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A New Website

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I've been involved in IOPS since early 2011 and participated in testing our website before it went online. One of the first concerns I voiced, and perhaps the most important one in my view, was that our website is based on a highly specialized framework. This turned out to be a successful business model for the web developers who made our website but had significant downsides for us. For every bug we found we had to go back to the initial web developers so they could fix it. For every improvement we needed it was the same. This way we became very dependent on them. Ever since then the list of bugs, concerns and wishes for new functionality has only gotten longer and longer. If you are interested in an overview feel free to have a look at our IOPS website improvements document.

In 2014 I became the administrator of our website. My opinion on this issue hasn't changed. I think we should migrate the existing data of our website (like member profiles, blog and forum entries, projects and so on) to a new website which is based on a widely used content management system (WordPress being the most popular example). Using a well established content management system instead of a highly specialized framework would solve many of our website issues right away, simply because our website would be based on the same software that is used by millions of others who have had many of the same problems before us – and found solutions to them. We would also be able to easily implement several new features, that are standard for content management systems but are missing from our current website, like for example:

  • mobile accessibility,
  • robust multilingualism,
  • enhanced social media integration,
  • tagging,
  • website statistics, and much more…

Beyond that there would be several other obvious advantages:

  • Cost reduction: The most popular content management systems, as well as their plug-ins, are for free. They get constantly updated for free too. And in case we would need anything beyond standard solutions we could still count on the free support and expertise of other users and developers.
  • Ease of use: Content management systems are typically designed with common users in mind, not especially skilled users. Hence we would become less dependent on paid professionals. This way also a larger number of members can get deeper involved in IOPS.
  • Support and maintenance: Since so many other people are using content management systems it is highly likely that they will be continuously improved, updated and upgraded in the foreseeable future. They will be adapted to new standards and even bugs we ourselves might not be aware of will be ironed out (for example security issues).

I would like to discuss this proposal in more detail with all members who are interested in it. My hope is that we can come up with a specific proposal together which could then be brought up for a larger discussion with the entire membership, and perhaps a vote afterwards.

Anyone who would like to work on coming up with a proposal on how to move forward with our website – please join our Website Team.

Discussion 44 Comments

  • Fred Curran 29th Oct 2014

    Would there be any downsides you can think of?

    • Johannes 30th Oct 2014

      Some work needs to be done but I think it's very well worth it in the long run.

    • Sarah Owens 17th Nov 2014

      Possible "downsides": current members will have to re-register; fund-raising required; serious division over structural changes (e.g., self-defined groups vs. geographically determined chapters + projects); data and data quality losses resulting from migration attempt (e.g., partial or unsuccessful data transfers, disorganization, broken links); danger that flaws in existing set up will be reproduced (lost opportunity costs)(e.g., our failure or refusal to moderate our discussions and organize our forums and resources sections); lost opportunity to find a less drastic alternative that, in combination with the existing website, would allow IOPS to "move forward"; further demoralization and further loss of members if undertaken without sufficient "buy-in" of the participating membership or organizational capacity to see it through.

    • Johannes 19th Nov 2014

      Can you explain to me why «current members will have to re-register» or at least tell me how likely that is?

      Other than that, fund-raising will be required either way. Our current website costs money which we will run out of eventually. Switching the platform the website is based on would reduce overall costs in the long run.

      A «serious division over structural changes» can be easily avoided by avoiding those structural changes. And as I clearly pointed out before it is not my intention to make any structural changes at all. Certainly not if they are controversial. I have given it a thought, yes. Others have as well, hence I mentioned it.

      The «data and data quality losses resulting from migration attempt» could be overcome by simply leaving a read-only version of the current website online as a kind of archive for as long as anyone wants. Everyone should be able to login and search for any information but no new information could be added if a new website would already be in use.

      I am not sure what you mean by «danger that flaws in existing set up will be reproduced». Could you explain a little?

      «lost opportunity to find a less drastic alternative that, in combination with the existing website, would allow IOPS to "move forward"». If there is any such thing, this would be the time to enlighten us.

