A Chronology of Witches of the World
The Hardware, the Software and the Dreams!
by Fritz Jung
6/1/2003 Note: We will be adding details related to the dramatic update to v8.0 in the near future. The copy below only tells the story of versions 1.0 thru 5.0 (there was never a v6)
6/10/2002 Note: We will be adding details related to the dramatic update to v7.0 in the near future. The copy below only tells the story of versions 1.0 thru 5.0 (there was never a v6)
How do we do this?
For three years we've been asked "how do we do the WOTW pages"? "What CGIs do we use"? etc. etc. We've always been glad to answer these questions and pass along any technologies that we've discovered or created. I use the term "We" throughout this page because although Wren doesn't do any of html and design at TWV she is involved in every step. I use "We" because YOUR thoughts, needs, and suggestions have helped to build this valuable section of the Witches' Voice. I will attempt to answer as many questions that I can remember in the following text.
What Makes ME Crazy?
Time ain't on this Witches side. What's left of me tries to keep this section exciting in my "spare time". I have always worked a 60 plus hour "high stress day job" to pay for much of what you see on WitchVox. Lack of time to work on this site IS what frustrates me the most. Bottom line is that WitchVox pays Wren and I ZERO but my career pays quite well. The slow technological growth of WOTW is directly related to lack of time. Ideas are easy, finding time to properly implement them isn't. This scenario is, no doubt, common to most of you. It really has to be a labor of love.
My career is that of a MIS/IT director for a 40 million dollar a year musical instrument retailer... I work in a 100% Windows 95/98/NT world. This means that I get to be "the man" for over a hundred windows boxes (all less than a year old, serving 240 users). I build them, purchase them, upgrade them, talk nicely to them, fight to keep them alive and "train them" to work to our Unix and NT servers. At home, we have a very powerful 300mhz Windows 98 box... Although we'd like to, we don't use it much! Wren and I choose Macintosh. Why? The operating system is both elegant and stable, they are very fast, the color is true, the screen fonts don't look like they were designed on a school bus AND we actually get work done on them. Our Internet connection is via a single RoadRunner modem which is networked to both Macs and the PC.
Oh Yes! The Chronology...
Evolving WOTW has been and exciting challenge and one that we are thrilled to be a part of. We have tried to make this chronology as accurate as possible but with our Crone years fast approaching, the following recollections are, in some cases, our best guess.
Version 1.0 (4/96 - 12/96)
The above chronology details a slow ride. Had we been able to do this full time, this chronology would have taken 6 months. We are still trying to find the time to implement 3 year old ideas... They are coming but not as fast as we'd like. As I said above, time never seems to be be on our side.
During our tenure with the WLPA, we flirted with early cgi scripts that would capture data and fire it off to us in email. We would then cut and paste the data into a single Witches of the World page. We evolved this to a version that was actually sorted by country and state on a single page. This page featured the 112 state and country reps of the WLPA. It was powerful and it was exciting!
Version 2.0 (2/97 - 12/97)
In December 96 we abruptly resigned from the WLPA and spent the next 5 weeks creating TWV from the ground up. One of our launch goals was to do a proper WOTW section, one that included all that wanted to be listed. This time we used the CGI forms to capture the data in tab delimited text file. This set the data up for input to a database at this end. That database was (and still is) the incredible FileMaker Pro. FileMaker gave us the power to sort, separate by location and after much work, actually craft the pages themselves. We would then FTP the pages up to our WebServer. Version 2 was an incredible success and rendered a listing of 5,000 of our brothers and sisters. We also introduced crude versions of shop listings and circles and events.
We had Created a monster!
It was big, but it sure wasn't (user) friendly.
Version 2.5 (1/98 - 7/98)
The challenge has never been to simply capture the names and author web pages. At the end of our first year with TWV, it became clear that we had many dead links and email addresses. The pages had to be weeded and systems need to be created to do this both automatically and on a regular basis. We used our quarterly global email to help with this. We discovered that 22% of our email links were dead and that it took about 20 hours to clean them up. We knew this was not a good long-term strategy. During this time we also used similar technology to introduce version 2.0 of our Circles and Events pages. We also added powerful add/change features in our forms.
Version 2.6 (8/98 - 12/98)
"Where can I find a Coven or a group in my area?" We had received this question over and over in email since 1996. With the database power we had evolved, we introduced "Covens and Groups" to much acclaim. In Q4 98 we evolved our multiple databases and did another quarterly cleansing ritual.
Version 3.0 (1/99 - 3/99)
With "Covens and Groups" coming on strong the next challenge was to integrate this (via auto links) along with the "Events and Shops" pages FROM the people pages. Though much pain we finally got these pieces together. We continued to evolve our submission forms AND composed a global verification system for our listings of "ongoing" events (The dated events expire automatically). This system helped to clean out ongoing events that weren't happening anymore. Another breakthrough in early January was finding a way to automatically verify dozens of our WOTW email addresses on a daily basis. Although, how we do this is a secrete, close to 3 thousand of you know why. The rest of you will find out soon.
