Staff blog for Waterfall. To ask questions, go to @ask-staff instead, but first read the FAQ. For tutorials on basic features, head to @support.
Please report bugs in the Discord, not here.
Will you guys be potentially making a phone app to accompany the website, or will it remain nativly avaliable via internet access.
iOS and Android apps are under active development, and betas will be available to Kickstarter backers, handpicked users, and raffle winners some time in the next couple of months ahead of a public launch.
Community Update - September 2020
In August, we...
Began testing the new database
Finished the video transcode system
Finalised the spec of Waterfall 1.0
As of writing, we have 32,029 users, 51,875 blogs, and 407,230 posts.
This month has been very busy in terms of code stuff, but also very boring. The most interesting stuff - we've finally finished the video transcoder, and it works very well! Uploaded videos will now have multiple qualities to choose from, which should help mobile users out a lot. This also, for those who've been keeping up, forms the basis of the video management software stack for Glacier. Currently, it's only producing two qualities, but is easily extendable to have more.
In other news, I made the decision to migrate to a new database stack. There are many reasons for this - mostly being performance and reliability - and there'll be a full post-mortem after the fact, since it'll be a long post. But, this is sort of the right timing to do it - we're doing an overhaul and getting it out of the way now is better than doing it later when it'll take so much longer to do. The only thing that DOESN'T seem to work is... avatars. Considering everything else is so overcomplicated compared to those, that's pretty hilarious actually.
These two things complete the trifecta of things we needed to get the new stuff running, and, as I type this post, a test run is happening on the dev server. If it works - amazing, I can get on with developing the core site, and you can expect performance to be a LOT better going forward.
Speaking of which - the spec for Waterfall 1.0 has been finalised. Assuming the test above passes, the next few days will be spent auditing the existing code and seeing which of the 183 open issues can be closed because the code is already there. I'm expecting a fair few to be closable since it's basically just a big list of everything on the site and that we wanted to add, and just needs powering through, effectively.
Sorry this one is so short - I'm not sure whether you guys would be interested in more technical posts or not. If you are, let me know in the comments and I'll do a supplemental!
Oh right, release date for the overhaul - I'm aiming for it being done by the second anniversary, on the 10th December. Or 17th if you want to go by the first ad post. Either way, that's my personal aim.
Community Update - August 2020
The bees are imminent
In July, we...
Got more server hardware
Finished the image transcode system
Started the new text editor
Published our public roadmap
As of writing, we have 31,804 users, 51,610 blogs, and 396,653 posts.
There's a lot this month. We'll start with some Commission Market news - we finally got approved by PayPal, so it'll be an option going forward once the rewrite hits. We are considering removing Stripe entirely - users have reported some bad experiences that are shaking our faith in them, as well as being too complicated to use, so some feedback here would be great. Additionally, we've had a couple reports of them trying to make you use unexpected transaction methods - if you try and buy a blog slot or pay for a commission and get redirected to Apple or Google Pay, do not proceed with the transaction - hop in the Discord and let us know so we can figure it out.
To answer a concern that was brought up last month - using PayPal will not change the NSFW policy of the site. Business and partners have different rules from individuals, and Waterfall's existing content policy puts is well within the safe zone by all the interpretations and second opinions we got. If PayPal elects to go back on that, we'll simply look for another option or roll our own.
I needed a break this month because there's only one of me and mental fatigue is a little bitch, so I switched focus some to work on Springwater's blog analytics dashboard.
This is still a prototype (you can tell by the labelling) but even with the test data, I can already tell people will find this very useful, especially artists. I'll do a writeup next month about what's included, since at the minute I'm still surprising myself with what breakdowns I'm able to do with it.
I'm considering doing a mockup of the dashboard to see how it'd look with the stylesheet used there - certainly it'd look a bit more modern. You guys let me know what you think before I start?
Next up, I finally started work on a custom text editor. It's SO much better. Looks better, behaves better, and, since I accidentally backspaced when I finished writing this post and had to start over, it'll also save state so if your browser crashes or you acidentally leave you don't lose everything. I don't have screenshots of it since it's still effectively a glorified text box, but I do have screenshots of the new audio player.
There's still a few kinks to work out, mostly related to mobile, and I'm not sure whether we'll keep the visualisation there or not, but it works and I'm pleased. Album art support! It'll auto-populate with whatever ID3 tags the file has and then you can edit the picture, track name, artist etc. It'll also eventually have playlist support for musicians to use in art posts.
Final piece of UI news - we'll be adding a bunch of accessibility options. There'll be stuff like a colour blind mode, dyslexia mode, font size options etc. We'll run these by members of the community before launch to make sure we're covering the largest cross-section of users possible. They'll all be off by default, but users can pick and choose which ones they find useful and turn them on.