      I agree that «further demoralization and further loss of members» could happen but would argue that this outcome is certain if we continue like that.

    • Sarah Owens 23rd Nov 2014

      Will be answering this and the two below responses by email.

  • William Chapman 30th Oct 2014

    I haven't found the site ran well from the get go and felt even ignoring improvements in cost and robustness that an open source solution would have been philosophically appropriate. And I know Drupal at least already has versions available customized for organizing, education, and activism as well as thousands of plugins.

    • Johannes 30th Oct 2014

      Completely agree with you that an open source solution would be more in line with our goals and values.

      Drupal is certainly something to consider. However, I slightly prefer WordPress for this because, from my own experience, it tends to be easier to use and even to maintain for the end users. Drupal might have some advantages for the programers in terms of modularity and so on but I'm much more concerned about the experience of the end users then of the programmers.

  • Alexander Androv 30th Oct 2014

    I have worked with both Drupal and Wordpress on several projects. My vote is for migrating to Wordpress CMS. Intuitive, robust, easy, multilingual,tens of thousands plugins (extension modules), multilingual. I can handle in Wordpress admin panel. But I have some difficulties in the Drupal admin area.

    • Johannes 30th Oct 2014

      That also reflects my experience as hinted at above.

  • William Chapman 30th Oct 2014

    Can't disagree, I'm just slightly more familiar with drupal from the development side. I actually use more sites running wordpress and have no complaints. The only real point I have any investment in is that any opensource solution would be preferable , functionally, financially, and philosophically. So obviously I support the intent here.

    • Johannes 31st Oct 2014

      Albeit having also worked with content management systems which are not, for our website I clearly prefer a free and open source solution. For people who might not be familiar with this – both WordPress and Drupal are free and open source.

      William, if you want to work on a proposal for a new website, please join our Website Team. We can use people with experience!

  • Sarah Owens 31st Oct 2014

    Do you contemplate any change to the way the website is structured (nested chapters based on reported residence and predetermined geographic boundaries, chapter pages, limited inter-org messaging by chapters and projects, etc.)? If so, what structure do you envision?

    Also, what experience/training, etc., is preferred for those thinking about joining the Website Team, and how are team decisions going to be made?

    • Johannes 31st Oct 2014

      I have given some thought to re-structuring the website, yes. I think both chapters based on geographic location as well as projects could be transformed into something called simply «Groups». Groups could be based on whatever the participants of this group want. For example, we could have one group called «Creating a New IOPS Logo», another group called «French Speaking IOPS members», and another group called «IOPS Kurdistan». This would broaden our possibilities considerably in my view and make the website structure less rigid and more in line with our goals and values, especially concerning self-management, flexibility and participation. But that's just my view and obviously up for discussion. There is also some more detailed re-structuring I've thought about but I think I'll leave those details to the discussion with the Website Team for now.

      Generally speaking I am currently mostly concerned about a sustainable way to continue with our website. Re-structuring only where it makes sense and is uncontroversial. Completely new features are secondary for now.

      Especially needed are people with experience in web development (as we will have to do some development and testing) and project management more generally (as we will have to come up with a functional specification and product requirements document). Apart from that I want to stress that every member is welcome to join our discussion, no matter what previous experience he or she has.

      I don't have any formal decision making process in mind. I do have a rough, yet clear proposal in my mind about how to move forward with the website. Our former website administrator Jason basically agrees. Actually I don't know anyone who disagrees. It seems like it's pretty much common sense. But I do want to give everyone a chance to object. If there are any major objections we can always put competing proposals up for a vote for the whole membership.

    • John Keeley 5th Nov 2014

      The best thing about IOPS is the website; specifically the geographical structure. I think it is fantastic.
      I tried to get the People's Assembly to emulate it, they said they would, that it would be geographical, but it's a pile of shit!
      I don't believe that you would be able to keep the website as good as it is by moving it to something like Wordpress.
      Not persuaded!!!

