2004 Annual Report
Author: Rhed al'Tere
Annual Report January - December 2004
State of the Tower Address
Eleyan Teyal Al'Landerin
The Watcher of the Seals
The Amyrlin Seat
The Flame of TarValon.net
TarValon.Net now enters into the beginning of its fifth year, as solid as it has ever been and in a greater position of influence than it has ever had. Year four brought us the challenge of learning how to steer the large ship that our community has become. We established several goals, and most of them focused on the refining of our procedures. This allows us to not only operate more efficiently but also more professionally. Our more impressive accomplishments this year have happened out of the public eye, but their effects have been far reaching, and I am certain that the extent of our efforts will become apparent in the coming year.
We were privileged to have exceptional attendance at our summer Administrative Meeting; it marked the first time ever that the Amyrlin, the Keeper and the Master at Arms were present in person. They, along with significant representation from other admins and staff, further refined our administrative structure. While we had created departments in our previous meeting, a years experience with them helped us to find better ways for them to interact. This summer we revealed a new departmental structure that has served to effectively increase communication and solve issues sooner. We are still refining the details of this structure, but two years on such a project is typical for an organization of our size and scope.
The evolution of our structure has allowed us to enter into a virtual renaissance within our community. The amount of activities we offer, services we give, even the sheer amount of people we now move through membership, are all testaments to an improved system. This year has seen our chat rooms blossom. In addition to having new web-based chat for those who cannot access IRC, we have regular radio shows, weekly games, and more. There is rarely a day that does not see some sort of special event occurring in one of our three chat rooms, and there is no other Wheel of Time site that offers as many real time activities as we do. With our exponential growth, we?ve also been able to increase our methods of communication. For the first time in our history, the 'tar Valon Times? (our newsletter) comes out monthly. Our community news section is updated several times a week, and our events calendar is current. Wheel of Time news hits our page as soon as anywhere else, and we often feature breaking stories and interviews. While in design our website has been largely unchanged, the content has evolved. We recently passed the one thousand mark for entries into our library thanks to the research efforts of our members and the hard work of our librarians. We offer a greater variety of Wheel of Time themed games than seen elsewhere. Our events continue to grow larger and become more frequent. In short, our increase in membership continues to mirror an increase in contributions to this site and community.
But this year has also seen TarValon.Net increase in its influence in Wheel of Time fandom at large. Members here have become extensively involved in shaping the future of the WoT brand. Whether that is serving as thematic consultants to a comic book, advising a cover artist, or becoming involved with future filming efforts, our community has established itself with a reputation of excellence and dependability. We have also been named as one of Robert Jordan's favorite Wheel of Time fan sites. It is a reputation we will endeavor to always uphold.
This year did see its challenges. Over the summer, our message board host suddenly stopped providing service, and we were without our normal boards for over a month. Luckily, all of our members found us again while we moved to temporary boards. We also face a challenge with our current host. The amount of hits to our site has gone through the roof in the last six months, and our current system can no longer handle the amount of traffic we produce. However, we feel a solution for this will soon be forthcoming, and we are convinced we can still pay for the needs of our community through member donations and will not have to resort to paid memberships or advertising any time in the foreseeable future.
This following year will see the fruition of many of our efforts. In membership, improved databases will make it easier for us to process membership applications quickly and accurately. Improved systems for raising will do the same for those moving up through our community. The City will be concentrating on establishing the last of its procedures and will begin serious work on developing guilds for our members. We now have an account with a new server, and our IT team is working tirelessly to figure out a method that will finally allow us to combine our message board system with the log in for our site and that will give us greater functionality as a whole. We hope to finish several new databases and forms that will further aid us in doing the vast amount of work that running this Tower requires. We hope to continue involving ourselves in the development of the Wheel of Time brand and fandom and to find new and more useful ways to serve our membership and the community at large.
For the first time we are also considering becoming a Non-Profit Organization. We are confident that our current structure will make the change an easy one, and now feel that the benefits outweigh the challenges associated with this change. If we accomplish it, I believe that will make TarValon.Net the first Non-Profit Organization in the world based on the Wheel of Time.
