Community Update - End-of-February 2020staff -
Wow, two in one month? This must be big.
Sarcasm aside, this actually is a big one, and it's also a mini one, so here we go!
As 0.98 released earlier, containing fixes for a few things and UI improvements, we had a look at our issue tracker and came to a conclusion - we still want 0.99 to be the test run for the full site.
This makes things awkward - adding the new features that are still missing is, in the site's current state, an absolute pain. Additionally, the UI right now doesn't really lend itself well to adding them in the first place - you'll probably see a couple of hacks here and there in the latest update even.
Then we realised that, for the app, we need to rewrite everything anyway so that the apps can communicate with the server. I won't go into too many technical details in this post because it'll be confusing, but after running it by our Kickstarter backers, we made a decision - rather than rush 0.99 out so we can go "ha, out of beta before the others, take that, other sites!" we're going to take our time. Starting tomorrow, we'll start planning and working on the app development stuff, including the new server communication protocol that they'll use.
Why does this matter if you don't browse the site on mobile? Well, one of the good things about this unified protocol (API, if you fancy some furhter reading) is that we can hook anything we want into it. Phone apps? Sure. A desktop client, ala Discord? Easy. Since we're Sony partners for our game dev projects, a PS4/PS5 app? Easily doable.
It also means that we can allow use apps - things like XKit or a fancy stats site will be possible with it. On the technical side, it also means we can pick any coding language we want, and we're picking one that's a lot nicer to work with so weird stuff like the queue timings bug should be easier to solve.
You can see where that's going - essentially, we build the site once, and everything else is just a way of interacting with it. With that in mind, it means that once the API is further along, we can rewrite the web version to use it as well as the apps - that way, everything works consistently, and you'll finally get a UI that looks good instead of very clearly being designed by a programmer that thinks hawaiian shirts are actually quite fashionable.
We'll be testing a few things out in the app that we want to translate over to the desktop variant, so we might actually have a weird situation where the mobile apps are slightly better than the desktop version for a little bit. Considering how mobile apps usually are, this has almost certainly never happened before.
This also means that subscriptions et al are delayed a little bit - Kickstarter backers were more than fine with this, saying that "honestly you need a bit of a lie down, so take your time and do it right rather than rushing to finish". We do need a bit of a lie down, and it's just generally good advice - so other than bug fixes on any of the new stuff or any critical errors that crop up, we'll get the badges and themes in for those guys, get them sent out, and then send out separate keys later for the subscriptions.
You might remember us saying there'll be a raffle for beta access to the app alongside the KS backers - we'll let you know how to enter that in the next community update at the usual time next week!
An update on the ads - general consensus was we should go for it, so we did. Unfortunately, AdSense turned us down - we half expected that, so it's not a huge shock to us. Speculative reasoning is in this post, but it most likely boils down to us allowing NSFW, which we're not getting rid of. So we'll be running without ads for a little while. Given the post about them where we explained why we needed them and us saying above subscriptions aren't coming for a while either, you're probably confused - that's understandable. Instead, we're running a Patreon for the time being to keep us fed, just like we did before the Kickstarter. This isn't quite pre-paying for subscriptions, but it doesn't sit right with me that you're giving us money for nothing so the chances are we'll offer to convert them to subs once we're ready for them. It's not our first choice, but beggars can't be choosers.
Hopefully this all makes sense and you understand where we're coming from! We don't want to keep things in a perpetual cycle of being written and then thrown out, which at this point, 0.99 would honestly be, so we're going straight for the next stage and doing the app stuff.
See you all next week for the proper community update!
In your opinion, what's holding Waterfall back?
Aw shit, essay time bois
This'll be a long post but I guess it'll be worth reading? Anyway.
1) Chicken Egg Chicken Egg Egg Chicken Egg Egg
Everything is stuck in a loop with the site. On the side of getting users, we need both more, and exclusive content. However, creators won't post content here - especially not exclusive - because it has less reach, because we don't have any users. Which we can't get unless people start posting content, but they won't because we have no users.
It's similar problem with the Commission Market at the minute - as an idea, it was EXTREMELY well recieved. The intention was always to launch it as an alpha, that was madde clear from the start, and the level of interest shown it it seemed to indicate that it was worth the investment in man hours and legal fees to get everything sorted - that is, it seemed the return on investment was going to be there. Actually, this should be pushed into it's own section.
2) Focusing on the wrong areas
The reality of the CM is that it's.... currently, at least, even taking into account the alpha state, been a colossal failure. The projections I did suggested that by now, two months after launch, Waterfall should have made a $30 or so take from the CM. Our actual take from it is, as of writing, $1.12. That's also why it's been so slow to develop, it's just been really hard to justify spending the time on it from an ROI perspective and that's even if I value my time at $0.
