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Lapis / 27 / A disaster || German ✔ English ✔ || I play too much FFXIV

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Community Update - Waterfall 1.3, and The Future™

staff

Hello friends, Waterfall 1.3 has now been deployed. In addition, after a month of putting it off and throwing around ideas in the Discord, this post will finally talk about the potential plans for WF 2.0.

Patch Notes

General

  • Fixed post editing issues.
  • Fixed some error log spam.
  • Fixed video posting giving the wrong message on success.
  • Added a language switcher to user settings.
  • Added Spanish localisation.
  • Added German localisation.
  • General improvements to localisation code.
  • Re-added OpenGraph support, bringing Discord embeds back.
  • Fixed being able to view the blogs of users you've blocked.
  • Fixed features showing you posts of people you've blocked.

Developers

  • Removed redundant files, condensed existing ones.
  • Raven doesn't require Sentry now.

WF 2.0 Planning and Discussion

Right now, Waterfall has a bit of an identity crisis on its hands. The site is positioned as a Tumblr alternative, with its only really unique feature being the art theft prevention system, which itself has been adopted by DeviantArt now, and exists in a kneecapped form to begin with due to artists not being able to agree on how it should work.

But it's in the name - Tumblr Alternative. As this implies, if Tumblr fixes their issues (which, given the quality of life improvements made to it since their last buyout, basically boils down to "officially allowing NSFW again" at this point), there's no reason to use Waterfall, or any of the other platforms that positioned themselves as alternatives, with the exceptions of those holdouts who use them specifically because they're not one of the Blue Monopoly Sites.

Because of this, I've advertised Waterfall even less than I used to before - people who've been around know that I don't like active advertising and prefer word of mouth, but I've not even been happy enough with the state of the site to encourage that lately.

So, I think Waterfall needs to become it's own thing, not just a Tumblr alternative. This'll be a long post, so I'll be putting this under a readmore. Everyone is encouraged to read it and share their thoughts, and Patrons will get polls on specific areas of feedback too. But anyway, readmore time.

First it's probably worth going over some of the notes I've taken over the last few years. Some are observations, and some are things I think I've just handled wrong with Waterfall, and should have done differently.

Observations

  • Despite being modelled after Tumblr, the majority of the site's users came from Twitter. Probably because sharing stuff there is a horrific experience, on Tumblr it's still moderately decent.
  • The smallest visible change is appreciated by users a lot more than the largest backend changes - making corners slightly rounder was noticed and appreciated more than any other update, including the one where I cut loading times by 80%.
  • Frequent art uploaders interact significantly less with other people than those who don't draw often - as a rule, they only produce their own content, they don't help spread what others have produced unless there's a pre-existing relationship.
  • Many artists use the site as an archive, with no intention of joining the community itself.
  • There's a lot of tribalism based entirely on whether somewhere lets you draw naked children or not. It's weird.

Mistakes

  • Marketing Waterfall as "for artists". See above for one reason, but also, it stopped regular users from signing up due to a miscommunication of what the site was for.
  • Artist-centric philosophy led to artists having too much sway over design and functionality considerations, which caused deadlock on various aspects (how the features system should work, the arguments that led to v3 of the Art Theft system being cancelled), reduced community cohesion, and reduced developer motivation
  • The site was open from the beginning. This is a surprising one, but when you look at the facts, it makes more sense. Having the site be closed drums up hype, because people want in. While it's under development, only a subset of loyal users who are invested in the site see the WIP and broken bits, and they won't mind as much since they actively chose to be there. Having the site be public access from Day One means people saw the broken bits, and never came back. This limited WF's growth in a way that may not have happened if it was restricted access.

With this in mind, it gives a few options, as well as considerations for how to proceed going forward. The first one is obvious, albeit controversial - whatever happens, there needs to be less focus on artists. Even ignoring the CM debacle, they've had too much sway in design while, in terms of what's actually useful to growing the site and community, contributing very little. This isn't to say things that are useful to them are going away - they still play a part in the ecosystem, and I intend for whatever form WF2 takes to have the art theft system (it'll be v3 this time, despite people arguing for the less effective one) and uncompressed uploads. It just means focus will shift to regular users, since they're the ones who actually spread content, and there's not a point to allowing art to be uploaded if there's no audience. There'll still likely be some artist specific features regardless, just because pretty drawings are nice to look at.

