DNN 5th Anniversary Celebration Preview

Dearest DNN Community,

Five years ago, today, something exceptional and new was brewing. My good friend Justice Feelgood Marshall was working on a revolutionary new idea that was genius in its simplicity: if we couldn’t get the press to come to us and cover this sport seriously, we’d become the press. Justice had already begun, along with a few others, independently covering roller derby in the style of a sports journalist, in write ups on his buddy Hurt Reynolds’ blog, Have Derby, Will Travel, and for me as head of Charm City’s Marketing and PR wing, for the local Baltimore press.

Right before WFTDA’s Austin Nationals in 2007, Justice launched DNN version 1 as a blog on a WordPress site, with this article, then preview and recap articles, and comments sections for community discussion. Less than two weeks later, I watched in a motel room in Austin as he dilligently cranked out preview articles for the tournament, me reading every bit voraciously as he published it. (See, here – the only existing WFTDA Nationals 2007 recap on DNN 1).

2006 and 2007 saw the advent of a record 100 roller derby leagues in existence worldwide, the birth of the world’s first international leagues, roller derby’s first tv deals (the reality show Rollergirls on A&E, and full-length WFTDA tournament bouts broadcast on cable network MavTV), the first ECDX, the first liveblogging textcasts from derby events courtesy of Gnosis, as well as WFTDA’s first Regional and National tournament structure. The excitement in the air during this huge surge of growth for the sport was palpable in September of 2007.

Looking back to our beginnings, so much of the development and growth of DNN was tied closely to my personal life. In 2007 I left the league I helped give birth to as one of 9 founders, and left a rocky marriage to move across the country with my 2 daughters to start over (cue the One Day At a Time theme song…). Hurt Reynolds followed me home from Austin to Albuquerque that fall and never left. My leadership roles that year working for Charm City, WFTDA and RollerCon all forged my family bond with Justice (Charm City’s Head Ref, RollerCon’s Head Ref and WFTDA Rules Committee member) and Hurt (who was creating the WFTDA Games Officer Role at every tournament that year, and one of the first RollerCon Managers) as the three of us worked together to try to lay a foundation for better press, officiating, community and growth in the sport.

We became an actual family unit during the period of time that the three of us and my 2 daughters lived together for a few months in my home in Albuquerque. Our shared inspiration from the growing derby community continued to forge our mutual passion for dedicating our lives to serving this community. We used any and all skills we could share with you to build tools that would nurture the sport.

During this time, Gnosis, a web developer, rabid Mad Rollin’ Dolls fan, fledgling derby journalist and founder of derby’s first news site, Leadjammer.com approached Hurt and Justice with a genius idea: what if they joined forces? Hurt and Justice answered his email with an emphatic “YES!” and DNN 2 was born, in my living room, while my then toddler daughter was yelling “Mr. Huuuuuuuurrrrt!!! I’m finished! Come wipe my butt!” (having recently become potty trained) in the background.

DNN 2 merged Hurt’s old Have Derby, Will Travel blog with Gnosis’ web skills and content, and Justice’s journalism. This triumvirate also birthed the first version of Hurt’s dream scores database, DerbyMatic, with the help of Moose Ondaluce, Bone Crawford and Grand Poobah, which became the world’s only tracking system for bouts and scores at the time. A growing volunteer army joined forces with the three original DNN partners to provide content and help with all their ambitious endeavors.

For all of us DNN Partners, the history of the 25 years of living that we’ve crammed into the last 5 years comprises too many highlights to tell in one article. Next week, daily, you’ll see content posted here, each day reflecting on one year of our existence, leading up to our 5th Birthday on September 9th, 2012. Happy Anniversary to us! We can’t believe we’ve made it this far, and we never could have accomplished what we have without your help and support.

So where are we now? The times, they are a changin’…


Gnosis stopped working for his corporate overlords this year, and struck out on his own, founding his own business, SochaDev. Gnosis and his team immediately landed a huge and prestigious contract – one that has him so busy that he had to retire from his active position as DNN’s CTO. We couldn’t be more proud of him, and we are overjoyed at his success. The man who first invented roller derby journalism back in 2005 has really, really earned a break. (This is the part where I mention that DNN 3 only happened because Gnosis spent his 2 weeks vacation that year building it around the clock…) That leaves 3 of us.

Like many derby startups, we still do not derive a steady income from our business. 2012 has found Justice and I working other jobs to keep our personal overhead paid, which leaves Hurt largely alone to run the daily operations of the business. I do the same for DerbyLife.com (with the help of Em Dash) while I work toward finishing my degree (I FINALLY GRADUATE IN DECEMBER!!!), and work internships in hopes of one day sustaining our family with a job that allows Hurt the freedom to focus on what he loves most – this community and our sport.

Times are tough here at DNN. The three of us are well into our 7th year of compromising our lives and finances to do this derby thing. We’re a bit worse for the wear, and frankly, we’re all broke. We had planned to launch a huge Kickstarter campaign to fund a huge new tech/ dev/ database project that we’re sure will revolutionize our business and put an exciting new tool in your hands. However, reality is a bitch, and the fact is that we need operating funds to continue the work of this site.

On September 10th, we will launch an indiegogo drive for operating funds, and if it goes well, we’ll reveal our newest ideas for a project from DNN Labs as a stretch goal. This birthday is more than just reveling in our vibrant history – this is a call to action. In order to survive into the future, we’ll need your help. More than anything, we need you to spread the word far and wide using your social networks and any tools you have at your disposal.

The message is this: “The 2012 DNN 5th Anniversary Fund Drive is coming soon! Spread the word!” To that end, please enjoy some fun we’ve been having while looking back on the last 5 years. (tumblrsubmissions@derbynewsnetwork.com) We hope you’ll reflect on your own memories of our time together building the sport we love, and take action to keep this thing we all worked so hard to create with you alive and thriving.

Yours In Deep Derby Love,

Mercy Less

DNN’s 5th Anniversary Retrospective starts with Justice Feelgood Marshall’s reflections on DNN’s birth year, 2007.