Monday, December 06, 2010

AUGI Forums

I've been wrestling with this post. Obviously anyone whose read this blog knows that I've been involved in AUGI for many years. I served on the Board of Directors from 2006-2008 and little bit more when the election process hit a snag. None of the nominated members were approved. My term was extended until I was replaced by a new election six months later.

This past Wednesday night members found a new website for AUGI. They then noticed that the forums weren't online and then were stunned to find that the forums were not only offline but that when they resurfaced they were completely revamped and none of the legacy data is there. There is a seven year long back story that I won't get into since most people are just concerned with the forum data.

A very good friend asked me if I approved of what the AUGI Board of Directors chose to do: My answer was/is YES and NO. How typically political you might react? It's completely honest though.

My yes is tied to the legacy of the past seven years, my ten years as a member and volunteer, my 2.5 years on the Board of Directors and tons of minutiae. I've longed for the day that AUGI was truly free again to manage its own affairs and able to do what the members actually wanted to do. That is actually true today. AUGI is fully funded and it has complete control over its assets again. Except one unfortunate "loose end", the forum data.

My no is tied to how the Board chose to deal with this last item. I wish that it chose to put the gory details of the last seven years on the table so that members could decide how aggressively it wanted to deal with its forum data. It is the Board's responsibility to make decisions for the organization and having served in that role I do respect the burden. I do also think that the Board needs to put its trust in the members with really big decisions too.

Trust is a two-way-street and no Board in the last decade truly has fully deserved its members trust. I think that this one deserves recognition for facing very difficult decisions head-on, more so than any other board since 2003. AUGI was facing insolvency just a couple years ago and it is doing well today, that took dedication and some gutsy work. The members ought to consider extending a bit of trust their way too, even if they don't get to see all the details they've been wrestling with.

What now?

I believe the real value of AUGI is the members and their willingness to help each other, not just on past conversations (not just their posts). Sure they are great to search and find but more often than not people just ask the question all over again. Because that interaction is the value, that's what brings people back again and again. It is the quality of the members, their passion for the software, for sharing. It isn't just posts from 2003, 2006 or 2009... it's nice that they are/were there but not the sole value of the organization. If I go to a bar I don't go there to have the conversation I had last year again, I go to see people and have new conversations.

I'm hoping that AUGI can negotiate successfully for its forum data and that it can get migrated into the new web site as soon as possible. I hope that the members help reshape the new site since it IS a chance to start fresh in many ways. If we are honest there are many things about the old site that could stand a bit of rework. I'm prepared to get the heck out of the way too. I've been the Revit Community Forum manager for a long time. It's time (long overdue) for a new leader to step in and see things with fresh eyes.

For those of you who are feeling betrayed, I'm truly sorry...I can relate on many levels and not just because the forum data isn't there. On a deeper level, betrayed by people many of you don't even know. We can either keep moving forward or take the opportunity to do something else. There IS MORE to life than AUGI though I'm hard pressed to know what that is at times. Start something new, stick with AUGI, be the top poster at AUGI...you've got a great shot at beating me now, I've got zero posts now.

What will you decide?

Don't be a stranger...

24 comments:

Erik said...

Well said...

David Light said...

Good post Steve! As we discussed last Thursday its a sad state of affairs. Only time will tell if it truely recovers. My experience with these sort of things, is within 8 months or so, people willl have moved on.

Patrick Davis said...

Was wondering what happened. I am sure this topic will take on a life of its own, similar to that of the change in UI.

John Cook said...

I was wondering who hit the reset button on AUGI. Losing all the legacy forum data is not good. Lots of new members out there just lost one of the best sources of information. Should be interesting to see which way things go from here...

-John Cook
BIM Strategist

Michael Robinson said...

Very well said, nice article.

Jake Boen said...

It's sad to loose all the valuable information in the forums. That said I think it can recover if users continue to frequent the AUGI watering hole. If not other venues will begin to flourish. Also Steve is correct; perhaps it is time for new users to show their stuff and get involved. All hope is not lost.

Matt Stachoni said...

