Friday October 7, 2011

echoing the sound is dead. long live echoing the sound.

ETSSHORT VERSION: Server shit the bed, let's start anew, probably via a Kickstarter campaign (or something similar)

LONG VERSION: Just about nine years ago, in the months after the release of And All That Could Have Been, the incredibly popular Seems Like Salvation NIN News forums vanished. They had only been around for a few years, but a solid community had developed there. Three NIN fans named Tyler, Cliff, and Greg worked together to create a new forum where former SLS users could keep the community going. Ten days after SLS had been erased, Echoing the Sound opened to the public. If all that were totally lost, I'd probably keep writing this like a eulogy, going on about how many lives were changed in that community, and what amazing people I've met there. And boy, in the last few years, did the spammers ever love that forum.

Sometime this month, strange errors started cropping up. Then the site stopped responding. Greg was able to briefly log into the server, only to find that the hard drive was probably failing. And then he wasn't able to log in at all, remotely. With physical access to the server, he could investigate further. When he started ETS, he lived in Florida - so it made sense to house the server in Florida. Greg now lives in not-Florida, and is incredibly busy, so it's going to take a little while to get the most up to date backup off that server. Last I heard, the most recent off-site backup available is from April.

This makes a good segue into the next chapter, actually. A six month old backup isn't actually all that bad, as far as user information goes, because we had shut down critical systems in order to stem the flow of spam. ETS underwent massive customization back when Greg had more time on his hands, making smooth upgrades to newer versions of the software it ran virtually impossible. I had access to a code repository for it for a while, but even then, every time I opened the code up on my laptop while riding the train to work, I found it very difficult to make the improvements that would help better the site as a whole. The years went on, and the bitrot spread.

Well, now that the server has completely shit the bed, I think this is a great opportunity to nuke the whole thing from orbit. Just to be sure. Well -- not the whole thing... we should be able to import the user information from backups. Whatever version of ETS we can pull from the wreckage should be made available as a static, searchable archive. I would like to reboot Echoing the Sound, running it on the vBulletin platform, which I've encountered on numerous other, maybe embarrasing forums. Here's the catch - vBulletin, unlike phpBB, costs money. There are multiple options, and I think that ideally, it would be great to get the Forum + Mobile bundle to build the new ETS with. And if I hadn't just dropped $600 on hosting for this site (they haven't been billing me for years, even though I've been bugging them to, and last week... they billed me) I'd probably just foot the bill myself. However, I got this idea in my head that if every ETS regular pitched in a dollar for each year they've been using the site, maybe we can get better stuff all around. Start with the software - if we get enough, get the mobile version. Maybe get the blogging add-on, so users can expand on their profiles in a huge way. If we can pull it together -- better hosting. Have leftover after that? Either put it toward hosting costs as far as it can go, or integrate better backups and redundancy so that we're better prepared for the next time something catastrophic happens.

So I was thinking I might apply to Kickstarter to make it easy to help out, see how well the fundraising goes, and offer neat stuff to people who put more than they should in the pot. I finally learned how to silkscreen stuff, and I may have a few interesting NIN items I could throw up there from my own private collection.

Why not go with the free software? Nine years ago, Greg and I had a lot more free time than we have now. vB seems to have a good support network, and I've seen a guy who knows jack about programming or databases (James!) upgrade his copy of vB several times without a hint of trouble (usually). I think that with a solution like this, that as strange as I feel typing it, there's a better chance that we'll have ETS around in 2021. When I'm 42. Yeesh. It's going to be a little embarrassing when I link to this post ten years from now.

SO.

Before I kick anything like that off -- I welcome your input. This site and everything I do online has been heavily influenced by you who write in and talk to me. Leave your feedback on the NIN Hotline Facebook page, or email me, because it's quaint, or tweet something. Ideas, rants, designs, but most especially -- new splash page graphics & photoshops. The front page of the new Echoing the Sound will be as the old front page was - a random sampling of title graphics ranging from inane to not-bad. I really wish I had a copy of the photoshopped ETS Titanic graphic for this post. I don't care how awful they are. Keep em under 1680x1050 (we'll resize them as is appropriate).

I'll post more updates at echoingthesound.org as they come in - I'd really like to get the board back online ASAP, and will work toward that as best as I can.

P.S. There's been some rumblings about a 10-year ETS Birthday Bash/meetup/reunion next year. Suggested cities so far are Vegas and Chicago. Just putting this out there - we'll talk about it on ETS when it's back up