Life Theatre

Where did the BMTG site go?

Nearly 3 months ago I made mention of a fallout between myself and the theatre group with which I’ve been associated with for about 9 years. Part of this was my decision to no longer look after their website – something I’d put a lot of work into but had very little feedback or general help with.

I gave the committee a list of the skills required to run the site and, to my surprise, it was handed over to a new committee member within days. I don’t know her background but events have now unfolded which has possibly damaged the site forever.

Last week it was reported to the sites host, Memset, that a phishing site was present on the BMTG site. It was residing in one of the sub-directories of a third-party application. I believe this application must have had a security flaw which allowed someone to deposit a fake banking site in place. Memset immediately disabled the hosting account and the website went down. The new website manager was informed and, unfortunately, responded by suggesting that it was maybe something I did.

I took a sharp intake of breath, I have to admit, when I read this. This site is also hosted by Memset and so the suggestion (probably not intended) that I created a phishing site could have had a serious repercussion on me. Thankfully it hasn’t. But I don’t think she understood what the problem was.

The upside of all of this is that Memset have now informed them that they will NOT re-enable the account unless they move to an expensive server host account (at the moment it’s on a shared server, and they’re concerned that future issues could impact other users). Bear in mind that the society is a non-profit making charity and their current hosting is provided for free – basically, they wouldn’t be able to afford such a move.

I’m guessing that the current website manager not understanding the issue is why Memset are rightly worried about future occurrences. Oh dear. If asked, I could do what I can to resolve the issue, but I suspect I won’t be.

Long-standing members appear to be leaving the Society in their droves and one such ex-member (who’s been involved far longer than myself) believes that this may be the death-knell. No website, performing on a stage in a school-hall, no publicity, poorly produced and expensive show programmes… it’s not looking good. The ex-Chairman has recently been caught wondering aloud why so many people are leaving. Maybe they should ask?

Life Theatre

Enough is enough

You may have noticed that I’ve recently not made mention of the BMTG website, which I manage. That’s because I’m no longer responsible for it.

A couple of weeks ago I gave notice to the societies committee that I was no longer interested in running the site. I could take this opportunity to go into great detail as to why, but I won’t. Unfortunately, the committee have not asked either. Needless to say, a lack of communication and feedback was at the nub of it. In the end I became bored of running a site which I was doing myself, with no contributions from anywhere else. So, since December, I’ve done nothing with it. I didn’t miss it and nobody else seemed to either.

Thankfully, they have someone else who had the required skill level to take it on.

At the same time I’ve also recently resigned as their newsletter editor and from doing design work for them. Both are for different reasons and I’ll try and detail them as impartially as I can.

The previous newsletter editor resigned around October/November last year. He was frustrated with a lack of response from committee – particularly as some of them were supposed to be contributing to the newsletter. Anyway, I volunteered. As part of this I came up with a new, fresh design for the newsletter that would integrate better with the website. I also set down a number of rules that I would follow as editor to ensure that content was acceptable to the committee without them becoming involved and, potentially, holding it up. I submitted this and was told I’d be informed of the committees decision (as to whether I would be the new editor or not) by the end of the next week. That was November. I heard nothing until the other week when I told them about my website decision and I was asked “you’ll still be editor of the newsletter won’t you?”. I pointed out that I didn’t know I was and, after 5 months, I was no longer interested.

Now to the design work. I volunteered to help with poster, flyer and general merchandise design after the quality of some of the posters got to the point where customers were complaining. This it worse when you consider that they were complaining about the quality of the design on a FREE programme given away during a concert. So I volunteered and came up with, what I thought, were some cracking posters for Jesus Christ Superstar, Viva Mexico! and Annie Get Your Gun. Last year, I submitted my design for the next show, Kiss Me Kate. I’ll admit that I struggled with this one, but was provided with feedback on ways the committee thought it could be improved. One such change was to a photo that was used on the poster – the committee didn’t like it. However, I couldn’t think of anything to replace it with – indeed, if I could have done, I wouldn’t have used that one in the first place! So, I asked what they thought could be used. I heard nothing back.

The next thing I know the poster is used to advertise the show in last years concert programme. And I hear nothing more.

A few weeks ago I realised we were getting perilously close to the next show and nobody had asked for my flyer designs, etc. I emailed various members of the committee, all of whom ignore me. In the end I got hold of one of them on the phone and was told that they’d taken my poster and simply modified it to make the flyers, etc. Fair enough, although I was a touch annoyed that they hadn’t simply asked me for them, as I’d already done this. Oh well.

So imagine my surprise when I was sent an invite to see the show on Facebook and found a completely different poster on it. I was seriously upset. I drove to the rehearsal that was taking place and confronted one of the committee. It would appear that the committee member who I was communicating via had, basically, not said anything further after the original feedback and so the committee were waiting for my changed design. When that didn’t appear they decided to create one themselves. The blame, therefore, was put at the door of that person. And me, as it was pointed out that because I’ve not been at rehearsals (I’m not taking part in this show) I’ve not been accessible. Of course, that doesn’t wash – I’m one of the most accessible people there are, certainly via email if nothing else.

Why, with 10 people on the committee, did nobody think to double check that I was aware of what they were planning before doing something that, let’s be honest, could easily be found to be grossly insulting? After all I’ve done this was a huge slap in the face.

