CBA-on-the-World Wide Web

Written by:

Good morning from Whiskey Creek, where, if you weren’t a member of the human race and thus hadn’t been inundated with news about the worst drought in California’s history (and that’s no exaggeration…not but a few months ago I saw a piece in a London newspaper about our dire lack of rain), you’d think it was a typical fall at the old homestead. (See photo above.) Betwixt and between all of the rich and glorious fall colors can be seen a fine brilliant carpet of grass, blades not more than two inches tall but clearly pining for those next gulps of water that, if all goes well, will be knee-high by late April. Yes, indeed, if all goes well.

Used to be that not more than three our four months would go by before I’d write another “status report” on the California Bluegrass Association web site. They were chalk-full of statistics, detailed descriptions of how we’d solved cyber attacks, plans for new features, pleads for Web Team volunteers and pretty much every other thing that could possibly be deemed cbaontheweb.org-related. I think it’s probably been close to a year that the webmaster (that would be me) has had anything to say about the web site and, as my wife, Lynn, would say if I asked her, that’s probably just as well. “Who cares about this stuff besides you, Rick? All people care is that when they click on their bookmark the damned thing opens.” Which it always does. But this morning I do want to share a few things. Oh, and I’ll end with the best.

Traffic-wise, cbaontheweb.org is amazingly consistent. Daily hits range from between the low six thousands to the low eight thousands. Interestingly the number of unique visitors we attract, right around 4,000, also has remained the same for the past five or six years.

Since it’s unique visitors and not daily hits, which sometimes spike at as much as 11,000, that are considered by ad buyers, we continue to straggle along with selling space on the site. We do sell some, but not as much as we could and should were we to have someone whose job it was to outreach to possible customers. (What a truly wonderful volunteer job for some loyal CBA member out there. Hint, hint.)

Welcome columnists have remained fairly static, which is a good thing, but we are ready to bring on two new columnists; Randy Pitts is one, though he’ll only be contributing four per year, but the other is a young woman named Loes van Schaijk, who’ll take over first Saturdays. Loes lives in Denmark and is a writer who does a lot of freelance work in Europe’s bluegrass community. Saturday after next you’ll meet her.

The Message Board is, well, the Message Board. It ebbs and it flows. Just when you think there’s no good reason to check it out because postings have been so slow we’ll have a spate of new threads. With all its faults, structural and otherwise, the MB is still a solid source of information about our little bluegrass slice of heaven here in Northern California.

This most recent period since our last web site update is, without question, the longest we’ve gone without the introduction of some new feature or technical improvement. And the reason for that lies in our last and most important bit of webby news. It’s beginning to look very much like we’ve finally figured out a way to replace the current CBA web site with a new one. I’ll be more specific…it’s beginning to look very much like we’ve finally FOUND SOMEONE to take on the job of re-building the site. In the past year we’ve gone out of our way not to sink a lot of time and money into cbaontheweb.org because it’s clear that after 15 years, it’s time to rebuild from the ground up. Yes, I’m certainly including the look and feel of the site in that statement but, way more importantly, what I’m suggesting is that we’ll be using newer, more contemporary coding for it.

Back in 2000, when the board gave me the assignment of launching a new web site for the Association, I chose a language called asp.net, which, at the time, was THE up-and-coming language for web-based computer systems. Well, asp.net, now called simply, .net, is still an industry leader but the problem is that it’s changed drastically since the early days and the CBA web site is a patchwork of original asp.net and current .net. Our site’s functionality has stood up very well given this layer upon layer upon layer of pasting new to old but, as with any “legacy” system,” it’s gotten harder and harder to find programmers with the skill set and background needed to work on the system.

So enter a relatively new CBA member who’s willing to use his considerable technical expertise to lead a complete re-build. I’m not going to share the guy’s name yet because, in truth, the project is not quite yet a definite GO. But we’re close. Obviously close enough that I feel comfortable sharing some of my excitement.

It was fifteen years ago that I gave up my perennial volunteer job at the ice booth at Gate Six and joined the CBA’s leadership team. I’ve covered a lot of ground since then but nothing has taken more of my time than designing, launching and then maintaining cbaontheweb.org. Over the past few years I’ve realized that my stress level around the long-term health and vitality of the site has been steadily rising. Bandages and sealing wax and transitional code can only last so long. So, folks, cross your fingers with me that we can finally get this re-building effort underway. It’s been a long time coming.

Read about: