status : party (good) major downtime (bad)
Mon Jul 14 23:25:52 EDT 2008
PARTY NO REPLACEMENT MASSIVE DOWNTIME BUG TRACKER CITY HALL NEW VISION ENHANCEMENT TEN THOUSAND DOLLARS BUSINESS PLAN CLEANED LAB CORRECTIONS AND CLARIFICATIONS (jokes) PARTY http://mypunchbowl.com/ is the official party invitation tool of the CSL. It sucks much less than evite. For example it isn't annoyingly slow. For those who didn't get the official punchbowl invite... We're having a party for EB, our first non-technical VISTA. We really are loving him as he is walking out the door. The party is this 7pm Friday 07/18/2008. Please come, if you RSVP there will be food for you. Bring your own beverages. EB's many accomplishments include but are not limited to a few dozen grants, payroll calculations, 990s, expansion into Lawrence, intern supervision and training. I think he's a closet tech, because for weekend fun he wrote a Perl script to generate some URLs that the existing mvhub software doesn't do easily. NO REPLACEMENT We didn't replace EB. I've tested the conventional wisdom that "no hire" is better than "bad hire" a couple times and confirmed it is correct. People I've hired in the hopes that they will grow to competence have cost us time and drama. From painful experience zero is better than negative. Another great VISTA would be ideal, but no VISTA is better than a bad VISTA. Officially, all the CTC VISTA spots are full and there won't be another recruiting round until next spring. Since there have been two recruiting rounds each year for the past 7 years, it is not wildly optimistic to hope for another shot in January. For the summer at least, we have 35 hours per week of good volunteer / intern time in the office and probably a good bit more of people working at home. It's (yet) not as good as EB but I won't be lonely for at least the summer. More about these new good people in the next report. MASSIVE DOWNTIME We were down the entire holiday weekend. Thursday night some power sags took down some university network equipment. At least on this holiday there were no university network people working. The email standard is to keep re-trying to send email to a down server for 48 hours. I assumed that the university network people would fix their network once they knew we were going to lose email. It took me 36 hours to realize that we weren't getting a fix until after the holiday. (my bad) We setup a backup server off the university network to queue our email until the main email server came back online. Theoretically we made it with 12 hours to spare. Not every system follows the rules. We lost at least one email sent by one of our customer's funders. It took until late Tuesday for the queued mail to get delivered. This was mostly because I was making some effort to limit backscatter from SPAM. We're probably going to move at least some services to a $100 month co-located server at a company ranked well by Netcraft (http://netcraft.com) as reliable. We can't provide good service if we are powerless to improve the quality of our network. These are facts, I'm still grateful for the rest of the help the University gives us. BUG TRACKER Despite several re-readings of the words of the prophet Joel on painless bug tracking: http://www.joelonsoftware.com/articles/fog0000000029.html ...I'd not realized how much easier life was with a bug tracker. We're not losing track of bugs / feature requests and the conversation about our bugs is organized very nicely for us. Our mvhub bug tracker is at: http://code.google.com/p/mvhub/issues/list A big plus with google's free bug tracker is that we didn't have to install it. We'd probably still be without a bug tracker if we had to wait for somebody to find the time. Another big plus is the way Google pays attention to the Pareto principle: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pareto_principle ...the default bug priorities and tags are just right. Everything is simple. There is no learning curve. I was initially worried that we were entering a walled garden: http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/archives/000898.html but came across a screen scraper, so we can get our data out if we want. http://support.unicon.net/node/696 The big downsides are that google doesn't let you choose the Affero GPL license: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Affero_General_Public_License and as I realize as I research this status upate, that means we can't host our bugs at google. http://groups.google.com/group/google-code-hosting/browse_thread/thread/1714c5c0ef5d9f9f/a985013e626cc1ba duh! In our next attempt, I promise to consider our requirements before picking a bug tracker. Other issues are that it google's issue tracker is (relatively) slow, doesn't let you interact with bugs via email and doesn't seem to match subversion commits to bugs. We sensitive artists need speed: The prophet Jakob described the situation pretty well 11 years ago. http://www.useit.com/alertbox/9703a.html It is tedious to get a bug update via email, click the link (wait) login (wait), type into a web form (wait) click submit (wait), shift back to email (wait) CITY HALL We were invited to a few