BUSINESS AND MARKETING: Business and Marketing Forum Business and Marketing Articles

Why change the COW?

COW Forums : Business & Career Building

<< PREVIOUS   •   FAQ   •   VIEW ALL   •   PRINT   •   NEXT >>
Bob Cole
Why change the COW?
on Sep 18, 2018 at 6:59:10 pm

[Admin note: This was originally posted as part of a thread on another topic, but seemed worth elevating as its own discussion here.]


[Ronald Lindeboom] "the new COW website (which leaves behind the old codebase"

I know this is an aside, but I hope you keep the "view posts by thread" option.

I'm curious as to why you would want to change such a great website.

Bob C


Return to posts index

Ronald Lindeboom
Re: Why change the COW?
on Sep 18, 2018 at 7:00:36 pm

[Bob Cole] "I know this is an aside, but I hope you keep the "view posts by thread" option. I'm curious as to why you would want to change such a great website. -- Bob C"

I love that view too, Bob Cole. But the amount of work it takes to maintain an old forums engine idea that i first engineered back at the WWUG in 1995, is becoming an onerous and expensive task. When I first came up with our version of forums, it was what I still feel is a superior idea -- especially if one explores the system and finds that we actually support THREE complete interfaces in our system -- but it is 2018 and as we head into 2019, there are some great off-the-shelf systems out there. They have entire teams working to build and enhance their systems and the cost is far less than it is to try to maintain and update this system.

We will never be able to make everyone happy and over the years, we learned that we never have in the past and we doubt we will accomplish such an unrealistic goal as we head into the future.

To be honest with you, we have been insulted for many years because we followed our own path but had we used one of the systems out there that have been the forums engines for many over the last 15 years or more, I know that the COW would have failed just as most all those sites who told me I was wrong, have failed. But the new generation of forums are finally strong and robust enough to support something like the COW.

I will be sad to close the door on our past but it is time.

Thank you for your kind words about the old girl, Bessie thanks you. ๐Ÿฎ

Best regards,

Ronald Lindeboom
CEO, Creative COW LLC

Creativity is a process wherein the student and the teacher are located in the same individual.


Return to posts index

Tim Wilson
Re: Why change the COW?
on Sep 18, 2018 at 8:25:28 pm

[Ronald Lindeboom] "When I first came up with our version of forums, it was what I still feel is a superior idea..."

I wrote at length about the technological context of what Ron created back in 1995 in article on the COW's 15th anniversary -- and we've just passed our 18th anniversary!!! -- that's worth summarizing below this reminder of that article.

Creative COW Turns 15! A Celebration of Being Uncool



There were no off-the-shelf PHP forums when the WWUG launched. It launched before the first public spec for PHP did! "Forums in a box" were years away, and as Ron notes, were many more years after that before they could sustain our traffic levels of over one million visitors a month, and our database of many millions of posts...plus articles, jobs, and much more. There was no other way to do it than by doing it himself.

(We'll also note that many PHP "forum in a box" systems explicitly forbid advertising in their licenses. That's fine if you're independently wealthy or running a forum as a hobby, or a sideline to some other source of revenue, but this IS our business. Adopting a platform that explicitly forbids monetizing itself would have been redonkulous.)

The WWUG was also founded before the final release of the JPEG and MP3 specifications. Back in the days when computing power was still growing by leaps and bounds with each new turn of the crank, it wasn't until the end of that year that the first computers could encode and play back an MP3 in real time.

Aldus still owned After Effects.

Most notably, there were no search engines. Yahoo was an index, not a search engine, and was released in the months leading up to the WWUG's launch. It didn't crawl anything or push anything to the top of the list or a single basic behavior that we associate with actual search -- other than that it was a list, and you could search it.

(To be precise, the text-only Lycos crawler had also been released just before the WWUG opened, but raise your hand if you ever found anything useful with it. Yeah, I thought so.)

Google came along 3 years later with the idea that you could buy your way to the top of their listings, which we of course had no interest in doing. And even before Google, developers had been gaming search by hacking keywords, but our feeling was, we have enough pages with enough of the ACTUAL keywords being generated organically that there was really no need to game that system either. I confess that we tried it with some keywords like "free tutorials", but found the site overrun with the wrong kind of traffic, so we turned them off.

