Members of Northwest Firearms, I’d like to start by saying hello to everyone. For our new members, my name is Joe Link, and the founder of Northwest Firearms. It’s been quite some time since I’ve updated everyone on the status of the community. I’ll be using this announcement for that purpose, and also to inform you of our 2014 NWFA Donation Drive. This year saw many very big changes here at NWFA, the largest of which was making the jump from vBulletin, which we had used since 2008, to XenForo. I have no doubt that many of you still have mixed feelings about that switch, though my hope is that you’ve become accustomed to the new software, and the many benefits that came with it. XenForo has truly given us a solid foundation on which to develop NWFA into the community I have envisioned from the beginning. According to the help requests we’re receiving, and feedback from our members, it seems we’re mostly past the ‘learning phase’ our members had to go through with the new software. From my perspective, it appears most of you understand the new terminology, features, and benefits. This was our first goal on the ‘after migration’ to-do list. I think there were a lot of things we could have done better when it came to training, and I apologize for the hiccups. There isn’t really a ‘roadmap’ on how to run a community like this, and I’m still learning new things every day! As I mentioned in another announcement, I quit my day job in June of this year to focus on Northwest Firearms fulltime. I knew it was only a matter of time before the 70+ hour workweeks took their toll on me. Worse yet, there was no time for me to do what was needed to ensure Northwest Firearms continued to grow and evolve. This site takes constant upkeep and maintenance to stay online, much like tending a garden. Though I still hold a part time job, I now have the time required to take Northwest Firearms to the next level. I thank god we have a good team here to help share the workload. Since June, the tasks at the top of my to-do list have been primarily technical in nature, with the handling of a few urgent situations to mix it up a bit. This year, as with years prior, we’ve been fortunate to see a high rate of growth. While we’re not quite there yet, soon we’ll be due for either another server upgrade (more RAM, faster disks, or both) or a new server entirely. Don’t take this the wrong way - this is exactly what we want! It just takes money. Other items on the technical side are the switch to serving Northwest Firearms exclusively over SSL, and an upgrade to the latest version of XenForo at some point this month. Once these items are taken care of, we’ll be able to move onto more exciting things! One such item is the work on the NWFA member experience. Encompassing every aspect of member interaction with the Northwest Firearms website, member experience is something we’re constantly trying to improve. The two items we believe will offer the greatest benefit are the refinement of the user interface, and the creation a robust help and training section. While most of you are comfortable with the current style, we still have people who find the many options and features to be overwhelming. To reduce the complexity for those who don’t want or need all of our features, we’ll be developing a ‘basic’ style. Users will be free to switch between the basic and advanced styles as they wish. Another issue we’ll be addressing is the way the site displays on mobile devices. It’s no secret that I’m on a personal mission to replace TapaTalk with a better, in-house solution for a variety of reasons. The help section we are developing will serve as a comprehensive guide to every feature of this site, many of which even our most advanced members aren't aware. Other items I’m excited to work on fall under the feature development category. From the beginning, my goal was to build a resource (this site and organization) that would serve as the number one resource for firearm owners of the Northwest. In keeping with that, I’m constantly brainstorming ideas for new tools and features, or ways to improve upon those we already have. Most of you are aware that we have two review sections at this time. The first one, the section with individual forum threads for each business, was carried over from vBulletin. The second one, which we’re currently developing, can be accessed via the Reviews tab near the top of the site. Though it’s quite sparse right now, we’ll be rolling out a new version very soon, which should include most businesses in Oregon, Washington, and Idaho. The other feature I’ll be working on, once we review section is squared away, is the return of the Resource Map. This was a very popular tool when we first rolled it out, which unfortunately I didn’t have time to keep updated. I’m hoping that by using new technology we as a community can keep it current. Lastly, I believe we finally have a software solution to notify members when a moderator edits or deletes a thread or post. I’m being completely honest when I say I’m dedicated to making the moderation here as transparent as possible. Next I’d like to talk about our community outreach goals, our efforts so far, and the development of the NWFA Volunteer Program. Growing up, my thought was that that if a person owned a gun, the odds were better that they were a good, honest, hardworking individual. I’m happy to say that, more often than not, this has been my experience. From my grade school teachers on up, I’ve always been disappointed by the tactics used by others to label and dismiss members of what I believe is the best segment of our society. I see Northwest Firearms as a way to shake off those labels, discredit those who use them, and shine a better light on the truth of who we really are. Thanks to the efforts of our members and our Volunteer Coordinator, we’ve seen much success in the outreach efforts put together thus far. By partnering for outdoor clean-up’s with organizations such as the Mount Hood National Forest and Washington Department of Natural Resources, we’ve not only removed thousands of pounds of trash from our forests, we’ve also showed them we’re willing to work to preserve them. This doesn’t stop at cleaning up someone else’s mess, this needs to be part of an effort by all of us to spread the word about responsible firearm use, to help prevent it in the future. If we don’t take this issue by the horns and fix it from the inside, I can promise you, the government will, and we won’t like the solution. These clean-ups are just the beginning of a larger push into firearm-related volunteerism. Perhaps the most exciting is an agreement we’re finalizing with the United States Forest Service. Under the pilot program, NWFA volunteers would staff a booth at a popular outdoor shooting pit, answering questions, distributing information, loaning re-usable targets, and more. In addition, we’re making arrangements to increase our presence at area gun shows, both to spread this message and word of NWFA. The more involved each of us is in getting out there and showing our true nature, the better it is for all of us. This brings me to my final topic, which I’ll call the 2014 NWFA Donation Drive. Many of you probably remember the last one of these we did to raise fund back in May of 2013, and you know how much I dislike soliciting our members for donations. As unpleasant as it is, donations from our members make up a large part of our revenue. Websites like this are expensive to run, and without your help neither our organization nor this site would be here. I get emails and phone calls almost daily, from companies asking us to let them ‘monetize’ Northwest Firearms, telling us how much money we’re missing out on, and so forth. I’ve been doing this a long time, and I’m not ignorant to how much this site could produce. These people can’t comprehend that I’ve never been in this for the money, and I never will be. It is for that reason that I regularly turn down offers to sell NWFA, and why membership here will always be free. Back to the ads, it’s my opinion that rather than loading the site with every sort of new ad we have room for, we can keep the ads at a reasonable level, while also offering small businesses reasonable advertising rates. These so-called ‘monetized’ sites are just plain horrible to use, and not something I want associated with NWFA. What I’m asking is simple. If you feel that you get value from Northwest Firearms, please consider a donation. If you cannot afford a monetary donation, please consider volunteering for one of our events. Online* – Click the Donate button above, or send direct payment to email@example.com Mail – Check made payable to Northwest Firearms, mailed to PO Box 28152, Portland, OR 97228 Phone – We can accept a credit or debit card at 971-599-1486 I know these can get long-winded, and I appreciate you taking the time to read through. Any questions, please feel free to send me a message and ask. Thank You, Joe Link NorthwestFirearms.com * Members who have active upgrades from before we switched to XenForo will not see the 'extend' option on the donation page, only upgrades to higher levels. To extend your membership online, please send the donation via PayPal directly to firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to include your username in the notes, and we'll manually extend it for you.