Hi all, 

I just received notice that the cost to run this website on the Ning platform will more than double next year from $239.90 to $588/year. There is no way I am going to pay that. This site is paid up until July 2017. After that, I may decide to do something completely different with this web address, however, I am open to your creative ideas. Not interested in donations to keep the site open. I don't want to reward Ning's price hike decision.

Things on the internet have changed a lot since 1999 when this site first opened. Now there are seemingly dozens of stop motion groups on Facebook. Do a search, it's kind of amazing. This site is pretty quiet and may be losing its relevance. Might be time for something completely different. 

If you want to read all about the price change drama, go here.

thanks,

Anthony

Note: as of 09/10, 3 alternatives have been proposed. Read thru all the posts or simply vote for your favorite option, or create your own, by taking the Poll located on the Sidebar.

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My advice would be to go with a VPS (virtual private server) where you can install a Linux and manage your own site and storage space. There are plenty of offers out there for this and, as I said before, with the help of some members here we can,for sure, rebuild this site. We have a lot of time to decide and explore all the options, if we need more time we can go fundraising, there are options.

There's no way to clone SMA.com exactly like this site, but a Joomla site and forum combination at least allows you the flexibility to add similar features if you ever want to later.

Here's their extension page, most extensions are free: http://extensions.joomla.org/

The message boards on my site for the 5 week challenges are fast and free (unlike my front page) as a plugin called Kunena Forums. You could create the same topics as what you have here and customize it.

http://www.animateclay.com/index.php/forum

If you want to use just phpbb or other forums that can be installed too.

It seems the data isn't limited with my current package, but they limit the number of files on the server. It's kind of strange. If you are interested Anthony let me know and I can call my host to find out if there is anything I'd have to worry about. If there is and I don't have enough file space it's only 6.99 a month for 50 extra GB. Pretty darn affordable compared to NING! But, I'd have to ask to make sure with my host.

Anthony,

I'm an amateur animator, not very active and tend to appear on this forum in bursts of activity between doing many other thing. None the less, I'd be very sad to see such a great resource disappear and would be willing to donate towards keeping it alive. I'd suggest a voluntary model in which people are encouraged to donate a small sum whenever they've benefited from something learned from the site or have received significant amounts of feedback from other members. Say 'thankyou' to the site for the help received from it's participants.

My other regular online haunt is the forum at Timescapes.org which has a lot of relevant content for animators as well. Those interested in camera cranes and motion control systems anyway. That forum is hosted by http://www.freeforums.org/ . I've been a member for many years and it has always run very well.

Another suggestion is that you limit the size of the site by having members post videos onto their own websites, Vimeo would be an obvious choice, and post a link here. That works perfectly well for Timescapes.

Facebook has it's place but it is not a viable replacement for a site like this.

Kit

It is very affordable. I am going to give it some time to look at all the options. File limit could be an issue.

Marc Spess said:

There's no way to clone SMA.com exactly like this site, but a Joomla site and forum combination at least allows you the flexibility to add similar features if you ever want to later.

Here's their extension page, most extensions are free: http://extensions.joomla.org/

The message boards on my site for the 5 week challenges are fast and free (unlike my front page) as a plugin called Kunena Forums. You could create the same topics as what you have here and customize it.

http://www.animateclay.com/index.php/forum

If you want to use just phpbb or other forums that can be installed too.

It seems the data isn't limited with my current package, but they limit the number of files on the server. It's kind of strange. If you are interested Anthony let me know and I can call my host to find out if there is anything I'd have to worry about. If there is and I don't have enough file space it's only 6.99 a month for 50 extra GB. Pretty darn affordable compared to NING! But, I'd have to ask to make sure with my host.

Thanks for letting me know about Free Forums. I will look into it. 

The videos on my site are actually not uploaded, they are embedded. Photos, however, are uploaded and are taking up most of the space.



Kit said:

Anthony,

I'm an amateur animator, not very active and tend to appear on this forum in bursts of activity between doing many other thing. None the less, I'd be very sad to see such a great resource disappear and would be willing to donate towards keeping it alive. I'd suggest a voluntary model in which people are encouraged to donate a small sum whenever they've benefited from something learned from the site or have received significant amounts of feedback from other members. Say 'thankyou' to the site for the help received from it's participants.