    • Johannes 5th Nov 2014

      The «geographical structure», as you call it, is not merely geographical but political as well. I can see that someone from England might be quite happy with it. But others aren't. I for one think it's quite ironic that our website is structured along the artificial lines drawn by governments all over the world. It might not be of much concern to you, but other members really do care if they can choose a geographic location which is not recognized by (certain) governments or not.

      At any rate, from a technical point of view there is not really much of a discuss. First, yes, it is technically possible to create a website based on WordPress with users structured geographically, see for example:

      http://www.impacthub.net

      which is very similar to our Website in terms of functionality but, frankly, functions much, much better.

      Second, there are several significant issues which can, in my view, be best addressed with migrating to WordPress, including:

      – getting independent of paid professionals
      – cost reduction for both maintenance and support
      – making the website more open and thereby more in line with our goals and values, so that more members can get involved more deeply
      – finally address all the bugs, concerns and wishes (of which some are mentioned in the document referenced above)
      – finally implement new features (like mobile access, multilingualism, social media, website statistics, …).

      I hear your concerns and I'm glad you voiced them. I'd be happy to discuss any reasonable doubts you might have in detail but I assume you would agree that we cannot make decisions of that magnitude based on mere believes.

    • John Keeley 8th Nov 2014

      Johannes, it does seem you have decided the outcome you want. I've looked at the website you posted & can see the geographical element, but as expected it doesn't appear to be as good as the current IOPS structure. I can choose to post an article to by town, by county, by country or to the world, depending upon relevance. I can see who is where easily. I can organise a meeting an town or county level (people geographically close are more likely to get involved in action, feel they are part of something, & more likely to recruit new members). I can't see any of that of the hub website. If it's there it's not so obvious.
      If IOPS was growing & was a success paying 'professionals' wouldn't be an issue. But because we don't have the resources we may have to 'downgrade' & have a worse website. This exposes the weakness of not having a functioning 'executive'. Decision-making is currently paralysed.
      Maybe Michael should recommend pulling the plug on the whole IOPS project & we try to develop something else with Anonymous/Occupy/People's Assembly.
      Unfortunately it isn't going anywhere & doesn't look like it will. It was a good idea though!

    • Alex of... 9th Nov 2014

      hey John.

      as for the posted ‘hub’ website, i do not think that single example should be seen directly as a set of limitations, just because it is not structured to liking. it is simply the way that one site was done. other plugins, and other preferences used in those plugins could create a much different structure. so, the conclusion should not necessarily mean a downgrade, just based on that. plus, there are many other options that can be easily added that do not currently exist, so on that end, actually an upgrade. i am not personally well-versed in WP enough at the moment to know how best to mimic some of the current structure. but, i gather from some of the posts here, there are some folks with a deeper grasp on that. i am just starting to look at some plugins i never have, and certainly can’t argue with the ease of use compared to Drupal, which i once thought was the natural choice. for one, there are many options to the ‘groups’ plugin for customization that may prove interesting. maybe it would even be helpful to seek out some more example websites as food for thought.

      it would have been helpful i think to have used a CMS from the start. would have allowed to easily add functions like polling and tagging to help people engage in decision-making and organization of the site. but, that’s in the past now. while activity has dropped and there has never been much of a process for decision-making, i don’t think that necessarily means scrapping the whole thing. and as that goes i don’t think any of that needs to come from Michael’s recommendation.

      i do think the concept of building local chapters into sufficient numbers toward a convention should be reconsidered, which also opens some questions on the existence of the ICC and decision-making. anyways, decision-making is something that can be worked on. i threw out a few undeveloped thoughts/questions down below, so i won’t drone on. you were addressing Johannes anyways. just my 2 cents.