For the rest though, we need to figure out how to proceed. There's three major options I can think of.

First, continue as we are, with WF2.0 being the next major update. Given this is changing the entire way the site works, this may be a problem - people joined for a Tumblr-like, to make the site suddenly less of a Tumblr-like might alienate those users. It also doesn't deal with any reputation WF built up in the first few weeks for being a buggy mess.

Second, as above, but rebrand the site. Content stays and site gets a boost from a new name.

Third, however, is to make WF2 be a new site entirely, with a new name. This way, Waterfall co-exists with it so those who want to keep using it can do so, and it can still be worked on alongside the new site since it's open source, and I don't intend to stop hosting it any time soon. It also allows for solving the problem of a reputation, since all the bugs can be solved with a closed audience before gradually opening it up. This'll likely be patrons and prominent members of the community who are invited over. It also means that several technical concerns can be ignored - there's no need to worry about existing data and losing information, or figuring out how to generate any extra information that's needed on posts/blogs/etc for whatever the new format ends up being, outside of writing an importer for existing WF, Tumblr, and Twitter content.

In truth, I'm leaning towards the third option - the rewrite was pretty painful when I had to take into account existing data. To reiterate, going with the third option does not mean Waterfall dies - it will remain up as long as people use it, and I'll still be developing for it, as can members of the community. However, I think we all agree Waterfall needs to become its own thing to survive, so one of these options is the way forward.

As the community, I think it's important that you guys get looped in on this discussion and get to air your preferences, opinions, concerns etc, and argue for your preferred of the three options. Feel free to reblog or comment, or if you're in the Discord, discuss it there - I likely won't respond to everything, but I will read it all while I make my decision. For now though, I'm retraining to be an ESL teacher so I have a better shot of getting off plague island (the UK), and working on some paid projects. This'll take maybe another month or so (a couple weeks at the earliest), at which point I'll be making my final decision on the way forward.


Notes
digi liked this post
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monsterfuzz commented on this post:

There have been some great replies that explain the issues with the lack of ability to communicate with the community and search for art. To add my 2 cents - WF is just a bit too barebones to convince a lot of people to join enmasse, I think. I don't think closing open registration would be a bad idea. And maybe continuing with a few more UX/UI improvements to freshen things up and make the layout more appealing. (More features highlighted on the front page to show off the site when you do want to prioritize new signups, more blog design or customization capabilities, new themes)
It seems like a massive undertaking to create a separate site, and I'd worry about sustainability in the long run to manage two projects at once. I'm leaning towards the first option, even if there are massive changes. But maybe it would help to outline the specific ideas on functionality for the new site to better visualize why it wouldn't work to build off/improve this one? (Besides working with existing data, I understand that's a tough one!)

Regardless, best of luck - and hope all is well!


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zylphide commented on this post:

I agree with everyone who mentioned that communication is a bit of a dumpster fire right now. As far as I know, mentions are still broken and there's no way to really reply to comments on your post, making it very difficult to talk to other users unless you straight up send them a message via their blog page. In addition, it's hard to figure out what posts people are liking unless you manually click on the post link, which is extra work that people probably aren't interested in doing (I know I'm too lazy for that lol). Overall it feels like there's a good foundation going on, but the features are still barebones.


