So, we've had an unruly member complain to NING of possible copyright infringements so that now we have their eyes upon us. Furthermore it seems that NING is getting ready to possibly meld all NING social networks into one big general network like Mein Space or Facebook. Facing dissolution into a sea of directionless general claptrap our friendly neighborhood administrator, Adap2k, has asked me to write up a blog on some ideas I had to move us offshore at a reasonable price. No doubt, many of you will have some input on how to make such a move or whether it should even be done for that matter. The only sure thing at this point is we should all take a minute to put our two cents in on this discussion figure out what we want to do.
Here is one possibility:
There is a website similar to the American freelancing service guru.com called getafreelancer.com
run based in Lidkoping Sweden which, unlike guru, is very open to all-comers from around the world. Most buyers are from the US, UK, and Australia. Most providers are from India, Eastern Europe, Asia, etc. So, yes, I am suggesting outsourcing here. Our current situation may require it as much as we may hate the idea.
Get a Freelancer (GAF for short) has many Eastern European, and Indian rip-off artists among both their providers and buyers, as you might well imagine but the GAF system has a few features that allow for such people to be avoided most of the time if you're smart about how you deal with others there.
First of all the GAF escrow system allows for project fees to be held in an escrow account. For those of you who are unfamiliar with escrow this means that the buyer puts the agreed upon project fee into a GAF account where it is held until the end of the project. Once the account is loaded the buyer cannot get the money back without the provider's approval and the provider can't get at it without the buyer's approval. When a project goes well the provider does the work, sends it to the buyer, and the buyer releases the funds in the escrow account funds to the provider. If a project goes bad they can either agree on a distribution of funds and release the appropriate amounts to each other or take it to GAF for arbitration after a sort of online mini-trial where each side makes it case and GAF makes the final judgement. In this case the funds may be tied up for weeks or even months as the case is resolved but eventually the money will be disbursed as GAF sees fit. This alone does not guarantee a smooth transaction but it keeps the worst offenders from getting away with anything as long as it gets used. I is also common for larger projects to be split into split into a work/pay schedule where partial payments are released to the provider upon reaching certain milestones in the project. Payments in advance should never be considered wise.
Another way to help assure your getting a decent provider is to start off by using a few small test projects to see the work that a few different providers can do and how easy it is to communicate with them. Some can be discounted immediately based upon the broken English used when placing their bids. Once a provider is selected for a small test project you will have their contact info from GAF and can have a teleconference with them through Skype for a few minutes of online face to face time, otherwise you may never know if you are really dealing with a large indian company, a fourty year old independent freelancer or a smart but cocky and inexperienced 16 year old in an internet cafe in Bangladesh.
The last big safety feature is their rating and feedback system - pretty much like you might have seen on eBay or other sites. Using a provider who has completed 300 projects with only occasional complaints in their feedback on GAF is generally safer and more a bit more expensive, Using someone who has not yet been rated at all or has a significant amount of bad feedback is generally riskier and cheaper.
The competition for projects on the GAF system is very intense however and even good well rated overseas providers often work very cheaply.
So, If we want to move this site we will first and foremost need someone who can build us a an implementation of the open social networking platform that NING is based on. It would have less features to begin with of course but over time additional features could be added as separate small projects by the original provider (assuming the work has been adequate so far). I think GAF is going to be the cheapest way to get this done.
First we would need to know exactly what we want so the providers know exactly what they are expected to deliver for an initial bare bones site. Which of the features of the current site are most important to us? What can we live without for a little while? How much storage space and bandwidth do we need for the current site with room for future expansion? Will we be able to get an .iso backup image of the site from NING when the time comes?
Next perhaps a $30 test project where we simply lay out the scope of the full project and award the project fee to the bidder with the best over all itemized proposal including porting current content over to the new site, and yearly hosting.
I've looked at many offshore hosts lately and I'm convinced that a package deal with the same provider who builds the site is probably the way to go.
It's only a guestimate but I think we could probably find a decent provider who could pull off the initial move for somewhere between $350 and $500 with the first year of hosting included along with the initial barebones site and maybe $120 a year for hosting thereafter. Additional features thereafter could be achieved in small $30 - $100 projects as required.
So how would we fund this? I suppose we could all sell flowers at the airport like hare krishnas but the initial funding would most likely have to come from member donations. Either that or possibly fade away forever which would be one hell of a shame in my not so humble opinion.
Personally I can offer time and talent to help make this all happen but unless I hit a windfall $5.00 or $10.00 donations are all I will conceivably be able to squeeze screaming out of my grocery money any time soon. So we probably need to take a pole / pledge drive to determine how much we might be able to scrape up on short notice amongst those of us who are willing and able to help fund our continued existence as a community.
How to fund future maintenance and expansion (ads. t-shirt sales, selling cups at other peoples keggers?) can probably wait a bit for now.
So what do you all think? Should we try this? Do you have other suggestions or alternatives?