(Google of course saw the same kinds of chicanery and no longer looks at meta tags at all, except as a way to weed out spammers. "Loading up the keywords in your metas? You're surely up to no good, so we're not recommending your page at all." So in this case, our one experiment notwithstanding, Ron was once again well ahead of the curve.)

I'm laying all this out to underscore a simple but critical point: nothing about our original architecture was developed with search engines in mind.

What's astounding about that to me is that what Ron developed was so robust that not only does it support our 15 million+ people a year coming through the doors, tens of millions of pages viewed, and hundreds of millions of posts, images, videos, and more -- all of those 15 million+ people are finding us entirely organically. No SEO whatsoever. Not even the basics.

There's actually a lot involved in the basics, including things like human-readable URLs. For a dynamically-generated site like ours, there's a lot more to that than a lookup table and some rollovers. We have a potentially infinite number of pages, and mapping all this will take its own server.

That's all on the backside of course, and could take place in more or less any wrapper, but there's a lot of mediating code that sits in between what you see and what the pages do. That's the part that needs more maintenance than it's practical to keep doing. All software needs to be refreshed, including the software that runs websites.

Fortunately, "forum in a box" systems have gotten much more robust. They can carry our weight, they're not limited by the constraints of PHP alone, and they allow advertising. ๐Ÿ˜‚ And their code is clean and modern, so we accomplish a lot of things at once.

That includes the second major component, which is robust, extensible device responsiveness. We'd tried to do a mobile interface, but we'd had to hard code everything because we tried it before "responsive code" was a thing. And as part of our new goals of SEO friendliness, Google has made very clear that they downgrade sites without genuinely responsive mobile presentations too. Well, new code is gonna get us there.

Third is that, yeah, we were way, way ahead of the curve with forums. (By "we" I mean nothing in which I was even vaguely involved. LOL I mean "Ron", but I say "we" in the context of the COW, of which I've been a part for 12 years next month.) But forums are now pretty common, and most people go to a lot of them -- not just industry forums like, say, reduser or the forums at the "A" companies, Blackmagic, et al, but also forums for cars, music, whatever. And they all behave a certain way.

We've made some efforts to offer those behaviors as our default (topic view, with posts with new entries automatically floating to the top)...but we get a ton of mail from folks who aren't exactly young -- 30s, even early 40s -- who have a dozen years or more of going to lots of forums that all act the same way, that have certain baseline standards for text entry, photo support, etc -- that we admittedly lack once you get past the front door.

So we now have the opportunity to raise our technology game, organically boost SEO, provide device-sensitive responsiveness, and meet the state of the art for text and formatting in one fell swoop.

Which happens to be taking a whole lot of people working around the clock for a lot of months. ๐Ÿ˜‚

The first step of the rollout will take care of all of those. Gotta get the bones right. The second step of the rollout over the months after that will flesh it out and dress it up. We've made a few stabs at prettying things up around here over the years, for sure, but we've found that that too is a much bigger task than we can maintain, because of how many pieces there are in our old, fixed architecture. Newer architectures are made to be customized, and in time, so we shall.

We have other things related to this that will roll out in time, too, including more modern job boards, an updated reels section -- btw, did you know that we had over 10,000 reels posted before we had to pull the plug on it? Easily the biggest repository of reels outside of YouTube (founded 10 years after the WWUG) and Vimeo (9 years). That was because we were getting inundated with copyright claims for embedded reels, even if they were coming from YouTube. Well, YouTube has started paying royalties on all that stuff, so we have a chance to rebuild, and we can do it better than before.

Ron will have perspectives that are different than mine because he's the actual architect, building the tools behind the tools for both admins and members. From here with one foot on each side of the bridge between administrative usefulness and a pleasing member experience, those are the three big issues that are very, very pressing for us to address, with some glimpse of the related issues that cascade out from there.

๐Ÿฎ

Tim Wilson
Editor-in-Chief
Creative COW


Return to posts index


Mark Suszko
Re: Why change the COW?
on Sep 18, 2018 at 8:49:48 pm

That was a good read. It reminded me of an aphorism I use all the time: "First make it WORK; ...THEN, make it pretty."

