History of Fusion Christian Singles

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How & why Fusion 101 Christian sites & services started

Real Christian singles couple married on Fusion101.com!Here’s a bit about Fusion101, how and why it was started. It’s been no easy ride but we feel it’s been worth every friendship and marriage, and we’d like you to know about our journey. I’ve kept a diary so far.

To give you some background I became a Christian around 1990 when I was 20. You can read how I became one here. At 19 I left home and got a job with an advertising agency as a junior designer/ illustrator. Between 90 and 97 I lived in various flats around south London and working for agencies and doing some freelance work. I attended a large evangelical church in Leathered.

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Music and art have always been what I’m good at and my passion. At 28, I went back to live with my parents so I could fulfil a long time ambition of recording a CD of my own music. Their house was in the surrey countryside and offered seclusion and silence needed for recording. During summer I rearranged his garage and built a studio. - Thanks Dad!:)

I drew it on paper, got some builders and in a two months it was done. It had a sound booth for vocals, main recording room for instruments and a mixing room – all divided by glass. See some photos here. I spent most days and evenings writing and recording and worked part time as a designer / illustrator and later, full time for a local design agency. The CD was finished in 8 months taking twice as long as it should have as I had endless problems with the recording hardware. I lost around 30 songs and dozens of ideas I’d recorded onto hard disc due to data and backups getting constantly corrupted. I remember trying to get each song mastered onto tape before I lost it! Between time I must have spent months installing and reinstalling software until I traced it to a faulty cable. I didn’t have the time or money to re-record anything so I put all the in-tact songs onto one disc – hence it’s rather long and contains a few duds!! But I was happy with the result. Making that CD was like having a baby!:) You can hear it here.

For about 2 years, sometime around 97, I attended a small local church in the surrey country side that had great teaching where I made many friends. It was made up of families, people in their 30’s-40’s and beyond, and a small number of people in their 20’s. The 20-somethings had a house group which I attended. Interestingly but not surprisingly, the conversations often ended up on singleness and It was around the end of 98 I first considered how one could help Christians meet people outside their usual social circle.

Meeting People - or non as the case was
I realised that in the seven years of being Christian, In both the large charismatic church and the small local one I'd attended, I’d never met anyone I felt drawn to in terms of a relationship. I’d noticed my group of friends hardly ever changed, bar one or two new faces. I’m sure I was unusual in having NEVER met anyone, but I could tell from listening to my friends, they too could use some help. We were all pretty resigned! I assumed it was just God’s timing - which I still believe incidentally.

We all need to interact with people. Apart from church it gives us a healthy drive and focus. But I'll confess at the risk of embarrassment, so long single was beginning to affect my self esteem and I’ve no doubt my friends. There was nothing done to get people from different churches mixing, as I guessed since most who ran it were married!? Meanwhile my non-Christian friends were always out on the town, in bars and clubs, surrounded by different groups of male and female friends. I sometimes felt like I’d backed the wrong horse becoming a Christian!

I didn’t mind being single, but it concerned me that in all those years I’d only run into a handful of new faces at church. Were we supposed to forget it?... that’s easy enough – but then what about the God that doesn’t like inactivity and laziness – In that case we may never meet anyone!... therefore should we seek a partner? Confusing - after all, isn’t arranging a dinner party doing just that – God’s not stupid! And we all know the Bible says a rudder can only stear a ship that’s moving! Did this apply to all areas of life except finding a partner? I had no idea what the church felt as it was never discussed.

Perhaps we should move to the city or a bigger church. Both were surely unnecessary. I kept getting this daft picture of someone sitting in a box with the lid shut – with the words “what do yo reckon his chances of meeting someone are?” underneath! - the meaning I guess was that if you don't get out there - you're not going to meet anyone.

Church Hopping
One Sunday I got in my car and headed to a large church. I felt positively guilty about my intentions. “I must be the only person doing this” (later I found out different). After the third trip, I realised I was going to have to push my way into a social group - if I could find one. I went to churches in Aldershot, Guildford, Woking, and others, sometimes with a friend - usually on my own. How many weeks should I do this? It might be months before I get to know people and what made it worse, was knowing full well that church wasn’t all about finding a partner. It’s was a place to worship and help others. In leaving my church, not only was I missing the great teaching and intimacy exclusive to small churches and deserting my friends - but none of my hopping about had made the slightest bit of difference. I was also still looking at my my non-Christian friends – the secular lifestyle seemed far easier. There were loads of people at work and non-Christians I knew. I wasn't about to give up my faith but I could see why so many did.

