A new type of album

When we started planning this site, figuring out how we wanted albums to work was the trickiest part.

My original plan was that you had to select which type of album you wanted to do.  The idea would be that an album about your road trip to different quilting stores would have different fields from an album about a quilt you made.  This got very complicated very quickly, and had to be dropped.

When we first made albums, we kind of accidentally went the opposite way: NO details, instead of too many.  But this didn’t work either.  Users wanted to have some information.

We’ve decided to introduce sort of a happy medium: the project album.  When you go to make a new album, you’ll soon have two choices: a project album, or you can click to switch to a plain album.  The plain album will have some general fields, but the project album will have a series of fields that are really specifically meant to describe a quilt.

But there’s more, and I think that this is really the coolest part.  One of our users, evitalace, actually gave us the idea in our suggestions page: a project diary.  Think of it as a little blog about your album.  You can write little entries about how your project is going, your thought processes, comments.  You can think of it as notes for yourself, or a story to tell the world.  You can link certain photos to certain entries, or just have a stand-alone entry.  I hope that this is a really helpful tool.

And speaking of tools, we love the new Flickr upload ability.  We’re going to add the ability to upload directly from some other sites, too.  So far we plan on doing Picassa and Photo Bucket.  Any others that you want?

And yes, a note about the Resources section.  I’ve been putting some random things into the Wiki, and boy am I completely incoherent when I’m trying to explain something.  I think I’ve been out of school far too long.  We really have to open this up to everyone soon… right now it isn’t because we’re trying to figure out how to make your QuiltGroup login the same as the Wiki login.

What I really, really want to get to is information about patterns into the site.  I’m going to push for that soon.  There are just so many patterns, from so many sources!  This is definitely gonna take some serious thought.

April 13, 2009. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Flickr!

We’ve added Flickr functionality!  You can now upload your photos directly from Flickr.  That was one of the first requests we got, and we’re sorry it took so long: other things kept coming up, y’know?  But we’ve put it up, and it’s a pretty snappy little feature, I think.

April 9, 2009. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

We lied

See, the problem is that y’all seem to keep telling your friends about us, so we’ve had a ton of signups for invites in the past few days.  So we had a schedule to get an invite to everyone on the list by, well, right now… but then the list grew.  Exponentially.  (Seriously, by a lot: did we hit some popular blog or something?)

So, we’re still sending out invites in batches of 50, but it looks like we need another day to get everyone on the list.

We hope everyone’s enjoying the site, and that it’s not too slow.  The new recruits seem to be lurkers more than posters: when we’ve let groups of new people in in the past, they’ve immediately started putting up tons of albums, comments, groups, etc.  The past few days, new users have been clicking around a lot, but not necessarily putting stuff up.  We’re finding this pretty interesting, actually.  But we do want to say: get to work!  We want to see what you’ve done :)

April 6, 2009. Uncategorized. 2 comments.

Where we’ve been recently (and new users!)

They say the most stressful things on marriage are a new baby and moving house, but maybe they should add launching an internet social networking website.  Then we’d definitely have 2 of the 3.

Okay, maybe that’s kind of an exageration: we’re not actually headed to counseling over this, but oy can launching a small business be stressful!  Especially on the lack of sleep that comes with a newborn.  We’ve been heatedly debating all sorts of features and ideas that we have, and in the end I think it’s making a stronger site.

I do feel we owe you an explanation as to why there hasn’t been much in the way of updates.  Believe it or not, Barnaby has been working on this site more intensively that he ever has!  He’s taking his paternity leave at the library, you see, so that he can actually get some work done (home being rather noisy and chaotic at the moment), and has been working intently on making the site faster.  Which is all well and good, but I keep saying “the users want FEATURES” (and by “users” I mean “me” and then I extrapolate my wishes to all you people).  So I said that he could have 1 week to work on the speed issue, and whatever he gets done is great, but then he MUST spend the following 3 weeks working on the to-do list, particularly the resources section.

Well, at the end of one week, he spent a whole day putting up the Wiki (which is lovely, by the way, and we all should get to work filling it up with information!) and then said he had a few more speed things to resolve and he was just going to take a few more days.  Well, now he’s halfway through his time off, and he wanted another week to do speed, and I put my foot down: FEATURES.  I then went to the to-do list and bolded everything I want done in the next 2 weeks.

