Offer to be Webmaster

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Offer to be Webmaster

Postby mewickham » Thu Mar 26, 2020 12:52 am

The club needs a webmaster and there has been no one jumping in to take on the duties. I would like to offer to take them on, again, but not as a volunteer. My offer is at the end of this message. I apologize in advance for the long message.

Our website is languishing into obscurity, thanks partially to users moving to Facebook. But the main reason our site has languished is that it is not smartphone compatible. That is fixable.

I know that websites are the old way of doing things. We are never going to move everyone back here, but we are also never going to move everyone onto Facebook or Band. Our website has advantages that make it worth keeping. We own the data. It is easily organized and searchable. Try finding an old message on Facebook! Though you do need an account to post on our website, you do not need one to read here. So ANYONE who has Internet access can find and read auction rules, information on how to join, location and time (and topic) of meetings, and they can read your classified ads. They can read every old fish message back to 2007. You don't even need an account to pay dues. OUR WEBSITE IS THE SOLE PORT OF ONLINE ENTRY for EVERYONE.

THE CHALLENGES
1. The biggest thing holding the website back is that the phpBB bulletin board software was never updated. At the time that I created the site, I added many custom features. In those days, it was no easy task. Literally, to add a feature, I had to go into multiple files, find particular lines of code and alter them by typing in new code. These were called "MODs." It was a lot of work. While these modifications improved the forum, they created issues for updating. Any new phpBB update would destroy some previous MODs, requiring them to be redone from scratch, or they were just plain made incompatible. Or the update would break the forum because of them. So the altered code would have to be located and manually removed in some files. Again, lots of work. The site functioned fine, so the lack of upgrades wasn't really a big deal.

However, the NWAAS site was built before the age of the smartphone, so people only viewed the website on a computer. The site was not fully "responsive," which means that it doesn't rearrange and resize elements acccording to the device you use. You can resize it some, but not small enough for a phone. This makes it difficult for those using phones for viewing. They only see part of a page, and have to scroll around to the screen, do the pinch and stretch, etc., in order to see what they want. The phpBB bulletin board software is in serious need of an update.

2. The club needs a new, more modern homepage and look. We had someone try to take that on for us. They built the start of a beautiful site, but using a third-party host and template. It was on a personal site, with a new domain instead of our nwaas.com domain, and they couldn't find a way to integrate our bulletin board. There was a gallery, but it wasn't a true gallery-- just a series of slideshows. So the site redesign never came to fruition.

3. Facebook doesn't allow animal sales. So, now we are getting stretched between our website, two Facebook pages, and a Band group. It is much more to manage. It also contributes to the issue that you have to have an account on yet another service, in order to see the messages. (Actually, that's true with Facebook. Not sure with if you can see Band messages without an account.) Our website-- though it will never be as busy as other sites-- does still act as the main repository for auction information, meeting information, classified ads, constitution and bylaws, SMP, BAP, and more-- and it can ALL be seen by anyone that can access the Internet. No account needed to view.

4. As near as I can tell, the officers are not reading their club email addresses. At all. I'm not sure that newer officers even know they have one. It's a miracle that we haven't lost our domain or hosting, due to deadlines being missed by not getting the emails in time. (How many times have you seen that happen to other clubs? OKAA has lost their domain at least twice.) How many users have sent questions that have gone unanswered? How many spammers have had their ads go unviewed? :)

THE SOLUTIONS
1. Upgrade the phpBB bulletin board software to latest version, so that it is a responsive site, also useable by phone. This first upgrade will be serious, hard work. Future upgrades should be much, much easier, though. I would plan to replace the bright blue header at the top of the forum with a photo or video, or something more modern and interesting

There are other advantages to the new version. First off, customizations are now easy. Features are no longer added via custom-coded MODs. Now, "extensions" are used and they are so much simpler. They install with a simple upload that is outside the phpBB core software, and can be turned on or off, or removed, with a click. EASY!

I would add that our portal homepage is also highly intertwined with phpBB code as the most major MOD of all. We would lose that, but there is an extension that adds its features back fairly easily, if we want them. And, again, it could be turned off or on, or removed, with a click. Much better. But, even if we keep the portal page features, I would plan to install them as a _separate_ page, not as part of the homepage. Our goal is to replace the homepage with something more modern and beautiful. More on that later.

The upgraded phpBB also makes it easier to upload graphics, videos, etc., either inline or as attachments. It has improved editing options for messages. It has better security for keeping the spammers out. I believe there is even an extension available to let you share forum posts on Facebook, Twitter, etc., which could be a good way to promote the site. It might make it easier to share auction rules, etc. to those inquiring on Facebook.