Version 3.1 (4/1/99 - 4/22/99)
Earlier this month, we cut our entire "Major Pagan Festivals" section and the 8 detailed festival reviews out of the events section and into a section of its own. Major Pagan Festivals are growing dramatically and this year we expect offer you many reviews. This past week we separated our Events and Pagan Shops listings. They are now, respectfully in their own sections. In the past few days we worked hard on our SiteMap to better list the depth of the WOTW pages. Just yesterday, we (finally) redid the main index page for WOTW. It, like much of this site, has been redesigned for the constant growth of TWV.
Version 3.2 (4/23/99 - 5/30/99)
This month we enabled and configured a powerful FileMaker plug-in that will return all the data from the first page of any site that lists with us (directly to a field in our database). This is a bit of over kill for our needs BUT does one important thing... It tells us if a url is NOT found or dead link. This enables us to spider our listings and automatically unlist any site that is a "File NOT found or 404". We are proud to say that ALL 2,417 Web sites listed in the Pagan links section of TWV are "correct and for the good of all". We will verify all urls AS they come in and do a verify of all 2400 once a month.
Version 3.5 (6/1/99 - 6/19/99)
Major renovation and restructuring: During this period we pulled the Teen pagan listings off the the State pages in an effort to get some load time relief and to give the Young pagans a Witches of the World of their own. We also scripted alphabetizing beyond cities and now have the state contact listings alphabetized within the city/town listings BY name. We also enabled our Email change form to effect all listings beyond just the WOTW listings (groups, Web sites, shops and events).
Version 4.0 (7/1/99 - 7/10/99)
Version 4 was indeed a major update to our state and country pages. Many of the pages had gone out of control size wise and a rewrite was a necessity.
Version 4.0 changes, fixes and enhancements:
Faster Load Time on "Big Pages" This facelift regains control over the larger areas (California, Texas and 22 others). 24 States as well as Ontario, Canada and the United Kingdom have been broken up in 6 pages each, rendering a 70% improvement in load time.
Version 4.1 (7/9/99 - 7/11/99)
Poised for Future Growth: Code was written to automatically break out any state/prov/country page that hits 150 listings into 6 pages. We have also created the technology to break out the big areas even further when needed.
New Look and Feel: Version 4 is a total rewrite with a sidebar approach to related links. Graphics are leaner and the ugly (but necessary) anti-Spam details are prominently displayed on the side bar to minimize the "I didn't know it wasn't ok to spam this list" excuses.
Version Number Posted: With the advent of version 4 we are actually posting the version number so that YOU can help. If you notice and bugs or glitches feel free to email them directly to us.
Bug Fix: Problems with the length of the name "Australian Capitol Territory" have been fixed once and for all by renaming this area and its links... ACT. Our apologies to our Australian brothers and sisters from this area for the problems in the past.
The feedback from the 4.0 upgrade was most encouraging. This week we did some more polishing and squashed a few bugs. Some changes include; Those not listed on our Countries pages have a listing on our new "other countries" page. Countries other than the US, Canada and Australia NOW have a graphic symbol for their area and the United Kingdom Pages now feature a beautiful flag to mark their spot (courtesy of 3dflags.com).
Version 5.0 (Sept. 11th., 2000)
The technology used for the last three years had run its course and it became time to rewrite WOTW from the ground up. Version 5.0 was a "back to the drawing board upgrade" and basically a "do over". We are very excited about this new foundation and the hundreds of tweaks and changes in its initial release... For details on version 5.0 visit the Version 5.0 Features page.
Why we don't use CGIs to run WOTW...
For us, they just aren't flexible enough. We do use cgi's to capture the submission data but after that our databases do the brunt of the work. CGIs could do the job for us, but we'd have to be brilliant at PERL programming. There best example of this would be the incredible Tina of Avatarsearch.com (a true "Brainiac from Smartron). Tina doesn't adapt or modify CGIs, she CREATES them and along with her Java skills, has rendered the most powerful occult search engine in the world.
CGI scripts HAVE come along dramatically and are available for FREE all over the net. Many Pagan sites have put them to good use. The primo web stop for getting cgis is Matt's Scripts. He features scripts for events, calendars, shopping cart retail, voting, auctions, chat rooms and guest books (Wren's Nest itself is a simple guest book script). These scripts come with simple instructions, you set them up and tweak them to match your sites look and feel. This Webcrafter is constantly flirting with cgis but for me they always come up short. Simply stated they don't offer the flexibility of a true database. Wren and I have been talking about redoing our "Quest for Unity" surveys but the voting cgi's (although quite cool) simply don't give us the features we are looking for or any integration with our databases.
The Future of WOTW...
These past three years have been very exciting and Wren and I have enjoyed evolving this section of TWV. The only true control is SERVER level control (true search capabilities, dynamic listing changes, real time email/weblink verification)! It's been our dream and someday it will come true. Other plans for WOTW include, intelligent image integration, RealAudio/Video listings and lots and lots of "little secrets".
In short WOTW has been quite the rewarding experience for Wren and I... Witches of the World HAS helped thousands of Witches, Wiccans and Pagans to connect, start groups, celebrate the holidays, fall in love, and to share their knowledge via Websites and chat lists. The focus at TWV has always been on community strengthening AT the local level. It is our belief that the real power of the Modern Pagan movement happens in the cities and towns of the World.
Every day we give thanks to you!
YOU ARE the Witches, Wiccans and Pagans of the World!
These pages are for YOU!
My the love of the Lady be always in your heart,
In Your Service,
WorkerBee - Witchvox
Thursday - January 29, 2015