What I am to! [update] and church website hosting


Things have totally changed again. I have now applied to do a Masters of Enterprise in Business at the Manchester school of business. The online material is not that great at describing it. It is a research Masters where Masters of Enterprise is the prefix, MEnt (similar to Mphys or Bsc). The degree itself is a generic business degree so the core modules will help me learn things such as marketing, setting up a business and dealing with finance. I then get to pick courses in my “Subject Area” which will be something vaguely IT based that I pick. I have to produce 2 dissertations, one of them focuses on the business side of my idea and the other on the subject side of my idea. I don’t exactly know what this means! However I think it will be something like a report on the marketability of the idea whilst the subject dissertation outlines some area of research into the idea itself.

The hope is then once I have finished this degree I’ll be able to bring back the knowledge into The Tribes Online. We’re working on things to some degree this year but it means when Rob is out of university we can start building things properly! Also I hope to meet lots of interesting people on this course to help me get connected to Entrepreneurs in Manchester. Unfortunately this also means I’m dropping back to work at Heidmar throughout the holidays.

Aegir and our hosting plans

We’ve been playing around with a development server in my house. For the less technically minded readers you may not find this interesting but I think its well cool! I’ve spent about 6 months getting this set up (and failing) due to my lack of understanding how linux works but we’ve finally set up a box with Aegir installed. It is an incredibly cool piece of software that allows us to host loads of drupal sites using one interface. If I want to set up a new church website, instead of going through all the normal drupal settings I just click “create new site” enter a few settings and everything is set up automatically. So here are some things I’m excited about:

  • Our business model will require us to have a huge number of customers (over 300) before we make enough money to sustain us at all, let alone grow. Therefore we need to make sure all our variable costs are as low as possible. We need to make sure that the process of Church is interest => Church site set up and money paid is as small as possible. This will allow us to divert our resources into building the fantastic fixed cost that is the free product.
  • Drupal Gardens is an awesome example of a company doing what we want to do for churches. (However, the creator of Drupal works for this company so its not something we’ll be able to do easily alone! They are giving away free sites during beta so you can get a free one now and try it out. Its very easy).
  • Drush – Aegir works with drush. This allows us to administer drupal sites through a Command Line Interface (CLI). Hopefully it means we won’t need to administer any ftp accounts. All modules and install profiles can be downloaded using drush and using SSH to remotely access the command line.
  • Drupal Projects- If we sign up for a Drupal project on drupal.org we’ll be able to do pretty much all of our development on that website. They offer everything we need, issue queues, groups to discuss ideas, a file repository so people can work on things remotely and submit patches. This means our development process will probably be able to happen entirely online. As a company we’ll discuss most our things on the issue queue and all the code will be submitted to a repository, and then automatically pulled from the repository to our server where our customers will benefit from it.

Why is this cool?

This means we can work with an entirely open development workflow. Yes, we will be a software company aiming to make money but even the bleeding edge stuff we’ll be working on will be downloadable. All our servers that make us money will use that code using tools that are available to everyone, we are literally just pulling an install profile from an online server. Anyone could do this. This means it will be almost as easy for another church to get involved in the development of our software as it is for us to get involved! (also it will be easy to steal everything we do :P).

What is stopping us?

In order for this to work, me andrew and rob need to stop using our mouths. Unfortunately the voice and the brain is a very inefficient collaboration tool. Every conversation I memorise is locked in the minds of the original people who had it and cannot easily be shared. Every time we meet up, skype or talk over the phone we are dis-empowering future collaborators. The thing is, we like talking, its really fun. Recently I found out that Andrew was sad because his olives went mouldy. Things like that are what bring people together and we as a company need also be friends for it to work. But things that make us friends hurt us as a open-source company because they make it harder for others to get involved.

This will just have to be something we work on and try to do well. I do not plan to have this problem solved right away. But in a years time I hope we are part of the way and in 2 years time if we are still deciding software issues over the phone I will have failed.

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