Home | *** New Website and Software Coming ***

*** New Website and Software Coming ***

As those of you who made BACFest and some of the rest of you might have heard through the grapevine…BAC is working on a web site make over. Really more than a makeover – more of a brain transport. There are a number of technical, functional and security issues with the current website code base. The current site was a great starting point but other than some tweaking and all the data and posts we have poured into it hasn’t seen a major rework since the very early days of the club five years ago (which is 4 score and then some in Internet years). The goal of the club and the hard working volunteers of the web site working group are to bring you a new site in Q1 of 2010 – with all of your old data but plenty of new value added.

First, Before we go into more detail we’ll highlight that there is a plug for some volunteer help at the end – more details at the bottom.

After several months of evaluation we have decided to go with a commercial package for the base of the new site – but it is a new major version will possibly have some teething issues. The new site will be based on the vBulletin CMS 4.0 software – which is an evolution of the vBulletin Forums 3.8 software used on many sites (including several pilot sites like the Purple Board). The new software offers a unique value opportunity in an affordable CMS tightly integrated with a very strong (many would argue best of class) forums software. vBulletin Forums is in production at several thousand public sites and over ten-thousand paying customers). The down side is we are on a bit of a bleeding edge – vBulletin CMS 4.0 is brand new, not even officially released yet (but will be this weekend) and the first CMS offering of publisher JelSoft. The plus is that internally it’s more of an evolutionary package from their forums. So there is a lot of robust, time proved code in the new product.

The club had originally budgeted a non-trivial amount of money for “hiring out” this conversion. But several factors including supporting the hard copy magazine and high than expected quotes for doing the transition led to radical rethink. Software has come a long way and the club decided that we would attempt this as an all-volunteer effort. The state of internet site software has made dramatic strides in the short years since the clubs founding and the hard work put into the first site. One place we are spending money (although a surprisingly small amount) is to use a commercial, supported software package for the site. There are several strong “free” and/or “open” CMS candidates – but doing this 100% volunteer means it’s highly desirable to have something very integrated and polished to start with, hence the vBulletin choice.

The hardest part of any migration such as this is bringing data over. A close second for a volunteer effort is testing. We have made great strides in migration. We already have fielded a test site with complete migration of user accounts, posts and private messages. Next we’ll tackle photos and files. If we were leaving the data behind (even part of it) – the site could be up this month – but our goal is as little data left behind as possible. It may not be in the same form and we’re not promising 100% data migration, but we’re shooting for 98%+ with data left behind being more time related and non-critical data like polls and past calendar.

So bear with us on the transition and please be patient. We will make the transition as smooth as possible but we do know there will be a few key areas we need patience and help:

  • We will probably go live on the new site before its 100% final visually. Part of this is we just know we won’t get it perfect the 1st try with all the new features.
    • Please be patient as we tweak layouts, ordering and menus.
    • We’ll try to keep this to a minimum – but we can’t promise none in good faith.
  • Some data may get left behind and/or reduced in functionality.
    • As noted areas like past calendars and past polls are not a priority for limited resources.
    • Some data and pages may be converted to “static” (uneditable/unchanging) content in more of an archival model suck as old calendars, polls and news items.
    • Some things may have to be a fair bit different in view and structure, anticipated to include in particular:
      • File archive.
      • Photo galleries
      • Classifieds.
  • Some area may get a 2nd pass conversion later in the year as vBulletin 4 matures and the add-on market catches up so we have better integration options, this includes, again:
    • File archive.
    • Photo galleries
    • Classifieds.

We know you have ideas! We welcome input but the feature set of the initial version is pretty nailed down partially because time means we will deploy primarily with what is available off the shelf for vBulletin CMS 4.x. 4.0 is due to go “Gold” on 12/21 – we should see the first few maintenance updates out early 2010 before we go live.

But we do want to capture desired input – but try not to down us with requests while we work hard on just getting it working.

As we mentioned, we still need help.

  • We could use 5-10 interested “beta” testers willing to try all the functions of the test site.
    • This work will be “throwaway” in that we won’t be saving test posts and such to minimize work on data converstion and integration.
    • But the testing will be invaluable to ensure the rest of the membership has a quality experience.
  • The key limiting factor in the schedule is developing the data conversions:
    • We have a few (ie: 1-2) members currently on the web committee with the right skills for this work.
      • If you know SQL reasonably well, especially MySQL, and in the perfect world are comfortable with Unix scripting we have several pending data conversion tasks we’d be happy to get help with, otherwise we’ll just work them in order as time allows.
  • Please contact with offers of hands on help via PM to myself (Mark Gooderum) or via the Webmaster Contact Form, not in the forums. (We don’t want to miss your offers).

One other major addition is very soon we’ll be rolling out an issue tracking system. This will be usable for reporting issues and tracking requests for club work. This includes technical issues with the web site but will also include membership issues and other abilities. It will be a separate site (linked from the main site) that honors your site username and password. Partially this separation is a technical limitation but partially we want the issue tracking system to work even if the main site is down given the coming changes.

Thank you all for your patience and understanding through this process. At the same time this news item was posted we have started a forum thread (https://www.beechaeroclub.org/index.php?name=PNphpBB2&file=viewtopic&p=32945) that people can use to post comments and commentary. For volunteers please contact us directly (PM to myself or Contact form for the Webmaster) so we don’t miss your efforts to step up.

Thank you for adding to the resources available for your Fellow BAC Members.