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Old 07-18-2006, 04:54 AM
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A most important announcement --read in full please!!!

The total of things I don’t know, if gathered together would make the Library of Congress look like the instruction manual for Tic-Tac-Toe. One of the things that I do not know is exactly what I could have done differently to avoid the problems we’ve just had with our database.

On the other hand, one of the things that I do know is that I owe each and every one of you an apology. So here it is: I most humbly and sincerely apologize to everyone at DNDOG and hereby vow to take whatever steps I possibly can to ensure that something like that never ever happens again.

To my understanding, this crisis cannot be blamed on any one specific matter. The contributing factors that I am aware of include the following.
1- We have not had active, productive leadership;
2- We have exponentially outgrown our hardware;
3- We have vastly outgrown our server hosting and database administration contracts;
4- We do not have the most current software.
I will now address each of these problems with the most current info available.

LEADERSHIP

To begin with, I would like to have made this announcement under better circumstances but given the current situation…. Well, frankly, the timing stinks but is ironically appropriate so here’s he deal:

Recently, ownership of the dndonlinegames.com name, all associated rights and property (server, etc.) has been transferred from Varun to me. Translated into English: “I now own DNDOG.”
As of two days ago, I am listed alongside Varun as DNDOG’s registered account holder with our server host and in the coming days, we will fill out the rest of the forms officially transferring ownership in every capacity with respect to the contracts, partnerships, properties (intellectual and otherwise) plus agreements DNDOG has with other organizations.

The bottom line here is that we once again have active leadership. You all know me. Most of you are aware that I am quite experienced as a business owner. Most of you are aware that I spend many hours on this site every day and that I am very committed to DNDOG’s success. Always have been, always will be.

You may have noticed me ‘taking charge’ as of the last few weeks, what with my new Admin status and all the dandy little announcements. So if you’ve gotten used to the Head Kitty [being] In Charge, then what’s coming up won’t be much of a shock for you. Already you’ve seen my machinations taking shape in the form of heavy new Mod recruitment and other projects flowering, such as the Newsletter growth and the ‘2nd Floor’ project. Now that I have the reigns, so to speak, I can put more force behind some of these efforts.

I need to let you all know that Varun and Raj both intend to and are more than welcome to stay on as Administrators indefinitely. They both offer unparalleled experience, loyalty, and vested interests in DNDOG. It is my sincere hope that having lifted some of the burdens from their shoulders and as time goes on, conducting more of the same, one or both of them will become increasingly more of an active presence here. But make no mistake about it, while I value their opinions extremely highly, I make the final call on everything and bear the final responsibility for everything.

Some things will change, some will stay the same.

I do not enter into this commitment lightly and I do not walk through the valley of the shadow of death alone. I bring with me, perhaps the best (but not the largest or best paid) team I’ve ever assembled for any reason.

STAFF

Admin Mirtos is committed at the highest level and has taken over all things technical. Mirtos is a professional programmer who we could never afford if he wanted to get paid in actual dollars. He’s been playing games here for over 2 years and tabletops with some of our other most committed members. We are lucky to have him. As soon as he realized that we did not have vBulletin v3.5, he went out and purchased it out of his own pocket and has never asked for a reimbursement. Instead, he’s begun coding it to our needs on a test server. I can’t really explain everything he does because it’s technical but to make a long story short: He deserves to have his butt kissed regularly. He’s committed himself to a few hundred more grueling hours of coding and testing for us this summer and has pledged his support to us in words, dollars, and time for the foreseeable future.

Admin Phoenix is as active, thorough, and loyal as they come. Even before I began discussing leadership with Varun, I encouraged that Phoenix be made an Admin – even before I was. I don’t always agree with him but I always trust him and respect him. He is our most active Staff person and has been for over 4 months. Phoenix is the Judicial branch of DNDOG. When problems come up, it’s Phoenix who investigates them, makes judgment calls, and metes out justice. He also dispatches the moderators and serves as general oversight for everything that goes on.

