Future of the site?

A general talking shop for any subject under the sun (even Monty Python). This would also be a good place to make suggestions about the site itself or about these forums (or "fora", if you're particularly pedantic).

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Future of the site?

Postby Nevadablue » Thu Nov 06, 2014 12:06 am

Looks like a few people are reading Emrys' post about the site ending on December 14.

So, what do we do? Emrys' post is locked, can we have a discussion here?

I'm new here, but would hate to see the site die.

Let's figure out something.

What does the Gn15info site consist of?
Ken

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Postby chris stockdale » Thu Nov 06, 2014 6:37 am

Hi Ken, guys,

As member no.36 (way back in July 2003) I've yet to actually do any Gn15 modelling :oops: but the minimum concept is a BIG favourite of mine and I've dabbled in 1/12 and 1/6 scales on 32mm to enjoy it.

I too would hate to see the site vanish. There is much of interest to modellers of all scales and a wealth of info on Heywood's minimum gauge and similar. I also happen to think we are a particularly friendly and relaxed group in how we greet new people, new ideas and just generally 'get along'.

The Gn15 info site had just that, info (and articles) and a history of how Gn15 came about as a result of a conversation between Steve Bennett (Pepper7) and Steve Warrington (Back2Bay6).

So what do we need?

A quick review of the Emrys' post and the one from earlier that is linked to within it gives us, I think, three requirements.

1. Someone with technical skill to manage the hosting and upkeep of the site.

2. Money to fund the above. I believe this can be quite a bit because of the bandwidth used, but perhaps Emrys would be kind enough to provide more detail here.

3. Day to day support. By which I mean moderation. I think we are quite well sorted on this with myself, Gerry Bullock, Colin Peake and Ian Holmes . Another bod or two would be welcome.

I'll now include keeping out potential spammers as part of what might be added to a moderator's role for the future under new management.

So, we don't need a lot, but do we have the will and skill within the group to make it happen?

And have I missed anything?

Over to the group - your feedback welcome…

cheers,

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Postby Gerry Bullock » Thu Nov 06, 2014 8:13 am

I'll just add that neither the VE nor Loco Shed will be updated this year until Emrys indicates that "Fred" has taken over the running of the site.
Both these sections take ages to compile and would not normally be published until end of first week in December.
This year they will not be updated until Jan 2015.
Based upon the fact that Emrys requested a 'take over' back in 2011 and no-one came forward my own feelings are that we are in a count down to the loss of the site.
I shall be copying my posts relating to my own layouts and locos so that they can be re-posted elsewhere. :cry:
So little time, so many ideas!!!!! GerryB.
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Postby Si » Thu Nov 06, 2014 9:40 am

Over to the group - your feedback welcome…


It would be a great shame if it went.

But from my POV, I've no technical knowledge so can't help there, am moderately strapped for cash but would be happy to make a small contribution if I knew the site was to continue, however I'd be happy to help out with any non-technical admin, moderation, etc if needed.

As far as the GN15 Info site is concerned, I don't really think I know enough about the subject to contribute meaningfully should it start taking new articles, but I'm happy to have a punt.

Typical though isn't it....all these years I've been visiting the site without doing any Gn15 modelling, but as soon as I put the track down on my first Gn15 layout there is the possibility that the site will go!

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Postby Thorness » Thu Nov 06, 2014 10:02 am

This is all rather worrying, there is such a huge amount of info and knowledge available via this site.

There are 995 members of the site (195 of those have joined since 2011) but I assume a lot of those are not "active" by which I mean don't even look at the site any more.
My IT knowledge is slightly above zero and I have no idea what is really involved in running this site and Gn15 info. The finances look to be a concern, funding this year looks to be about 60%, 2013 looks OK but 2011 and 2012 are both depressing. Again I have no idea what sort of money we are talking about.

