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Bad Karma [userpic]

Side 7 has been very quiet lately, both from its user-base and its management.  I've been exceptionally busy, and unfortunately Side 7 has been pushed to the wayside as a result.  Family, full-time work, and almost full-time school has dominated my time, and I have not been able to find the time to dedicate to Side 7.  My numerous calls for anyone who knows Perl programming and is willing to help out on the site have met with deafening silence.  Side 7 remains a one-man show.

Fortunately, however, I am not closing the site.  Instead, I've been learning new technologies and programming languages.  I've been working on a complete redesign of the site from the ground up, using a whole new programming language and framework.  I will be working with someone who does UI design and development to help create a more modern and streamlined interface to the site.

Using the new framework and programming language, development overall should be quicker and easier to modify, and the resulting code should be more robust, easier to manage, and faster.

When the site is complete, all current accounts will be migrated, and all currently uploaded assets, comments, etc. will be maintained and carried over.  I will be restructuring how accounts work; there will continue to be free accounts, but the site will be moving to a micro-transactions model (similar to how some free-to-play MMOs operate, such as "Dungeons and Dragons Online" or "Star Trek Online").

I will also be adding a tonne of new features:

  • Removal of most account upload limits
  • New upload types (music, prose, potentially videos)
  • Social-media styled features
  • Truly implemented friends groups
  • Interest groups (Want to start a group about your favorite anime?)
  • Better implementation and use for account credits (this has been a long-time coming)
  • Brand new server hardware (it's here and in the middle of being configured)
  • And a lot more.

This is no small task, and I refuse to put a time limit or deadline on it.  I currently am not working full-time, but I am seeking freelance work to bring in money.  Paying my bills (including the co-location and domain registration bills for Side 7) comes first, unfortunately.  So, work will be done as I have the time to do it.

What this means is that my ability to get to things such as e-mails to the Admin account, and basic user account requests, is limited and will be slow.  It also means that I won't be fixing anything short of a major security issue on the current site.  If I'm going to get the new Side 7 done and launched, I need to focus on that.

We will have open Beta Testing of the new site, as well as early-adopter programs that will give your account bonuses.  More details on that as things progress, but expect a major revival effort.  As much as this is an effort to make the site more appealing to existing members, this is an even larger effort to garner interest from a new generation of members.

We hope that you will stick with Side 7 through this, and give the new site a try when it's done or in Beta.  And, as always, if there is anything you think I can do that would improve things, let me know.  I can be reached via e-mail (badkarma [at] side7 [dot] com), or AIM (armitige3).  E-mails to the webmaster or admin accounts are currently taking a lower priority.

Bad Karma [userpic]

So, I've started the process of redesigning the site from the ground up.  The site as it stands is very much "old school", and is in a web format that is becoming more and more antiquated and abandoned.  And, by abandoned, I don't just mean web designers.  I mean web users and visitors, too.  Slick interfaces, AJAX, and other features that no longer require the complete reloading of pages are the draw, and honestly, rightfully so.  Also, social media has taken a strong hold and has fast become the way in which we as a society prefer to deal with our interactions on the web.

To that end, I'm working on a re-envisioning of Side 7.  The focus of both the way in which we run the site and the site's design will always be about the art; art first, supported by the artist community.  But, with that said, we can change the way in which we present those features, and give users easier and more intuitive ways in which to interact, share, and participate on the site.

All of the current features will remain, although some of them may evolve to a more efficient or design-compatible format.  All of the data and uploads will also remain and be migrated to the new format.

There are a lot of things that I'm hoping to be able to do with this reformat, and to be honest, I hope it breathes new life into the site.  I am under no illusions that Side 7 will ever be as big as other art sites, nor do I expect that it will ever have the funding or support that they have.  However, I made a promise a long time ago that if even only one person still finds value in the site, I would continue to maintain it.  Right now, that number can be counted on a singular hand.  And, the site is back to a one-person crew, me.  But, maybe this effort will rebuild the attractiveness of the site, and the sense of community and interaction that it once had.

To that end, I'm taking a page out of the book used by many an MMO: micro-transactions.  Side 7's account structure is changing.  Here's a very rough, basic run-down on how things will work:

Non-basic features on Side 7 will be available for acquisition for a certain amount of Account Credits (whose name might be changing, I haven't decided).  Once acquired via Account Credits, the feature is available to your account forever.  Free accounts (1 Star) will have access to the basic features, only. 

5 Star accounts will become monthly subscription accounts that gain access to every feature on the site, instantly. But those accounts don't "own" the features.  As long as the 5 Star subscription is maintained, full access is maintained.  If a 5 Star account runs out, it'll convert to a 3 Star account, which will basically be a 1 Star account with a small set up added features included.  That account will never drop back down to a 1 Star account.  Any features that weren't acquired through Account Credits, or through the 3 Star account, however will no longer be available until acquired or a 5 Star account subscription is renewed.