    • Sarah Owens 18th Nov 2014

      I'm afraid I have to agree with John Keeley, that it sounds like you, Johannes that is, have decided the outcome you want (a new structure for a new website). Although you write that you "hear" John's concerns, it's only after characterizing them as those of "someone from England" who's "happy" to preserve a structure based on "artificial lines" drawn by "governments", and who isn't "concerned" about other members who "really do care." If John wasn't offended by that response, I certainly am. I also think it comes very close to violating our site usage policy. See http://www.iopsociety.org/article/site-usage-policy

      Johannes, you work very hard for IOPS, and have from the beginning, and in addition to your considerable activist accomplishments. Your loyalty and devotion to IOPS is unquestionable. It is, no doubt, with the greatest sincerity that you propose a new website for IOPS as the best way forward at this juncture. However, your caution to John that we not make decisions of such magnitude based on "mere beliefs" applies equally to your proposal, which both assumes a great deal, and leaves a great deal out, as you and Michael and I have discussed. Unquestionably, proposing to alter IOPS organizational structure (which is in fact what you are advocating here) is going to be -- and already is -- controversial, as John's remarks indicate, and that controversy cannot be avoided by sidestepping difficult questions, such as Fred's about "downsides", and working more or less covertly to present the membership with a fait accompli in the form of a new website proposal that changes IOPS organizational structure.

      Even assuming that, from "a technical point of view" there is not much to discuss (a dubious proposition), there is a great deal to discuss on the organizational side. You are in a privileged position as the only acting international admin (yeah, it's a lot of work, unappreciated, doesn't feel privileged, but still) you are a member of a highly skilled "a minority who are initially disproportionately equipped with needed skills, information, and confidence." (See IOPS Structure and Program http://www.iopsociety.org/structure-and-program

      Please, for the rest of us who lack your skills and inside information, slow this process down. Use your skills and privileged position to develop a proposal that outlines the most basic website problems we need to address, offers a range of options less drastic than "a new website"-- in addition to a new website option that retains IOPS current organizational structure, and lists the costs and other considerations for each option that reasonable people use to make decisions of great magnitude. If, as John suggests, we have some tough decisions ahead of us, you can help us by giving us the information and knowledge we need to make those decisions together, publicly.

    • Johannes 19th Nov 2014

      Yes, I do have decided the outcome I want. It's my opinion and I have stated reasons for why I think so. I invited everyone else's opinions on this as well and I hope you agree that I try to make everyones voice heard as best as I can. But I am a member as well and would hope that I'm allowed to voice my own opinion too. But I have no more say over this than any other member has. As I clearly wrote above:

      «that's just my view and obviously up for discussion… Generally speaking I am currently mostly concerned about a sustainable way to continue with our website. Re-structuring only where it makes sense and is uncontroversial. Completely new features are secondary for now.»

      I'm sorry if I sounded offending. That was certainly not my intention. I hope that all my grammar and syntax errors remind you that I'm not a native english speaker and I don't really «hear» how things «sound». When I wrote about «someone from England» I was honestly thinking about the person who purchased the database we are currently using to locate members. That person was not John Keeley. Sorry John!

      If you think there are technical issues to discuss, I would be more than happy to have that discussion with you – or anyone else for that matter. In my view there literally is no discussion if a CMS can accomplish what our current website does. Having studied web development and earning my money with this for many years gives me some confidence in saying that. Again, please correct me if I'm wrong.

      For any organizational issue, please just bring it up and we'll discuss it.

      This whole blog is an invitation to everyone for «coming up with a proposal on how to move forward». I personally only see one good option. If there are others, please let me know. I have been discussing this literally since I first got involved in IOPS. More than a year and a half ago the dedicated Website Team was already inclined to create a new website based on a CMS. It just wasn't implemented (fully). If there is a way to slow this process down any more than that, I'm not sure how. Costs obviously need to be addressed in any serious proposal. But right now we are to far away from that as we haven't even decided what it is we want.

      So, again, I would invite you and everyone else here to bring up any concern and question you might have. Everyone is welcome to participate. People who are serious about actually putting in the effort to come up with a detailed proposal on how to move forward with the website – please join the Website Team.

    • Fred Curran 5th Nov 2014

      Why do you not believe that the website could be as good as it is if it were moved to Wordpress?

      Have you worked with Wordpress before and found something to be lacking?

      I live some odd hours from Toronto but days from California, should I really be more closely aligned with members simply because we have the same overlords? because the same imaginary boundaries happen to surround us?