I don't know whether it's a case of artists are holding off until it's finished, I'm not communicating the benefits of it well enough or folks aren't happy about the fees (or think that 10% is our cut AFTER processing fees, rather than it being a flat "you get 90% of the list price guaranteed", but the CM just isn't being used at all by anyone. Which means I've spent months working on something that was, from the perspective of growing and maintaining the site, a complete waste of time.
My best guess is maybe a combination of fees and completeness - there's a small bug in the account delete function right now that doesn't interfere with the process but throws a warning in Sentry, and I know that about 50 artists (I googled some of the blog names/some sounded familiar) have signed up over the last month, immediately checked out the CM, then deleted their accounts after presumably thinking it was shit.
Being slightly disappointed that they were here to try and get money rather than any actual interest in the site is a topic for another time, but either way, chicken and egg - it needs to be used before I can justify investing more time into it, but I guess I need to invest more time into it before people will use it.
3) Staff oh god they're going to read this
On paper, there's five staff. I'm fine with that and fine with them having the label of staff, they do help, especially with PR stuff because I am legitimately terrible at communication and sometimes I need them to help me phrase something in a way that softens the blow when a suggestion comes in and people support it but it's just. Not a good one. The audit log shows they're dealing with some reports before I even know we have them too, so like, fab, I have no complaints.
However, I worry about the impression that's conveyed when we say "we have five staff" because I think that implies a lot more movement behind the scenes than there is, possibly? From an actual like, coding perspective, it's effectively still just me. I'm the only one who like... "actively" for lack of a better word develops the site, so when a bug crops up and it takes a couple days to fix that looks bad to people who are new or who don't use the site and don't realise that that's the situation.
It'll be exacerbated when the apps start serious development because I'll have to do the core site, the iOS app, and the Android app all at the same time. I love the staff but god I need them to learn to code already.
4) Benevolent Dictatorship; or why The Discord was a mistake
I think that maybe the Discord was a bad idea, or at the very least, making the staff easily public facing is a bad idea. Maybe not originally, I think it was definitely important in the early days, but now I think it's detrimental. It feels almost like because we've been so available, we've a) made ourselves targets for any criticism against the site because we've (me especially) become the "face" of the site, and b) I think some people are expecting us to do what they want "as a favour" because we're friendly towards them or shitpost with them in the Discord or something?
Like... I'm not gonna name names, but since the Kickstarter, a lot of the suggestions have been very much "this feature for me, and not for thee" requests. They'd benefit that individual and maybe a small number of other users, but for the site as a whole would be detrimental, and we end up feeling like we can't give a firm no because it generates An Atmosphere. It also leads to us getting unsolicited criticism - immediately after the KS posted app concept screenshots someone decided they were shit and re-did them and presented them to us as if they were doing us a favour and that theirs is the design we'd be implementing.
So while it's not holding the site back per se, it's definitely making things uncomfortable because either a suggestion is garbage or a suggestion is good but the execution suggested is garbage, and we've definitely had one case of the latter where I've implemented something and then I got DMs saying "but that's not how I wanted it implemented". I'm just really struggling to figure out how to remind people that suggestions are welcome, but what you want isn't necesarily what's best for the site as a whole.
Look I'm gonna be honest, I'm shit at marketing because I can't get over myself about how corporate I sound whenever I try it. Our ad posts on Tumblr have the worst reblog to like ratio of any posts the WF blog makes over there, and as a whole you guys aren't advertising for us either. This means we're losing ground to Pillowfort et al who has users hopping on the rare post where someone DOES recommend Waterfall on Twitter or Tumblr to put PF's name forward too. I don't wanna sound bitchy but... seriously, you guys gotta step up a little bit. This links into chicken egg I guess.
So yeah, this is me asking you guys to spread the word. Hell, link my stupid rambly posts like this one where I talk about the future of the site if you have to.
6) Web 2.0 has fucking spoiled us
7) We update too fast
This sounds INCREDIBLY counter-intuitive, I know. But, this is actually an explanation as to why every site goes to shit eventually. If a site isn't getting updates, it starts to feel stagnant to its users, who will start migrating elsewhere as soon as they see something that they can go "ooo, shiny" to. That's why places like Reddit, Tumblr etc all have been getting shitter - not only do they have to justify their staff's positions, but shareholders want to see "improvements" as well, and user counts are king. So by updating the site as often as I have been, I've actually put us on the back foot, because what happens when the site is stable and working? I'll need to find something to add so people don't think the site is dead. And with the frequent updates, we also have the patch notes...
