The April fools joke & possable end of GCA

Geocaching Australia governance issues

Have you ever considered the permanence of GCA

Never crossed my mind
33
52%
Yes sometimes but it's all good
10
16%
Yes sometimes and I'm not to sure about it
20
32%
 
Total votes: 63

alpha993
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Post by alpha993 » 26 April 06 8:32 pm

my 2c worth on donations... I would be more inclined to pay a low monthly amount via paypal or similar than a larger amount once a year (any similarity to any other site, dead or alive is purely coincidental etc etc). My rationale, apart from smoothing cash flow, is that a set and forget method is likely to continue as long as my satisfaction with the service being provided continues. I can't count the number of times I have thought "what a good cause, I must do something to show my support", and never have.

ymmv... :)

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Post by caughtatwork » 26 April 06 8:36 pm

The only real thought I have is a "collective" of coders that would take part in keeping the site up and running, adding changes and enhancements as necessary.

There is no way I can afford (on an individual basis) the cost of running a dedicated server.

Let's see what it would cost. Just go with my maths for the time being, feel free to add variables of vastly different perspectives, but I think I'd be pretty close.

Server costs:
$300USD/month = $3,600USD per year = $5,100AUD (at 0.70 exchange rate).

There is a total active caching community of 1,100 people on any given month. It's probably fair to assume that even though some would cache this month and not the previous, that there would also be someone who cached the previous month and not this, so the overall community is probably around the 1,000 mark.

Of course, not all of these people would visit GCA on a regular basis, or even know we existed.

There are 2,500 (or so) registered members of the forums.

Around 1,500 of the registered members have visited in the last year.
Around 900 of the registered members have visited in the last six months.
Around 600 of the registered members have visited in the last three months.
Around 400 of the registered members have posted 5 times or more.

So from an activity community perspective (active being someone who posts / visited within the last 12 months), we have around 400 people.

There are 93 cachers who have hidden a cache and had it listed on GCA. This includes those that were brough across from GC.

There are 281 cachers who have FOUND a GCA cache AND their log date is AFTER 01/01/2005. This exludes logs brought across when the gc.com caches were migrated to GCA.

So while we have (potentially) 400 community members, only 3/4's of then are actively engaged in hiding / finding caches on this site.

So, lets say we have 300 actual people who are interested in and actiely supporting GCA by finding caches.

If we (collectively) pinged all 300 active community members for $10AUD per year as a donation, we come nowhere near the dollar cost to keep the server running. I'll assume that the coders would provide their time gratis.

If one in ten decided that keeping the GCA site running was a good thing and decided to volunteer $10 we would collect $300AUD or about enough to keep the server up for less than a month.

That's an interesting thought, yes?

This double emphasis the gratitude that I personally feel to Ideology.

So, on what grounds could we collect enough cash (as a collective) to pay $5,000 a year for hosting?

Please feel free to dispute my information. It was gathered rather hastily, but is probably representative of our community. I doubt it is too far off the true mark, and I'm very confident it is not out by a factor of 10 which is what it would need to be in order to collect voluntary funds at $10 per person per year to keep the site up.

Anyone else have any thoughts or a rich benefactor?

alpha993
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Post by alpha993 » 26 April 06 9:42 pm

caughtatwork wrote: If we (collectively) pinged all 300 active community members for $10AUD per year as a donation, we come nowhere near the dollar cost to keep the server running. I'll assume that the coders would provide their time gratis.

If one in ten decided that keeping the GCA site running was a good thing and decided to volunteer $10 we would collect $300AUD or about enough to keep the server up for less than a month.
hmmm... sobering thought. sounds like the first part of the answer is promoting the benefits of GCA to more cachers and increasing the size of the GCA user group/community...

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Post by Gunn Parker » 26 April 06 11:13 pm

alpha993 wrote: hmmm... sobering thought. sounds like the first part of the answer is promoting the benefits of GCA to more cachers and increasing the size of the GCA user group/community...
Sorry but been there, tried that, people seem to find this forum and GCA. Prompting to get involved and sign up, even though it's free does not seem to be that successful, I should add that I speak for my experience here in WA.
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Post by roostaman » 27 April 06 1:23 am

caughtatwork wrote:There is a total active caching community of 1,000 people on any given month.

There are 2,500 (or so) registered members of the forums.

Around 1,500 of the registered members have visited in the last year.
Around 900 of the registered members have visited in the last six months.
Around 600 of the registered members have visited in the last three months.
Around 400 of the registered members have posted 5 times or more.

So while we have (potentially) 400 community members, only 3/4's of then are actively engaged in hiding / finding caches on this site.

If we (collectively) pinged all 300 active community members for $10AUD per year as a donation, we come nowhere near the dollar cost to keep the server running.
Well, CAW, and everyone for that matter. Even if 300 cachers paid $20 there would be more than enough, and the more the merrier. We pay that for GC & GSAK, so why not pay it here too.
I would & I bet all the regular contributors would too.

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Post by Damo. » 27 April 06 8:19 am

Gunn Parker wrote:
alpha993 wrote: hmmm... sobering thought. sounds like the first part of the answer is promoting the benefits of GCA to more cachers and increasing the size of the GCA user group/community...
Sorry but been there, tried that, people seem to find this forum and GCA. Prompting to get involved and sign up, even though it's free does not seem to be that successful, I should add that I speak for my experience here in WA.
Andrew
Some people seem to be very passionate about bagging GCA so i'd have to agree with you Gunn Parker. Just makes them think they have more reason to complain. :roll:

I'd love to contribute to the site, however, like probably the majority of active GCA cachers, my Technical skills would limit me in how I could contribute. Forum moderation or Cache reviewing I could do. Coding a website I couldn't! If we have a "collective of coders" putting in hours of work to keep the site running, others that can't contribute in that way could be happy to contribute financially.

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Post by caughtatwork » 27 April 06 10:18 pm

I don't think we have a lack of good intentions, good will or good people.

The codebase can be handled by committee if kept small enough to keep each coder from killing others hard work the night before :-) A CVS would be extremely handy though.

I think that the bigger problem comes down to who will pay for the server to run the site.

From what i! has indicated, there is a huge cost for the server. It's also mentioned that there are other sites on the same servers so it appears that the full cost ($5,100 a year) is not fully correct (my bad, I didn't read the server requirements properly).

I wonder when i! stop in next, they could give a better indication of what sort of resources are being consumed.

eg. size of the DB, bandwidth used by this site, whether they know how much CPU is consumed, etc.

This would give us a better indication of what size server we need to be looking at in order to keep the site running once it moves off the dedicated machine.

A couple of thoughts I had (and they're not necessarily great thoughts).

If the volume of data is a problem, then maybe we could pare the system back to GCA caches (descriptions, logs, etc), but for the "other caches" information (eg. gc, gpsgames, shutterspot, etc) we lose the logs. Keep the "found", "noted", "dnf", etc, flags but don't keep the actual logs themselves. This would reduce the size of the database considerably. Of course, the downside is we lose the logs, but keep the statistics.

Cut the site back to just the forums and GCA caches. We would lose all of the combined statistics.

With these two suggestions and a reduced size of the database, this could enable us to move the site off onto a smaller (read less expensive) server solution.

Another possibility is that we move the data off to a smaller server anyway. This would probably result in slower performance than we get now which might keep people away rather than draw them in.

Google ads are a possibility, but we have a small community and the ads may not generate enough.

Sponsorship and ads from GPS related activities may be another, but I doubt we would get enough interest from real sponsors to make it worthwhile.

Everyone hates ads anyway, but may not want to pay to get rid of them.

Some other interesting information.
The number of GCA hides (compared to all hides) is around 3.5%
The number of GCA finds (compared to all finds) is around 1%
So the numbers are increasing.
Why the dips?
These were when the caches were migrated from GC to GCA and everything suffered for a little while, but despite the naysayers, the numbers appear to be trending upward albeit slowly.

Image

While this next graph is very hard to read in the early days, I believe that it took around 20 months for gc.com to get to the same number of finds as GCA is at now. Click on the link to make it bigger and easier to see.
http://www.caughtatwork.net/geocaching/ ... ALL&size=3

Image

So not everything is doomy and gloomy. I believe GCA is a real listing alternative and with the other things that make it Australian, I would love to see it stay.

I'd donate money, but everyone needs to weigh up the benefits that the site offers to them on an individual basis and make a judgement call.

Is it worth starting a poll to see how many people would donate (say $10, $20, $50) to keep the place going? While not a guarantee it might be interesting to see what real support we have.

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Post by Cached » 27 April 06 11:45 pm

C@W seems to be fairly on the money.

I would however be very cautious about scaling back the capability that already exists. If you take away something that people use, they may not come back. What does this site offer that the other one doesn't? Those are the important things to keep - and that, in my thinking, would include stats, recommendations, mates, all those things.

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Post by Chwiliwr » 28 April 06 1:30 am

I think that we would need to have some actual figures for the database before considering whether cutting back on anything already collected would be useful. I would be surprised if the overhead of the logs is significant enough to be worried about.

Server storage is generally not significant compared to ability of the server to actually serve the data. I looked after a million plus names database on a mainframe for a while that took about 20GB of storage (In PC terms) but the usefulness and efficiency of the database was always determined by the communication links (bandwidth) to the end user and how well you presented the information to them.

I would therefore agree with Cached that you would probably loose ground if you tried to cut back what is already there.

