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#1 User is offline   Xanth Icon

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Posted 26 December 2011 - 07:55 PM

First of all, let me apologise on three counts: 1) To those who have contacted me over Christmas, I will try to get a reply to you as quickly as possible. It's been a hectic and fun-filled weekend, as you can imagine, but now I'm (supposedly) resting up to recuperate; 2) I got some very bad news to which I'm scrambling a response; and 3) This post may get a bit long...

Invision Power Services (our host and provider of the software EF uses) sent me an email last night to the effect that IPS no longer provides the Legacy hosting option we've been using since 2006. Because we have a website (the wiki) as well as the forums, we don't have the option of upgrading our hosting package because they now only provide hosting for communities (forums only). They were very kind to provide us with the option of migrating to a company with which they "have a relationship" but at the "discounted" fee of $99 for a software license we already own. (The new license would actually be for the unencoded software so we can be hosted by another company, but I think it's disgusting that they're forcing us to move and then charging us for the privilege.)

The email also states that we have only until January to find an alternative option, and according to at least one person on their support forums, the migrations are happening next week. I don't want to panic anyone (especially at this time of year), but this doesn't give us much time to assess our options and make a decision. The wiki is thankfully ours for the taking regardless and, at this point, I think our best route is to find a new host and convert our current database to a free software.

I've posted this topic not only as a warning that things will be changing, but as an opportunity for you to have some say in what happens next. There are a couple of decisions we have to make:

  • Do we take the discounted offer to migrate with an unencoded version of IPB? This would mean the work would be done for us, and we wouldn't have to acclimatise to a new software or lose anything in the process. However, it would mean that I'd have to ask for donations which I'm loathe to do because I can't afford the $99 up-front fee myself any more. I'm also leery of paying IPS any more money given the atrocious way they're treating us.

  • Assuming we decide to find a new host, does anyone have any recommendations? Someone on RPG-D has suggested Mystic Moon Hosting: Does anyone have any experience with her?

  • Which software would we convert to, if that's the route we decide to take? I'm leaning toward SMF myself because they've been providing a solid, free software for years. It's rumoured to be on par with IPB; a little more difficult to skin and customise but easier than phpBB or the like. (I have had experience with phpBB 2 and 3 and they were pigs on both scores.) Of course, conversion will mean familiarising ourselves with a new system, and there are some concerns with modifications (see below).

  • How would we adapt to the loss of modifications? For instance, we won't be able to take the bank mod with us (SMF has its own version but I don't think it will import data from the current bank to the new one), so we'll lose all the data regarding cash and likely all the custom profile fields as well. While I can try to get around the latter by taking screenshots of member profiles and then manually re-adding them later, that doesn't help with the bank and it's a lot of work to get through. Would an alternative, such as offering a "start-up fee" for the new forum (eg. ζ500 for characters with less than, say, 200 posts, and ζ1,000 for characters with more than 500 posts, etc), suffice? Would you prefer that I manually copy the funds (and awards) everyone has? Would it be better to have people reclaim their stuff after the migration (essentially making members responsible for their own personal conversion)?

  • Would anyone be willing to help me with some of this work? (There may be an alternative to the screenshotting that I haven't thought of yet...) While I'm hoping that we do have more than a week to get all this done, I'd rather not take the chance and have EF whipped out from under us before we can save everything.

  • If you're interested in the technical side of things, please take a look at the modifications on offer for the new software (SMF here, phpBB here) and see if any interest you. The best time to install them is during migration, and I'll take all suggestions under advisement. With SMF, I'm already thinking of the bank, awards, and the subaccounts mod.

    (Regarding the subaccounts mod, which will allow us to link accounts and switch between them without having to log in and back out: Would you like to have a purely OOC account? We could do that with the subaccount mod, allowing us to keep our characters' lives and our OOC activity completely separate as well as member achievement/awards versus character awards, etc etc.)


I realise this is an awful lot to take in, and it's a very bad time to be bringing it up. Unfortunately, this is a time-sensitive issue and we have a lot of decisions to make in a very short period, so please bear with me. <3
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#2 User is offline   Erasmos Icon

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Posted 26 December 2011 - 09:50 PM

My First Choice
My vote for #1 because it is the easiest, fastest, most hassle free, and has the least amount of work attached to it. It seems like with this option we'd retain 100% of what we have now.