I'm sure we would all like the sites to continue, skill and money are an issue for me but I should be able to contribute some time.
Last edited by Thorness on Fri Nov 14, 2014 4:23 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Ian-IoM » Thu Nov 06, 2014 11:15 am

I too would be very sad to see this site go, and very much hope someone will step in to keep it going but I realise that is quite a big commitment – technically and financially I couldn’t do it (I was a computer nerd in the days of 8 bit machines like the BBC Micro but am firmly in the dinosaur camp now and not exactly flush on the finance front). I think we owe a vote of thanks to Emrys for hosting this forum for as long as he has, after all he has not been an active contributor (or Gn15 modeller?) for as long as I have been a member but has kept the forum going largely at his own expense and must have put in a lot of time behind the scenes working on it to keep things running smoothly. All together now – “For he’s a jolly good fellow…”

Anyhoo, to the future... Worst case scenario - If there isn’t anyone able to take on running the Gnatterbox in it’s current form perhaps we could think about a Plan B? This is the only internet forum I regularly look at but there are others out there and I wonder if we could set up a shanty town of refugee Gnatterboxers on the outskirts of some existing forum? (I think the 7/8th lounge has a section for Gn15 although I haven’t really followed it.) Obviously this wouldn’t preserve the archive of very useful stuff that has built up on the Gnatterbox but it might be a way for us to keep in touch and keep the spirit of the Gnatterbox going?

Whatever happens, thanks Emrys, and all the best…
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Postby tebee » Thu Nov 06, 2014 11:29 am

I'm another guy who has yet to actually do any Gn15 modelling, even though I've been a minimum gauge fan for many years. I did use to help out Austin Moss with real 15 inch gauge stuff though.

But I also used to be a computer programer ( started out with IBM 360 assembler back in the 70's) and have done a lot of technical support over the years including several forums in the mid noughties.

I also happen to have a convenient reseller hosting package( this is one that allows me to resell web space to other people) with enough capacity to absorb the site.

So I've offered to help - There are several ways I can do this, but I think it's better to see what other offers we get, as the one thing I don't have at the moment is spare time.

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Postby martin » Thu Nov 06, 2014 12:46 pm

In the mid 2000's I used to develop my own wordpress themes and plugins (the gn15 site used to be a wordpress one until it was hacked due to an out of date installation)

I've also in the past installed and maintained phbb forums. However I've not messaged Emrys as like TeeBee I just don't have the time. Running my own business means I work a 12hr day 5 days a week... even on my days off I work, in fact i've not had a full day off in three weeks and now its the christmas shopping season that's not going to change anytime soon.

Setting up and developing a site is in many ways the easy part... if there are databases involved the annoying bit is keeping it maintained and up to date... and I just wouldn't be around to make sure we were always running the latest version of the forum software.

With wordpress that's a lot easier these days... but the PHPBB side of it is something i've not used for about 6 years and i'd need to so some ctahcing up... and again I just don't have the time

In regards to moving to a different forum: If the forum you'r moving to is also phbb there is no reason you can't merge all of the GN15 sections to that forum. It's also possible to do it with other types of forum software but not always as simply. I don't know what powers the photo hosting, it may even be something Emrys has made himself so that may be an issue.

In regards to the old site... getting a copy of the database and images would be one way of saving the content.

An easy and free option is to set up a free wordpress.com blog and import the old site as an xml file. However to do that you'd need to export the old site as an xml file first, which may not be possible depending on what happened during the hack.

Another rather simple option but requiring a self hosted wordpress blog is to import the database... however again we don't know the extent of the damage done during the hacking and you'd really want to have a really good look at the database before you put it in a live environment.

The simplest option would be (if possible) for someone to take over the running of the site/forum under it's current guise and hosting provider until someone had time to come up with a plan.

If that's not possible perhaps saving the databases would at least save the content until someone had time to do something.
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Postby RoGNer » Thu Nov 06, 2014 1:33 pm

I too dont want to see the site go - i think it is by far the best forum in this wonderful hobby out there.