So I think he now sees my side of the story, and at this very moment he’s talking to a rep from a hosting company (don’t forget: everything is still being hosted from our living room!) and it looks like we can’t actually afford to outsource right now (“starting” at $300 a month… and I think we can all guess that the “starting” services involve a server built of twigs and powered by hamsters on a wheel) but we’re going to try to see what we can do to speed things up for slightly less money than that.  I don’t want to have ads quite yet (I’d like to have some features first… feels kind of tacky to be asking for money when we don’t have all that much on offer!) but we’re going to have to start thinking about it.

And then he’s going to get to work on features.  Promise!  Everyone has been so patient, and it’s so cool that new albums are still being uploaded every day.  We haven’t even had any new users in months… another thing which is being rectified tonight.  We feel so bad that we haven’t sent out any invites in ages, while the speed thing gets worked out, that we’re going to invite everyone on the waiting list in small batches over the weekend.  So if you’re still waiting for an invite, check your inbox by Sunday night.  (We’ll update here if things don’t go according to plan).

As always, we really hope that you’re enjoying the site, and we want to hear any feedback from you.  And we’re really sorry it seems like we haven’t done anything, but I swear we’ve been working our little butts off: just on all back end stuff.  But we’re going to start ignoring that for a while, and do some more features.

April 3, 2009. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

We’re still here

I know we kind of disapeared off the face of the internet for a while, with no new invites and no new blog posts and only a smattering of site updates for a week or two.  The good news is that we had a healthy, happy, cute as a button new baby.  The other good news is that we’re back on the QuiltGroup effort!

So baby aside, what else is new?  Well, we got our first press!  I gave an interview to Cotton Spice magazine about QuiltGroup.  Very cool to see us in print!  It’s a fun magazine, too: lots of unique patterns and good quilting news and gossip.  I’ve been having run reading the back issues.  I want to thank Karen, their editor, for being so friendly and reaching out to us for this piece.

So we just wanted to update to tell you that we’re still here and we’re still working on the site.  We’ll be sending out more invites as soon as we work out some performance issues.  Thanks for your patience.

March 5, 2009. Uncategorized. 3 comments.

happy 1 month birthday to us!

We sent out our first batch of invitations exactly one month ago, which makes this our anniversary of going live!  It’s been a pretty cool month, I think.  We’ve already improved the site a lot, I think, and many more improvements are in the works.

Here are some stats about where we stand now:  We’ve sent out a total of 355 invitations, which has garnered us 238 users (that’s a 63.1% return rate, which is pretty impressive.  No idea where the other 36.9% of people went: I assume a bunch of the invites went into people’s spam folders, never to be seen again.  A few may have also been friend referrals, but the friend wasn’t interested.  We’re still getting a few new users trickling in from the first batch of invites we sent, as well as from the later two, so that number will rise, too.)  Our users have made 83 friends, 170 albums (with 919 images… that’s an average of 5.41 images per album), and 23 groups.  We have 55 boards with 229 posts.

All in all, not bad for a month’s work.  We can’t wait to keep growing!

February 2, 2009. Uncategorized. 1 comment.

New invitations are out (and some stats)

Okay, sorry that we’re a little late, but we just sent out another 100 invitations.  Hooray!  Welcome aboard if you just got yours, and we hope that you enjoy the site.

We’ve made a bunch of updates in the past few days: mostly little things.  We improved the album page by paginating it (you can now select how many to show, based on your interest level and how fast your internet connection is).  We want to make this page a bit more fun to browse, so we’re going to work on making some sorting filters so that you can browse random albums a little easier.

Some interesting statistics: as of right now, we have 176 users (75 of whom have already connected and are “friends” with other users), 23 groups, 158 albums (containing 868 images), and 217 posts on 55 message boards.  Not bad for a month’s work, I think.

Oh, and one more thing… we’re going to get our first bit of press coverage!  The editor of the online quilting magazine Cotton Spice heard about us and contacted us, and we just did an interview.  I’ll post you the link when it’s published!

January 31, 2009. Uncategorized. 1 comment.

Invites this Friday (promise)

We’ve been getting a bunch of emails from people about how much you love QuiltGroup.  That makes us really happy :)  We know that things aren’t moving as quickly as if we had some huge staff of developers, but we’re going as fast as we can.

In the past few days, we’ve added more to the album information page, made it so you can zoom a profile picture (this is still kind of buggy), did some more work on notifications, and tweaked some things visually.