Oh, and something about how we've started working on chats too, but nobody cares about that.
Back on the backend, the main roadblock now is making posts.
In theory I could port it wholesale, but there's a few improvements I want to make in a couple of places, as well as fixing mentions code and whatever is happening with queue time calculations. Purely text based posts work, but file based posts need some more work, as well as link posts, because I'm just not happy with those at the minute.
That's all for now, so see you next month, and give the roadmap a look!
Community Update, Supplemental
With work going on behind the scenes, we thought it was time for two things we've been meaning to do for a while to come out.
We now have a public roadmap of features we're working on, and have planned for the future. The hope is that this communicates more effectively what we're doing behind the scenes during periods of silence, as well as let you know what to expect in the coming updates. Go have a look!
Now we have our internal API mostly working, it's time to consider a public API as well. This would allow for fun bots and fancyu additions made by you guys to do things that we either never considered or didn't feel were a good fit for the core site. If you're a developer, and you're interested in applying to be in the beta of the public API, join the Discord - the application process will be outlined there tonight! Get your ideas ready.
See you on the 1st for the regular update!
Community Update - July 2020
In June, we...
Started prototyping the new art system
Began the overhaul of the Commission Market
Cleared the first major roadblock for the apps and new UI
As of writing, we have 30,392 users, 50,095 blogs, and 383,159 posts.
This month was a bit slower due to some freelance work that took up a considerable chunk of time, but we're thrilled to announce that the new UI now has a fully functioning dashboard! This means one of three major hurdles are now cleared. The remaining two are overhauling the image uploading system, and building a new text editor. The ones we have right now are... fine, I guess, but that's it - they're not particularly good, just... fine. These two elements will be left till last - its perfectly valid to (and may be the case that we do) leave them as is in favour of getting the new UI out and start testing that without the added variables of weird new stuff that could also be breaking it. It actually makes sense to do it that way even - given the look of the UI isn't changing at all, other than being slightly more consistent with how it displays things, we'll know that any bugs are a logic error rather than a display error.
On the side, we've been looking at the CM. The biggest thing missing right now is stuff that I wanted to include from the beginning, in that artists can set templates up. The second biggest thing is getting PayPal support in some way. Both of these are making headway, but we're not quite ready to talk about those yet until details are finalised.
The next big thing is the art system. We've talked about the new anti-theft system for images we want, but that's a long way off yet - we don't have the budget for the specialised hardware we need. What we are doing though is preparing to extend art posts to cover writing as well, including an anti-theft implementation. There's a lot of work to do on it still, and we'll likely need to tinker with how it scores things a fair bit. However - with the advent of that system, we'll be having a dedicated mod in place, whos only moderation duties (barring emergencies) will be handling any issues the art/writing theft detection causes, or disputes over who wrote what. We'll be writing a more in-depth dev blog on the new writing tools soon. We've always wanted the art system to cover more than just images, and this is the first step towards that goal.
We'd also like to extend a welcome to the new users we got today coming from Tumblr after their latest update! We hope you enjoy your stay, and feel free to join the Discord to ask any questions you might have.
Apologies for the unplanned downtime this morning! We had to do some maintenance to prepare for the API rollout, and it took significantly longer than expected.
This is the first of two backend patches to prep for the overhaul. The second one will be done at the time of the rollout - retrofitting the existing site to handle the data structure changes would be, in effect, wasted work.
There's still a fair bit to do before then, but in the meantime, you should notice some performance improvements. Thanks for your patience!
Idk if everyone knows but I just thought I'd share that itch.io is having a massive bundle for BLM rn where all the profits are being donated to NAACP and the Community Bail Fund 50/50. It costs 5USD, but it encourages you donate 10USD. It's hit over 2M USD so far in funds.
It's got a ton of good stuff from games to songs to assets and some engines if y'all wanna check it out here.
Community Update - June 2020
In May, we...
Upgraded the servers in preparation of the app
Made more headway on the new UI
As of writing, we have 30,105 users, 49,755 blogs, and 367,979 posts.
Most work right now is related to getting the new UI done. We're happy to report that we've gotten the first set of data from the site to display on there, signifying the first tangible progress, and frankly, giving a big morale boost. It's still ugly as sin, but real progress is being made now. 99% of code written so far is directly transferrable to the app versions too.
As a micellaneous site stat -the Commissions Market is now consistently handling an average of $100 of transaction volume a week. We're hoping that the reduced fees are helping those artists using it. We've also not had any bug reports for a while, which is excellent - we'll be keeping the Alpha label until we've figured out PayPal integration and written commissions though.
