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Snao van der Cone

2019 AVEN Fundraiser

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Snao van der Cone

Hello AVEN members!

 

As you know, the Asexual Visibility and Education Network is here to provide community and resources around asexuality and related identities. Since AVEN is a non-profit organization, occasionally we put on fundraisers to cover hosting, servers, and other costs related to maintaining the site. The last fundraiser, launched in November of 2017, was a huge success. Now we're launching the next fundraiser to keep things going, squirrel-free.

 

Please check out the GoFundMe page: https://www.gofundme.com/keep-aven039s-servers-running. The goal is $5000 (USD), not only to keep things running as they are, but also to improve the site by getting a better chatroom!!!! If you can spare the cash to donate, please do so. I can't promise that I'll record silly videos at certain benchmarks, but I also can't promise that I won't record silly videos, so take that chance and help fund AVEN!

 

Snao Cone

Resource and Education Director

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CBC
1 minute ago, Snao Cone said:

squirrel-free

I want squirrels. :( 

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Snao van der Cone
4 minutes ago, CBC said:

I want squirrels. :( 

Do you want frequent SQL error messages that prevent you from posting reaction gifs, though (or anything else, for that matter)?

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CBC
4 minutes ago, Snao Cone said:

Do you want frequent SQL error messages that prevent you from posting reaction gifs, though (or anything else, for that matter)?

If the messages are delivered by cute fuzzy squirrels, maybe?

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Snao van der Cone
2 minutes ago, CBC said:

If the messages are delivered by cute fuzzy squirrels, maybe?

Well, we'd have to pay the squirrels, so we'd have to fundraise in any case.

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Chihiro

We were promised a better server (including chatroom) during 2016-17 site migration, and a better chat was promised last time in 2017 too. Obviously, $5000 isn't enough to get new and better chat. Or we were lied to. How do you explain these discrepancies between what was promised and what we have now?

 

AFAIR, the mods have quite made it clear that apart from current chat, all other chats are subpar or difficult to mod or it can't interface with AVEN (meaning, won't allow users to access chat using AVEN ID). Which chat service are we going to be using now?

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Heart
Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, CBC said:

I want squirrels. :( 

They're up for adoption and we'd appreciate them not running around our servers, so go ahead and take them home ;)

 

2 hours ago, Chihiro said:

We were promised a better server (including chatroom) during 2016-17 site migration, and a better chat was promised last time in 2017 too. Obviously, $5000 isn't enough to get new and better chat. Or we were lied to. How do you explain these discrepancies between what was promised and what we have now?

 

AFAIR, the mods have quite made it clear that apart from current chat, all other chats are subpar or difficult to mod or it can't interface with AVEN (meaning, won't allow users to access chat using AVEN ID). Which chat service are we going to be using now?

I don't have full answers to this, but I'll try my best with what I do think I know.

 

The constant promises of new chats and later updates that there just aren't any must be frustrating from a member point of view, I can see that. Behind the scenes, what this translates to is a lot of research and scoping out, and all on volunteered time. My impression is that at times it has seemed like there wasn't a good chat option available (which is when you're thinking of hearing that), or that there wasn't a chat option available for what we could afford. Other times, we've been hopeful about a possible new option, and have expressed that hope to the membership, only to have it end up joining the pile of not really useful or too expensive options.

 

The rest here is all from (fuzzy) memory, I can't seem to track down the conversation... But I believe a much higher budget was proposed, $10,000, that would cover all server costs for the forum, server costs for that chat (yes, we have to host that too, so if it goes back to being popular we need to budget some serious $$ to  host it), and also some money for conferences (like the Asexuality conference in New York at WorldPride). If we can get that much, our stretch goal can be to add mobile functionality to chat, but again, that's a lot of money.