  • Sarah Owens 31st Oct 2014

    Roger all that. Thanks. I understand you to be saying you are not planning to restructure unless the restructure "makes sense and is uncontroversial." You have thought about restructuring into self-selected "Groups" instead of geographically determined chapters, but are not planning to implement because it does not (yet) obviously "make sense" and is not (yet) universally accepted as "uncontroversial." Do I have that much right?

    • Johannes 31st Oct 2014

      Basically yes. So far I've gotten only positive responses to the idea of transforming both chapters and projects into groups but I'd like to hear more opinions on that, including yours of course. I will bring up the idea to re-structure our website during the discussions with the Website Team and see were it goes. One reason for that is also because in terms of functionality chapters and projects are very closely related, just like blogs and news are, which in turn are both merely reformatted forums.

  • Lambert Meertens 31st Oct 2014

    As currently realized, chapters have certain facilities that projects don't have, such as Resources and Blog sections. However, both facilities – and in particular resources – make perfect sense for projects as well. Also, chapters can have both (sub)chapters nd projects, but projects cannot have (sub)projects, although that also makes perfect sense. So, even if we keep some distinction between groups that are chapters and groups that are projects, usability will be increased by merging and unifying the facilities afforded to groups.

  • Nathan James 1st Nov 2014

    I agree. Mobile accessibility is key. I've been thinking of this since day one.

    I have experience with wordpress and HTML/CSS/PHP and will donate any of my help that may be needed.

  • Miloš Milosavljević 7th Nov 2014

    WordPress is the right choice. It will greatly reduce cost and the choice of plugins that handle SEO, social media integration and other services is unparalleled.

    Since I already have a lot of experience with the platform I'd be happy to contribute.

    For starters, I would suggest using the Genesis Framework, which is the closest to having proper schema.org integration. I have a purchased unlimited license and would be willing to provide one for the web site.

    I would also suggest using Synthesis web server for hosting and try to reduce the price. It normally costs 47$ per mo, but it is worth every penny. It's blazing fast with Cloudflare integration and other tit bits you can check out.

    I could suggest the best plugins for SEO, front end page building, multilingual web sites and so on.

    I am also a SEO expert and could do on site optimisation in English (and Serbian), and provide guidelines for what should be done in every other language version of the site.

    Lastly I work with a high quality and very affordable Wordpress development team from Serbia and would gladly contribute to project management free of charge. I use Asana for web project management, also a free platform that streamlines workflow very well.

    That's it from me,

    Milos

  • Alex of... 7th Nov 2014

    i had never really thought of wordpress being flexible enough to accomplish a similar framework to what is established now, and expand from better. i agree it is very simple to use. drupal can defintely handle anything.

    i agree, as i always have, on using an open source CMS for all the reasons mentioned. having built sites with both wordpress and drupal, i am interested to understand how much more wordpress can flex compared to my current knowledge.

    and of course, i still need to add a couple things to the improvements document, as promised, but keep finding myself in other conversations and work.

    beyond that, i would suggest as i have in the past, a process to determine some consensus on priorities for changes.

    this is a bit off-the-top.

    we may one, just need to decide if there is interest in a migration by the active members, if it is neutral if it requires nothing of someone, if it warrants funding to do so would you be willing(?), if someone sees the benefits of the initial investment vs the long-term investment. other questions of course. can this be polled and decided as such, or does it require approval by the ICC?

    within a migration, should it just start with that, or should it also be starting to implement new features? the framework is going to work differently no matter what, so there is nothing too clean about a simple migration.

    perhaps a little more time should be taken to add to the current list as an opportunity for all for thought and within time contraints. it is being proposed based on some previous requests, but also been talked about privately, through a bit more specialization of interest. so, that communication is important.

    and then, maybe a first poll could be established to determine how folks would prioritize that list if money, time, or tech-ability had no contraints. but then, those who understand the software best could give feedback on which of those require more hours to accomplish, or where the software may be limited or could accomplish something closely related.

    again, off-the-top thoughts. how does this work?