On a more serious note, things are a bit fucked at the minute. You can probably infer our stance if you used a calculator on the number at the beginning, but to be explicit on our stance - Waterfall is a safe space to discuss and organise. While we can't legally ignore any warrants or court orders, and so can't guarantee it's perfectly safe, we invite anyone who can make use of it to use Waterfall to post resources. If we DO recieve a warrant, we will fight it where we're able to do so. Our hope is that not being US-based makes it not worth their time to try and get us to comply.
Provided this line is present, Waterfall has not recieved or complied with any warrant in relation to the protests. Should this line not be present, assume we've been forced to hand information over.
While not in a position to protest directly ourselves, our lead dev is taking a break for a couple of days to work on software tools specifically to assist those protesting, but in the meantime, please feel free to use Waterfall for masterposts, or anything else - as a matter of policy, staff will not remove any posts, users, or blogs providing resources or organising protests.
If you are involved in protesting - please stay safe out there.
Community Update - May 2020
Cough and sneeze into your elbows!
In April, we...
Finished the basics of the API, formally starting the frontend work for both the app and the new desktop site
Beefed up our internal security and started planning the new infrastructure
Added pride badges and themes for all users
As of writing, we have 29,657 users, 49,251 blogs, and 351,093 posts.
This month's shoutout goes to @dohz who is posting puzzles every week! Giving your brain a workout is essential to your mental health with the world as it is right now, so give it a go!
The first is the API stuff - at long last, we're in a position where we can start making it actually look like something. There's still some features missing, but everything relating to users and blog interactions is now tested, as is retrieving posts. Making posts still needs some work, since we're introducing a new post type, and I want to redesign the workflow to be a bit nicer on different post types.
Additionally, some improvements have been made along the way - for example, tag blocking now reads the tags of the OP as well for the purposes of both blocklists and NSFW checks. Code to get a tag history has been added, and on the technical side, the number of database calls has been halved. In lab conditions, getting my main blog's dashboard takes 67ms on average with the new system, compared to the current system's 180ms average. This is assuming the posts have been loaded by someone recently, however - if every post is new to the system that day, it takes an average of 130ms instead. Still an improvement! It also means less bandwidth usage for people.
Second of all - most of you are probably aware of stuff going down with the bisexual flag right now. Obviously, it's stupid, and the actual creator has declared the flag free to use by anyone. To that end, we've gone ahead and got off our asses to add pride flag badges, and are working on themes to go with some of them. Most badges are up - there's a couple (the most commonly requested being aro) that still need graphics making, but those'll be added within a few days. Themes are also being actively worked on by the design team while the programming team works their magic so they can do stuff for the new site, and we'll be adding those periodically too. So far, the trans pride theme is available, with the lesbian pride theme coming as soon as they stop crying long enough to fix my attrocious colouring abilities. NB pride will be next, followed by at a minimum, four others. It's likely not every flag will get its own theme purely because of time and resource constraints, but we're hoping we'll get most of them. The rewrite might provide facilities for you guys to fill in the rest of the blanks as well as other themes, we'll see how that goes.
We realise "Hey! We wrote code!" isn't super exciting, and it's a far cry from the old days where we were pushing updates and new features out every other day. Hopefully, with the app finally starting to take shape and the eldritch, spaghetti like horror of the code I wrote a year ago finally being turned into something approaching modern standards and being more manageable, those days will return again soon. In the meantime, thanks for sticking with us, and stay safe!
Welcome to all our new users! We hope you'll enjoy it here.
Waterfall is a small site, still in development, but the site should be pretty stable. Over the last 15 months we've grown from a site built for a handful of friends by one guy, to a site of almost 30,000 users and 50,000 blogs, and a staff of one developer, three community mods, and an infrastructure engineer. Hopefully, that carries on and we can keep growing.
Behind the scenes, we're doing a full rewrite of the site's code to get a mobile app out to you guys, which is where all our development effort is currently focused, but please let us know of any site-breaking bugs regardless! For a rough how-to on how things work, check out the Support blog, where we've put a few tutorials until we can develop a proper one. As a quick note - emails are currently inconsistent and may not be delivered. Don't worry, no functionality is locked by not verifying for now until we figure out the cause.
For the artists among you, use the "artists on waterfall" tag to start getting your work out there, it's the one the community checks most often. And please remember - the "nsfw" tag is mandatory on stuff that qualifies, even if your blog is flagged adult only!
If you have any questions or need help, feel free to join the Discord where we'll do our best to get you straightened out!
Art Theft 2.0 - Overhauling the Systemthelldev -
As far as I'm aware, no other site has an art theft prevention system. Waterfall's is the first, and I'm quite proud of it. However, it's an imperfect system, and I have some improvements I want to make to it.
