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The future of T³

An article by Matthias aka Blackhawk, T³ head admin and developer:

At the beginning of the year we had a discussion about the future of T³ and 9 months later there is reason to talk about this issue again.

Since the start of T³ 5 years have passed the land. Besides the original reason to just simplify the tournament sign up process, it has become the international place to go for tabletop tournaments in Central Europe and beyond. The tournament scene was turned upside down and tournaments grew into dimensions nobody ever thought of. In addition to the pure tournament functions T³ is getting more and more to a social network for tabletoppers. Bigger and smaller cooperations with game manufacturers approved the significance of T³.

And the uptrend isn't coming to an end. In August 2009 the two T³-domains reached for the first time the 5 m hits with almost 150.000 visitors creating 20 GB traffic. This is an increase of 25% / 30% / 47% compared to January. This is coming with only 5 completely supported countries although the international degree of awareness is increasing beyond them.

With a rising number of users the amount of work rises, too. With the voluntary help of the admins a big bunch of work is taken from me, but all development work, fixing of bugs and complex administration issues are my responsibility. First of all the maintenance and development of the system is a 24-hour job. The todo list is growing faster than I can process the stuff and there are some core areas of the site, which are also 5 years old, and normally need to be redone completely. The design and layout don't meet the current demands on them anymore either.

On the other hand the technics are getting old. The server can handle the traffic after lots of optimizations quite well, but these cost a lot of time and effort. Furthermore something unexpected can happen... like the hard disk crash in December 2008 has shown. Something (= new server) has to be done in the next 6-9 months.

In other words: T³ finally passed the status of a hobby project and cannot be run in the current manner any further. Therefore I was wondering on my own and with team about the future of T³. Since the introduction of the T³-support tournaments some money is coming in, so that I can spend time on T³ without remorse ("You should better work and earn some money!"), but the donations are quite few and not every organizer takes them as serious as it should be. There are over a dozen donations open from tournaments before October and even results of them are partly missing.

As I started as a self-employed web and software developer this year, my time is getting quite valuable. This is nothing compared to my times at the university, during which T³ was created. Time is money, but the time put into T³ is low money. If T³ would generate a corresponding monthly income, so that I basically could live from it, much stuff would become a lot easier. Therefore we came to the conclusion to go the way other websites go, too, and offer for a low monthly fee additional features. Just to be clear:

All existing functions of T³ - especially the fundamental use by players and organizers - will stay free of charge.

These "Premium Accounts" will only offer additional features for their owners, which extend T³ at reasonable points. More comfort is the magic word. We have already got a couple of nice ideas and these will certainly become more. In doing so not every new function will be "Premium only". Our todo list is long enough to offer new stuff for both normal and premium users ;). In addition to that the premium users will benefit indirectly from this. If my income is safe, I can put all my time and effort into T³ and work on all the stuff, which will bring improvements to all users (like a new design/layout). A new GöPP would become more probable, too.

This would lead to gains for all the involved: The general public gets a better, more reliable T³ with more possibilities. The premium users get more comfort and nice additional options. It has to be clear to everyone, otherwise I cannot put as much time as I wish to into T³ to support, maintain and develop the site.

Given that an implementation of additional features is a big bunch of work with uncertain outcome, we would like first of hear your opinion about the topic. Therefore we will start an open discussion in our forum and - more important - a poll. I ask you all to participate in the poll, because the topic is the most important issue of the last 5 years and concerns myself too. The more users participate in the poll, the more exact the results will be and the merrier we can analyze the situation. The poll is anonymous. Only your country of origin will be tracked. If you have other proposals, ideas, feedback, you can leave it in the forum in public or by email (German / English: Blackhawk, French: cenotaphe) in private.

I beg you all to approach the cause with the needful seriousness and the needful honesty as it's about my future and the one of T³.

Link to the poll

Many thanks for your support!

Best regards
Matthias aka Blackhawk, T³ head admin and developer
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