So I’ve told them I no longer wish to assist with this kind of work again in the future. Again, I’ve had no response.

Communication within the society is truly appalling and you really HAVE to be on the committee if you’re helping out, otherwise you’ll have no idea what’s going on. All I can hope, for the long-term sake of the society, is that this is resolved – the 10 members of the committee really can’t do everything and if they’re going to get assistance from other members they HAVE to start treating them better.

Unfortunately, all of this will be treated by the society as me “throwing my toys out of the pram”. Personally, I don’t see it that way. If you’re treated badly, you have a perfect right to withdraw your services. And that’s what’s happened.

Life Theatre

BMTG upgrades to Deoxys

Earlier this year I made the decision to stop updating the BMTG site as-and-when and more formally as packages. Yesterday I launched the 4th such package – Deoxys.

Unlike some of my other packages which have had more visible changes, this is more “back end”. Having said that, to me, it’s exciting stuff. The site is performing more caching and I’ve completely re-written most of the MySQL – it’s more efficient and protected against SQL injection (I hope).

There’s also detection of MySQL failures – when this happens a message bar appears at the top of each page indicating that a problem is occuring and that the site may be affected. The site pages are then designed to degrade gracefully – in other words, either cope with the lack of database access (easier for some pages) or simply display an appropriate message to indicate that no information is currently unavailable. In the past any database problems have simply lead to the site erroring and generally looking shabby.

Additionally, I’ve added some flags to the back-end database. These indicate either a major problem or that the site is undergoing maintenace – I can then flick these flags on when required and a message will appear on the site. The maintenance is particularly handy to turn on whilst I’m upgrading the site.

Lastly, and one of the few visible changes, I updated the member profiles – they’re a bit plainer than before but I think they work a lot more effectively now, as they’re less “fussy”.

Now I’ve started work on the Eevee package – I’ve already written the maintenance changes (including the width of the pages being increased, whilst still ensuring that a horizontal scrollbar doesn’t appear on 800 pixel wide monitors), but the main changes is to the online shop, which helps to generate some much-needed cash for the society.

Meantime, if you can guess (no looking on Wikipedia!) the naming convention I’m using then… you’re sad. Ok, that makes me sad too. And Catherine Furber, who also knew it.

Life Theatre

Why is this so hard to work out?

Well, after a great amount of work, I’ve turned OFF the online ticket facility on the BMTG website.

Did it not work? Yes it did. And very well – with little publicity of it, we £500 worth of tickets via it for the last show. Not bad.

It was my decision to turn it off, though, and one which I communicated to the committee (well, my appointed contact on the committee – whether the rest know or not is a different question).

Here is my official reason (Mike is the chap who sells the tickets)…

Since I’ve implemented the ability, there’s no proof that it’s increased sales, just simply moved it from one medium to another.

Additionally, Mike is struggling as he’s not getting the emails from PayPal to say that customers have paid – I’ve attempted to try and sort it out with him but he appears uninterested.

As I said during the AGM, it generated every £1 in £13 generated, but there has been no mention or general interest in it (indeed, my speech during the AGM was the only time it was mentioned). I’m assuming that this is due to my first point – that it’s probably not creating any more sales.

Therefore, for the sake of Mike’s easier life and me not having to maintain it, I’ll turn it off. Obviously I’ll leave a page there, but it will redirect people to contact Mike in the normal ways.

However, you might be able to detect something underlying there – the complete and total disinterest by everyone.

After it did so well for last years show, I started working on a new, improved version of the online sales facility, expecting the committee to come forward and start asking for certain facilities to improve it (and hence being ready for them). I got half way through – and a lot of work – before realising they hadn’t said anything. And probably wouldn’t do. Now, nearly a year later I can say… they didn’t. Nor did it even get a mention.

The problem is that they have an incorrect idea that I just want compliements and slaps on the back for the sake of my own ego. But that’s wrong. It’s not for myself that I want the credit, but the website. It’s doing a sterling job of publicity but no-one appears to care (and if they do, they don’t give out the right signals). So why should I put so much effort into it? Of course, this just leads people to think that I’m “throwing my toys out of the pram.” In other words, I can’t win. Spend my own spare time and effort working on something that everyone ignores or withdraw from it and get accused of spitting out my dummy.

When putting on a show, they appoint a director to essentially “manage” it. But they (the committee) still get involved – of course they do. They want to ensure that things go well, help where they can, etc. But when it comes to the website… no interest. And the members are no different – not surprisingly given the disinterest from the management.

To top it off, Mike doesn’t get the PayPal emails to say someone has bought tickets. I suspect they’re going into his spam folder, but he seems totally disinterested in sorting it out. Thankfully this was noticed because I’m copied into them. So, at the moment, I forward the emails on. But what if I’m busy or on holiday? This shouldn’t be down to me, but at the same time I don’t want customers to suffer (you see, it IS about the society and not me).

So, the online facility is turned off.

The word of the day… disinterested.

Life Theatre

Moving On

It’s been a while since I blogged. You’d think I’d been on holiday or something 😀

Well, for reasons I’m not going into (far too long and personal), my work on the BMTG website has stopped. I’m starting work on a new project – details of which will be revealed soon.