Force Academy: Makeover Edition

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ConnorL
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Force Academy: Makeover Edition

Post by ConnorL » Fri Dec 29, 2017 9:30 pm

As per the public discussion thread, this space will be used to plan the revamping of Force Academy. All who want to contribute to the redesign should voice their opinions here. Upon a positive vote from the Inner Council, implementation will begin. A negative vote will archive this discussion for the time being.

To get the ball rolling, Kira... do you still want to use the revamped site you worked on?

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Setanaoko
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Re: Force Academy: Makeover Edition

Post by Setanaoko » Sun Dec 31, 2017 6:44 pm

*creeps in* I know -I- would like to use what she had if she still has it.
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Satelle
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Re: Force Academy: Makeover Edition

Post by Satelle » Wed Jan 03, 2018 1:11 am

A proposal for discussion...

Domain Name

The domain forceacademy.us was registered by Satelle and DNS can be pointed to whatever hosting is needed.

Dedicated Transition Team

Similar to the old R&D team, we need a transition team. This should be a group with the technical and organizational skills to develop the site and set up the supporting technology.

Website Hosting - Raft Site

As Connor has mentioned, a temporary site would be worth setting up, apart from the forceacademy.co.uk site, to be able to update membership on the transition. This could be:
• A Discord instance with more forums, including a read-only one where the R&D team makes frequent update posts, one where the dev team can talk, and some supporting discussion places for site users beyond a general forum. Something that most closely emulates the old co.uk forums in topics would be helpful to keep consistency.
• A free- or home-hosted phpBB3 installation with similar forums as the Discord option. Free sites will be of uneven quality and performance. Home-hosted would be off a home 50MB/50MB internet connection and subject to that stability. But both are temporary and limited options.
• Some other options, ideas welcome.

The Force Academy Next Generation (FAng) Project

One of the major things that FAng must take into account is Aspect contribution. Over time, it seems that most, if not all, of the Aspects have broken off and put effort into their own sites apart from the FA. Fatum Operandi for the Dark Aspect and Project Armonia for the Light have considerable work put into them. I'm not sure if the Shadow folks have also done this, but I know they are training off site in some fashion. Whatever solution FAng comes up with, it must include and bond with these efforts. That shifts the focus of a site from being the end of a search to being a bridge; it will affect design and structure considerably.

With that taken into account, what do we want to be? This will determine what FAng casts itself as. A few thoughts:
• The site should allow for integration of other sites, with the option of offering content hosting or other features that help both sites. This can be as simple as links and as complex as setting up "satellite offices" on the FA site for them. Content authorship should be respected, but a model of Force content aggregation will be better than one of content repository.
• A big part of the freshness and fun of the FA back in the early days came from the debate and cross-talk possible from having all three aspects on the same site. I feel that we need to regain that again, and we don't need to take away anything from the spinoff aspectcentric sites that exist.
• It would be interesting to cast the FA as being a "town square" central place where the original three Aspects have a home, but also include space for the other sites. This space could be their own forum, their own section of the site (via a CMS system), ambassadors, etc.
• We need to create original content. Everyone seems to float on lectures written in olde tymes, and as the survey made clear, people are looking for content. Lectures, blog posts, space for their own writings, all that. This will mean attracting and retaining people willing to volunteer their time to this; the more people who do, the more the work is evened out. Yes, eventually it would be great to pay people, but we need to establish ourselves as having something worth paying for, before putting up a paywall. This topic of money needs to be discussed in depth after the site is up and rolling.
• The three aspects need to get their shit together. If that means picking new leadership that wants to commit to the FAng project. Do a charter, describe how the aspect will run, beef up the Inner Council, and do it right. We need people to invest effort in to gain momentum.
• All of this should be put into a new Force Academy charter, stating what our purpose is and our standards are, in broad terms that don't infringe too deeply on the aspects. We should also define policies that cover abuse, harassment, and other behavior that we feel may impact someone's participation in the site. We must have standards for behavior for those who are considered in positions of leadership, and a procedure for making decisions when infractions arise.

