The Top 10 | Top 11-50 | Top 51-100 | 101 and Beyond | Top 100 Askers | Member Spotlight | Home
Ask Anything | Submissions | Wisdom | Humor | Recipes | Members Speak | KP Stories | History of KP
Hall Of Fame | Bug Collection | News | Member Calendar | Message Board | Off Site Links

Friends Website
Dedicated to Clay Johnson, founder of
KP History

January 17, 2000

I want to make a couple statements to the folks who know KnowPost the best, and those are the people who use KnowPost the most-- the soapers. Remind yourself that KnowPost is not only revolutionary, but also evolutionary. A lot of the time, people get confused as to what I intended to build here, and I think its time for me to clarify with a history lesson on a topic you'll all find interesting,

KnowPost was an experiment to begin with. Just something neat I was messing around with in college. Really, the initial challenge I put to myself was, "Make a community that is completely self sustained, which has enough system rules to limit the signal to noise ratio, so that people can REALLY connect. AND make it so it can associate with the domain, which I then owned and operated as my first company."

So began the design process. I came up with lots of ideas. Generally, my ideas come to me late at night, while I can't sleep. Interestingly enough, I was in the bedroom of my then-girlfriend, trying to sleep (really, I was! She's just in there for accuracy) but I couldn't. I never could-- I'm a big boy, and her bed was a single. So, to pass the time before she woke up and went to class (she always got up way earlier than I did) so I could get the bed to myself, I'd sit and figure out how to do it. It was like a little game I played with myself-- what rules would go into such a system? What additional components could be made? What would it look like? How would it work?

So, the idea of BrainBank came. It had a lot of the features does now, but currently the only evidentce of its existence can be found here: CoolTool

It sucked. What can I say. If you read the above link, you'll see that it was powered by ICQ. There was no ceremail, and it was really poorly designed. Something I threw up in about 10 minutes. But questions poured in like nothing else. And, having the system complete, I began to let the site evolve, taking the position of servant, rather than creator.

It was a success, but not as big of a success as I thought it should be. It was definately showing signs of "independent life" (remember, THIS is the goal) which made me happy. I wanted to give birth to a meta-organism, and indeed, it seemed like I had one going.

But I was unhappy with it. ICQ wasn't cutting it. Sure, real time answers were incredible, and something I'd still like to work with. But the medium was unstable, and, well, not everybody had ICQ. So I went back to the drawingboard.

While at the drawing board, I searched the uspto trademark database. And, of course, found that brainbank was a registered trademark for "a wide area expertise network application" which was close enough to BrainBank, that I had to change the name. I've always been a sucker for Greek and latin words in Internet companies-- so I picked "CereBank" in the short term, from cerebral. In retrospect, I wonder if I did more drugs than I'd thought in College, because I now really hate that name.

But I built Cerebank, and in my spare time, actually did voice overs for a bunch of shoutcast radio stations for kicks. I do a mean James Earl Jones impression. During this development, I also incorporated the system's internal messaging system-- ceremail, into the site. The day before I was scheduled to complete the site, I decided on changing the name to, which seemed a little less pretentious, and had a nice ring to it.

So, I changed the graphics, and put it out there for people to check out. This time, it had a better design (I'd put it up if I could find it, its around here somewhere) and ran off of email (which everybody has) rather than ICQ. This was the missing piece. Of course, creating a successful meta-organism required the system to be accessible by a standard, and e-mail is that standard. My then roommate, and best friend was then helping me out, and wrote some of the cron-jobs for the initial at my request and design, before deciding to take some of his expertise and go work for I wasn't worried, and am not worried. They're building a question and answer network. I'm not. I'm building a living organism that's only fuel is knowledge.

When summer hit, my roommate and I exchanged our last words, and haven't spoke since. I went home from the University of Rhode Island, to live in Atlanta with my Parents to spend time with my then-ill (she's fine now, please don't send sympathy mail, I'm still going through the last round which was, by they way, greatly appreciated) Mother. There wasn't much I could do for her 24/7, so I took to the Internet, and continued my work on in the basement, and in the Waffle House down the street, where I could go and get a constant stream of coca-cola. continued evolutionizing. Shortly after returning home, I was approached by two companies,, and, in attempts to acquire . That was really the only external validation I needed, and began pushing myself harder, pulling 100 hour weeks, and reading constantly on virtual communities, and especially, social networks. I added Soapboxes because I saw that people wanted to make statements sometimes, and not ask questions. I added the "my KnowPost" functionality after I found that clicking through topics was a pain.

And KnowPost continued to evolve. I got lots of emails saying "I've got 86 credits, I must be the best user there is!" so I added the Top 100 users list. I added the user-profile page so I could keep track of who was doing what. The system was taking off. Shortly thereafter, I was approached by an analyst at 1775 Ventures, who was interested in learning more about . We met, liked each other, and then began the "due diligence" procedures.

Comfortable with the stability and functionality of KnowPost, I let go a bit more, and dissapeared from the community for a little while. Purposefully. It was time fomr KnowPost to cut its apron strings, so to speak, and begin to take a life completely on its own. During this time, I invited David Sand, an investor in to actively participate in the management of, and Peter Kovacs, an employee from to aid me in its development.

Peter and I began kicking around the philosophy of, while David and I helped complete the investment procedures with our VC. After the Investment, we opened up our offices at 120 Beacon Street in Cambridge/Somerville, MA (Its right on the line). Once secured in our short term future, Peter and I began constant work on the engine, rewriting the whole thing, taking out features nobody used, and adding features everybody wanted. I also hired a Business Development person to work with David so I could continue working on developing the community, and soliciting input from our users.

