What, another new logo for you all to argue about? Hell yes! Thanks to Astro0 for the lovely 100k icon to drop in there to celebrate something of a milestone! No, it doesn't say 100,000 posts, so yes, it might not be obvious to everyone. Before you comment...just remember - IT'S JUST A LOGO... so, moving on.
Currently, the UMSF admin page reads 101441 posts. The secret admin section has about 1800 posts, the total number of posts made is more like 108,000. It depends how you slice it - but which ever way you look at it, we have either reached, are about to reach or have long since reached the 100,000 posts mark. So to everyone who's made one or more 0.001% contribution to that - thank you, well done, nice one, etc etc
Meanwhile, post 1 of UMSF ( at that time, mer.rlproject.com ) was made on Feb 8th 2004 - just under 3 weeks till the 4th anniversary!
This, combined with a bit of a spike in the forum performance thread seemed like a sensible point at which to think about how UMSF works, where it's going, and - most importantly - how to pay for it.
We're going to have issues in a few months - the Phoenix landing is probably going to make UMSF a bit of a nightmare performance wise. There's not really anything we can do between now and then (although we'll going to try) - but before we know it, it'll be MSL, LRO, Dawn, Rosetta, Messenger, hell, New Horizons. What we want to get in place before it all goes crazy, is a dedicated server. A box of our own. At my place of work we recently upgraded from a normal hosing package not too different to the one UMSF runs on - up to a dedicated server. The difference is night and day. Not only would a dedicated server mean UMSF was 'in our own hands' performance wise, but it would be a lot faster, probably more reliable, and we'd have the ability to do a few interesting projects we've talked about in Admin HQ (talking about those can wait)
I have always said, and the admin team (thanks for the input guys) agrees - UMSF will never have a subscription model. UMSF will always be available for people to view and contribute to, for free - not to mention that from an administrative perspective, we can do what we want with a 'member' - but a 'customer' has to be treated in a different way, a way we don't want to go down. We do, however, need a big old chunk of cash to pay for dedicated hosting. Something like £1500 per year, about 10x what it costs now. The odd casual donation has covered UMSF to date with a bit left over to do fun things like send 2000 Sols posters and Birthday cards to the MER team to thank them for their hard work. But now we need a lot more - this is the plan.
We want to switch to a dedicated hosting solution 12 months from now - and we want a years worth of hosting money ready, in the bank, by then. People have often said "I'd pay XX'. We've steered away from a begathon in the past - but not any more. We want the membership of UMSF to have donated £1000 in the next 12 months. We've reached 100,000 posts - I think we can scrape together a penny for every one of them. I'll be adding the donate button to the forum footer in a few moments. It operates in £'s not $'s - as UMSF while centered on US subjects, is a UK institution which will have a UK bank account.
You can do the maths any way that you want - there's about 1300 members. If one in ten donates £10 - we'll be way over the target. If the top 50 members do £20 each, we're sorted. Do the maths, grab your bank card, and do it. Don't feel guilty if you can't. I know what it's like to not have £10 to send off like that, so if you can't - don't, and don't feel guilty. Just keep being a member of the community, that's input enough for anyone. But if you can, then please think about it.
James Canvin and I are going to sort out a proper UMSF bank account here in the UK to transfer the donations in to, and to operate the place from. It'll be transparant - I'll keep a running total here of how much money we've got, how much things cost. If we're totally honest with you, you will hopefully be more generous in your donations.
We're also looking at a few other revenue streams. The Cafe Press store is a nice novelty, but it doesn't generate a great deal of money - not will it ever do so. What might make some cash is if we cut out the middle man and do something ourselves. What would you be inclined to buy (I'm thinking an embroidered patch, an enamel badge) and for what sort of price. I'm also trying to put together a DVD (with ElkGroveDan's generous help) of some early MER live footage from JPL which we'll be selling at some point this year - it'd be nice to see how many people might like that. Google ads are not worth the hassle, but we're not against the concept of a 'support by' sponsoring oraganisation and that's something we're looking at as well.
So - there it is - by UMSF's 5th birthday, I think we can be moving to our own server, with a faster forum, a more certain future, and the opportunity to do some cool projects to make it a more interesting and useful place!
As ever, thanks to the admin team for their advice and support. We're at £105.11 already - £894.89 to go!
Update - a PayPal donate button has been added to the forum footer. It's down the bottom right corner. That's the easiest way to donate. If you don't use paypal, then it's either cold hard cash ( can get anything exchanged, so no problem) in the post ( send me a PM for the address ) - or a cheque (but can only really take those in £'s).
Update 2 - One person's asked about charitable status and US tax law. Because I'm a Brit, and UMSF is based in £'s - I'm not even sure that is possible unfortunately. If there's a US accounting guru who knows the rules and regs on that one, get in touch.
Update 3 - One exceptionally generous UMSF members has offered to match every £1 of donation between now, and the 1st Anniverary of the New Horizons Jupiter Flyby ( Feb 28th ) - so every pound you donate, is worth TWO to UMSF! With that amazing offer, we hope to hit a grand total of £1500 by the end of February, and we will try, if we can, to move to a dedicated server much MUCH sooner than we thought!