Art Theft 1.0 - An Overview
Art Theft 1.0 (or, to be more accurate, the current version is 1.3 or so) is an extraordinarily simple piece of code. Unfortunately, extraordinarily simple means extraordinarily easy to defeat.
When a piece is marked as art, three things happen in order. First, the image is hashed to MD5. Then, a list of MD5s for all art uploaded that don't belong to the user uploading is retrieved, and the hash is checked against each one. Quick and painless.
MD5 is best described as a "signature" that can be applied to something to see if it's the same thing as something else. The problem is (while it's old and collision attacks have been demonstrated now), changing a single byte in the file results in a different MD5 signature.
This means that lazy thieves get caught, but anyone else doesn't. I've been thinking about this a lot over the last 6 months, and I think that - after the app is done - it's time to address these shortcomings.
Before I continue - while the system is easy to defeat, you'll still be banned if you crop out a watermark and upload it as your own thing.
Art Theft 2.0 - Rise of the Machines
The current system is instantaneous. You press upload, it tells you in a couple of seconds whether you're naughty or not. After a brief bit of thinking, I realised this cannot be the case with any sufficiently advanced system that can be called "decent". So first things first - when Art Theft 2.0 rolls out, there'll be two states to art posts. Unverfied, and verified. The main difference is that unverfied posts will just have a yellow icon instead of green for the art symbol in the corner of the header. If a post passes verification - no problem, nothing happens. If a post fails verification, it works the same way as it does now, it'll be silently converted into a reblog of the artist's original post. The major difference is that since there's a chance that post will be reblogged while it's awaiting verification, any reblogs of that post will need to be converted too. Luckily, the way the site stores post chains means this is not a problem at all.
While a post is in unverified state, the site will be running the process in the background. Let's go over what it'll be. It's SIGNIFICANTLY more complex that the current method, and requires some special hardware, so before the cutoff, I'm going to link our Patreon. Ordinarily it's hidden down in the site footer because we feel weird about taking money without giving anything in return (other than... the site I guess?) but the faster we get the hardware to run this (and the more of it), the faster we can improve things.
The first stage of the process will be to convert it into a grid. On each of these grids, an MD5 (or perhaps a SHA256) is generated. It'll then search for images where there's matching MD5s. In theory, there should never be any unless the image is a straight duplicate. This is the low hanging fruit part - it can stop the process if it finds a match here.
But what if we modify a square?
We drew a line in. That square now gets a different MD5. But, since collisions CAN happen - for example, if someone does a plain white background, or transparency, and whatever grid size we use ends up capturing fully transparent/white squares - that's enough to throw it off. So instead, it'll go off how many squares are the same. This is a good time to introduce confidence scoring.
If all but one square returns an MD5 match to an existing image, we can say pretty confidently it's a repost. Let's say 98% confident. The system will reclassify that post as stolen, and change it to a reblog.
But what about more complicated scenarios? The grid system isn't the only method we'll be using, and they're less clear cut. We need to assign a cutoff or two - how confident should the system be to act autonomously? If it's less confident, it should ask a mod to review it manually. At the same time, at some point, the system should be confident enough that it's not a repost that it doesn't bother us. We'll settle on 90% confidence for autonomous action and 20% confidence for not bothering us until we've refined the system. Now, let's go over the other methods we'll be using.
Resizing something is a common way to get around filters of this kind, so we need to keep records of different sizes of the art too. We'll also need to check for images being flipped - the same way that people uploading TV episodes on YouTube do to get around the copyright filters. Ading borders is something we need to check as well.
Why so Blue?
Another common way of getting around filters is changing the colours of something - either the colour itself, or the saturation of it. Checking this will be a pain in the ass, but is essential to a comprehensive theft prevention system.
I See You
Finally, the part that'll take the longest - visual comparisons. If all the above fail, there's a chance the thief is skilled. So, we pass it to an AI to look at. This, once we've gotten it working right, is all the above on steroids. It'll be able to look at it and say whether it's seen it before, as well as a confidence score. If it gets to this stage, unless it's 100% certain, a mod will likely be required for intervention - after all, we've seen what visual recognition is like with Tumblr's porn filter.
This step has some nice bonuses, however. It'll be able to see if it's been blurred, is a cropped version blown up to full size, or whether it's seen something similar before but watermarks have been removed or text altered. It might even be able to tell whether it's a trace of someone else's work or what's been used as a reference - however, we're consciously choosing not to intervene on that stuff, and it's a waste of resources to try.
Here's what it makes of our test piece (rendered in paint - right now, we get a text readout of pixel areas that I've had to translate into something easy to read). As you can see, it's far from perfect, which is why manual mod intervention will be mandatory for this stage.