One evening my parents asked why I didn’t get a girlfriend. “there must be lots of girls at church”. I replied, “it’s really tough meeting people – if I knew someone I’d ask her out straight away, my friends have the same problem”. My father not a Christian said, “you’re dogmatic, why would she have to be Christian?.. convert her… are all non-Christians bad?” His last piece of advice was the only sensible option left to a non-christian and what made me decide I had to do something for Christians. He said (trying to help), “If it’s that difficult, forget church, go to some fashionable bars or clubs in London” - Great I thought!!

Enough was Enough
leaving church (which I felt like doing) would confirm to family and non-Christian friends what they always suggested. “Church was out of touch with modern life - a crutch for people who can’t do normal life”. Once full of fire - I was now reserved in telling people about church because I couldn’t convince myself it looked after people in this basic need (of course it tries– but I was struggling to see it). I could see though clearly why the city churches were growing leaving the small ones dwindling. People were hungry for relationships! - I'm not talking girlfriends and boyfriends - I'm talking interaction - that's enough with people on your wavelength!

Things are not the same as they were 20-30-40 years ago. Community really has broken down. Young people really do leave to go to the cities and those that can't are isolated. Since a demotivated Christian is not a very useful one I always felt it should be the churches first port of call - or second after good teaching - cos believe me I know for a fact that many of us were struggling as my braver friends confessed to me. So we sound like wimps but in reality the world makes it difficult for Christians – so – why not sort it out? Probably cos most churches don’t see it affecting their attendance levels;) - wrong! To me it was clear why young people abandoned church – I was 27 and felt pressured too, and I knew it wouldn't solve the issue. All that was needed was more mixing and more fellowship between different groups and churches – easy peazy!

Time to Do Something
It’s interesting to note that in the next 2-3 years, nearly all of us moved to the city- me included – for work reasons of course. Riiiight!;) So finally I decided to do something about it.

Fusion101 – Timeline / Diary - Vision - mid 98
The secular scene often gets the better deal - not just with socialising. There's more money in secular markets which gives you the ability to create bigger and better services. The church however always seems on the back foot trying to please everybody and not surprisingly sometimes failingI So, towards the end of mastering my CD late 98, and not really knowing how to do it as I knew nothing about the Internet, I began designing something I thought would encourage single Christians – something to help them mix - the only way I knew - with pencil and paper. Somewhere along the line I came up with ‘Fusion101’. I wanted it to be more than just singles service, I wanted social events that I would call 101cafe and 101events etc. I also wanted the name to be easy to remember – everybody knows 101.

Fusion Designed - sept 98
I drew out the front end and stuck it in photoshop. All the wrong dimensions of course. No web safe colours or anything. Only just figured that one out. I then worked out the functionality of all the different pages. I remember having a discussion with a mate – telling him what I was doing (most people seemed to think it was a bit of a whim) He obviously told this company as a few weeks later they approached me and offered to build database /host site for 60% ownership of my designs and research into building a singles website. A miracle? – seemed like it.

Fusion Teamed with TheWay.co.uk - Dec 2000
I remember stepping into TheWay’s (a new Christian Portal) posh office and handing them a disc with my designs (due to time /money constraints the site never really looked looked how it should – it was basic). Before I could open my mouth they were coming out of the printer. I asked if they could hold on – since we hadn’t discussed anything, to which they obliged! We quickly got onto the subject of the database – who would own it. “the database isn’t important” they said – “er but we want to own it”. “Right” I thought – pigs fly? Anyway, for building the database and linking it to my designs (by this time in html) there would be a 60/40 revenue split in their favour, and they would own the database and site. A few days later I called them to ask if they would register the domains for me which they said they would. They had done so the day after we met - in their name. I wasn’t over the moon after spending weeks researching and now not owning domains for my own brand but it was too late. This was the first time I experienced manoeuvring of this sort. I found it difficult to swallow – especially from a Christian company, but luckily I found out this was normal lol;)

