When I started this site just over nine years ago, I didn't have a clue about what I was doing nor how the site would grow. I found the platform we still use today by accident and back in the heady emerging social media days of 2007 and 2008 they were great. The platform was constantly evolving and if I ever had any problems they were incredibly responsive.
However, the exciting (excitable?) social media buzz of those days has settled down to a background hum. Many tech companies went to the wall. Our platform hosts have survived, but were bought by a company which if it were a parent would long ago have been taken to court for severe neglect. This second-rate parent has just sold the platform on. Some accounts suggest that the new owner may be less parent and more modern-day slaver.
Worldwide, users of this platform are up in arms that our monthly fees are being doubled, but perhaps more than that, people are concerned about the viability of the platform in the medium term. So it seems like it's time to start contemplating some other futures.
If the platform closes down, not only would HoL face oblivion, but almost a decade of local community conversation will be lost for good. (This would be just one small part of what's being talked about as potentially the 'forgotten century' as all sorts of digitally stored archives disappear forever). That would be a shame for us now as well as for those who come after us.
To ensure our survival and the preservation of the rich tapestry in our archive, we may need to find a new home. As a first step I've reached out to the other Haringey sites that patterned themselves on HoL and used the same platform.
But, whether we do it alone or work with other sites, any move would mean specifying a new platform and then finding someone to make it for us. So two questions from me at this point:
1. In terms of the features we have and the ways things look, what would you like to change and what stay the same?
2. Can anyone help out on the technical side? As you can imagine the site is not blessed with huge wealth! (But we have won multiple awards and are well known in communities around the world....and...and....I guess any solution you make for us can be applied to a huge number of other people currently using our platform and also looking for a new home).
Except as expressly permitted under this Agreement, you agree not to, nor will you allow any third party (whether or not for your benefit) to:
My emphasis. From Ning's terms of service here.
I think you'll have to buy the content from them. Have they mentioned that? Sounds like you need a meeting with some developers...
No that refers to the platform code. The content does NOT belong to them and they have published a (pretty crap) archiver tool with which any network creator can archive all content stored on the platform. Stop looking for conspiracies, John. What do they put in the water in New Zealand?!
Fluoride! Bromide too in secondary schools.
Well apart from the price gouging, it looks like this is a good move. Do you WANT to move or are you just worried that things are going to get worse/more expensive?
I'd be very happy to move. I've had a growing sense over the past few years that everything was not well at Ning. The support is all but gone and I'd rather be in control. Given that it's not a business and I have a limited amount of time to give to it, if all was well at the ranch, I'd probably just stay put. But the risks of staying feel like they're just getting too big and it would be a shame to see it all turn into a pile of dust.
I know nothing about what alternative platforms are available but this one is certainly substandard. I've always found it very hard to keep track of the sequence of posts and replies. Also, I find there are odd phenomena: often I load the forum latest replies page for the first time. I then immediately refresh it and it shows more posts not shown at the first time of loading. I don't see this kind of behaviour on other message boards.
Thanks for the feedback. I've noticed a difference of what's displayed when I'm logged in vs when I'm not, but haven't encountered the behaviour you flag. Sounds very odd.
There seem to be two camps on the threaded vs non-threaded issue, but I seem to remember the conclusion always being that within this platform threaded works better for more people but neither is perfect. So a new platform would certainly have to be more of a crowd pleaser on that score.
I think threading may be a good idea in general (not that I understand exactly what you mean by the term) but the bottom line is that whatever system is in operation on this platform it's not well implemented, in that the sequence of comments and replies becomes hard to follow across multiple pages. Whereas on Facebook, for example, it seems pretty easy to follow a single sequence of comments, and where some comments themselves have replies, you can click to expand them. (But I think it has just two levels, i.e. there are comments, and replies to comments, but you cannot have replies to replies -- is that the issue here?)
Thinking about it, maybe it's the pagination that creates confusion here. Facebook gets round it by truncating a long series of comments, so you have to click to expand to see more comments.
I'd love to see comment threads inside posts handled better. Conversation pages can get dominated by the first comment made and the "discussion" that comes off that - this often drags off topic which is fine for the people involved but perhaps intimidating for people who want to discuss another aspect. Something like Reddit handles this very well.
I know this was something that was discussed before and not possible on the current platform, so if it is changing then I think this would be great.
Other than that I think everything else is good. I wouldn't want to change from threaded style comments.
If needed you could look at something that allows you to charge a small amount for posts in the "for sale" section, I think this would be fair as people are making money from your site, but the costs of running the site get nothing for it. You also have a lot of really good photos, could also have an option to "order print" from a partner, perhaps you could recover some costs there.
Appreciate this is all a lot of work for you, I think most people would be open to further ways for you to monetise to keep the site running
Thanks Jez. Useful thoughts.
I'm quite reluctant to ask money for selling the odd toaster. I like the idea of things being free to the user, but charging for commercial access. As things are now any commercial entity pays to add a new post. I've tinkered with the idea of making that a requirement to advertise via comment as well, but the issue is policing it.
It may be an idea wth the photos. I think, as you say through a printing partner would be the way to go.
Yes, I haven't used Reddit recently but I did go through a phase of using it for a few months last year and I remember thinking the way it displays the sequence of comments is very clear.
Hi Hugh, your news is sadly to be expected and in nine years technical changes can prove hazardous I suppose but anyway here is my short reply to your two question:
Re. 1. features we have and the ways things look - what would you like to change (the PM could be easier) - and what stay the same (most everything I like and want to stay same, keep the Forums, the advertisements separate on the right hand banner, the one-stop buttons, the top banners are okay and the What's On details on left side)
2. on the technical side - very sorry I cannot help out there re platform and looking for a new home but I am gonna forward this to my super-techie friend cos you never Know!
Lastly, thank you for outlining the current HoL online situation so clearly. Haringay values you hugely, so I hope you find a solution to this 'blip' soon.
Best from grateful HOL user/follower xXx
Thanks for your kind comments Geraldine.