I emailed Emrys with a couple of questions about what is required both technically and financially - and he then added the details to his post.

Based on those tech details i did a quick search and found "Go Daddy" hosting site which to me seemed reasonable price wise and could (i think) offer enough of our technical needs to run - i might be completely wrong and talking rubbish as my computer knowledge is self-taught..

What if say 6 of us agreed to host the site and pay a sixth of the cost each? Between those 6 there must be at least one with the technical know how?

I am very keen to keep it all going both financially and technically with help from others. If we "signed up" for a 12 month initally at least it would do so.

With regard to the time element - can anyone estimate what that involves please - are we talking a certain number of hours every day?

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Postby martin » Thu Nov 06, 2014 2:42 pm

RoGNer wrote:I too dont want to see the site go - i think it is by far the best forum in this wonderful hobby out there.

I emailed Emrys with a couple of questions about what is required both technically and financially - and he then added the details to his post.

Based on those tech details i did a quick search and found "Go Daddy" hosting site which to me seemed reasonable price wise and could (i think) offer enough of our technical needs to run - i might be completely wrong and talking rubbish as my computer knowledge is self-taught..

What if say 6 of us agreed to host the site and pay a sixth of the cost each? Between those 6 there must be at least one with the technical know how?

I am very keen to keep it all going both financially and technically with help from others. If we "signed up" for a 12 month initally at least it would do so.

With regard to the time element - can anyone estimate what that involves please - are we talking a certain number of hours every day?

Roger


It would be far easier in terms of time to see if it's possible to transfer whatever account Emrys already has to someone else. Moving to a host isn't a big deal but it's not the ideal way to start learning how to adminster a phpbb forum. Technically it could easily be done within a day or two providing nameservers are changed quickly. If everything went to plan it would be a breeze, if something went wrong particularly with the forum database then it could turn nasty if you didn't have someone who knew what they were doing.

And again we'd need to find out more about the image hosting... you wouldn't want to save the forum but lose all of the images.

I'd be happy to contribute financially.
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Postby Emrys » Thu Nov 06, 2014 3:03 pm

Ok, ok, I agree that locking that post didn't make any sense. Well done to Nevadablue for spotting the easy workaround.

In answer to a couple of the questions/points made above:

I don't know what powers the photo hosting, it may even be something Emrys has made himself so that may be an issue.

Unfortunately I have to admit that my.gn15.info is homemade code. On the plus side, it's really not complicated (which is good news, given the apparent absence of comments in the code).

getting a copy of the database and images would be one way of saving the content.

That's definitely not a problem, both for the forum and the (possibly infected) Wordpress tables.

It would be far easier in terms of time to see if it's possible to transfer whatever account Emrys already has to someone else.

I'll find out if that's possible to take the Gn15.info account out of my current package and will report back. It sounds sensible enough but I don't know how having the MinimumGauge.info clone of the forum complicates matters. I do recall it being a headache to set up.
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Postby Nevadablue » Thu Nov 06, 2014 3:26 pm

Great discussion, thanks guys. I have a bit of experience with losing a forum, sad to say. A few years several of us started a forum, but only ONE person had the 'keys' to the place. We all chipped in $ (it didn't take much) and we were off. It was fairly popular and had a good group of members and nice, competent posts. But... the ONE fell ill and was unable to continue and waited too long to let us know. Short story, we lost it all. The database was not saved, everything gone.

So, I now have a friend with a site on GoDaddy and I asked him a quick question based on Emrys traffic numbers. He guessed $350 to $400. Just a guess, obviously.

Roger's idea of several of us 'buying' the first year of operation is a viable idea, IMO. I could spring for a month or two probably. I suggest we keep talking... we have about a month it appears. I would like to see at least two administrators so if one of us/them has trouble, the other can carry on and get help possibly.

And, yes, OF COURSE, thanks to Emrys for keeping this little forum alive. I am new to all of the model railroad stuff, but I do have a tiny Gn15 layout in progress.

