Normally I would let the comments be in the comment section, but for new readers who may not read the 20 comments or so I hope you don’t mind if I highlight the big ones regarding this story line. The two letters speak for themselves. That’s Bill on the right and Dick on the left by the way. Here is Bill Basler’s letter..
Thanks for the kind words regarding the Chris-Craft Antique Boat Club, and Basler Design Group. I’ll let everyone form their own opinions on that one.
When I started with in my role with the Chris-Craft Antique Boat Club, one of the things that we immediately set our sights on was our web presence and tools, addressing “back end” systems before we worried too much about putting a beautiful “paint job” on the web site. In a few years, we have developed Boat Buzz, the online Archive (still in its infancy from a development standpoint), our online Hull Registry, the online Membership Directory, TradingDock.org and now the Wiki. In fact, even today, we have not quite gotten to redesigning the Club’s web site, but the site offers some really exceptional features.
Each of these technology bits create value and benefits to our members. Some of them also serve our needs from an admin side. For example, the online Member Directory, provides our membership with all the information they need to get in touch with other members. But, from an admin side, the programming that makes the online directory work as a member benefit, also helps us manage email addresses, mailing lists, and so on.
Simply, we could not operate without our web-based tools…with the added bonus of providing benefits to our members.
The hull registry is a similar scenario. To manage hull records, via paper, or offline through an Excel database is just impossible for a whole host of reasons.
The ACBS has a few different challenges, given their chapter structure. This is where relational databases shine, however, so the solution is doable.
What is difficult though, is that custom development, (ie: SQL, PHP or ASP, server-side functions, hosting) is not cheap.
This is likely one of the reasons, the company that the ACBS contracted with is no longer around. These membership management systems are the culmination of thousands of hours of programming, at whatever the going rate is for such tasks. A “system” cannot be a “system” without investing the hours to make it such. And once those hours are invested, the quickest path to financial health is to kind of “shrink wrap” it, and sell it as a package to others who need a similar solution. The problem is, that few companies make it over the hump. They invest the time, often cash flowing the investment themselves or with investor money, and never quite make it to the point that they sell enough copies to recoup their time.
This is one reason why our system is in an ongoing, steady state of enhancement. It takes years to do, unless there is a budget available to make it a “real job.”
A couple of years ago I talked with Gene Porter (then President of ACBS) about ACBS’s needs. It was a good conversation, but it never went to the next step. We were willing to help, but shortly after that conversation, the company (that recently went out of business) was deemed a better route to go.
Honestly, I can understand what the ACBS has gone through. It happens fairly often in software development. I am hoping that only time was lost and not a pot of money.