Upgrading the software should not affect our database. I anticipate that it will require few tweaks and that we should not lose any old messages. We will lose the MODs, but that's okay because it looks like all those features are easily replaced with extensions. We will lose the chat feature, but mainly because no one uses it. So I see no reason to reinstall it. There are chat extensions, if we ever wanted to bring it back. And there are a few new features that we could add.

2. Update the homepage to something prettier and more modern. I'm not sure exactly what that form is, yet, but it will be much more photogenic. Of course, a homepage's main goal is to promote the upcoming meeting/event. But there will also be a prettier menu linking to whatever we want, such as the forum, the gallery, an "about us" page, the officers, etc. (The menu on our current homepages contains a lot of these links in dull format.) Over time, those pages could be jazzed up, too, and probably need redesigns to make them responsive.

3. If people could use the Classified Ads on their phones, we wouldn't need the additional Band group. Item #1 solves that, though the club may still want to keep the Band group for further exposure.

4. I would change the way the club handles email. There are several ways to do it:

  1. I could read them all and forward them on. My email program pulls mail for whatever addresses I want with the click of one button. That's how I read all my various club email addresses (webmaster, treasurer, pay(pal), FBadmin (Facebook), announce, abuse reports) when I held previous positions. What's a few more?
  2. Revert to one club address, and put a responsible party in charge of it. That person would read and forward the messages to the appropriate parties. Again, I could include it.
  3. See if I can put mail forwarders on each address to send to each officers' private email addresses.
    The BOD would decide which way to go or let me decide.

I would also suggest that we buy the maximum 10 years of domain registration. That means it can't accidentally lapse for at least 10 years. It is easy to reinstate hosting if it lapses. It goes away and you say "%$#@! The site is down!," and re-up the contract. If the domain goes away, a squatter will likely grab it. It could cost $thousands to get it back. That means give it up forever and start with a new one, which kills every single link to NWAAS that is out there on the Web. All those links, all that publicity, would be gone. Search engine rank, gone.

THE OFFER
I would like to offer to become the club's webmaster, again. But I will not do it strictly as a volunteer, nor am I asking a fee that's anywhere close to what a professional web designer or administrator would charge. And I am not looking to take back my previous duties as publicist. It's a lot of work. So this is what I propose:

1. $300, one-time fee for certain site upgrades. I would upgrade the phpBB software to the latest responsive version, including adding extensions for improved functionality, and reintegrating our message base to save all of our old messages. I would create a fancy new homepage and try to beautify the forum headers, too.

Last I looked, the gallery is still working. It also needs a major upgrade. That, too, is going to be a big job, but I don't know how much work, so I do NOT include it in the above fee. After completing the above items, I would look at it to see what it would take, and we could talk about it then. The gallery software (Gallery2) has been through some turmoil since it was originally installed. Our site is at version 2. They came out with version 3, a few years ago, but very shortly after, the volunteer developers got tired of it and shut it down. So version 2 has had no updates available, and version 3 languished for several years without being fully cooked. A new group has now taken over development. So it looks like the new version will be viable again. I have looked for other gallery options, but they are either much more limited in features, or difficult to use. Anyway, future topic.

$300 is way less than a professional web designer would charge. I'm guessing that I could get the phpBB work done in a week's worth of work, if I stay at it full-time. Or a bit longer, depending on what else is going on.

2. $30 per month to do the daily items-- maintaining and administering the NWAAS.com website, including regular updates of phpBB and extensions, updating the NWAAS homepage with regular changes to keep it new, and with publicity materials (such as meeting poster) _provided by others._ I would update auxiliary pages when they change, such as the Officers page. I would be sure that domain and hosting do not expire. I'd be sure that emails get read by someone. I'd weed out the spammers that get through the security registration question. I'd make regular forum backups.

Separately, I'll continue to help administrate (with others) the Facebook pages as a volunteer-- though that is NOT part of this offer. I do not intend to get a Band account, nor participate or administrate there.

So, let me know what you think! According to club bylaws, anything over $100 requires a general vote by paid members. In these coronavirus times, where meetings are in doubt, I'm not sure how that would best be done. Email them? And I don't know how many paid members we have. Maybe the officers alone would constitute a quorum. You can put me down as a yes vote. :) But decide quickly, before I change my mind, or the hiking season starts and I get busy!

Mike
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mewickham
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Re: Offer to be Webmaster

Postby JoanneDisFan » Thu Mar 26, 2020 9:30 am

I think its a good idea. Everything in one place rather than on multiple places and sites. I'd vote yes.
Joanne Johnson
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Re: Offer to be Webmaster

Postby mewickham » Thu Mar 26, 2020 7:53 pm

To be clear, this wouldn't cancel our Facebook presence, which does well for us. I don't know if they'd want to cancel Band. Rather, the point is to make sure that you don't have to be a Facebook member to get to us online. The website used to do that, but it has been let to decay.
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