With the launch of the third iteration of the Crossing Zebras website, it felt fitting that both owners, Jeg and Xander, sit down to give their thoughts on how the site got to this point.
Just over four years ago, two guys who had known one another a very long time were sat in a room in a small flat above a, quite frankly, disgusting little corner shop near the town centre of a Scottish city. Friends for such a long time, they had followed one another through a range of hobbies with a variety of success and at that point, the flavour of the month was Eve Online.
Unencumbered with what life would throw at them in the coming years – mortgages, children, wives – they spent a lot of time drinking alcohol, flying internet spaceships (badly – some things never change) and chatting shit. After a time, one of them thought that maybe if they recorded some of those nonsense conversations, someone may want to listen to them.
And so on 8th April, 2012, the first episode of the Crossing Zebras podcast was recorded
And so on 8th April, 2012, the first episode of the Crossing Zebras podcast was recorded, edited and posted onto a horrible wee tumblr blog that Jeg and I had set up. It is two friends who were irrelevant in the meta and had no real business giving any sort of educated opinion on anything Eve-related getting drunk and giving it a bash anyway.
Not many people listened. And why would they? However, I like to think those who did felt a certain affinity for the two Eve Online nobodies having a bit of a giggle while giving some honest, if misguided, opinions. And that small group of listeners told other people. And slowly but surely over the first couple of years of the podcast, more and more of you wanted to hear what we had to say.
Eventually, we got offered a wee sum of ISK from our amazing friends at Eve Bet and rather than simply pocketing it ourselves, we decided to set about hiring a few writers. The rest, as the saying goes, is history.
While Jeg and I don’t record or undock as much these days, CZ has evolved into this multimedia platform way beyond the scope of what we ever could have imagined. We have an amazing pool of writers from every area of space and every major bloc all capable of telling an engaging and intelligent story of what matters to them in Eve in that moment. We have editors who understand the importance of refining a submission into a sleek and efficient beast that can pin an audience for as long as it needs to and not one minute more. We have streamers and podcasters who put the early episodes of CZ to shame with their knowledge of the wider meta and capacity to engage.
And in Niden, we have an Editor-in-Chief who guides the ship in a way I could never have hoped to do myself.
it has always kept that core of being something fun, honest, genuine and worthwhile for those who choose to come here
CZ has never been about money, it has never been about ‘sides’ (you only need look at my corp history to see that), and it has never been about trying to talk down to or outmanoeuvre our readers and listeners. And I like to think that while CZ has evolved in those days, months and years since that fateful first podcast, it has always kept that core of being something fun, honest, genuine and worthwhile for those who choose to come here. Some things never change.
Before I pass the baton onto Jeg, I wanted to give out a few of thank yous;
- The amazing people at Eve Bet who have supported us and kept us on our feet since that first wee ISK payment for our silly wee podcast. There’s no CZ without their support. Beyond that, Bam and Hunt are two of the coolest hotdogbois I ever did meet.
- In those early days when we tried to evolve from being just a podcast into something more, one of our first and to this day, very best writers was HVAC Repairman. One of these days, I am going to hand that man a very well deserved beer in person. Don’t follow him on twitter.
- We stumbled upon Niden. He submitted a random piece about some lowsec-poor fight a few years back now. Whilst perhaps lacking the deftest of virtual pens myself, I like to think I have a good eye for talent and grabbed him for CZ. He quickly showed himself to be extraordinarily capable and when the EiC slot opened up, he took to it like a duck to water. Niden is the heart of CZ now, infinitely modest and deserving of every bit of praise and more.
- Jeg Elsker. There isn’t much to say but thank you for your tolerance all these years and allowing me to make CZ a thing. If Niden is CZ’s heart, Jeg is the brain. I’m not sure what that makes me.
- My wife. For all those hours lost to me playing with internet spaceships and all those hours we had in between.
I’m not a writer so I’ll try and make this as quick and painless as possible for all of us. It can’t be any worse than Xander’s posting if nothing else.
It’s weird for me to look back at that first episode all those years ago and see where we have got to now. I’m not really sure how it happened. Life has changed a lot for Xander and I since then, but a universal constant in that time has been CZ and Eve Online.
As he alludes to above, I don’t play much Eve any more. I still love the game and follow the ever-evolving meta, but Eve is nothing if not a game that demands your time and love and as I get older, both those resources become dangerously overstretched.
CZ is a part of me as much as it is Xander
However, CZ is a part of me as much as it is Xander. While won’t say I have an editorial claim on the side like he and Niden do, every couple of years, I get barked at to build a new site. This is always a royal pain in the arse because Xander is the worst of all worlds – a man who knows nothing about development, knows exactly what he wants in a site and has zero idea how to express it with any technical clarity. It brings me great joy to know that other than firefighting any technical gremlins (more of that in a moment), I get to step back from CZ for a for a while after Fanfest.
When developing this third iteration of the site, I tried to learn from the mistakes we made with 2.0 as well as looking closely at what some of our competitors did right and wrong. Niden was keen to evolve the site into something with a more modern look with ultra crisp and clean lines and imagery. My concerns were more with the technical aspects, the old site was horribly slow and lacked the meta data that the social internet that we all use today loves, so we stripped everything back to the bones, and built things from the ground up to be as responsive and clean as possible. We removed AdSense and Disqus advertisements, it was crippling the page in terms of layout and performance, and for the pennies it generated a month it was just not worth it. We stripped out the other stuff you guys rarely used, I mean who comes to CZ to read the tweetfleet twitter timelines anyway? What we ended up with is what you are viewing today. Hopefully a much more snappy feeling website that is kinder to my server hamsters as much as it is to your browsing experience.
If it’s Niden and Xander’s jobs to get the content to the site you want to read and hear, it’s my job to make sure it can be presented in a good and accessible way. CZ V3.0 is a huge forward step in that direction, and it’s something we intend on iterating on into the future.
Since we are migrating from some pretty ugly code from years of working with the old theme, we may have missed some things – in particular, legacy content is going to be readable but may not look quite as pretty as we’d like in the new site template – so don’t be afraid to let us know via the usual channels if you spot a bug or have a suggested improvement. Help us evolve CZ into your home for Eve content.