The above is about half the system we're implementing, excluding the experiments that are more curiosity rather than something serious to include. We're not listing them all here because the post will drag on a bit, and because we want there to be some element of secrecy so you can't find holes to defeat it.
It's a pretty complex system and our aim is that any given art piece should take no longer than 20 minutes to verify. In an ideal world, it'd be 5 minutes - but we're unlikely to have the budget for that any time soon, and as more art is uploaded, the longer it'll inherently take.
Suffice it to say - art theft, while a unique system, is flawed. We want to fix it, and we want to share with you what we're doing to improve on it.
Thanks for reading!
From our lead dev, talking about the overhauled, upgraded, and immeasurably improved art theft system currently in the works behind the scenes!
Go ahead and ask whatever you like, we’ll do our best to answer them all. It also lets us do our more rambling answers without maing folks’ dashboards overly long.
Answers will be crossposted to our Twitter! You’ll also be able to get live support and status updates there, so go give it a follow!
Community Update, Supplemental
We were going to all in on the Star Trek joke here, but apparently, stardates don't start until 2323.
Regardless, here's the update we said might show up mid-month!
App Testing Raffle
The app raffle is now closed, and 100 winners have been picked. We'll be messaging these people soon once we've figured out the best way to get everyone in the right place to give us feedback and bug reports, and figure out how to get the info we need to grant access. In addition, we're picking a handful of people who didn't win as "staff picks" - either because of their contributions to the site, or because they do something that none of the other entrants do and it's something we want to cultivate. These people will be messaged at the same time as the raffle winners.
Changes to Art Theft and New Tools for Artists Coming Soon
We've only touched on it briefly before, but with the upcoming API upgrades, we'll be in a position to start working on Art Theft 2.0, and we've gotten some fancy hardware to help with it. We're on version 1.3 or so right now, but we want to take it significantly beyond what we currently have. We'll do a writeup on the new system a bit later on, but it'll crank it up to 14.
We're also investigating extremely experimental features to allow you to track how your art is being spread across the web on other sites, though these may not be available depending on how well they (or whether they actually do) work.
In addition, those in the Discord might know that we've recently acquired a very large, very expensive printer. We're happy to announce that, following the launch of the app, we'll be adding the ability for artists to sell on-demand prints, similar to another artist hub site. Artists will be able to set their own price, but the key difference is Waterfall can do it a LOT cheaper than the main competitor - for a 24" poster, I believe we figured out that our fixed price take can be as low as $8 per print, compared to dA's $20 minimum. Artists can either adopt a similar price as they would on dA, or lower the price for the same take but to encourage sales. We'll release more info about the programme nearer the time, and after the lockdowns end for us to get spare parts and supplies.
We'll also be adding PayPal to the commission market as soon as is feasible.
API Development Update
We've started making some real headway now, with some of the boring technical implementation stuff finally over. There were four main areas of rewriting for the API that we expected would give us trouble - logins, media, emails, and the new suite of moderation and security tools. In a traditional, simple site, logins aren't a problem - however, given we're taking Waterfall multi-node instead of being on a single server to resist downtimes (such as when we have to reboot the server to install updates), it gets a lot harder. Luckily, this problem is now solved. Theoretically, the other three can wait since logins were the only "critical" part - media can be made do with for now (though we're still overhauling that because I'm just not happy with the current setup), and emails "work", but as you've seen, they seem to be doubling up at the minute and we're not 100% why. That's why this bit is here - this is a heads up that we'll be working on the email server today, so emails for new followers or new accounts won't be getting through for a little while. We'll be setting up an entirely new pipeline for emails to make things much more efficient and streamlined, and give us better control over how it works. We'll let you know when the new server is up, if you don't figure it out yourselves from the emails you start getting, though the server may be down for up to 24 hours.
An accurate representation of the team's thoughts on attempting to reverse engineer the existing code to learn from, via The Profound Programmer.
[text: “thousands of lines and zero comments am I being punished for something”, photograph of an infinite distant horizon ready to ignore your pleas for help or death.]
We got an interesting ask earlier asking about how the site usage has changed during the quarantine, so I thought I'd mention it here!
Overall usage is up about 31.6% in terms of daily visitors, with a week of particularly increased activity when the new Animal Crossing game released. After that week, there was a small dip, which then slowly increased back to normal levels, then kept rising.
Commission Market Usage
Likewise, usage on the Commission market has increased. We don't have figures for how many new artists joined, but we do have figures for the number of commissions and money changing hands.
There's been a 15% increase in the number of commissions taken per week since we adopted our new fee structure, and, if our math is right, a 35% increase in the amount of cash artists are taking home. Waterfall's income remained about the same with the new fees in place, so we're considering this a success for now. We anticipate these numbers to climb once we get PayPal integrated.
