First off, we'd like to welcome you to The Patriot Woodworker, we are an online woodworking community where you can participate, share, learn, mentor and collaborate with fellow woodworkers on projects at our Forums and within our Information Database. And we are happy you found us.
The following article is a run down on how our online Forum Community was created and morphed into what it is today.
Be warned, this is a long and boring story, enter if you dare, and lets have fun!
My name is John Morris and I am the Founder of The Patriot Woodworker online woodworking community. Our woodworking community was conceived from a vision and ideal I formed after several years of participating on woodworking forums as a guest. I have enjoyed the many forums available in our world wide web community that is woodworking. For the most part the forums I frequented were full of great folks, and those same folks were full of great information and ideas and they were and are very helpful. If only three words were made available to me to describe woodworkers in general, those words would be, compassionate, passionate, and helpful. Rarely have I ever run across a woodworker that does not possess those three traits that make us as humans, well, good humans. I guess it's in our DNA to be helpful to other woodworkers and folks in general, and compassionate with our fellow woodworker in need of help or ideas for their project, or passionate about what we do, woodworking.
During my time on these woodworking forums and reading all the various wonderful blogs available to us as woodworkers by other woodworkers, I always felt a need to create another genre of woodworking community, one with a purpose, one with a heart, and one with soul. Not that those forums did not possess those characteristics, but I could not make that lasting connection with those forums, and that was not the fault of the forum, it was my own inability to connect.
So I decided to start an online woodworking community in my own vision, with my own goals and objectives, and with the inexperience of a 20th Century non-techie who understood that the internet was completely magic, and my experience in website and community development relied purely on the software creation of open source and commercial software that was created by the genius's of those projects. In other words, I launched our community off the backs of those who are much smarter than myself.
My vision for a new woodworking community was also a selfish exercise in getting what I wanted from an online woodworking community that I thought was not present in other woodworking forums and communities. I wanted to conflate two areas of my own life that I hold close and cherish greatly, those areas were and are to this day, woodworking, and the military. Of course above all I am a husband, and a father of three, but for the sake of this writing I don't want to preface all my statements of importance every time with "beside being a family man" or "above all being a father", I think we can all be pragmatic about this and understand that when I say the areas of my life that are most cherished are woodworking and the military, you can understand that I do cherish mostly my family. I digress, conflating the two very special areas of my own life, woodworking and military, into an online woodworking community was my ultimate goal. What does one have to do with the other you may ask? Read on!
Woodworking and the military have nothing to do with each other, woodworking is a peaceful job, a hobby, a craft, a trade, it is completely different than being a member of the military and both are completely different from the other given the purpose for their existence.
- Woodworking is a peaceful means of earning a living, and it's a wonderful way to express oneself through the art and craft, or even a way to communicate with others around us through the giving of our craft and helping others begin their own walk into the world of woodworking.
- While the military at its core and philosophy is a means to force another people, another society, an enemy nation, to bend to the will of the stronger force, through violence and destruction and the killing of people and the full capitulation in order to claim complete victory over another.
So how does one bring the two extremes together? Well, we did. We brought the two worlds together as an online woodworking community that is based on the care and concern of our military veterans. We did this by forming our community around common goals, that members and interested parties alike can share and collaborate on, and to express that care and concern for our veterans through woodworking endeavors and projects that benefit our veterans directly, and projects that we coalesce around as a community, for the veterans of our nation. I guess one could say that we have managed to meld together the two extremes into a wonderful beautiful symphony of people who all have one ideal in common, above and beyond self interest, we are all Woodworkers on a Mission to advance our craft and trade while demonstrating care and concern for the veterans of our nation.
We started our online woodworking community with the name "The Conservative Woodworker" in April of 2010. We opened our doors with only a handful of members and armed with the vision as outlined above, and a giant leap of faith accompanied by prayers and encouragement from other woodworkers who saw a need for a change in the traditional forum structure.
Our software platform we used was a proprietary commercial software called Ning. Ning was a wonderful way to get us up and running, especially for a webmaster who needed all the support I could get in a proprietary paid for software and server.
It was a slow start, if you go to our Members Page and view the page sorted by "join date", you'll see the first few members who signed up were my own family, they were the shill members, the seeds. I was not able to attract much attention to our new woodworking community, but by gosh I most certainly could get my own family to sign up!
After a few weeks of cajoling and convincing others to come aboard and just give us a try, we finally started to make some progress in the area of membership gains, it was still very slow. You'll also see two members by the name of Ronald Dudelston, and John Moody, they signed up at the beginning and they have both been with us since our inception, and they both to this day are our main Administrators of The Patriot Woodworker.
A year later in 2011 we came together as a community and made some changes, mainly in our naming. Why would we ever eliminate a great name such as "The Conservative Woodworker"? Well, since you asked, it was just completely divisive. It was a very bad move in the beginning and to this day I'll never know why we thought that was a good idea. We wanted to attract woodworkers from all walks of life, and by naming an online woodworking community "The Conservative Woodworker" we eliminated virtually half of the country right off from the start! Even though my own philosophical musings tend to lean to the right, I have in my own family, members from every corner of the world, and with many differing philosophical views. My own wife is from the country of Panama, and she has a viewpoint that is different than my own, our kids are a combination of both of us, and our friends are all over the place in politics and lifestyles. If you have ever seen the hit series "Modern Family", well you now know my family. And yes, the holiday meals do get quite interesting.
