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Author Topic: "The Coffee Shop" - moving forward through the next decade.  (Read 2665 times)
grahame
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« on: September 04, 2018, 01:53:59 am »

The Coffee Shop started as a finite period project (see background {{here}} ). Over the years it has been running, though, it has clearly shown the long term desirability of a customer (passenger) lead forum where positive, partnership and pragmatism flourish, as well as protest where people feel that is justified.  Taking a fixed period project and extending it into the indefinite future is no trivial change, but that's a change we're making at the Coffee Shop.  Over the past month, our moderator team has been looking at ideas in our 'committee' discussion area, and last Sunday (2nd September 2018 - note that date!) our administrators met up to map out objectives, and how to reach them.   The moderator team has had various discussions around this too - in fact this post is a cut and paste from "Behind the Counter"

For the future, the Coffee Shop will be ...
* Permanent, with editorial independence and a sustainable operation and funding model
* a virtual CRP covering all public Transport in the GW franchise area and linking / connecting franchise areas and transport

Headlines ...

Constitution
The Coffee Shop already has a wealth of direction and experience built up over the years. We will update that to clarify for our members and partners just what our objectives are, how we reach for them, and how we manage that process.  Timescale for this process - medium term.

Continuation
The Coffee Shop is here to stay. That offers passengers and other partners a stable platform on which they can build for the longer term, and support knowing that results can keep coming.    This continuity is no easy matter - with the forum running on old software that has become progressively harder to maintain and requires a modern look and feel for current devices, and zero funded as it uses spare capacity on a server that will retire in due course, with a very limited programming and sys admin resource.

Plans are for some immediate changes to be made - small things that will make a big difference to improving the user experience and - over coming weeks. For the Christmas to New Year period, we plan to reboot the Coffee Shop using current software (which in future should be updated on a regular basis) which will bring in much / most of the modern device support, and sort out some long term issues.  The objectives at that changeover will be to transfer our history of posts to the new system such that they will continue to be available as part of the general forum facilities, and to transfer over active user accounts.  It's probable that all posts would be marked as "read" at that point, and that the personal message system would be restarted from scratch.  This changeover process would, we anticipate, require the forum to be offline for around 12 hours, with perhaps limited facilities for a short period thereafter.  We are aware that people want to discuss Boxing Day trains, or the lack of them in many places!

The forum will remain free to users and free of advertising. Unless posters choose to contribute in the 'frequent poster' area or similar, forum material will continue to be public readable - however, poster will still need to register. Subject to the spirit of current guidelines, posters will still be free to contribute their own views.  But all this FREEdom raises the issue of "how is this paid for"; much will still be the volunteer time of the team running the forum, but to ensure continuity, there needs to be a funding source / route alternative to the current one relying on 100% volunteers and donated time, open source software community versions, and donated server space. We need a "what if ..." fallback / multiple routes for robustness.   It does not been to be anything like as expensive as re-opening the line from Crediton to Bere Alston to provide robustness in case Dawlish gets washed out, but it's the same principle.

Community

The Coffee Shop is very much community based.  The "lead" is passengers and community - and a good description of 'what we are' going forward is a virtual Community Rail Partnership.  This description of Community Rail is from the ACoRP web site: "Community rail is a growing grassroots movement made up of community rail partnerships and groups across Britain. They engage communities and help people get the most from their railways, promoting social inclusion and sustainable travel, working alongside train operators to bring about improvements, and bring stations back to life." and so much of it fits the Coffee Shop.   I will leave open the options of any relationship with ACoRP - though the reader may like to bear in mind the following two sections.

Co-operation

It's all about working together with organisations, groups, companies, individuals with who we share a common goal of improving public transport and travel in our part of the UK.