Over the past four months since, KnowPost has been through a lot of changes, and, its about to go through a heck of a lot more. As I said in an earlier post, we're about to hire somebody out of the community (on Wednesday, if everything goes well enough) to help run the community. After this final piece of the puzzle is complete, my initial goal is complete:

KnowPost will become a completely self sustaining organism.

So to say that I'm happy with now is an understatement. I've started something incredible, and you've made something incredible. We're all a piece of this huge puzzle called KnowPost. And its only going to get better. But it takes some getting used to, because it is an evolutionary process. I guess you could say, I made it in my own image, and Peter's image has now been a bit installed within too. And we've got flaws. Lots of em.

Part of the downside of being evolutionary, rather than doing massive, methodic long-term planning, is that there isn't much set in stone. Three months ago, I moved "What are your circumstances" out of the KnowPost Question Hall of Fame. Would I move it today? Nope. It'd be great in the QHOF, right next to what is the meaning of life.

But at that time, that question wasn't part of, the way it is now. Then, it was an anomoly, now its a standard, just as walking upright was for our first ancient ancestors. So am I inconsistent editorially? It may seem that way. But in actuality, I'm applying my current perspective of the KnowPost organism to the process of aggregating its content.

That's part of being evolutionary. The only thing you can rely on here at KnowPost is change. Perhaps, over the weekend, we witnessed something extraordinary-- the growth of KnowPost. Perhaps KnowPost moved from being a little baby, to a toddler who can walk on its own two feet. It sure seems that way. I mean, look at the incoming influx of new users, and our explosive growth we've had in the past week. Twice as many questions were asked this week, than the last, and we've gained twice as many users as we did last week. Users are beginning an board in which to help set some community standards for KnowPost. And there's a recent initiative to increase's intellectual capacity by asking more "challenging" questions.

If an organism's growth is based on its physical size, its mental capacity, and the organization of its various parts, I'd say that this is exactly what happened. And that's damn cool. And whats even cooler is, the older this child that we're all a part of grows, the more we're going to be able to know what it needs in the future. That, my loyal friends, leads to much MUCH bigger things to come. We're conquering the web-- one question at a time.

So I hope this rundown of my thoughts and the process behind KnowPost helps you understand what, and why, we're all here. I hope it inspires, and gives you something to think about. Call me crazy, but I think we're all part of something much bigger. Perhaps this should be the real answer to "What is the meaning of Life?" but, I don't think that's for me to define, its for US to define.


Chief Haiku Writer

KnowPost runs on:

Over 20,000 lines of PHP, an open source web-oriented scripting language.
The Apache web server, the market-leading open source web server.
A Dual Pentium III 500Mhz machine with 512MB of RAM from IndyBox.
Debian GNU/Linux, possibly the world's greatest Operating System.
MySQL, a free and fast database.

KnowPost's  Background Color

Cyndy has all graphics on her hard drive.

History Of KnowPost

It all started on the back of 8 "Waffle House" napkins on July 5th, 1996. Our founder, Clay Johnson had an idea-- create a place where people would search the Internet for customers. A one Stop information shop of sorts. He recruited a team of five students from the University of Rhode Island, and went to work.

It was a smashing success. Too much of a success, actually. See-- HumanSearch had answererers on the Payroll, who would do the searching for the customer. At one point, HumanSearch appeared on the front page of, Netscape's What's cool, and Wired News within the same week. Of course, it exploded, and HumanSearch could no longer provide a free service. Instead it began charging $8 per search. Private Investor David Sand jumped on board.

Johnson discovered two things with HumanSearch: 1- The current model could not scale enough to be worthwhile, and 2- There had to be a faster way for people to get answers. So he started on another project on the side-- BrainBank. BrainBank was the first "Knowledge Exchange" on the Internet. It allowed users to ask and answer each other's questions through ICQ. BrainBank was used as a supplement to

ICQ was not a stable medium to use. Johnson believed that this new product, which he called "KnowPost" was more powerful than even his own origional vision of HumanSearch, so he quickly replaced HumanSearch with KnowPost, and made the announcement to the world that was the next step in the evolution of HumanSearch.

What had been built so far was nothing but a simple foundation-- a simple medium for exchange. Around August of 1999, after three acquisition offers, KnowPost began a serious effort to raise capital. Johnson declined the opportunity to sell KnowPost, and declined the opportunity to complete college. Rather he began working on KnowPost full time, and dedicated all his energies towards building an intense community based on his vision.

Demand was again the wall of which KnowPost had to drive through. Successive revisions and massive quantities of new users began taking its toll on the KnowPost servers. Johnson decided two things-- He had to move to a more powerful server, and couldn't be counted on to write all the code for KnowPost.

Johnson Completed a deal bringing a cash infusion into his new corporation,, LLC. And hired Peter Kovacs to aid in the rapid innovation necessary to complete the tasks at hand. David Sand also became more active in his responsibilities with KnowPost.

Now we've built a strong foundation, and a strong community. Our quest to bring the best social experience to our users is what drives us. Currently, we've brought aboard Sean Langford, and Tara Liloia to help out with the site. And we'll be looking for more. We're changing the web by connecting people to people. Great things are coming.

The Top 10 | Top 11-50 | Top 51-100 | 101 and Beyond | Top 100 Askers | Member Spotlight | Home
Ask Anything | Submissions | Wisdom | Humor | Recipes | Members Speak | KP Stories | History of KP
Hall Of Fame | Bug Collection | News | Member Calendar | Message Board | Off Site Links

Contact the KnowPost webslave below to report mistakes,
make suggestions, request additions, changes or deletions.