meetings with the computer people at the city of Lowell. The idea was that they'd use MVHub data in their new website instead re-creating mvhub. After a bit of discussion they decided to do their own thing. They've got a tight deadline and they want every Lowell non-profit agency to be a user of http://lowellevents.info and be part of their username/password system. They also like their own system of program and agency categories better than ours. We've agreed to swap updates and I've added a feature request to the bug tracking database. http://code.google.com/p/mvhub/issues/detail?id=19 We got some other good bugs out of the discussion. The most exciting part of the discussion was the brief flirtation with openID. OpenID lests people keep the same username and password across multiple systems administered by many different groups. http://openid.net/what/ NEW VISION ENHANCEMENT The talks with the city have helped develop the mvhub vision a bit. We want to share almost all our data. We want to make it easy for people to use our data without talking to us. Why ? You can't copyright a collection of data. We can't stop people from screen scraping if we wanted to. If we can tell agencies that updating their data with us will also update their records with other directories, we'll get better compliance. Our mvhub goal is to make it easier for people to find the services they need. According to Millard Fullar: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Millard_Fuller ...There is enough poverty and ignorance to go around. We don't have to be greedy about our share. If somebody else can build on our work to solve the problem, that's a good thing. The free software money making model is to give away the source code and sell consulting. We get to sell consulting because we're better than other people at what we do not because we are hoarders. As lame as we are sometimes, we've got better software and better data (in the Merrimack valley) than anyone else. --Better even than agencies spending hundreds of thousands of dollars. (really). We (might) get more resources as people come to depend on our data. It's not all sweetness and light, When we signed agencies up for mvhub, we promised not to share the private emails of contact people with ANYONE. The original goal was respect for privacy, but since these email addresses are **NOT** published, copyright isn't an issue. With this secret contact info, we have a bit of an edge. [the CSL board might want to check in on this policy thing...] HOW MUCH MONEY IN OUR BANK ACCOUNT? I've not yet dug through the grubby stack of receipts and deposit slips on my desk, but most of the FY 2007/2008 details are at: http://thecsl.org/sys/finance.d/checkbook.xls For those who don't click links, we took in about $40,000 this year, spent about $45,000 and have about $3,000 in the bank. TEN THOUSAND DOLLARS We have a reasonable shot of expanding MVHub into the north shore and getting paid $10,000 for setup and $5,000K a year for for maintenance which is (probably) enough to cover costs. It is all very preliminary, but the people involved have had good experiences with us in other contexts, there is a huge demand and they haven't found anything that sucks less than http://mvhub.com BUSINESS PLAN We're rationalizing lack of progress on the grounds that we're waiting for our friends at http://www.jerichoroadproject.org to get back with us with a volunteer consultant. A big part of the plan is likely to be asking businesses to sponsor http://mvhub.com in exchange for a big banner and link on the site. The goal is to have the plan done by August 14. August 14 gives us a reasonable amount of time to recycle bits of our plan for our Parker Foundation application and (ideally) make a couple successful sponsorship pitches. Worst comes to worst, we'll narrow the august 14th goal down to rehearsing the pitch for sponsorship. I can do this with help from one of our new teen-age volunteers. I'm not kidding, Having a kid help make the pitch, works for lots of agencies. (I'd not turn down continued board help either) CLEANED LAB One of EB's accomplishments was making friends with R, the cleaning guy. R and his machines polished a couple years of scum off the floor. We threw a bunch of stuff out. It was time to accept that we were never going to use that stack of floppy drives and 4X CD drives. More important we moved two very loud servers into the closet. Now that we don't have to shout to hear each other, I'm inclined to spend less time working with the laptop at Andy's: http://www.brewdawakening.com/ As a nice side effect, since the place isn't a noisy hog hole any more, we can entertain visitors without shame. CORRECTIONS AND CLARIFICATIONS Last week I implied that one of our dogs ate a wireless router. While the dog has eaten, puked up and re-eaten things that would make a Cthulhu himself scream in terror, the dog has never eaten a router. Also, the bachelor weekend mentioned in the previous message was entirely routine. It signified no great domestic drama between Laura & I. I suppose it is a small domestic drama in that I prefer the company of the previously libeled dog to that of some of my in-laws.