8) Transparency is a bad thing, actually
I just ran a query on the database. It tells me how many posts are on the staff blog, and have the word "patch" in the title. There's 304. There's also often quite a few posted on the same day. I've been using it as a way to communicate updates, but I now realise that to someone new, that's going to make the site seem like an absolute clusterfuck of bugs with an incompetent staff.
At the same time, I know that people aren't actually reading them because invariably within a day or two of a change or new feature, people go "[x] isn't [y] anymore" in the bugs channel when it's something I covered in patch notes, or "whoa since when can we do [z]".
There's also answering all the questions on the staff blog, which I've already stopped doing since yesterday I closed Staff's inbox. At this point, essentially every question is a duplicate or just users being idiots (sorry y'all, but some of you really need to learn to scroll down a little bit or just try something before asking how it works) and it looks a bit bad - either from the "staff are having to explain basic stuff to people so it must be really hard to use" perspective, or the "the userbase must all be idiots so I'll skip it" perspective.
So, I think that I may have tried to be a bit too transparent with things and that I need to tone it down a bit. Maybe stop with the patch notes as well and only do big announcements of new features on there.
Most of the stuff above is because of me (there was also a thing where people decried the site on Twitter because of that very minor jab at NewTumbl, saying we were unprofessional, but that's not the main point I'm trying to make here) However, I also think I've maybe put myself in a bad position - everyone who's followed this blog since before June knows how much I overwork myself and how stressed I get about the site and, as I've mentioned before, I've put $20k+ of personal money into getting WF up and off the ground. Given how slow growth is, how little our users spread the site, and how poorly stuff that people were enthusiastic about has performed, I genuinely lose sleep wondering if I'll ever get that money back, or whether I've wasted the inheritance I was given with the intention of it being a deposit on a house.
Pillowfort ran two Kickstarters and charged for entry. They have a budget that is at least 6 figures. I didn't run a Kickstarter (other than for the app, and it did nowhere near as well as either of theirs did) and access was free. They have, uindeniably, got the advantage there. As things stand, I don't have any more money to put into the site. My credit card is maxxed out, and I can't really afford the monthly minimum as it is. Waterfall needs to start earning some money to keep itself going, let alone let me pay myself back, and I'm genuinely worried whether it will. If I add subscriptions, how many people will actually pay for them? We've already had people asking whether they can just make alt accounts because they don't want to pay for blog slots, and those are a single fucking dollar. How am I going to get people to give me three, five, or ten dollars if I can't persuade people to give me one? To throw away the veil of me not being panicked about this a bit because it's harder than I thought it would be, how the fuck am I going to be able to start paying the staff, let alone myself or the debts we have when people aren't willing to give us one single fucking dollar as a show of support? And then, on top of the $20k invested, if we assume I should be compensated for my time spent on the site so far, that's another $60k I need to find to pay myself. Like, legitimately, I lie there awake at night thinking to myself "shit, did I fuck up?"
Part of the marketing for the site said "no ads", and I so desperately want to avoid having them on the site, but I'm getting to a point where it's like... okay, I've put off every single other one of my projects to do this, have worked on it unpaid for that time and do not have another job to fall back on - this is going to sound really terrible and I'm sorry, but I need something here. I don't want to sell out, I genuinely don't, but it's starting to look like it might be the only option.
Part of this is because I've tried to hold ethical operation at the core values of the site, but... that's a problem of its own, when you're trying to be ethical against unethical competitors, we automatically lose because they have an advantage. I need money, but at the same time, I won't adopt any behaviours that'll help get it.
Anyway, those are the salient points I can think of that are most impactful.
I'm also going to note that you guys are allowed to reblog and spread my ask answers, someone asked on a prior one and I think people are assuming they're only allowed to like them.
The Waterfall Support Blog!support -
Hey everyone! With a rapid influx of new years finally starting to outpace how quickly we can develop things, it's starting to make more and more sense to have a repository of knowledge and how-to guides.
To that end, we've repurposed this blog - it'll now serve as the official "how do I do this?" place until the features have stabilised enough that we can write proper, real FAQ pages.
One small caveat - given we know how the site is supposed to work, there might be some things that are easy and don't need explaining. If you want to see something explained here, feel free to message @thelldev and we'll get a guide written for you.
In the meantime, if you're new here, we hope you enjoy the site!
Posts and Privacysupport -
There's three main ways you can protect your stuff from prying eyes on Waterfall - search settings, age restrictions, and tags.
The first option is search settings. In your Blog Settings, you can opt out of showing in search results. This might be useful for personal blogs, and when you're opted out, you won't show in blog recommendations, and neither will your posts show in regular searches. Additionally, Waterfall will add a tag to your blog that asks search engines not to index it - most popular ones respect this setting, but a couple don't. For the ones most folks use though, you can be pretty sure you won't show up on there.
