Listening to a client I realized that maybe “geek speak” on my part was part of the challenge. Definitions:
Themes – The “theme” is the visual part of your site that makes you unique. When a major change happens, like the rapid growth in mobile traffic, it is not uncommon to have to purchase or pay to upgrade your theme with WordPress, Drupal or Tendenci.
Software – The “software” stack is all of the functionality below the theme. Open source projects are driven by a community and most modules or add-ons strive to be backwards compatible.
Game changers – sometimes a company like Apple will invent a “game changer” like the iphone. Awesome! Oh, but wait. You can’t write software that works on a device that either didn’t exist or was a tiny fraction of visitors to your site when you first deployed your theme.
LTS Timelines – Who sets the timeline for LTS (Long Term Support) major releases? In Open Source it is driven by the community around a project. Frequently it is a combination of software and “dependencies”.
To use a large open source project as an example, WordPress users (like me – my blog is on wordpress) sometimes need to pay to upgrade a premium theme when WordPress does a major release.
As WordPress makes changes and improvements, sometimes these impact WordPress Themes and their underlying code and use of Template Tags. When a new version is announced, WordPress users are recommended to check the various WordPress Theme Compatibility lists to ensure their WordPress Theme is updated and ready for the new version.
Tendenci, a much smaller but growing open source project, is doing the same thing for the same reasons. You want a unique brand (your theme) and new functionality (the software) and you’d like it to be as low cost as possible. Hence software updates are “usually” free, it’s just when a “game changer” happens that you need to update your theme.
A Longer Explanation for those who like knowing all of the details. Because we like being open and transparent.
Let’s keep it simple. Think about tires. When you buy tires, over time, they wear out. You can’t keep adding tread to them. At some point you have to get new tires or you are in an unsafe vehicle risking your own safety as well as that of everyone that rides with you or is near you on the roads. It’s irresponsible to drive an unsafe vehicle.
Or as Billy Joel explains it:
WHY CAN’T WE JUST KEEP GOING AS IS? YOU KNOW, JUST IGNORE IT?
(Yes, I really got this question recently.) Because software that is outdated can have security holes. Security updates are the most important. Tendenci runs on top of lots of other amazing open source products, which are called “dependencies.” Tendenci’s dependencies are listed here in the code.
Yes you have your own site. But you are sharing email servers, backup servers, email relays, security scanners, proxy servers, firewalls, access control lists, IDS/IPS systems and they are all are part of an environment that is watched very closely.
Going back to the car analogy. Porsche doesn’t make every component or the tires that are installed on their cars. When you wear out the tires, you have to upgrade. Similarly if a component that Tendenci uses is not maintained by the project behind it, then you are in danger of hurting others. A simple example would be if someone found a way to hack your site and sent spam emails, then the shared email server for the server-farm your site is in could get black-listed. That hurts ALL of the clients using that shared resource. Just like when your tire blows and you wreck into another car. It is then fundamentally your fault for not maintaining your vehicle.
Why do I want to upgrade if I just don’t care about security?
This is a bad idea. There is performance, functionality and a ton of new features you are missing out on. For more click the image below to go to the newsletter that highlights a lot of it.
And this is what we now consider baseline – responsive across all devices.
If you are thinking “THIS IS THE FIRST I HAVE HEARD OF THIS!?” .. um…
No. No unfortunately it is not. It’s just the first time it got your attention. We get it given we also miss communication sometimes given the amount of noise in our inboxes. Here are some links below so you can catch up a bit. And Tendenci 7.x is WAY ahead of Tendenci 5 because of industry changes – you really want to upgrade.
But yes, we have communicated this over and over and over. Links:
Your users and the search engines expect you to have an SSL encrypted and mobile responsive website that is ADA compliant. NEW technology that consumers use and new behaviors have emerged and people expect more. Blame Al Gore and Apple and Microsoft. Tech changes fast.
WE LACK THE POWER TO MAKE EXCEPTIONS AS WE DO NOT CONTROL THE FRAMEWORK.
To our open source and our hosted clients, it is imperative that you do NOT ignore the pending “end of life” for the 5.x version of Tendenci. You must upgrade. From December 2015:
If you are not a programmer or developer then you will need to work with one to complete the upgrade. It can be our team or a Django developer of your choice.