So we eliminated "The Conservative Woodworker" and changed our name to "The American Woodworker"!
The saga continues
Now in 2011 we are "The American Woodworker". It seemed like a great idea, pretty neutral, it had the sound and ring that I liked, it sounded inclusive for all Americans, and even our world wide guests, but one thing that went horribly wrong pretty quickly, there was at the time a very popular magazine named, "American Woodworker". The magazine believe it or not was not even on my radar when we changed our name to "The American Woodworker". Heck, the magazine "American Woodworker" did not even seem to care. In the early days we even had folks joining our online community with the belief that they were joining that great publication "American Woodworker". Though we were flattered, we did not like the fact that we could be confusing potential members, and quite possibly giving the impression at the same time that we intended to "fake" people into signing on with us, by piggy backing on such a great name. You see, in the early days of The Patriot Woodworker, as I stated above, we had a 20th century non-techie running this show, and my ignorance of how the internet and the world wide web worked, almost killed our online community before we even got it off the ground.
Realizing what a disastrous decision it was to name our community "The American Woodworker", we decided to rename it yet again, and for the last time.
A name by members
We took our case to our membership in 2013 to find another name for our still young online woodworking community. After much discussion and much input from our membership, one of the names that arose to the top of the list was "The Patriot Woodworker".
Along with this new name we also moved our entire community to our own server, and with our own licensed software by Invision Community. Some day I'll write up a review about the Invision Community Software and support, but in a nutshell, I can say here and now, it's the best I have ever experienced. The software is incredible, full of features, backed by a top notch customer support with their standard package.
That being said, the move was very painful, we lost much of our content, and we lost many of our members, just when we were starting to make some wonderful headway with our activity and membership, we moved. We were able to preserve some of the original forum content however, that is now in our Archives. As you view our archives, you'll see broken layouts and weird syntax and characters in the topics, it was a result of the move, but we wanted to preserve what we could, since our members worked so hard to place the original content you see in the archives, we wanted to honor their work, and preserve it the best we could. We are to this day editing and cleaning up the archived content and moving it up to the live forums.
Why did we move to a new server and purchase our own licensed software? Because we wanted to own our content. When we had our community on the Ning server, the content was basically the property of Ning, and there really wasn't any clean way to transfer it off their server, and that is for a reason, they don't want you to move! Understandable from a business point of view, but a major pain in the rear end for the community. After a couple years of being a seasoned community administrator, I started to realize that before we get any bigger, we better make the move and take the hit before it becomes a major issue down the road. To this day we reside on our own server, and we have the ability to take our content anywhere we want now, if our server ever starts to feel old, or if the customer support for our hosted server ever fails us, we can move. We have total control over the content of our community, and it's been a sizeable benefit since we moved. If you, the reader of this article, ever consider to create and build any type of website or community, please do your research, and consider maintaining your own software on your server to accomplish your goals. It's well worth it.
The Patriot Woodworker, I loved this new name, and I associated the name with the great movie "The Patriot" starring Mel Gibson. I absolutely loved the scene where Benjamin Martin (Mel Gibson) was assembling what seemed to be his umpteenth Windsor version of a rocking chair, and he sits in the chair and it shatters into dozens of pieces. You see back in the day, the Windsor chair bucked all common design theories, by all accounts the Windsor with its fragile splayed turned legs and long back spindles, appeared as if it could barely support a child, yet the Windsor could easily support a grown, overweight man. At the time, the Windsor was to be copied, and duplicated by makers from all regions of the colonies, and Benjamin Martin was one of those makers who tried to duplicate the graceful form, and he even added the rockers to his version of the Windsors. By looking at the pile of broken Windsors, his attempts were laced with many failures, and the scene still provokes laughter from me, I love it.
In addition to my own biases for the name "The Patriot Woodworker", the name also brings out the feeling of what encompasses our online woodworking community, to be a patriot of ones own country and an ardent supporter of the men and women who serve our nation.
Merriam Webster defines Patriot as ~
one who loves his or her country and supports its authority and interests
… praised him as a … motivated patriot who was fearless in the quest to preserve American security. —W. R. Hearst, Jr.
So the decision was finally made, to re-name our community "The Patriot Woodworker". Our name is not political, we understand that there was and is some activity that surrounds the name "Patriot", it can be associated with political groups around our nation, but we assure you, our name has nothing to do with any political affiliation, but more to do with our support of our nations veterans and to a lesser degree, my own fascination with the time period of American Colonialism and the American Revolution and the wonderful woodwork that took place during that time. As a matter of fact, Colonial Williamsburg is a dream of mine, it is on my bucket list to see. I told my wife, immediately after I retire from my day job, we are driving to Colonial Williamsburgh!
We are today The Patriot Woodworker, and we will remain The Patriot Woodworker till our community ceases to exist either by my own death hopefully decades from now, or if the earth stops turning and singing, but even at that, we will have a young woodworker trained up and ready to take the reigns to carry on our online community tradition. But until then, we will continue to work the wood, we will continue to share, collaborate, learn, mentor, and we will continue to demonstrate our care and concern for our American veterans by our deeds and projects we perform for our American Treasure, the American fighting men and women of our Armed Forces.
Thank you for reading along, and we hope you'll join our woodworking community at "Join The Patriot Woodworker"