In approximately 12 months, TarValon.Net will turn five years old. That's a mark that few communities see and one we only half believed we could make several years ago. The next year will find us preparing diligently for this impressive marker: improving our community and the way we run it, increasing our influence where we can, preparing for the single largest WoT celebration in our history, and cementing our future.
Leilwyn al'Raen, Deputy of Tar Valon
The statistics from 13 October 2004 through 31 December 2004 are as follows.
There were, in total from that period, 244 applications. Of those, approximately 80 were active enough to become citizens, and approximately 23 of those have become novices/recruits since sending in their original applications. There appears to be similar amounts of males and females applying, although a greater number of females, and more females begin to make posts than males. There were 66 Applications from the 13th October to the 31st, 101 applications from November 1 to November 30, and 77 from December 1 to December 31.
Val a'Shain, Master at Arms
This section will deal with Tower membership. It excludes the City of Tar Valon which was discussed in the previous section. Because we decided to go with calendar years from now on, it will be hard to compare with the figures from the last report. Less than a year has passed. The basic statistics kept have not changed though.
- 1. Members joining and leaving the Tower
TarValon.Net tries to keep the member list comprised of active members. That means that people who decide to retire or are inactive are removed from the list. Between January 2004 and January 2005 a total of 99 people joined the tower and 51 left. Distribution over the months is shown in
The membership records have been cleaned up twice: once in March and once in September. These cleanups account for most of the people leaving the Tower and explain the large numbers leaving in the months of March and September.
Also worth noting is the month of June. Because of problems with the provider hosting our message board, the Tower administration decided temporarily to stop accepting applications for the Tower. This period is sometimes referred to as 'the Exile? among Tower members. The larger numbers of people accepted can be partly explained by the administrations attempts to catch up with applications that had been put on hold.
October was a slow month as well. A number of factors such as a limited availability of city administrators, a restructuring of the application process and a slowdown of activity in the Hall of the Tower lead to a decrease in applications being processed. The months of November and December were very busy. This is only partly explained by applications not processed in October. Early in October the new application form for citizens went online, and that has greatly improved the efficiency of the procedure. Most likely the number of applications to the Tower will be at the same level for early 2005 as well.
- 2. Rank
With the introduction of the City in April 2003 we saw a move towards a larger part of the Tower being made up of senior members (those ranking Aes Sedai, Warder or Youngling). Although the overall number of Tower members has been growing since the fall of 2003, it looks like the relative size of the different groups has stabilized somewhat. The numbers of April 2003, April 2004 and January 2005 are shown in table 2.
Figure 1 shows the relative size of the different groups in January 2005 in a circle graph.
Not directly apparent from these figures but worth noting is that in the last three months of 2004 very few men have joined the Tower. In the period between October and December, 24 women and only 4 men have joined the Tower. As a result the woman to man ratio in the Tower is now almost 2:1. In April 2004, the ratio was a little below 1.8:1. The reasons for this are not quite clear but it cannot be explained by a lack of men in the City. Applications show a steady inflow of men into the City. The Tower administration is currently looking into making changes in the garrison.
- 3. Ajah and Company membership
With the exception of the Brown Ajah and the Val'Cueran Company, all Ajahs and companies have grown in 2004. Most notable is the continued popularity of the Blue Ajah and the recovery of the Red Ajah. With the introduction of a fourth company in 2005, the picture for the companies can be expected to change some next year. The relative sizes of the Ajahs and Companies, as well as their composition, is shown in figures 2 and 3.
- 4. Location
The distribution of the Tower members over the globe has not changed dramatically over the past year. Most of our members are concentrated in North America, Northwest Europe and Australia. Figure 4 shows the locations of our members.
Other nations in this graph are Belgium, Bulgaria, Finland, Germany, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Portugal, Slovakia, South Africa, Spain and the United Arab Emirates. All of these countries have 1, 2 or, in the case of Finland, 3 representatives in the Tower. There doesn't seem to be a significant change in the number of people from non-English speaking nations. They make up about 18% of the Tower members.
Table 4 shows where we are best represented per capita (countries with less than 10 members not included).
Like last year, Norway tops the list by a fair margin. Canada has passed the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom, although almost doubling the number of members compared to April 2004, still has some catching up to do.
- 5. Age
With the age limit to join the Tower set at 14, people born in 1990 could join the Tower this year. And indeed the first person born in that year has. The one exception of course is Odin. Most of our members have been born in the 1980s as is shown in Figure 5.
