This makala was started back in December, and was last edited here on 8 June 2008.
2006 was a tumultuous mwaka for me. In the spring my wife and I discovered that we were pregnant again, and believe me when I say that there are a host of attendant anxieties that come with any pregnancy. How could we fit another person into our already-cramped house? How could we afford to support another? Beyond that, I'd just become the project manager of a pretty high-profile project in the middle of the project, and that had a bunch of issues that I inherited.
In the midst of this, I was invited to participate in a beta test of a new web site, called Fanspots. However, since I work on web sites for a living, I didn't check out the site right away. I put it off because I like to be thorough in my testing, and I knew that to test a new site would take a fair amount of my time. I couldn't have imagined what the truth of that was to be!
Eventually, I did finally follow the link and register for Fanspots. What I found was a nice, user-friendly site where one could collaborate with others to catalog everything that was outstanding about a particular subject online. I threw myself into testing, bombarding the staff with multiple e-mail messages each siku - a lot of bug reports and the occasional request.
I don't have a better picture than this. Sigh...
Let me explain about the typical test cycle. (note: this paragraph is esoteric to testing, and your eyes may glaze over
) With a product - whether it be a video game, tax prepartion software, a web site, au any other kind of software - the team that builds the product will "spec out" (that is, describe everything in a detailed specification document) the desired details of the product, then ubunifu the product, and then conduct some internal testing of the product once the ubunifu is finished. This first round of tests, internal to the company that built the product, is commonly referred to as alpha testing
. During the "alpha", the designers will gather data on what isn't working as expected and afterward use them as the focus of the inayofuata round of development - often called bug fixing
even though sometimes there are problems with the product's features themselves, and not just software bugs. After those "fixes" have been addressed, the team will often (if they're wise) open up the product to a larger yet finite group of testers outside of the company for a "beta test". In a proper beta test, this significantly large but finite group of testers is encouraged to try to break the site - not necessarily through malicious behavior, but kwa trying every possible combination of normal user actions. Also, the very fact that they're doing such thorough testing will also be testing the load capacity of the site (bandwidth, load times, session limits, et cetera) in a way that the product team, being much smaller, could not. A lot of such testing involves clicking on a link and observing what happens, first as a public (that is, not logged on) user, then again having logged on, then again having just logged off...you get the idea. Further, wewe do this on as many different web browsers as wewe have readily available. wewe take careful notes as to what combination of tests you're doing, so that when something goes wrong - au just behaves unexpectedly - wewe can ripoti useful information. See, it's no good to say "This link doesn't work
" - that doesn't actually provide any worthwhile info. It's better to say something like "At 5:13 PT, I was using Opera 7.1 when I clicked on this link, <link name> on this page: <URL>. Instead of taking me to the expected page, I ended up on the Fanspots main page.
(just an aside on web geekdom: a web geek will always refer to the page that appears when wewe enter the base URL - for example, link - as the "main page" or, most correctly, the "top page", never the "home page". A nyumbani page is the page a user sets in the preferences of his/her browser, which appears whenever that person clicks the "home" button on his browser
So, I was doing a lot of testing. A significant part of the site involved adding content, however, and so I started posting viungo and creating spots. Now, back in its infancy, Fanspots was very different than the fanpop wewe enjoy today, and in zaidi ways than just the name. The main page
The spots were organized into different channels, and much zaidi attention was aliyopewa to the channels then than there is today. For one thing, the orodha of channels was one of the first things you'd see on the main page!
For a long time, the "browse channels" appeared near the juu of the main page.
The site was organized into columns back then, much as it is today, but back then, the right column was about 1/5 of the page width, so much narrower. The first thing wewe saw in the right column was a bila mpangilio orodha of five new spots that had been promoted from pending. Below that was a orodha of "top fans" - which I believe was a bila mpangilio listing of users who had profaili pictures and had been active on the site recently. Each "top fan" was listed with one spot (if I recall correctly, it was the spot to which they'd most recently contributed). Below that was a bila mpangilio listing of pending spots.