 

On an additional note, we "skipped" a year of fundraising kinda. The last fundraiser was in 2017, so it's been a year and a half when the $5000 budget is designed to be every year. No one is to blame for this; it's been a super busy year for all involved, and I never want anyone to feel like they aren't amazing. However, in very real terms, this impacted and continues to impact our ability to test new chats, because every test means using the server and thus paying for server costs above and beyond what the forums take. In very real terms, we're just out of money.

 

Again, someone else may have a more comprehensive answer. Hopefully this answer, as partial as it may be, can tide you over until someone who knows more can come and correct or add to it as needed. I can't emphasize enough that I'm not technically inclined, so I'm only trying my best here... :cake: 

Edited by Heart
Edited for clarity
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Guest

Thanks for the answer, @Heart! I just have one follow up question. What would happen if AVEN doesn't raise the full $5000?

 

 

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Yangster
3 hours ago, Chihiro said:

We were promised a better server (including chatroom) during 2016-17 site migration, and a better chat was promised last time in 2017 too. Obviously, $5000 isn't enough to get new and better chat. Or we were lied to. How do you explain these discrepancies between what was promised and what we have now?

 

AFAIR, the mods have quite made it clear that apart from current chat, all other chats are subpar or difficult to mod or it can't interface with AVEN (meaning, won't allow users to access chat using AVEN ID). Which chat service are we going to be using now?

I am afraid I share these concerns as well.

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Chihiro
3 hours ago, Heart said:

They're up for adoption and we'd appreciate them not running around our servers, so go ahead and take them home ;)

 

I don't have full answers to this, but I'll try my best with what I do think I know.

 

The constant promises of new chats and later updates that there just aren't any must be frustrating from a member point of view, I can see that. Behind the scenes, what this translates to is a lot of research and scoping out, and all on volunteered time. My impression is that at times it has seemed like there wasn't a good chat option available (which is when you're thinking of hearing that), or that there wasn't a chat option available for what we could afford. Other times, we've been hopeful about a possible new option, and have expressed that hope to the membership, only to have it end up joining the pile of not really useful or too expensive options.

 

The rest here is all from (fuzzy) memory, I can't seem to track down the conversation... But I believe a much higher budget was proposed, $10,000, that would cover all server costs for the forum, server costs for that chat (yes, we have to host that too, so if it goes back to being popular we need to budget some serious $$ to  host it), and also some money for conferences (like the Asexuality conference in New York at WorldPride). If we can get that much, our stretch goal can be to add mobile functionality to chat, but again, that's a lot of money.

 

On an additional note, we "skipped" a year of fundraising kinda. The last fundraiser was in 2017, so it's been a year and a half when the $5000 budget is designed to be every year. No one is to blame for this; it's been a super busy year for all involved, and I never want anyone to feel like they aren't amazing. However, in very real terms, this impacted and continues to impact our ability to test new chats, because every test means using the server and thus paying for server costs above and beyond what the forums take. In very real terms, we're just out of money.

 

Again, someone else may have a more comprehensive answer. Hopefully this answer, as partial as it may be, can tide you over until someone who knows more can come and correct or add to it as needed. I can't emphasize enough that I'm not technically inclined, so I'm only trying my best here... :cake: 

This is a very vague answer. And considering the fact that we have had shitty chat and people have complained about it since ages, I think whatever happens in the backroom should have been made public. Couldn't find a good chat option? Make it public with apologies. Maybe the members have answer to it.

 

I am tired of complaining about the tech team's short comings.... which by the way is just one person. Ever since I started making complaints, you guys have started calling them "tech team" (if not true, please tag who else is part of team). Many AVEN people are tech experts and would love to help with tech issues FOR FREE, but obviously you don't trust them to use their help. Only trust the members to give money. And it doesn't cost that much for server upkeep. PLEASE STOP THROWING IN RANDOM NUMBERS. $10,000? Seriously? Just because majority of the people are not from tech field, doesn't mean you can take advantage of them by making up numbers.

