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An explanation

Discussion in 'Why was PP closed down' started by Halfhidden, Jan 1, 2016.

  1. Halfhidden

    Halfhidden Untouchable Staff Member Administrator

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    It occurred to me that some of the members and visitors to Picture Penzance may not of been aware of why the site was archived and why uploads and comments were suspended for so long.

    To understand the reasons for this we need to look at the history of Picture Penzance. I must warn you that this is rather long, but certainly worthy of a read.

    When the concept of an online picture library of local images was first created, there wasn’t a huge choice of gallery software available to us. At the time the very first version of Picture Penzance was a simple html web site and I had to code and upload every single picture by hand. That was all well and fine when we only had 25 images. But the site became popular quite quickly due to good press coverage and the need for such a website for Penzance anyway. So the task of finding the correct gallery software was set.

    The first online gallery was “Coppermine” it was a community supported software and free to use. It seemed to do everything we needed and was installed and set up on the second version of the Picture Penzance website. By this time however, the community on Picture Penzance wanted a voice and a forum was added. But the gallery software and forum software really didn’t work well together and the site was often being repaired. Notably logging in issues were the main problem when members either couldn’t log in or upload.

    Because we had about 8,000 images at the time and the gallery was growing every day, it was decided that we needed to invest in professional software and this should prevent any further problems with log in and uploads.
    We approached a forum company called “Jel Soft” who made a forum called Vbulletin. This was magic. The site could be styled to give it a unique look and feel, it was professionally made and fitted all our needs. Now all we had to do was find the right gallery as well. We were introduced to a company known as All Enthusiasts who made a set of gallery software that worked with the forum we had just brought. After an initial pre sales chat we learned that they made two galleries (VBGallery and PhotoPost Pro). We were advised that PhotoPost Pro was the one to go for and it could also import all the images from our old gallery as well. So happy days!
    The new gallery was installed and all the images were migrated across to our new gallery PhotoPost pro. But after a few months we started to have strange issues with the gallery. So much so that it was decided to suspend the site whilst we investigated the problems. It turned out that we were ill advised as to which gallery to buy. PhotoPost Pro is essentially a standalone gallery that can bridge to Vbulletin (our forum) Bridging is a very basic way to connect two or more pieces of software and often only the very basics of things are shared and this nearly always leads down the same old road of incompatibilities and in our case that included security concerns.

    This meant that we could no longer use the gallery software and we went back to the software company to complain. It was only then that we were told that we should have been sold the VBGallery version as this was built specifically for the forum software we had. So we were miss sold the gallery. However we were told we could use the VBGallery version under the same license so we didn’t need to pay out any more money. That was a relief as it was quite expensive. But there was no direct migration from PhotoPost Pro to VBGallery so all the images (about 12,000) had to be moved one by one manually. That took three weeks with two people on that day and night. Moving the pictures correcting the permissions and then putting all the comments back under the images. But at least we finally had a purpose built gallery that we could invest in and build a community around.

    Picture Penzance membership had more than doubled and active users were gaining on a daily basis. It was a real success story. But as a responsible social website we put in place regular security check and software updates to help protect the members and their work from risk. In order for this to happen we had to rely on VBGallery and PhotoPost to warn of update and we in tern had to commit financially to paying for the service and I had to implement the patches and updates.

    PhotoPost fell foul of this and this was the turning point of Picture Penzance. When we upgraded our forums to the latest version to help promote the site and give members a feature rich environment, PhotoPost did nothing at all. In fact it took them 9 months to even do a simple change to their gallery so that it even worked with the forums. But even before that we started to experience some problems we had never expected to solve.
    One morning I received an email from Google explaining that the listing of Picture Penzance was dropped because of security issues. And sure enough we couldn’t be seen anywhere on almost any search engine. After many days of work Google finally reinstated the site. The problem was a security breach in the gallery. Soon after that we had our site suspended by the FBI who claimed that Picture Penzance was acting as the Bank of America, yes Picture Penzance was now a phishing site. That too took a few days to work out a solution and yes it was the gallery again.

    Time to confront the gallery software company, but all I got was a lame excuse and everything was blamed on the forum software. Even their tech support didn’t give two hoots for anyone unless they were buying.

    Picture Penzance email notification. Picture Penzance had been blacklisted by virtually every dns server on the planet… and the reason was that the site was now spamming. In fact sending out hundreds of thousands spam emails a day. So many in fact that the host company shut us down. Now Picture Penzance was in big trouble because the gallery was to blame again and the software company refused to acknowledge this.
    Again the galley was fixed but by this point members and volunteers had become untrusted of the site and membership started to slip.
    At this point we had spent so much on repairs that we actually had no money left, things got worse still when it turned out that our bookkeeper had failed to correctly submit our charity/trust accounts in the correct format and now we faced combined fines of over £1100, and further bad news as spammers had struck the gallery again and this time had started to upload pornography and finally the site was hacked and 70% of the historically important images were defaced and destroyed.

    Our only option was to leave the gallery platform as it posed such a huge security risk for our members. Thankfully though member’s sensitive details were all stored and encrypted through the forum software which was never compromised.

    Picture Penzance had run out of money, members were losing interest and volunteers had become disbanded all because of PhotoPost VBGallery! I tried in vain to find another gallery to use, but there weren’t any that would migrate the images from the old gallery. Nobody, it seemed wanted to touch PhotoPost. I offered to pay script writers but most declined saying that the gallery code was like something out of the 18th century, and clearly it was!

