Topic: Our three options

Hey all,

As you're probably all aware by now, Daniel and Chris have requested that the technical support team Euan had put together cease work on MARS immediately and have recommenced development of it themselves with a view to leasing it to us in September.

It's my understanding that we have three options:

1. Accept the lease on the (no doubt very generous) terms they'll offer us.
2. Decline the lease and develop our own system.
3. Accept the lease on a temporary basis while commencing work on our own system for ultimate implimentation.

Chris and Daniel kindly prepared a statement in favour of option 1, and I've got some thoughts on the pros of options 2 and 3.

"The upside of option 1 is that it would allow greater co-operation between us and Pheonix Roleplay and would provide the ability for your members to go about their roleplaying safe in the knowledge that if there are problems they will not need to deal with them. This allows you to follow the principle that you would rather people roleplay that take up government positions. We would be on hand almost 24 hours a day, 7 days a week 365 days a year to provide technical support to Pheonix Roleplay and we would work on upgrades steadily, listening to what suggestions you might have and trying to implement them. Creating a system from scratch coudl take your team months as they would have to learn everything from scratch, we have the experience from what we have learnt, and we are positive we can get this system operational in a short time.

"So while option 2 rejecting our offer and have your own team make it, may seem like the best bet, It may not be. As it could take months for them to get something off the ground, not to mention bug fixing etc. Option 3 would be almost like a slap to the face for us, and possibly damaging to our self esteem as we may think that what we had worked on tirelessly was not suitable for you or that you do not trust us."

Here are my thoughts.

Initially I favoured the middle option of Option 3 - accepting the lease from September and getting us onto a message-and-reply system as soon as possible, but without us being dependant on an outside technical support team in the long term. Those are the advantages of Option 3 as I see it.

Option 2 involves less stopping and starting than Option 3. If we accept the MARS lease in September, only to move again in November or December or January or whenever the technical support team are able to complete work on a new system - our own system - it'll be more stopping and starting, more learning a new thing, more "breaking and making camp" if you see what I mean. As in, people have just finished hammering in the tent pegs on this forum (we're getting a feel for the place)... to break camp for a temporary MARS site and then break camp again for our permanent home seems unwise when we could simply stay in this current forum we're almost used to just a while longer and make one last move to our permanent home once we've built it. So Option 2 seems to deal with the cons of Option 3 in my opinion.

But... this isn't my decision to make! I said at the start of this journey we're all on together that we weren't going to be about 'Decisions' (with a capital D) from above, but we're going to be about putting the power with the people. So in the interests of consistency with this revolutionary new approach we're pioneering, I think it's only fair we have a discussion and we have a vote.

I've set the poll to finish in 14 days. Daniel tells me DDC won't be developing MARS until they know whether we're going to use it or not (because it's obviously a bit of a waste of their time developing it if we say no), so I estimate the completion date of MARS to be maybe the end of September, so a 14 day poll seems enough time to discuss and vote, without delaying so long we're wasting time.

Sorry for the long post!

Ash

Last edited by Ash Leighton Plom (2010-09-01 16:29:43)

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Re: Our three options

My only problem with Option 1 is that it forces us to rely entirely on a third party to keep our system up. And since Chris and David have already quit the project once (due to RL concerns, as I recall) it's certainly possible that it could happen again, and we'd be left with a code that isn't ours, that we can't manage ourselves, and we'd have to start all over again. That's not to say I don't trust them to do a great job, or that I blame them for having to deal with issues far more important than a game, it's just an inconvenience that I think we could avoid by having a whole team that's responsible for (and competent with) our system.

However, seeing as I definitely do not have time in my life right now to undertake such a massive project (nor do I foresee this changing any time in the near future) I'm hesitant to make a decision without knowing how the other technical people in our midst feel about this. Obviously Option 2 depends on people like Euan being willing to devote the time and effort to creating a new system from scratch.

So, to sum things up, I'm voting for Option 2 under the assumption that we can handle such an undertaking, but otherwise I'm willing to go with whatever our best option turns out to be.

Re: Our three options

I'm holding off on voting at the moment. What is involved in the lease of MARS? While a potential fundraising campaign might help pay for site fees, we cannot pretend to be in a position to keep anyone employed even on a part time basis. This has been a volunteer process thus far. And I don't know if there are many deep pockets amongst us to supply more than a token offering, let alone in any common currency.

