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Re: hort.net moving, part II (LONG)

Ditto from me to both Theresa's and Donna's comments!
Chris, I appreciate your efforts so much, please let us know how we can support you --
--Barb, Grass Valley CA
----- Original Message ----- From: "Donna" <gossiper@sbcglobal.net>
To: <gardenchat@hort.net>
Sent: Wednesday, August 23, 2006 7:51 PM
Subject: Re: [CHAT] hort.net moving, part II (LONG)

Well said Theresa.. ditto!

Seems as one door closes another opens.. A few years ago I attempted to
downsize my life. Still hasn't happened, although I don't do the same
things. I found it hard to let go, felt bored, missed it alot.
Unfortunately, the things I do now are not as exciting as before
(working way too much and taking care of Mother).... And it seems you
never really catch up on all the things you put aside to do later.....

Maybe someday I will have time to smell the flowers as they say......


----- Original Message ----
From: Theresa W. <tchessie1@sbcglobal.net>
To: gardenchat@hort.net
Sent: Wednesday, August 23, 2006 7:27:20 PM
Subject: Re: [CHAT] hort.net moving, part II (LONG)

Can we have a standing ovation please!  No, really, I'm not teasing I
mean it.  I think it is great that you've made such a huge decision and
are taking back control over what you want to do.  I know I could
certainly take a lesson from this (and likely a few other could too- if
they are honest with themselves).  So, I think a great big huge thank
you is due, for keeping us alive.  My next question is, what is the cost
to keep our listserv up and running?  I would like to contribute a
reasonable amount on a quarterly or semiannually basis.  Is the
$200/month just for us, or is there some percentage of that which we are
consuming?  Please don't say not to worry about it.  This listserv is
important to me, I get a ton out of it, both in terms of learning and
support ,and so I see it as a priviledge to contribute my part.


P.S.  You can't disappear, because several people here know where you
live and you are a critical part of this community!!

Christopher P. Lindsey wrote:
Hi guys,

First I plead for solutions and broadside you with huge changes, then
disappear. I apologize for that -- I meant to stay involved in the
discussion, but life got in the way again. Everything bad seems to be
happening this summer.

Anyhow, this time I'm going to give you a lot of background, some future
planning, and a lot of rambling. *Then* I'll disappear. :) OK, I'll
try not to.


When I was studying Landscape Architecture as an undergraduate, I really
wanted to apply my knowledge of computers to the industry. I started
developing plans for landscape design software, plant expert system
databases, etc.

While researching available resources I met Gary Kling, an Associate
Professor at the University of Illinois who was creating a digital
encyclopedia of plant material in collaboration with IBM and the USDA
( this evolved into the UIPlants project at http://wp.nres.uiuc.edu/ ).

Gary and I hit it off and I soon joined the graduate program working
on UIPLANTS. The Web wasn't around yet, so we wrote everything under
Windows and scanned our images in a whopping 400x267 256-color format.
We could barely fit the images onto our $2000 1GB disk drive.

(The program was used through 2000 or so under Windows and OS/2, but
I rewrote it for the Web at a later date.)

Anyhow, that project only whetted my appetite for larger projects.
I knew that I had a background that could help the industry -- I knew
about plants and was well-versed in all things computer, able to do
anything from run a server to write assembly language code to do graphic
manipulation in three dimensions. In 1996 I founded Mallorn Computing
to help provide technical solutions for the green industry.

What I really wanted to do with Mallorn was innovate. I wanted to use
LPS (local positioning systems) and/or RFID tags to help nurseries,
arboreta, and botanic gardens catalog their plants. I wanted to write
inventory management and design software, plant identification and
selection software, etc. But to do that, I needed money.

I started taking on Web clients and would pretty much do 'anything moral'
for a buck. We hosted La Leche League, another ISP's Web pages, some
mailing lists, and then a bunch of nursery Web sites. I was ecstatic
when we got Heronswood as a client.

The goal was to do the work for the nurseries, then funnel the cash back
into Mallorn to fund my projects. Unfortunately, each client had a
diverse set of needs and required a substantial amount of my time. I
found myself paying for more bandwidth and installing more software as
they became more and more needy, eventually to the point where I had
no time of my own left. Or rather, when I did have time I didn't WANT
to spend it innovating for hort.net -- I wanted to be away from the
computer. Having a full-time job in the computer industry didn't help
things either.

This continued pretty much until present day. I always balanced just
the right number of clients with our network costs, but could never
make more money because it took too much time. We would just break

hort.net was created when I realized this might happen. I thought that
maybe I could provide an online resource for people, and if it was
getting paid for by Mallorn's funds and we were breaking even, great!
I even started envisioning a shift towards Web-based services, making
hort.net a great community for horticulturists everywhere.

But again, bandwidth, time, and money were issues. Our network was too
slow to allow file sharing and other features that I wanted. I couldn't
increase the bandwidth because it cost too much (we were paying as much as
$800/month for connectivity at one point) and I couldn't work more to
cover it because I didn't have the time. We were always hovering right
on the threshold and I secretly wished that something would happen where
Mallorn could shut down.


My wishes came true. :) When Burpee outsourced Heronswood's Web site
to India, Mallorn's finances took quite a blow. I lost even more interest
in the site because we were losing money, and subsequently other clients
left. I was embroiled in a political struggle within an organization that
we hosted Web space for and found that taking up even more time, but it
became clear that they would soon be leaving when they fired their Web
development team.

At that point I decided that Mallorn had to go away. I don't want to
kill hort.net, so I thought that hosting it on a server somewhere else
might be a valid solution. It would only cost us $200/month instead of
the $600/month that we're paying. With this in mind, I started contacting
more needy clients and telling them that we couldn't support their
sites any more.


The differences to hort.net *shouldn't* be noticeable at first. The site
should keep running as expected, maybe even faster than before.
My hope is that I'll have time to start adding features and innovating
again since I won't spend my time doing work for clients. The Web site
should be paid for by site-wide advertising, and some extra consulting
work on the side should pad the coffers in case advertising hits a lull.
Even the bandwidth will be greater, so we'll be able to add all of those
features we've always dreamed of.

The only sad part for me is that the original vision for Mallorn Computing
is dead. I don't see any way to develop the level of software for the
industry that I've wanted to without giving up my day job. Maybe hort.net
will take off and become profitable enough for me to pick up the reins
again, but I'm doubtful. For now, I'll have to content myself with Web
work and a community of great online personalities. :)

And maybe, just maybe, this change will reduce some of the stressors in
my life so that I can be a happier person.


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