The original BPN website was created in 1995 by Ginger Ogle, BPN's founder, to archive discussions from a mailing list she had started a few years earlier for UC Berkeley parents. At the time, mailing list and blogging software were not available, so Ginger set up a web server, wrote scripts in Perl for subscribing and posting, and created more than 8,000 hand-coded HTML pages over the years containing advice and reviews copy-pasted from the newsletters. In 2012, BPN became a nonprofit and we raised funds from our subscribers for a new website that would take advantage of software that was now widely available for websites and mailing lists. Starting in 2014, Ginger worked with Amit Asaravala of Return Control to create a new Drupal website for BPN, which was based on the old site, but would allow us to automate many of the actions we had to do by hand on the old site. The new site was completed in 2016.
Technical Components of the Website (as of October 2017):
- Drupal 7.5 + customized modules created by Return Control
- Pantheon for web hosting
- Mailchimp for 5 weekly newsletters (for 20,000+ subscribers)
- Paypal for paid subscriptions and yearly renewals
- G Suite and Google for Nonprofits for staff & volunteer email accounts and mailing lists
- SurveyMonkey for occasional member surveys
- Staff: 1 full-time director/administrator, 9 volunteer moderators, 3 hrs/month tech support from Return Control, 10 hrs/mo business manager/bookkeeper
Design & Structure of the Website
Databases: Three searchable databases were compiled from pages on the old website that contained parents' reviews of hundreds of schools, childcare facilities, camps and classes. For each school, camp, or class, we added additional information such as license numbers, capacity, addresses, contact information, etc. Each school/class/camp in the database has a profile page that paid subscribers can edit themselves, and that parent subscribers can post reviews to.
Listings: The listings contain current posts from subscribers. Most of the listings also have a weekly newsletter that subscribers can opt in to, which contains the week's new posts. Only certain types of subscribers can post to each listing. For example, only community subscribers can post to Announcements & Events, and only parent subscribers can post to Parent Q&A. See Where Can I Post? for details. Most of the listings can be viewed by the public on our website, although two can be viewed by subscribers only, as indicated below.
- Announcements (public) school openings, services for parents and kids, classes, camps, workshops, etc.
- Events (public) kid-friendly events and school admissions events
- Childcare (parents & nannies only) parents seeking or recommending a nanny or offering/seeking a nanny share; also, nannies available
- Marketplace (BPN subscribers only) items for sale, items wanted, garage sales, housing offers
Parent Q&A (public) advice and reviews in a Q and A format
Tutors & Teachers (public) tutors, music teachers, college advisors offering their services
Archive: The archive includes parents' advice, recommendations, and reviews from BPN's newsletters 1996-2015, and from the Parent Q&A listing 2016 to present. Each Q&A thread is assigned a topic (eg., "Pediatric Dentists") and topics are assigned to a sub-category in one of 12 main categories, so that the entire archive of 7000+ topics can be easily browsed. Profile pages that are not included in one of the 3 databases also appear in the archive, in the appropriate sub-category. The archive is publicly available.
Subscriptions & User Accounts: BPN's website is publicly available, but some sections can be viewed by subscribers only, and only subscribers can post on BPN. Parents subscribe for free, while Community Subscribers pay a yearly fee to subscribe. Some community subscriptions are free, such as teen babysitters, public schools, public libraries, and city-run programs. We use Paypal to manage paid subscriptions. Every subscriber has an account page where they can view all their past posts, and edit their account information such as email address, username, and newsletters elected.
Posting: Subscribers can post to any of the listings they have access to (see Where Can I Post?). Access is controlled by the website, based on the type of subscription. Anonymous posts are accepted for Parent Q&A. All other listings include at least the poster's username. An email or phone number is required on announcements and events. Moderators review every post before it is published on the website.
Messaging: Subscribers can send messages to one another using the website's messaging system. Clicking the username on a post allows one subscriber to send a message to another subscriber, both of whom are identified only by their username.
- Administration: Special privileges for moderators and administrators, such as the ability to approve/reject posts, view full subscriber information, create profile pages and FAQs, etc.
- Documentation: How-to pages for admins and moderators that document website procedures, operation and maintenance.
- FAQs: Public "Help" and "About Pages"