I hope that's not confusing.  But, it works for MMOs, and there are a lot of business models surrounding that structure that will make things easier and more affordable for users.  Why buy features you'll never use?  Get just the ones you care about, for a far smaller fee than a subscription, and not worry about continual payments.  Also, this gives us the ability to run specials and discounts on certain features frequently.

Either way, this is a big project.  I have a project plan in place, and if I can work on it steadily (probably unlikely, between 3 kids, school and work (when I find it again)), will likely take 6-9 months to get the first phase launched.  I'm still looking for a reliable, dedicated Perl programmer who I would be able to delegate some of the work to.  I do need that help.

Your comments and questions are welcome.  I invite any feedback on this.  As always, I can be reached via Instant Messenger: (AIM) armitige3, (Yahoo! IM) badkarmas7, e-mail: badkarma /@/ side7 /./ com, and via the Side 7 forums and private messages.

Bad Karma [userpic]

It's here! It's here!

Side 7 v4.1 has finally launched. This was a tonne of work, truth be told. Most of it, you probably won't even notice as the majority of the work had to do with rebuilding some of the back-end of the site. What that means, though, is better optimization of the back end code, database, and database queries to improve site response times and to prepare for upcoming site features.

To highlight some of what you will notice in this update:


  • Profile Journals

  • Profile Links

  • Invite-A-Friend system (earns you 25 Account Credits per friend who signs up)

  • Lots of bug fixes and performance fixes for the site's forums

  • A few other minor features, and a tonne of back-end stuff


Check out the change history page for all the details.

So, yeah, you might notice that a few of the touted features of v4.1 aren't listed above. That's on purpose. The development schedule had become so out of scope that I decided to defer some features to a quick update (v4.1.1) upon which I can now concentrate. Hell, the forums bug fixes took several weeks on their own, and required so much in the way of database changes and code changes that it's almost a whole new animal.

So, I hope you enjoy the new features, and are looking forward to the next update.

Regards,
-- BK

Current Mood: busybusy
Bad Karma [userpic]

Yeah, so we're later than we had hoped with v4.1. No, it has not, yet, launched. However, we're very close to done.

Most of the new features have been finished and tested. This update includes a few minor UI updates, a few new features (profile links, user journals, the Invite A Friend system (with Account Point rewards), and RSS/Twitter feeds for upper-level accounts (soon to be purchasable features through Account Points for lower-level accounts), and a *lot* of back-end updates in preparation for some very major changes coming down the line.

First of all, we have a lot of plans for new features. What kinds of features? Well, without going into major details, I can let you know that Side 7 development has taken a number of tips from both the social media world and the massively-multiplayer online gaming world. Essentially, we're looking at how other majorly successful sites and communities work, and we're pulling things from their playbooks. For example, users being rewarded for participation in more tangible ways.

Additionally, our account structure will be changing in the future. We'll still have One-Star (free, limited features), Three-Star (free, less limited, obtainable through Account Points), and Five-Star accounts (pay, unlimited access to features). However, many of the features available for Three- and Five-Star accounts will soon be available for permanent access through the use of Account Points. For example, Five-Star accounts currently are the only accounts that can make use of upcoming Gallery Backup System (which will allow users to download a backup of all comments, uploads, images, etc. in their account in a zip file). This feature could be activated for a lower-level account if the user has enough Account Credits to "purchase" it. This would forever open the feature for the account.

Think of it as unlocking extras in a game.

So, what's the use of a 5-Star account then? Well, how about instant access to all features immediately? Immediate access to unlimited uploads. Oh, and there's still the exclusive activities for 5-Star account holders.

And, as an FYI, we're looking into adjusting the Account Point rewards system to re-balance it. You have voiced your opinions on the Account Point payouts, and we're listening. Expect changes there, soon, as well.

-- BK

Current Mood: busybusy
Bad Karma [userpic]

We are pleased to announce that Side 7 v4.1 will be released soon. We're aiming for the first week in October. While reviewing our design goals, we've changed our release process. Instead of one to two large updates per year, we've decided we're going to work in 60-day development cycles, and release numerous smaller updates each year. These updates will bring about new features, bug fixes, and design changes.

Version 4.1 is up first, bringing with it a lot of behind-the-scenes fixes and updates, but also a number of forums bug fixes, optimization of many of the database queries (which will speed up the site considerably), and bring in some new features.

