Just so you know, my life tends to revolve around stencil art. You know, those sidewalk paintings that you see all over the Mission (or maybe a street in your hometown). I make them, collect photos of them, have friends who make and collect them, and even go through withdrawal if I don’t carry my camera with me everywhere. I love them so much I tried to sell a book idea to several publishers back in 2001. No one took the bait, so I taught myself how to make a Web site and created stencilarchive.org. Don’t bother checking out the link right now; the site is down once again.
Lately, stencils have been a painful part of my life. Before November of last year, I was working with a designer on a new redesign of the site. He assured me it was easy, is an activist, so gave me a great deal for his labor. I watched him design the new site and work the code. He sure as hell knew more than I did. All the features that I wanted, he found as “modules” with an open source code called PostNuke.
We worked weekly on the site. I watched him more than helped him, but eventually started uploading content to the new sections that I’d thought up. It was looking good, moving along, until the designer couldn’t make the album module work with my current host server. He suggested that I move the site to someone he worked with. The new host would work with us on allowing permissions that my old host wouldn’t open for security reasons.
I wanted the site to go live in October to crossover with the street art show I was co-producing. “For the People” had great art on the walls, and the scene showed up. It made no money and [content deleted due to accusations of defamation of character by the co-producer] So I never contacted him.
Stencil Archive went live on the Day of the Dead, a Mexican holiday for celebrating loved ones who’ve passed into the shadows. The site was live for a few days and then went down. It took my new host’s other sites down as well. They wouldn’t let my site up for weeks while they upgraded their server and security shell. At one point, it went live and was instantly hacked via the PostNuke source code. A temporary headache, but another headache nonetheless.
While down, I had to beg my designer to work with the host admin to make changes. I wouldn’t hear from him for days, and then he’d pull an allnighter to try to get the site up again. I can understand his reluctance. I wasn’t paying him much (the site makes very little money), and he’s got other things in his life going on. He was very supportive when he responded to my pleas and actually got the site up again about three months after it went down.
Stencil Archive went live again with little fanfare this time. It was about 80% complete, so I had to reinstall the FAQ and some links. I had hundreds of stencil pics backed up to upload and didn’t have permission to access the albums. I had to ask my designer to help me with permissions, and he finally responded with another allnighter. It took the host’s server down again.
Last week my new host admin officially took over Stencil Archive. Though I was impressed by my desingers coding skills, he is not a coder. Now my bill for hosting and design just got higher. The admin called Stencil Archive a hobby site, though I’ve always wanted to have a store on there to at least break even on the price I pay to support it. It’s still down, and now the admin is trying to contact the designer to see what changes were made to the code. So the pain continues.
About the same time last week, the For the People co-producer [content deleted due to accusations of defamation of character by the co-producer]
Soon after that, the co-producer started [content deleted due to accusations of defamation of character by the co-producer] I called him on it.
He threw [content deleted due to accusations of defamation of character by the co-producer] Just isn’t my thang.
Anyway, [content deleted due to accusations of defamation of character by the co-producer]…terminated.
So the moral of this story, and the story has only been partially laid out here, is to try to get things in writing. This isn’t the first or second time I’ve been burned by supposed verbal agreements. CELLspace learned this the hard way and I guess I am too. When money is involved in shady underworld art scenes, a handshake is usually the beginning of a road to pain. If you don’t get things in writing, at least save every last e-mail and typed notes you have. It may clear things up down the road, or in small claims.