The forum is currently shutdown. I wish to thank all of my members for their time and effort at making my community a clean and safe one, but the task of administrating a “General” technical support forum on my “personal” website was too great. It has been a great few years and I am sorry to let it go, but time has got the better of me recently. It makes me sad that I have to let a piece of my web site go with such great support of my readers.
Update: Please note, all of my Windows services guides will remain and stay updated with my findings. This post only is about the “BBS” or “Forum” section powered by SMF, not the entire domain. This post should also not be thought of as a disservice to Simple Machines Forums or discredit their software in any way. The volunteers working on SMF are awesome, but they seem to have been faced with much more then I can imagine “behind the scenes” and frustration on their part was worked through, but it was just a bit too late to try and recover on my end.
What is this all about?
I, Charles “Black Viper” Sparks, is shutting down the BBS/Forums section of my domain. This comes as a result of many issues from all aspects of hosting and moderating comments coming from the entire world as well as my original intentions of providing this service from the start. I am only one person.
What was the original intention of the BBS (Forums)?
Simply put: To provide a public access way for my visitors to ask questions about Windows(R) Services and allow me to answer them and be displayed to the planet.
“Write once, read by many” has been a philosophy crafted by me ever since I was a child.
When I first started creating my internet presence in 1998, I was blown away by the simple concept and realities that I could write something once and have the entire world read it in seconds. Seriously, that power is awesome when you think about it. Since that time, I have learned an enormous amount of self taught information about how the internet works, HTML and PHP, as well as computers in general and I wanted to share that knowledge with everyone for free. A lofty goal if you really think about that one also.
Over the last 3.5 years, in order to help people in general areas and reduce my one-on-one communication methods, the forums went from “something that only I really wanted” to “something that forum members use and respond to others”. What?
What “one-on-one” communication methods?
Email and Instant Message to name a couple. I even recieved technical support questions via Snail (Postal) Mail. No, seriously…
I have this lame stat in a few locations, but, when I shutdown the entire domain in 2005 (I had no “public” way to answer questions), I received, on average, 200 emails per day while my email server (of which I setup, configured with spam filters and viri detection) dumped 6,000 per day. At that time, I served zero ads and made little to no money for my time. It was a hobby that I enjoyed until it became too much work for nothing but a couple emails saying “thanks”.
I tried to reduce this “one-on-one” communication by offering a “FAQ” to my visitors and, unfortunately, most people ignored it because it was easier to spend 10 minutes writing an email then 5 minutes scanning a FAQ to get an answer.
What solution did you come up with?
When I brought back my domain in 2007, I wanted to squash this type of communication and decided on SMF forum software http://www.simplemachines.org/ to provide this “service”. I spent many hours researching what software to use as well as “looks” and ease of administration. Simple Machines Forum won my heart. I have spent 1000’s of hours behind the scenes administering this software and comments and it is extremely easy to do… What if it was complicated?
What has happened between 05FEB2011 to 12FEB2011 to question the intent of the forums?
Crib notes: After 12 years, I finally decided to make the leap from static HTML files and content on my main domain to be transfered into a “CMS” (LOL? My initials…) or Content Management System type of environment.
This is because it takes a crazy-insane amount of time to update static content using a HTML editor. The less time I spend “working in the background”, the more time I can spend writing content that people care about. No, not tweeting telling everyone that I am stuck at a red light, but content that people wish to read. My guess is that 99% of the people using the internet care very little about how it works. As such, over the last 12 years, 99% of the stuff that I have been doing is completely worthless to the average domain reader. Bummer.
I decided on WordPress http://wordpress.org/. Not much went into this decision except the simple fact that lots of people use it. I decided to convert my random “news updates” on my domain to individual posts in WordPress. I was impressed (pun?). The extreme ease of adding and updating “pluggins” as well as the act of updating WordPress software itself is amazingly easy. In contrast, the other CMS system I decided on for each of my 1200 static service pages was MediaWiki http://www.mediawiki.org/wiki/MediaWiki. Over several months (since around June 2010 to August 2010), I messed with MediaWiki and that software is a nightmare to administer and to even write a page. It took me a very long time to get that wiki up and running with no support from anyone. I actually respected SMF forum software a lot due to my experience with MediaWiki. WordPress took hardly anytime at all to get off of the ground.
As such, I started converting “all” of my static content available on www.blackviper.com, over to WordPress. This act alone ran me into many issues that I had to solve “behind the scenes” as no one really cares.
What issues has BV had converting the domain to WordPress?
Simply put: My (long) term goal is to have a single login as well as offer up a completely ad free environment for my dedicated readers.
By request, I implemented a “plugin” for WordPress to only serve ads to users that are not logged into the “blog”. I had issues setting up this “free” plugin that I found, but had exactly the capabilities that I wanted outlined here: http://planetozh.com/blog/my-projects/wordpress-plugin-who-sees-ads-control-adsense-display/?cp=all#comment-141494
I finally figured out a workaround, but it took around 15 hours to do so. That is 15 hours of me troubleshooting, not 15 hours of real-time, and I sent off $20 via PayPal to the author.
For awhile, I had contributing members on the forums (+1 post) display no ads. This is an effort to give back to my members. However, I do not like “multi-signon” anywhere and do not expect my forum members to deal with it either, so I want a “single login for everything” on my domain.
What happened? (February 12, 2011)
I have previously looked for “bridges” to link MediaWiki as well as WordPress to SMF 2.0.