Back then the site seemed much zaidi organized around the idea that people would come to Fanspots knowing the topic au topics they wanted to find, and then look for it kwa category, much as wewe would look something up in a reference book au library. Spots themselves
Inside a spot, there were only links, the forum, and headlines. A spot had a logo and a banner, just as today, but the logo appeared under the banner, in a section right at the juu entitled "announcements", which was basically a place to provide a detailed description of the spot and/or provide sasisho to the mashabiki of that spot. Each spot, when created, had some filler copy inserted into this announcements area which could then be changed. kwa default, it read like this (sic):
"Welcome to the <spot name> spot! All wewe mashabiki of the <spot name> will be able to find tons of great viungo about the <spot name> from all over the web. Share your inayopendelewa sites and viungo with other fellow fans. We've also got foramu and news headlines to keep wewe on juu of what's going on with the <spot name>. So enjoy the site and tell your friends!"
A spot with the "announcements" section.
Other differences on the main page of each spot: the mwezi and mwaka the spot was created was displayed just under the banner. To the right of the announcements was a place where a bila mpangilio shabiki of that spot was featured, with a larger version of the fan's profaili picture, the fan's motto, and a tally of the fan's total contributions and fans. Under that in the right column was a ranking of "top fans" for that spot, while under the "announcements" section - the main body of the page - was a orodha of the most hivi karibuni links. Down below the fold (more geek-speak: the "fold" is the bottom edge of what wewe can read on a web page without scrolling au paging down - those of wewe who've worked in print media may recognize it as a quaint reference to newspaper publishing - the fold is important in web publishing because anything below the fold is several times less likely to be seen kwa the average user
) was a section inaonyesha a few headlines as well as a section inaonyesha foramu updates. wewe may not believe it now, but back then, the fora were practically unused in almost all spots!
Each spot feature had its own tab, of course - and yes, they were big honkin' tabs
rather than the simple viungo under the banner that they are today - where wewe could go and see all the headlines, for instance, au all the foramu threads.
On Fanspots, when wewe created a spot, wewe had the power to hariri the banner, logo and announcements of any spot indefinitely. When wewe added a link to a spot, wewe provided a name, an URL, a description, keywords, a rating, and a category. See, all content in a spot was classified as links, but wewe had to specify a category
of link. viungo could be classified as one of the following: web sites, blogs, photos, games, videos, recipes, reviews, articles...Ah, I'm sure I'm missing a few, since I seem to recall there were something like twelve categories. Early Addiction
Working as assiduously on testing as I was, I couldn't tell wewe when I crossed over from being a tester to being a full-fledged user and shabiki of the site, but it had happened over the course of a few weeks, as the number of bugs I could find decreased and the number of spots that had been created increased.
Web-based Games: the 32nd spot to be added to Fanspots
The two most maarufu spots back then were link
- they consistently had ten times the number of mashabiki of any other spot. Shortly after this was the time that I created the link
, which may be the first spot I created where I was hooked on adding content continuously. At the same time, I was hooked on the idea of making Fanspots as comprehensive a site as possible kwa filling in spots with all of my interests. Back then, I was creating several spots a day, and after a while I had to create rules for myself so that I would take care of other stuff in my life. At first I alisema that I would add only ten viungo to Fanspots a day. Then I added that I would create only one spot a day, and I was mostly able to keep it down to that most of the time.
Viral Videos: the 42nd spot to be added to Fanspots
But I have to say that today it is still something of a surprise to realize that Viral video isn't even in the juu 40 spots in terms of fans... Early Retirement
Shortly after I really got started, early in July, the Fanspots staff started ramping up to go public with the URL fanspots.com, which meant that, in theory at least, there would quickly be a much larger and zaidi diverse body of users to test the site. As part of this push, the staff created a Flickr account and a link
. Sometime in the latter half of July 2006 though, as they prepared to make the fanspots.com domain publicly accessible as an URL, the Fanspots staff discovered that a different company had just registered and launched fanspot.com, a social network for team-sports fans. So they link
from one siku to the next. All the branding, logos, text, viungo - everything had been changed to "Fanpop"!
wewe gotta hand it to the guys - they work fast
If wewe go back through my early foramu posts, you'll likely read my whining about the name change. I really liked Fanspots and really didn't care for fanpop as a name at first. In fact, as I recall, it took me at least as long to be reconciled to the name fanpop as I'd even used the site with the name Fanspots!
