by U Khin Maung Zaw (KMZ, EC76)
It seems to me like it was yesterday, but it started somewhere in February or March 1999. I started to receive regular email messages from U Hla Min – affectionately known as “Ko John” in the circle of friends and colleagues from Universities’ Computer Center (UCC), Thamaing, Rangoon – with an attached Excel spreadsheet of RIT alumni list.
I remember the first message has the attached list of 100+ alumni, some of them I knew but most of them I had no clue at all. I kept receiving those regular messages from Ko John for a couple of months – the attached list kept growing, and I wondered how he could keep the list up-to-date even with the help of all alumni. I guess I did not have much interest in this alumni list at the time, since I did not know most of them and was glad that I was not maintaining the list.
Then along came the reply to one of his messages, from Saya U Soe Paing, our mentor from the Universities’ Computer Center days. Saya said some of us, RIT alumni, should start looking into creating a website so we did not have to pass around email messages and spreadsheets of alumni list. It was a wake up call for me, I have been working on the web technologies for several years at the time, for my employer, and I could create an alumni website with minimum effort, or so I thought.
I immediately contacted Ko John that I could start working towards the creating the alumni website. We exchanged email messages, including the possible names for the website, costs incurred for the site, setup costs as well as operating costs and the initial contents for the website. Our email exchanges started with one or two messages a day, then escalated to several messages a day. We agreed on the name of the RIT alumni website, ex-rit.org, and decided that rather than using a free Service Provider, we would have our own website free of advertisements. I calculated the initial/setup and operating costs of the site, and figured that the cost was minimal, I could foot the bills. I figured it was going to be a fun project to work on, little did I know what I was getting into. I promised Ko John that I could get the website up and running in no time, boy what an idiot I was, and not to mention that I failed to foresee the amount of time I have had to put in to make the site stick. I told him that I would work on this project on one and only one condition — he must provide me with contents. I had seen enough websites, especially of special interests and hobby-like sites with stale contents, the information never get updated for months if not for years. I told him I would not wish the RIT alumni site to be like those sites, and he agreed with me that he would work on the content side of our website. We also agreed that we would keep our website away from politics, and commercialism, so our alumni will have their peace of mind when they come to the website.