  • Lambert Meertens 7th Nov 2014

    We do need major changes and additions to the functionality offered by our website. Continuing on the present path with paid developers using a proprietary and idiosyncratic framework appears sub-optimal and even ultimately likely non-viable. Better to switch now than to keep spending resources on a dead-end course. I believe that we can develop a website that has everything we need in a participatory project using a free and open-source CMS.

    I don't have specific expertise or knowledge about the respective capabilities of the major CMSs (Drupal, Joomla, WordPress) for realizing all our needs for a new IOPS website. There appears to be general agreement, though, that WordPress is easier to use. So I'm happy to defer the choice to people with more expertise in the area, but it seems that if WP can accommodate everything we need (which is something I can't judge), it is the best option.

  • Alex of... 7th Nov 2014

    “if WP can accommodate everything we need” IF indeed.

    as per ease of use, i think most of the work with Drupal is at the start. planning and setting up taxonomies and relationships and so forth. but, after that pretty simple to add new modules for functionality.

    i am not trying to make a case for one or the other directly at the moment, but it’s definitely worth some careful consideration, as any switch over is a large undertaking. here are a few reviews for comparison. look up more if you like:

    http://websitesetup.org/cms-comparison-wordpress-vs-joomla-drupal/
    https://www.udemy.com/blog/drupal-vs-joomla-vs-wordpress/
    http://www.rackspace.com/knowledge_center/article/cms-comparison-drupal-joomla-and-wordpress

    i think the main point is that it depends on the intended application. perhaps it is even necessary to look over the list of hopeful features and seek out the ‘plugins’ as WP calls them, or ‘modules’ as Drupal calls them, and see what is available. some things may even require a little php to tweak. have only looked at Joomla way back, but didn’t really care for it, but it seems the question here is more betweem WP and Drupal anyways. for whatever process of building i think it would be wise to document well each installation, setup, bug fixes etc, so that someone can later understand why each choice was made and what they are working with.

    as per some of the above conversation on geographical and project groups, i agree that the geographical groups are an excellent feature, and also agree that other groups of online or political resonance should apply. this does stray from some of the initial org descriptions and intent, and so may require some consideration there. but since the chapter building concept has not proven itself as the only means for connection here, i think it is time to build new options.

    of course, i would even like to see some kind of means for further affiliations, but that may or may not find itself in later consideration. not to worry too much about at the moment. probably better to focus on the decision-making process and take some steps.

    i am also wondering if the current site can be kept in an archived form. in any migration, the format will be different and some things will be lost. i think whatever has happened here should be kept for reference.

    • Alex of... 8th Nov 2014

      i also add, per general agreement beyond ease of use... if most people willing to work on this are more inclined to WP, or indifferent, then that is likely the better option. i was feeling indifferent, but now looking over the WP groups options i have just swayed more to WP.

  • Joseph Essertier 8th Nov 2014

    I heartily agree with Johannes' proposal to "migrate the existing data of our website to a new website which is based on a widely used content management system."

    What I personally care about most is "robust multilingualism." I am not well-informed about the tradeoffs between this or that web-building software, but the process of translating we have now does seem too slow and cumbersome. At a time when Wikis can be edited with such ease and when the WordPress interface is so intuitive, it should not take weeks to add content in multiple languages. Once someone has produced the translation and made it available to web editors, it should take more like 15 minutes for someone to put the translation up. As soon as editors have a moment. With WordPress, adding content in a language other than English would probably be no different from adding English content.

    Or, one trusted translator could add text on their own, at any convenient time. You type in a password, locate the page where you want to add text, type in the text, see how it looks, and if it looks OK, you click a button to finalize it. The new text appears immediately on the actual web page. Teams of translators for each language can work with each other, notifying others when new content is being added, asking that translations be checked. Translations can be checked before they go up, or even afterwards in urgent cases. Minor mis-translations or other errors can be corrected at any time. We would be able to check each other's work and correct obvious errors immediately. Less obvious issues could be discussed among translators, as is done now.

    We still have errors in message boxes like "Message send" instead of "message sent." Problems like that could be fixed within a day on WordPress, whether the message box was in English or another language.

    Learning how to use WordPress is also easy. Tutorials are available in multiple languages.