Complimentary

This has two meanings. Firstly - the one where we acknowledge and encourage the good work done all around.  Secondly, that The Coffee Shop complements and does not compete with other organisations in parallel or neighbouring activity areas.  The success of the Coffee Shop over the past 10 years - with in the last month [August 2018] 2,237 new posts, 10,032 users in 29,663 visits looking at an average of 6.36 pages per visit. - indicates there is still a need for the forum, in spite of the multitude of other groups and options available these days.  I can come back in a follow up and offer you a distinction as to how the Coffee Shop sits alongside ACoRP and other CRPs, Facebook groups such as ABC, TravelWatch, Customer Panels, Transport Focus, local Rail User Groups and Railway Societies, Station Friends and RailFuture. We complement, don't compete ...



You'll note that I have steered clear of documenting individual changes and projects in the posting above. We have had some excellent ideas / comments Behind the Counter and elsewhere on such things - and the framework here is written to enable those projects to fit within or within co-operative or complimentary groupings.



This map show The Coffee Shop area ... though with a hard border line where we should really have a soft border. 


Higher res at http://gwr.passenger.chat/coffeeshoparea.jpg

On current rail franchise models, we cover the Great Western franchise area, though the map does not show the excursions to the south east made by services from Reading to Reigate, Redhill and Gatwick, nor the excusions by trains based in Bristol to Worthing, Shoreham, Hove and Brighton.  We also cover overlapping and nearby services operated as part(s) of
... the Welsh franchise
... Cross Country
... South Western Railway
... Chiltern trains
for each of which we have a separate board.
« Last Edit: September 04, 2018, 03:10:29 am by grahame » Logged

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bignosemac
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« Reply #1 on: September 04, 2018, 05:48:24 am »

Consultation?

Or is a constitution to be decided upon from on high?
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grahame
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« Reply #2 on: September 04, 2018, 06:11:49 am »

Consultation?

Or is a constitution to be decided upon from on high?

Quote
Over the past month, our moderator team has been looking at ideas in our 'committee' discussion area, and last Sunday (2nd September 2018 - note that date!) our administrators met up to map out objectives, and how to reach them.


I am ... certain ... that there will be a very wide ranging discussions as we work forward, with inputs solicited and considered from everyone who uses or might use the forum.  So, yes, there will be consultation.  Wish I could say "of course", but of course such things cannot be assumed.

Without any official status or powers other than to influence and persuade by grouping people together, this forum lives of could die though support from its members, and it would be foolish in the extreme to do anything major that the members do not agree with. Having said which, there is an element of caution that we need to continue with a membership that support the ideals and objectives such as they may be laid down.

The anticipation is that the result of this process - which you'll have noted is not short term - will be very much based on the core of how we do things and who we are already.  For that is excellent experience and has been widely discussed / consulted agreed over the years.
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« Reply #3 on: September 04, 2018, 09:54:01 am »

Quote
This changeover process would, we anticipate, require the forum to be offline for around 12 hours, with perhaps limited facilities for a short period thereafter.

Given your laudable intention of bringing the forum up to date, 12 hours sounds like a ridiculously old-fashioned shutdown period. You really must close it down for at least three weeks to ensure a safe transition in which no-one suffers a 5 volt electric shock or is crushed by a falling half-terabyte external hard disk. Ideally at the scheduled end of the work you should discover multiple foreseeable glitches causing a few days worth of further delays.

During the shutdown period, users should be expected to communicate by letter via your address in Melksham, though for completeness I hope you will recognise the need to give the wrong postcode...

 Wink
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« Reply #4 on: September 04, 2018, 10:09:56 am »

Does Complimentary really have two meanings?  Or two different spellings for two different purposes...   Grin

Paul 
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« Reply #5 on: September 04, 2018, 10:28:17 am »

Does Complimentary really have two meanings?  Or two different spellings for two different purposes...   Grin

Paul 

Yes and no. Complimentary does have a distinct second meaning, i.e. free of charge - which also applies to
The Coffee Shop (as it is). And then there is complementary as well ...
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grahame
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« Reply #6 on: September 04, 2018, 05:28:17 pm »

Given your laudable intention of bringing the forum up to date, 12 hours sounds like a ridiculously old-fashioned shutdown period. You really must close it down for at least three weeks ....