The other observation I'd make is, even with the massive technological underpinnings that have been described, none of that really matters if you don't have content and community. Time and time again, you can find productions that have glitz but no substance, and people don't stay with it for long.

On the other end, you have productions that are childishly crude from a technical aspect, but nobody cares, because the content is truly useful , singularly unique, entertaining and engaging in and of itself, unadorned... and the person delivering that content is authoritative.

The COW has always brought out both: truly useful, credible, and helpful information, in a timely fashion, from people that are respected authorities in their industry and areas of expertise. And the contributions come, not from a sense of entrepreneurial or mercenary motive, but from the sincere desire to help a fellow member of our media tribe, to share, to give back, to Pay It Forward, do a Mitzvah, to mentor someone... whatever you want to call it...

Without that community, and it's ethos, it wouldn't matter if the forum was hosted on a stack of IBM Watsons running at chip-melting speeds in liquid nitrogen. It would be a digital ghost town.


Return to posts index

Ronald Lindeboom
Re: Why change the COW?
on Sep 19, 2018 at 5:30:28 pm

Thank you for noticing what really drives this place, Mark. Caring. When we started the WWUG long ago it was due to the fact that we had just taken every penny we had and then some -- yes, truly our life savings and everything that came after for a number of years -- and poured it into a system to buy a seat at what I knew would be The Next Big Thingโ„ข in technology. We knew that others were doing the same thing and we knew our lives were on the line. I'll be honest with you, Kathlyn has had her heart broken more than a few times from working with people for years and then getting an email or a call from them telling her that they are leaving the business. We tried hard to do something that would minimize those kinds of things from happening. We have seen so many fold up their tents and close shop. We wanted to build something that we like to say was a "hope vehicle." You have to understand what business you are in and to Kathlyn, Tim and I, this has always been a hope business. That is our focus and is the thing we work to produce...hope. This business is hard enough without losing the hope that you will find the right answer to your problem, or find the inspiration when you are just exhausted and at wit's end. It is why I have always held a heavy hand on things and moderated when people railed loudly that I did: anything that challenged or fought against the true endgame and which did not serve the desired end we were working towards, was culled. We knew what we were working towards and we had a real tangible vision in mind and we worked towards that end.

Sadly, my health issues derailed me at the time of my greatest achievements in the COWmag, the rebuilding of the site with an AI engine -- which never got to see the light of day and on which I had spent many hundreds of thousands of dollars building. That code still sits on our servers but rather than recoup original work that will keep us on our own developmental "hamster wheel," we are looking to go with industry standard tools that are now at the level that we can put this kind of weight on them and trust they won't fail us.

To add one piece of the story that Tim was not around for, in the very beginning the first engineer that I worked with to conceive, design and build the engine for the WWUG (whose concepts and principles we would improve and reinvent for the COW), was my dear friend Rob Elder. Rob is with us again and things have come full circle, with Rob heading our reengineering of the COW. I have always loved working with Rob because we understand each other and we speak in mental pictures and our own kind of structural shorthand. We see very much eye-to-eye and it is great to be working with Rob again. To say that Rob's fingerprints are on the elasticity and structural integrity of the mechanism that has driven both the WWUG and the COW to this present day, would be no exaggeration.

We are all a lot older now and see this as building the COW for the next decade. We plan to be around for many more anniversaries.

Best regards,

Ronald Lindeboom
CEO, Creative COW LLC

Creativity is a process wherein the student and the teacher are located in the same individual.


Return to posts index

Mark Suszko
Re: Why change the COW?
on Sep 19, 2018 at 10:00:45 pm

It's not a business.


It's a ministry. In the finest sense.


Return to posts index


grinner hester
Re: Why change the COW?
on Sep 25, 2018 at 5:17:53 am

maybe I'm the king of short answers... and it is this...
to live. to grow. to evolve.



Return to posts index

Ronald Lindeboom
Re: Why change the COW?
on Sep 26, 2018 at 6:11:45 pm

Thank you for noticing, Grinner. ๐Ÿ˜

Best regards,

Ronald Lindeboom
CEO, Creative COW LLC

Creativity is a process wherein the student and the teacher are located in the same individual.


Return to posts index

<< PREVIOUS   •   VIEW ALL   •   PRINT   •   NEXT >>
© 2018 CreativeCOW.net All Rights Reserved
[TOP]