My Second Choice
As a half-way point, I think you should consider JCink. They are a heavily modded IPB 1.3 Final. They don't allow you to edit the forum-software and they don't allow custom modifications but they do have some of the features (here) you are looking for as built-in mods:
- subaccounts
- points & store
- free! (ad block costs $10'ish)

My Third Choice
Go with JCink while you complete a new forum on a different software platform. That way there's no rush - and right now doesn't seem like an opportune time for you to be dealing with all this and creating a new forum on a new software. I'd hate for EF to go the route of another certain forum that had to upgrade at an inopportune time (that is, when skyrim released), and still hasn't had the time to finish skinning their forum proper.




About Moral-Lock

Moral-Lock hosts IPB 1.3 Final as well, and the owner is very nice. However, if you're in a rush, she may not be the right person to go to, as right now she's away on an expedition (Poland?). She checks in every 5 days or so.
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#3 User is offline   Xanth Icon

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Posted 26 December 2011 - 09:59 PM

I had considered JCINK but wasn't sure about the conversion/migration. I know you can get a JCINK database from them, but can you migrate to them? apparently can't migrate to there from IPB. :/
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#4 User is offline   Lazuli Icon

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Posted 26 December 2011 - 11:33 PM

I've used SMF a little before (I liked it), and they do have plenty of mods that we could use. As far as the custom profile fields, that shouldn't be too big of a problem since we can just copy the info from our journals? It would be harder for the bank/awards, but it might be easier to make a list of characters' money instead of taking screenshots. Is there perhaps a table or part of a database somewhere that keeps track of cash/karma/awards? Then ideally we could just copy from there.

Hosting shouldn't be too big of a problem as long as they have a fairly good reputation, since EF has a domain. Just back everything up! XD

I'd also be happy to help you with anything, Emma. :)
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#5 User is offline   Xanth Icon

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Posted 26 December 2011 - 11:57 PM

Sky = Genius. I never paid much attention the back end of the site before (I have backups of the SQL database but it's a lot of information to wade through *twitch*). I just found a table that logs total cash, so there's that, at least. :D And yeah, I hadn't thought about just copying the cpfs from journals. <_< I knew there'd be options I hadn't considered! <3
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#6 User is offline   Erasmos Icon

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Posted 27 December 2011 - 12:16 AM

If the database is in plain text, and if the new forum accepts SQL queries, I can generate a SQL query from the database that inserts everything into the new database.
If the old database looked like this:
USERNAME, POSTS, MONEY, GENDER, RACE
membera, 55, 123, female, nymph
xanth, 999999, 9001, female, Tanakheimein
...


I can generate a statement that looks like this:
INSERT INTO TABLE USERS (USERNAME, Posts, Money, Race, Reputation, Warnings) VALUES ('membera', 55, 123, 'female', 'nymph', 0, 0) 
INSERT INTO TABLE USERS (USERNAME, Posts, Money, Race, Reputation, Warnings) VALUES ('xanth', 999999, 9001, 'female', 'Tanakheimein', 0, 0) 


No special tools needed, just a find/replace editor and knowledge of regular expressions. (Excel is often helpful but never necessary).
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#7 User is offline   Nicolay Icon

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Posted 27 December 2011 - 01:01 AM

Hi!

I hadn't quite read the entire e-mail yet and gosh, I've been so stumped by real life this late BUT I say move to a new host. How do you guys feel about the journal system?

I do have plans to come back to this place.
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#8 User is offline   Lazuli Icon

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Posted 27 December 2011 - 02:08 AM

Glad I could help! <3

AND LIVVYYY oh how I miss you ;o; (And Lazuli, too!)
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#9 User is offline   Nicolay Icon

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Posted 27 December 2011 - 05:16 AM

I miss you, too!! I gotta think of a realistic reason behind my characters' long silence, though. >.>;;

Anyway! So having finally read through everything, I just realized how inappropriate the journal systems are. Having said that, I am afraid I am not much help on choosing which services to move to because I am as green as a #0F0 when it comes to these matters.

