July 23, 2002
DCGreeks.com Year One Retrospective
Part I: The Launch
A year ago on Monday, July 23, 2001, many of you got an email on St. George's YAL email list announcing the debut of a new website for the young Greek adults in the Washington, DC area, and thus DCGreeks.com was born. But to just say that DCGreeks.com was born on July 23rd by the unveiling of a simple site with a feature article, a member directory, and not much else, would be ignoring an interesting history behind DCGreeks.com that made it all possible.
The idea for DCGreeks.com is something someone should have had a long time ago and honestly, it shouldn't have been us. We remember messing around on the internet over the last few years and being surprised that no one had done anything with the name, "DCGreeks.com" or "DCGreek.com" or "GreekDC.com" or anything like it. It was surprising that no one was providing any of the most notable features of DCGreeks.com out there in the DC area. While there were many email lists bouncing around this town, there was no central website where you could look to find out what was going on in the Greek community in DC, regardless of whether it was a Greek Night or YAL or church sponsored event. In terms of Greeks meeting Greeks, there were some Greek personals sites on a national or worldwide level, most notably Greekfriends.com and Agape Online, and you could always find a few hundred Greeks looking for dates on AOL, but there was nothing on a local level. There was definitely a need for something like DCGreeks.com, but the question was if it was the right time, and who was going to be the one to bring something like this to the area.
The revelation that was DCGreeks.com came to us one sunny weekend at the end of April, 2001. We were in the driveway with original co-founder, John Markos, when we came up with the idea for DCGreeks.com. (It's interesting to note that the initial idea for what was to become Magkes & Koukles was born on that weekend as well.) We went out and got the domain name that day, and we were surprised that no one had it. With a domain name in place the first obstacle to creating DCGreeks.com was solved.
But DCGreeks.com almost never got a chance to get off the ground. There was a Greek Night at the Shark Club in Bethesda in May. It was a typical Greek Night, but it was atypical in the fact that people came up to us and said that they'd seen us around at things. Now understand that we'd been in the area with the exception of college all of our lives, but we never really felt like we knew many people or many people knew us, especially at things like Greek Nights. It was notable that anyone would say anything like that to us and this actually inspired us into thinking that maybe, just maybe, we were the right people to bring DCGreeks.com to life. But the three original creators of DCGreeks.com almost never made it home that rainy evening. While driving Markos home, we tried making a U-turn on a short left-hand turn lane and suddenly and unexpectedly found our old, slightly worn but always reliable, 1986 Blazer sliding on the wet pavement and jumping over to the other lane in traffic. If it hadn't been 3:00 A.M. and if there been cars coming in the other direction, we almost certainly would have been dead or caused the death of someone else. We didn't realize or fully appreciate at the time how close we were to dying. We'd like to be able to say that that experience changed us somehow, you know "carpe diem" and what not, and maybe it did on a small unconscious level, because the next day, we decided to start moving forward with our plans to launch DCGreeks.com, with the creation of the next important thing besides our domain name, our logo.
We had slowly been plodding away with our design and concept of DCGreeks.com throughout the month of May and June. We had mentioned to a few people in the community that we were thinking about doing this site, and had even gotten a couple of people to sign up even before the initial launch.
Now we were certainly in no hurry to get DCGreeks.com up and
running. We were of the mindset that we wanted to produce something nice and
that we didn't want to half-ass anything. It's funny how a simple statement
can light a fire under you and make you work like mad to launch something,
even if you don't believe
you're ready for it. Such a statement came on May 18, 2001, when we saw an
email go out on St. George's YAL list announcing an innocent sounding golf
outing sponsored by Sts. Constantine & Helen in D.C. It wasn't the
announcement itself that had us worried, but it was the footnote at the
bottom. The event was sponsored by ToGlenti.com, a site purporting to be
"DC's Official Greek Community." We figured somehow word had gotten out that
about to launch and someone wanted to beat us to the punch. We'll admit, it
was a real slick looking website, a lot slicker than perhaps DCGreeks.com will ever
look. We were relieved in part to see that many of the features on the site
were not yet available, labeled only as "Coming Soon!" Actually we felt kind
of flattered and wondered if this website was created just as a response to
our website, because it seemed like they were in an even bigger hurry than
us to get a website out into the community. Seeing a potential rival
website made us stop and take notice. We swore to ourselves that we would
not rest until our website was off the ground. It was Wednesday and we told
ourselves that we would work hard the rest of the week and especially that
weekend to get ourselves up by the following Monday. There was a lot of
work to be done to the basic design and functionality of the website, but
that didn't matter so much to us. We figured that we needed a hook,
something to get people talking about the website, to get them to come back
a second time, a third time, to tune in just to see what we were going to do
next. Our vehicle for this purpose-- an over-the-top, controversial
article, that in many respects backfired on us, called
"Why We Love Greek Girls."