Some of the new features include:


  • RSS and Twitter feeds: Keep your friends up to date on your latest posts by having post links automatically cross-post to Twitter, or update via RSS (available to 5-Star Accounts).

  • Journals: Keep your friends up to date with your deepest thoughts with your account journal.

  • Custom Links: Like a particular tutorial or web site? Add it to your links list, fully customizable with categories!

  • Invite-A-Friend: Send automatic invites to your friends, complete with referral links to earn Account Points.



Keep your eyes open for more updates!

Tags:
Current Mood: busybusy
Bad Karma [userpic]

First of all, I'd like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Joyful Kwanza, Fantastic Day O'Presents & Greed and a Happy Holiday to everyone. If I've missed a holiday you celebrate, I apologize. :)

We'd like to announce that version 4.0.1 of Side 7 has launched! This small update brings back a few features that didn't launch due to time constraints with version 4.0, and adds a few other features. Back is the management of Profile Images, and added are views of which of your images have comments and which have been Favourited by other site members! A few minor bug fixes are also included, such as comment reply notifications going out properly. Also, we added CAPTCHA security to a few areas of the site to prevent bot spam.

This update has been a long time coming. If I might be a little personal, this has been a hard year for myself or my family. Medical obligations, loss of employment, and the premature birth of my daughter all played a hand in forcing priority changes and delaying work on v4.0.1. Fortunately, we've clawed our way past most of the major issues and are digging ourselves out of the red slowly but surely. This means that the doors are open to begin work on v4.1.

Version 4.1 is a very major update. There are major back-end reworkings that will facilitate features such as music, video, and literature uploads. Yes, we're adding these media types to the site, since they are all valid forms of art. Video may not be added in v4.1, but instead might be added in v4.1.1. Other site features will include the site skinning system, which will open with a Site Skin Design contest! Winners will receive prizes of a year's subscription to a 5-Star account, addition of their skin design to the site (fully credited), and other prizes, such as art supplies! Recent Upload and 5-Star Account RSS Feeds, as well as automatic Twitter updates, will help get the word out about your latest art additions. Embeddable gallery and image tags to post to other sites or use in forums sigs are going to be another way you can advertize, and click-throughs from those tags will be counted and will earn you Account Credits!

We'll also institute the Invite A Friend system so you can earn Account Credits or Account Subscription extensions for getting your friends to join! Speaking of friends, our Friends system will be completed in the v4.1 release, giving you access to private, friends-only uploads of your images, music, and prose that don't count against your gallery count and are exempt from the site rules (privacy has its privileges).

We hope you enjoy the new features of the site and look forward to the upcoming features. Thank you for your patronage!

If you'd like to comment on this announcement, you can do so here: http://forums.side7.com/forums_thread.cgim?forum_thread_id=296&forum_category_id=15&no_inc=1

-- Bad Karma

Jinx [userpic]

It's that time again! Time for the annual Side 7 Secret Santa art trade! If you'd like to join, please reply to this message or e-mail me your:

Name (alias is fine)
E-mail address
Side 7 gallery
If you'd like, any preferences as to character depicted, or links to character information

Tell your friends! The more, the merrier! If you're interested, please register by this Friday, December 4th.

Hope to hear from you soon!

Bad Karma [userpic]

Hey all,

It's not typical that I inject personal updates into Side 7's newsletter, however, in this case, it's very relevant.  The promised updates have, obviously, not been delivered.  There's a very good reason for that.  My daughter was born 10 weeks early (born 02 February 2009, but was due 13 April 2009). She spent the next 81 days in NICU, and finally was allowed to come home yesterday evening.  We've been spending a lot of time at the hospital (which is about 1 hour away from where we live), while trying to take care of our 6 year old son and our home.  Add to that, that I was laid off from work a few weeks ago, and you've got quite the barrel of stress.

Now that my daughter is home (finally), and we can settle into a realistic home life schedule, I'm able to return to projects that need attention (Side 7 being a major one).  v4.0.1 is back on the front burner, to be released very soon.  v4.1 is to come after that.

Here, though, is the problem at hand: Side 7 is not bringing in any money.  With the economy the way it is, it is understandable that folks don't have the available funds to upgrade to a 5 Star account and help the site out financially.  Unfortunately, with the loss of my job, I am quickly running out of funds myself, as all of Side 7's costs come out of my pocket.  As a result, I've been reviewing my options for supplementing site income.  I'm considering adding banner ads to the site (through Project Wonderful).  We've always stated that we took pride in never having annoying banner ads on the site, but we also never anticipated being in this position.  The current thought is that users who aren't logged in, or who do not have a 3  or 5 Star account upgrade, will have banner ads on every page.  Those who are logged in and have a 3 or 5 Star account will never receive banner ads.