My other regular online haunt is the forum at Timescapes.org which has a lot of relevant content for animators as well. Those interested in camera cranes and motion control systems anyway. That forum is hosted by http://www.freeforums.org/ . I've been a member for many years and it has always run very well.

Another suggestion is that you limit the size of the site by having members post videos onto their own websites, Vimeo would be an obvious choice, and post a link here. That works perfectly well for Timescapes.

Facebook has it's place but it is not a viable replacement for a site like this.

Kit

Hi Anthony,

My name is Haruko Napochka, an amateur cut-out animator, joined since 2014. I'm totally newbie, but it'd be grateful if I may leave some message here.

I'm sorry to hear about the serious problem... For me, as other members mentioned, SMA Message boards are great resource for study. So I cannot think either about vanishing this amazing website.

Also asking directly well-experienced animators, and sharing information with other members also enabled me a lot, too. Because for people like me living far from the city of film production, it's hard to get a right advices from professionals physically and financially.

But I agree with membership fee system, either SMA stays at Ning or not.

Free cost membership seems difficult to run further without receiving donation.

It would be helpful, if we can choose some options of donation amount monthly or annually according to our income at that time. (I'm trying to be a pro, but my income is still irregular...)

Actually, I first agreed with Facebook page. Because it won't cost anyone, and can widen SMA membership and opportunities. But as reading old posts, it seems FB interface is not so friendly to remain current topics to discuss...that sounds not practical to use.

If staying at Ning costs much comparing with phpBB, is it possible to think about membership fee at phpBB cost-firendly...?

Best wishes,

Haruko

Hi Haruko, thanks for your thoughts. It is possible to create a yearly fundraiser in order to stay here on Ning. The site is already maxing out and will have to be upgraded to a more expensive plan if we stay here which will push it up to $1188/year. The current plan is limited to 10,000 members. We are around 8300 now. So it makes sense to research a future new home for this site.

Haruko Napochka said:

Hi Anthony,

My name is Haruko Napochka, an amateur cut-out animator, joined since 2014. I'm totally newbie, but it'd be grateful if I may leave some message here.

I'm sorry to hear about the serious problem... For me, as other members mentioned, SMA Message boards are great resource for study. So I cannot think either about vanishing this amazing website.

Also asking directly well-experienced animators, and sharing information with other members also enabled me a lot, too. Because for people like me living far from the city of film production, it's hard to get a right advices from professionals physically and financially.

But I agree with membership fee system, either SMA stays at Ning or not.

Free cost membership seems difficult to run further without receiving donation.

It would be helpful, if we can choose some options of donation amount monthly or annually according to our income at that time. (I'm trying to be a pro, but my income is still irregular...)

Actually, I first agreed with Facebook page. Because it won't cost anyone, and can widen SMA membership and opportunities. But as reading old posts, it seems FB interface is not so friendly to remain current topics to discuss...that sounds not practical to use.

If staying at Ning costs much comparing with phpBB, is it possible to think about membership fee at phpBB cost-firendly...?

Best wishes,

Haruko

I was out of town for a wedding otherwise I would have jumped back into the discussion earlier.

I agree with Iulian's statement of going for a VPS (virtual private server). More and more what you are finding for forums and or social site in general are SaaS (software as a service) like NING were you will never truely be able to grab a copy of the code and run it elsewhere and you are indeed stuck to that platform. With a VPS you will be able to run what you want how you want it and move somewhere else as long as they offer similar VPS hosting. As long as you are able to have SCP/SFTP and SSH all the other management bells and whistles are just icing.

With that being said the two strongest contenders (imho) for a dedicated forum system will be phpBB and vBulletin. Each have their strengths and weaknesses but are both mature systems that have been successful and had their trials by fire for years. I have personally have worked with both systems and have even translated and migrated a custom forum system into vBulletin before (but do not take this as my vote for vBulletin just yet).

There is no silver bullet that will meet all ones needs for this community but I do lean towards open source strongly since it will allow additions to be made that might be for this specific community only and will allow it to still live and survive even if the software and/or service dies.

Questions that will help figure out options are

1. importance to be mobile friendly

2. SEO (search engine optimization) friendlyness

3. can/or should users have their own blogs and galleries

4. ease of use to interact and share with other social media services

5. the look and feel of the site beyond just color changes of forum's default or available themes

There are many other questions that will unroll but these are usually the simple ones that can get the discussions started.

