So close…yet so far!

Version 2 has hit a major pothole in its journey. While we have been planning to get this updated version out before the end of last month (February 2012) it hasn’t happened – obviously!

The programmer that I had employed has gone AWOL with the site still sitting in limbo with many of the modules very incongruous. Alas, he hasn’t been returning my emails and hasn’t been available for online chats of the situation.

This has left me in an awkward position as my programming expertise is fairly basic – see Version 1. We have been building it on the Codeigniter framework for which I have a limited understanding and need to pour hours of time in getting fluent with it.

Therefore, I am now assessing what the next step is.

The options as I see it are;

1. Find and create a team of developers to finish the site and bring this update to fruition (more time and money required)
2. Abandon the site and let it become the MySpace of the gardening world
3. Sell the site, as is, to someone who would like to continue the project

I’m sharing these thought processes with you so that you don’t feel that I’m ignoring your requests but I’m not sure which option to go with at the moment.

PS. If I decide on #2 or #3 I’m happy to credit back donations that we have received.

34 comments

  1. Oh Stuart how tantalising and frustrating. If the programmer stays AWOL can you blacklist him?

  2. Dear Stuart,

    That was pretty rotten for him to just abandon the project like that. Have you posted the job on Elance (a web site for freelancers) at https://www.elance.com/ See what kind of a response you get, require CodeIgniter experience, and give them only one module at a time to complete? These ideas come from a tech-savvy friend of mine, and they sound good to this non-tech savvy person.

    You didn’t mention a fourth option: – and that’s leaving things as they are. I know the site has problems, but is it absolutely necessary to change?

    Wishing you all the best, Stuart. And thanks for all you do — Blotanical has become an important part of my life, and I would hate it to fail.

    Pam x

  3. b-a-g says:

    I would miss Blotanical. My vote is to stay with the current format/program, but just neaten up the user interface and sort out the glitches.
    (1) Remove blogs that haven’t been updated for a year.
    (2) For beginners, it’s not obvious how Blotanical works. It doesn’t help that the Picks tutorial is out-of-date.
    (3) Not all blogs show-up on the picks list. Feed issues.
    (4) Blog titles get mixed up in the pick lists.

  4. Well, we joined as it was – and if we have been using it less (I’ve been using it less) it is, in part, because of the feeling of up-in-the-airness; that you aren’t to be contacted about problems while you are working on the site; and, of course, because it’s slow.

    Watching comments over time, it seems to me that all people have been seriously asking for is that the site works faster. You have been wanting something more super-duper than any of us particularly need. (I would have thought ? ? ? ? ?) It’s the way Blotanical enables us to find other garden bloggers which most of us value . . . (Isn’t it? ? ? ? ? ? ?)

    Pam suggests leaving things as they are. Doesn’t that make sense in the circumstances? Take a break from trying to do things differently? If things can be simplified so the site moves quicker – all the better.

    My hunch is that if things settled down, we might settle back too. (Those who haven’t given up waiting for things they never specially minded about and have gone off elsewhere.)

    I’m not struck on the competitive side of Blotanical but wasn’t there more a sense of excitement when you organised ‘best blog’ for this and that rather than trying to make things more sophisticated? It had a sort of village fete atmosphere and I liked that.

    During the hiatus, there have been all sorts of other gardening sites springing up. I haven’t looked at them all but there’s a lot involved with some of them; loads of social interaction and things to read. I value the simplicity of Blotanical. It puts us in touch with each other and not much more.

    Maybe, as other sites become more sophisticated, Blotanical’s USP is that it isn’t! Though it is slow. If there’s a way to make things faster by taking things off rather than putting more on – I’d vote for that.

    Best wishes.

    You must be feeling very sore about all this.

    Esther

  5. Carolyn says:

    I’m with b-a-g… just fix what’s broken, Stuart. No need to make it fancier, I’m sensing you’d rather just abandon, but I’ve been sensing that perhaps you’ve been feeling that for some time?

    • Stuart says:

      Certainly abandoning Version 1 is my intention. However, my preference is not to abandon Blotanical and the update. I’ve longed to see the requests of members come to fruition for a long time and if I can find a way to make that happen I shall. I’ve invested too much into this site to throw it away so easily but if there are no other options then it may become the only choice.

      However, I will have had to try every other option first.

      In fact, after a long talk with my wife over some of these issues we may have found an option that I hadn’t considered. I’ll keep you posted if it appears to be valid.

      • then thank you to your wife as well!! We do wish and hope for a viable solution. I’ve been with Blotanical since I first began to consider a garden blog of my own.

      • Carolyn says:

        Isn’t it true that “behind every good man is a good wife with great ideas”?

      • So true, Diana and Carolyn! Stuart: If there’s any way we, the participants, can help please let us know. So many of these folks are so talented. I’d be glad to do any basic tasks you need (testing, proofing, etc.). I’m a bit tight with funds right now with two kids in college, but I’d be glad to help in other ways. I can’t imagine blogging without Blotanical!

  6. Becca says:

    I sure hope you can work it out. It’s a shame someone goes awol on you right in the middle of something. Hope you find someone to fix things. Good luck Stuart.

