• The mechanics of merging AskWoody, Windows Secrets Lounge and Windows Secrets Newsletter

    The devs are almost done with the first step in the merger, which is moving the plumbing over to support “AskWoody Plus” — the superstructure that’ll be tied into both the new Lounge, and the new Newsletter.

    I’m intentionally building the whole thing with tested, solid pieces — as little customization as possible. I’ve had many, many headaches over the past two decades with forum software that goes bump in the night. The Windows Secrets folks feel the same way, I’m sure. This time, I’m going to do it right. Or at least better.

    My major headache at this point is merging the data from many different sources:

    • The AskWoody username database, which will be the foundation of the new Lounge database. Many people signed up using throw-away email addresses. If they want to subscribe to the Newsletter or Alerts, I’ll have to get a valid email address out of them.
    • The Windows Secrets Lounge user database. There are going to be naming conflicts — situations where usernames in both databases match and they belong to the same person, and other situations where they match but they belong to different people. More than that, there’s no way to move the passwords from the Windows Secrets Lounge to the AskWoody Lounge user database. Two completely different systems.
    • The list of MVPs from Windows Secrets. They’ll become “Plus” members, but the potential for username conflicts carries over in spade.
    • The list of people who have already contributed to AskWoody – the Patrons list, which I just updated with the latest contributors. All of those people will become “Plus” members… but I only have the names you see on the list, no email addresses, no usernames. (That’s 100% intentional by the way. A story for another time.)
    • The list of subscribers to the Windows Secrets Newsletter. Again, I don’t have usernames. I only have email addresses.

    Those five sources have to combine to work with two separate databases, post-merger. The AskWoody username database, and a second linked database to drive MailChimp, our newsletter/alert distribution channel. The Lounge uses usernames. MailChimp only knows email addresses.

    I’m expecting to bring on a number of Customer Support people, because a lot of this is going to require human intervention. They’re going to be overwhelmed at first (I will be overwhelmed, too!) so be patient please.

    If you have any experience with merging big databases – or any words of wisdom – I’m all ears.