As always, your input is welcome.  Please visit this thread in the site forums at: http://forums.side7.com/forums_thread.cgim?forum_category_id=15&forum_thread_id=271&page=1#3917  and voice your opinions, comments, suggestions, and questions.

-- BK

Current Mood: busybusy
Bad Karma [userpic]

Greetings all,

Just a small update to let you know we're still working to give you the best we possibly can in Side 7!  As always, your comments, questions and suggestions are always appreciated.  You can submit them here: http://www.side7.com/contact_us.cgim?cu_mode=general

Language Packs:
In the effort to open the site to a much wider audience, we're looking to add language options in version 4.2.  This is a far-reaching goal that will require a lot of work, as well as some volunteers.  This will give each user the ability to select the language of choice, and all the static site text will be displayed in the selected language, as opposed to only English.  This will require building a library all that content, and asking volunteers who natively speak foreign languages to give us translations of each entry in the library.  Hopefully, we'll be able to get multiple foreign language speakers so that we can get cross-referenced and cross-checked work back, and no one can sneak in inappropriate language.  >:)

So far, with the help of site analytics, we've been able to identify the top languages that people have their browsers set to: English, German, French, Spanish, Russian, Finnish, and Polish.  We'd love to hear back from our users on any other languages they'd like to see featured on the site.

You can provide feedback, comments, questions, etc. on our forums: http://forums.side7.com/forums_thread.cgim?forum_category_id=15&forum_thread_id=258&page=1#3792



Volunteers:
Volunteers are needed to help run events on Side 7! What events, you say? Why, the Weekly Challenges and Monthly Contests, I respond!

Just what are the Weekly Challenges? I'm glad you asked!

Weekly Challenges are an activity that we at Side 7 used to run (before we got sacked over the head with outside obligations that prevented us from running them on a regular basis). The challenges are designed to help artists break out of the box and try something new and, well, challenging! Once posted, anyone who wanted to participate could draw something that fit the challenge, and on the due date, all participants would post links to their entries. Comments and critiques of each others' works were invited, but not obligatory.

Monthly Contests were similar, but spanned a month's time. The contest would give each participant 3 weeks to submit their entry to a challenging topic. At the end of the three weeks, one week worth of voting would occur (in private), and the winner would be declared at the end of the month. Winners generally received a 2-month 5-Star upgrade.

What we need is one or two volunteers who would be willing to reliably run these two events. One person can do it, but two gives extra eyes, brains, and time to take care of things. If we have multiple volunteers, they will be working together on these events, so the ability to work with others is mandatory.

All volunteers would report directly to Bad Karma.

If you're interested, shoot Bad Karma an e-mail at badkarma@side7.com or send him a Private Message (badkarma).

You can provide feedback, comments, questions, etc. on our forums: http://forums.side7.com/forums_thread.cgim?forum_category_id=15&forum_thread_id=258&page=1#3792


Updates:
Work continues to progress on version 4.0.1.  The full list of what's included in 4.0.1 is as follows:
- Bug Fix: Auto-URL linking not working in all cases
- Bug Fix: Sticky Threads not being included in the forums status icon display.
- Bug Fix: Replies to comments aren't notifying the parent commenter and image owner.
- Re-enable: Profile image management and uploading.
- Re-enable: View Favourited Images
- Re-enable: View Images w/ Comments

I hope this message finds you all well!

-- BK

Bad Karma [userpic]

Greetings denizens of Side 7!

Volunteers are needed to help run events on Side 7! What events, you say? Why, the Weekly Challenges and Monthly Contests, I respond!

Just what are the Weekly Challenges? I'm glad you asked!

Weekly Challenges are an activity that we at Side 7 used to run (before we got sacked over the head with outside obligations that prevented us from running them on a regular basis). The challenges are designed to help artists break out of the box and try something new and, well, challenging! Once posted, anyone who wanted to participate could draw something that fit the challenge, and on the due date, all participants would post links to their entries. Comments and critiques of each others' works were invited, but not obligatory.

Monthly Contests were similar, but spanned a month's time. The contest would give each participant 3 weeks to submit their entry to a challenging topic. At the end of the three weeks, one week worth of voting would occur (in private), and the winner would be declared at the end of the month. Winners generally received a 2-month 5-Star upgrade.

What we need is one or two volunteers who would be willing to reliably run these two events. One person can do it, but two gives extra eyes, brains, and time to take care of things. If we have multiple volunteers, they will be working together on these events, so the ability to work with others is mandatory.

All volunteers would report directly to Bad Karma.

If you're interested, shoot Bad Karma an e-mail or send him a Private Message (badkarma).

Feel free to provide feedback on the forums about this.

Current Mood: busybusy
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