Amanda Palmer | The Dresden Dolls | Brian Viglione > News & Updates

The past, present, and future of The Shadowbox…

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It's been way too long since I've been able to post here, and I know many of you echo that sentiment.
But before I go on, let me be the first to say…

Now…because this is and has been such a convoluted mess of a story, let me do my best to breakdown what happened, where we're at now, and where we hope to go moving forward. And then of course, if you have questions/concerns/thoughts………this'll be the thread to post them in.

As many of you witnessed firsthand, this home to so many of us had become frustratingly overrun by spambots. It hindered our ability to enjoy it and despite the best efforts of myself, Hayley, and other mods, it was incredibly frustrating to keep it functioning. I should also point out (per suggestion of Miss Hayley) that even when spam was overrunning us, we were listening to your complaints and suggestions. Really, nothing was being ignored (and if it ever was, it certainly wasn't intentionally). Time - that would've been better spent on a LOT of other things - was spent deleting crap, and attempting to fix a very, very sad database. The backend was in disrepair, upgrades and updates were often near-impossible to implement, and so a little over a year ago I decided that it would be best to move in a different direction entirely.

I did a lot of research - keeping in mind we'd want software that would not only handle an import of all of the users/posts from the SMF forum, but also allow for scalability and integration into future web and mobile properties being built and dreamt up for Amanda. At the end of the day, and after seeing the success of the board my friend Matt runs, I decided that vBulletin was the best of the contenders.

When the redesign of Amanda's site started last winter, I wanted to make sure we had a seamless user experience where we had an "open door" for people to interact with AND Amanda's future apps AND The Box while being able to use the properties of their choice. I'm a big fan of "single sign-on" and giving people the choice to link in (or not) the way THEY want to. I've never seen a musician do that before - and still have yet to - and while it was ambitious, I believe it's the future. And that's what we've been trying to build a foundation for.

Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, that didn't go as planned. I don't have a staff nor have I figured out a way to clone myself, and while I do actually lose sleep over that sometimes, there's work to be done. We had a great group of people who worked very hard on trying to bring this forum into 2012, but it ended up being an unfortunate misstep. Surely due in part to the state of the backend, the import never functioned as expected. Some of you were completely shut out, others saw errors we couldn't replicate to fix, and more important than any of that: most people didn't like the look/feel/setup.

And so, at that point, I elected to "take it back" and go through with my original plan…a vBulletin-powered board, which would live here where we've all come to expect it. I'm terrible at estimating how long a project is going to take, it's one of my greatest flaws, but I felt confident I could get us upgraded and "back to normal" if I pulled a single all-nighter. What I didn't expect was the state of damage to everything…some of it old, some of it from the port earlier in the spring…it was like peeling back a digital onion filled with nothing but errors and despair. To put it into perspective for any of you tech geeks out there, the error log was well over a gig at one point.
I don't tell you this because I want a pat on the back, I tell you because I want you to understand what was so time consuming. And, well, maybe to make myself feel a little less insane. It was important to me (and others on the team) that we not just post a duct-taped mess that'd break and put us back to square one. At one point, everything looked so bad it seemed irreparable, but we really didn't want to start from scratch. And so, more than a week after I planned on having this up, with quite a few all nighters - and encroaching on the time of many people who stepped in to help me - we had a breakthrough.
That breakthrough is why you're able to read this right now, and after Hayley and I spoke, we decided that while my plan hasn't been fully executed, things are at least in a state to open back up…

This iteration of the board isn't vBulletin, it's a fully-cleaned-up sparkly new upgrade to SMF. It was hard for me to not want to wait until everything was DONE, DONE, DONE, but it's been too long and it will hopefully be good to give us this stepping stone. I've skinned it to look similar to what you all were used to. We've deleted a LOT of the stuff which has been clogging up the database, and knock on wood the bots are quiet. For now, while we keep tweaking and readying things, it's usable. My hope is that while we get the vBulletin ready behind the scenes, we can work out any last kinks and concerns on here and give you guys your meeting place back.

The PLAN is to start getting people back on here and when we're ready, shut down late some night and move everything over to vBulletin. I'm sure there will be hiccups, but they'll be small compared to the hells we've been seeing. I don't know if any of you are familiar with it, but I feel very strongly that it is more robust and will be more inline with where things are going from here.
Fingers crossed, right?
I am truly sorry that this has taken as long as it has, and I hope everyone knows I sincerely missed this place as well. I missed having the hub and community we spent years nurturing, I missed being able to easily post things here to get info out that wouldn't be buried in the fast-moving ephemera of social media, and I missed being able to think creatively vs trying to unravel the mystery of broken tech.

So, here we are. And I wanted to catch everyone up. We never forgot about you.
I'm hopeful.
Let's party………stomp around seeing if anything's loose and needs fixing.

And on that note……


the board looks very very pretty so far

:) !!!!!


From personal experience, vbulletin is awesome both to use and to administer.  It also has a lot of hooks to handle single signon sorts of things, when it comes to that. (Let me also offer my help along those lines, if it might be useful.)

Pope Totalfrog:
Hello again Shadowbox...


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