Our strategy worked and worked well. When the email went out on St. George's YAL email list on Monday, July 23, 2002, you could feel an instantaneous buzz going around the Greek community. Within the first hour people started registering on the website after reading the article. Each of us had an email notification complete with the sound of a old-time cash register in our respective offices at work ringing each time a new member signed up. We heard stories weeks later that people saw that article and immediately started emailing and IMing each other with the questions, "Are these guys serious?... Are these guys for real?" It was funny that the first day saw an overwhelming majority of female members sign up on the site. Of course this was to change almost immediately that first week with a surge of guys, many of whom were looking for their own "Miss Greece," signing up on the site, making the guy-girl ratio worse than a military academy.
The instantaneous notoriety came at a price though. Many people took the article seriously. We were accused of being sexist. Our article was read literally and we accused of only starting the website to meet Greek women. Some people thought we were trying to steal their Greek women away from them. Many people were turned off from registering, thinking that DCGreeks.com was only about dating and posting personal ads. Sure there were some people women out there who thought that we hit the nail on the head with the article and felt that our article was the sweetest thing they ever read, missing the sarcasm completely.
We'd like to take this opportunity to apologize to anyone out there who was offended by "Why We Love Greek Girls." In our "celebration" of the stereotypical Greek girl, we know we made many girls who don't fit that stereotype feel uncomfortable. Not all Greek girls look like Miss Greece. Most Miss Greece winners don't look like what Miss Greece looked like in the summer of 2001. Not every Miss Greece has had brown hair and brown eyes. Miss Greece in the 90s was more often than not blonde and even had light eyes. There are beautiful Greek girls running around the DC area who are short, tall, blonde, brunette, tan or fair. Sure they look different, but they have one thing in common... they're Greek girls living in the DC area. They're our sisters, our cousins, the little Greek girls who little Greek boys teased in Sunday school, the same girls who grew up, leaving those same guys wishing they hadn't teased them so much in Sunday school, the girl in the next row over at church, across the room at a Greek night or Third Thursday, or sitting next to you at a YAL meeting, the girl you've known all your life and the girl you just met. To all of these girls and everyone else we may have offended with that article, we're sorry. (We won't apologize for referring to Greek girls as "girls" and not "women" throughout the course of our apology. We're not being demeaning or sexist, just not all that politically correct. The double-g sound of Greek girls just sounds better than "Greek women" and goes better with "Greek guys," which is often more fitting to use than "Greek men," so we've been told by many a "Greek girl.")
Returning to the story of that last fateful week in June last year, we necessarily had to take DCGreeks.com out of the safety of the anonymous online world and into the real world. Our first venture into the Greek Community as, "The Guys @ DCGreeks.com" came at a St. George's YAL happy hour at Sequoia that Friday night. We were actually the first ones there, proving that while many people would come to think of us as the poster-children for the DC Greek Community, we didn't even have a true appreciation for Greek time. (On a side note, we would like to dispense any ideas that anyone may have that we are the "Greekiest" people out there. We don't watch Antenna Satellite, we know good Greek music when we hear it, but couldn't tell you the artist, we can't stand feta, eat olives only on pizza, and have never been to either Clearwater or Astoria.) Soon enough more people started showing up and some even recognized who we were from seeing our profiles on the site earlier in the week. We even met one of our first members, a guy from Maryland who was almost embarrassed to see that he was the only guy from Maryland who had registered, until later that day when he realized that a lot more guys and people in general had signed up. We talked up the site a bit to people and there were folks who were coming up to us asking us to organize the next social gathering. It was funny because we were some of the first people to leave that night, not thinking of this Greek event as any different than the dozens of Greek events we had been to over the course of our lives.
The next day was even more interesting, as we came to St. Sophia's summer barbecue. It was during the daylight hours and it was a smaller group of people without all the crowds of Sequoia's, so we sort of stood out. We could tell that there were people pointing and whispering at us, and not being from St. Sophia's we really didn't know that many people until a group of St. Katherine's YAL members showed up, which put us more at ease. We have to admit we weren't used to our instant notoriety and realized that we had a responsibility to use it, and the web site, for something more than sarcastically telling the world why we liked Greek girls.