 

And didnt you guys raise funds for this Ace conference at WorldPride? Clearly this money isn't being used for conferences..... every time some ace related event happens, you guys have new fundraisers. Wonder where all this money is going then? Why don't you guys give a breakdown of costs? [I hope I don't get the standard answer again.... "this is private forum and we do as we please" because then raise the money privately. Don't ask people to chip in]

 

And lastly, HERE IS HOW YOU GUYS LIED LAST TIME

 

 

We were promised that the premium version of the software would be bought, but still don't see any mobile support. Its only $125..... too much to spend out of $5000?

 

 

 

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michaeld

I can't answer for the tech team but I can say that keeping the server running is already very costly, and pretty much swallows up the bulk of our fundraising efforts thus far. AVEN is a large site and the CPU resources the server consumes are intensive. When the money runs out, the site runs on the personal donations by the leadership. Believe me, no-one is making money from AVEN. Most of the leadership have invested a significant amount of their own money keeping the site running over the years (and/or to make conferences free where possible[1]).

 

There is indeed now a specific proposal for chat. As mentioned it's very hard to find a chat system that interfaces with AVEN's software, but the tech team has now done so. I believe the major issue is that it may increase our overall traffic and thus server usage, so we need to secure funds for the latter. I'll let them give more info if needed.

 

Another point of clarification. While conferences have been mentioned earlier, and is in the blurb on the fundraiser page, this fundraiser is primarily about keeping the server running - including the new chat server. We do indeed have separate fundraisers for conferences (which incidentally don't usually cover the costs - they definitely help, which is why we appreciate contributions so much, but the rest tends to fall on the conference organisers). We would use the money from this fundraiser for future conferences and other vis/ed events if there is any left over - which is not likely - but the server (including the chat) is absolutely the priority.

 

[1] Our previous 3 WorldPride conferences have been free, as are the UK conference of last year and the coming one in Edinburgh. THe unconferences that have happened over the years at SF and NYC have also been free. The WorldPride NYC conference coming up will otoh have an attendance charge. I'm not directly involved in the organisation of the latter but I'm confident they're only going to break even at best, even including the attendance fee and all their fundraising efforts.

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Kimmie.

I have to ask do the site need a chat to begin with? 

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OptimisticPessimist

@Kimmie. a lot of people will say yes, some people don’t like forums but enjoy chat feature, and the old chat was very popular, a lot of people used it, both who posted on the forums and who didn’t. 

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Kimmie.
2 minutes ago, OptimisticPessimist said:

@Kimmie. a lot of people will say yes, some people don’t like forums but enjoy chat feature, and the old chat was very popular, a lot of people used it, both who posted on the forums and who didn’t. 

Are not the Discord server enough then?

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Snao van der Cone
4 minutes ago, Kimmie. said:

I have to ask do the site need a chat to begin with? 

The chat that came with the forum software until two years ago was great fun, and the primary use of the site for some people. I made many friends that way, some of whom have since been lured to the forums and contributed a great deal. Chat isn't used very much at the moment because of shortcomings of ArrowChat fulfilling our community needs. If we can get a good chat app to integrate into the site, that can serve as a starting point for more members.

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OptimisticPessimist

@Kimmie. People can use them but we don’t mod them etc and a lot of people want a chat specifically on AVEN that is as good as old chat was.

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Kimmie.

Okay thanks for the clarification @OptimisticPessimist and @Snao Cone it can be because I personally don't see the use of it. Basically when the forum is almost used as a chat now anyway. I mean you are answering me as fast as it could just like be a chat. And that it goes against what many other sites and social medias are doing now and removing features to do things more streamlined. 

 

But yeah you have both been here longer than me and have waaay more insight. So i trust you. 

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Kimmie.
5 minutes ago, OptimisticPessimist said:

we don’t mod them

And i have a feeling that many people see that as a positive thing. Unfortunately. 

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Tercy

Out of interest, what's AVEN's current situation in terms of being tax exempt and such? I remember people had some concerns about that back in the day.