(SuperModerator) Medesha. If I start in on her attributes it will seem like I am gushing. You all know her. If you don’t then I suggest getting to know her – search her posts and buy/read her books, you’ll be glad you did. She’s earned the respect of many people in the gaming world and everyone at DNDOG. If you don’t respect Medesha then you’d better be able to fake it real good. If you can’t do that then please save us all some trouble and show yourself the door now. She is not just my favorite mod, she is a lady and chivalry is not dead in my world. As Forest Gump once said, “That’s all I have to say ‘bout that.”

(SuperModerator) Ridin Gaijin. Most of you know him as well. If you don’t then check him out. You will find that Ridin has one of the keenest minds of anyone you’ll ever meet. Combine that with an outgoing personality and a witty sense of humor and well – you’ve got a man who you not only should listen to, but one who you can easily enjoy listening to. For too many reasons to list, RG is over-qualified for his position as well as a huge asset to DNDOG. RG heads what has become dubbed, the ‘Think Tank’. Which is the only division we have with their own secretary. Expect great things from RG and his team. I would venture to guess that most of the improvements you will see at DNDOG over the next six months, will have either originated with or been heavily influenced by the [pimp] hand of RG.

(SuperModerator) Securis. Securis seems to have taken the role of Sergeant at Arms. Don’t piss him off. He works hard, is highly conscientious, and more active than a bee hive with a bear paw in it. He deserves many props and thanks.

(SuperModerator) jj_wolven. JJ is a real life engineer. Somehow he manages to have his feet on the ground and his head in the clouds at the same time. He’s a stickler for the rules but that makes him very consistent. He’s also fair, even-handed, logical, methodical, and sensible.

The rest of the team includes:
(SuperModerators) Corwyn (Great DM, contributing artist, editor, and import/export mogul); Incredible Turnip (of Intro thread fame – go check his comments there for a giggle sometime); and Caveman (who still holds his post ceremoniously though he is usually too busy in the operating room to do much here, when he does come around – he should be afforded every courtesy).

And last but not least, the two men who need no introduction: Admins Varun & Raj. They have been here, literally, longer than anyone else and I cannot say enough about the community they’ve built. Thanks guys. I hope we see more of them moving forward.

So that covers the Site Staff. I would also like to especially give a shout-out to Geoffrey Livingston Miles, who heads up the Newsletter and all of the excellent authors. And to the 2nd Floor team who I have no doubt, if given enough time, will solve all of the world’s problems.

Furthermore, there is a long list of potential new staff, from which a few new mods will soon be chosen. I could say more but then I’d have to kill myself which would really put a damper on my plans for the evening so let’s leave it at that for now.

Let it be said here as well as anywhere else I’ve mentioned it that I view it as one of my primary functions to provide whatever the various staff people need/want in order to accomplish their goals.

POLICY CHANGES

Expect a few more changes soon and others that will take more time. I am always thinking about and discussing ways to improve our community.

There is one policy which has caused many broken hearts and fractious moments around here and that will stop now. There has been a long standing policy (in various forms and degrees of clarification) prohibiting the use of DNDOG in any way, shape or form, to provide links or ads for competing sites. This is going to change very soon (for now I expect everyone to follow the existing rules which forbid it and promise harsh repercussions for violators. Please do not test this out – as many have learned, it is not a threat, it is a promise.

But things are about to change. The policy will be amended as soon as we can sort out the details of implementation and nail down wording that provides the least amount of confusion.

The gist of it is this: There will be a forum exclusively for links to other RPG sites be they direct competitors of DNDOG or otherwise. The rest of the site will remain ad free in regards to our competitors. Needless to say, there are many details that must be worked out before this change is implemented but those of you itching to post your links will have to wait for us to work this out. So hold your horses lest we misinterpret your respect of the rules and staff at DNDOG.

Another idea being tossed around and likely to emerge in some form or another, is a DNDOG marketplace. Apparently a large amount of members craft their own items, such as chain-mail dice bags, published books, hand painted miniatures, home-made dice, etc. etc. The list goes on and on. In the past we have prohibited anything like that but we are currently working on some way to implement a feature whereby members may buy/sell/trade the RPG related things they make. This forum might also contain links to merchant sites where official products are sold.

The Marketplace project is still in its planning infancy so I make no promises but it is being thoroughly examined. Of course, a forum like this would require another policy change among other features but we are taking it very, very seriously.

