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Some detailed thank-yous (and a request for donations!)

Discussion in 'Chit Chat' started by Chip, Jun 14, 2017.

  1. Chip

    Board Member Admin Team Advisor Full Member

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    So Martin has already talked a bit about the transition to the new version of our discussion forums (which is only the first phase of upgrades) and given out some thanks, but I'd like to take a minute to give some more specific thank-yous.

    First, not to toot our own horns, but I want to thank the admin team for all the planning, discussions, and back-and-forth we went through. We have been discussing the process of upgrading the forums since 2011. Originally, we were going to go with vBulletin 4, then we spent some time working with Invision Power Board, and finally we chose Xenforo. There were dozens of small and large decisions in the early stages, lots of philosophical discussions, and discussions of technical hurdles. Many of the new features for members came from suggestions members made between 2011 and 2016.

    Once we moved into the implementation stage, Martin took most of the responsibility for identifying the customized features of our existing platform, identifying all of the features beyond the basic functionality that were needed, and then spent hours looking at off-the shelf plug-ins that offered some of the features we needed, custom programming that was needed for the new platform, and then writing the specifications for most of the custom software development required.

    When we got closer, we had a team of about 20 beta testers, selected by invite from our membership. These folks were sworn to secrecy and not allowed to share with anyone that they were testing the new platform; we wanted to make sure it was transition-ready before announcing the shift, because we really didn't know how long testing and tweaking would take. These folks made a ton of suggestions, found a lot of problems, and spent a lot of time making posts, testing and breaking things. So I can now publicly thank (in alphabetical order:slight_smile:

    Austin
    AwesomGaytheist
    Daydreamer1
    Greatwhale
    Hawk
    HM03
    I'm gay
    Jax12
    Kasey
    Kodo
    Lazuri
    Lexington
    Mbanema
    OnTheHighway
    Really
    Sartoris
    SemiCharmedLife
    Silverhalo

    Early on, we knew we would need someone to do the custom development work for the plug-ins. We had initially reached out to several developers who write Xenforo plugins, but purely by luck, a wonderful person that I had worked with almost 10 years ago got in touch to say he was available for small projects... and it ended up being a perfect match. Dillon started with just one little plug-in, and it quickly morphed into some 15 custom plug-ins that add all sorts of functionality, some of which is on the back end to make the staff's job easier, and some of which is on the front end to add functions for users. He has also singlehandedly handled the entire, extremely complicated job of getting literally dozens of off-the-shelf plug-ins working together with the custom ones, ironing out conflicts between them, importing all of the data from vBulletin, testing, retesting, and fixing... all of which turned out to be a much bigger undertaking than any of us could have originally anticipated. I can't adequately convey how amazing it has been to work with Dillon throughout this process, and how much it allowed the admin team to basically relax, knowing that things would be handled. During the transition weekend, Dillon and Martin worked tirelessly, almost nonstop, preparing a thousand things, configuring, fixing, answering questions, adjusting, testing, and tweaking. And there will be much more tweaking and adjusting over the next several weeks to get everything where we want it.

    The cost of this platform upgrade, so far, is well over $10,000 between software, forum software, plug-ins, custom modifications, configuration, tweaking, data transfer, and everything else.

    We've had incredibly generous donations amounting to almost half of that from a number of software developers that wrote the off-the-shelf applications, including ThemeHouse, DragonByte, AtelierAphelion, WMTech, M2N, and Nexus Themes.

    ThemeHouse in particular was incredibly generous both by giving us the lovely theme we use and a huge number of plugins, adding lots of important functionality to the site. ThemeHouse , also has been extremely generous with their time, giving us hours of staff time from Mike, the owner of ThemeHouse, and offering advice, suggestions, and input on the transition, all without cost to us. It was based in large part on Mike's input that we made the decision to choose Xenforo and that has proved to be an outstanding choice.

    And Dillon has given us a very steep discount on his normal rate, and donated much of his time on top of the already discounted pricing.

    There's the ongoing monthly cost of the servers and bandwidth that EC runs on, the managing and maintenance of the system software on those servers to keep them up-to-date and secure, and to keep everything running. This costs about $1000 a month, and the incredibly generous folks at NationalNet.com have entered an agreement to donate all of those costs to us, on an ongoing basis, along with unlimited support, maintenance, and upgrades.

    And of course, up until a couple of months ago, when the National Net donation was made, we had a monthly cost for our servers and operations (about $450 a month for the old platform), along with costs of our trademark, IRS and state tax exempt application fees, and other expenses. All of those were donated by Bryce, Shannon and John, the original founders of EC, who paid all of its expenses from founding in 2004 up until this month, and who donated the domain name and assets to the nonprofit, and continue to actively support us. Without them, there'd be no EC at all.

    Then, there are the costs of paying for the software we needed to buy, for Dillon's discounted time, and for various other upgrade expenses, and ongoing expenses. We've been very lucky to have a number of donors, many of whom we don't even know by their EC names, who have given us many thousands of dollars to make this transition possible. We will be more formally recognizing all of our donors soon, but I wanted to get this out there now so people understand how many individuals have come together to support what we do. We are indeed very lucky to have such a great group of supporters.

    Finally... none of this would exist without the donations of time from our staff. All of our staff are volunteers, and combined, they contribute close to 1,500 hours a month of time to keep EC running. That's like having a full-time paid staff of 10 people!

    There is still much to do. Our chatroom is coming soon, and after that, a new front end that will be much more content-rich, with articles, videos, and the like. We will be doing a lot more outreach, adding more volunteer staff, and looking to bring on at least a part-time staffer to coordinate the work of all of the rest of us. We are very excited about our future, and continuing to explore new ways to better serve our community. After all... our charitable mission is all about serving the community, without whom, there'd be nothing here but a bunch of empty pages. Of course... all of this takes money, so we can always use your tax-deductible donations (see below.)

    So a huge round of applause to all of our volunteer staff, donors, software vendors, ISP, Dillon, and everyone that has made this upgrade possible and, indeed, made all of what we do possible. Every person and organization has played a vital role, and it is deeply appreciated.

    - Chip
    On behalf of the Board of Directors
    Empty Closets Community Services
    a California nonprofit organization
    an IRS recognized public charity

    And if you would like to make a donation, we are always appreciative and grateful. Every dollar goes right back into helping EC to better serve its community. You can donate here.
     
  2. mbanema

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    I'd like to echo the thanks to @Dillon -- doing dev work like this can be a stressful, thankless job and you did great with this. :slight_smile:
     
  3. Assassin'sKat

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    I'll donate a dollar when I feel like digging my card out of my wallet.
     
  4. AwesomGaytheist

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    I was very glad to have had a hand in this massive undertaking.
     
  5. Kasey

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    Glad to be a part of it.
     
  6. Hawk

    Moderator Full Member

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    Why am I only now realizing this exists!?
    Anyway, glad to be part of the transition.
    Thanks. :slight_smile: