THE FUTURE OF THIS WEBSITE (Announce)

by admin ⌂, Forest of Dean, Wednesday, March 04, 2020, 16:29 (29 days ago)

On 24 December 2018 the following was included in our Seasons Greetings post:
"As many of us in the team are of an age when health dictates we should be taking things easy we are having to consider the future of this site which we hope will continue as it has since inception. Hopefully we can find a few pairs of new hands."

No response to this sentence was received from any of our many subscribers.

We are an active team of four supported by Dave Watkins sister, Pauline and her Grandson who provides the website hosting and due to a combination of age and ill health the point has now been reached where we have to either find an acceptable home for the databases or close down the website. Needless to say we wish to avoid the latter but if we do not reach a satisfactory agreement with anyone the site will close no later than 31 August 2020.

Admin

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by probinson @, S. Oxon, Wednesday, March 04, 2020, 17:49 (29 days ago) @ admin

Could you clarify exactly what is required to host the databases? Are just talking about server space that could be rented, at a price, or is there more to it than that? And will the website hosting arrangement continue or does that need new support as well.

Hopefully, some clarification of exactly what is needed might bring some more responses. If I can help, I will, but not sure if, or how, I might be able to.

--
Peter

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by Jefff @, West London, Middlesex, Wednesday, March 04, 2020, 18:29 (29 days ago) @ admin

No response to this sentence was received from any of our many subscribers.

Dear Admin,
I very much recall reading this post and being very concerned, in fact only this week I mentioned it while emailing another longstanding future member. In response both myself and others replied with messages of support and encouragement. I and probably others expected to see updates from yourselves as to how and what was needed, none were forthcoming. The fact it was posted on Christmas Eve, one of the busiest days of the year for many of us, may have been an error. I for one admit that despite fully intending to make a financial contribution towards site upkeep, I now realise I forgot to do so, for which I apologise - not helped as my mother was in hospital at that already-busy time.
Since then I've had a particularly difficult and stressful year of my own, I am only too aware of the negative affects of ill-health and old age, last year was an awful one for my family. Perhaps the same has been the case with other forum members ?
I am truly sorry if the Admin team or anyone else have had a similar year to ours.
Sometimes a timely reminder is both necessary and useful for all parties.
I would suggest these are possible reasons why maybe your one post didn't get the attention you thought it should.

----

Anyway, moving on, I am worried for the continued future of this website and forum, as I'm sure everyone else it.

Please could you clarify what it is you actually need, both now and in the future ?

On my part I wondered if your concerns were about what seemed to me like reduced activity on the forum compared to previous years ? Some of us are also involved in local history groups on Facebook and suchlike, the existence of which I guess can impact websites like this one. Because I was concerned for this site's future and wanted to help-out, I have deliberately made several postings on these groups promoting this website and forum in an attempt to increase site usage and forum membership. I know other members have done the same.

Without further updates from yourselves I'm not sure what else we could have done.

I would also suggest that as well as posting on the forum you send emails to all forum members, in case they're not currently active on the forum but would still like to help out.

Needless to say we are all very grateful for all the work that's been done and is ongoing to create and maintain this superb website and forum. I suspect I'm not the only one who doesn't know the full extent of time and cost that's required to maintain this site, perhaps some indicators of what's involved would help us to better understand the task ahead.

Thanks again, and best wishes, Jeff.

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by SUE LAWTON @, Thursday, March 05, 2020, 09:36 (28 days ago) @ Jefff

Dear Admin,
If it helps, there is no trace of this message around Christmas on my forum page, so this is the first I've heard of this. Maybe others didn't get it either. I agree it would be a good idea to say what it is we can do, as I suspect that few of us feel capable of taking the site on. Meanwhile, continued thanks for all you do. Sue.

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by cmfenton @, Ferndown, Dorset, Thursday, March 05, 2020, 20:01 (28 days ago) @ admin

Along with Peter and Jeff it is difficult to know how one could help though it would be very sad if this wonderful resource was to be lost.

I do not know whether the principal limitations are ones of experience:
(I have some html, PHP and Mysql experience but am not familiar with Joomla or equivalent systems and website security matters are an almost closed book to me)

or of distance: (I live in Dorset).

Distance was clearly not an issue in David's day but those circumstances were very different.

And none of us are getting any younger!

If you feel I can help at all, please let me know.