  7. My choice – Find a new developer to finish the site and bring this update to fruition!

  8. nhgarden says:

    I would like to see Blotanical stay, whether it’s staying as it is now, or a new version. I haven’t seen anything else like it.

  9. I agree with the other commenters and I’m glad to see your reply above, Stuart. I’m sure it was frustrating and disheartening to have your programmer skip town on you. I hope you didn’t lose any money. If you did I hope there is swift justice and compensation.

    I’m glad you and your wife were able to come to some consensus on how to proceed. You have many people who really appreciate your efforts and want to see you succeed.

    I’m sure you’ve heard this a million times, but before I joined Blotanical in 2008, I had very few commenters on my blog. Thanks to your site, I’ve met an amazing bevy of garden buddies. Much of my blog’s success is because of Blotanical.

    Although I’m not active on Blot. any more, I wish only good things for it and for you. Even if it’s only a bare bones rendition, keep it going, please. You’re doing a good work.

  10. I didn’t say how much I realise how awful all this must be for you. The effort, the hopes, the time, the distractions from family life – and, now, the let-down. I think, in this situation, I’d be angry, depressed and despairing about the whole enterprise.

    Have no idea what the right thing for you to do but hope it all works out. Although we value Botanical, of course we do, this is your project and, ultimately, it’s what you want/need to do for yourself and your family that matters. We can all tip in with what we want from it but, ultimately, that’s not the point. You aren’t running a public service. It’s what you want out of it that matters.

  11. How frustrating and disappointing for you Stuart.
    :(
    K

  12. Nell Jean says:

    I thought it very telling when only 43 of us signed onto the ‘new News’ that there was not much interest in the site as a whole any more.

    My thoughts are that going back to the original format where a pick was a pick and the Help Desk was not intimidating would be a start. Inactivating the deadwood from more than 2000 members would be high on my list.

  13. Jay says:

    Stuart-
    I think that Blotanical is a wonderful thing. If you decide to sell it to someone, please consider selling it to someone who has a vested interest in keeping the site going! As stated earlier, there is nothing else like it on the web.

  14. Lona says:

    We all know how hard you have worked to start Blotanical and to keep up with those growing pains. It has grown so much Stuart and like the others if it had not been for Blotanical and your vision I would not have found all these wonderful gardeners in 2008. I hope your wife’s suggestion works out because I am one of those who would hate to see it abandoned after all of your hard work.
    Just speaking for myself I think it is time that some of the designers and landscapers paid a little for the free advertisements they are getting if that would help financially.
    You know from experience that you well never please everyone and it is easy for people to give you advise or vent when they do not realize what an undertaking it is to keep up.
    I only wish you the best no matter the outcome but I hope Blotanical continues for many years to come. I would certainly miss not coming here and meeting fellow gardeners.

    • “Just speaking for myself I think it is time that some of the designers and landscapers paid a little for the free advertisements they are getting if that would help financially.”

      Personally I love that idea too, maybe those that are listing a blog related to their business could make a financial contribution.

  15. JamesDWitmer says:

    Stuart, to prevent #2 I would consider taking over the project, but I have questions about the “buying” part. If you’re interested, feel free to e-mail me at JamesDWitmer AT gmail DOT com

  16. Barbee' says:

    Stuart, I am so sorry about the trouble caused to you! I know I haven’t been active for several months, but have plans to get back in the circle now that health has improved. I truly would hate to lose the ability to visit all these gardeners’ blogs from all over the world. To me that is the best and most important part of Blotanical. I never have been interested in the ‘Picks’ deal. I would rather that the site go back to a much, much simpler format where we can find links to blogs perhaps by category of countries. I think that would be really neat, and hopefully much easier for you.

  17. cat says:

    Hello Stuart,
    Sorry to hear you have been having such a tedious and frustrating time. I have greatly enjoyed Blotanical since the day I joined and have used it as great resource for finding local bloggers in Scotland and for promoting our own blog.
    As a plant nursery using your site, it has been very valuable. If you did consider charging a suitable amount for an advert to help with site costs, i’m sure we would be on board.
    I hope you manage to find a solution, best of luck, Cat

  18. Dear Stuart,
    In recent months, I am probably a little guilty of taking Blotanical for granted. It has always been there when I want to globe trot around the world to discover new blogs. I am heartbroken to read that there is a chance that it might disappear.
    I wanted to stop by and say how much I really do appreciate the site and all it did to get my own blog started.
    I am willing to pay for my membership, if that helps in any way.
    Thank you Stuart!! No matter what you decide, I will be forever grateful.

  19. Gaz says:

    It seems such a shame that this may not come to fruition.

    How much work is outstanding, presumably its fairly close to completion, so could a new developer take it on. Had you paid in advance or do you still have the funds to pai a new developer.

    But to echo other comments perhaps keeping it simple, and making better use of the community feel would be a way forward.