 

Also, I'm still curious as to what exactly this $3/5(/10?!)k gets spent on. Considering this sort of thing comes under my line of work and my expertise, it seems an anomalously high number for a site the size of AVEN (which really isn't that big at all, relatively speaking). Is there any chance someone from "the tech team" would be willing to communicate about the whole setup and perhaps even a breakdown of usage/billing, in the name of transparency? I'll elaborate a bit below, but spoiler it for the sake of people who don't care to read:

 

Spoiler

Wading in at the shallow end: A quick banner grab shows the server is running Ubuntu and Apache. Assuming this is legit (I know people used to set false headers once upon a time) and the server really is running Ubuntu and Apache, what's the reasoning behind this choice?


Choosing Ubuntu over something like CentOS is curious. Not necessarily a dealbreaker (if chosen for the right reasons), but curious. This isn't some petty "my distro is better than your distro" squabble either; the mainstream opinion is that CentOS is typically the better choice in a professional/commercial setting, while Ubuntu is typically seen as a safer choice for beginners.


The use of Apache over something like nginx is a bit more concerning. There's times and places where there's no real difference (in terms of performance) between the two, but for example nginx usually significantly outperforms Apache when it comes to serving static content (e.g. 2-2.5x faster, often with less memory usage) and a quick check shows that AVEN's static content (CSS, images, etc) is served using Apache. Again I'm open to there being a good explanation; I'd just like to hear it.

 

As for the server resources, there's no real hard science to calculating how much server juice a website needs based on its concurrent/daily visits, given that it depends exactly on the code behind the scenes - so there's no accurate way for me as an outsider to calculate exactly what AVEN should be using. I can however come up with an estimate based on experience - and using examples of other sites running the same software, some with significantly higher user/post counts, with significantly lower running costs. I know IPS famously has had performance issues since at least version 4/4.1/4.2, but there are things that can be done to mitigate it (to some extent, if nothing else). If all else fails and it seems the problem really is just IPS, maybe it's time to look around for an alternative.

 

Is AVEN using PHP 5 or 7? Is OPcache enabled? (It's not unusual for OPcache to need to be enabled manually, but I have a vague memory of something to do with it not even being installed by default on some versions/configurations - so you may have to install it and then enable it). That can make a big difference.


What database server are you using? I remember some of the SQL/socket errors mentioned MySQL and one of the volunteer ads asked for familiarity with MySQL - so I'd assume MySQL. If you're using vanilla MySQL, maybe consider a change to MariaDB (unless you have a good reason not to).


Following on from that: What storage engine/s are the tables using? This can also potentially make a big difference. If the tables are MyISAM (e.g. if they're still using MyISAM from the old days, the server is configured to use MyISAM by default, etc) you'd almost certainly benefit from converting them to InnoDB. (There are some instances where MyISAM can be more appropriate and someone on the team with the relevant knowledge would have to make that call table-by-table, but in the absence of such a person, I'd wager you'd benefit from just changing them all.)


In any case, you could maybe check the config to make sure the DB server is making best use of all the memory you have available (e.g. if you happen to have unholy amounts of RAM, you might configure the server to keep as much data as possible/feasible cached there; they won't necessarily do this OOTB).


I've seen EC2 and S3 mentioned over the years; what are these used for and how do they all tie together? (This is a question specific to AVEN; I know what they are and how they can be used generally.) As a general rule, these "cloud" platforms are designed for ease and flexibility, at a higher cost; if you know what you're doing and know your resource usage, you're almost always better off with a dedicated server (or VPS or whatever).

 

... That's probably enough to start with so I'll leave it there. If by some miracle someone decides to answer any of this, below is a summary:

 

- Why Ubuntu and Apache?

- Which version of PHP is installed?

- Is OPcache definitely enabled?

- What RDBMS is installed?

- What storage engine/s do the tables use?

- What servers/instances/etc are involved and what role do they all play?

 

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Chihiro
6 hours ago, michaeld said:

Believe me, no-one is making money from AVEN.

