I have something important to discuss with you today. It's about the future of this community so please take some time to read it.
A few days ago I informed the Staff members of this community about a few issues and a potential solution to these issues.
The SWAT Portal was founded more than 15 years ago and since that it went through many changes.
Back then we started with a small forum and a rubbish website. In 2010 we did a major upgrade to our current Portal and improved it bit by bit since then.
It is 2018 now and we ran into a few problems.
Already in early 2017 we ran into a major problem when the service of a backend software which is required to keep the Portal running expired.
Back then I managed to create a workaround to this problem so the Portal was offline for only one day but was able operate more or less normal after that.
I didn't communicate about this issue because my workaround was working.
The thing is at the end of 2018 we will face the same problem again because then the next software expiration is sheduled.
That is not the only problem and not even the main one.
About 4 weeks ago the service of a software component that is responsible for protecting this community from bots expired aswell.
That means the community right now is not really protected at all.
There are alternative and modern ways of protection but they are not compatible with the website software that we use.
I wasn't able to find a solution yet since modifications at such a scale are not easy to do.
You might remember the high amount of spam bots and the thousands of spam messages we had do deal with in 2017.
Right now the gates are wide open for them to enter.
Why do these softwares expire now?
Simply said because the Internet is evolving and new software standards get introduced every year.
Until 2016 I managed to keep everything updated and running. But since 2017 more and more problems appeared because the software that we currently use does not meet the current standards anymore.
Every time I log into the Portal I get a friendly notification that there are currently 57 Portal plugins which no longer meet the current standards and I am unable to fix this.
With other words: for more than one year I keep this place running with duck tape (an exaggeration but actually very fitting).
So sum up the situation: The Portal is vulnerable to attacks and might even stop working at the end of this year.
I explained this situation to the staff members and asked them what they think about a possible solution to this problem.
A complete upgrade of the entire Portal to a new platform. A platform which is compatible to modern software standards, which is future proof, faster, more comfortable to use and offers all the features that we need.
Such an upgrade is very diffucult to do. It involves ALOT of work, a significant amount of time and also money since we have to buy new software licences.
This solution worries me a bit, but to be honest I see no alternatives.
I requested opinions and feedback from the staff members and despite all possible difficulties we might run into all agreed that we should try it.
Not only because of the problems we current face but also because of the benefits for the future of this community.
I had the chance to test the new software (in a demo environment) and also gave our staff members the possibility to use it in a test environment.
If we upgrade we would get access to a much more comfortable Portal that holds many modern features and also is faster than what we currently have.
We can avoid update problems for many years to come and significantly improve the security.
We also discussed structural changes to simplify the use of the Portal and improve the usefulness of its features.
I got much feedback from the moderators, supermoderators and even eventmanagers about whats is not so good right now and what we should try to improve/change.
For me personally it would be important to give community members and staff members more rights and more options.
I want this to be a community shaped by its members. I want this to be an open community that has access to modern features and everything required to support players and the games they play.
When members want to create a clan or guild in a game then we should be able to provide whatever they need.
If members want to play a specific game then it should be something we support as good as possible here at the portal.
Communication, information, sources of knowledge, a place to meet friends... thats what this Portal should be.
It is what this Portal always was... but we can improve this even further.
Such an upgrade is not easy. It takes time and alot of work to be done.
The Portal might be offline for a few days while I do the main update and when it is back online we might need several weeks to transfer information from our Wiki to the new Portal.
Such an upgrade also isn't cheap.
It is not as expensive as the Portal 2.0 upgrade that we did in 2010 but Ive calculated the costs for the new licences to be between 300-350€.
It would be great if we somehow can cover these costs (or part of these costs) via donations.
What are the benefits of such an upgrade?
- a much more secure environment for the members
- better structures on the forum/portal
- much better support for mobile devices
- connectivity with social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Discord, etc.)
- more comfortable Portal controls (better profiles, better editor, better notification system, etc)
- much higher compatibility with different browser types
- better compatibility of the different Portal features
- faster loading speeds
- better control about what is displayed where (customization of the entire Portal)
- better backend support (Admins and moderators do stuff much more effectively)
- better indexing of the entire Portal on search engines
- additional features such as a clan management
- and much more
To get all of that done we need a bit help from the community.
We need people that help us transfering wiki content and we need people to help us cover the financial part.
As AZ09 pointed out in the internal Staff discussions, we shouldn't wait too long with that Upgrade because right now this place is very vulnerable to attacks.
That is the current situation and the only solution I have to offer.
I'd like to get further feedback from you. Every idea how to improve the Portal is welcome.
Every help with the transferal of the Wiki content is welcome (a copy/paste job) and every Donation is much appreciated.