Author Topic: A new platform for Crows Town - members please read!  (Read 4693 times)

Offline JavaJones

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A new platform for Crows Town - members please read!
« on: May 27, 2012, 10:00:34 PM »
Hello Crows Town members! As you know this site has been rather stagnant for several years now, particularly since it was nearly shut down and I stepped in to keep it afloat. Everything does eventually come to an end and if there were simply no more interest in this site, it would make sense to shut it down, but in fact since taking over, I have received a number of requests to join, and the site obviously continues to have some traffic and interest despite some major functions like the torrent tracker being no-functional.

The simple fact is I don't have a lot of time for the site, which is part of the reason it hasn't received much attention from me, despite some early ambitions of fixing things up (mostly consolidation and fixing the tracker). The other major reason, however, is that I am not very familiar with vBulletin, the forum system that the current site uses, and I don't have the time or interest to learn it. It also costs several hundred dollars *per year* to maintain software updates and support, which is something I'm not willing to do on my own.

Fortunately there is a fairly easy solution, and that is to switch to SimpleMachines Forum (SMF), a system that I am more familiar and comfortable with (and is much simpler to administrate and prevent spam), and which also happens to be totally free. Having just completed the move to a new server fairly painlessly, I am nearly ready to convert to SMF, but there are some consequences of this that I wanted to make you all aware of before I do so. Let me note here that the existence of these issues is not going to prevent me converting the site, unless a majority of existing members would really prefer things to stay how they are (semi-broken). Moving to SMF will allow for new registrations seamlessly, it will continue to prevent spam, and it should even allow me to put back up the torrent tracker, in time. So I think the benefits outweigh the drawbacks.

Now for the drawbacks. First and foremost, you will all need to reset your passwords to access the forums after the conversion. The password encoding systems used by SMF and vBulletin are different, so passwords can't be converted. Most everything else should move over though.

Second, a number of features either don't exist under SMF, or will need to be setup through 3rd party modifications that I don't currently have the time or interest to implement. This means features like the photo galleries, tic-tac-toe, the arcade, and personal profile comments will be lost. I will maintain an archive of all files and data, and may be able to bring some things like the gallery back one day, but it's best to assume we'll do without all that stuff for the time being.

As I've also noted elsewhere, I'm not a web designer, so the forum theme will be fairly basic. I will likely maintain the header graphic currently used, but colors, layout, etc. will all change.

You will also all need to get used to the new forum system. It should work fairly similarly to the current one in most respects, though some functions may be missing or moved around. Basic interaction like posting, replying, etc. should be easy and fairly familiar, at least.

Last but not least, I have never setup a torrent tracker on SMF before. I know there is at least one option for doing so, but I haven't tested it. So it's possible I'll be able to setup a tracker, but it's also possible it won't work out. As far as I know the current tracker is broken anyway so this should not make much difference. If I do get a new tracker setup, you will have to re-upload and re-seed all torrents, or at least any that you want shared. I will be more motivated to put up a tracker if there is a lot of interest in sharing shows, of course.

This is mostly an informational post, as I said I plan to go ahead with the conversion, despite some drawbacks, unless there is significant concern from the community. Hopefully you'll all agree that this move is for the best, and will help revitalize and maintain the community for some time to come.

Update: The migration to SMF is now complete. Registration is open to all, but we have some anti-spam measures in place so we shouldn't have any problems. I'll work on getting the tracker back at some point in the (hopefully near) future. I also hope to consolidate some of the many forum sections here.

Thanks,

Oshyan
« Last Edit: June 02, 2012, 09:50:49 PM by JavaJones »

Offline JavaJones

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« Reply #1 on: May 27, 2012, 10:21:11 PM »
Good news! Quick progress is being made, thanks to quality converters for SMF. Here's a test conversion: http://crows-town.com/smf/index.php

Note: you can post new topics in the test site, but they will be erased before the final conversion! So don't post anything over there that you want to keep (at least not yet).

Another bit of good news is that the password issue is fairly minor. From my test it just asked me to put in my password a second time, but it recognized the same password. Hopefully that's true for all of you as well, please test.