Kind regards

Colin Fenton

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by ritpetite @, New Zealand, Friday, March 06, 2020, 21:26 (27 days ago) @ admin

hello sorry didnt reply
Love this site
If I could help I would live in NZ
Anything you need if you think I can help let me know
Best wishes

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by jhopkins @, Friday, March 06, 2020, 21:59 (27 days ago) @ ritpetite

Sorry, I didn't see the original post either, and I am similarly situated in NZ. I very much value this site, and would hate to see it die, or be taken over by some avaricious money making outfit like so many other genealogical resources. It is deeply irritating to see public records being pirated to make money, especially where the profit seekers didn't contribute in any way to the development of the resource.

Rave over. Please let me know if there is anything I can do from the antipodes.

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by sidtoomey01 @, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, Saturday, March 07, 2020, 02:02 (26 days ago) @ jhopkins

I also did not see the original message as I was on Christmas Holidays and had a break from the computer to recover my sanity.
How a site like this works in the background is completely foreign to me. I just assumed it was black (or white) magic like all things in the modern digital world.
Perhaps if someone could explain just what is needed to keep the site running, i might be able to help in some way.
I enjoy reading the Forum posts and wish I could contribute in but generally my Ancestors appear to have led boring lives and moved from the FOD in the 19th Century.
Some time ago i put a post on the Forum regarding a possible Ancestor who disappeared from records after his Baptism. The response from members was most helpful with some clues emerging which started me researching in much detail . his and his brothers career in the British Army as well as life thereafter.
This has given me a lot of pleasure and i am presently putting the results in to writing to share with likeminded people if interested.
Sorry but i went off the track for a moment and started rambling. (Like all my research)
I live in Australia so physical contact to help would be hard.

First, in Australia we had the Bushfires, then the floods, then if you can believe it, a national shortage of toilet paper due to panic buying because of the Coronavirus although no one has been able to explain the connection between the two. Now the news about the possible lack of a future for the FOD Family History site.

Sorry again ,getting off message.

Please don't give up everyone.

Sid Toomey.

PS one last thought on the Toilet paper issue, at least the Comedy industry now has enough material to last them a long time.

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by rhianonturrell @, Sunday, March 08, 2020, 10:55 (25 days ago) @ admin

I too did not see the message and cannot see it now, although I was ill over Christmas so may have missed it.Like the other responses I am not sure what is wanted and I am also a bit long in the tooth to take on actual running of the site. Please believe that you are very much appreciated by anyone with Forest ancestors as the most helpful and friendly group I have found and I frequently recommend you to others.
I have noticed a bit less activity on the site which may be due to a number of things so I tend not to check it every day as I used to, so maybe others are doing the same. The transcribed records have been an invaluable help in my research into AMBREYs & HUZZEYs and other families as have some of the wills.
I am shortly moving house which is proving very stressful this time but if in the prolonged hanging about stage there is anything I can do, please let me know.

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by probinson @, S. Oxon, Sunday, March 08, 2020, 17:53 (25 days ago) @ admin

It would be useful if Admin responded to the messages posted so far and entered into some sort of dialogue. But I see they haven't logged in to the forum since posting it. Hopefully they are receiving the responses by email.

Having previously created and administered an information website myself, including a forum, I fully appreciate the amount of work involved in running a site like this, but I think there must be a lot more that goes on in the background of this site than the one I maintained. So, maybe this is an opportunity to say I have never been aware of who runs this site or exactly what the Trust does or who are the Trust members. The About Us page is woefully out of date and I've always felt the Trust could be a little more transparent and engaging in what they do.

A good start, I think, would be to tell us who you are. Posting under 'Admin' is not in the least endearing and in fact, I find, a bit stand-offish. Even in this post you refer to yourselves as 'an active team of four' but who are you? Knowing the real people behind this site, humanising it if you like, would, I'm sure, encourage more interest from the users in its operation and possibly more offers of help.

Some information about what the Trust does, besides maintaining this website, or individual member's responsibilities, could also be of interest and help to engage the users with its operation.

But above all else, please tell us more about what it is you need and how others may help so that this incomparable resource can be kept alive.

--
Peter

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by grahamdavison @, Sunday, March 08, 2020, 18:44 (25 days ago) @ probinson

A little background. The trust comprises 4 people, Mike Gwilliam (Admin), Graham Davison, David Drinkwater & May Brace.

Mike took over the administration of the website following the death of Dave Watkins and has looked after all matters concerning the website ever since.

I (Graham Davison) have managed the parish register transcription project, which is still continuing for parishes on the Eastern bank of the Severn. I also transcribed the prison registers and the marriage licences and bonds.