    All the best

  20. Stuart, I have had the experience of a hired programmer simply abandoning the project without finishing the work (although on a much smaller project than this) and then refusing to respond to inquiries, so you have my sympathies. Like others, I have been using Blotanical less in the past year, both because of work pressures that have reduced my blogging time and because of the site’s “under construction” problems. Also like others, I would miss it if it disappeared. Is the suggestion to clean up and streamline version 1 a bit viable? Is this like the big dreamed-of major garden reconstruction that has to be put on hold indefinitely because of unforeseen difficulties? Is it possible to make this virtual garden more pleasing without a complete redesign by making smaller, simpler changes? (I realize you’ve sunk quite a bit of time and money into this and need to somehow recoup your investment.)

  21. Firstly Stuart can I just say how sorry I am to hear of the trouble you are going through with the developer, that really must be frustrating to say the least.
    Also, I want to thank you for all that you do, Blotanical has been such a wonderful social site to meet other bloggers and for that I will be forever grateful!
    While I too had been looking forward to all the new changes that were to come. Sometimes, progress can be as simple as going back to the roots, taking what was so wonderful about the site when it functioned at its best and make that the focus and excitement once again.
    My thoughts, keep it simple! There are always new updates and new tools that can be added, before you know it you’ll need to update those too, maybe add one new update every know and then to keep it current, but keep the site familiar.
    I think at the end of the day we would all love Blotanical to be the best working site it can be, fix the current bugs, bring back the “best of” awards, and make the things that worked so well at its peak, work at their best again!
    You have loyal members who really do want to see this through with you!
    Please let me know if we can help in anyway!
    Cheers Julia =)

  22. Stuart says:

    Thank you all for your wonderful comments/suggestions/feedback etc. My desire is to continue building a space for gardeners to interact. While some are suggesting this site goes back to basics please understand that it is not that simple – going backwards creates just as many headaches as going forwards.

    However, I am still investigating an option that my wife and I discussed earlier. This option will take almost two weeks to plan and see whether it is viable or not so please bear with us as we research. If we deem it viable then we shall start discussing it with you.

    Thanks again.

  23. James says:

    Stuart, reading the comments, you can see that I’m far from the only one who has appreciated your work in making Blotanical what it was. It burned brightly and beautifully for a time. It was a rare thing. I’d love to see it somehow become a joy to visit again, whether it’s accomplished through 1, 2 or 3…or maybe 4 as you hint…

  24. I have worked in project management of software development (technical writing) and have worked with software developers and other engineers. Sometimes one leaves to accept another position, and our team is left to clean up the mess. It is stressful, costly, and frustrating. I am sympathetic to your dilemma. It is hard to know what to do, but you say you may have an idea. I am hopeful! My choice…simply put, I would not like to see Blotanical go away or be sold to someone who will not continue fostering the wonderful garden blogging community that exists here. However that can become reality, I am on board. I have only been here a year, but I find so much value here that it would be a great, great loss should it be nonexistent. Good luck, Stuart! And thank you for all your hard work! I look forward to the new idea…crossing my fingers in hope!

  25. Alistair says:

    Hello Stuart, Its almost 18 months now since I was introduced to Blotanical, and although I may not be as technically minded as many of your members, your site has meant a lot to me. I plodded on with my website for a number of years with little interest being shown in it. Interacting with so many other garden bloggers gave me the knowledge and confidence to improve my blog greatly, even if I say so myself. I now find if I do a google search on almost any title of my blog page, up it comes on page one of google.Also the daily hits were about sixty each day, now its more like four hundred per day. I hope you can get things resolved, it would be very frustrating to
    settle for status quo which as you suggest isn’t without its problems. I wish you well and I will be sticking with you whatever. Alistair

  26. Gesine says:

    Stuart,
    don´t give up!!!
    I love Blotanical, it show me how much fun blogging can be! And it´s such a great opportunity to meet Gardeners from the whole planet!
    Even if it has still problems with my feeds I will not miss Blotanical, if it´s fast or slow!!!
    Greetings from the other side!
    Gesine

  27. Erin says:

    Hi Stuart
    I LOVE blotanical. I would rather have version 1 forever, than lost you. Since joining I have added, I don’t know, probably 25 or more new blogs to the blogs I read every day. I pop in, process a new guy or two, read a few posts…l love it. I have met some very dear friends in here.
    I agree with the above post about bringing back the awards. That would be a blast.
    Hang in there. I hope whatever you are working on with your wife works out.

  28. This all must be very painful for you after all the work you put into Blotanical. However, not only do many of us value it as it has been, warts and all, I’m sure I’m not the only one to be worried about you, yourself, because of your silence. I’m sure you are dispirited but do let us know how you are doing.
    Blotanical was the first such site I came across. I found it cumbersome and slow, thought it could be condensed a bit, streamlined rather than made more sophisticated. Other sites have grown up since then. The ones I’ve some across are stylish / jazzy / informative – but they often try to suck more to themselves than I am comfortable with. One of the prime things I’ve valued about Blotanical is that it leaves people to make their main contact with each other on their own sites. Contact here is minimal, sufficient and concise. I don’t come here often, mainly because it’s slow; also, I think, because it has an air of neglect and up-in-the-airness. BUT it’s still the site I like the most.
    Do let us know how you are.

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