If all goes well, we can have a majority of currently active members take a look and give their approval (for functionality and content, not the design, which we can change fairly easily). Then I can do the final conversion and bring down this vBulletin site and we'll be full-time on SMF. I'd like to do this ASAP, so everyone please go take a look and just make sure that you'll be happy using the new system and that your account is there, permissions are correct, etc.

- Oshyan

Offline duritzfan13

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« Reply #2 on: May 28, 2012, 01:19:39 AM »
Looks and sounds good! Nice to see some action and some improvements being made. New layout looks fine! Basic but it's cool that you were able to transfer all the old posts and members and such.

Will be nice to be able to have some new members too with registration being open again.

Offline Rob

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« Reply #3 on: May 28, 2012, 04:09:55 AM »
Hi Java - thanks for the update. I respect that the site takes a lot of time and energy for a certain few people. I also respect the fact that these decisions will be made and the vast majority of people will get on with life and enjoy the community we have, no matter what form that exists in.

i continue to feel that the tracker should be the main focus of this site and I will happily provide any type of assistance (which I assume would be mainly financial) to make that happen. the shows are the lifeblood of this site and we need to get them back up and seeding. the site has always propsered through 'tour time' with shows going up regularly and that honestly must be a focus if it's possible.

considering it looks like there may be some functionality changes, I think it is also worthwhile acknowledging that there was a lot of work gone in to make the site what it is today, and those people ought to be acknowledged (I won't try and name them all for fear of forgetting someone).

Offline duritzfan13

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« Reply #4 on: May 28, 2012, 05:11:05 AM »
Quote from: JavaJones;41614

Another bit of good news is that the password issue is fairly minor. From my test it just asked me to put in my password a second time, but it recognized the same password. Hopefully that's true for all of you as well, please test.


Yup, I was able to use my same password after putting it in again.

Offline JavaJones

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« Reply #5 on: May 28, 2012, 08:46:30 AM »
The best way to get the tracker back is to get away from vBulletin. vB is overly complicated, messy, and yes, expensive. SMF should do everything we need it to. vB *may* have better tracker integration, I'm not sure, but frankly I think it'd be better to have a separate torrent tracker and interface, not integrated with the forums, than to have to stick with vB as it is. The reality for me as an admin is that vB has kept me from doing much with the site since I took over hosting it. I don't mind paying for hosting, I just don't want to have to learn and pay for entirely new systems in order to keep this place going.

So far I'm continuing on the understanding that people are ok with the move. I'll give it a few more days then make the migration. Then some time after that I'll see about bringing the tracker back up.

- Oshyan

Offline Rob

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« Reply #6 on: May 28, 2012, 01:09:24 PM »
Quote from: JavaJones;41622
The best way to get the tracker back is to get away from vBulletin. vB is overly complicated, messy, and yes, expensive. SMF should do everything we need it to. vB *may* have better tracker integration, I'm not sure, but frankly I think it'd be better to have a separate torrent tracker and interface, not integrated with the forums, than to have to stick with vB as it is. The reality for me as an admin is that vB has kept me from doing much with the site since I took over hosting it. I don't mind paying for hosting, I just don't want to have to learn and pay for entirely new systems in order to keep this place going.

So far I'm continuing on the understanding that people are ok with the move. I'll give it a few more days then make the migration. Then some time after that I'll see about bringing the tracker back up.

- Oshyan


that all makes sense. at the risk of being in-eloquent (and sounding like a bit of a dick) a separate tracker & forums is a little bit of a step backwards in my opinion. i agree, based on my lay-person understanding and take on face value everything that you are saying re: SMF and that it will do what we need it to. that certainly seems to be the case.

i guess I don't understand why we wouldn't prioritise the tracker over the forums considering that's the whole reason the site exists (or it used to be, at least).

Oshyan please don't take that as a criticism or even worse a personal attack - it's neither. I, like many others, appreciate that this site exists in any form at all. I just think there's an opportunity here to restore some full functionality.

I'd be keen to help in whatever way I can.
Rob

Offline dutchieblue

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« Reply #7 on: May 28, 2012, 01:16:53 PM »
No problems logging in.

Offline Graham

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« Reply #8 on: May 28, 2012, 06:59:58 PM »
Quote from: acwk;41625
that all makes sense. at the risk of being in-eloquent (and sounding like a bit of a dick) a separate tracker & forums is a little bit of a step backwards in my opinion. i agree, based on my lay-person understanding and take on face value everything that you are saying re: SMF and that it will do what we need it to. that certainly seems to be the case.

i guess I don't understand why we wouldn't prioritise the tracker over the forums considering that's the whole reason the site exists (or it used to be, at least).