As further part of the prep for the launch, there were some changes to the juu page beyond just the name change: the fanpop 100 was created. The fanpop 100 was a orodha of the most maarufu viungo on the site (determined, I thought, on a combination of ratings and views, similar to what I think determines the "What's Hot" ranking in each spot today). The ten most maarufu were listed on the juu page, but wewe could click a link to see the rest of them. As wewe might imagine, having this orodha on the juu page became sort of self-perpetuating (not that the content didn't deserve to be there, but after a while it was tiresome to see the same viungo siku in, siku out): being on the juu page made it WAY
zaidi likely that someone would look at it. It seemed like link
was in the juu 10 for over a month, for example. A new section was added to the right column: "Recent Updates", which showed a orodha of the spots to which content had been added most recently. Beta launch
The URL www.fanpop.com went public on 1 August 2006 and slowly but steadily people began discovering the site and using it, in part from the large amount of blog coverage the site received with its launch.
The fanpop spot: the 180th spot to be added to Fanpop
was created either right before au right after the launch (I think it was right after) as a place to share information about the web site, with a bunch of viungo to press releases and blog postings about Fanpop.
Within a mwezi of launching, the staff created a number of new features to promote increased registration for the site: invite a friend, link sharing, and the fanpop bookmarklet. There was a general feeling that the important thing for the site's success was to get as many registered users as possible, and so we users threw ourselves into that task.
Over the life of the feature, the "invite a friend" has changed multiple times. In every incarnation, it is essentially a way for the user to enter e-mail addresses of Marafiki au family so that an invitation to register for fanpop would be sent to them. In an early incarnation of the feature, one was allowed to write a personalized message to the recipient, which was then appended to a boilerplate message about Fanpop. Real-world experience (as reported kwa the staff) shows that this isn't the best way to go, so the invite-a-friend and share a link features no longer let wewe personalize the message. Instead, it sends a very spam-seeming message "Someone is a shabiki of you!" The reason is that our testing - that is, our using of the site - demonstrated that zaidi people click on a spam message like that than actually click on a message from their friends. Go figure! Ratings and cataloging content on the web
I mentioned before that an early concept for the purpose of the site was to collaboratively catalog all the worthwhile content on a subject available online. wewe know and I know that this serves a very important purpose, since the ability of tafuta catalogs to find relevant content on a particular subject is necessarily limited, so having a place where wewe really only have content related to the topic wewe want is priceless. But not all material related to a particular topic is equal, so fanpop has the ratings system, where each user can rate how good, poor au middling each item is, under the premise that, while each spot will have a lot of content for its topic, the outstanding content will rise to the juu kwa virtue of higher aggregate ratings.
The scale has always been the same: 1 nyota for garbage (not broken content, just really lousy stuff), 2 stars for blah content, 3 stars for content that is OK, 4 stars for great
content, and 5 stars for incredible, awesome
content. Each user could, with the submission of a link, also provide a rating. So back then there was no content with no ratings on the entire site. The difficulty was that almost everyone would rate every one of their own submissions at 5 stars...over the course of several months I didn't see anyone other than myself and the staff that rated their own viungo as anything less than a 5. That's not to say that it didn't happen, just that I didn't see it. In addition, over time users became less and less likely to rate other content as anything other than a 5 (and, rarely, a 1), as if the other gradations didn't exist. This of course negated the benefit of having ratings for content, since all content was inaonyesha up as being equally AWESOME!!!! Medals
Right around launch, medali were introduced as a way of motivating users to provide good content...or at least content that was highly rated kwa other fans. medali were apparently awarded to mashabiki in a particular spot who'd ilitumwa a lot of highly-rated and -viewed content in a spot. Then, as now, there were three kinds of medals: dedicated fan, die-hard fan, and fanatic.
dan was the first to earn a fanatic medal
, one of the non-staff users who added the most content to the site back then, quickly earned all three.
