It's been a while since I've given an update on the development progress for PaperDemon. This post is probably going to be a long one but in the future I'll do my best to give shorter, more frequent updates.
Experiments with Marketing
Over the past six months I've been learning about marketing, goal setting, planning, and prioritizing. There's always so much work to do. From web development tasks to marketing to livestreams to YouTube videos. Over the last year I've been experimenting with many different marketing techniques in hopes of finding something that is a good fit to help grow our community and providing useful content.
An unfortunate side effect of this experimentation is I end up getting stretched too thin on many things and making little progress in each of them. So over the past few weeks I've been narrowing my focus and getting better at prioritizing and delegating. For example, I'm no longer livestreaming and I'm producing videos for our Youtube channel at a slower pace to focus more on app development.
While this may seem like it's not related to product development for PaperDemon, I feel it closely is related. Because if I'm spending a lot of time on various experiments, that's time that I'm not spending on app development. But I think I've learned what I needed from the experiments and I'm refocused now on prioritizing the product development.
As of earlier this month, ranks have now been replaced sitewide with level and experience instead. So now even on the old UI you will see a person's current character level. Special thanks to Woozle for this feature update!
The last several years of working as a creative engineer for Google have allowed me to learn a lot of concepts and best practices that I wasn't following when I finished the last rewrite in 2012. This has allowed me to look upon PaperDemon and identify ways to make it more sustainable in the long run.
I have talked a bit about this before, but it's my belief most of PaperDemon's codebase (which we call “legacy”) is suffering from many problems that make it hard to maintain going forward. In particular, it is difficult to
set up a development environment, including staging to do QA. This is particularly bad because it's very difficult to get new developers setup to contribute to the source
make changes with confidence due to lack of automated tests
too much code. It would be significantly less if it was better architected
There's not a single automated test for the legacy code. This means that when we make changes we have to manually QA it. And with an app as large and complex as PaperDemon, this is prone to error. In addition, it's very expensive asking a developer to do their own QA so it's also not cost effective either.
The good news is, for several years we've been in the process of rewriting it a piece at a time to make it easier to maintain, more stable, and easier for other developers to contribute to, with automated unit tests even!
Over the years I've added numerous features in hopes of providing more value to the community. The downside of this is it's created more code for me and the team to maintain. There's been a number of features that the site has had that have gone unused or barely used. I could spend the time to migrate these but that would take away from more important and impactful things.
So quite a bit of work over the past few months has been removal of the features that aren't being used much. Here's a list of the things that have been removed.
Photos – almost no one used it.
Resources – What is the resources section you say? I'm not surprised you've not heard of it because I never launched it. It was an unfinished feature where users could post useful resource links and vote on how helpful they were and add comments. Kinda like Reddit I guess.
Artist commissions board
And here's a few more we plan to remove soon which we had announced previously that we'd be removing.
Chat – It used to appear on the forums page and was rarely used and has been removed from the Forums page already. We still have some work to do to completely remove the source. We think Discord works better for our community than the old chat did anyway.
2019 Q1 Plans
In addition to various maintinency stuff that is too boring to go into detail on, here's what's coming in the new year.
I'm currently working on refactoring the PaperDemon blog feature. Originally I was thinking of cutting the blogs because they weren't being used much by the community. However our own site blog is very important for communicating with you all and I'm in need of some better blogging tools so I might as well upgrade it so everyone benefits.
Refactoring and new front end
As described above, I'll be continuing the work to re-factor and build the new front-end for the rest of PaperDemon.
Art submission improvements
On most art/image websites, submitting new artwork is a very quick and straightforward process. Unfortunately ours is not, and I think we can do better. I'd like to streamline the art submission process to make it quicker and easier for you all to share your wonderful works of art.
In particular, I want to get rid of the current gallery submission system. Galleries forces you to pick certain categories that may or may not actually apply to your artwork. And if your artwork fits in the particular fandom and there's no gallery for it, you gotta wait for me to create it for you.
I'd like to completely migrate from galleries to tags. Tags are very easy to understand and is what most sites do now. You can put as many or as little as you want. With tags, anyone to create a tag at any time.
The new backend needs some improvement in terms of optimization. As our community grows, it's going to have some difficulties keeping up with higher traffic so I just need to make some tweaks here.
Our mission is to help motivate artists to become more awesome and that's where the game features come in.
Coming early next year is a new feature to help motivate us with art challenges. You'll be able to earn XP for participating in art events like Inktober and track your progress.
Even more game features will come after I've finished the other foundational work described above. I'm not entirely certain which game features are going to come next. I need to do some more conceptual work on this first and get back to you! I have so many ideas and my grand vision for this is likely to take 2-3 years to become fully realized. But my plan is to add a feature at a time, slowly moving toward the goal. Thank you for your patience.
As always, thank you everyone for your continued support of the community. You have no idea how happy it makes me when I hear the positive difference PaperDemon has had on people's lives.
Anyway, back to work! Let me know if you have any thoughts on this update. I look forward to making PaperDemon even more awesome in 2019!