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Post by ideology » 28 April 06 9:40 am

thanks for your comments so far

it seems that the issues are technical, financial and governance.

technical: the coding collective is a good idea. mind socket joined in and got the gallery going, plus improvements in searching and some other stuff we have probably forgotten. however, we realised that we had a problem with security and documentation. we are getting over the security issue by using version control software called subversion. this will allow developers to grab the code, make improvements on it on their local machine, then upload it back into the repository. this can then be tested on the system and if it works, can be moved into production. we've start tackling the documentation side by spending a big chunk of yesterday writing up the architecture, key tables, functions and stuff. both of these are rolled into a development environment which we hope will be able to support a collective of developers. don't forget support as well. support is extremely time-consuming. luckily there seems to be a good network of people on here who help answer questions. special thanks to riblit who is at the other end of many of the support queries.

financial: it's not as bad as it seems - the dollar figure we quoted above is for the server, and it serves more than just GCA. we posted some stats at http://forum.geocaching.com.au/viewtopic.php?t=5134 that would help in shopping for an appropriate hosting solution. by the time we move on, hosting prices will probably have dropped anyway. the size of the database is about 20,000 caches and about 250,000 logs. it backs up to about 85Mb when gzipped, so it's not all that large. so we don't think reducing functionality is the way to go.

governance: there hasn't been much discussion about this. given that we are currently supplying most of the technical and financial inputs to the site, we're also supplying the governance. but it doesn't have to be that way. it could be done though state representatives or something. who knows!

so at this stage we're busy documenting the internals and getting subversion going (hopefully this weekend.) then we'll start opening the subversion repository up to a couple of alpha developers and coach them through understanding and making a change to the site. once we get that going we'll have some kind of development cycle which will keep the site developing.

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Post by Grank » 28 April 06 10:39 am

If we start donating money to support the GCA site (which I have no problem with - currently it's free to me but not i! et al), is it possible that the site could then be seen as "commercial" by others that supply information (NB THIS IS NOT FINGER POINTING JUST EXAMPLES - C@W for his graphs, GC for their logs, etc) and then they may want a slice of the pie or remove access to their information?

(Apologies if this risk has been raised before in the thread, but I didn't seen it in a quick pass.)

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Post by riblit » 28 April 06 11:54 am

The support side has mainly been forgotten passwords along with changed email addresses and the occasional 'I uploaded a bunch of waypoints and can't delete them'

In an effort to create some order the support emails from item 5 on http://geocaching.com.au/help/support/ now go to an automatic responder and ticketing system. It can also be accessed by clicking on my web site link at the bottom of this post and selecting GCA support.

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Post by Damo. » 28 April 06 7:47 pm

Grank wrote:If we start donating money to support the GCA site (which I have no problem with - currently it's free to me but not i! et al), is it possible that the site could then be seen as "commercial" by others that supply information
I suppose if it is run as not for profit and no-one is getting paid you couldn't call it commercial. But I imagine all possible future scenarios will have to be discussed. Like what to do with excess funds, or if contributers coders are reimbursed for their time. I doubt it would get to the size that it would be a full-time job, but in 5-10 years time? Who knows? At the current rate of growth that could be serious man-hours to maintain the site....

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Post by Grank » 28 April 06 8:08 pm

Damo. wrote: could be serious man-hours to maintain the site....
it's serious man hours just playing in the forums :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:

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Post by caughtatwork » 28 April 06 8:14 pm

Grank wrote:If we start donating money to support the GCA site (which I have no problem with - currently it's free to me but not i! et al), is it possible that the site could then be seen as "commercial" by others that supply information (NB THIS IS NOT FINGER POINTING JUST EXAMPLES - C@W for his graphs, GC for their logs, etc) and then they may want a slice of the pie or remove access to their information?

(Apologies if this risk has been raised before in the thread, but I didn't seen it in a quick pass.)
Wheeeeeeee! Can I claim some cash :-)
Nah, I don't want anything. Seriously. If I was worried about the cost of providing information from my site I wouldn't have put it there. I provide access to the information based on the "free and open geocaching community" spirit that GCA is based on.

Long term, this output may end up on GCA anyway. If I up and got hit by a bus now, it would cease to exist, so in the interests of keeping it available, I'd probably seek to move it over once we all settle on a solution.

Hmmmmmmmmm. Free software :-)

There are some interesting discussion points being raised, but also interestingly, from only a handful of people.

There will be people in our community who have no interest in what happens, if it dies, it dies. Others who are ambivalent but would probably like it to stay around.

There are some who would probably prefer it to die as long as they can still have free access to the forums (yes, I know it should for fora, but it looks wrong).

There are others who are quite passionate and will go out of their way to make it work.

There will be some community members who are watching and agreeing with what's going on, so may not feel obliged to say anything, I think that's cool. If you feel you want to come in a post a thought, the more the merrier.

If we end up with a voluntary contribution model to pay the costs and there is funding left over, then I would expect that it would be used towards next years payments. On a personal note, in the same way I wouldn't like to be paid for anyone finding any of my caches, any time I contributed would be provided gratis.

That's provoked an interesting thought (to me at least). For my latest half dozen cacher or so, I spent around $30-$50 per cache to hide it. Ammo can, plastic box, trinkets, etc. For the cost of one or two cache placements a year I could contribute a "fair share" to the upkeep of the server. Hadn't thought of it quite that way before.

Have we had a poll to ask why people don't find GCA caches? I can't recall one, but doesn't mean there isn't one here. A poll wouldn't require any comments, just a list of questions that might be helpful in understanding why the find rate on a GCA cache seems to be lower than that of a GC cache. The results could then be used to move towards a model where more people would be interested in finding them.

Enough rambling for now. I've got other forums to post to :-)

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