At long last, it is here! After weeks and weeks of preparation, research and hard work, we have finally completed the job and present you Progress Pond. I first announced the possibility that I’d be undertaking this project in a site announcement at Booman Tribune on August 28, 2018. In that post, I told you that my server was old and that my hosting company would not guarantee they would be able to find replacement parts if (or when) it broke. I urgently needed to migrate the database to a new server because there was a risk that we’d lose everything we created together since Booman Tribune was launched on March 13, 2005. As of today, and after we purged some obvious spam that had accumulated over the years, the database holds 56,258 articles and 919,211 comments. That’s a lot of stuff to lose!
My first priority was preservation. But I also needed to decide what to do, if anything, going forward. Migrating to a new server was going to be a significant expense, and I had several other concerns. The old site was built on the same software that originally powered pioneering blog community sites MyDD and Daily Kos. It was horribly outdated, had inadequate security, and was totally unsuited for how people drive traffic to blogs in our current era. Nothing about it was suited to driving up search ranking or encouraging people to share the content on social media. Many of the features were either obsolete or had fallen into disuse. As with all blogs, with each passing year the advertising revenue was further diminished, and it had reached a point where unexpected expenses, like fending off malicious hackers, was putting me below the break-even point. If I was going to invest any money, I needed to come out the other end with a modern site that had a chance of compensating me for my work.
The problem with accomplishing those goals was that the database was not only enormous but it was not compatible with simple available scripts for importing to new platforms like WordPress. It would require dozens of hours of programming time to move the old site to a new site while preserving the history and functionality. That’s not the kind of expense I could expect to recoup just by having better page rankings and more social media sharing. The solution was to emulate what many others are doing these days, and move to a subscriber system. The new site is a bit like Talking Points Memo in the sense that most of the content is free but some things will only be available to people who are willing to support this enterprise by upping their membership level.
But before I talk about the subscriptions, I want to linger for a bit on what we’ve accomplished for all Booman Tribune members. Even after purging the database of tens of thousands of suspect accounts, there are still 219,972 users from the old site. All of them have been granted a free membership to Progress Pond. A free membership comes with the ability to comment on articles, and access to any stories or comments you (or others) may have submitted over the last fourteen years. To sign in, you just use the same UserID and password you’ve been using to sign in at Booman Tribune. It’s like magic!
This took a herculean effort. It took me several months to find a programmer who would even guarantee that they could pull it off given my budget constraints. Not only that, but we’ve added featured art for a subset of these posts. We ran a script based on certain keywords, and when we got the right kind of match, some default art was added to the post. Even better, all the old urls will direct to new Progress Pond urls, so people can find your stuff on Google, but now it will look better and be more sharable.
The subscriptions are tiered like Affordable Care Act insurance plans with bronze, silver and gold options. All of the options will allow you to read to everything I write, including my complete analysis of the upcoming 2020 presidential primaries and general elections. All of the options will give you access to some new features that you can find in your user profile, including adding your own personal blogroll, displaying your Twitter feed, following or being followed by other users, and sending private messages to each other. The Silver Plan will eliminate some ads, while the Gold Plan will eliminate all of them.
For now, the Prime content will be similar to what you’re familiar with, although I will probably explore a wider range of topics than just politics and you may see a little more intemperate language (like in the old days) than you’ll see in the free material. If the subscriber model is successful and I can invest, I may include more exclusive content like Podcasts and interviews.
Over the years, hundreds of you have responded to requests for donations, and many of you are already recurring donors. Without that support, I would have been forced to close up this shop many years ago. You did all of that out of the goodness of your own hearts because it didn’t get you anything extra or special. I can’t thank you enough for that.
I always felt a little sheepish about asking for something without giving anything specific in return. With the new subscription offer, I can feel a little more comfortable knowing that supporters are getting extra content, cool new features, and an ad-free experience.
I know some donors never became members and may not want to become members now. I also know that some people are wary of doing online transactions. This is why I still have other options for supporting the site. You can use snail mail if you want. Just send the envelope to:
P.O. Box 1080
Malvern, Pennsylvania 19355
You can also still use PayPal, which is how I’ve traditionally done transactions, but I’ve also added a CashApp option, too. If you use these alternatives to the subscription system, please make sure to note whether you want a subscription or not, and make sure to include your user name.
Back in March 2019, I asked you a Serious Question about how long you’ve been reading Booman Tribune and if you could remember how you originally found yourself in the Frog Pond. There was an outpouring of kind comments in response, and it really reinforced to me how special the place we built together has been over the years. It has been a very unique part of the blogosphere, known more than anything else for the intelligence and civility of the community. There are countless people who contributed to that by playing a part in the formative years of the site, but no one was more instrumental than Diane Eller (Diane 101). Unfortunately, she passed away in September 2017. I wrote an homage to her role in this community here and I also discuss that history at length in the inaugural Progress Pond iteration of the Froggy Bottom Cafe & Lounge.
The Cafe & Lounge has been such a critical part of this community since the early days that I knew I needed to preserve it. For those of you are an unfamiliar with it, it has always been a virtual space where site members can relax and take a break from political discussion. New members are especially invited to visit. You can introduce yourself, ask questions and (once I write it) find the member user manual. Heavy political discussion is generally discouraged in the Cafe; frivolity is more the order of the day.
The Cafe operates from 6am to 6pm (Eastern Time) and the lounge is open at night. Every Friday, the space converts into the Foto Flog, which is a place to share your favorite photographs and enjoy the photos submitted by other users. On Saturdays, the Cafe is often operated by longtime user boran2, who shares his progress with his latest paintings. You can enter the Froggy Bottom Cafe by clicking on the front-page icon in the upper-right margin. If you want to rent out the space for some event, whether for the traditional coffee house poetry reading or some disco dance party, just ask and I’m sure something can be arranged. I doubt there will be any charge. In reality, the place is just a thread like any other, but it’s always open to offer a thirsty traveler a drink 🍺 and a bite to eat 🥪.
It wasn’t an easy decision for me to commit to creating this place. It comes with a lot of personal risk. It will only work out well if there are enough of you willing to support this project to keep it afloat. I’m hoping that the low cost of membership (the cheapest tier is $4.99/mo) will encourage you to lend a hand. After all, a basic monthly Netflix subscription is almost twice as much.
Whether you become a subscriber or not, and whether you actively engage with the community here or remain a lurker, I really hope you like these new digs. You can also support the site by sharing your favorite material with your friends and followers, and that will be easier now than ever before.
With that, I hope all you old members can sign in and the curious can create new accounts. Come on in and announce yourself in the Cafe. Welcome to Progress Pond. It’s time to christen this joint and start the newest leg in this journey!