Migration currently underway: lessons being learned

January 11 2012 | offbeatbride

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!

  1. "Only one member has threatened to flounce because the migration indicates that the Tribe is selling out."

    Whaaat? Well, I've only explored the new tribe a little bit so far, and I really like it. I suspect it may even blossom into love when we get to know each other a little better.

    It is a lot easier to use and navigate. Yes, I think this new tribe and I are going to get along just fine. It's just a shame my wedding planning will be done in 3 weeks. How soon is too soon for a vow renewal?

  2. ARIEL ARIEL ARIEL. This has nothing to do with anything, but a very amusing thing just happened to me.

    I was looking at customer images for the Mr. Bento lunch container (I have the Ms. Bento and was thinking about upgrading), and I was like "oh, that looks tasty", then saw it was uploaded by Ariel Meadow Stallings.

    I about fell out of my chair.

  3. I am one of the tech-illiterate migrators, and I have to say you've done an excellent job making it as easy as possible to figure out. I absolutely LOVE the tutorial on how to embed pictures, and I just posted my first jounal entry with embedded pics. I'm sure I'll run into things that make me go "Wha? How do I do that?" But for now, I've certainly got all the tools from you guys that I've needed to get started on the new Tribe. Thanks!

  4. ARIEL, I'm new to OBT but I absolutely LOVE the BuddyPress platform. This has been tons of work and stress for you and your team, but thus far I think it's 100000% worth it!!

  5. God, BuddyPress — I had to administer it for a project at my last job, and it was SUCH A HASSLE. Props to Jennifer for being willing to take it on! (I had no choice, it was dictat from On High, and I fought pretty hard.)

    • BuddyPress was definitely NOT ready for primetime last year, but 1.5 is a decent release. That said, it should say something about how bad Ning is that BuddyPress is a relief!

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