At launch, there seemed to be two ideas for medals: that of bragging rights for the user, and also increasing rights in the spot in question. In the initial testing of the site, a number of us had gone through and created a host of spots, trying to cover as wide a range of potential interests as possible. But I believe the idea was to not keep the control in the hands of the spot creator - often there would be zaidi rabid mashabiki of a topic than the one who happened to create the spot - but to reward quality contributions, in the person of recipients of die hard shabiki and fanatic medals, with increasing administrative powers. It wasn't entirely clear from the Maswali yanayoulizwa what these powers were to be, but conjecture suggested such things as changing the spot logo and banner, as well as editing and/or deleting flagged links. My impression is that this latter idea was quickly abandoned for the extreme potential for abuse that it presented. I imagine that both the potential for "gaming" the system to artificially acquire medali and the danger of petty and punitive action kwa medal holders who could then effectively prevent others from getting medali brought the staff to their senses. medali remained, from then through today, solely as an indicator of posting a lot of content that is both rated and viewed kwa other fans, without the God-like attendant powers. (note: there is still link
, as some zaidi minor rights may persist) Soapboxes
Then, in November 2006, the staff created a revolution in the whole concept of the site, kwa enabling the creation of original content
, in the form of soapbox articles.
dave published the first soapbox article
Before then, original content was limited to maoni and foramu thread posts, neither of which are searchable and were not intended as content but rather discussion. Remember that the concept of the site was to catalog all the worthwhile content "out there"
on the web. But with soapbox articles, the mashabiki could suddenly create new, original content right here
That's not to say that soapbox makala back then were the same as they are today. No no no - at the feature's launch, one could include images, but there was a juu image and then a whole bunch of bottom images. makala authors today can see the remnant of this in the naming of the image fields: they're still called "top image" and "bottom image 1 - X". The difference is, back then they really were bottom picha - wewe couldn't put them any place else!
The other difficulty that happened with the soapbox makala at the launch of the feature was the confusion about what constituted a valid soapbox article. There were a lot of postings where the user had confused the makala with a foramu post, and a LOT of postings of material that had been copied directly from another site: usually news makala lifted directly from the AP wire. Favorites
At around the same time, vipendwa were introduced, which allowed us users to save particular viungo that we really loved so that we could revisit them zaidi easily. Before that, we had to bookmark our inayopendelewa viungo in the browser. Profile images
At certain points in my history of my first two years, I feel compelled to call out certain users for doing something extraordinary au being the first to do something. I've already called out dan and dave. Now I'll call out another user. profaili pictures were available for users from the very beginning: that is, users had one picture they used as their ikoni to visually represent themselves on Fanpop. Right around krisimasi 2006, I was startled to see that one of the site's big users had changed her icon! It might not seem like a big deal now, but link
was the first user to regularly change her profaili picture.