Please remember that Tendenci is fully open source and available at https://github.com/tendenci/tendenci/ in addition to the documentation linked above. No gotchas or hold-backs. Just very direct and honest communication of the facts and accountability through code reviews.
Did clients get charged upgrading from Tendenci 6 to Tendenci 7?
No, they did not. The upgrade from Tendenci 6 to Tendenci 7, then 7.1 and now 7.2 was all done automatically. These sites were already responsive and it is the front graphics changes that require human intervention as opposed to scripted updates.
Why are you charging to upgrade from Tendenci 5 then?
Because the layouts used back then were not standardized because there was NO CLEAR STANDARD. Thus every site was a bit different. On Tendenci 6 and 7 they are strictly standardized on the front end on Bootstrap 3+, a front end responsive framework made by Twitter. The appearance of Tendenci 7 sites is very diverse, it’s just the behind the scenes name-spaces that require updates.
Do we have to use your company to upgrade?
Of course not. Tendenci is open source. The whole freedom thing. We are the only membership management software company ranked in the top 20 by Capterra that is open source. You are part of a community with Tendenci, not some locked down solution that holds you hostage.
If we don’t use Tendenci to upgrade, who can we use?
Python and Django are very popular. You are free to use any developer you want, self host or host with us.
The whole point of Tendenci is to enable freedom so you aren’t trapped with a proprietary vendor that locks you in by retaining control over your data, including redirecting links from your events to their domain so when you leave, you lose all of your inbound links and search engine rank. We do not support that practice. Unfortunately many non-profit boards don’t catch it until it’s too late and make the mistake of locking in future boards with no way out.
How easy is it to leave Tendenci? How do we know you won’t make it difficult?
Well first because that would be against our values. We make it easy to leave because folks have a tendency to come back when they experience the alternatives. We have found that the easier you make it to leave, to be free, the less likely people are to leave because the alternatives don’t share our values, particularly when it comes to data ownership. It’s your data. You own it and should have access to it at any point. Period.
I don’t plan to leave WordPress specifically because I know that I can leave if I wanted to take the hassle on myself. I don’t – I have my hands full taking care of our team and clients. I just like knowing that freedom is an option because WordPress is like Tendenci – OPEN SOURCE.
You sound kind of over-the-top about open source and data exports? Prove it!
We can also run backups directly to your own AWS cloud instance for S3. Actions speak loudly.
Type “Tendenci exports” into Google to see the number of options to export your data.
T5 clients – for you it’s not all automated but you have the same rights as everyone else. By that I mean, if you are on T5 not all of these exports were available 5 years agothrough the interface but we will gladly provide a full database export that you can then import into postgres yourself. (Note: The technology simply wasn’t available back then, but the moment it became possible (which happened when we were on T6) we enabled clients to do full database downloads themselves. It’s YOUR DATA.)
Is this “charge to upgrade” going to happen every two years?
This one is a trick question. We have more work than we can do so charging you for updates is not our goal. But you already know that if you use the nav editor and the theme editor so you can make your own updates. Tendenci is about empowerment.
Tendenci is open source so you can work with a different developer and host with them if they are more cost effective for you.
Disruption causes adaptation which comes with a price tag
Disruption happens. That darn iphone. With candor, LTS releases tend to last two years. We didn’t invent the iphone or android so the switch to mobile responsive design was effectively dictated by changes in technology. We do our best to keep your costs down, but when Steve Jobs changes the world, we all get caught up and have to adapt. That isn’t a conspiracy, it’s an opportunity.
Are you sure? Is there ANY way I can upgrade for free?
I so wish I could wave a magic wand and make your entire site bootstrap3 responsive, but I can’t. Our contractors and employees deserve to be compensated just like you do. But you know that. Maybe there is someone your know, or maybe you, can redo your site’s theme in bootstrap3 to control costs. It is an option.
What I do know is YOU will not succeed with a non-encrypted and non-responsive web site. When we chose to make ALL SITES RESPONSIVE for all releases after Tendenci 5, yes, it required us to contract with graphic artists for your upgrade and obviously these talented people deserve to be paid for their work.
What is Tendenci doing to help us control costs?
