White that makes my day, ‘Congratulations on the site launch.  It looks fabulous!’ He points out that he had a bad back problem some time ago, resulting in one of the worst years of his life. Well, there’s certainly life after a bad back problem!

Nice comment from Peter McDermott, ‘… I’m seriously impressed by the commitment that it must have taken to invest your retirement fund in the project. I’m always complaining about how self-centred and lacking in vision practitioners are, but clearly nobody could ever accuse you of that!’  Peter points out that he’ll try and pop in from time to time, but he is busy running the Alliance Forum. I join up to the Forum.

Nathan sends through an email from the web community world, ‘Incredibly impressive site! Fantastic and monolithic…Awesome work!’ He sends a lovely personal email as well, saying how fantastic the content on the site is. Really pleased we’re working with him. I’ve been reading my Amy Jo Kim web community book and realise that there is a lot to do at this early stage.” My Blog Post, 20 November 2008

This was a very special time in Cowbridge, South Wales, one I remember fondly… despite my back problem!

In the top photograph, I’m with two key members of a Cardiff Recovery Community tenpin bowling session, Mark Saunders (Left), who was the subject of our first Wired In Film Story, and Kevin Manley, who played a key role in the development of Wired In To Recovery. In the second photograph, I am celebrating my birthday with Lucie James, another of my Wired In right-hand people.