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Dear members and friends of ipernity,
A turbulent year ends. In everyday life, we were confronted with incidents that were not even vaguely imaginable at the start of the year. And with regard to our website we also encountered some very critical challenges.
In spring, we were struck by an interruption in the connection to PayPal. The cause was that our website was using outdated software that PayPal no longer accepted. In summer, a server malfunction occurred, and we needed external support to fix it. The IT professionals we consulted strongly recommended to replace the outdated, failure-prone ipernity database by a cheaper and more reliable modern database. Unfortunately, this was not possible because ipernity is coded in an outdated programming language, which modern databases do not accept. For the same reason, it was not possible to reconnect to a credit card service provider.
The upload problem that occurred recently has a similar cause. The Amazon cloud no longer accepts the previous data transfer protocol. Solving this problem is extremely difficult, because the ipernity software is very complex, and any documentation is rather limited. The experts are therefore only making slow progress.
Three years ago, shortly after taking over the website, it had already been pointed out that we would increasingly run into difficulties with its completely outdated technology because the IT world is advancing with great dynamism. So are we fighting a losing battle, or does our community still have a future?
To find the answer to this question we need to look at the situation more comprehensively. After all, technology is only a vehicle that enables us to be in contact with each other. But why are we? We, more than 1,200 paying club members and even more guest members? There are commercial alternatives just a few clicks away. Why aren’t we there? More precisely: why have we decided to still be here?
Psychologically, the deepest human needs are the feeling of belonging and a desire for autonomy. Ipernity fulfils both of these to a particular degree. A member wrote once: "Ipernity makes me feel like I'm at home." And the desire for independence from big corporations is more than understandable given the arbitrary way that they treat us.
There is a lot of fear in the world right now, which is no good companion for a positive way of life. Fear is also increasing in our community. For example, with regard to the decline in membership, concern has been expressed about whether our club is over-ageing. However, the decline is mainly due to the withdrawal of those who had only used our website as a cheap cloud or for purposes unrelated to photography. Although half of the members are older than 62, the other half are younger. This is not a bad balance to have.
Especially now, in the general crisis, the age structure of our club is even a great advantage. In the countries where most of our members are at home, pensioners are usually better off than those who are still working. This is evident from the fact that our COVID 19 help offer is hardly taken up. At ipernity, two generations meet through the hobby of photography. Both can benefit from participation with each other: The older ones from the creativity and dynamism of the younger ones, the latter, in turn, from the experience and consistency of the former.
Ipernity is not modernistic. We are not a club that runs every trend. Neither do we do so with our website. It still has a classic look. But we were able to reduce a large backlog of innovations in 2020. The website is tidier than when we took it over. It has more setting options and a significantly improved user interface. For comparison, we have temporarily activated the version that was online at the beginning of 2020. You can get to it by selecting the Swedish (Svenska) language. Since some objects were changed independently of the language, this is not an exact snapshot. But it is certainly enough for a comparison. What our website can do, it does exceedingly well, like an old Leica. But above all, it does it just the way we want it to.
Unfortunately, however, our website is becoming increasingly prone to glitches that mar the user experience and strain the club's coffers. We are inevitably faced with the need to upgrade the technology of our website as soon as possible. Since external reprogramming is very expensive and would be hard to finance, the most likely way ahead is to do it ourselves. If that succeeds, ipernity has a future and is also interesting for new members as a trustworthy alternative to commercial offers.
To accomplish this mission, we call on all IT professionals and other interested people from our community (see note) to form a project team in time for the Ipernity General Assembly in March 2021. Please be aware that Rob Stamp and Eric Desjours will not be seeking re-election in March. Their decisions have nothing to do with the current occurrences. Of course they are willing to pass on their know-how and advise us for the time needed.
Your ima team
Note: More than