We already have far greater functionality at a lower price than all of the proprietary vendors. True, we don’t have a sales team to fill out a 5 page excel RFP, but we have a demo site where you can see for yourself at https://demo.tendenci.com admin/admin login (resets every two hours.)
The comparison grids several competitors have on their sites are WILDLY INACCURATE. Our target client wants the additional functionality of Tendenci, to be a part of a community, they understands open-source, they are cause focused more than monetary focused, and knows how to do due diligence.
Tendenci open source means GREATER FUNCTIONALITY. The freedom is a bonus.
But the competition says they have greater functionality?
They don’t. Do a fact check and judge for yourself. Facts are facts. See above. Just for fun, ask to look at their code. #heh Why? Because a community of interested people will add to Tendenci and everyone benefits instead of all of the money going to a proprietary vendor who says they own your data.
Your data is your data.
Do I really need to upgrade my Tendenci site now as it’s been fine the last 11 months since you first told us we had to upgrade? Can’t this wait until next year?
NO! November 30 2016 or you need to self-host or move to a dedicated server. We cannot be responsible if the underlying software is no longer being maintained and therefore may not be secure. That legal burden falls on your board.
Why can’t I get a personal hand written note like in the old days?
Man, I miss those days. Unfortunately, we simply can’t identify every stake-holder inside of every NGO/NPO/Association/Business we work with or who self hosts. By definition there is constant turn over on non-profit boards. And we have no way of tracking open source clients using Tendenci in the wild.
We love our open source clients, but we aren’t “big brother” and don’t currently have a 100% method of tracking or communicating with these awesome developers outside of the blog, facebook, twitter and newsletters.
OK, after we upgrade, what then?
We are working hard to keep upgrades and updates automatic and at little or no cost. The evidence speaks for itself in the no-cost site updates from 6.0 to 7.2x. Judge us by our actions.
Yet, if someone invents another disruptive technology, well, logically there could be a cost for an upgrade once it requires changes that can’t be automated.
If you host with us, contact, budget and schedule your upgrade. If you self host then please read all of the documentation which explains the full process and is posted and available online at https://tendenci.readthedocs.io/en/latest/
So how much does does this cost if we go with Tendenci team to do our upgrade? It scales with the type of upgrade you want to do and they are listed on our site here:
It’s always hard to have a crucial conversation with clients. I strive for candor and fairness as the leader of the company behind the community. We want you happy. Technology changes. We’ve done our best to keep the price as low as possible. Thus in closing, I’ll leave you with another image of a happy puppy because they make us smile, and like Tendenci, they enjoy a community of supporters but also being able to run free every once in a while.
Like a cell phone, your web site needs to be upgraded every few years as technology changes. Your old flip phone might still work, but it might also have a security vulnerability that was discovered a year or two after EOL and nobody is there to catch it.
Just to be sure. Because we care. We want you to land safely. Sometimes our contact doesn’t relay to the board with the urgency needed. This is a hard deadline and once the servers are shut down on April 21, 2015 and archived there is no easy way to restore them.
We are concerned and want to be sure the right people within your organization know. We have been banging on this drum for some time.
Here is Amazon’s announcement stating the same thing in line with Microsoft’s timelines.
Dear Amazon EC2 Customer,
Microsoft is ending support for Windows Server 2003 on July 14, 2015. If you are running Windows Server 2003, this may put your applications and business at risk, since there may be no security or software updates.
AWS provides you with options, whether you are moving to a modern MicrosoftWindows Server operating system, maintaining 32-bit applications in the AWS Cloud, or rewriting legacy applications.
You can migrate your applications to Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) instances running a newer version of Microsoft Windows Server (2008, 2008 R2, 2012 and 2012 R2). Preconfigured Amazon Machine Images (AMIs) with different combinations ofWindows and SQL Server are available. Amazon EC2 running Windows Serverenables you to run any compatible solution on our cost-effective, high-performance, reliable cloud-computing platform.
Sign up to attend the Windows Server 2003 Migration webinar, or visit our WindowsServer 2003 page to learn more.