If we can get paid advertising to cover some costs that would be lovely, but we hardly have a base of viewers to make that a viable campaign for any company.

If this is a promotional lease to get their system working and use Phoenix as a showcase to induce other groups to subscribe for their services, I have no problem with them owning the code.

-Kevin

Re: Our three options

We made it perfectly clear that you WILL NOT be paying for mars. We only said, that if your technical team wants to take full control of the code, with no outside help, then you will pay a fee. As technically we would lose control of our code.

So basically, it would be;

  • Free License - For you to use,

  • Paid License - For you to change any of the coding and maintain yourself.

Last edited by Daniel Taylor (2010-08-21 06:59:48)

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Re: Our three options

Thanks Daniel for providing us with this information - that makes the decision easy in my mind.

To mirror Nicole, I too will not have the time on my hands for such an undertaking as I am returning to school in only a few short days.

I shared the same feelings as Kevin on the subject, but since we have the option of a Free License, then I'm all for using MARS.

~Robert

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Re: Our three options

A free license makes sense. I appologise if I misuderstood. The word lease comes up and in my work that means money. If they want to make the code, then they certainly have the right to own it. I would want the lease to maintian that we have an ongoing license into perpetuity so long as no substantive changes are made to the original code.  But it sounds like a very generous offer.

-Kevin

Re: Our three options

With that clarification being made, it seems silly to not go with the free lease.

1.  As a community I think we are more interested in simply playing the games than maintain the code. This would free us of this.
2.  It would allow Daniel and crew to continue developing their code, adding new features etc. with the goal of perhaps selling it to other folks down the line.  We would be able to provide them with a pool of players to help test new features, see how it works, bug hunt, and act as an advertising point for them if we have a thriving community.  This seems like it would be mutually beneficial.
3. Especially in light of them offering to let us use the code, they provide support, and they continue development all for free  - it would be extremely insulting to spurn that gift. I'm admittedly overly polite but it would genuinely bother me to give that insult.

As for money issues, I imagine we will be fund raising anyhow to raise cash for server space. Why add coding to that list as well?


In summary, I say take the free lease.

It would be nice however if there was some kind of agreement that if they were going to take down the MARS system entirely and move on to a different project they would be willing to give us the source so it wouldn't break our games and we could at least have a starting point for supporting it ourselves.

Re: Our three options

How much would a paid lease cost?

Re: Our three options

There will be three versions;

  • Basic - Free (Only includes the basic MARS system)

  • Standard - £40 (MARS + an Integrated Forum and basic CMS)

  • Pro - £100 (MARS + an Integrated forum and full CMS)

Basically the CMS will be your homepage, etc, forums are for OOC and then MARS is for RPing. And all this will have a single login and registering system.

As we are so generous and the fact your the first people who are going to use MARS we will be giving you the Pro version for FREE. However, as it is free, we will be the ones editing the code, because ... well you never paid for it ^_^. We will be adding new features and other stuff at members request.

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Re: Our three options

Daniel Taylor wrote:

There will be three versions;

  • Basic - Free (Only includes the basic MARS system)

  • Standard - £40 (MARS + an Integrated Forum and basic CMS)

  • Pro - £100 (MARS + an Integrated forum and full CMS)

Basically the CMS will be your homepage, etc, forums are for OOC and then MARS is for RPing. And all this will have a single login and registering system.

As we are so generous and the fact your the first people who are going to use MARS we will be giving you the Pro version for FREE. However, as it is free, we will be the ones editing the code, because ... well you never paid for it ^_^. We will be adding new features and other stuff at members request.

Then I'd like to make the first request (pending the final decision on your offer for a free lease) that we have a voting booth designed - testing available as soon as you are ready for it to be tested! ^_^

~Robert Longtin
Election Coordinator   ^_^

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Re: Our three options

The only problem I foresee with accepting a lease from outside Phoenix, free or not, is that it ties us once more to an outside agency, just like we were tied in AJJE.

I've voted to develop our own system, regardless of how long it takes, rather than move again to a temporary home or be dependent on others.

I am not unhappy here in this temp forum - it isn't that bad at all - and I'd rather spend longer here developing out own system then move once to a proper site intact and in control of our own destinies. We didn't go through the pain of leaving AJJE for nothing - let's strive for the best we can be and make Phoenix a true democracy.

Deb

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Re: Our three options

I agree with Deborah. No disrespect to Chris and Daniel, but I don't want to be totally reliant on an outside agency.