Website Design

I highly recommend that a website design be drafted before hosting is set up. This should determine the following:
• What we're doing. This should be decided before design. See above FAng Project.
• What features do we want. Do we want forums with fine permissions? Do we want to be able to host other groups in their own areas of the site? Do we want integrated chat or can it be on Discord? Do we want a wiki, and what wiki (Mediawiki? Integrated?) The website features should suppose the FAng objectives.
• What software gives us the features we need, and yet has the controls we want? Being able to grant permissions directly to the aspects and guest groups, without allowing everyone full permissions all over, would be something to look for. How easy is it to maintain? Does it update easily? Is it easy to use for both users and admins?
• Site map. We should sketch out what features go where (even, and perhaps *especially* if we use a CMS).
• Graphics and theme. Someone with that talent should work out the colors and theme. I'm partial to the old site with the circles, but it would be good to collect ideas here.

Looking at Kira's designs (http://www.theamberpen.com/fa/), that in Wordpress, with themed phpBB3 forums and Mediawiki would be an excellent refresh without losing any of the old functionality. Testing with Drupal and Jooma, the other two most popular CMSs showed them to be way too complex for what we need right now; maybe at a later time we can look at them, but they are not easy to manage.

Admin and Control

Lastly, we need to give a thought to who has access to what and why, and how we can avoid placing too much control in one person's hands, and yet avoid having one rogue admin delete the site.

Generally, things like the domain name and the site hosting (POC to the hosting company and account access) must be held by one person for accountability and billing purposes. I have no problem handling both of those and paying for them. Allowing other people account access is extremely powerful and gets into the "rogue deletion" scenario.

Aside from that, I suggest it be handled like this:
• Satelle deals with paying for the domain forceacademy.us and the hosting, along with the technical support. She will maintain technical documentation (including site support POCs) and make it available to the IC on a site off the main one, in case of downtime.
• Account access may be granted to people in the future who have the necessary technical skills to help at the command line. However, Satelle would rather provide tools for tasks such as restarting processes, etc.
• The IC has manager access to the software the site runs on (this is where a proper CMS would help a ton). They delegate control of parts of the site to the Aspects and guest groups as needed.
• Site backups will be automated and sent to two locations: one to storage for Satelle and one for storage that the IC people have access to. That way:
○ If Satelle gets rabies and locks down the site, the IC can revive it using the latest backups and the technical docs.
○ If the IC goes rogue, they can only inflict limited damage.
○ If anything happens, the site can easily be restored using either backup.

Website Hosting

Here are a few sites with comparison. The costs are pretty low, and we can probably get by just fine with a donate button; the cost can be borne without donations, and any donations exceeding the hosting and domain name costs can go toward eventual goals to pay staff. The prices below are for one year terms.

Bluehost $14/month This hosting company has a good rep and offers a dedicated IP and site backup.
Dreamhost $10/month Good performance hosting company with the usual slew of features.
Hostwinds $5/month This company seems really feature-packed with a free dedicated IP address and backups, and I really can't see why they are cheaper than everyone else.
POE Hosting $12/month A hosting company I've used for over ten years, though they are fairly small. Emphasis on security, so some software may not work on them. Good customer service.

All of these will allow setup of software, but they are all shared hosting, which means software needs to be checked to make sure it will work on them. They all offer unlimited subdomains (think light.forceacademy.us, dark.forceacademy.us, etc), email addresses, and backups. They all require knowledge of linux and setup to configure things.

If we do, as mentioned, go with Wordpress+phpBB3+Mediawiki, any one of these could do it. The costs are negligible.

And What Of ForceAcademy.co.uk?

It must be closed and not used, otherwise whatever we build will be a schism site, and people will still cling to the old. Colin may be relieved to not have the responsibility anymore, and he may not. But the old site must retire to allow the new site to carry on a lineage.

