Communications Director’s Report: January, 2015

Web site report:

For the three months ending december 31, 2014

Statistics

2014 Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Unique Visitors 280 524 529 538 498 754 822 777 1,159
Number of Visits 444 925 864 898 816 1,099 1,355 1,207 1,897
Pages Served Out 3,026 3,632 2,543 2,796 6,846 3,977 3,833 3,499 7,227
Hits 5,745 5,483 4,463 4,601 9,367 6,262 5,894 6,491 10,280
Bandwidth (MB) Used 130.88 111.66 101.56 120.64 171.39 194.09 273.56 242.92 241.89

Growth (month over month)

2014 Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Unique Visitors * 87% 1% 2% -7% 51% 9% -5% 49%
Number of Visits * 108% -7% 4% -9% 35% 23% -11% 57%
Pages Served Out * 20% -29% 10% 145% -42% -4% 9% 107%
Hits * -5% -19% 3% 104% -33% -6% 10% 58%
Bandwidth (MB) Used * -15% -9% 19% 42% 13% 41% -11% 0%
  • Most of the statistics indicate there was a lull in web site activity in November, but that a general pattern of very strong growth has developed in the last 3 months.
  • A round of web site development began in late December and probably the December statistics are inflated by that activity. However this could not have affected the very large increase in unique visitors. There has definitely been a signicant increase in the use of the web site though it is somewhat less than the December statistics show.
  • The calendar continues to be the most popular page on the web site. It was looked at more than 1,000 times.
  • The reprint of Macha Nightmare’s 1999 essay on Chants and Enchantments was December’s 2nd most popular article. The essay on chants and enchantments has been moved during a library reorganization.—willw,20150226

No new or unusual activity with these. We have a presence on Google, Bing, Yahoo and Witchvox which are each sending a few visitors our way.

Changes Done, and Work In Progress

The Main Menu has been altered for brevity, and better organization. One change is moving the Book Of Days under Resources, where it is now co-resident with the library resources, etc. In the Business section, the BoD agenda pages will no longer be offered. These were not being used. Other similar tweaks too numerous to remember have been done here and there.

Three new areas have been added to the wiki: Board Only (1)YaD Only (2), and OSG only (3). These are private areas accessable only to selected persons who have logged in. Security is good enough for Lyceum’s needs: the triple letter acronym agencies can undoubtedly go through our stuff at any time, but it would take a hacker’s skills. Few hackers would be interested in wasting their time on us.
These private areas can be accessed through items on the bottom of the main menu. Those who do not have access see a polite “Access denied” message.
These areas will accept PDF documents and images. Materials can be sent to me, Will, and I will fix them for the web and put them into place.

About mailing lists: These have been a headache. In November I thought we could make use of Google’s newer features, but by mid December I knew that what we would need from Google would be one of their business accounts and would cost Lyceum some money. And also there would be a personal cost to me of my time for several months in learning how to manage their system. I then looked at what Bluehost, the web hosting service that lyceumoftrees.org is using, might offer. Bluehost does offer low volume mailing list services as a free add-on to the package I subscribe to. Lyceum can use this for the forseeable future. More about this, and Lyceum’s relationship with Bluehost, in a later section.

The mailing list management package that I am setting up for Lyceum is called Mailman. For the user it has a lot similarities to the Yahoo group accounts that Lyceum has been using. However its security is better– partly because Yahoo groups are a plump target for hackers where lyceumoftrees.org is skinny and unappealing to the hacker mentality.

Another factor involved here is that I have years of experience in using Bluehost’s tools, but those skills, it turns out, are not transferable to Yahoo’s ways of doing things. And the last argument I will trot out here is that by moving the mailing lists under the same umbrella as the lyceum web site, it will be much easier to integrate the calendar and other features.

A final paragraph about the mailing lists: troubleshooting the initial configuration of just about any sophisticated software is a hassle, and setting up Mailman was no exception. But the difficulty with Mailman was greater than usual as I did not recognize that as the administrator of each group, Mailman treated my posts differently than all others even when I was posting as a member and not in the administrator role. I was seeing what looked like general problems when they were problems very specific to my situation, and I was trying to fix parts of the configuration that were not really broken.

Summary

The web site is growing very nicely. Some changes have been done that will improve its useability, mostly by simplifying its structure and menus. There are now 32 registered users. To date, no one other than myself is contributing much to the content, but since the site is continuing in double digit growth, I expect we will see more contributions from others in the next year.

The current plan is to

  1. focus on getting private mail groups for the Board and the Ordination Study Group established. Then
  2. a private email group for the Year and a Day class will be established (since they will have a Yahoo group, there is no urgent need). After these private groups are running well I will
  3. set up a public mailing list to eventually replace the Yahoo list, and send invitations to join it to all Yahoo group members. At the earliest,
  4. the move from Yahoo to a Lyceum public list cannot begin before mid June. It is likely
  5. to take several months to move everyone from the Yahoo group, and we probably will not be done with Yahoo until some time in 2016.