- A side note - you may wonder why my design was black? 1st, in 99 there was a big stigma with singles and every site I looked at was pink or covered in hearts and flowers - I wanted something more stylish. I agonised for weeks over using black since Christians might associate it with a secular outfit but in the end just went for it as I knew my intentions were to help not hinder. The other reason was I had no money to advertise. I reasoned that whilst people were flicking through different sites and they came across ours which was the only free one, the white ‘101’ on black might stick in the memory should they wish to find it again -

Fusion Started - Jan 2000
TheWay.co.uk built the back end and the site went live. I wanted to keep the site free and charge people a minimal fee once we had a database and service worth paying for – and then grow the service. They wanted to charge members almost straight away (£20 pm) to recoup programming investment. I had quite a few disagreements saying their marketing wouldn't work - even for their own site. After 3-4 months of disagreeing on what we could charge and how to market (they were throwing money at paper advertising) TheWay shortly after wound up (although the site is still online and now a Charity). When I say it was no easy ride – you can see from this excerpt from the notes I made for our last meeting – the sort of problems I mean:

Things to question:
Site never designed as I originally designed it
1 Month to get finished?
Tried to convince me Database not valuable then decided they needed to own it?
”No competition” – now springing up everywhere?
Users treated like numbers
“The ISP doesn’t know who owns domains??!!!” - domains registered to them after me asking them to be registered to me and them agreeing – twice told they’ll be transferred.
Word of mouth is unimportant?!! Expensive paper ads bombed after we said don’t run them. Payments sent out after we categorically told you not to charge £20 producing exact results we predicted.
No money paid to me from subscribers
The way give us no feedback, doesn’t phone, kept in dark.
Meetings are few and far between
TheWay say its best site yet it doesn’t function half as well as competition.
Photos scanned poorly
Search still doesn’t work. See ed’s original design – it uses method used by search engines and other sites – easier to implement.

Fusion101 Bought back + new partners - April 2000
In the end TheWay were doing their best to make Fusion financially viable – but it was all too rushed, and they didn’t listen to me and it started to falter. They weren’t dealing with emails or queries and I wanted to look after every member. I quickly bought back site for 5K with 2 friends (who paid 1K eackh) Ownership was 60 / 20/ 20 in my favour. One was to do our accounts – the other look after the server.

Fusion – late 2000
With the site back, I kept Fusion free and began using somewhat hit and miss tactics started my own online marketing learning a lot about search engines and actually getting v. good rankings for fusion (making site appear high in search engines without paying). I made sure every email was answered and sat long hour into the night doing all the admin and designing other sites and features. I built a several sites over the next year or so to add to and support Fusion and send it traffic. This seemed like it. We were higher than virtually all the other singles sites across the board for ranking.

Fusion – 2001
Fusion works! - we'd had loads of marriages and friendships formed. Running Fusion is however was beginning to take its toll on me as I had a full time day job and working on fusion often till 2am for the previous 3 years which meant I was often knackered during the day. I managed to keep it all going but later on ended up in hospital!

Fusion101 – mid 2002
Fusion now had 250 joiners per week. The search functionality was really basic but did the job. There were hardly any features and no chat room (occasionally I used to turn a freeware chatroom on but have to remove it soon after due to abuse). Most of our joiners were from UK and USA but also some Ca and Au joiners. My partners were helpful in sorting photos and bits and pieces but a year into the partnership after a friendly discussion, it was clear these guys wouldn’t have enough time for Fusion due to work commitments. I bought them both out paying back what they’d invested over a year.

Fusion – end 2002
By now Fusion had become so busy (about 300 people joining a week and 1000 logins per day) that the whole thing began to slow up. I wasn’t sure what the problem was but searches could take 15-30 seconds or more to execute. Also hosting fees were going up and up. The host company wanted 3K to keep fusion going - It turns out they were overcharging 5-6 times over the amount I needed to pay! Another problem was that the database had been written badly and was slow full stop. The admin was becoming too much and I couldn’t find a programmer available that knew Cold Fusion Fusion (the code my site was written in) so I couldn’t add any back end features to allow anyone to help me.