    It does not have to be WordPress, but we should use some kind of software like that, that allows us to collaborate efficiently. Building the webpage is part of the fun of building the movement, isn't it?

  • Titas Biswas 16th Nov 2014

    When is this shift actually going to take place? I feel it is necessary.

    • Max H 17th Nov 2014

      I second that, and will be very happy to see this. Thanks to all involved!

    • Johannes 17th Nov 2014

      It's a considerable workload. I first just wanted to bring up the idea to see which responses it would get. Much like all the e-mails I get as website administrator, almost everyone seems to be very enthusiastic about getting a new website. Members of the Website Team are now trying to specify a detailed proposal of what it is exactly we actually want to do, which can then be discussed by the whole membership once it's done and perhaps later voted on. As noted above, everyone is welcome to participate.

    • Titas Biswas 17th Nov 2014

      The cost reduction point is important and easy to install plug-ins seem to be a help.A Blogger blog is somehow tougher to handle with all the coding you have to do every time (My own blog is operated via Blogger) and though I am happy with the customisations right now,it took me an year to get all set.WordPress would perhaps work better.The social network attributes need some attention.

    • Sarah Owens 17th Nov 2014

      Hi, Johannes, as you know, I am one of the "almost" (as in, "almost everyone seems to be very enthusiastic about getting a new website.")

      I am not enthusiastic because I don't think the case has been made that a new website is necessary, that we have the organizational capacity for this kind of project, or that some lesser alternative that IS within our capacity could not address some of our problems.

      The first order of business needs to be -- do we want a new website? What doesn't work about the one we have? How could those problems be addressed short of a new website? What are the costs associated with each alternative?

      It is premature to call for a discussion of "what it is exactly we want to do" unless that discussion includes the above questions. As evidenced in the above comments, members are already interpreting "what it is exactly we want to do" as referring to what it is "we" want in a new website. If you do not want fatal division in IOPS at this very vulnerable time, I suggest everyone consider very carefully how this "new website" discussion should proceed.

    • Johannes 19th Nov 2014

      Hi Sarah. No, I did not know that. Now I do.

      If «we want a new website», we can discuss here. To answer «[w]hat doesn't work about the one we have» you can refer to all the things mentioned in this blog and outlined in the IOPS website improvements document, or simply to all the e-mails you sent me in this regard. «How could those problems be addressed short of a new website?» I don't really know. We could keep paying the initial programers but I find that less sustainable and costly. Anyone other than those programers cannot really do it (certainly not as cheap as they can) because the code is so specific. And I don't think they'll do it for free. The internet is a rather fast medium, meaning that websites get old very quickly. I'm afraid the problems we currently have with this website will only get worse and more costly as new hardware and software emerges. I'd rather have a transition to a new website sooner than later. If there are any better alternatives, I'm all ears though. «What are the costs associated with each alternative?» can only be answered if you tell me what those alternatives are. We are trying to outline one way forward right now in the Website Team. When we've done that we can talk about costs, but not before.

      I agree that caution is important and am thankful that you voiced your concerns publicly.

  • Michael Livingston 18th Nov 2014

    I have the same questions, reservations and concerns about this "New Website" proposal as those expressed above by John Keeley (November 5 and November 8 comments) and Sarah Owens (November 17 and November 18 comments). The proposal is, at best, premature.

    • Johannes 19th Nov 2014

      Moving to a CMS was perhaps one of the first things I proposed when I got involved in IOPS in 2011. I advocated for it since then. Over a year and a half ago the Website Team, especially dedicated to the website as the name suggests, was already inclined to implement it but lacked resources. Hence I would not consider it «premature» («at best» of course) to merely post a blog publicly inviting all members to discuss moving to a CMS.

    • Michael Livingston 19th Nov 2014

      Basically, this proposal is "premature" because, among other things -- (1) the need for the "New Website" has not been demonstrated; (2) whether a new website should be developed is only one of many questions that would be considered as part of an objective, comprehensive assessment of what, under the current circumstances, the IOPS website should do and look like; and (3) such an assessment would take into account both technical AND substantive policy considerations. Because this blog assumes from the outset both the need for and the desirability of developing a new website, it can not serve as that assessment.

