Another year, another status update

Wow, it’s been a year since the last blog post. That’s just sad. Although I did give a quick update on Facebook a few days ago, I wanted to spend a little more time over the holiday weekend to share a little more about what’s been going on (or not) behind the scenes with us. You guys deserve better than a year of silence between updates.

Before I get to where we are now, let me review how we got here. As you may recall, we spent several months back in 2009 plotting and building “Warhorn 2e”. We talked to a wide variety of event organizers and long-time site users about how they used Warhorn and how it could serve them better. We began to conceive of Warhorn not only as a tool for helping organizers schedule and manage events but also as a community site and social tool for gamers. We also thought of a number of business ideas that could be layered on top of the core functionality that you’ve enjoyed over the last ten years. It was a super exciting time, but ultimately we were unable to deliver on our vision.

We never shipped 2e because we were much too ambitious given our limited resources. We chose to build a brand new site from scratch with all of the existing site’s functionality but with a wholly different interface and all new technology. There were excellent reasons for redesigning both the interface and the tech – they were both ten years old, the interface was far inferior to users’ expectations of how web sites work in the modern world, and the tech was limited in certain ways that effectively prevented the development of new features and even made bug fixing a great challenge. Unfortunately, we couldn’t afford to take enough time away from our day jobs see this project through to a point where it could be released and take the place of the existing site. It didn’t make financial sense to try to raise the money we would have needed to get to completion, and the experience kind of burned us out. That’s why you didn’t hear from us during the first few months of 2010.

After some time away from the project, we regrouped last spring and made a dramatic change to our strategy. We decided that since the “scorched earth” approach of rebuilding the tech and redesigning the interface simultaneously wasn’t possible, we’d try instead to start migrating the site to a new technology platform but keep essentially the same interface. The first major goal would be to achieve “single sign-on” – rather than having to set up a separate account for every event as you do today, you’d have one site-wide account that worked for all events, and a dashboard giving you instant access to every event you’re organizing and attending – far and away the most frequent feature request. We hoped this approach would give us a stable basis for incrementally updating the interface over time as well as solving the number one issue that was keeping us from being able to deliver truly new features. We called this project “v2” to distinguish it in our minds from the failed 2e project.

Our progress over the next several months seemed to prove out the strategy. The v2 rebuild proceeded very well, and we also were able to make some small but really nice improvements to the existing version of the site, including targeted redesigns of the home page and event listings. However, this project also eventually stalled toward the end of the year, as evidenced by the blog post previous to this one being date September 18, 2010.

Even though the v2 project was less ambitious than 2e, I think the fact that we weren’t able to take time off from our day jobs to work on Warhorn really killed our momentum over the months. There was a time in my life that building software and creating web sites was all I wanted to do, and I was happy to work a 10 hour day for somebody else and then come home and put more hours into my hobby projects – that’s how the original version of Warhorn was built. But these days I have a lot of other interests, and frankly I have less energy to code all day and then come home and code some more on nights and weekends; most of the time I’d rather go see a movie or a comedy show or hike up a mountain or spend time with friends. And Finn feels the same way. Consequently, the enjoyment we got from working on the project diminished over the months, as did our progress.

On top of that, I wound up moving back to San Francisco this spring to become the first employee of a brand new company, which as you can imagine requires as much commitment and energy as one can possibly give to their profession, further intensifying my need to get away from the keyboard whenever possible and stifling even the minimal progress we had been making on v2.

So, where do we stand today? The v2 project is actually mostly done. Single sign-on is functionally complete (albeit only tested as well as Finn and I can – we’d need lots of other users helping us bang on it before we’d feel comfortable rolling it out to everyone). The site is still missing the core schedule and signup functionality, and organizers can’t yet manage games, but that’s actually only 10-15% of the functionality of the site (if you’ve ever set up an event site on the live Warhorn site, you know that there are a lot of tools for managing the event that regular users never see, and single sign-on required a lot of new user features – dashboard, account management and event registration management). So with some sustained effort, maybe as little as two to three weeks of full-time work, I think we could get over the hump.

That said, as things stand now, we’re not likely to have that last 10-15% ready anytime soon. The factors that caused our progress to slow to a slow crawl are still in play. I’m working 60 hours on my startup every week, Finn has lots of balls in the air, and we’re both trying to have lives outside of that. I do get the urge to spend some weekend time hacking on v2 every once in a while, but the fact of the matter is, unless something dramatic happens in my professional life, the status of the v2 project is unlikely to change.

Now, if I somehow find myself unemployed, it’s certainly possible that I may try to raise enough money with a Kickstarter campaign to fund the completion of the v2 project. We’ve also kicked around the idea of releasing the v2 code under an open source license and/or setting up a nonprofit to allow more people to contribute to the operation and ongoing development of Warhorn. So there are a number of longer term options. We’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas.

And just to be clear, we are absolutely dedicated to keeping the current site running, and we’re happy to add new game systems and campaigns whenever you guys want them. The DNS hiccup this week was my fault – I knew that we needed to migrate from the old provider to the new one a long time ago (although in my defense the last communication I received on that topic was in March, and I got no heads up about the planned outages that we experienced). In any event, rest assured that the Warhorn site you’ve been using for ten years isn’t going away.

So there you go. The more things change, the more they stay the same. I know I’ve promised to communicate more frequently before, but I don’t seem to be very good at that when I’m not putting in the effort on the coding side. I’m thinking maybe shorter updates over on Facebook may be a more sustainable practice – we’ll see. Definitely make sure to check in over there from time to time as well as here. And as always, let us know what you’re thinking, good or bad.

Thanks, and good gaming!

Brian

Posted in Announcements

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