The 14 people in the category before 1972 are spread out over 8 different years starting in 1959. The "average" Tower member was born in 1982.
2004 Financial Report
Beginning Balance 2004: $1,059.83
Ending Balance 2004: $2,377.01
Donations 2004: $9,647.77
Payments 2004: -$8,330.59
|Jan 15, 2004 - Feb 12, 2004||Opening Balance:||$1,059.83|
|Santa Project Donations:||$96.71||Santa Project Payments:||$200.00|
|Dot5 Domain Hosting (1 month)||$59.99|
|Feb 13, 2004 - Mar 11, 2004||Starting Balance:||$896.55|
|Santa Project Donations:||$165.00|
|Anniversary Party Payments||$598.92|
|Mar 12, 2004 - Apr 13, 2004||Starting Balance:||$1,660.47|
|Anniversary Party Payments/Fundraiser||$843.76||Dot5 Domain Hosting (2 months)||$119.98|
|Anniversary Party Rental||$618.80|
|Apr 14, 2004 - May 13, 2004||Starting Balance:||$1,680.15|
|Anniversary Party Payments/Fundraiser||$1,547.75||Anniversary Party Funds||$284.79|
|Interest Paid||$0.01||Dot5 Domain Hosting (1 month)||$59.99|
|TarValon.Net Domain Hosting (2 months)||$70.00|
|May 14, 2004 - Jun 11, 2004||Starting Balance:||$2,813.13|
|Anniversary Party Payments/Fundraiser||$615.28||Anniversary Party Funds||$1,785.00|
|Jun 11, 2004 - Jul 14, 2004||Starting Balance:||$1,643.41|
|Fundraiser/Repayments||$833.89||Dot5 Domain Hosting (2 months)||$119.98|
|Interest paid||$0.01||Emergency Fund||$365.40|
|ProBoards Temp. Boards Hosting||$6.99|
|TarValon.Net Domain Hosting (3 months)||$105.00|
|Jul 15, 2004 - Aug 12, 2004||Starting Balance:||$1,843.99|
|Amazon.com gift cert||$10.00|
|Domain Name Purchases||$163.50|
|Fall Ball Reservation Deposit||$770.00|
|Aug 13, 2004 - Sep 14, 2004||Starting Balance:||$825.49|
|Emergency Fund Repayment||$485.10||cafepress||$38.96|
|Sep 15, 2004 - Oct 14, 2004||Starting Balance:||$1,271.63|
|Fall Ball Payments||$1,983.56||Fall Ball Funds||$1,666.96|
|Interest paid||$0.01||Tower Forums Hosting||$28.50|
|Oct 15, 2004 - Nov 12, 2004||Starting Balance:||$1,559.74|
|CafePress dep||$13.49||Fall Ball Funds||$145.78|
|Fall Ball Payments||$770.00||Cafepress Fees||$6.95|
|Checking Acct rebate||$9.13||TarValon.Net Domain Hosting (3 months)||$105.00|
|Nov 13, 2004 - Dec 13, 2004||Starting Balance:||$2,094.63|
|interest paid||$0.02||Fundraiser Prizes||$51.27|
|Deposit for Anniversary Party 2005||$1,323.00|
|Dec 14, 2004 - Jan 13, 2005||Starting Balance:||$720.38|
|Fundraiser||$1,685.13||Tower Forums Hosting||$28.50|
Director of Membership Services Department
Though the Department of Membership Services has long existed in theory, it was not formally structured until the organization shuffle in the summer of 2004. It became one of the five main departments of TarValon.Net, focusing mainly on maintaining a sense of community at the site. Areas in this department include real life events, conferences, online Tower events and holidays, IRC games, Tar Valon Radio, membership birthdays, the citizen avatar site, the Membership Resource Center, baby bundles for expectant parents, the art museum, and community contests and drives. In total, there are 22 staff members working in this department, with many of them working in more than one area.