If you're an adult, you might not want to interact with minors - either because your blog is mostly adult content, interacting with minors makes you uncomfortable, or because you'd just prefer not to. In these cases, the option to make your blog only accessible to users over the age of eighteen is available in your blog settings. As with opting out of search results, your blog will no longer be accessible to users under that age. It also won't be available to logged out users, who are assumed to be underage by default.
There are three types of tags that affect how a post is treated on the site. Tags are currently case sensitive due to a code oversight, which should be corrected soon. For now, be careful as you type!
The "nsfw" or "NSFW" tags flag a post to be treated in the same way as an NSFW blog, with only that particular post being hidden from underage users. As of writing, that protection doesn't apply to reblogs without the NSFW tag - this is considered a bug, and will be fixed shortly.
Prescribed tags: nsfw, NSFW
Do Not Reblog
Sometimes, you want to say something, but don't want it being shared. In these cases, the Do Not Reblog tag family blocks reblogging the post at a code level. People can still like it and leave comments. This is most suitable for if you want advice or reassurance on something. Note: With these tags, they should be completely lowercase.
Prescribed tags: dnr, do not reblog
Do Not Interact
A more potent foorm of the DNR tags, Do Not Interact also disables comments. It doesn't stop likes - though there's debate on whether they should! Let us know your thoughts. As with DNR, these tags should be completely lower case.
Prescribed tags: dni, do not interact
Only one of the prescribed tags needs to be present. DNI overrides DNR.
In cases where you just don't want to interact with someone, you can block them. Blocks are handled at the account level rather than per blog, and you only need to block one of a user's blogs to block all of them. Currently, it doesn't stop posts where someone you've blocked is the OP from showing on your dashboard - this is considered a bug, and will be fixed shortly.
Blocking also carries over when a user is logged out, in a limited capacity.
Blocking is currently the weakest system on the site, and is being actively worked on - if you find an issue, let us know!
Getting Started with the Commission Marketsupport -
The Commission Market is a part of Waterfall where artists can offer commissions to prospective buyers. The general idea is that there's a secure area where both the artist and buyer can discuss a commission, see the details of it at a glance, and stagger the payment a little. It's important to remember that, right now, the CM is in alpha. While there's been multiple commissions successfully completed through it, there's a few missing links, and it can be a little confusing at times.
How Commissions Work
Part of the idea of the CM is to reduce risk on both sides. Artists run the risk of a buyer not paying, and buyers run the risk of an artist taking their money and running. Waterfall solves this with milestones. When you're hashing out a commission, the buyer describes what they want. If it's something the artist is willing to draw, they propose a price, and some milestones.
Milestones are relatively simple - at each major... milestone, they get paid a part of the cost of the commission. For example, a commission might be broken into three stages - lineart, colour, shading. You might agree between you that when the lineart is done, the artist should get 25% of their payment - Waterfall helps you do this!
When the artist is done with a milestone, they can upload it. Waterfall then shows it to the buyer in a low resolution, watermarked state until they pay, and then they get the full, original quality of that milestone.
The reasoning for milestones is simple - if the buyer ends up not paying, the artist hasn't wasted a whole lot of time. Later on, if the artist can't finish the piece, then the buyer at least has something for their money. There's no longer a need for both parties to be cautious when it comes to money, the artist gets paid when it's done, but the buyer doesn't get their art until they pay. For artists, payments are sent directly to your bank account, though there's sometimes a brief hold for fraud prevention purposes.
How to be an artist
Waterfall uses Stripe for the Commission Market, so you'll have to make an account with them. The reasons for this are simple - Waterfall believes that the secure area we provide is enough proof that the buyer can never claim they didn't get what they asked for. With Stripe, we have the option of contesting disputes on your behalf, and our guarantee is that if we lose, the artist still gets their money. We pay for both the commission, and any chargeback fees. In exchange, Waterfall takes 10% of the commission price - out of this, we pay any payment processor fees, so you can be guaranteed that 90% of the list price is what you get. Typically, after the fees, Waterfall makes just a few cents on a commission. Paypal doesn't allow us to offer the protections we want to offer.
Once you're registered with Stripe, you'll get a screen like this.
This should be relatively simple - the text is what any bog standard commission post would be. Maximum slots helps prevent you from getting overloaded - once you have that many active commissions, your listing will be hidden until you have one finished. Price range is to help buyers search. Currency is what you'd prefer to be paid in, defaulting to USD. The "profile is live" checkbox will put the listing live for you.
Upload some samples, and you're done! You'll be notified when a buyer has sent you a message, so put your feet up and wait.