But! I do think you should totally back everything up first. The posts and whatever else is important since the way I see it, preserving all this info is priority and once they're all backed up, we just have to look for the best service for them, right? Maybe we could experience some downtime (wherein we might be temporarily homeless?) but personally? And you would understand but I don't mind the downtime for as long as the back-ups are secure. >.>;; And if you don't mind that either, maybe then you could take your time to figure out new services, y/n? :D;; We should probably not worry too hard about skinning and color mods and layouts, too, because I think that would get us nowhere.

I also wouldn't go for the $99 option. Because I can't help you on that part. >.>;;

Also, I think you can trust all of us to remember all the info we need to remember? And then when the time comes, maybe we can have enough power to just key them into appropriate fields or whatever for a limited time until you lock this power up, again. You could actually also totally take this chance to clean up EF's backend. Drop whatever doesn't quite matter anymore, I'd say old character accounts but hoho what am I, a hypocrite? etc.

SkySky, write me a report on what's happened to EF while I was gone pls. ._.;;
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#10 User is offline   Xanth Icon

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Posted 27 December 2011 - 04:15 PM

Hi, Livvy! Welcome back! And thank you all for your responses. <3

I'm worried that any downtime will be detrimental to the site. EF's a cosy game to begin with, but just looking at other games that have had downtime for whatever reason, I think it's safe to say it could kill the site. :/ (I also don't like to delete established accounts (more than 5 posts if more than a year old, more than 10 posts if older) because even those can be a nice little part of the history of the game. We also had some complaints the one time I did start deleting inactive accounts, and there's always a chance for people to return some point down the line, so I'll avoid it if I can... :) )

Obviously, things like skinning and the "luxury" mods would be low on the list of priorities. But the more I think about this, the more I'm torn. My bitterness toward IPS may be clouding my judgement, because I hate the thought of giving them more money. I do think a move to SMF would give us a chance to grow in a way that IPB can't provide but I also think it's a lot of work and I'm a little concerned at this juncture that my familiarity with the IPB software won't be enough to get us through a conversion to another software. I have had offers of help <3 but I don't think any of us are familiar enough with the back end to guarantee a smooth ride.

That's definitely not to say that I'm not willing to do it, or that it can't be done, only that conversion (and I think at this stage that I would choose SMF over other softwares) will mean a longer transition period. On the other hand, we have had someone generously offer a donation toward the cost of the unencoded license (I won't name names in case they want to be anonymous). Both of the companies that IPS has recommended will perform the transfer of both the forums and the wiki for free, and it would mean only a few hours of downtime (as opposed to an unforeseeable amount if I were to do it myself).

So, forgetting everything else, our first decision is: Would you prefer to stick with IPB and just switch to a new host, paying the $99 license fee; or would you like to convert to SMF (also on a new host)?
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#11 User is offline   Nicolay Icon

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Posted 27 December 2011 - 04:25 PM

For reasons that are already stated, I go with SMF.
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#12 User is offline   Aella Icon

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Posted 27 December 2011 - 07:14 PM

I vote for staying with IPB. It seems to be the safest option, and saves a lot of hassle having to convert to a new system. Any downtime on a community like EF has the possibility to discourage new membership, and any data lost in translation can easily upset a portion of the active playerbase.

You must balance these cons with the pros that a switch to another system would create, and that is outside my area of expertise.
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#13 User is offline   Lazuli Icon

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Posted 27 December 2011 - 08:34 PM

If we go the change-software route, there are some converters for IPB to SMF. It would probably be really difficult to avoid at least a small amount of data loss, but probably not to the point of losing accounts or topics.

Since someone is kind enough to pay for the move, I'm going to agree with Solstice that sticking with IPB would be safest and best for EF's health at least in the short term. Moving to SMF though, would save costs in the future (since the license has to be renewed, I believe?). I really don't think that an RPG's quality depends that much on the software, so regardless of whether we move EF still has plenty of opportunity to change and improve.

