Posted originally on The Conservative Tree House on December 8, 2020 by Sundance
As you can see CTH 2.0 is launching a new comment platform to improve the features and user engagement we have all come to appreciate. Here is some background information about this comment process that will likely answer questions. Please book-mark this post and share it for those who do not read the site updates and just go into the comments.
Because we are free from the constraints of WP/Automattic we are able to explore features that many Treepers have asked for. We have selected comment software from WPDiscuz (not affiliated with Disqus in any form) specifically because we can control the platforms internal content according to our privacy demands.
No outside system is gathering any user data or content on the commenting platform, everything within CTH 2.0 is being built on a very stable and private proprietary foundation.
The ability to add videos, graphics, pictures, tweets, scribd embeds and other functions is now present in the comment section. This is called “Oembeds”, and it is live right now. However, we will not be activating a feature that allows you to upload images or videos directly from your computer. If the image/video has a url, it should be visible.
There are other features we will likely add to the comments section, but we must go painstakingly slow, and here’s why….
At each step in the process of adding features we have to pause and measure the impact on server capacity to support the addition. Each feature creates a small amount of data that communicates with the servers in real time (ie. the bandwidth). Think of it like a pipe, and each feature adds data into the pipeline… the pipe has a capacity… we add, then evaluate, ensure pipe capability/stability, then move on. The issue is scale.
CTH 2.0 is a massive community of simultaneous users. Each user engagement requires a live-time upload of data from server to you. The page load time is directly related to the bandwidth capacity… if there are a lot of simultaneous users the level of data transfer can overwhelm the pipe…. it can clog and freeze.
Additionally, each new feature creates a draw from the server capacity at the end of the pipeline. For lack of a better explanation this is the CDN rate. CDN = Content Delivery Network. CTH 2.0 is a massive load of data that updates for each user as they land on the homepage and visit the articles. Again, it is a matter of scale. As we said before CTH is a community, essentially a social media platform, working inside a website.
Our community engagement, the size of our commenting community, exceeds almost all other types of websites except for social media sites. Those sites are specifically designed for community engagement… CTH 2.0 is leading the charge back to the era before Big Tech took control of content delivered to you.
The content in the community (the comment section) is derived from your choices, your freedom. It is your discussion and we are stewards protecting your conversation.
With 5,000 simultaneous users on-site at any given moment, the bandwidth demand is large. With 100,000+ unique daily users and 500,000 page views per day, the data load (CDN rate) on the servers is large. We are chewing up about 5 terabytes of server space per day even with two cache services hosting the older content. We always knew our data load was heavy, we just didn’t know how heavy. This is why almost all other suggested solutions for our CTH 2.0 launch would not work. It is a scale issue.
All of these are essentially good problems. The rebel alliance is strong and the assembly is large. We just need to consider that each small 4gb feature addition for a single user has a magnitude of impact based on the scale of our assembly.
Think about walking into a bar with 100,000 friends and everyone orders one drink at the same time. The bartenders (servers) are going to get overwhelmed pretty quick, and the beer kegs will run dry fast. Then think about everyone ordering two drinks. That’s the type of scale issue we are navigating while keeping the bar open.
With all that in mind we initiated the new comment system with Oembed functions activated. Now we watch a little while and make sure the pipes (bandwidth) and servers (CDN rate) can handle the data load.
Then we add the “likes feature”, and we watch again… we keep repeating this process with every feature until we have safely checked-off our priority list. There are a lot of features we want to provide while at the same time the server host is trying to figure out what the level of our site demand actually is. Again, good problems, but this is unknown territory.
So the proprietary comment platform we have selected is stable, private and secure. It also allows us to add features that you have requested. We just need to measure the impact of each addition as we move along.
Also, CTH is modeled on an eleven year-old platform theme. It is reliable, but it is also clunky, heavy and not as streamline as modern tech can provide. As described, CTH is a heavy data-tank on a highway with the ability to collapse the road. We need to modernize and get faster while retaining the depth and purposeful mission priority.
We need to change our theme platform to be responsive to the type of device you are using making it easier to navigate the site from phones and iPad type devices. The engineers are working on a proposal, and a test site is experimenting. The good news is our site content is not complex and the modernization should not be too difficult. In essence, CTH presents itself differently, more user friendly, depending on the type of device you are using.
Additionally, one of our priorities right now is establishing an email notification system where you can subscribe to automatic notifications of new posts etc. As with almost all systems of this type (there are many) it involves the use of a third party email transmission process. Y’all are aware that privacy is a CTH priority, so we are being very careful about vetting the service and setting up this notification system to protect CTH users.
CTH does not compile user information, does not engage in the manufacture of processes that assemble lists of users or any user data. We are working to ensure we do not end up creating an external list of subscribers that would be vulnerable to exploitation. Your privacy in all matters related to CTH engagement is my priority. This new commenting platform can also deliver that type of email notification service, we are evaluating.
Thanks again for bearing with us as we work through some technical issues, search for optimal solutions, and fiercely retain the original values and mission priority of the Treehouse. The Truth Has No Agenda
Myself and the incredibly hardworking site admins consider ourselves stewards to this community. YOU are what matters. Your ability to analyze, discuss, crowdsource and provide your comments on the subject matter is what makes CTH home. We will NEVER remove a commenting function from our website.
In fact, it is the crowd-sourcing work we have done as a community that has been the most thrilling and brilliant part of our work together. I will never lose that focus. The key to Treehouse 2.0 is recognizing we have built something within a big tech ecosphere that wants to see us removed. By being proactive we have avoided some serious challenges and that makes us better stewards for our conversation.
Remember, YOU are the important part.
Without you CTH doesn’t really have a purpose. Individually we could stand outside shouting at trees with no impact; but together, sitting on the figurative cyber-porch, the conversation is rich with unique skill-sets, subject matter experts and life-long experiences that make discussion so much more valuable. Myself and the CTH admin team cherish the value you represent.
Please share your feedback and suggestions on the comment platform. Does it work for you? What do you like or not like about it. We will modify, when possible, based on feedback.
Love to all,