David Drinkwater has transcribed the Wills index and the WW1 servicemen, and we have all contributed towards the memorial inscriptions.

May Brace is our Treasurer, looking after the donations and providing any funds Mike requires to run the website.

The four of us comprise the Forest of Dean Family History Trust, which is a not for profit organisation which we set up following Dave Watkins death to continue running the website.

If you have anymore specific questions I will try and answer them.

Mike Gwilliam is struggling with the workload at present and also has some health issues, however he will, in due course, give you a more detailed description of what is exactly required to run the site.

Thank you all for your offers of support.

Graham

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by Mike Pinchin @, Bedford, England, Sunday, March 08, 2020, 19:33 (25 days ago) @ grahamdavison

Like other responders I have little idea of what might be required to administer and maintain a site such as this. Nevertheless I would be willing to do what I could to help the survival of something I consider very important. I am still working,albeit well past my use-by date, but I could offer a certain amount of time in any capacity necessary.

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by admin ⌂, Forest of Dean, Tuesday, March 10, 2020, 10:21 (23 days ago) @ Mike Pinchin

First of all my apologies for the delay in providing some detailed information concerning the operation of the website and what is needed to enable it to continue.

Graham has set out details of current team members and I have to add that May is very unwell and unable to continue. I have health issues and will be 80 next year. It is therefore time for me to step down but this would mean having no one to manage the site hence the decision to close it down if no one steps forward.

The site is built on a Content Management System known as Joomla and the Forum on My Little Forum. The latter was used by Dave Watkins and we have therefore been able to keep the valuable information available to readers. Both pieces of software are up to date however the PHP scripts used to search the databases need updating and this is beyond our ability. We therefore need a person or persons with the knowledge to maintain and update the site and write PHP scripts. If this is not possible then the options are 1/ to employ a professional to attend to those parts which cannot be managed by new team members or 2/ close the site.

The management of the website is a considerable commitment and we strongly recommend a different approach by any new team that decides to take it on. In particular it needs more than one person to manage and monitor the site.To date all team members have given of their time freely. The website hosting is provided by Dave Watkins' great nephew at commercial rates.

Mike
Admin

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by probinson @, S. Oxon, Tuesday, March 10, 2020, 16:09 (23 days ago) @ admin

Mike,

Thanks for the further information and thanks too to Graham for his information.

I have no immediate suggestions for a solution but I do think you might follow Jeff's suggestion of emailing all the users, explaining the situation and asking for volunteers or ideas, because I see only 227 people (at the time I write this) have read your original post out of 10606 registered users. That leaves a lot of people who are currently unaware of the situation. Hopefully, one or two of those will have the right experience to be able to help.

I do have a question. As far as I know, 'my little forum' software does not need Joomla. Could the forum be split away from the site and run separately and still maintain all the current posts? I'm just thinking about if the site could be distributed to spread the workload.

--
Peter

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by admin ⌂, Forest of Dean, Tuesday, March 10, 2020, 16:59 (23 days ago) @ probinson

Hi Peter,
Thank you for your suggestions. We are looking at the possibility of emailing but at the present time have not established for certain if the facility exists within the software behind the site. We are also aware that many have not logged in for some years and you may recall that it was Dave Watkins policy to remove accounts which had not been active for over 2 years. I stopped this practice as it became apparent that some had posted some very useful information and once their accounts are deleted they could not be contacted. If we email everyone we can be certain to get many rejections and there is also a risk of upsetting family of those who have died.
It is possible to separate My Little Forum from the remainder but given the Forum demands the most attention by far there is little benefit in doing so. Joomla Administration can only be accessed by those authorised and has a separate login. In other words if the workload is to be shared this can be done without changing the current setup.
One matter which I did not cover in my Post is Photographs. Dave Watkins used software known as Gallerie which is for Apple Mac and will not run on Windows. I am using the same piece of software which generates the pages in HTML but it is not responsive and therefore the pages do not display well on Smartphones. Furthermore it is no longer supported but the only risk likely would be to the person running the software. To transfer to other software would not be easy as we have few of the original images as they were lost when Dave Watkins died and whilst we have names of contributors we do not have contact details of many.
I hope you find this helpful.

Mike

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by Paul Andrews @, Shropshire, England, Tuesday, March 10, 2020, 19:12 (23 days ago) @ admin

Mike and Graham,

Thanks for your posts in this thread, and thanks to all the other contributors.