We really want to make the general albums page a go-to for everyone.  I think it’s a lot of fun just to browse the albums that random other people put up, and this sort of connecting should be one of the most fun things about coming to QuiltGroup.  To this end, we’re going to work on making the Albums page (the page you get to by clicking “see all albums” on the Community Page) a bit more fun: we’ll paginate it to make it load faster, and offer sorting and viewing options.

Finally, sorry about the no invites Friday night.  But it’s a good thing we didn’t, because we ended up doing some most stuff to the albums pages and the fewer people that confuses the  better.  We promise that we’ll send more out this Friday.  We’ll do 100, and I think we have about 16 spots left… so tell  your friends to sign up now! :)

January 27, 2009. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

no invites tonight (sorry)

Alas, we didn’t get everything done that we wanted to, so we’re going to hold off the next batch of invites for a few days.  Sorry, guys.  Soon, I promise.

The good news is that we’ve already done a ton of stuff!  There are fields for the albums, we’ve created some new notifications, fixed a few bugs in editing profiles, and did a bunch of back-end stuff.  We’re also working on improving the search functions (we’ve found an okay $200 solution and a really great $2000 solution… anyone know any fairy godmothers?)

January 23, 2009. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

New features and a major change

Well, this batch of new members seems to have had a largely problem-free introduction to QuiltGroup.  Out of the 100 invites that we sent out, 70 are now members.  Since all of these people signed up for an invite in the past two weeks, it’s not surprising that we had a high rate of return… I guess the people who didn’t sign up either changed their mind or their invite went into their spam folder (though new members are still trickling in).  There were a bunch of people who didn’t get an invite this round, but we’ll get you yours on Friday, hopefully (see the last paragraph about “major changes” for more info).

Ever notice how I keep saying things like “hopefully” or “probably” or should”?  If there’s one thing that working on this site has taught me, it’s not to make promises.  Some things go quicker than expected, others take unexpected twists or have completely out of the blue problems and take twice as long as we think they will.

For example, we’ve promised many people two particular features: a private message system and more fields for albums.  Now, common sense would tell you that sticking a few more fields into a database is really no big deal, then we spend a day making it look pretty, and voila.  Meanwhile, building a private message system sounds pretty complicated: you have to not only make the fields, but make them somewhat secure (not sure I’d send credit card info over it, but basically what you write only the recipient can see), be able to edit, delete, and reply to it.  And this is certainly what we thought.  Then the album fields turned out to be pretty complicated (never fear, we’re still working on them), and we found a fairly easy way to put up the message system.  The result?  The message system took a day to write (a full weekend day, it’s true), and we’ve been fiddling with the album fields for a week now.

So when I make vague promises, what I mean is “this is our schedule, and it’s how long we think it should take, and we’ll try our hardest to keep to it… but we can’t in good conscience make any real promises.”  It’s worth looking forward to, but not holding your breath for.

And enjoy the message function :)  It’s not the prettiest thing in the world, but it works.  We’ll make it prettier and more usable, promise (check out the to do list to see our plans).

The message system is part of the notification system that maybe you’ve seen slowly growing over on the right side of the community page.  We’ve slowly been adding the new notifications as we write them up, and then we’ll make it all a bit more user friendly.  Really important, as far as I’m concerned, is also having a way to tell when you have new notifications.  For example, right now the notification box just says how many comments you have… it needs to also say how many are new.

We love how much feedback we’ve gotten.  And though obviously we revel in the positive feedback, don’t be worried about offending us or being rude if there’s something that you really dislike or if something isn’t working the way it should be.  If you feel this way, there are probably other users and potential users who feel this way, so we really want to know about it.

And now for the major change mentioned in the blog post title: we agree, the username and name system is really confusing.  I’m not 100% sure what we were thinking.  Right now, your username is different from your profile name (unless, of course, you made them match), but it’s your profile name that shows up around the site.  This is kind of weird, since many people don’t want to post their full name, but want to put their first name… yet want it to be clear exactly who they are in posts.  We’re going to roll out a slightly new naming system this week, which we think makes more sense.  We won’t send out any new invites until we get this done, so as to confuse as few people as possible.  It’s possible that you’ll log in at some point this week and will have to make some changes to your profile: check back here and we’ll give you specific instructions if need be.

January 19, 2009. Uncategorized. 2 comments.

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