Thursday, May 05, 2011

Plans For The Cauldron 4.0 (Comments Wanted)


The Cauldron: A Pagan Forum celebrated its 13th Anniversary on December 13, 2010. We are now in our 14th year of operation.

We had some big plans for 2010. Unfortunately, most of them did not work out:

1) A redesign of The Cauldron's web site: Despite two attempts, that just did not happen. Both attempts failed because there is just too much material on our current web site for one person (me) to ever convert to any new format. There are literally thousands of pages on our web site that each would have to be redesigned by hand.

2) Move to SMF 2.0. We also hoped to move this forum to the new SMF 2.0 by the end of 2010. This did not happen because a final version of SMF 2.0 still has not been released. We have given up on it. They've been working on it for over 4 years now and even when it is released it will still have many of the problems with "modification rot" that the current incarnation of SMF has. Most of the mod community that added much of the functionality to SMF that we use has given up on SMF as well.

3) Better Social Networking: We planned to continue to improve TCN, our social network. It was hosted on Ning and members liked it. Then Ning went from free to pay ($20+/month). We tried running our own social network using the open source Elgg software. It has no real anti-spam features and soon starting getting 50 to 100 spammers registering every day. I had to turn off registration and manually register people. They pretty much killed interest in TCN. Elgg doesn't like our recent server software update much and I can't figure out how to fix it. I'm sorry to report that "It's dead, Jim". I don't expect it to come back to life.

4) Do more with CauldronMUX. We didn't do much. Flashchat took over our chats. Now, of course, Flashchat died in the server upgrade and people are using CauldronMUX again. I've found a nice flash-based web client for it -- which is much better than the old Java client -- and figured out a way to display the names of people in chat on the forum. We succeeded with this one, but only in the last month.

5) Get Member-Produced Content on the Web: This was tied in with the site redesign. We intended to make at least some parts of our site work like a CMS so qualified members could add their articles, fiction, poetry, etc. directly to the website without having to filter it through one overworked webmaster. The site redesign failed. Wikis were set up for some SIGs but were for the most part not used. Wiki-speak is not strong here. The current incarnation of the Wiki software died in the server update. It is fixable, but I haven't bothered do to lack of use. We hoped to get member-written book reviews this way too.

6) The Newsletter: We talked about possibly having to shut it down because of lack of material to publish. We haven't officially done so, but we only produced 2 or 3 issues last year.

We did not do too well. Unfortunately, most of the issues that needed to be addressed in 2010 still need to be addressed. Hopefully, however, we have learned something from our failures in 2010. Here are the....


The Cauldron 1.0 was when we were using DelphiForums to host the TC message board (December 1997 - April 2004). The Cauldron 2.0 was when we moved off of DelphiForums and used Beehive software for The Cauldron's message board (April 2004 - March 2007). The Cauldron 3.0 is where we are now, using SMF 1.1 for our message board (March 2007 - now, May 2011 as of this post). The Cauldron 4.0 is our next stage. Your opinions on these TC 4.0 ideas are welcome -- in fact, strongly encouraged and invited.

TC 4.0 Web Site: Current plans are to leave the vast majority of the material we have on the web site exactly as it is. It will be "legacy material" that we will keep available because it is useful information and well indexed by Google and other search engines. We will not try to update the look and outdated HTML of the pages on this legacy site. We tried that and found it to be far too much work. Instead we will create a new, modern site for new material on (Currently, just sends people to This new site will be site up as a CMS (probably Drupal, but might be Joomla or Wordpress). This will allow me to give accounts to people who can create material directly on the new site using a WYSIWYG editor -- without needing to know HTML or even BBCode. SIGs will have their own areas of the web site where they can create web pages on their SIG. These areas may be set up with Wordpress even if the main part of the site is not as more people are comfortable with using Wordpress than with any other CMS.

TC 4.0 Message Board: As I mentioned before, we have given up on SMF. Even if it should finally come out, SMF 2.0 will simply not meet our needs -- especially as the SMF modding community has really shrunk. We have looked at other free and open source message boards and have not found any that both meet our needs and look likely to continue doing so. Unfortunately, after 13 years, your hosts think we have outgrown free message board software. We are now looking at commercial message board software, probably either Vbulletin or Invision Power Board (with Vbulletin having a slight edge at the moment as it has more third party support and isn't moving away from a traditional message board). Moving to commercial software will require a fund drive, unfortunately. We'll need to raise at least $200 to do so and perhaps more if we want additional features (such as an app for accessing the board from a smartphone). We'll also need to decide if we want to try to import all the messages from this board to the new board or leave them in place here but just close the board to posting as we have done in the past. Both Vbulletin and IPB are able to import messages from SMF -- unlike our previous moves from non-standard boards where importing the message base wasn't even an option.

CauldronMUX: will remain our main chat area. We will update the MUX software and try to make the starting areas on the MUX much more like a regular chat room. This may involve restarting the MUX completely from scratch. This will be decided by Darkhawk and those who use the MUX regularly. The Hosts aren't chat people so we'll pretty much go with whatever they want. php-based chat rooms (like the old flashchat) are not an option. They simply use too much in the way of server resources -- resources we will now need to run the CMS web site and a commercial message board.

Newsletter: We'd like to revive the newsletter in some form as TC was much more active when it was published regularly. However, it is a pain to produce when we have to constantly beg people to write articles for it. Reviving it may simply not be possible.

Social Network: A number of our members really like our attempts at a TC members only social network. Unfortunately, probably not to the tune of $240+ a year to run one on Ning (which is the only place that really worked for us). I am continuing to look for usable open source (or even commercial) social network software that is fairly spammer-proof, doesn't tax the server too much, and isn't aimed at running a dating site. I'm not having much luck so far.


As you can see, these plans are not yet fixed in stone, but we are to the point where final decisions need to be made and work started. Your input is strongly requested.

Template by - Abdul Munir | Daya Earth Blogger Template