How We Got Here
In the Beginning ...
... before there was a TheChocolateLife there was a chocophile.com, which I stood up back in May 2001 using a web scripting language called Userland Frontier and for which I did all my own HTML (CSS was not a thing then) coding, by hand.
This was a conventional early blog site with zero community features – no members, no comments or reactions, no upvoting, no nothing — just me writing what I thought was interesting about chocolate. This included rating and reviewing bars and confections. While there were no comments, I did respond to questions submitted by email.
The OG Era on Ning
I stood up TheChocolateLife.com in mid-January 2008 using a platform called Ning. This was shortly after my book Discover Chocolate was published and I was looking to expand my editorial efforts beyond a simple blog. I set my sights on building a global community. I chose Ning because at the time Facebook did not offer the features I wanted and needed. While there were hundreds of millions of Facebook members, finding the few thousands who were truly interested in chocolate was not possible back then. So I blazed my own path.
In the Fall of 2014, Ning announced an “upgrade” to a new version of the software in which they also planned to discontinue features I felt were fundamental to the community I wanted to foster. These changes also came with a much higher price. This notification began a roughly four-month journey to find a replacement platform, a road pocked with several false starts.
The Jamroom Era
Over the course of those four months, I searched for alternatives. At the top of my list of requirements, over and above the basic feature set, was I had to be able to export all of the content from Ning – seven years’ worth in all – and all of the members. After several false starts I encountered a community software platform originally built to support the diverse needs of the music community (hence the name Jamroom), and over the course of a month or so, made the move, one of the very first to do so. It was not perfect, but the support I got and the fact that I could tinker with the code meant – in theory – that I could improve anything not to my liking. There were limits, I discovered.
The Maven Era
In March of 2017 I fielded a phone call from members of the technical and business development teams from a startup called Maven recruiting me to move TheChocolateLife to their platform. The pitch was persuasive and over the course of the next six months I prepared to make the move, making the switch in September 2017.
It's fair to say, in hindsight, that the move was a mistake, a near-total disaster.
The basic capabilities of the platform never lived up to the initial promises. Furthermore, Maven’s business model did not work for my niche site in light of continuing “improvements” to their business focus. This resulted in mid-September of 2020 (a year that already sucked majorly), in my receiving an email telling me I had to move TheChocolateLife off of the Maven platform. Pronto.
I spent about a month looking for both a new hosting platform and a developer who could help me make the move. While Jamroom was an option, it did not have the look I now wanted. Having stood up and managed a number of Wordpress sites over the course of a decade, moving TheChocolateLife to WP was a non-starter.
Enter The Ghost Era
Ghost is an open-source publishing platform with a significant developer community. While the basic capabilities are laser-focused, they recently added support for memberships and there are hundreds of integrations with tools I can use to expand the capabilities of TheChocolateLife over time.
More importantly for me, I found a theme I liked, written by a developer who was willing to support the theme, my Ghost install, and me.
The move to Ghost means that, for the first time in the first time in the history of TheChocolateLife, there will be Premium (paid) memberships. As there has been since day one, there will always be free membership with the ability to comment.
However, because of the need to combat hugely increased levels of spam, Classifieds and Ask TCL are now moderated and some Classifieds will no longer be free.