There are many ways to misuse money. Appropriating them isn't the only way. Squandering on unnecessary purchases is typical in tech industry. I hope the above post by Tercy gets answered. I dunno as much as Tercy does, but I know enough about this industry to know that this cost is considerably high.

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Kimmie.

Are you renting the servers or are you actually owning them? Just curious. 

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michaeld

Renting. And yes, the high costs come from the server. We had a somewhat cheaper server a few years ago but it was constantly crashing and towards the end it felt like AVEN was down half the time. It was especially vulnerable to going down when we got a big media hit so the site had an anomolously high number of hits. The new server (amazon cloud) is far more stable, including during media hits, but does cost more.

 

My understanding is that it's less hosting the site itself (presumably just a few gigabytes at a guess?) and more the CPU usage - supporting high volumes of people logged in and reading the forums - that make the server cost what it is. I'll let the techies give a breakdown if felt appropriate.

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Kimmie.

Thanks now I have everything i need to consider a donation i think.  😃

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Guest

Out of curiosity, and this is to anyone who is knowledgeable, how much would a website like AVEN cost monthly? I'm totally ignorant on the subject, but three to four hundred dollars a month seems reasonable to me. If it's not, what would be considered a reasonable monthly expense?

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LeChat
1 hour ago, Kimmie. said:

...it can be because I personally don't see the use of it. Basically when the forum is almost used as a chat now anyway. I mean you are answering me as fast as it could just like be a chat...

I wondered about this, myself; I just don't understand the appeal of chat rooms when forum posts are very similar to chatting with others. Whenever I've tried them in the past, there were so many people and conversations going on in seconds, it made it difficult for others to understand who I was responding to or what I was talking about because--in the middle of typing a response about something that was just brought up--several people suddenly brought up different or new topics.

 

For me, chats are too fast-paced for others to read and understand who's responding to whom; so, I like that forum conversations allow plenty of time to write more complex thoughts and allows others to completely understand more what someone is trying to say.

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michaeld

I understand that; chats definitely aren't for everyone. The old AVEN chat is something I miss a lot, as do many others from that era. As mentioned earlier, some members prefer chat, some prefer forums and some like both. If there is a consensus that the two ought be kept separate, we'll definite consider doing separate fundraisers next time, one for the forum servers and one for the chat server, so people have a choice over which they contribute to.

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Tercy

@michaeld Are you able to weigh in on the tax question, at least?

 

@Road Something closer to $100-200 would sound reasonable to me. $300-500 raises questions in my mind (obviously). As I said before, I'm open to being shown that there's something I'm missing. None of this necessarily implies anyone is pocketing the money either; just that perhaps there's reasonable steps the techs could take to reduce the costs (and then I suppose you could ask the question of whether it's fair that donations be used to pay bills that don't necessarily need to be incurred, etc). All just pure speculation at this stage, of course.

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michaeld
2 hours ago, Tercy said:

@michaeld Are you able to weigh in on the tax question, at least?

Yes I can clarify the tax point. My understanding is that the only tax we are paying at the moment is sales tax on our purchase of server capacity. We are not currently raising enough money to have to pay income tax.

 

Some of the costs for the NYC conference coming up - in particular subsiding the flight costs of certain speakers - will come from a grant awarded specifically for that purpose, and it's possible we will have to pay tax on that. But if so these tax expenses will not come from the server fundraiser - they will come from the grant and other income earmarked for the NYC conference.

 

There are a number of different servers AVEN is supporting at the moment. Coles will be along with more details shortly.

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Skycaptain

Here's a valedictory post. We aim for around $5k for server costs etc, per annum. 

Can I point out that any shortfall is paid for out of their own pocket by certain members. Likewise many Pride events around the world are paid for by members, who don't even say who they are to receive thanks. I won't name names, but whole Asexuality conferences around the world, at a cost of $5000+ each have been funded by the generosity of individual members. 

At London Pride for example, we have a banner, paid for by one member, leaflets which are typeset and printed by members in their own time, and using their own materials, this happens all over the world. 

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