While I agree that the loss of so much valuable forum information is terrible, in my mind AUGI's biggest problem right now is the new forum architecture itself. Put plainly, it sucks. Horribly.

When Autodesk's discussion groups went HTML-only, there was a huge uproar. Many folks - me included - bailed and went to AUGI. Even though they were web-based, they at least worked. Until now, of course, because they are rendered utterly and horribly broken.

If AUGI is interested in progressing forward, they need to scrap this dreck and get back to the basics. We can rebuild much of the knowledge base with some smart posts by veterans, but we need a stable forum interface to do so.

MrCamper said...

hehe, they call it Automess for a reason....

narlee said...

WOW. Well, thanks for your years of time, dedication and leadership. You are truly a significant part of Revit’s success, that’s for sure. And a real contributor to society, when you think about it.

Hope the old ISP relinquishes the data. It seems silly that it wouldn't.

Dennis said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
R.K. McSwain said...

I agree with Matt S. Dropping the historical data was bad enough, but then to drop vBulletin and switch forum software at the same time...?

I for one don't care about "single sign on" at Augi. Restore vBulletin and I'll log on to the forums separately if that is what is needed.

Matt and others, there is always the forums at CADTutor.com, The Swamp, and Cadalyst, all of which use either vBulletin or SMF forum software.

Kenton said...

Great post, and although I am very upset to see that all of that data not available I know I'll continue to use the site. Just very dissapointing to see years of comments and information just dissapear like that.

Steve said...

Thanks for the comments. The forum data is still around, just the ownership of it is in dispute. Hopefully AUGI and the developer will sort out their differences. I'm sure they are both motivated to work it out.

Phil Read said...

Would have been nice to member input on this decision during AU, Steve. Why don't you think the board told us what was going on at AU? What do you think we'd have told them? Why didn't you tell us what you knew at AU?

Now that the board has made clear that they'd sever links to the data that has served us well in order to create a new forum from scratch that they could "control" I believe this decision wasn't about the membership. Discussion were underway to begin migrating the data into this new forum as of last week. But the board pulled the plug. Now they have control and the membership has nothing but an empty website that we're expected to start from scratch.

Steve can have his opinions but he can't have his facts. I really hope that in the next few days there will be more educated facts coming to light than a "well, yes and no how do I **feel** about it" prose.

If anyone doesn't agree with this boards decision there is petition to motion to spill the board (which will lead to new elections). It can be found here:

http://www.petitiononline.com/AUGI01/petition.html

Regards -

Phil Read

Steve said...

I don't agree with Phil. I don't wish to see the destruction of AUGI through petition or otherwise.

Phil Read said...

I don't want to see the destruction of AUGI either. Spilling the board and holding new elections will not "destroy AUGI". AUGI was the culmination of years of contributions from the membership. AUGI isn't the political aspirations of a few board members.

AUGI was destroyed when the forums were emptied of years worth of efforts without the memberships knowledge or direction. AUGI was destroyed when executive decisions were made by the board that have deeply troubled the membership. The board knew what it was doing at AU and deliberately didn't tell us.

AUGI isn't the board. AUGI is the membership. AUGI will be restored when the membership has a board that understands the difference.

Regards -

Phil

Steve said...

Sorry, I won't be signing your petition.

It is too easy to just blame the board. They are people like you and me and they are making decisions based on the information they have. I've been there, it isn't easy. You and I are not on the board so as much as we think we know...we don't.

AUGI has not been destroyed. The data in the forums is not AUGI. It IS a great record of our activity. Speaking for myself I may have written a lot of posts in the forums but for every worthy post I'm sure there are lot that wouldn't be missed.

It also assumes that rather than negotiate to terms the person controlling the forum data would rather see it destroyed? I don't think he really cares about it in this way as much as just being compensated for it?

AUGI lost data to a virus earlier this decade, something preventable, and they picked up the pieces and carried on. This current situation could have been avoided as well perhaps. At least in this case the data is intact. They just need to come to terms.

Instead of dealing with this as if the "play" is over, perhaps it would be more productive to just consider that one "act" is over and another is underway.