Re: Our three options

Agreed Silent, and especially as Chris and Daniel have now rejoined AJJE I'd feel more comfortable with being self-sufficient.

Deb

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Re: Our three options

Well I have something to say regarding what you have said Deborah,

I find it uncomfortable that you don't trust me and Dan enough to be able to keep our Roleplaying and game development/software development seperate.

If at the end of the day your members choose to take MARS, will you accept that ruling or will you try and appeal it?

Re: Our three options

Lol, it's a democracy here Chris, unlike in AJJE, so whatever the majority of members decide will happen.

Deborah

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Re: Our three options

As much as I appreciate the generosity of both Chris and Dan's willingness to lease us MARS for free I've voted for creating our own system for the same reason's Deb has stated. Relying on an outside source can lead to problems down the line. That's not an attack on Chris or Dan, it's just a precaution in case of something unforeseen. For example, and this is not pointing blame at anyone as this was certainly not Chris or Dan's fault, but with the situation with DDC Games server shutting down we were relying on an outside source and for unforeseen reasons it didn't work out. That was what brought us to this forum and the creation of Phoenix RPG's. While relying on an outside source may never lead to problem's it still leaves us open for them if something were to happen, but having our own system lessen those risks because it will belong to the site so we would always have someone around to handle any problems.

-Mike

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Re: Our three options

Don't take me the wrong way here,

But your always going to have to rely on someone else, like right now, your relying on Euan Reid to host this forum, who is possibly relying on a webhost.

Then when you get your own webhost, you will need to rely on them for complete tech support in regards to anything that they give, eg. Mysql, actual space and whether their services are down.

So at the end of the day, you cant get away from being reliant on somebody else its a fact of life.

Re: Our three options

We may always have to rely on outside sources for certain things, but if we have our own team in charge of the technical aspects of the game, we can at least alleviate some of the risk. If we have multiple people with backups of the site and the code, for instance, we can prevent what happened with DDC. If we have multiple people with access to the code, then even if one or more of us have to leave the project, there's still someone available to support us and keep us going.

If there was some stipulation in the lease that would allow us to take over the MARS system should Chris and Daniel have to stop supporting it, then I would be more willing to vote for that. But I know that's a pretty unreasonable request.

I just think it would be a better idea for the system we use to be owned by the club, and not by any individual people. Obviously the people responsible would take due credit for their work, but ultimately the code would belong to everyone - sort of like an open source system, rather than a lease.

Nicole

Last edited by Nicole Rennolds (2010-08-22 18:54:00)

Re: Our three options

Nicole Rennolds wrote:

We may always have to rely on outside sources for certain things, but if we have our own team in charge of the technical aspects of the game, we can at least alleviate some of the risk. If we have multiple people with backups of the site and the code, for instance, we can prevent what happened with DDC. If we have multiple people with access to the code, then even if one or more of us have to leave the project, there's still someone available to support us and keep us going.

If there was some stipulation in the lease that would allow us to take over the MARS system should Chris and Daniel have to stop supporting it, then I would be more willing to vote for that. But I know that's a pretty unreasonable request.

I just think it would be a better idea for the system we use to be owned by the club, and not by any individual people. Obviously the people responsible would take due credit for their work, but ultimately the code would belong to everyone - sort of like an open source system, rather than a lease.

Nicole

I concur - the less that is outsourced, the better the organization, or in this case the better the website. While accepting the lease should be viewed as a partnership between Chris, Dan, and Phoenix Roleplaying, it makes Phoenix Roleplaying less capable by itself, and I believe that the feelings being shared are in light of a group desire to strengthen Phoenix Roleplaying. I for one would like to accept the lease on MARS for the short-term until we can build a system exclusively for Phoenix Roleplaying, at which time we will be better able to handle whatever fate has in store for us since technical problems and necessary evolution of the code will be within our realm of control.

Until such time, we would need to have a system and I would like MARS to be the system in place until we can have our own system. This will give Chris and Dan the ability to test their code and to improve upon it while we all can enjoy some gaming in the meantime.

~Robert

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Re: Our three options

Great points on both sides of the coin. Pros and cons to whatever decision is made. I have nothing relevant to add, other than this seems like a pivotal point for the club's future and should not be a decision made lightly (as if any decision this group could make would be a light one, even if it should be... heh heh)

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Re: Our three options

Jason Andersen wrote:

Great points on both sides of the coin. Pros and cons to whatever decision is made. I have nothing relevant to add, other than this seems like a pivotal point for the club's future and should not be a decision made lightly (as if any decision this group could make would be a light one, even if it should be... heh heh)

I agree with that entirely. It's a key decision.