    • Alex of... 20th Nov 2014

      i think this blog serves as part of the assessment, by gaining initial feedback. i’m sure all can move past what may have seemed like assumptions.

      think i mentioned that some of the web team conversations have been private, as have been some of the requests submitted. as such, there has never been a very good process for compiling this information to be available, and creating a method for decision-making that balances with the technical and financial challenges.

      i first engaged with the web team at a time of fundraising effort way back, that came without even a list of what was on the request list, which i thought wrong. Sarah Owens and I tried to initiate a bit of organization to the request forum.

      part of my reason for joining the webteam was to understand how it was built, as i didn’t understand why, after requests for tags and polls, say, it would be much of a problem or need funding. if using Drupal, for one, i could just activate the built-in polls function or install a more extensive plugin. takes minutes, and maybe some other hours for how one wants it integrated. but not months or years or even money if one wants to contribute. not much more involved than those more inclined to write blogs.

      if the IOPS community wants a better and cheaper way to add new features, a CMS is a no-brainer. should have been started that way. it was a majority belief as i remember in discussions with the webteam. but i agree, Michael, that is only one part of a set of questions.

      i threw out a few questions that could be part of some polls or consideration. maybe this thread could be considered a step in some communication from the web team on the tech issues, but there are not only some better ways for that communication to be developed, but some next steps to take for decision-making?

      perhaps a next step to take would be a generation of questions that relate to the technical aspects and policy considerations, as a means toward a polling. or how else would anyone like to procede?

  • Lambert Meertens 19th Nov 2014

    The current website was not designed and created in a terribly well thought-out process. The process for developing a replacement will proceed in stages. The first stage is to decide what we want. A primary requirement is that any new website should at least have the capabilities that we have now and are reasonably happy with. If that was all, then obviously there would be no point in creating a new website, but there are many things that are not working properly but are hard to fix, as well as other things that we need but are almost impossible to add to the current version.

    Stage two of actual web development will only start in earnest after we have a design that we generally agree on is sufficiently better. Then we will move into stage three of testing and making changes till we are satisfied the result is worth switching over. Everyone will be able to see what has been achieved thus far and to play around a bit to get a feel (and also to help testing).

    Only then will the actual decision be made to move over. As long as there are substantial arguments why switching over would be premature, they should be taken very seriously. We want the actual moving to be as good as painless.

  • Robert Bennie 19th Nov 2014

    For the sake of transparency I would like to publicly announce my interest in helping Johannes migrate the current website from this platform to WordPress.

    Admittedly, I've seldom used the IOPS website, primarily because of its limited support on mobile devices. Therefore, I'm aware that my opinion doesn't carry as much weight as those that use the website often. Nonetheless, I think Johannes's primary motivations are sound.

    Firstly, a proprietery platform lacks the support and scalability offered by open source technologies. At least not without major costs.

    As a commercial software developer I've personally produced boutique CMS systems which: 1. bind the client to the originator supplier and 2. increase in cost as the technology ages (or the supplier finds more luctrative contracts). I'd be happy to explain my experience in more detail if necessary.

    Lastly, and ideologically, open source technology more closely aligns with what I understand IOPS to represent. It offers extensive online community support - most of which is free. But perhaps more importantly the technology is inexpensive to obtain and learn. In turn the skills are transferable. This would allow members the opportunity to learn these skills and aid in the administration and upkeep of the IOPS website. The potential for the dilution of concerntrated skills is therefore greater.

    Insofar as the initial plan goes I agree with Lambert. The WordPress IOPS project should at the very least provide the same functionality that exists currently. Of course WordPress is not the current CMS and members cannot expect an exact replica. However, I don't see that the WordPress platform should preclude existing website structures.

    I presume, if the plan is given the OK by the IOPS community, before the current website is replace a trial run, for members, would be initiated. This will allow for members to scrutinize the WordPress site before going live.

  • Robert Bennie 19th Nov 2014

    Lambert answered my last comment - apologies for any repetition.