Project Bacon: Rebuilding the Feeders Feed from the ground up

When DM in DM mentioned that Cover-it-Live (CIL) was going to start charging $50 a month for our feed, due to a new pricing structure (what previously had been free) - The gears in my head started spinning.

You see, I have a hosted web service, and plenty of capacity and bandwidth to support another website. If we could find a suitable piece of software, that could provide similar capibilities to CIL, I could provide the space to make it work.

Then I got to thinking - The Feeders Feed currently is on 4 separate services (CIL for the main Feed, ProBoards for the Forums, ChatAnGo for the Lounge and GoDaddy for the main website). What if I could pull it all together onto a single website with seamless operation amongst the systems?

DM was concerned with the integration between GoDaddy and my system - and I responded that I was "thinking much bigger" - along with an early build of the new website.

I also found out the ProBoards founders are serious Obama supporters, and have written some fine print legalese in their terms of service that basically trapped you there, and trying to escape their bonds was grounds for them to terminate your service.

The origins of "Project: Bacon"

Knowing that most of the work would be done in secret to the rest of the Feeders, with only DM, TLan80, Dee and Mainer knowing what was going on - I started signing off the feed each night during "Real News from The Blaze" indicating I was going to work on the "project". After a few days, I decided to twist it up, and give it a code-name (like all technology companies, my daytime employer uses codenames for Research and Development projects, to prevent those not "in the know" from knowing what's being developed).

Turkey Leg, Wrapped in Sausage, Wrapped in Bacon

I chose "Project: Bacon" as a gag off of the frequent discussions on the Feeders Feed that somehow twist into something about bacon. It also is of a new product being offered at Kansas City's Worlds of Fun theme park - A turkey leg, wrapped in sausage, wrapped in bacon. The gag had the desired effect, spurring more curiosity and humor into the feed about my "secret project."

Groundbreaking

So what started as a simple plan to drop in a replacement for CIL evolved into an evolution of the entire site. The first choices were simple: A free bulletin board to replace ProBoards, and a Content Management System to make updating the site easy to manage for the non-technical amongst us.

I typically have built websites from scratch, using tools to build the look and feel without a lot of overhead. It was clear I couldn't do that this time, and quickly set about to learning the Content Management System for myself. 

A Forum runs through it...

Next was the Bulletin Board. I took one of the most popular, and begun researching how to get the posts from ProBoards onto it. I heard the horror stories online, and was left with only one viable option: copy the content manually out into a script that could import the messages into the new software.

20 hours, 3 unique applications, 2,046 lines of script covering 124 unique topics and 247 messages over 4 days produced a file that could salvage the board.

Making it Live:

The final step was sourcing a forum where the Feeders Feed could be held. A source was found, at a reasonable cost (In fact the UK company that makes it had it on sale for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, realizing us even more savings) - and it was integrated into the other components. Since the cost is per website, the same software was adapted for the Lounge, simplifying installation processes.

All said and done, I've invested more than 100 hours to this project over the last 4 weeks to make the new Feeders Feed work for us. While there is room for improvement, we can address other tweaks in the future now that the site is operational.