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State of the Site - May 2023

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  • State of the Site - May 2023

    Believe it or not, but we're right about at the edge of summer. I brought out the lawn mower and yard furniture out last week and finally put the snow blower into storage. My son who attends the University of North Texas came home last night via The Friendly Skies after finishing his finals this week, and the end of the year is also quickly approaching for my now-famous granddaughter at her elementary school, although some unexpected snow days extended that by a week.

    Time indeed flies.

    As school starts to wind down, we usually start to see new people discovering the various games we've all come here to enjoy and discuss, and that also means new or infrequent members returning to the forums.

    If that includes you, Welcome and Welcome Back!

    For the rest of us... let's try to remember that all the fun of navigating our respective games is all new to them, and some patience goes a long way.

    For now, that time before the end of term usually means spending time in the library hitting the books, so that's what we're doing today....




    I'll admit it -- I'm a bit of a stats nerd, and have been making a few changes behind the scenes.

    Server logs are good for monitoring things after the fact, but we didn't have a whole lot of visibility in realtime when it came to how long downloads were actually taking, or who was in the library at any given time. That's changed a bit. The image to the right is a screenshot of a realtime view for download activity over the course of several hours -- something really helpful when trying to figure out server performance.

    That specific data gathering is resulting in a few tools available for you to use as well -- the [MyQuota] and [MyHistory] reports (available on the File Library menu) can help give you an idea of what you've downloaded. I'm really bad about remembering what I've already downloaded, and have many time downloaded the same thing twice in the same week... MyQuota should also help those who are on free memberships work to stay below the quota and also have a better idea of when they might find themselves out of Download Jail should they wind up there temporarily.

    As a site manager, I can now see that we've had almost 3,000 people access the file library in the last 30 days, which is a great indicator of interest in the various simulators.

    I was also able to identify that a handful of people managed to downloaded over 700 files each in just the past month. While I applaud the enthusiasm and effort that must have taken, it seems a few people were blocking others from being able to access the library, and all that bandwidth comes at a cost. Plus, I don't think anyone likes seeing resources being consumed knowing the vast majority of those zip files will never be opened or installed.

    We have a running thread going in the forums on this topic, so [feel free to join in the conversation there] if you have questions or feedback on this.



    The library got a bit of a boost this past month -- the Reference section is up and running, and long-time Milwaukee Road historian Michael Sol has agreed to let his collection of over 30 track profiles in PDF format be added. That makes two Granger roads with almost a complete set of charts available.

    If you have profiles you would be willing to share, we'd love to have them. The same goes for digitized timetables, schedules, and rulebooks. I'll also be reaching out to the folks on Railroad.net (which does not have a file library) to invite them to contribute, and maybe stay for some conversation here if they find us interesting enough.

    Also new in the library... Payware. Well.... sort of.

    We've always had product announcements in the News section, but that only reaches the folks who read the site regularly.

    What the downloading stats show is there's a large audience here who use the library only, and I've wanted to find ways of doing more outreach to those folks, and also help them find some of the great work that's available for the various sims from our commercial community.

    To help make that happen, we will be using existing functionality that's been present for a while which allows download files to be searchable but hosted elsewhere such as a filesharing service like Google Drive or a personal website. When the question was asked about doing that with payware, the answer came back "why not?" and so we did...

    Some items from TrainSimulations.net and Belanger Locomotive Works / ZosaTrains are already in the library in the "Open Rails - Payware" section. When you click thru the download link, you'll be directed to the applicable product page on their websites where you can learn more and possibly purchase their work. This is by no means an exclusive offer -- any third party developer or game supplier can participate if they're part of our community. If you develop for Trainz, Railworks, or Run8, that includes you as well. The catch is you have to participate. Think of it as friends and family offering.




    The next feature is a result of me watching too much TV lately. My granddaughter (yes, that one) is a huge Harry Potter fan, and I was able to surprise her yesterday with the Hogwarts Express running on the Severn Valley Route (and yes, multiple reskins exist in our file library...). As I was getting it set up, I was catching up on XFL and USFL football games, and saw where the concept of "bundling" kept coming up in those commercials for auto & home insurance that seem to find their way onto the sports channels.

    And that's when it hit me -- our library is filled with downloads that either require or go with other downloads, so why not find a better way for these to be bundled so that it's more of a one-stop search? With payware sets now listed, perhaps there's also an opportunity to bundle a few repaints or activities up with the set they're based on.

    That idea is still mostly on the whiteboard right now, and won't be available until later this year (after the site upgrade I've discussed in previous updates). If you have any ideas on good candidates for bundling, please drop me a note or leave a comment here.

    As an aside... while we're talking about libraries.... I was at the Illinois Railway Museum this past weekend, and the Main Street project is really taking shape. There's a model railroad exhibit in the Union Hobby Shop that is just incredible, and the Milwaukee Road Historical Society has opened up a display hall in their new building. Even better, the MRHS has a research room available with reference items available to visitors. If you find yourself out in East Union anytime soon, be sure to leave some time to stop in to both exhibits if they're open.




    On a sadder note, long time member Arno Echtermeyer (FSSArno) passed away last week at the age of 84. Please feel free to drop by the We Remember section to share your memories.

    To all of you who continue to support the site thru your memberships and contributions to the File Library and Forums, thank you very much!. This site would not continue to be successful without each of you.

    If you're new or haven't yet dived into the forums, please feel free to do so. There are years of hints and ideas there just waiting to be re-discovered. Helping others get more out of the various simulator experiences is a big part of what we aim to do.

    And now, the lawn mower is calling my name looking for some more attention. See you back here in a couple weeks.

    • westerngy
      #5
      westerngy commented
      Editing a comment
      Originally posted by jdgremsjr
      I've tried to dive into the forums here on this site, but when I do, I get snide remarks or talked down to, this community, (the Forums here, at least) seem to be cliquish and if your post count is too low no matter how long you have been playing the sim, for me 18 years, you are just a noob. That is why I only use the file library here and other communities for forum activity. But, I will continue to support this site with my membership, because no matter how I get treated in the forums, it is relatively worth the price to keep the library alive.

      Echoing what has been said people need to RESPECT each other and here at TS there is no place for treating people bad.

      Ah yes summer has arrived as Mothers day it was 30 and Monday it was 33.

    • EldoradoRailroad
      #6
      EldoradoRailroad commented
      Editing a comment
      Originally posted by westerngy
      Echoing what has been said people need to RESPECT each other and here at TS there is no place for treating people bad.
      Does that include dissenting opinion for payware products? Seems like there are/were a few "sacred cows" that cannot be discussed, let alone, constructively reviewed, whether they have good and/or bad points.

      This forum has changed hands recently. In the past I have noticed very heavy handed, baseball bat enforcement from those who certainly were not moderators, but somehow through their yearly payment were allowed to post things that certainly did not convey respect. God Bless, some have gone to the great hump yard in the sky. But I can see that those attitudes would dissuade many from posting when they logged in. Only time will tell if what you describe has changed or will change for the better.

      Steve

    • eric
      #7
      eric commented
      Editing a comment
      My inbox is always open if you're not happy with how discussions are being handled...
    Posting comments is disabled.

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