Re: Our three options

I actually have a question.

Do we have folks with the ability to code a system to our needs? Do those folks have the time to invest in such a project? 

I know absolutely nothing about coding, editing, or maintaining code.  I have moderated forums in the past but never anything that involved going beyond standard moderator tools.

Because if we have a few people willing to invest the time, energy, and whatnot into developing the code then I don't want to stand in the way of use doing our own thing.  I just feel odd saying "Yes let's make our own code... but I can't contribute at all." Seems like I'd be volunteering someone else to work. lol

I could see sticking with the forum for as long as needed to devise something... but it needs more folks.  Having 3 people playing in the Star Trek sim is kind of strange and diminishes a desire to really do a whole lot - simply due to lack of people and story.  (Admittedly I am spoiled in that the very first sim I played online was on Aker's and it had a pretty active storyline going on).

                     -Ryan

Re: Our three options

Quite a tricky call. MARS is sounding very tempting, but at the same time I'd want to be avoiding relying on outside organisations any more than necessary. I think it would come down to the terms of the license - if it's along the lines of "DDC Games leases MARS to Phoenix indefinitely. Modifications to the code will be the exclusive province of DDC Games." I'd see it being acceptable. And potentially a clause like Nicolle suggested, just in case Dan and Chris decide to stop running DDC - maybe "In the event DDC Games ceases development of MARS, Phoenix is granted permission for the Technical Coordinator to update the code, with the understanding that should DDC resume development Phoenix will provide a copy of their updates to DDC." or somesuch.

Re: Our three options

Euan Reid wrote:

And potentially a clause like Nicolle suggested, just in case Dan and Chris decide to stop running DDC - maybe "In the event DDC Games ceases development of MARS, Phoenix is granted permission for the Technical Coordinator to update the code, with the understanding that should DDC resume development Phoenix will provide a copy of their updates to DDC." or somesuch.

That is a real sticky point, though, Euan. If Dan and Chris decide to stop running it and the code is maintained/improved by others during their absence, it becomes difficult to tell that person that did the development work when Dan/Chris come back all of that work is "lost" to them. This essentially becomes development work done for free.

The clause would be better stated that if Dan & Chris walk away, the code becomes open source (and therefore unable to be "taken back" if others put time and effort into it) - or some other arrangement made (branching the source, etc). That's assuming that Dan and/or Chris would even agree to releasing the source in the first place.

This potentially gets into a HUGE ball of legalize and for hard feelings on both sides of the coin. It's a very tricky path to walk successfully.

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Re: Our three options

Jason Andersen wrote:

That is a real sticky point, though, Euan. If Dan and Chris decide to stop running it and the code is maintained/improved by others during their absence, it becomes difficult to tell that person that did the development work when Dan/Chris come back all of that work is "lost" to them. This essentially becomes development work done for free.

The clause would be better stated that if Dan & Chris walk away, the code becomes open source (and therefore unable to be "taken back" if others put time and effort into it) - or some other arrangement made (branching the source, etc). That's assuming that Dan and/or Chris would even agree to releasing the source in the first place.

This potentially gets into a HUGE ball of legalize and for hard feelings on both sides of the coin. It's a very tricky path to walk successfully.

I don't think it's fair to ask them to give the code up to us for any reason, even if it's because they're leaving - they've developed it as a potentially commercial product, and want to be able to sell/lease it in the future. And even if they did agree to let us take over temporarily, as Jason said, it's unfair to anyone who takes over the project, because at any moment Chris and Dan could come back and those people would lose all of their work.

I think the most difficult part of this is that MARS isn't being developed for us, it's being developed as a standalone product. And even though Chris and Dan are being extremely generous with their lease terms, at the end of the day it's their code, not ours, and I don't see any way to modify the lease terms in a way that would make both groups comfortable. Either it's completely their product and we would not under any circumstances be able to take it over, or it's part of the Phoenix Games system and they'd have a hard time selling/leasing it to anyone else in the future.

As to Ryan's question: do we have anyone willing to work on this? I'm uncomfortable committing to such a huge project on my own, but, if maybe one or two other people wanted to work on it with me (a tech team, as Euan had proposed before) I would volunteer to help with development.

Nicole