Fusion101 – mid 2003
By now, after my basic but determined optimisation attempts we were up to 300 joiners per week but the site was falling apart. The server unknown to me wasn’t going to cope much longer. It suddenly became. As a result it kept going ‘over bandwidth allowance'. My hosting company Stezz Media were a great but middle men to the actual host who tripled my costs without telling me. They wanted 3K for next years hosting and tried to put me on package that meant I kept going over bandwidth! Me being green to Internet and server issues was about to pay up.

Fusion101 – end 2003
The site was still usable for small sectors of its database but basically unusable. Once people couldn’t search, they couldn’t send email. With no email, people stopped login in and stopped joining. I remember watching the number drop each day after all my hard work. To make things worse I still couldn’t get hold of my programmer who was becoming more and more illusive. “you see, Cold is quite expensive” – “now you tell me!” I was to learn a lot later that the database had been written so badly it couldn’t cope with all the messy queries. A simple search would in many cases lock up the site completely. After what I imagine to be word of mouth getting round that the site was useless, joiners were now down to 150 from 300 a week – levelled off around there. I guess people were still finding the site and expecting it to work. But with it being unusable, the usage (logins) continued to drop as you’d expect.

Fusion 101 Oct 2003 - Shut site down
Something was not quite right with the fees I was being asked for. My hosting middle men (who to date had been very helpful) were uncharacteristically cagey about why my costs were so high and the hosts themselves were asking for 3 grand a year to continue. So I closed the site down there and then. I put the required fees and some stats on the front page of the site for members to see not really knowing what to do next. Within minutes I was receiving emails from members offering help, donations and making suggestions.

Fusion101 Fleeced!!!!!!!!!!
The most prized emails came from members who were IT techies – who’d seen my hosting costs and bandwidth and felt had to inform me I was being ripped off. I had three separate offers from members to rebuild the site for free in php (a free coding language that turns out to be far superior to Cold Fusion – every change I made to the site cost an arm and a leg). I and dozens of suggestions as to how the site could be made to run for a fraction of the price on PHP and linux.

Donations - helped by members!
In 2 weeks I received 2K in donations from members. Turns out Fusion was built in the most expensive language there is and Im being shafted by hosting co and totally dependant on the few people that can code the language! I now know half the IT industry survives by taking advantage of what people DON’T know - far and beyond what’s reasonable! The donations and info handed to me by members was greatly encouraging and made me realise that people were actually getting a lot out of Fusion. It gave me the will to live at this point. I was in fact preparing to get a 3K loan to carry on. Several people offered to buy fusion from me. Christian Connection offered to 'see if they could find ways to continue offering a service to our members" - never been sure what that meant!!;)

Oct 2003
New Team Member Joins Fusion
Tau, a member of Fusion – had been thinking about building a singles site for ages suddenly appeared and notified me like the other IT savvy members the host company was ripping me off. He offered to rewrite/ host the site for a better fee. After a bit of poking (I was still reeling from the fact that I’d been taken to cleaners) I agreed and used the donations to pay for it.

Fusion was re-writen and re-hosted in 3 weeks - 2k for the rewrite / £300 for hosting as opposed to 3K py. Very thankful indeed. After a database regig, the site could now handle traffic and quickly revived. Once I’d got my self together (I felt like I’d been beaten up) I started optimising again to get more hits. Tau asked for half of Fusion in order to 'take it to the next level'. I agreed – 50%!!! I had no option as I was frequently ill by this point.

Dec 2003 - Fusion Chat added to 101
Tau adds chat room to Fusion. In 1 year Tau and moderators (members) created a bustling chat room. Most chats are full of spammers and abuse but Fusion’s is reported to be one of the best Christian Chat rooms.

2005 - Fusion rapidly increases in membership and usage
Since the rewrite, the site is much much faster and can cope with increased membership. As a result of this and more free marketing the membership is rising exponentially and we now have around 950 new joiners per week.

Fusion – to date
So far it’s been 5 years of hard graft and 15K but thankfully we’ve had lots of marriages and relationships and I do believe we have given a lot of Christians a more positive outlook and hope. Haven’t had time to list the marriages but will get round to it. I have to be careful now though as so many hours in front of a screen I am susceptible to health problems - I do wonder sometimes if it’s been worth it but I keep a folder full of testimonials next to me and read them when I’m in doubt:)

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