In Closing

We have the chance now to really rebuild something great, and we should take full advantage of it by deciding what we want to be before how to enact it. We must focus on getting up and running, and gaining momentum in bringing a quality Force site back. And we must cultivate and support quality content from willing volunteers in a way that they value their work for the site.
Satelle
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Satelle
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Re: Force Academy: Makeover Edition

Post by Satelle » Wed Jan 03, 2018 1:14 am

I will say this, after that small book I posted.

I'm willing to help restart this place in a major way, but it can't be an effort of a few people. Over the years, it looks like many have wandered off and started projects on their own. I have one of my own (Fatum Operandi), but I'd like to bring it back home to the Force and Star Wars again. The big question here is if there will be people on the other side of this project to pitch in in a meaningful way, to make this the home of three aspects and representation from others, where debate happens and echo chambering is minimized.

If there are not enough people then this will die. For everyone who left or was waiting for a functional site, etc, now's the chance. Time to fish or cut bait.
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Killing Time
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Re: Force Academy: Makeover Edition

Post by Killing Time » Wed Jan 03, 2018 8:07 am

I have a couple of questions.

How could someone like me who has zero technical savvy meaningfully contribute to this project?

Not wanting to bog down this already lengthy process in debate, but would this “move” not constitute you taking control of the DA?
"work in progress..."

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Satelle
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Re: Force Academy: Makeover Edition

Post by Satelle » Wed Jan 03, 2018 4:49 pm

Hey Killin',

The biggest challenge in all this is regaining momentum in participation. Connor made an excellent point overnight in email that it's going to take some time to gather the usual suspects around and attract people back, so the "raft" site idea is still a good first step. That would be a forum, under the new domain name, where we resume business. Then we see if the site expansion has that critical mass of content helpers; namely, are there people left to contribute.

That's where your help is most valuable, and not on the technical end. :) Feedback, posting, keep doing your think and contributing as you like.

As for me and the DA, this revival does not have strings attached, so it's a separate issue. My assistance with the site does not have any conditions other than I can't revive a whole site myself, and I'd like to see others step up. I do hope that, as with the other aspects, the DA has it in them to contribute to this, same as Light and Shadow.
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Pelar
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Re: Force Academy: Makeover Edition

Post by Pelar » Sat Jan 06, 2018 7:29 pm

The Shadows have no off site activity except for discord. And some personal blogs, and a new and hardly used YouTube channel...
So I think we'd be happy to help with reboot.

I'm wondering if we really need a website/forum that doesn't come with its own convenient hosting and admin interface. I imagine you covered that when you mentioned "free hosting", but some paid packages may be justified and still keep things much simpler than having to deal with servers and server-side installations/updates.

Most importantly - the tech needs to be super simple, so that more members may be able to take up some of the technical responsibilities. For example - services like Squarespace or Weebly would make any changes to the website something almost anyone can deal with.

So, I think:
* Free hosted phpbb
* Free hosted website
Both with a good clean admin interface, and compatibility with different devices. Website should have good easy integration of other platforms (FB, YT, etc)
* Possibly pay for desirable upgrades and features if justified
* Paid domain
* Discord

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Pelar
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Re: Force Academy: Makeover Edition

Post by Pelar » Sun Jan 07, 2018 4:15 am

Wordpress, by the way, apparently has a wiki plugin (adds a wiki-style knowledge base to your website).
And integration with phpbb forums.

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Satelle
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Re: Force Academy: Makeover Edition

Post by Satelle » Sat Jan 13, 2018 7:05 pm

I'm in favor of a Wordpress-based system, but we can look at options. I'm in favor of putting together something that allows the admin of the aspects more control over things.

For now as far as the raft site, it looks like the posts so far that we're go on the raft site. Pointing DNS at things will take some time, but I'll work on getting an alt board set up this weekend and into the week (then DNS would kick in).
Satelle
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Satelle
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Re: Force Academy: Makeover Edition

Post by Satelle » Tue Jan 16, 2018 1:13 am

The raft site has been stood up at http://theforce.knowsitall.info

I'll be sorting people as they register, but will be verifying people who would be mods on Discord before granting perms.
Satelle
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