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Moving forward with Composr

ocPortal has been relaunched as Composr CMS, which is now in beta. ocPortal 9 will be superseded by Composr 10.

Head over to compo.sr for our new site, and to our migration roadmap. Existing ocPortal member accounts have been mirrored.


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Posted
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#23773 (In Topic #5708)
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25 days ago I announced that I would be leaving my full-time role at ocProducts due to a lack of revenue, and that as a result, ocProducts would have no full-time staff and thus would have to change it's business activities.

It happened, and we cut the level of support for new users, and slashed the ocPortal price to compensate. In all honesty, we might have had to do this anyway if we had picked up more customers. One of our customers said to me quite some time ago that he couldn't see how we could support such a huge product for such a low price, and he was right – ocPortal is so huge, we tended to spend double-figure hours attending directly to each customer. That would have lowered a bit as we had more (as we improved documentation, and lowered the bugs per user ratio), but I don't think it would have been long-term sustainable.

What we've decided, and this forum is representive of this, is that we will be levelling the playing field between staff and users. We no longer want to be seen as authority figures for ocPortal usage, with our own blog, and answering support tickets in private. Instead, we'll be taking part in the community on an almost-equal level, answering some of the more difficult problems, but not everything. The feedback since my 'leaving topic' has been astounding (thanks to everyone who has got back to me in public and in private, to offer advice) – so we know that you can all help each other. I think part of the problem we had before was that by selling support, replying to just about everything, and doing a lot of "behind the scenes" support, we created an inbalance that make others less likely to want to get involved.

As we're:
  • no longer selling a website construction service, but rather merely custodions of a product
  • not trying to make enough ocPortal directly from sales to pay salaries
we'll be working with a different kind of attitude. It's certainly less stressful now – the stress of trying to make 1 sale per day, at the same time as doing support, bug fixing, documentation, and development, was very high. I don't want to say we're now going to be more laid-back, because that'll give the wrong impression – you can expect ocProducts to continue to have the same commitment to users and professional integrity that we're always had – but we're going to be doing things at a different pace, and doing things with different priorities. The users willing to invest time in learning ocPortal, and getting involved in the community, will find themselves benefiting greatly from more features – and those not willing to learn or get involved, will struggle a bit more. Personally I like this so much more, because it's what ocPortal was always about – we could have easily sold ocPortal for thousands of dollars per-site, but we preferred to sell for lower, on the proviso that the users take the opportunity to empower themselves. Now it'll be a bit more exagerrated than before.

This leads to the obvious question – "why am I writing this, if I've left?". Well, for three reasons:
  • it takes for job applications to turn into jobs ;)
  • fortunes turned, and one of the projects I was scheduled to work on that was 'cancelled' has come back, and a contract was signed – so I've been working on that
  • more projects are coming in
As I am still looking for work, my position here is "unpredictable". But thanks to the great feedback we've received recently, I've a renewed confidence, so I am willing to work on ocPortal a bit in my spare time (not commercially or too seriously – I wouldn't want to tick off my future-employer ;)).

I've had some fun over the weekend. Not normal fun involving girls and beer (shockingly I don't like – beer), but Chris-fun – where I do insane amounts of programming ;). I implemented 36 new features, many of them substantial. In addition, the project I've been working on has probably resulted in about 10 new features. We're working on another version, and today I've decided that it'll be "version 4". In line with my new approach, I'm taking the stress-free route… there's no schedule, and there's no list of features that "will be in it". For now, we're continuing to support version 3 with bug fixes, and the last thing we need is another load of bugs out there to stress us with ;). Less-stress means I can work faster, and happier, so it's probably a good thing; not having to worry about earning money from it allows me to do that. We might release an unofficial "preview" or something at some point, to gather bugs before version 4 is feature-complte, but then again, we might not – it's undecided ;).

We also have a new business plan. Currently we're working via a cut-down plan of what we were doing before. We do, however, have some major changes down the line. I've told a couple of customers about it in private, but it's secret for now ;).

There's one last thing I have to mention: the "consultancy" that we used to do is no longer being offered. The reason for this, is each project just turned out too much work. We'd charge an amount based on the time something would take to develop, but then by the time we made changes to do things that weren't originally mentioned, explained everything, answered questions, handled payment, and so on, we'd end up having taken about 4 times as long as we originally budgetted for. This isn't a criticism of those who've paid for our services by any means – it's just harsh economics, showing that it's not possible to sustainably do this kind of low cost work under a company.
From now on we'll be promoting something else – we'll ask that users post in our "Seeking work / Seeking workers" forum, and arrange work privately. This blends into what I was saying about breaking down barriers – we want an "ecosystem" of knowledge sharing between users, without things being too dependant on us. If people advertise for work here, they may find a member of the ocProducts staff says that they an do it, or it could be someone else who has developed skills.

Again, I'd like to thank everyone who contacted me, and everyone who has been promoting ocPortal since my announcement.


Become a fan of ocPortal on Facebook or add me as a friend. Add me on on Twitter.
Was I helpful?
  • If not, please let us know how we can do better (please try and propose any bigger ideas in such a way that they are fundable and scalable).
  • If so, please let others know about ocPortal whenever you see the opportunity.
  • If my reply is too Vulcan or expressed too much in business-strategy terms, and not particularly personal, I apologise. As a company & project maintainer, time is very limited to me, so usually when I write a reply I try and make it generic advice to all readers. I'm also naturally a joined-up thinker, so I always express my thoughts in combined business and technical terms. I recognise not everyone likes that, don't let my Vulcan-thinking stop you enjoying ocPortal on fun personal projects.
  • If my response can inspire a community tutorial, that's a great way of giving back to the project as a user.
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Posted
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#23775
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Community saint

Well That all works for me I mean I opened my own support site to help you out and I hope that becomes part of your recources if not thats ok.
I will say ipb has many support forums, most of which were made by people who make mods for it such as easyipb.com, invisiontweaks.com (ones I do support at) invisionmodding and many more.
They even have one that you have to be a paying member to get to, which gives you full support over ibp but I find the free ones are better and you normally get more support.

So any way I like the idea, heck its how I run my PPY site.

I run http://otakuplayground.com and am hopping to make themes and other things for ocportal even though I no longer use it for otakuplayground.com I still love it and feel it could go far with the right help. It needs themes and needs people to advertise for it.
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Posted
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#23776
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Community saint

Reading a little more like that last part about seeking reminds me of the request mods thing that many ipb support sites have and pay for.

I run http://otakuplayground.com and am hopping to make themes and other things for ocportal even though I no longer use it for otakuplayground.com I still love it and feel it could go far with the right help. It needs themes and needs people to advertise for it.
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Posted
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#23814
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Well-settled

Good stuff Chris.

If you're not having fun with it then it's not much fun - I know what you mean, stressful programming just isn't good for you ;)

I wonder what these new features will be?

 The Last Outpost - Entertainment news, reviews, previews & interviews. No holds barred - big boys' language in use!

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Posted
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#23847
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Community saint

Dito what pete said.

I run http://otakuplayground.com and am hopping to make themes and other things for ocportal even though I no longer use it for otakuplayground.com I still love it and feel it could go far with the right help. It needs themes and needs people to advertise for it.
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