HARDWARE

We’ve come a long way baby!

Once upon a time, DNDOG could get by with 40 gigs of hard drive space. Last week we were using (almost all of) 80 gigs. Today we own 560 gigs. At the moment we are only using 160 gigs but by the end of the week, all 560 gigs will be in use.

I have no idea how little memory (RAM) we started with but last week we were using 2 gigs. Very soon, that will be increased to 3 gigs.

We have a 6 gig database and a high traffic volume site. Our equipment must match that.

One of the root causes of our problems last week-end was limited memory. With the new hardware, we are now able to hold more back-ups than ever before and once the RAM is added to the changes already accomplished, making back-ups should not slow down the server at all.

We now make 2 back-ups every day and save the last 6 of them. We also have a weekly back-up, and save the last two of those. And finally, a monthly back-up is kept for each of the last 4 months.

All of these back-ups might be overkill but I believe that it is better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it. Besides, as it stands now, even saving 18 DB back-ups, we are not using 25% of our hard drive capacity.

Translation to English: We’re transitioning to my Fort Knox theory of security, which is, “More is better”. That and something about redundancy. The next step is the saving of data off-site. By the start of next week, we will also have two physical back-ups in our hands (one on the East Coast with mirtos and one in the Heartland with me). So even if the earth opens up and swallows our server whole, we will be able to restore this site.

SERVER HOSTING AND DATABASE ADMINISTRATION

When we were a smaller site, the server deal we had was adequate and affordable. While that deal remains affordable, it is no longer adequate. It is the Host’s job to make back-ups, notify us when we are near capacity or other problems, and restore the site when it goes down. Obviously we’ve seen them fail spectacularly at this job recently. However, in all fairness to them, they did get it back – eventually.

But I consider the lapse completely unacceptable.

What we have been doing for days and will continue to do for as long as it takes but also as quickly as possible, is research other services. We need to find a server that will host our equipment (co-location); can handle our volume; will manage our data responsibly and monitor our server actively… and we need to be able to afford it.

While we are pursuing site security in this way, we are also exploring revenue streams to see just what we can afford. Right now, that is very little. But stability is priority #1 so if I have to bear some red ink for a while then so be it.

If you have any experience with a server host that you would recommend, please pass that info along to me ASAP. It is very difficult to get reliable, realistic info about server hosts – you just can’t believe what you read on their own web-sites. (Varun has a funny story about our first server host, which was based in Afghanistan. The site claimed tech support 24/7 but in reality, the building was empty for the entire month of Ramadan.)

So anyway – I have a plan for getting a transfer between hosts done with minimal down-time and zero data loss but I need to identify who/what/where the new host is.

SOFTWARE

As I’ve mentioned, mirtos has spent his own cash and is now investing lots of time, coding up vBulletin 3.5 which will aid us in a lot of ways, especially with respect to site stability and security. You cannot (OK maybe you can, but I am constantly surprised to) imagine how much time it takes to correct, “translate”, and input as much code as we have to an entirely new platform. Gosh I hope I used those words correctly… anyway – I hope you get the gist of it. In mirtos I trust. I hope you do too.
While we’re at it, we are importing updated versions of everything we’ve got.

He’s also spending a lot of time putting out fires that constantly come up with our old stuff.

Unfortunately, this focus on updates, fixes and stability means that you won’t see any significant upgrades to our code for a while but when they do start coming out, there will be lots of them and if things go according to plan, they’ll be really cool!

In summary: Leave mirtos alone! He’s busy slaving over a hot keyboard.

CONCLUSION

There has been and continues to be a lot happening at DNDOG. Much of it is “behind the scenes” but now you know as much as it is safe to reveal publicly – and probably more than is safe. I felt that the time was over-ripe for filling everyone in.

I want everyone to know that I and the rest of the staff are putting copious amounts of time and money into the future of DNDOG. I want everyone to understand that no one hates what happened last week-end more than we do and that we are doing everything possible to make sure that never happens again. I want everyone to feel it when I say that FAILURE IS NOT AN OPTION.

With your support, DNDOG will not only survive, it will grow, thrive, and strive to be something even better than what it is already.
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