General Strike 2020 - No Rent. No Debt. No Labor.
No Rent. No Debt. No Labor.
website for general strike info
there's a lot of resources here for starting strikes, strikes already happening in certain areas, and ways to connect with people in your area and encourage striking
very informative and helpful if you're considering that but don't know where to help
Community Update - April 2020
This month's update comes a few days earlier thanks to the first of the month being April Fools Day, we decided to get it out of the way to prevent any confusion. We're not intending on doing anything for it, but why risk it?
In March, we...
Made significant headway on the backend rewrite
Lowered our commission marketplace fees to help artists cope during the current crisis
As of writing, we have 29,211 users, 48,751 blogs, and 333,277 posts.
The Waterfall Folding Team has crunched 1,128 work units for a total of 10,381,579 points, and is currently 3,276 of 244,538 teams on the leaderboard!
This month, some honourable mentions are due! This is a new section for these updates, and might not be present in all of them. However, sometimes we come across something that deserves wider recognition, and that's what this section is for.
First, @fancybits gets a shoutout for producing some excellent tutorial posts on a range of things useful in everyday life, but particularly useful right now! Everything from art to clothes repair is covered, and there's some pretty tasty looking recipes too.
Second, @sentiniel gets a shoutout for developing a Quick Reblog extension for Waterfall! While we still intend to build it into the site proper eventually, this is an excellent stopgap solution, and we're looking forward to feedback on how it works.
First off, a reminder - the raffle for the app beta is still open! It'll close at midnight UK time on the 1st April, with the drawing taking place later that week. To enter, simply follow @app-dev from one of your blogs. Note that following multiple times does NOT give you more entries, and empty blogs will be excluded - only active users, please.
This month has mostly been spent working on the API logic. There's a couple of ways we can proceed from where we are now. First, we can hold off on getting new stuff out unttil it's done and dusted. A downside of that is that is that the desktop and app versions get delayed launches, since the changes made will require both to be in sync. The second alternative is hold off on the UI update and gradually update the current build with any new features. This means the app beta can start sooner since the desktop site will be in line with the app's changes, but means the new UI will be further off, since it'd be a bit much for the resources available to do all of that at once. The second option is the most likely solution - while that way the desktop version wouldn't be using the API itself, it would be hooking directly into the site logic itself, the same way it does now. That way, we can test that everything works the way it's meant to. A third option is a sort of hybrid - we modify the current build of the site to use the API as we go and, once tested, begin the UI rewrite proper. This one has advantages in that testing is done "properly" and there's less wasted code, but does mean that the site will likely be a little bit buggier. Given how quickly we fix bugs usually, this shouldn't be a major issue, but it's still something that we're hestitant on. We'd love to hear you guys' thoughts on whether to go with option two or three!
Another significant portion of time has been spent both relaxing and getting set up for true remote working. While nobody ever comes to the office and everyone works remotely anyway other than the guy who literally lives there, we're on a big push internally to get everyone on staff knowing at least basic coding - the theory there is that then, the artists on staff don't need to use finger puppets to explain what they want implemented, and can have a go at it themselves, with just cleanup and testing done by the more experienced coders. This should, in theory, mean the art and commission systems get a big boost in utility since those on staff who use them most will be able to work on them, as well as, hopefully, making hiring new staff easier in future.
In other news, the Folding team has taken off! Details are in the last community update on how to join the effort. We'll be making the team a permanent presence even after COVID-19 is no longer an issue, and badge awarding will be automated in future too. We'll also be adding a few tiered badges to it to encourage people to participate permanently instead of only running it for one work unit. In the meantime, those who've contributed so far - you'll be awarded your badges in the next few days. Thank you for taking part!
There'll likely be another update in the middle of next month. See you then!
COVID-19, Quarantine, and the Commission Marketplace
By now, you're almost certainly acutely aware of the global health emergency going on. Chances are you're also being forced to self-isolate, or your workplace has shut down.
We're very aware that this is a concerning time for everyone and for many, financial uncertainty is almost as big a concern as being ill right now. While we can't help everyone, we're doing what we can for our artists, for some of whom commissions are likely to be their only source of income for the near future.
With immediate effect, the Commission Marketplace fees have been adjusted. For lower priced tiers, we've lowered the take as far as we can push it without it costing us - in other words, just enough to cover the payment processors fees. On all milestones over $10, we now take 5%, including the payment processor fee. This means artists will now recieve up to 95% of the list price, which should be putting us better than PayPal in some cases.