Love the joke.  In all seriousness, we will have done the modern thing of a stupid amount of testing ahead of time, and we may well be running on new infrastructure. Just no need to close down too far ahead as the data conversion will be scripted.

You may find after the move that there will be some glitches, for example you may find just 5 posts per page displayed when 10 would be expected.
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grahame
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« Reply #7 on: February 09, 2019, 06:09:23 pm »

Notes from today's meeting at

http://www.firstgreatwestern.info/coffeeshop/index.php?topic=21035.msg258030#msg258030

and I am locking this topic so we talk onwards in one place
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grahame
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« Reply #8 on: June 17, 2019, 06:27:59 am »

Updating this "sticky" thread at the top of the forum introduction and unlocking it to allow comment / question too - we now (June 2019) have a constitution in place, ratified at our AGM and we are working well forward more or less as proposed. A whole raft of ideas have been thrown up - directional, organisational, management and financial and from that raft some have been selected, others placed on hold and still others rejected. And when doing something new in association (perhaps close association) with others, concerns may be raised in places that need to be clarified / addressed. One such area where a clarification is useful is how our community is and will be working with rail in partnership, and how our agendae at our initial and general meetings considered desribing and implementing that in terms of pressing (actually not!) for early ACoRP membership.  Text follows, tidied up from an email answer sent a few days ago and 'chewed over' by the admin / moderator team.



The Coffee Shop is an example of how community and rail can work in partnership. Describing it in that way gives a clear flag of how it's positioned to newcomers who don't know us.  Such a soundbite is useful because we're an unusual 'beast', with other online groups taking a much more protest than partner approach, and 'real life' groups taking a much more localised approach. These approaches are general directions; they do not stop the forum being the critical friend, nor of us highlighting town / line specific issues.

The Coffee Shop is run purely by volunteers (without employees), has no formal local government involvement (though some members have local government roles), does not have a specific line / line group / service it works with, so has no station adoption buildings / safety certificate. Which does place it outside the guidelines of what would be expected of an organisation applying to be a full member of the Association of Community Rail Partnerships.  As part of our definition, we laid down overall objectives in the constitution, which was ratified earlier this month. The purposes of the Group are: * providing a voice for the community * promoting sustainable, healthy and accessible travel * bringing communities together, supporting diversity & inclusion * supporting social and economic development ...  which seem to us to both reflect our approach, and to line us up with the pillars going forward for Community Rail, if not the conditions of membership of ACoRP. 

This closeness to and agreement with the new Community Rail Pillars, yet the issues described above which currently preclude membership of the association, have given rise to concern in some quarters. So - an open comment for anyone reading this who was not at the AGM to re-assure them that the Coffee Shop is very much an example of the community working in partnership with rail, but that as things stand we do not have "becoming an ACoRP member" with all that requires on our objectives.  Indeed, I would be very wary of recommending we make changes to fit the current rules. Of course, we don't know how we (or they) may move forward in the future and with objectives and ethoses that line up, who knows?
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Do you have something you would like to add to this thread, or would you like to raise a new question at the Coffee Shop? Please [register] (it is free) if you have not done so before, or login (at the top of this page) if you already have an account - we would love to read what you have to say!

You can find out more about how this forum works [here] - that will link you to a copy of the forum agreement that you can read before you join, and tell you very much more about how we operate. We are an independent forum, provided and run by customers of Great Western Railway, for customers of Great Western Railway and we welcome railway professionals as members too, in either a personal or official capacity. Views expressed in posts are not necessarily the views of the operators of the forum.

As well as posting messages onto existing threads, and starting new subjects, members can communicate with each other through personal messages if they wish. And once members have made a certain number of posts, they will automatically be admitted to the "frequent posters club", where subjects not-for-public-domain are discussed; anything from the occasional rant to meetups we may be having ...

 
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