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About PhinisheD

The broad mission of PhinisheD is to provide a non-threatening and supportive online environment for dissertation and thesis writers and others who are struggling in academia. Researching and writing a dissertation or thesis is an intellectually and emotionally demanding endeavor, and the highly competitive nature of the academic environment can sometimes leave graduate and postgraduate students longing for camaraderie, fellowship, and a safe outlet for venting and commiseration. The same can be said for those on the academic or professional job market, as well as those on the tenure track. PhinisheD is an antidote to other discussion forums devoted to life in academia, which seem to be a little colder, a little harder, a little meaner, and a lot less friendly to budding scholars harboring doubts, fears, and insecurities about their lives and their work.

More specifically, PhinisheD is devoted to those who, try as they may, cannot seem to finish their dissertations or theses without a little extra help. The vast majority of PhinisheD users are struggling or have struggled against writers block, procrastination, organizational challenges, difficult committee members or supervisors, departmental politics, and the agonistic and hierarchical atmosphere of the university. All of these things can gnaw at the self-esteem and impede the progress of the sensitive soul. PhinisheD is meant to be a platform for the exchange of peer support and friendly advice among those who find the road of their academic journey to be a bit more steep and rocky than they anticipated. At PhinisheD, we travel that road together.

The current PhinisheD web site was developed and is administered by Dr. Thomas B. Jankowski, also known as Tom or the webmaster. It is hosted at his workplace, the Institute of Gerontology (IOG) at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan, USA. Now a researcher and administrator at IOG, Tom fought a mighty battle with his own doctoral dissertation and, with the help of his phriends at PhinisheD, eventually prevailed. Keeping PhinisheD online as a resource for struggling dissertation and thesis writers is a labor of love for Tom, and he is committed to ensuring that the site remain free of advertising and free of charge to anyone who feels the need to use it.



The History of the PhinisheD Web Site

While Tom would love to take credit for the idea behind PhinisheD, that distinction belongs to a web developer named Amy Bellinger, who created the original site in 1997 as a favor for a dissertation-writing friend. Tom discovered the site in 1998 in the midst of his dissertation struggles, became active in the group, and in the fall of 1999 Amy turned the site over to him. He's been running PhinisheD ever since.

The original web site was develped using WebBBS and hosted at Bluemarble.net, a commercial host in Ellettsville, Indiana, USA. Initially PhinisheD consisted of a single discussion board, now called the Phorum. Over the first couple years of its existence, Amy added a few additional features such as the OT board and the prophiles directory. When PhinisheD outgrew Bluemarble in 1999, the site was moved temporarily to The Spring in Austin, Texas, USA, before custody was transferred to Tom in October of 1999. He hosted the site on an old Silicon Graphics Indy Webforce server via his cable Internet connection at home, and registered the domain names phinished.org, phinished.com, and phinished.net for the first time.

Tom completed his PhD in the fall of 2000 and went to work at the IOG, bringing the PhinisheD server to Detroit with him. Tom continued to tinker with the board software, adding functionality to the boards and many new features. During this time, use of the site gradually increased as well, reaching its top capacity of well over 22,000 hits per day by the year 2005. Until April of 2007, the site continued to rely on the outdated WebBBS software and reside on the sluggish and ancient SGI server, which by that time was nearly 12 years old and was positively groaning under the burden of all the traffic. Clearly there was a growing demand for the type of service provided by PhinisheD, and just as clearly the old site was no longer able to keep up with the growth.

As a result of its age and the load it carried, the server suffered a catastrophic crash in the spring of 2006, from which it took several days to recover. Members of the PhinisheD community clamored to help and, realizing that he couldn't afford to replace the server himself, Tom finally relented, opening up a PayPal account and accepting donations for the first time. A colleague at Wayne State generously contributed a newer Macintosh G4 server. Members of the PhinisheD community from around the world opened their wallets and and donated over $2,000 in cash, which enabled him to purchase hardware upgrades for the server and the software needed to create and maintain a state-of-the-art online community and bring the site up to 21st century standards.

Tom deeply appreciated the donations that allowed him to buy the raw materials to develop the new PhinisheD web site, but it was not nearly enough to hire a programmer to put it all together. So in the fall of 2006, after failing to secure foundation funding for the site, he resolved to do it himself. He spent several months worth of evenings and weekends modifying and hacking the site to add new features and get things to look and behave as he thought PhinisheD members would like. Development of the site was completed in March 2007, and after a few weeks of beta-testing by PhinisheD volunteers and the importation of nearly 150,000 messages from the old WebBBS software into the new vBulletin database, the new PhinisheD site was unveiled on 10th of May, 2007.

Throughout its history, the remarkable thing about PhinisheD has not been the technology that facilitates it, but rather the community that it nurtures. The hundreds of people listed in the Hall of Phame succeeded in reaching their goals not because of the site's hardware or software, or because of anything Tom or Amy did with it, but because of the support of the people that populate and participate in this group. New members join the community all the time and, we hope, are made to feel welcome, valued, and respected. Veteran Phinishers abound too, some of whom have been part of the group since before the dawn of the millenium. Many of these veterans completed their degrees long ago and have since built distinguished careers or moved on to pursue other accomplishments, but they still return to PhinisheD to offer a hand up to those following behind them. All share the common goal of performing an extremely difficult task--writing a dissertation or thesis--and attaining the pinnacle of education--a masters degree or doctorate. And all work together rather than against each other in the pursuit of that goal.


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