Progress report: First dispatch
It is about 12:45 am, November 23, 2008. The reason I am giving that information is because I can't figure out how to get it to display with the blog post itself, i.e the way it works on every other blog in the known universe.
But that of course is a speck of dust on the highway relative to all of the other "issues" I am currently working through trying to get this Web site in presentable enough shape to actually invite some people over. And - this is the truly annoying part - the problems are not so much technical difficulties because the software, as far as I can tell, runs like a Ferrari, but rather my own inability to put the pieces together. It's like if your Dad throws you the keys and says "here you go, son, that Ferrari in the driveway is yours," and you come back in 15 minutes later and say "Dad, I just can't get my mind around that front door handle." That's how smart I feel right now.
Luckily for ICCFA, it is not all up to me. The truly technical aspects are being handled by a group of folks whom I have come to think of as the Dream Team. They work from a secure, undisclosed location which I am not at liberty to reveal ... but I can give the hint that it is nine time zones away from here and if you wanted to buy some curry you'd have plenty to choose from.
And if anybody is thinking of jumping on my case for "outsourcing" the work: After I decided that Drupal was the perfect platform for what I wanted to accomplish, the Dream Team was the first party who both a) answered my e-mail, and b) was ready to go to work in less than two months. All the others were here in the U.S. Let me say something to all of you who have children or grandchildren trying to figure out what to do for a living.
Three words: Social networking software. People who know how to make Drupal or Joomla or any of dozens of others run are in a position to basically choose who they want to work for. The demand for this kind of Web presence has exploded and like pitching in professional baseball, there simply is not enough talent to go around.
But we can thank our lucky stars we have the Dream Team.
Unfortunately, there is still a steep learning curve for the in-house portion of the software in order to get it all set up. For instance, we need to categorize everything, and the one rule they tell you is "Get it right at the beginning because it can be a huge mess if you change your mind later on." So we have all this different stuff we do (and since you are reading this in the distant future I can refer you to the Web site, because it will all be set up, but please cut me some slack because stuff might change in the meantime. Hmm, this is sort of like writing something for a time capsule, or a letter to my great, great grandchildren), like that which is listed in the blue bars at the top of this section. That all needs to be organized by category, then we also have to have categories or tags on the blog, in the forums, and in the archives. Trying to put all the pieces together in a manner which will bring minimal confusion later on is like ... well, it's like some really difficult task that after a while makes you want to just quit working on it and go write a blog post such as this one.
Hey, we need blog content so I can tell how it is going to appear, and also to keep a historical record of this dynamic period in the history of the association, the Joe Sitting Up All Night At The Dining Room Table Era, as it shall be known.
Anyway, there's the categories piece, the figuring out how the Screening Room and Reading Rooms are going to function piece, the trying to make the ICCFA Wiki work piece, and about ten other pieces that need to have decisions made so the Dream Team can do their magic. As luck would have it, on the ICCFA staff about the only person who is in a position to do this is your humble narrator, moi.
The downside of working your way up through the organizational chart with "Tech Guy" in your job description is it makes it easy not to hire another Tech Guy and use the money instead on hiring people who can do things the association members actually SEE. Nowadays, knock on wood, computers are so cheap and our network so reliable any other Tech Guy we had would spend most of his time playing Masters of Warcraft or stuffing envelopes for a hefty salary, so I don't regret not hiring him. But then when one of these little annoying tasks like building a new Web presence for the association comes along, it sort of reaches up and bites me. Well, that's why they call it work.
The thing about Drupal is, it is harder to set up than the others - it requires technical experience just to understand how it works - but once the pieces are all in place it will be no more difficult than Facebook to interact with, so for the key staff people who will be putting all the material on here going forward the learning curve will be pretty short and flat. The beauty of Drupal is it is inherently community-oriented. Its default behavior is everything I was looking for in a content management system; it met all of the criteria and the price - free - had a certain attraction as well. All the setup and programming are not free, of course, but those costs are going to be there no matter what. It is a fabulous platform and I hope you, probably one of our first real visitors to ICCFA.com, sitting and reading this in the future, can browse around this Web site and see what I mean. And I hope you are not one of my great grandchildren.