MDO Classic is Dying

A Story About An Old Dog Named MDO

By Angela McConnell

Safely nestled on a bottom shelf, in an old, dark server room sits an aging Mac. This is the home to MDO Classic. We love this old fella and plan on keeping it as long as it lives. The small team here at JS designed, built and maintained it ourselves. Come to think of it, I am the only one left on staff who has been here with it from the moment of its birth until now. It has a special place in my heart.

I designed those templates, went through the arduous process of uploading and “tagging” the fool things… twice! (*shakes fist at 2010*) … tweaked them and maintained them for over a decade. Some would call MDO  “Angela’s Baby”. So, it’s specifically hard for me to tell this tale… but unfortunately, no one is better suited.

When we decided to go down the path of offering a free layout program to our customers, many of our customers were still using the old fashioned way to build their publication: paste-up grids. We needed a simple way that our customers could step into the digital age, produce pages with a consistent design and not be overwhelmed by all the bells and whistles that came with expensive, professional software. So we created My Design Online, MDO for short. We kept things simple: set in stone layouts using classic, clean design. That worked great for a long time! But, over the years our customers needed more. Overwhelmingly, they screamed: “We just want to be able to adjust layouts!” We wanted that too. We wanted MDO to fly! We wanted it to become versatile to each staff’s individual needs. But, this old dog named MDO, was just a dog… and dogs aren’t built to fly.

And now, the undeniable truth is that MDO Classic is antiquated, rendering it unchangeable now.  It’s safe to say that 95% of what you see in MDO Classic simply cannot be changed or modified in anyway. The other 5% can technically be changed… but not safely. The programs, people, services, servers and software that we use/used to maintain and upgrade MDO just do not exist or are not compatible in one way or the other anymore. In other words, this old dog can’t learn even the simplest new trick, let alone how to fly. What’s scary is that if we attempt try to teach it, it will likely die. And unfortunately, (and this is the REALLY scary part) one day that dusty old Mac in that tiny server room will die and MDO Classic will be gone with it.

We foresaw this inevitability a few years back and began preparing for the worst. In 2016 we initiated Phase 1 of our plan: offer a free alternative/replacement for MDO. This led to the birth of “MDO Pro”. 2017/2018 saw the public launch of MDO Pro. That was Phase 2. It was well received. Many of our customers made the switch and never looked back. But almost as many customers turned out to be fiercely devoted to MDO Classic. That’s when it became clear that MDO Classic needed to live on as long as possible, but certain ugly truths could not be ignored. That brings us to now, this email, the hardest part of this whole journey so far:  Phase 3 – share MDO Classic’s story and its inevitable future with those who rely on it.

Essentially, the only maintenance that we can possibly do on the old fella is what Richard currently does: on occasion, and with great trepidation, he hesitantly opens that creaky old door to that tiny server room and, figuratively, places a mirror under that old Mac’s nose to see if MDO Classic is still breathing. That’s all any of us can do.

On the day that there is no more breath left in that old Mac, that raggedy old dog who has been by the sides of thousands of young people, safely guarding their stories of growing up… stories of bomb threats and travel, graduations and pregnancies, scandals and relationships, abortions and redemption, stories of good-byes and new beginnings… that trusty old dog named MDO… will stop breathing too. Sadly, there is no coming back for this old fella once it’s gone.

When that day comes, those devoted to MDO Classic will be calling, asking about all the current stories and pictures guarded within it’s memory… I hope I can do a better job then than I am doing now of holding back the tears as I tell them that the old friend that they know as MDO, that my baby, can fetch no more and that their stories and pictures are simply, gone… irretrievably, lost.


I can only hope that this tragic tale helps prepare everyone for the unfortunate, yet unavoidable end to MDO Classic’s long and much loved story. And, yes, I literally cried when I wrote the first draft of this. And more than likely, I’ll cry when it happens too. I’m a big baby like that. Many of you guys will be in the same cry-baby boat right along with me if you don’t prepare and have a plan. 🙂

You don’t have to stop using MDO Classic. (We sure wish you would because we are nervous wrecks about you guys losing your stuff.) But at least prepare yourself and your staff, right now for the inevitable end of the story.
Email me at [email protected] for step by step instructions on how to minimize the grief.