With regard to the web site itself, the structure and menus are definitely better but there is some housekeeping to do to get all the pages properly rearranged. There is room for further improvement, and further refinements will probably happen late this year.

With regard to encouraging more participation in growing the web site, I will be developing some instructional videos, and expect to make the first one available in April.

Lyceum’s relationship with Bluehost

I am currently central to the relationship between Lyceum and Bluehost. There are some aspects of this that I am not comfortable with.

Bluehost is a web hosting service with 2 million subscribers and a world-wide presence. Its focus has always been on providing low cost access to the web to small businesses, professional offices, and cottage industries. It provides a full range of low cost and no added cost services from payment managers like PayPal to content management like WordPress and wikis, to mailing list managers, to backup systems. Behind the scenes it assures that all its offerings are up to date and free of malware. Their tech support is very good. They enjoy a stellar reputation.

I have a “Plus” account with them, which costs $120/yr, and I also license several domain names through them, so my total yearly costs to Bluehost are between $180 and $200. This is a shared account, meaning that the half a dozen websites on my subscription time share a single server and Internet connection with each oher and with probably a few hundred other low volume web sites. Having a dedicated CPU and Internet connection with Bluehost’s support services would cost more than $1,500/yr, which is of course out of reach. But for the low volume of traffic on the web sites I manage, there is no need now for more resources than those the shared account provides.

I have four personal web sites on this account:

  1. Will’s Place which has my daily journal and similar personal stuff
  2. EmGee’s Place, where I put photography, a novel I’m trying to write, and other creative works under my EmGee pseudonym
  3. The Feyia Wiki, where I have been publishing a number of neopagan pieces
  4. The Woodhull Boat Shop, which is a remnant from my attempt to build wooden kayaks for sale. It still sees hundreds of hits each year on its technical pages, so I’m leaving it in place.

The lyceumoftrees.org is on this account, and also the BlenderPDX User Group which is for Portland CG artists and hobbyists. These two groups get a free ride since the is no additional charge from Bluehost for these. I have excess bandwidth, it might as well be put to good use.

I am spending $30/yr for Lyceum’s DNS registration, but that is my choice. As the elders spend much more than this in gas money to get to Lyceum activities, I am not going to ask for reimbursement. If I ever have to step up to a more expensive subscription with Bluehost (the next step would be from $120/yr now to around $200-250/yr) then we might need to talk about Lyceum picking up an appropriate share of the cost increase. But that kind of increase in activity is not likely to happen in 2015 and the conversation need not happen until next year or later. So regard this as a distant early warning.

The main point I want to make is that Lyceum is currently enjoying the benefits and protections of a commercial web site at no cost. While the Yahoo groups are free, Yahoo has no positive incentive to keep them going: they are a cost center, not a profit center. To date, Yahoo has calculated that their costs in bad publicity if they either started charging for what they have been giving away or shut down the free groups all together is greater than the costs of keeping them running. That calculation will change at some point. In the meantime, do not expect Yahoo to do any improvements or otherwise spend any more on Yahoo groups than is necessary to keep the level of complaints at a low grumble. A policy of benign neglect would seem to serve Yahoo best. It will not serve Lyceum well.

So these are the general needs that Lyceum is facing:

  • A need to migrate off the Yahoo groups in a timely and graceful way as soon as that can possibly be done. The complete replacement of Yahoo’s services by the lyceumoftrees.org web site is going to take a full year and maybe longer.
  • The possibility that Lyceum will need to shoulder some of any increase in web site expenses at some future time.
  • That I am a single point of failure right now. Lyceum needs a plan for what to do if I am no longer managing its Internet presence.
(1) for BoD
(2) for Year and a Day
(3) for Ordination Study Group

Author: Will

I was born at a very young age but I am older than that now. As a young man I drove half a million miles in Boston taxis. Then I moved to Oregon and developed two careers as an RN over 28 years: the first as a clinical nurse mostly in ICU, then later in Nursing Service Administration as an Informatics RN (but before that term was coined). In between RN work, I picked up an ADSc Business Computer Programming and provided PC network installation, maintenance and repair for 10 years. I eased into retirement beginning in 2003 and was fully retired in 2010. But I have continued to develop and manage websites and my skills are current with HTTP/CSS, PHP, Apache, SQL, etc. I have a strong preference for Ubuntu Linux boxes and Dokuwiki websites. I have a strong dislike of WordPress, which, although it is technically very well done, has created one of the worst cesspool ecosystems I have ever encountered. Still it is sometimes the best tool for the job, more is the pity. I have followed pagan paths for 50 years and I have about 3 yards of bookshelves devoted to pagan thought and practice. I am a perfectly eclectic technopagan heavily influenced by Victor Anderson's Feri practice but comfortable with Gardner derivatives, Zennist ways, and totemic/shamanist practices. I have recently been made the Steward of the Lyceum Of Trees. So I am Will Steward, Steward. Make of that whatever you will.