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XOPA Website -- Design Philosophy - TMGA :: Knowledgebase - Touring MotorGliders
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XOPA Website -- Design Philosophy

Article ID: 57
Last updated: 07 Jun, 2009
Revision: 1
Views: 20497
Posted: 01 Jun, 2009
by Sliwa S.
Updated: 07 Jun, 2009
by Sliwa S.

There are several good reasons for documenting the design philosophy of the XOPA website, including the following:

  1. True utility with a complex tool/software program is only really achieved when you get in the mind of the designer.
  2. Users may want to give advice on how to extend or evolve the program and having an understanding of the design philosophy may help the feedback.
  3. Others may ultimately join the is project.
  4. It is helpful for the designer(s) to be forced to keep a design philosophy and specification up-to-date.

Background on the Initial XOG Website

Originally the group was called XOG (Ximango Owners Group) and was fashioned after the Harley HOG.  It used a ListServ tool for LSOFT to circulate e-mails amongst the group.  This was championed by Bruce Schimmel.  In 2008 it was decided that this approach was getting dated and he was considering moving to a Google Group or Yahoo Group.  The problem with these are they have limited capabilities to share specialized data, they are limited in size, and are frequently attacked by spammers.  Steve Sliwa volunteered to put up a new website.

Steve initially used a service by Wild Apricot to bring the system up in early 2009.  It was recommend by Tom Fraser, a former Ximango owner and member of XOPA, as he uses it for his Cub Crafters Owners Group.  He learned about the system from the president of COPA (Cirrus Owners and Pilot's Association).  COPA's website is amazing and they have invested 6 figures to get it where it is today.

This initial website was brought up in a weekend.  Wild Apricot specializes in membership driven organizations and the tools help collect fees for memberships and/or special events.  The other tools such as forums, blogs, and galleries are incidental to its main goal of helping non-profits raise money.  This is not the goal of XOPA.  Further when Steve would try to contact them about needed features and/or fix bugs, it was not forthcoming.  He noted their own forum tools for their company were better than the forums inside the tools they publish.

The main issues with the initial xog.memberlodge.or site were the following:

  • No easy ability to insert graphics into responses
  • No easy way for other members to edit blogs and/or add pages without becoming webmasters
  • Limited ability to create specialized pages for extra services
  • Limited ability to customize forums
  • No easy way to add wiki tools for building a knowledgebase
  • Challenges optiimizing for SEO (easy viewing on Google)
  • Challenges related to inserting slide shows or members picture storage

So Steve decided to launch the new website.

Design Philosophy of XOPA

Based upon a survey of membership and analyzing the uses of the intial XOB website, it was determined to emphasize the following areas:

  • Continue with the forum, but make it so it has one key forum (Hangar Flying is what we call it) and the others are supporting.  This way users can subscribe to this forum for updates and not be deluged with separate e-mails.
  • Make more things alive so there is new data everytime we log in.  The home page has two data feeds that come into with the updates for the webpage.  Additionally, the news page was created with data feeds on soaring and aviation from around the Internet.
  • Create a better way to share data.  Ideally a wiki sort of system that allows the creation of a joint database of useful data.  Hence the drive for a KnowledgeBase.
  • A method of sharing flight results including number of airports, number of flights, number of hours, distance of treks, soaring performance, etc.
  • An ability to create custom pages
  • Ability to customize tools with feedback from members
  • Abilty to share pictures

Overall Approach

Based upon the goals it was decided to use a forum community system as the home membership system and add a knowledgebase or wiki tool to it.  Open source, but supported tools would be the best.  Ideally these would be put together so it would appear as if was one tool.

So the design looks something like the following:

The structure above is the design philosophy.  Research was performed and the actual design tools and original specifications are included in another document.

Incidentally, Steve's state reasons for taking on this project are as follows:

  • He enjoys programming but has been an active coder for nearly 2 decades, time to get back into it.  Incidentally, he has not been all that active flying sailplanes for the past couple of decades as well.  Perhaps 200 hours and 2 contests.
  • He says that creating a knowledgebase on this new toy would be useful, but it will require the combined efforts of many to make it really useful.  Usually teaching and creating information is the best way to really learn it.
  • Steve is convinced that the sport of combining soaring with touring motorgliders would be more fun if there was and an appropriate contest system that properly handicapped engine use (fuel burn) rather than terminating the flight as soon as the engine is turned on.  Probably something like soaring OLC would be useful.  To make this work will require writing some software.  So Steve wants to get into a position where he can execute on this challenge.  More on this later.
  • Finally, he thinks an online association would create more commaderie and enjoyment of his Ximango.

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