User Blogs to be Retired

All of this has been such a wild ride, and it is about to take yet another turn!

At the beginning of TC, we started blogging about Monsterpocalypse and picked up an amazing group of commenters/friends who connected with us and each other. That led us to implement the ability for everyone with a TC account to write blogs and have them posted right on the front page of our site. The response was incredible.

So many phenomenal blogs were posted, from general strategy discussions, to list building, to following along with the Mastering Monsterpocalypse series. The community, centered entirely around Monpoc, was like nothing we had ever been a part of.

Then the game died, and almost immediately X-Wing took its place. Theorist started rolling out with his renowned X-Wing analyses and vassal tournaments and mu0n took over the vassal updates and posted them religiously, alongside Froggies, SableGryphon, and thousands of other X-Wing players (too many to mention!) who wrote and engaged along the way.

Then the podcasts showed up; from Scum and Villainy, to Breaking News, to Knights of Ren and many, many more. We listened to and shared in the mutual passion of those productions.

Unfortunately, the entire “user blog” infrastructure was built on a house of cards. We were inexperienced and strapped for resources when that functionality was implemented, and the complications of having such a complex codebase added to a relatively minimal blog were not understood at the time.

The complexity grew bigger and more tangled every day, with each new user creating rows upon rows of tables in our beyond-bloated database. When the problem finally started crashing the site (and our store with it), we reached out for a solution. We discovered that creating a simple backup of our database was not even possible without bankrupting ourselves, as its size was outside the bounds of traditional processes.

So we basically had to decide whether we should nuke all of the site’s content and start over, or try to salvage what we could and migrate it to a fresh database.

We chose the latter, and over the course of a year carefully worked with our newly-found development team behind the scenes, exporting and importing users, categories, posts, comments, messages, products, etc. to a clean build.

At the same time, spam became a tremendous problem. Because every new user could post blogs and compose private messages, a large number of our customers, many of which had no idea that user blogs even existed, started getting all sorts of ridiculous solicitations – with the Team Covenant header attached. We had no way to implement countermeasures without adding more code and potentially crushing the site, and we were getting blacklisted by email providers – so we turned off private message notifications entirely, and restricted new users from being able to post blogs.

In this same timeframe, tabletop gaming conversations started moving organically to other dedicated discussion platforms, like Facebook groups, Discord, Reddit, and Medium. With no new users being able to post blogs, no private message notifications, and a slow exodus to more dedicated platforms, activity on the site kept trending downward – and rightly so.

We finally got every blog, comment, user, message, etc moved over to the new database. Some comments were in the wrong order or assigned to the wrong blog, and many of the categories did not get properly assigned, but the content was saved and years of posting successfully backed up. Unfortunately, we had exhausted all of our resources to do so. This meant that we could not focus on user experience improvements, and instead had to settle for what we had pretty much out of the box.

We made small improvements where and when we could, but we ultimately knew that our users, like those on many other smaller discussion platforms, had largely moved on. Much of this was due to the restrictions that we had to make and our compromised user experience, and the rest was a natural, internet-wide migration to the bigger, dedicated discussion sites.

Given this reality, coupled with the fact that the user blogging functionality consumes over 40% of our server resources, we will be revoking the ability for users to post blogs and removing that framework entirely.

What happens to the current user blogs?

In late Q4, we are planning to move the archive of user blogs to https://communityarchive.teamcovenant.com. They will remain there for an undetermined period of time, and in all likelihood will eventually be deleted.

If you wish to keep your blogs, we encourage you to copy/paste your content to other platforms or your own personal hard drives. You can find the listing of all of your posts by going to the following url: https://teamcovenant.com/members/YOURUSERNAME/ and selecting “posts” from the dropdown.

We can also furnish a WordPress blog backup file to anyone who requests one. The resulting .xml file can be uploaded to any WordPress site to import all of your TC posts, or parsed for the blog text.

We cannot provide a copy of your comments and/or private messages, though the former do export with whichever blog they are attached to.

It is our hope that those of you who are still blogging here (Theorist, mu0n, Jason) will take your content and start your own personal blog on WordPress, Medium, or elsewhere. We will facilitate this as best we can.

We cannot adequately state how wonderful it has been to see these various communities develop over the years, and how thankful we are for everyone’s willingness to share their thoughts and to connect with each other through our cobbled-together platform. It was so formative for all of us at TC, and we wish that we did not have to make this decision.

Special thanks to Theorist, who was undoubtedly the most instrumental contributor to this community from the beginning; if not Monsterpocalypse and X-Wing more generally. You are an amazing writer and thinker, Jeff. We appreciate you.

For questions about how this impacts you and/or to request a WordPress backup file of your blogs, reach out to archive@teamcovenant.com with your username.

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