Oh, I do have quite a few years experience moderating forums (fora?) of all kinds, and with rowdy crowds. This group should be a great one to help with, if help is needed. And, keeping out the spammers is an issue. I've helped deal with that too. I do have time to help, I'm retired, which also means not much $, but I could help I think.

Let's keep talking...
Ken

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Postby martin » Thu Nov 06, 2014 4:09 pm

Hi Emrys,

thanks for such a detailed response!
re minimumgauge.info worst case scenario is that it just get's pointed at the forum?

Nevada:

And possibly more, hosting a site like this isn't cheap... a forum this large with the traffic it get's really ought to be on a cloud or VPS. i suspect looking at the hosting provider it already is on a cloud server.

Fingers crossed someone with the time and knowhow is able to take over.

One option to secure the future of the forum and site is that some of us do get together to formalise a structure for a safe ownership/stewardship.

I note with some sadness that the carendt website while looking very beautiful these days is very rarely updated... that's no criticism of Gert, maybe he just doesn't have the time... life can very easily get in the way!
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Postby RoGNer » Thu Nov 06, 2014 9:38 pm

I have been in touch with Go Daddy - here is their reply

"As long as you can provide login information to gain access to pull the files from the entire forum, and database access, then it would be around £60.99 for the migration for 1 website+ 1database

That's a 1 time fee and then to host it would be around £59.88 for 1 year.

This would be Shared hosting on CPANEL

OR at £360.39 total for the migration and the hosting for 5 years
This is the current sale we have going on

And if it's more than 1 database and 1website that needs to migrate, basically it's about £60 each + VAT

But a base price for 5 years, with migration of 1 site and 1 database, £360 roughly."



Further thoughts guys.. ?

Roger
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Postby Nevadablue » Thu Nov 06, 2014 10:29 pm

That sounds pretty impressive! Just for grins say $600 US.

If we can find a propeller head that has time to play admin and a second for him...

Let's see what Tom can do?


I'll pledge $50 to get the ball rolling! For the GoDaddy rate, we need 11 more volunteers. :D
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Postby tebee » Thu Nov 06, 2014 10:54 pm

Hosting is not a problem - I have existing hosting which has easily got the capacity to absorb this form. It's paid for already for other things, so we don't need to worry about finding money to pay for it, though I'm quite happy to accept any contributions.

My main problem is, like Martin, I'm self employed and time spent fixing forums is time I'm not earning money. But once they are up and running these forums don't require a lot of technical work supporting them, most just regular backups and applying the updates that come out every couple of months. Chris has already offered to moderate it and help keep on top of spam.

It's the time taken to set up a new copy of the system on a different server and sort out the existing problems like the main site. It's also running a version of the forum software which is no longer supported and so I need to think if doing an upgrade at the same time makes sense or not.

Over the next couple of days will get a test sever set up on one of my home machines, then see about getting a copy of the data from here from Emrys, then I will have a better idea if this will be easy or hard.


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Postby Nevadablue » Thu Nov 06, 2014 11:23 pm

Thank you Tom! Please let us know if there's anything that 'we' can do remotely.
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Postby martin » Fri Nov 07, 2014 1:10 am

tebee wrote:

It's the time taken to set up a new copy of the system on a different server and sort out the existing problems like the main site. It's also running a version of the forum software which is no longer supported and so I need to think if doing an upgrade at the same time makes sense or not.


If the only reason to use the outdated version is because of the cloning of minimumgauge.info then i'd say it's best to simply point that domain at gn15.info. If I recall correctly phpbb don't have any plans to bring back that feature and I do recall having the same issue a few years back with a site a friend developed for a client, they took the decision that it wasn't worth compromising the site over.

In regards to the original wordpress site. I'd be happy to look at the database to see if it's salvageable and look at ways to get it back up and running. But I won't have time to do that until after Christmas
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Postby tebee » Fri Nov 07, 2014 1:44 am

That's pretty much the same conclusion I'd reached as regards the two versions of the forum.

