Migration currently underway: lessons being learned

By on Jan 11th

see ya ningRemember that hugely scary project I mentioned? Well, it's happening RIGHT NOW. With the help of the Offbeat Bride Tribe's moderators, I'm currently in the process of helping thousands of members migrate from our old janky community to our new fancy one. We're up to only about 450 members on the new community so far, but there are a couple hundred existing members signing up each day.

It feels like with each migrating member, I'm learning something new…

My developer Jennifer and I have been launching websites together for 10 years, and we both agreed that this one is without a doubt the most complex. We've got layers of platforms and plugins involved — at the core of the site is WordPress, but the community is based on BuddyPress, which is a WordPress plugin. The forum component is based on bbPress, which is a plugin for BuddyPress. It gets complicated and agonizing pretty quickly when you find a bug… is that an issue with bbpress, BuddyPress, WordPress, or some other plugin?

I'm learning that I've been incredibly spoiled by WordPress's active and amazing developer community. The plugins available for BuddyPress are, by comparison, pretty sad — there's not very many of them, their functions are pretty limited, many of them are abandoned, and the ones that work aren't coded very efficiently. (Jennifer looked at one half-broken plugin with 1100 lines of code and informed me that she'd be better off coding it from scratch than trying to fix it. "I can rewrite it in 300 lines," she told me.) Needless to say, she and I are scheming on several plugin suites of our own… this is exciting, because it feels awesome to be able to give something back to this open source platform that I've literally built an empire on. All this development is not cheap (I'm currently about $8k in on this project, with more expenses on the horizon) BUT IT'S AWESOME!

I'm also learning about web usability. To help members migrate, rather than just link to the URL of the new Tribe's registration page, I created a four-minute "How to register" screencast that walks members through the process. The responses ranged from people being angry and impatient (You're going to make me watch this whole fucking screencast? [Yes, I am!]) to people being completely baffled (I watched the screencast, but when it ended the screen just went blank. How do I sign up? [Type the URL shown in the screencast into your browser.]) Sometimes it's amazing to me that we all use this same internet, when our skill levels are so vastly different.

But really, the most amazing thing is that these are the biggest issues thus far. All bugs have been beaten into submission (WordPress username vs. BuddyPress Profile Name: I'm looking at you). The beefy server is humming along fabulously. Only one member has threatened to flounce because the migration indicates that the Tribe is selling out. Members are using the new site without too many confusions (it helps that it's all based on WordPress, which so many people are already familiar with).

There's still a LONG way to go (part of moving platforms is that now we have the options to develop so many awesome new tools!), but the migration seems to be going really well. I'm hoping this means I can start sleeping through the night again, without waking up at 4am thinking about ascii errors and ajax issues.

Oh and PS: While this week we're focusing on getting existing members migrated, next week the new Tribe will be open to new members registering. Hooray!