I hope the members choose to give them a chance to fix things.

Phil Read said...

Steve - there's a world of difference between blaming someone and holding them accountable.

Can you tell defend this decision and explain how it was in the interest of the membership?

Why was the membership kept in the dark?

Why should we trust the board start this new forum when the old forum is still viable?

-Phil

Steve said...

I can't speak for them. I'm not on the board, my term ended a year and half ago.

I'm sticking by AUGI and the AUGI board at this time. Yes, even though I don't know all the details.

I may not like some of their decisions but that's their role and I'd like to see them see it through.

I've got as much invested in AUGI as the "next guy" so if I can, others can too. Each member will have to decide what to do for themselves. I encourage them to be patient.

David VanSlyke said...

I understand that "stuff happens" due to technical or legal (or whatever) issues.

But I'm most offended by being kept in the dark. AUGI *has* all members e-mail addresses. It would not have been difficult to send a direct e-mail to all members to keep them informed about such massive changes.

A big in-your-face banner across the top of each page linking to an online article describing the changes to come would have been really helpful, too.

Instead, the vast majority of members were extremely surprised when they visited the AUGI web site one day to find that world gone, redone, and void of the knowledge many depended on. They didn't find out about it until after the fact.

For their lack of transparency, and in particular their poor/lack of multiple communication to the members about major changes (which they readily could have done), it is not difficult to believe there is significant incompetence in the BOD.

While it is easy to want to help answer other's questions and participate in the community, it is NOT easy to want to participate in a system/organization you can't trust.

At a minimum I understand (and agree with) the call to spill the BOD and start fresh.

That would almost certainly be the fastest way to regain the trust that has been lost.

WATG Alumni said...

Regardless of what has happen so far it still blows for those of us who depended on this site rather than constantly bugging former colleagues all the time. It was a great educational resource for those who depended on it as well.

caddguru said...

The AUGI website has historically been the group's most important asset, its home, the glue that holds it together and makes it both free and International.

Recall elections such as this can foster a Renaissance in the group that is long overdue.

I've heard multiple complaints about the "Closed" nature of the current election process, which basically only allows for a "ratification" of new "election-committee-approved" OR current board members wishing to serve another term.

Things happen for a reason. Indeed, the group clearly needs a blood transfusion so it can regain strength.

The type of meeting and special election that Phil Read calls for is a contingency allowed by AUGI's bylaws and a standard provision of Robert's Rules of Order. There has never been a better time, and hopefully never again, for such an extreme motion.

Attending the annual meeting for the last three years has been a painful, sad experience for me. It keeps shrinking each year.

Let's do what's necessary and help AUGI regain strength. With all our united help and cooperation, putting ego and selfish agendas aside, I believe the best for AUGI, a great community of Autodesk software users and designers, is yet to come.

Warm regards from Los Angeles,

Emmanuel Garcia
Past AUGI President 2000
Past AUGI Board Member 1996-2000

Steve said...

Thanks for your comments everyone!

I'm glad that this passion for AUGI exists!

Emmanuel, as a past Board member and past President you are well acquainted with some of the difficult issues that AUGI faced with the people that made up the boards back then. You are also aware of the serious changes that were necessary. Some of what members may complain about today was brought about to make adjustments for unfortunate things that occurred earlier in AUGI's history.

Keeping that in mind, I'm not in agreement with some that a wholesale replacement of the current board is the correct response.

A balance between the correction that has taken place during the last decade and where the organization was back then perhaps, but not a complete reversal. I'd rather not have AUGI doomed to repeat its past.

I am glad that members are concerned and care about AUGI enough to get angry and want more from leadership.

Steve said...

According to a new post at AUGI today, they (the Board of Directors) are nearing a solution that will restore the forums and provide away to satisfy the organizations long term goals.

President Elect David Harrington posted a list of statements that indicate that there will be an agreement in the next 24 hours that will begin to restore some sense of normalcy. We can read the thread via this link:

http://forums.augi.com/the-general-store/viewthread/629/