Oshyan please don't take that as a criticism or even worse a personal attack - it's neither. I, like many others, appreciate that this site exists in any form at all. I just think there's an opportunity here to restore some full functionality.

I'd be keen to help in whatever way I can.
Rob


In a ideal world it would be great to have a working tracker again but then again with the total lack of any actual CC related fan sites these days we are lucky to have this one in whatever form it will take, i used have about a dozen CC fan sites in my favorites now only this one & Anna Begins (which is not excactly updated regularly) Even the traders bible site "Trader Network" is no more ok it hadn't been updated for about 5 years although was still useful as a reference source.
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Offline JavaJones

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« Reply #9 on: May 28, 2012, 08:52:45 PM »
What it comes down to is that, given the history of my management of the site, I'm unwilling to make specific promises about what can be done. That doesn't mean I'm not going to try to get the tracker back or do other things to improve the underlying systems, I just know the forums can and do work and I am comfortable promising to work on them more provided I can migrate to a system I'm more familiar and comfortable with.

This is very much a spare-time effort, and I have virtually no experience managing torrent trackers. Fortunately there are several forum-integrated torrent systems out there, but SMF is one I'm particularly familiar with and, as you can see, it has an excellent importer for existing data. Were we to go with a different forum system largely on the basis of good tracker integration, I'd be less able to manage the forum. If anyone here has experience *administrating* phpBB or InvisionPowerBoard and feels up to the time and effort investment of managing the site on one of those systems, I'm happy to continue hosting with someone else doing admin. I don't know that going with either of those systems would actually give us a stronger likelihood of getting a working tracker up, but it would give us more potential options at least.

For now I'll continue to focus on the forum migration and then look at the torrent tracker issue more closely.

- Oshyan

Offline newtonkevin

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« Reply #10 on: May 29, 2012, 12:22:02 AM »
I logged into the new site just fine.  I'd love for this place to keep going.  The official site, with all the spam, frustrates me.  I get a lot of CC related info from the official twitter feed.  I'd love for the tracker to come back, but if the forums can stay up, I'm ok with that.  I really enjoying reading concert reviews from around the country, hearing people's thoughts, set lists, alts, etc.  

Kev in STL

Offline allmyfriends77

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« Reply #11 on: May 29, 2012, 04:48:18 AM »
Looks great. Would love to download and hopefully figure out the uploading someday, but I'm fine with having the message board. I am not very tech savvy at all so I'm very thankful for all the work.
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Offline cmigs

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« Reply #12 on: May 29, 2012, 07:52:10 PM »
So to clarify - this new board setup can support a tracker, we just don't know yet how easy it is to integrate?

Think it's important that the board can support one... if it's less than optimal, I think we'll have to deal with it if the trade off is ease of management.

Offline jont-uk

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« Reply #13 on: May 30, 2012, 12:43:03 AM »
Just logged in to new site after a good while away and recognised me fine -re-entered password and I was in ...

Jon

Offline JavaJones

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« Reply #14 on: May 30, 2012, 05:23:41 AM »
Quote from: cmigs;41645
So to clarify - this new board setup can support a tracker, we just don't know yet how easy it is to integrate?

Think it's important that the board can support one... if it's less than optimal, I think we'll have to deal with it if the trade off is ease of management.


Yes, that's correct, there is support for SMF in at least one tracker I'm aware of. Actually, looking into it now, it seems even the current tracker we use (with vBulletin) is hard to find or update, so even if we wanted to fix it we'd likely have a hard time. The reality seems to be that trackers that integrate with 3rd party forum systems (and indeed torrent trackers in general) are rare and not well supported. The most successful trackers are GUI-less, which makes it a pain for a wussy admin like me to work with. ;)

Anyway, at this point it looks like there's solid support for moving forward to the new system. Quite frankly the potential flood of new users alone could be quite a boon for the site. Of course it will be much more useful and exciting if there's a way for new users to trade shows, so I will definitely sort *something* out. It may not be the most elegant or slick implementation, but there will be a way...

- Oshyan

 

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