An early pirateroro profaili picture (but not the first)
I was so impressed! Such an obvious thing, and yet no one had done it until she did. It took me a while, but eventually I followed suit, settling into my current practice of a new picture every month. As other users started changing their icons, too, I started posting their older picha to the link
spot to maintain some continuity for very visual people (like me) who might otherwise get confused when the user's image changed too much. Reducing link types
As zaidi time passed, the staff played with the number of link types users could select when submitting a link. Much like with ratings (2,3 and 4, anyway), they were supplying a large orodha of options that hardly anyone was using. With each revision, the orodha got shorter. Videos
Sometime after that, the staff started to incorporate video-embedding APIs into the site code, which allowed video viungo for the video sharing sites they chose (YouTube, Google Video, Guba, dailymotion, a few others) to display both thumbnail vid cap, herufi kubwa picha of the video in swali and also to play the video in the browser on fanpop (using Flash) rather than having the user leave the site for someplace else. This was another huge change, since it required that the organization of spots be changed to accommodate video as a separate kind of link. At that point, viungo with URLs that pointed to video sites (or at least the ones with embedding code on Fanpop) were moved into the "videos" section of each spot, while all other link tags were ignored and the option to specify different types of new link content was removed. Suddenly, all viungo were either "videos" au "other links", and the site's spots looked much zaidi like they do today. wewe can still see this change reflected in older spots: if wewe browse their viungo section, at a certain point wewe are likely to find a big jump in the number of viungo to video on other sites (ones for which fanpop has not enabled embedded code).
While the majority of users were slow to pick up on the soapbox feature, the change in how video were handled revolutionized the site. Not only did vid cap, herufi kubwa picha of embedded video embellish the juu section of every spot that had them (and left big blank areas for spots that didn't), but now fanpop was inaonyesha up on tafuta catalogs a lot more. If wewe read the maoni on picks like link
, you'll see that many users discovered the site shortly after this change, while searching for video online.
Some time after that, fanpop partnered with the video hosting company VideoEgg to enable users to pakia video directly onto fanpop (rather than linking to another site).
Adding a video directly to fanpop took some effort
The feature required that users download and install some proprietary software which would enable the user's computer to accurately communicate with the video pakia widget on Fanpop. You'd create a video, then click the "add video" link. At that point, wewe were presented with an option to link to
a video, au upload your own
video. When wewe selected "upload your own", a special video pakia widget would load on the page. wewe could then browse your computer to select your video, which would then take a while to load in a preview window. Once it had finished loading, wewe could play the preview of your video to see how it would look. Once wewe were satisfied, wewe could then actually pakia the video, which took some zaidi time (depending on the size of the video - I recall that the allowed length for video was capped at five minutes). Once wewe did all that, wewe could enter your maneno muhimu and description normally. It was a great feature, but it took a long time to do and, sadly, not many users ever bothered to try uploading their video to Fanpop. At some point in the early spring of 2008, the feature was disabled and soon all mention of it was gone from the site. Picks
In early spring 2007, the staff launched the polling feature called "picks" with link
. This new feature caused a huge spike in registered users, since wewe had to register in order to answer a question, as well as to create one.
cressida was long known as the picks queen
quickly distinguished herself as a creator of many fine questions. She was not the only one, though: since it was launched, at least 59,410 picks have been created (by the time I post this, the number will probably juu sixty thousand). The pick feature hasn't changed very much since its inception, however. The only changes I've noticed have been to accommodate zaidi picks for a particular swali - it used to restrict the creator of a swali to many fewer initial picks. Now many zaidi are allowed for the edge cases where a aliyopewa swali would have a LOT of potential majibu ("What's your inayopendelewa Disney animated film?" for an hypothetical example). Images
A short time later, fanpop added the image feature in May 2007. Suddenly, users were able to pakia icons, karatasi la kupamba ukuta images, art they'd created themselves, and general picha to galleries in each spot.
Not the earliest ikoni for kathiria82, but the earliest I could find.
Most of us played with the feature, but link
, who'd joined the site less than a week before the feature was launched, quickly became known as the image queen, at times uploading thousands of picha in a single day. Props
Then, in June 2007, fanpop introduced the heshima feature. Before then users had to praise others in maoni au via mail message; now we were able to submit our praise to a publicly visible board all in one place...and
the site kept a tally of all heshima you'd received in each category! Ratings
Sometime in summer 2007, two changes happened to the fanpop ratings system. First, a tally of ratings was added to our profaili pages, to onyesha how much content users had rated. My guess is that the staff wanted to encourage users to rate more, since at that point it was still common to browse the site for hours and not see any viungo that hadn't been rated kwa zaidi than one user. However, the tally included all ratings each user had made, even on their own content
. There was a fair amount of boasting from users who'd ilitumwa tens of thousands of content links, and competition got ugly. Shortly thereafter, the staff removed the ability for an user to rate his own content, and it was as if it had never been
. From one moment to the next, most users "lost" a giant number of ratings when their own ratings on their own content (which until then you'd been able to submit with the link itself, remember?) disappeared from their tallies. Myself, I went from 6,000 ratings to just over 2,000, which meant that I had added about twice as much content as I'd viewed and rated others' content. Many had bigger drops than that.
