Late 2001 - Started. Ran in a shared environment, with no hosting fees. Ran the latest version of a PHP script called paFileDB.
January 2002 - Bought the domain name, xa-speakers.org.
2002 - Site had had become too large to run in a shared environment. Bought an old server and got free hosting.
Early 2003 - We start to actually listen to each and every talk before posting it to the site to check whether it is something we would want to associate us with.
June 2006 - News feed and contact button. Added news and FAQ functionality to the site and updated the look and feel of the site as much as possible, given that the paFileDB script hadn't been updated since 2002.
July 2004 - Started accepting PayPal donations. It wasn't a decision that was easy to take as we didn't want to be or be seen as a commercial entity.
June 2006 - After having a lot of hardware failures with the older server we bought a new server using the PayPal donations
Summer of 2006 - Started work on a new version of the site. Thought long and hard about what we needed, what open source projects we could use, what needed to be manually written and started. This was much more difficult than it is today, as web developers idea of 'a site' was pretty much only what you out of the box today with Joomla/WordPress. We paid a developer (in the UK) to create a new page, but couldn't use what they created.
Summer of 2007 - Bought new server hardware as the old one had gotten a bit constrained.
Late 2009 - Found a web developer that asked all the right questions; he actually stepped on the brakes and refused to keep on adding features without getting the full picture of what we wanted. This we did and it is still ongoing. We did some very cool proof of concept features that we really hope we'll be able to make work in the web framework we're currently using. Developer soon becomes busy with life, work and wife. Further development halted.
2015 - Yet another server move. This time a bit more permanent. Restructured the back-end to prepare for distributed hosting of the MP3 files.
Summer of 2016 - Hardening of paFileDB. The web developer updated the script so that it uses a PHP syntax that isn't prey to SQL injections.
Summer of 2016 - A legal entity is created for the site in Iceland and the name and rights to the site transferred to it. The entity's "form of incorporation" (for lack of a better word) requires it to be non-commercial and non-profit.
Fall of 2016 - We created a proof of concept of the site, using Wordpress. The proof of concept site does allow for web upload and 'tagging' of the recordings so that we don't have to download the recording when we need to make a change to the tag.
Until now, this has all been done on a shoe-string budget. We get a lot of traffic, but we have to this day never had any ads, or outside links to cover the costs; the site has been entirely funded by team behind the site and by PayPal donations. PayPal funds have been used when possible; team members have used their own credit cards when not.
We will not publish a breakdown our running costs as it documents the attack target for potential hackers, but they are currently around 125USD/month.
Our inbox has through the years gotten quite a lot of mail asking us to one feature or another to the site. This hasn't been possible and we would very much like to fix that:
The software that powers the site hasn't been updated since 2002. The software
doesn't support podcasting; mobile phones just play the recording in the browser window
doesn't differentiate between streaming and actual downloads. When you click the download button it plays the recording in a computer's browser window. This we had to do to allow the talk to play on mobile devices
doesn't work properly with Firefox
doesn't allow for web-upload without also publishing the file
doesn't 'tag' the recording with the correct 'ID3 information' (the text you see when you play the recording in an MP3 player)
doesn't support a tag cloud, only categories. This has led to a few Al-anon talks to be found in the AA category
doesn't allow for self-registration of accounts for uploading
We have also seen quite a few criticisms about the site not being updated 'often enough' or only sporadically. To explain why this is so we think it is best to describe how a recording is currently uploaded to the website.
If someone want's to upload a recording from his local speaker-meeting to the site, the process is as follows:
The uploader contacts us via the website
The uploader gets a mail back with a boilerplate reply with the FTP server's address. That is it say if the uploader uses the correct email address
The uploader downloads a "real FTP client" like Cyberduck (Internet Explorer no workie)
The uploader logs into the FTP server and reads the ABOUT_UPLOADING.TXT document
The uploader prepares the MP3 files according to the instructions and logs in to the FTP server with a username and password he gets by following the directions in the TXT document
The uploader uploads the recording and a text document with the factual information he prepared in step 6
The uploader sends an email with the name of the recording to the address specified in the ABOUT_UPLOADING.TXT document
But wait, there's more:
We get an email about a new file
The fileadmin downloads the file to his computer and opens it in iTunes
The fileadmin puts the factual information from the text file into the recording
If information is missing, he contacts the uploader; if the uploader has bothered with sending the email in the first place
Waits for a reply; if no answer is forthcoming he then starts scouring the net for the information
The fileadmin uploads the recording to the auditing area and a mail with a link to the recording is sent to the team in 1–3 different bitrates (levels of quality)
The team members vote 'approved', 'rejected' or 'pass' and comment on the audio quality and whether the description fits the talk or not
The fileadmin tallies the votes and either deletes the files or publishes it to the website, copying the Comments field into the description field in the webserver's database
If there is something wrong with the the text describing the talk:
the fileadmin then downloads the files again
opens them in iTunes
makes the changes
re-uploads the files
With 3000+ files to keep track of, this has been a lot of work.
That's why we want to modernize the site by:
Adding web-upload, web-audit and web-tagging of the recordings
Adding support for podcasting. The majority of our visitors use a mobile phone; we really should give them the ability to listen to the recordings in a podcast format
Adding greater flexibility in the categorization of recordings
No more Al-anon talks in the AA category
Having intelligent management of multiple-bitrate files
No more having to figure out what bitrate you want.
Having an intelligent web-based upload
FTP is neither user-friendly or modern
We won't be forced to delete nearly as many uploads
Notification to uploaders on the status of the upload
And perhaps not least: allow us to see who uploaded which file so that they can be contacted in case there is missing information
Having the ability to purchase a CD of the talk directly from participating tapers
and much much more;we have more than 100 features, big and small planned!
To be able to pull this off we need your help. We may have gotten the art of keeping costs down to a fine art, but we need to pay the developers to finish the site.
If everyone who visited our site in the last 30 days would donate $1 we would cover our fundraising nees for the next four months.