Going through each area of this department and naming its achievements this year would take quite some time, but I would like to highlight a few. Our real life events are continuing to grow, and this year we hosted our first formal ball at the annual Fall Ball. The Membership Resource Center is now up and running, and we are looking at ways to incorporate it into the community even more. Tar Valon Radio was introduced, and it is growing rapidly as more members express interest in hosting radio shows. In the near future, between the radio and IRC games, we will have at least one activity in #oldewarderandhen taking place every day.
Everything else continues to grow at a steady pace as well. This entire department is constantly developing and changing. I am extremely happy to be overseeing it all as department director, and am looking forward to this next year. I know that in the coming months, the Membership Services staff will continue to work together in order to better serve members of the site. We strive to ensure that TarValon.Net has a fun and inviting atmosphere and above all, to nurture our sense of community.
Information Technology Department
Lyoness al'Thorn t'Morsin
Chief Information Officer
This IT Report encompasses the months of July through January as I was offered the position of Chief Information Officer at the July Admin party.
This year marks the birth of the official IT Department (Information Technology Department) with me as the CIO (Chief Information Officer). After the admin party in July, there was lots to do and a lot of loose ends to tie up, one of which was to assemble my team.
The team includes:
Site Administrator, Karassa, who handles the bulk of everything on the boards and also does some development work.
Developers, Rand (City) and Lana (Everything)
IRC admins: Yenie (Administrator of TDO) and Derrin (Director of IRC)
Graphics: Valorian & Vallah
Security & Network: James & Jakeb
I feel that my team is wonderful and together we have accomplished a lot! Some of those accomplishments include:
- getting the Java Chat applet back up on our site for all members usage.
- creating a solid IRC structure with the set up of the three dedicated and active chat rooms and the finalization of the OP List and OP procedures.
- assigning a dedicated City Developer.
- starting the migration to the new servers which will allow all of the pages we have associated with TarValon.net to be able to be housed in one spot. The new servers will permit us to have subdomains such as blueajah.tarvalon.net, city.tarvalon.net, etc.
- identifying and preventing security issues and loopholes.
- updating and improving upon the site membership application as well as the tests for raising.
All in all, these past months have seen dramatic improvements with the technical side of TarValon.net, but more is to come. This coming year will see even more great things from the IT team. Expect a new training class for IRC Operators that everyone who is considering chatting in IRC should read. Expect the launch of the subdomained sites...we just may have to have a Tower Launch Party for that!
It has been my honour and pleasure to serve as CIO thus far and I look forward to continue serving this upcoming year.
Research and Communications
Library & Research
The library system hasn't changed very much in the past year. We still have the same place on the site, the same coding, and the same articles. The only coding change was in the search options. Originally, there was only one option. It searched through every word of every document, so it brought up far too many articles. It has been changed so title, author, and keyword searches are all available, making the library much easier to use. It also "saves" searches now; after you search, the search box will have what you put in it. It always blanked itself earlier.
Many (at least a hundred) articles have been added during the last year. The majority of these are chapter and character summaries. These are what I've been concentrating on, and they have been very successful. We have less than one book left for chapter summaries, and there are dozens of new characters. Nowhere near all of them, of course, but most of the major ones are covered. Many of the minor ones have been done as well.
Other projects have been done as well. Several topics were checked for spelling and grammar. A lot of new essays and poems have shown up, and some humor as well. Far more has been done (there are 32 main topics, and most of them have received at least one article), but these are the highlights.
The other main thing that needs mentioning is that a lot of the articles have been cross-referenced so if there's something you want to look up, any blue word will open a new window with another article. This is nowhere near complete, but it's still useful.
Tar Valon Times
This year the Tar Valon Times has run an issue a month every month, a huge improvement over past attempts at the Tar Valon Times.
February 2005 marks one year of the Tar Valon Times website. Issues before February 2004 were posted on the boards and were lost when the boards crashed or when they were automatically deleted.
I have a wonderful team of researchers and writers, including my assistant editor Leilwyn al'Raen, who is editor in my place when I need to be gone. Currently, every month we run Member of the Month, a site highlight, upcoming events, birthdays, and a feature article about something big happening around the site or the Wheel of Time world. We also have two other articles featuring another site, a WoT recipe, a poem, or something else of interest to the online WoT world.
I hope by summer 2005 to make the The Tar Valon Times an email newsletter. The TVT is always evolving to better serve the TarValon.net community, and we look forward to finding ways to improve the newsletter.