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Published on July 18th, 2012 | by Mercy Less

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Happy 1st Birthday DerbyLife!

Back in the Dark Ages of women’s roller derby, there were less than 50 leagues in the world, who were struggling to connect to each other across North America, as best they could, on the internet. Ivanna S. Pankin, founder of a whole lot of what now exists in derby as stuff you take for granted (because she refuses to take credit for things…) was frustrated that the only online meeting of derby people was ‘Roller Derby Fighting Babes.’ As its title suggests, it’s not exactly “our” people. So she did what all of us did once upon a time – if something we needed didn’t exist, we invented it! Thus the roller_girls Yahoo group was born. We finally had a place of our own.

When I started derby in 2005, this became a buzzing hive of activity where we could connect to ask each other advice, share stories and cautionary tales through the trials and failures of building our fledgling leagues, and trumpet our successes to one another. There was often intense discussion and debate as we macheted our way through the wilds of whether or not penalty wheels or men belonged in our derbyverse, old schoolers ALL CAPS YELLING AT US ABOUT HOW WE’RE DOING IT WRONG, whether inline skates or toe stops should be outlawed, and which “coach” or “skate shop” (before a derby owned shop existed) had run off with our money and left us with nothing. roller_girls was our Town Hall in the greater Derbyverse.

As the years rolled by, people made specific yahoo groups for specific interests, like Roller Derby Productioneers and Finance or Sponsorship. People connected at RollerCon, and through early membership in WFTDA and its message boards. People maybe grew tired of their yahoo groups, and slowly debate and discussion slowed down on roller_girls as the sport grew so large that it was nearly impossible for all of us to connect in one place online. Those years saw the development of a fledgling DNN, as well. As a shadow figure in the business for a long time, I often sent Editor In Chief Justice Feelgood Marshall items of interest I found around the internet related to derby. DNN’s scope has always been clearly defined as “News,” so my suggestions were almost always rejected as “not news.”

As derby growth hit new heights, and the era of “big sistering” your nearest league faded away, I wanted there to be a place in the world where people still shared their stories, knowledge and held open discussion and debate on the ideas and news of the day in derby. I wanted it to be as inclusive of all margins of the derby planet as roller_girls has always been. Here at DNN Labs, we spend a lot of time brainstorming what tools we can create to help nurture the growth and longevity of this sport we all love. This here is my contribution.

With the help of Assaultin’ Pepa and Hurt Reynolds, derby style: on GTalk late one summer night in 2011, we brainstormed all the content we’d want to see and read on a site like this. We giggled ourselves stupid trying to imagine fun and funny things, and solve problems, like providing a dedicated home for every fundraiser for a deceased or diseased or recently robbed skater. We culled this list down to what we thought we could realistically accomplish, then begged the help of our friend Gnosis to make it happen. Pepa listened to all my half-baked visual ideas and made us the graphic design of my dreams, and our logo. Gnosis and Hurt patiently held my hand through learning what I could and couldn’t realistically have both visually and content-wise on a site. Gnosis not only spent hours building our ideas into a functional reality, he then taught me baby code and how to actually use the damned thing!

Synergy is a force in derby, and at the time that all this was developing, Hurt suddenly remembered to tell me that Gotham’s Em Dash had been really, really interested in helping out with DNN in some way, and was a real, honest to goodness Editor in a publishing house. I was beside myself, and begged him to do whatever it took to get her on board. It took very little, as our desires and vision lined up completely, and she was that last piece in the puzzle we needed to make the site work. We collaborated as a team on the scope of actual content for the site, then got busy recruiting everyone we knew to contribute for our launch. In the space of a few weeks, this idea took shape in website form, and countless hours shared by a solid team birthed the DerbyLife you see today!

There are more people without whom we could not have built this thing we’ve come to love so much. Riedell was first in with advertising and a financial vote of confidence in what we wanted to build. They included us in their RollerCon party a week after launch, and helped spread the good news to you throughout the convention. Thank you so much, Riedell, for helping make our dream a reality!

Without the tireless contribution of Em Dash, our Managing Editor, you would not have all the quality reading you see here on DerbyLife. Her work recruiting and encouraging new writers and helping them develop their craft is what makes DerbyLife so special. I hope you all realize that she holds down a full-time Real Job, and spent the first year of DerbyLife managing your submissions, encouraging you to write and editing your work while practicing and traveling the globe as part of the #1 women’s flat track roller derby All-Star Team (and the only team in WFTDA history to win a Hydra TWICE!), the Gotham Girls All-Stars! Dedicated and passionate doesn’t even begin to describe the awesome that is my staunch partner in crime and biggest supporter in this endeavor. There aren’t enough words to thank you for everything you’ve done, Dash!

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We have to thank all of the talented, brave and fascinating writers who have contributed to the site throughout the first year! You make this site what it is, and helped us realize one of our main goals – that this site would be by you, for you and about you. We built this for you, and we hope we can continue to be of service to you and the derby community by providing a place for everyone to connect, learn and share with one another in the original spirit of derby. We hope it has been as much fun for you to create and share as it has been for us to have a window into your derby lives. I think I speak for everyone at DerbyLife when I say reading has never made me cry so much in my life! Thank you so much for your bold honesty and creativity, DerbyLife contributors!

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Today’s content is a look, in order, at the top 6 most read articles on DerbyLife in the last year. We can’t wait to do so much more for you in the coming years! Read through these, and please offer suggestions and feedback on what you enjoy reading the most, and what you’d like to see in the future. We’ll be at RollerCon all next week, so please come talk to us (next to the Razorslut Track in the Vendors South area) and offer criticism and advice in person, or anonymously in our ‘suggestion box.’ Submissions@DerbyLife.com is where you can always find us with any submissions, questions, thoughts or concerns, 24/7, 365.

Last, but not at all least, thanks to YOU, the DerbyLife readers! You make our day every day as we obsessively watch our stats tick by on our phones all day, and you light up our lives with your comments in the articles. You’ve made us feel like successes inside one year, and we are truly grateful!

So much derbylove for you all,

xxxooo Mercy Less

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