    It now occurred to us that we had 38,000 images, 47,000 comments and 16,000links that were now trapped in the worst gallery software ever sold!
    This was one of my darkest hours. I felt personally responsible for the situation and there was nothing I could do but watch the community fade away. Memebers had been reunited with old chums, people had made new friends, the community united over affairs close to their hearts and all of this was fading away because of the gallery.

    As I had very limited scope I chose to build a new forum and gallery on a new platform called PHPFox. The software was excellent and won several awards, but it simply wasn’t the old forum and gallery the members knew and loved. And so the project failed. Picture Penzance was archived and the waiting game began.

    We weren’t the only communities to suffer under the hands of PhotoPost, thousands ended up with the same fate. However a small group of unhappy customers started to communicate with one another and shared their findings. It turns out that a serious security breach within the gallery software was exposed to the tech support guy (he was also a member of the development team) through the forum. He acknowledged the fault, deleted the thread and claimed later never to have said it. Yet recently a copy of that conversation has surfaced proving that the companies ethics and morals must be incorrectly set. Who in their right mind would sell a software gallery knowing it was a serious security compromise and then once told about it, do nothing!
    The mounting pressure on the gallery software company and the now seriously tarnished reputation eventually had its toll and they have closed down a few days ago.

    As luck would have it a small band of developers who had left the Vbulletin to create a new modern forum software also developed a gallery at the core. And what’s more they recognised the thousands of communities that were trapped within PhotoPost gallery and build a comprehensive import system that really worked. The only downside was that I had to fix the old gallery first and that was going to take a few weeks.

    We’ve done that now and have heavily invested in what we hope is the future of Picture Penzance. Initial tests suggest that we have eliminated all of the members problems that they had with logins, uploads and so on. And all of the pictures have been fully restored!

    Now, and only now, Picture Penzance can be allowed to flourish.
     
  2. symons55

    symons55 Moderator Staff Member

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    Got there in the end Steff, thanks for all your efforts, as you say it can at last flourish.
    The software is certainly easy to use as well.
     
  3. Halfhidden

    Halfhidden Untouchable Staff Member Administrator

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    Thanks Alan. I'm negotiating a new server deal that should improve speeds beyound what we've had before. I have to release a newsletter and a press release soon.
    I've also got some old pictures that aren't in the public domain to go up. And if the members want it they can have a brand new fully automated guess game and picture competition with a point board and bell and whistles ;)
    We'll catch up soon for that pint :)
     
  4. symons55

    symons55 Moderator Staff Member

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    Yep, got to have a get together and catch up, then you can get to know Chris properly, hopefully this month is a quieter one with not so many runs to Dorset lol
     
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2016
    sparky and Halfhidden like this.
  5. Halfhidden

    Halfhidden Untouchable Staff Member Administrator

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    Will do :)
     
  6. pzpirate

    pzpirate

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    Now I'm in the picture! A battle well won.
     
    sparky and Halfhidden like this.
  7. sparky

    sparky Authoritarian Staff Member Administrator

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    certainly been through the mill and back with this website, but glad Steff has managed to keep his cool and stayed up late for many hours/days untill it was sorted Thank you Steff for all of your hard work over the last few months :) xx
     
    symons55 likes this.
  8. cornishman in WA

    cornishman in WA

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    I am so sorry to read of all the dramas you have encountered in trying to keep this excellent site available.
    Thanks for all your efforts to finally get it up and running again
    Best regards from Australia
    Tony Willis
     
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  9. Halfhidden

    Halfhidden Untouchable Staff Member Administrator

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    Thank you Tony. What makes it all worth while is knowing we still connect with fellow cornishment all over the world :)
     
  10. dingdongd

    dingdongd Senior Member

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    Will have a good read this evening. Proper job.
     
    sparky likes this.
  11. John Bennett

    John Bennett

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    I have some pictures I took in August 2015 at Nevada City, California, Penzance twin town. Would you like them added? If so how?
     
  12. ronnie

    ronnie

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    Great to see you are up and running again! With huge appreciation for all that you have invested in the site ,not solely financially but also in infinite amounts of determination and dedication. Thank you.
     
    Halfhidden likes this.
  13. P_Trembath

    P_Trembath The Best

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    Well done.
     
    sparky and Halfhidden like this.
  14. Halfhidden

    Halfhidden Untouchable Staff Member Administrator

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    Fell free to upload them.
    Just click on the media link and on the top right you'll see upload media. You can upload by any device including mobile/cell phone. If you don't already have an album you'll be prompted to create one.

    Looking forward to seeing the twin town of Penzance :) :rolleyes:
     
  15. Hedge Slammer

    Hedge Slammer Untouchable

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    Nice one, Steff, many thanks for all the hard work. :)

    If you're still looking for a hosting provider, try TSOHost - you might be able to get it free. ;)
     
    Halfhidden likes this.
  16. exile

    exile Member

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    A marathon effort,very much appreciated
     
    sparky and Halfhidden like this.
  17. Harvey69

    Harvey69 Senior Member

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    Well done, good to see PP up and running again.
     
    sparky likes this.
  18. md5299

    md5299

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  19. md5299

    md5299

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    Hi Halfhidden could you let me know if and how I can access my favourites,TY.Mike.
     
  20. Halfhidden

    Halfhidden Untouchable Staff Member Administrator

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    Do you mean accessing your favourite images that other members have uploaded?
     

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