On milestones costing less than $6, Waterfall will still take 10% (remember - this 10% includes the fees for Stripe, which we pay on your behalf). For those between $6 and $7, we'll take 9%. Less than $8, we'll take 8%, etc etc, until less than $10 where we'll take 6%. After that, we only take 5%. For non-USD users, the same rates and thresholds apply in your local currency. For users billing in Japanese Yen, the treshholds are ¥599, ¥699, etc through ¥999.
We're also looking into adding PayPal support as soon as possible for those unable to use Stripe.
While we'd love to say "screw it, fees waived", we're unfortunately not large enough or in a financial position to do that right now, so we're hoping that the rates being pushed as low as we can go without bankrupting ourselves gives our artists the boost they need.
The reduced rates will remain in place until the outbreak slows down and infection control measures begin to be lifted.
After doing some math to see how Waterfall was doing for artists, we realised the results are completely invalid because we forgot to ever put featured posts on the dashboard of mobile users. This meant almost half our users weren't seeing a ton of great art!
Now that it is on the dashboard for those users, we're looking forward to seeing how the numbers change next month when we run the numbers again!
As part of the internal redesign for the apps, we have an unparalleled opportunity to redesign systems that are failing our users. To that end, we've decided to hold a workshop session where anyone can drop by with suggestions, issues, or gripes, and discuss them!
The main purpose of these is to identify areas of shortcomings and figure out how to fix them.
We've identified three major categories we want to focus on for this - writers, artists, and fandom content. Each of these has their own workshop and discussion channels. There's also a misc channel for stuff that doesn't fit into these but you feel is still worth mentioning.
Join the Discord and have your say!
Community Update - March 2020 (and the App raffle!)
In February, we...
Rewrote the blocking system from scratch, giving us - as far as we know - the most comprehensive and foolproof blocking system of any social media site that we've tested
Rewrote the activity page to be vaguely functional
Started distributing the first badges
Added Invite Links (you can make them in your blog settings!)
Released our final update before the backend rewrites to bring you the app!
As of writing, we have 29,024 users, 48,488 blogs, and 315,154 posts.
Two big things we want to talk about this month! The app beta, and some science stuff. We'll do the science stuff first.
While we're using our computers, it's not really doing anything. As a species, we've managed to trick rocks into thinking for us, and it can think a few billion things a second, but most of the time, for most of us, it's not having to. Why not give it something to do? Enter Folding@Home!
The team behind the project recently took up the fight against COVID-19, but traditionally has focused on conditions such as cancer, Parkinson's, Alzhiemer's, and Huntington's Disease. The basic gist of the project - use your computer's spare resources to simulate how molecules interact with each other, in the hopes of figuring out the cause of these illnesses and potential drugs to target them. On a personal level, I've been running the project on my computers since the mid 2000s, and it's a good feeling knowing I'm contributing. So, we're taking it a step further - Waterfall wants to help!
For those so inclined, you can install the Folding software and let it run - either while you're working, or just set it to run while you're idle (even the half hour you're cooking dinner helps!). Give yourself a name (one of your blogs would be a good choice, so we can find you for rewards) and set your Team ID to 235659 to join Waterfall's team! Occasionally, we'll hand out special badges (and potentially, other rewards) for those helping out. We're doing this as a trial run, but we're hoping to expand to other distributed computing projects in future.
And now the bit most of you care about.
App Beta Raffle
It's finally happening. We've given ourselves a week off to decompress and study, and over the next few days, we'll gradually be easing in to working on the new framework. After some core stuff is designed, we'll be designing the app in parallel with the API. This means a beta isn't far behind at all, and, to make sure we're getting it right, we need testers! We have 150 or so from the Kickstarter, but we'd like more. So, raffle it is! Entering is pretty simple. Just go follow @app-dev.
That's it, you're entered.
There are a few rules though on eligibility:
One entry per user. We can tell which blogs belong to which user, so don't try it.
Users must be active. We're not putting any limitations on what kind of content you post, but we do need you to actually be someone who uses the site.
There's no minimum account age - users new and old (including joining after this is posted) can enter.
Android and iOS only. We're not doing BlackBerry or Windows Phone, sorry.
We'll do the drawing on 1st April, and exactly how many are drawn is still up in the air - but we're looking for at least 300 total testers, given our current user count. For those not lucky enough to get picked, don't despair - we'll be noting a few names down for handpicking as well based on their content and activity levels. The actual drawing amount will likely be a percentage of who enters if it goes above that figure, so please - spread the announcement around so we get a higher number of testers!
And unrelated - we rolled out invites! There's a couple badges up for grabs by bringing new people in, and anyone joining through one of your invite links will be automatically following you. Make them in your blog settings! Note that badge options won't show until you're elligible for one.
That's it for now!
Patch Notes - 0.98.1
Fixed a bug where likes were being sent to the dev server instead of the live server. Liking should work again now.