With regard to the downtime, it might be helpful to just test things out at first, provided there isn't too much of a time restraint. We could maybe attempt to set up an SMF version of EF and see if the conversion works smoothly, while leaving the domain here until we know for sure that things are running ok? That might be time consuming though. :/

Taking everything into consideration, I lean toward sticking with IPB.
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#14 User is offline   Erasmos Icon

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Posted 28 December 2011 - 04:22 AM

My vote for no downtime.
When a site has downtime, it discourages new members, existing members, but most importantly, strains the forum owner.
In my experience, only 5% of downtime or 'down for maintenance message' forums return back to life.

When the site is down, you feel pressured to get it back up, overwhelmed, pressured by nagging members, and discouraged because, well, no one gives positive feedback when things are down.
And the longer it takes, the more faith you loose; it's an inverse square function of likelihood of returning versus time - it's a very steep slope.

So I guess I'm voting for SMF-
but only with an intermediary, temporary platform until the SMF platform is ready.
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#15 User is offline   Xanth Icon

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Posted 28 December 2011 - 10:34 AM

Whew. I got a response to my email to IPS today apologising for the panic. Apparently, "the message was automated and not intended to require immediate action" and though the migrations start next week, they "will be happy to move [us] to a new legacy server" so we've got time. They also agreed that we already have a license, so we can "take all the time [we] need" which I'm going to assume means until the license expires on the 5th of February. :)

There's been no mention as to how long the $99 unencoded license would last. The email suggested that it was a lifetime license which "would allow [us] to use the product, fully unencoded, outside of [the IPS] network", but I've asked how long it actually lasts. I don't want to make a decision based on assumptions. I've sent a bunch of questions regarding the license, what we could expect to keep/lose in the transfer if we kept the IPB software (would mods etc be intact), what we'd expect to lose/keep in a conversion, whether our current license is enough for the move or if we still need to buy the $99 license, would the new license cover upgrades and if we'd get support with those (since we'd no longer be on their servers), and what exactly the Legacy package offers us in terms of disk space, bandwidth etc so we can compare what I'm paying now to packages offered by other hosts.

Depending on the answers, we may still be converting to SMF. However, if we do so, I'll have much more time to set things up before we shut down the IPB version of the board, meaning that there should be very little of downtime in that event. With any luck, most of you won't even notice. XD

In the meantime, I'm not sure how long the site will be down while they move us between servers (I haven't asked them to do so yet because there's no point if we decide to migrate IPB rather than convert on another host), or how long it will take to migrate to a new host, but I doubt that either will take very long.

And don't worry. I backed up the wiki and the SQL database the second I got the email, and do so at least once a fortnight anyway. :)
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#16 User is offline   Xanth Icon

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Posted 30 December 2011 - 01:27 PM

Updates & Decisions:

Aside from a continued semi-annual $25 support fee (which includes future upgrades), IPS has confirmed that our license is fully paid for. Having compared various hosting packages, I've emailed Becky at Mystic Moon Hosting and she's also confirmed that the transfer, which she will perform for a $5 set-up fee, will include everything and leave it all intact (mods, wiki, etc).

Though most of you have said you'd prefer to convert to SMF, and I'd prefer that myself in the long-term, I think at this point it's better to stick with what we've got and do a simple migration. This way, I can experiment with a test installation of SMF, learn how to install the mods and create themes, practise conversion of our database, and just generally get familiar with the software at my leisure rather than hurrying through it all and potentially damaging years of fun and hard work.

So, once the New Year's weekend is out of the way, I'm going to sign us up at Mystic Moon Hosting. Becky's FAQ says the set-up will take 1-12 hours, so there'll be a day when EF may be unavailable. However, I'll post again to let you all know once I've signed us up, and I'll Tweet any updates as I receive them after that. :)

Thank you all for your patience and your advice during this time. <3

I hope you all have a wonderful new year!
<3 <3 <3
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#17 User is offline   Aella Icon

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Posted 30 December 2011 - 05:45 PM

Thank you for keeping us in the loop, Emma :D
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#18 User is offline   Lazuli Icon

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Posted 30 December 2011 - 10:27 PM

Woot! Sounds good! :D

Happy New Years, Emma, and thank you for your hard work! <3
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#19 User is offline   Erasmos Icon

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Posted 31 December 2011 - 05:33 AM

Thanks Emma, we love you!
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#20 User is offline   Xanth Icon

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Posted 31 December 2011 - 10:20 AM

Ahhhh, cookies for everyone. <3
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