Anniversaries too often read like eulogies. I am grateful for The Pouch of the past. Millis Miller and Manus Hand are the giants whose shoulders I stand upon as I look to the future of The Pouch as a web site. Without their hard work over the past 20 years, the Pouch wouldn't be looking forward to its 21st year. The Pouch was my go-to Diplomacy source when I started playing 15 years ago. As Diplomacy is the cornerstone of the ASCII King gaming empire, I owe the site a considerable debt.
Making the Pouch's 21st year something to look forward to is the way that I have chosen to repay that debt. I have taken over hosting The Pouch from Millis. In the process, I also decided to make the move from zine editor to site editor. Beginning with that decision, I started to make some changes for the future of The Pouch.
First came important hidden infrastructure changes - security, version control and backup. I put an end to shared FTP accounts and password-based shell accounts. I added an "undo command" to the Pouch web directory and I obtained funding for live backup. All of this happened in the third week of November while I was moving the Pouch from Millis' server to the ASCII King server.
Next came the editorial appointments. I installed Rick Leeds, from PlayDiplomacy.com, as Online Resources Editor, and Mario Huys as Site Lead. Charles Roburn takes on the title of Editor for The Pouch zine again as I take upon the mantle of "Leader of all things Pouch" so that Manus can continue to concentrate on DPjudge, which he runs with Mario. Dorian Love becomes the sole Editor of the Email section. These appointments are important for several reasons.
Of first importance for zine readers, Charles was pivotal to my record-breaking run of 10 consecutive on-time issues as zine Editor. As leader of the Pouch entire, I promise to continue supporting the Managing Editor in the same way I did as editor of the zine: they will have articles to publish. It's the editor's job to edit the publication, not go begging for articles. With me in charge of The Pouch, the Managing Editor will not go begging for articles in any sense of the word.
Second, there has been a major change in the capabilities of the web since the Pouch site was laid out. Online play no longer means just email because the web has become interactive. Even the major play by email judges — USAK and DPjudge — have web interfaces. The appointment of Rick Leeds to Online Resources Editor means that strictly web-based adjudicators will no longer take a back seat to the email judges in the Online Resources section of The Pouch site.
In the same vein, Dorian Love, who is not a fan of the judges, will be editing the Email section. These changes balance a long time editorial bias in The Pouch and I promise to install judge-friendly co-editors when the balance has asserted itself in the Pouch content. In the meanwhile, I have ensured the transition of all the judge utilities to the new server and I will provide for their operation for the foreseeable future. The Pouch still loves the judges; it just loves the hobby as a whole more.
Mario Huys' position, Site Lead, is an important addition to the editorial staff. Without this executive position, there's no natural successor to the leader of The Pouch should that leader no longer be providing leadership for any reason.
Just as important as the changes are the things that remain the same. Jim Burgess continues to edit the Postal section of The Pouch site while Matt Shields and David Norman continue their stewardship of the Face to Face section.
That's just what has been done already.
The broken links won't disappear overnight. The updated content won't just appear out of thin air, but we're installing new editing procedures that should make it easier for the editors to be editors. We're bringing in new council members who are expecting to write for the zine. That is just the beginning, though. I wouldn't be the right person to take on a long range project like this if there wasn't a way to make it better with technology. To get new content and fix broken links, it needs to be easier for editors to edit. That's what I'm working on.
The Pouch is just too big to reimplement in a wiki or an off the shelf Content Management System. It needs a CMS written specifically with its needs in mind.
I use Sputnik, a highly customizable wiki-like CMS written in the Lua programming language, for the ASCII King Games site. I also wrote a content wrapper system from scratch for USAK and applied my homebrew wrapper technology to the content I inherited for To Boldly Go, adapting the technology to an in-place information architecture rather than adapting the information to the technology. I have the CMS experience necessary to take on the monumental challenge that is the Pouch. I plan use that experience to build a wiki-CMS as a wrapper around the existing Pouch content using Sputnik and other tools I am already familiar with. This means old links, both within The Pouch site and from outside, will still work.
There is a catch. I can't do it on my own. And I'm on a time limit.
First, The Pouch site needs a team of editors. Even one or two editors per section like we've had in the past is not enough. We need people who will write articles for the zine and for the site, people who will report broken links and people who will keep in touch with all that goes on in the hobby. We need not just one team of editors, but a team of editors for the zine and for each section of The Pouch.
Second, I could use help from those willing to learn Lua. If you're interested in working on The Pouch as a programmer and willing to work with the tools that have been chosen for the project then contact me at the address below.
Third, hosting is not free. It costs about $1,200 a year to host ASCII King Games and The Pouch. Much of the support for USAK in the past has come from major donors. That equation needs to change to keep these resources free and ad free in the future. Right now the passing of Jim Burgess or any one of a handful of other major donors would be the end, not only of ASCII King Games and USAK, but The Pouch as well. To fix that, we need your donation today. Whether you can donate a little or a lot, we need every dollar to keep the drives spinning and to protect The Pouch site from the loss of a major donor.
Last, I have Parkinson's Disease. I'm not in the late stages yet so a lot could happen in terms of research in the 10-20 years before that happens. I have to live with the reality, however, that I'm not Larry Peery. I'm at the middle of my useful life in the hobby and I'll need help if my work is to live on. I live on disability income, which is one reason that I don't just fund The Pouch out of pocket like Millis did. This gives me free time to work on things, but comes with limitations. I need money and supplies over and above hosting costs and I need people to work with who understand why I am so driven, people who will continue the work.
Great things are happening at The Pouch. Contact me if you want to be a part of it.
If you wish to e-mail feedback on this article to the author, and clicking on the envelope above does not work for you, feel free to use the "Dear DP..." mail interface.