What ever SMA starts moving towards I can even work on bringing over things from this version and past into the new system as a locked archived subforum so everything would end up searchable and being in the same system if that would interest anyone.

I should add my experiences are not limited to just phpBB or vBulletin and have worked on many thing in the past covering Joomla, Drupal, Modx, Wordpress and several other custom or obscure systems. I have my own personal opinions or each and the different kinds of plugins, addons, and modules but in the end as long as it works and works well for those involved I can work with it.

Other options are to look at total social networking packages that are for the most part self contained (and still open source and self hostable) like Elgg, Oxwall, or Jamroom vs piecemealing many different parts together.

Just found this discussion, trying to read through all of it it looks like some good options have been suggested already. I can understand that you would not want to stick to a plan where you don't agree with such crazy cost increases, while not being certain what more restrictions and further costs increase they might come up with in the near future...

I don't know much about other platforms and providers and what may be the other suitable options. But if there are other good options to switch to from Ning, I think if there would still be a cost problem many of us here would be happy to pay a small fee. It could even be optional/donation based perhaps to keep the site as accessible for anyone as it has always been. 

This website and message board has been immensely important and valuable for me. When I first came to SMA in 2008 I was just starting out with making puppets and sets in my bedroom. The knowledge and all the info and topics I could search through and all the help from experienced members have made a massive impact on learning this craft. I still remember the day I first found out about this community, hungry to start learning, and it was as if I'd just opened a massive treasure box and at the time it was the only place I had to share my passion for this craft.
I have made very dear and close friends via this site, some which I could meet up with in person and work on projects while others are at the other side of the planet (but we still try to work out ways to collaborate on projects despite those distances!).
Since beecoming a member while I was making stop motion films in my bedroom I went on to move from my home country to the UK to study animation and now am working in the animation industry in the UK, currently building armatures at John Wright Modelmaking in Bristol.
I've had great help from members here while I was building my first ball and socket armature and I think I simply wouldn't have been where I am now if it wasn't for this great community.

I am not as active as I used to be at the moment, which is probably mostly due to the fact that I have not had much time for personal projects which I can share, but been busy making arms and legs and hips and torsos for big productions that will all be secret until they are released in a year, or two, or three... Plus being incredibly lucky to live in a place with a big local community of animators, and being able to meet up and exchange with locally.

However, I always find myself going back to SMA and especially the message board. Which as many have already mentioned has a much greater depth and value in gathered knowledge and deeper discussions than you could ever achieve in a FB group. FB groups have advantages in other areas, and I think they can be useful for connecting with other animators and often people choose it to create a page about their project instead or in addition to a website or blog.

I think personally I would find the message board part of the website the most valuable and important to keep. The pictures, videos, Facebook like features are nice but I feel they have also made the board and information more scattered. Sometimes a discussions might happen in the comments under a photo which will not be as easy to trace back as when that picture would have been posted in a thread on the message board. Then there are people who may be sharing pictures and videos already in Facebook groups, like you say, there are so many options and places to go for that sort of sharing now. However, the in depth discussions and knowledge sharing as is so valuable of the message board just doesn't work as well on any of those social media platforms. It doesn't create the same sense of amazing stop motion resource and community.

Just thinking of more ideas... (Sorry for rambling on..) how about in addition to a message board, a stop motion 'wiki'?
I haven't got experience setting these up, but I've seen wikipedia like online encyclopedias for all sorts of stuff around certain communities. It could be a way of having somewhere people can contribute to organizing the knowledge and linking to other sources, or even linking back to certain topics, while there could still exist an active forum next to it as well perhaps?
I'm not sure how difficult this would be to bring into practice, but it seems like the way the active sharing and spreading of knowledge is already happening here we could create an epic online stop motion animation encyclopedia together...!

Thanks for your thoughts Shea and Roos. I think most agree that preserving the Message Board is the ultimate goal, above all else. I will get back to this thread in a few days once I get back from a job.

I've been following this site for years with very little contribution. Not because I'm not interested, but because I'm a horrible slacker and can't get anything done! I'd miss it if it went away. There's a lot of inspiration to be had here and some amazing talents on display.

A Facebook group seems like it might be the easiest solution.But it might leave behind all this great archived content that's been built up over the years. Would be sad to see that go.

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