Hey folks - been getting some reports of images failing to upload with the new patch. The error logs only show that there is an error and not what it is, so we've rolled back to an earlier build of the patch before those changes took place. We'll edit the patch notes accordingly, but this is still effectively 0.98. In the meantime, if your post has a problem with the images not showing, please edit them to restore the image. Sorry for the inconvenience.
Community Update - End-of-February 2020
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!
Patch Notes - 0.98
A quick release to fix some of the front-end stuff while we focus on the harder stuff for 0.99!
The tag editor now wraps text correctly.
Notes will display ordered by time rather than ID, fixing queued reblogs showing before they were "posted".
Code to calculate featured posts will now ignore any self-likes and reblogs to make things fairer.
Tagblocked posts can now be liked and unliked properly.
Support for Entitlement granting ready for subscriptions, KS rewards, and gifting.
Rewrote how themes are loaded to allow us to add, in theory, infinite colour schemes.
Hey folks! We're making some excellent progress on build 0.99. We've broken with our usual version numbering on this one because we believe that it's stable enough and has all the core features needed for the site to be usable, and so is the last version before the site moves out of beta. There'll be more on that in a future post, since this one has a different purpose.
Moving out of beta starts bringing new challenges with it, and to meet those, we need funding. We can't run Kickstarters ad infinitum because that's stupid, and relying on blog slots, subscriptions, and commission market income is far too volatile (and, likely, to be too low) for us to be comfortable with, especially when rapid expansion is in the cards. To that end, after some initial community feedback on the staff's personal blogs and via the Discord, we're currently considering the possibility of ads. This post is intended to outline our plans on how they'll be on the site, and get feedback from you guys before we make final decisions on whether to go ahead with it.
As a quick note - those of you using Privacy Badger or uBlock will likely notice a couple extra trackers showing up now - we're pre-emptively applying to Google AdSense. While there's no ads on the site yet, they do require we put the code on the site ahead of time so they can verify we're the real owners.
The current plan is that there'll be one ad per page, though this may be tweaked - there'll likely be a little A/B testing involved while we figure it out. This is restricted to the core site, and only a few pages. Ads will not be placed on blogs by us.
On desktop, the ad will be a 250x250px square ad showing in the sidebar, underneath the featured post. On mobile, it'll be a larger, rectangular ad inserted into the dashboard - tacky, and we hate it, but there's not really a way other than that to do it on mobile. When the app is ready, there'll be an ad no more than every 25 posts. There might be a small thing advertising subscriptions slid in occasionally if you use an AdBlocker, but on the whole, we won't pull the "you're TRASH for blocking our ads, you absolute SCUM" stuff that a lot of sites do.
Edit to add: You can be damned sure that we won't be allowing autoplaying audio/video ads and that if any get through, we'll be immediately blocking that advertiser.
In the future, the aim is to move away from AdSense and roll our own advertising. This gives the benefit of less awful trackers as well as letting us very thoroughly vet everything that shows. Adoption on that will likely be slow, when it's ready, and it'll be the same ad network that powers Glacier's ads. Where ads are eligible to use our own network, it will always favour that instead - this means our own users can put ads up to show, eventually.
Given that subscriptions will be a thing too, subscribing at any tier will immediately remove ads completely for you.
With the site growing, we're very quickly coming to the point where our capacity exceeds the money we have available. In addition, as the coming update marks the start of serious app development, more of the team are preparing to spend significant amounts of time working on Waterfall. Obviously, that means that we need to start making a little money to pay the staff for their time, as is fair. Unfortunately, pre-launch predictions for the CM's usage levels didn't pan out, which means we have to be significantly more cautious with what we think subscriptions will bring in as well and have a Plan B, so to speak, especially since we've never charged for access.
Community feedback on personal blogs has been largely positive towards us running ads, with the general consensus that so far, we've made good on our word, and that we're mostly trustworthy enough to keep to it when we say we won't go off the rails plastering ads everywhere. At this point, we're not interested in profitability - while having money in the bank for a rainy day would be useful, the current aim is purely sustainability, plus a little bit for expansion.
To this end, we're making this post - no plans are finalised yet, but we wanted to let you know that this is something we're considering doing so the site can stay healthy and the staff can stay fed. Feedback from everyone is welcome and encouraged - we know very much that our marketing through til December said we have no ads, and starting to include them is a fairly large change even if it does result in a net positive for the site (more money = more staff working more of the time). So please - reblog or comment to give your opinion and any concerns! We likely won't reply to all of them (if we do, it'll be on a staff personal blog since we're trying to clean this one up a little bit to make sure info is easier to find), but we will read and take everything into account before making a final decision.