Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Upgrade from white to wheat? FreeToastHost 1.0 and 2.0 software for Toastmasters

A recent post on my Empoprise-IE Inland Empire blog attracted an email from an "ambassador" for the Fontana (California) Chamber of Commerce. No, he and the other ambassadors don't take their marching orders from Secretary of State Clinton. No, they are "a friendly group of business professionals that donate their time to support our membership and our chamber events."

I noticed that the ambassador who emailed me, Jerry Weitzman, is also connected with the Fontana Communicators and Leaders Toastmasters Club. I've known a couple of Toastmasters over the years, so I went to Fontana's website. At the bottom of the website, among the legalese, I found this statement:

Site Hosting and Technical support provided by FreeToastHost, a free service of Toastmasters International.

Now this caught my attention. The Toastmasters aren't just advising their members on restaurant meeting room reservations and throat lozenges. (They talk a lot, you know.) They're also providing technical services to allow their clubs and districts to contact existing members and attract new ones.

And they've been doing this since 2004:

In January of 2004, we introduced FreeToastHost to the Toastmasters community. Since that time, FreeToastHost has been helping clubs attract new members, operate more efficiently, and keep current members informed and interested. Over 10,000 Toastmasters clubs around the world benefit from the no-cost websites and on-line tools provided by FreeToastHost such as the duty roster, member directory, e-mail lists, club calendars, and much more.

But they have not become stagnant:

In August of 2011, we introduced FreeToastHost 2.0 -- the next generation of Toastmaster Club and District website hosting platform.

However, at least one FreeToastHost 1.0 user, Beth MacNeil Stinson, believes that an important feature was left out:

As I started to explore FTH 2.0, my excitement quickly turned to dismay when I discovered that there was no upgrade path or strategy from FTH 1.0 to FTH 2.0. Our site will have to be recreated from the ground up, manually. Years of data will have to be downloaded one discussion post at a time just to preserve the files and our club history. Adding them to a new site will be a huge time suck.

Additional comments from Stinson are here. Incidentally, she recommended using WordPress instead, although it appears that she continued on the FreeToastHost 2.0 upgrade path. (But she'll certainly voice her concerns well before FreeToastHost 3.0 comes out.)

I guess sometimes it pays to be a late adopter - eight years late.
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