Tendenci has always been at the forefront of technology with regard to meeting the needs of associations and nonprofits. When we released Version 5.0 of Tendenci in 2012, the software took a major leap forward by going completely open source, allowing for outside contributions from the development community on software enhancements and bringing a level of transparency and complete control into the hands of all Tendenci users. We are excited about what the future holds for Tendenci as we have Version 6.0 currently in beta and a roadmap for Version 7.0 already underway.
Tendenci was revolutionary when released in 2001. By the time we released Tendenci 4.0 in 2004, it ran seamlessly on the technology that existed at the time. As Microsoft phases out support for its older technology, Tendenci must also adapt to the newer technology options that will provide the best environment for stability and growth.
For those clients still running on the Tendenci 4.0 software, there are two paths for moving forward.
Upgrade to the latest version of Tendenci. T6 is mobile ready using Bootstrap, brings back the newsletter functionality using a client provided smtp relay like Mailgun, and can accommodate a host of pre-built bootstrap 3 templates. Tendenci is open source and runs on Linux, an open source server environment. This means complete freedom for you with regard to customization and hosting. We can migrate you to the new platform, including transfer of existing data and implementation of a mobile-ready theme for $7500.
You can stay on T4 and self host. If you would like to stay on the older technology, we can provide limited assistance to your IT team or an outside vendor with the move to your internal server environment. We will provide a single instance of Tendenci 4.0 for your use (not for resale) and you will need to establish your own security, monitoring, database server, DNS, mail servers, firewall and a VPC (recommended). We estimate the cost of the move at $5000 for the web server portion and this is variable based on the exact hosting environment to be configured.
The last two months have underscored the need to migrate away from the outdated server environment and jump headfirst into the new era of open source hosting options. We all must adapt as we receive new information. I stated previously that we intended to restore the functionality fully of Windows 2003 on Windows 2012 R2 if it could be done securely. After further research, it is clear to me that while you can definitely secure a Windows environment, it can only be done securely on dedicated servers or dedicated virtual machines isolating each client. We cannot bring full functionality back to you securely in a shared hosting environment using classic ASP. On a dedicated server, you can have security parameters that are set by you, for you. There are a number of IT firms that can assist with this and we will extend a single use license in perpetuity if this is the route you choose in the short term.
Effective immediately, there will be no additional changes to the T4 software or hosting environment so that we can focus on the release of T6 and ensuring the migration for our clients is a seamless transition.
The Microsoft sites will be taken offline permanently in 90 days.
For clients wishing to migrate to Tendenci 6.0 on our hosted servers, we will begin migrations on February 16, 2015. We expect the migration to take 30 days and are requiring full payment up front. To achieve this, there will be a need for some compromises on layouts initially, but being upgraded to a responsive design is long overdue and we can continue to work on layouts once we get everything secured and you can edit your sites easily again.
For clients wishing to self host or move to another platform, we will provide a one-time export of your data within the next 90 days. We will be accepting requests for exports starting February 2, 2015. There will be no charge for this export and it will be limited to a one-time event. If this needs to be expedited, we can refer you to an outside trusted contractor although they will charge a fee.
There will be a conference call on Friday, January 23 at 11:00AM CST (details to be emailed separately) to answer any questions about the most recent server issues and to discuss the best course of action for your organization.
We appreciate the support of all of our clients as we have fought to protect and restore your sites during this time. We can all agree that despite our best efforts, the only course of action at this point is to adapt to the changing environment and look forward to what the newer technologies have to offer. Tendenci is a great product and successfully serves websites throughout the world. We look forward to a continued relationship with our clients in the open source world of dynamic software.
[UPDATE: Another option – Generate a Static Sites. You can simply pull the site down in static format using a one line Unix command or a $5 program on the Mac. Then edit it in a product like Dreamweaver. FTP the content to any number of hosting providers. So you CAN download and transfer your site right now to fulfill any obligations. As posted previously there is also simply linking from Dropbox or AWS if that is more convenient. Neither are as convenient as Tendenci, but will keep the sites secure.]
[Update: For developers you can use this script to download. Please be nice to the servers. And scan your files! Several clients had malware on their PC and then uploaded it to the server. All responsibility is on YOU to be sure any files pulled down. This is one of the reasons we are moving away from this older technology. Virus scanners won’t catch it all. IT IS A MANUAL PROCESS TO CLEAN IF FOUND. You must review it carefully by hand. Code snippet below