Just like others I am too long in the tooth to offer any support other than moral support.

I think Jefff's idea of sending e-mails to all forum members is good. It may well be that there are people who may have the expertise and time to help who may not be aware of the current situation.

I understand that there will be rejections as people have changed e-mail providers etc. As for upsetting family of those who have died, I think perhaps a suitably worded message would help to prevent any misunderstanding or offence.

I am sorry that I have been unable to contribute to the forum in recent times, I also have been restricted by health issues since 2018.

This site is an extremely valuable resource to many future researchers who have yet to find out about it. Long may it continue.

Paul Andrews.

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by probinson @, S. Oxon, Tuesday, March 10, 2020, 22:04 (23 days ago) @ admin

Hi Mike,

Thanks for the response.

I do believe sending out an email to all users would be an acceptable thing to do and, under the circumstances, should be done. If there is a chance the site will close down then I think all users should be made aware of that. Another forum I frequent uses My Little Forum and does send out emails to all users sometimes so I guess there is a way of doing it. Also, generally speaking, emails can be configured so bounced emails don't come back to you but genuine replies will. Of course, it depends on what the software allows you to do.

I did write more but have deleted it. I suspect the last thing you require at the moment is people throwing ideas at you. But, as we seem to be on a sinking ship, I think all possibilities need to be considered, even splitting the site up if that enables the data to be saved and made available in the future. That, surely, has to be the priority, rather than whether the site remains in its present form.

--
Peter

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by anthonyworgan @, Thursday, March 12, 2020, 16:43 (21 days ago) @ probinson

I have only just seen these postings - oh dear, what a blow if a solution is not found. I now feel very guilty because I have had so much help from this wonderful site over the years, freely given with much kindness. My knowledge of modern computer systems is unfortunately quite woeful (I was a shorthand typist in my younger days) & hubby is 81 with his own health issues now so this site has always been a joy to forget everyday problems.

I really hope an answer can be found for this very difficult situation.

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by JayneD33 @, Tuesday, March 17, 2020, 21:41 (16 days ago) @ admin

It would be tragic if this site were to shut down. I have taken the liberty of drawing attention to the problem in a 15000 member genealogy group on facebook, where a number of people have flagged its worth previously. I have also asked other members to share the news.

It would be good to have a list of jobs/roles that need to be filled. And to understand whether all trustees wish to stand down this year or whether that could be phased if new trustees come on board. (I quite understand that personal circumstances may make that impossible.)

I am very happy to help to look proactively for people with the right skills, interest and commitment to volunteer, if that would be helpful. I'll update my email address next: please do feel free to get in touch.

Jayne

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by robryder @, Sunday, March 22, 2020, 16:58 (11 days ago) @ JayneD33

Hi my name is Rob Ryder and i have used this website for many years though not recently due to my router blocking it. I bought a new router and have access again. I was deeply sorrowed to hear of the possible demise of the site having done transcriptions for it in the past. In my opinion it is one of the very best Genealogical websites available. I do not have any expertise to carry on the magnificent job done over the years but wondered if an approah to Dean Heritage Museum would be of any help.
Rob Ryder.

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by tinak, Thursday, March 26, 2020, 15:50 (7 days ago) @ robryder

I agree with others that it would be a tragedy if this website were to close, and if all the work done over so many years by so many people to put it together were to be lost. It is the most user friendly genealogical website that I have come across. I also agree with Rob Ryder that it would be an obvious fit with the Dean Heritage Centre. Have the current team approached them yet? I know that the Centre is closed at the moment, but presume that the people who run it are working from home and still contactable by email. Now might be the perfect time for them to look into taking over this website, while they do not have the distraction of the Centre being open. I believe that they are digitising their own records, so might be able to add them to this website. It would be good to know if they are approached and how they respond.

Tina Kelly

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by rookancestrybest @, United Kingdom, Tuesday, March 24, 2020, 21:19 (9 days ago) @ admin

I am very sorry to hear this sad news as it's been one of the best websites on family history I have used, better even than some commercial ones. I do hope it doesn't come to closing it down and I am wondering what we can do to keep it up and running.

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by glostergirl @, Thursday, March 26, 2020, 09:27 (7 days ago) @ admin

All - it would be awful if this site was to close. It has been such a help to my research and I know others. If you need anyone for transcription or to go around taking photos, compiling documentation, please count me in. Ive been researching mine and other trees for over 20 years and am happy to help in any way I can.

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