When I joined FirstUU church in 2001, we were using Auction Plus which was developed here by another member, Carl Yaffee, quite a while before I got involved with our auction here. Carl is a great guy, but he wasn’t interested in making some of the changes we wanted, so I eventually decided to write a replacement (initially as a project for my MS degree in computer science).
There’s also an entire back-end you won’t see live till we install a version for your church – All the item categories are configurable (with single or multi-letter prefixes), plus you can setup front page messages in a database so that certain messages appear and disappear as the event date approaches – it’s pretty neat. (The idea is, you won’t have to ask me to make changes from year to year as the theme and event dates change). Plus there’s all pages to support check-in, assigning bidding paddle numbers, sales entry, mass-proofreading, and recording payments during check-out.
Probably the biggest change from 2004 when we last used AuctionPlus is that TogetherAuction is internet-based, so you don’t have to worry about having Foxpro or MS Access runtime licences and so forth on the computer you want to run it on. Also, we typically set up a bank of 4-6 workstations to handle our 200 or so guests who usually arrive and leave all at once. So it’s nice to be able to use a mix of laptops, old computers, or whatever we can scrounge together to setup a network the night before the big event (dlink or linksys routers with automatic DHCP make this pretty easy). Getting the printers all working is usually the biggest hassle, but it's good to set everything up a few days ahead of time and visit windowsupdate.com to make sure all the windows versions are current and there are no viruses (use ccleaner). Also, we’ve gone from being entirely paper donation-form based, to having about 40% of folks entering their own items online, and proofreading is now a job that can be easily split-up.
I’ve probably got about 6-7 years of development effort into as of Feb 2011. It’s only in early 2010 that I started to expand to some other FirstUU churches.
As we get to 'critical mass' I'm hoping more of you will feel like chipping in here to add useful info I might not have the perspective to realize needs to be included.
Don Skinner wrote a nice article about web based church auction management systems featuring this system and one other - you can find it on the InterConnections website:
As of May 2011 I'm working to update the Reports to use a more flexible 'report-writer' back-end that will enable me to more quickly develop new reports. I haven't finished converting all the old reports yet; currently the bid sheets are the trickiest ones, due to some interesting needs for pre-printed bid amounts using a 'sliding' scale with bid increments that increase at certain levels from the opening bid amount. I'll probably keep the bulk statement report as-is (not using the new pdf report system) to remain consistent with future updates to member statement display formats.
In 2011 I upgraded the system from an older version 1.4.7 of the Wicket framework to the more capable version 1.5; The main reason this matters is 'scalability' and ease of updating. Instead of having each site deployed separately, it is now one large system. This makes it more memory efficient and faster.
In 2012 I added the online advance bidding feature, which is pretty cool - it even sends 'you've been outbid' emails. I also made a bunch of 'Internal Codes' that I had been managing myself visible to admins so they can do things like change their own admin password. The new report system allowed me to add several new reports also.
In late 2012 I added some client bookkeeping support - we are up to about 30 clients so I need a better way of keeping track of whose auction is when. My plan is to have improved support for creating new clients before I go to have a booth at GA in KY.
In 2016 I added configurable questions, which we use for simple things like 'vegetarian friendly' but also with a hidden default feature, we use a 'Jury Accepted' question to hide certain category items until approval by the auction team.
In 2018 I added a big feature to support co-donors.
On November 15 2018, I swapped out the old server for a newer faster machine. I also upgraded from mysql5 to mariadb10 database, tomcat6 to jetty9 servlet container, and most importantly, upgraded the OS from Ubuntu 10 to LUbuntu 16 (not the newest but the one currently used by Amazon web services). In the short term, this enables me to continue using Dropbox for backup publishing (they forced me to move before I was quite ready by dropping support for 5 year old Ubuntu 10). In the long term, these newer software versions are a necessary step towards moving off a self-hosted server up to a more reliable Amazon hosted server. The upgrade wasn't as smooth as I'd hoped (see Outages) but the system is very fast and has plenty of memory now.