The idea for TheChocolateLife came as I was assessing where I wanted to turn my attention after the publication of my book, Discover Chocolate, in October 2007.
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I hung out my shingle, so to speak, on the Internet in May, 2001, standing up chocophile.com. By the time 2007 arrived MySpace and Facebook were things and the scope of social media and blogging was starting to grow exponentially.
I took a look at what my strengths and weaknesses were and decided I needed to move off a hand-coded HTML blogging platform to something that was more community-based. And by that I meant I was looking for a platform where members could freely contribute.
My first thought was Facebook, but back in late 2007 while I knew there were hundreds of millions of members, finding the one that were interested in craft chocolate was next to impossible as the tools did not exist.
Before spinning up TheChocolateLife, for a brief period in late 2007 I hosted an updated version of chocophile.com at discoverchocolate.com.
I decided to take a chance on a brand new, still wet behind the ears platform called Ning. After a feverish couple of weeks TheChocolateLife launched. It grew slowly over the first year but by the time I was forced off of Ning (for technical reasons due to changes in the software), with a cumulative membership roster just topping the 10,000 mark (with members in more than 160 countries), I moved to a platform called Jamroom in Q1 2015.
In Q2 2017 I was recruited to a platform called Maven, a move that in hindsight was a major business mistake. From the beginning I struggled with bugs and the lack of promised features and functionality. In 2020 changes in management at Maven led to my being asked to find a new home for TheChocolateLife.
The name, TheChocolateLife, was inspired by the Ricky Martin song Living La Vida Loca. One day while driving the song came on the radio and in a flash of inspiration, Living La Vida Loca became Living La Vida Cocoa in my mind. I registered lavidacocoa.com that day, and shortly thereafter, I realized I wanted an English version and that’s how TheChocolateLife came to be.
The move to Maven was accompanied by a huge uptick in spam posting, which meant a huge increase in the amount of time needed for moderation, with tools that, quite frankly, sucked badly. So while looking for a new platform I did another assessment – like the one I did back in 2017 – of how the social media landscape had changed. This included the presence of new communities on platforms like Facebook and Reddit where many of the kinds of questions I had been fielding on TheChocolateLife were being asked and answered. I felt that adding still yet another site would not be productive for me.
Over the course of about six months while in lockdown I struggled to find a new software platform and a developer to help with the programming and customization I knew I would need, eventually turning to Ghost. I had considered Ghost when moving from Ning to Jamroom but the platform was not mature enough at the time.
So I went back to my roots with something that’s more like chocophile.com but with a much more modern look and feel. As a photographer, I was also looking for a platform where I could easily showcase my photos. I also yearned for a much simpler writing and administrative interface as well as one that was more secure. (I am not a fan of Wordpress.)
And so here we on the eve of the 15th Anniversary of TheChocolateLife.
I want to thank everyone who’s been along for the ride. To those of you who have been with me since 2008 as well as those who joined last week. Thank you all for letting me be a part of your ChocolateLives.
I know that over the past fifteen years TheChocolateLife has educated and inspired uncounted thousands of people to find and follow their own ChocolateLife. My proudest achievement in this time is the friends I have made and the colleagues and businesses I have helped around the world. It has been a pleasure and a privilege.
And, finally, remember ... If you’re working with chocolate and you’re not having fun – you’re doing it wrong.