However, “zero” plugins are supported due to the fact that SMF 2.0 is currently not “released”, meaning not good enough for final release and never has been recommended for a “production” site (I have experienced only a handful of bugs that only were a result of my lack of understanding how things were intended to work, not the fault of the software). As such, nobody wants to make a “free” plugin for software not in “final” form. I wish to explain right now that I have used SMF 2.0 on my BBS for around three years, since public release of the beta around March 2008. This whole time, I have waited for some method to link other CMS’s and have a single signon and administration aspect, as well as “final form”.
Today, Simple Machines gave this tidbit to the public: http://www.simplemachines.org/community/index.php?topic=421547.msg2948711
And I quote from the link above:
At this time, legal matters related to the upcoming license changes have prevented us from making a final release of SMF 2.0.
Update: SMF 2.0 has been released, but just a bit too late for me, unfortunately: http://www.simplemachines.org/community/index.php?topic=437328.0
Explain legal matters?
While I was searching for a bridge to link WordPress and SMF 2.0, I discovered the reason why in the last year, I cannot find something: SMF license prohibits this type of stuff. It is not “compatible” with the GPL and as such, no supported bridge can be made for legal reasons. Also from what I understand, “SMF Final Release” will change the license for this to happen and be able to legally do what I need to do… however, I need to say that this software is made and supported by “volunteers”, meaning, no one is getting paid. They do what they do because they enjoy it and the software is free.
What was your reaction to this information?
In all honesty, from all that I have done in the background, this piece of information made me pissed.
I wanted to lash out at SMF and give them a piece of my mind. Yet, I would be complaining to volunteers that do not get paid for their efforts. As such, instead of being a complete jerk and probably bringing up more issues by complaining about it, I decided to consider shutting down the forums.
Shutdown the forums? What? How can you even consider such a thing?
When I converted a couple popular pages over to WordPress, comments on my guides already started. In only 48 hours, one person already posted a technical support question related to Windows Services and I answered it. This simple act alone completely invalidates the entire reason for the forums to exist as stated in my “original intentions” at the top of this page. Not only do I have to administer my “blog” (damn, I hate that word), but I have to administer software (BBS) that, who knows, will even exist in a year and I may need to “convert” the BBS to different software in the future. The forums are not anywhere close to the content of WordPress, so too many clicks are needed to get to the answer. I need to cut my losses.
Why not convert to a different BBS software now?
I have spent thousands of hours behind the scenes administering the BBS.
I honestly have no desire to start from scratch learning how to do it on different software, let alone the fact that even the ability to perform such an action is completely up in the air due to “importing SMF 2.0″ is not supported as it is, once again, not a final release.
Another reason is that I am offering to answer “technical support questions” generated by everyone in the world on a forum operated by one person. Anyone with common sense should immediately understand that is an impossible task and I thought I could do it. Thankfully, I had forum members answer questions on their own, but I have a hard time with this. I never expected this to happen and it never was in my thoughts or intentions that it would happen.
What about the members?
I love my forum members.
In all honesty, I was scared from day one starting these forums up and every step of the way, my members have supported me, for nothing but a thanks, just like what I received for so many years and I cannot formulate enough words to communicate my appreciation for it.
But you have a billion people online…
This stat inflated that thought: Most Online Today: 20. Most Online Ever: 362 (November 01, 2009, 12:10:07 PM)
When I offered the ability for logged in users to the BBS to not have ads on my static HTML pages (that turned into dynamic PHP), the count of people visiting the “forums” was greatly inflated. In reality, only about 20 people visit the forums on any given 24 hour period… not hundreds.
Can you just allow “someone else” to deal with the forums?
Simply put: No.
I am the Master on my domain and if you would happen to gather three people in a room, those people will have a hard time agreeing on anything, let alone “proper” methods of administrating or “right and wrong” and the complicated matter of the internet’s “anonymous” aspect making people be jerks because they can. As such “ultimate power” has stayed with me throughout the life of my domain and I wish to keep it that way. I have zero desire to “manage” several people on something like this.
A few valued forum members have posted quality information and answers for absolutely nothing, with nothing to motivate them except a few thanks from me. I cannot ask nor do I feel right, bringing up the option to any of them to continue their efforts alone because I do not want to do it. The “cost” of keeping these forums up and running is difficult to calculate. For 2.5 years, I hosted the forums on a DSL line in my house that was $95 per month, but for the first time ever, I will state what financial compensation I have received as a direct result of the forums…
You serve ads on the BBS (Forums), isn’t that enough?
Average amount of money I have gained from Google Ads served off of the BBS is around $0.75 US per day.
I offer “no product” for sale, no tangible thing to make money.
So, are you asking for more money to keep the forums up?
At this point, money is not my motivating factor in shutting down the forums.
Can I rip everything and make my own forums or have you send me the database?
Ever since day one, I have stated that “Posts and Topics appearing here are the opinion and property of The Poster.” Meaning, I have zero right or authority to allow anyone else to duplicate the content and take it anywhere else. I have no desire to ask 1400 forum members with 1 post and over, permission to duplicate or redistribute their content. Period. It is not an option. I never redistributed the posts on my CD/DVD and I am not going to do it now.
I thank you, kind reader, for your support over the years and understand this decision came with much heartache and pain.
-Charles “Black Viper” Sparks
Originally drafted on the BBS on 13FEB2011, reposted/reformatted 20JUL2011 here.