As regards the wordpress part, if the files are in a good enough state, what I was thinking of doing was setting it up on a local server, then using HTTrack to download from that, giving us a copy in static HTML which is not as easily hackable. But I have no idea at the moment if they are in a state to do this.

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Postby Jon Randall » Fri Nov 07, 2014 2:09 am

Emrys, I'd like to take this opportunity to thank you for all the effort you have put into the GnATTERbox since it's inception.

Hopefully the forum will be taken over by somebody who has more knowledge, time and resources than I have.
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Postby csundstr » Fri Nov 07, 2014 8:24 am

Thought I would chip in...

I don't have a lot of time (I'm in the middle of designing part of a multi-million dollar undersea network system at the moment!), but I have a fair amount of experience with raw HTML, CSS and JS code, plus graphics editing experience. I have been building websites off and on since 1997 (since HTML 2.0). Whomever takes over, feel free to PM or email me if you want another set of eyes to go through code for the website or edit graphics. I might even be able to write an article or two if more content is needed. There's some interesting information I have started to come up with on Caribbean and South Pacific Minimum Gauge (40cm and 50 cm generally), plus engineering topics like designing for Shapeways (Tebee, Rue De Etropal, Brack, maybe something co-authored?), or something simple like "A Tale of Scales and Gauges"?

Unfortunately our work servers aren't available for renting out...we ingest about a terabyte of data every two weeks or so, with direct primary fibre trunk line to the server farm(s). Our databases are getting so large we're having to migrate to systems typically used by organizations like Facebook and Google. Check out http://www.oceannetworks.ca if you're interested.

Hope we get this solved! Thanks to Emrys for a great site!

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Postby RoGNer » Fri Nov 07, 2014 9:37 am

That sounds like really good news from teebe Tom together with csundstr Chris and his knowledge.

I do have a bit of spare time and a bit of spare cash so I can help with both - perhaps as another moderator or give help in anyway i can.

Hope Tom can report back with good news once he's had time to do what he needs to.

:D

Roger

This all proves what a great forum this is and can continue to be with huge thanks to Emrys of course
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Postby tebee » Fri Nov 07, 2014 10:09 pm

Well we have a little progress, with Emrys's help I've downloaded a copy of the existing forum software and updated it to the latest version of the software, so that should not be a problem, though we will lose the Minimumgauge.info access as this is no longer supported.

One thing that has occurred to us is that we ought to sort out a way so existence of the forum is not dependant on one person. At the moment Emrys holds the domains which are the key to the forums identity on the web and rather than just transferring those to me it would be nice if we could transfer those to some sort holding organization so that if either of us gets run over by the proverbial bus these are not lost.

But there is no Gn15 equivalent of say the 009 society - I rather suspect this is in part because GN15 Gnutcases tend to be a little on the independent side, verging on anarchistic. So how can we organize ourselves? do we want to ? can we ??? or is it all unnecessary?

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Postby Nevadablue » Fri Nov 07, 2014 10:34 pm

Thank you Tom!

I agree with having a 'group' that can access and maintain the domain. Like I said above, we waited too long on another forum and lost it completely.

Maybe at least 3 or 4 people should be able to 'open the lock' if something dire happens to the 'owner' of the site.
Ken

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Postby martin » Sat Nov 08, 2014 12:52 am

Over the years at shows and on here there has been talk of a "society" and it's always been felt that once we give things rules it stops being fun.

However I don't see why a group could not be formed that soley existed to encourage discussion and promote GN15 and GNine through the forum and website. If we limit it's scope i'm sure that would keep many of us society/club averse people happy!

If you wanted to get really official all you need these days in the UK is to compile a members list, identify a treasurer and chair and you can walk into any bank and get a community bank account. That's the minimum required you don't even need a constitution any more!
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