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judielynne commented on this post:

It’s not Instagram. That, in itself, is a huge win.👍🏻


judielynne liked this post
ladylibido commented on this post:

Many artists are itching to communicate with other people but if the ability to communicate is kneecapped, none of us are going to. Like others have said, the comment system is terrible, it's like I'm back to 2010 tumblr except the @ doesn't reliably to notify the user to compensate. Other services, tumblr included, keep comments on their own tab or separated view to make it easier to read and engage. Also the removal of the notification center means there's no centralized location to find those interactions. Did you know that right now, you only get notifications for interactions if they were on your blog? If someone liked or reblogged from someone else's blog you don't get them in your feed, you have to check every single post manually to see if any interaction happened on a different blog. This has been a problem since the big rebuild. Personally I don't care about stats at all, I don't want to see visit counts or how many notes I have in a week, I just want to see if anyone's commented/liked/rb'd something. No matter what direction you plan to take WF in, having the tools needed to know anyone said anything to you, and to communicate back, is what is going to keep the site, going.

In addition to all this, if I wanted to re-blog a post to another blog of mine, I'd have to switch over to the other blog and reload everything. There's no pleasant, clean way to reblog to my second blog if I'm not already on that blog. If you or someone else could figure out a way to re-blog to a secondary blog without switching accounts, that would be beneficial for use for all kinds of users.

Also, tag auto-fill suggestions can go a long way to helping people find out what tags exist already and lead to better tag use. (which is important both for finding new works and filtering works.)


tikkia-draws commented on this post:

Honestly, the reason I tend to avoid uploading here is simply the lack of exploration available. You either have to search for a certain blog or see only the newest stuff! It makes it difficult to find and follow as a community, as well as a blogger yourself. It would also be nice to have a more organized notification system? So that likes, comments, and updates are all separate. I have missed a few comments here and there due to the lack of separation so communication is incredibly difficult.

Other than that though, I can't really say there is much of an issue with the current WF and though it would be wonderful to have some way to use the website on a mobile device (which I use far more frequently than my laptop simply because it is portable!)


foreverdawning commented on this post:

I wish community pages were more like they are on Facebook, more control over who can join and who can't. Have a specialized place to events on a calendar. I don't think a brand new website will change anything. I think if it was still word of mouth but you semi-close it (ie. new members must be invited) at least for a few months that would generate hype. Maybe also more support with audio. I hate SoundCloud and I was hoping this could be an alternative place for people to share their music like MySpace was in the good old days.

The website also has a really really long URL. I think a URL change could be good. I know some domains are more expensive, but I think it would be worth it to get a three letter domain.

Lastly, I just think without an app (even an unofficial one wink wink) there's no way to get this website to be used on a wider scale. People prefer mobile now and using WF in my phone's browser is nearly impossible.


foreverdawning liked this post
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naiad commented on this post:

I also agree that community interaction could probably be better. I get a lot of comments and sometimes it's just not worth the extra work to respond to them individually and sometimes the @ system doesn't even work correctly to alert someone they've been mentioned.


ak-illustrate commented on this post:

Cherryflavored mentioned that there isn't really a good way to explore the community and I agree. It might be worth refining and improving comment systems, and looking into other types of community building features. I think it would be nice to just have more stuff to have fun with as well? I remember trying to show this site to a friend and they said the site came off "too serious and buisness-y" at first glance, and personally I couldn't blame them... I think things like custom headers and backgrounds and stuff for blogs, and other little personalization options people can play around with would maybe help with first impressions, as people's blogs are what people see first usually before joining. It doesn't have to be full blown custom CSS support, but being able to change your blogs box corners, colors, borders, back grounds ext. can go a long way. (Another fun suggestion that is admittedly very niche to Role-Play communities and Ask Blogs and such would maybe to have a sort of quick select custom emoji feature? So someone could upload their blog's personal bundle of emoji's and quickly select them. idk just spit balling ideas of stuff that could make the site more fun to use.)


kittyzz reblogged this post
cherryflavored commented on this post:

I don't know if you'll read comments on this or not, (and seeing as I saw this 22 hours later...) but I just wanted to say something. My number one issue with the site is how it's nearly impossible to interact with the community. The explore page only shows new art and the featured section only shows art too, which is great as an artist myself, but there's no way to explore other blogs without actually searching for blogs specifically. Perhaps if there was an explore page for all kinds of blogs that users could opt in to have their blogs show up in. Or maybe have community pages users can post in, kind of like what Pillowfort has.


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