Since then, we've been restricted to rating only content ilitumwa kwa other users.
tubby2002: the ratings queen
It's not a competition kwa any means, but it should be noted that link
has long been one of the users with the most ratings. Those who know me know well that I don't advocate mass ratings - I think giving too much credence to the number of ratings a person has made too easily leads to rote rating without actually evaluating the content - but from what I've seen, she is very consistent in reviewing content viungo and rating them, rather than just skimming through image galleries. User lunches
This was before there was any fanpop merchandise, so I hand-lettered a fanpop sign.
At that point I'd been kicking the idea around in my head for a while, but the siku after the fanpop public beta launch anniversary - that is, 2 August 2007 - I started inviting anyone and everyone on fanpop who could do so to meet with others in their area for a regular link
. I myself would announce a spot in the SF bay Area I would be for lunch each mwezi as an open invitation. I kept it up for six months, but the only person to jiunge me was link
. I never heard if anyone in any other part of the world managed to get together for a social gathering. Maybe I'll try again in my area someday. Merchandising
Anticipating the fanpop public beta launch anniversary (1 August 2007), a number of users (myself included) independently had the same idea and started agitating the staff to make fanpop merchandise available for purchase. It turns out that the online company they tried to use to make the stuff at first rejected their efforts as obvious copyright violations...not realizing that they were Fanpop
and so owned their own copyrights! Eventually they got it sorted out, and the staff members brought their formidable ubunifu skills to bear. Users first ordered stuff from the link
in November 2007. E-mail alerts
In November 2007, the staff launched the e-mail alerts feature, so that wewe could hariri your profaili to enable e-mail notifications to be sent to your e-mail address. This has been invaluable for those of us who need a subset of our sasisho to be sent to us, so we're not lurking on the site inapakia and reloading our update pages again and again. This way we can do other stuff online, secure in the knowledge that our e-mail kasha pokezi will let us know the really important changes. Profile galleries
In January 2008, the staff launched the link
. Now those of us - and within a mwaka of pirateroro doing it there were scores of others - who liked to change our profaili pictures could pakia multiple pictures to keep in our own profile's gallery, rather than uploading the picha to the fanpop Users spot (or, later, the Users ikoni spot). My Updates
No, not my
sasisho specifically: the "my updates" feature. The top-level "My updates" collated listing on each user's profaili page was deactivated in May 2008. No user knows for sure, but I suspect that the staff has brought it down for performance reasons - so they can make it better, stronger, faster. Certainly they have the technology. While they figure out what to give us to replace it, we users have been viewing the specific listings of sasisho kwa category: sasisho to our foramu threads, maoni on our links, content added to spots that we've joined, et cetera. Pop Quiz
The pop chemsha bongo feature was finally launched this month, June 2008. Now users can test their knowledge of their inayopendelewa topics, as well as challenge other users with the chemsha bongo maswali they add. The pop chemsha bongo feature was tested for a few months before it was launched, and now mashabiki are also competing with the Super Quiz, composed of trivia all across the many spots on Fanpop. A note in closing
So there we are: fanpop has changed a great deal over the last two years that I've known it. There's certainly stuff that happened that I didn't document here; these are just my recollections of a long period written
over a long period. Astute readers will not be surprised to learn that I started thinking about this makala off-line around the time of the fanpop public beta anniversary (that means almost a year ago
), and didn't actually start uandishi a draft on fanpop until December
. One thing led to another, and my "First 18 Months on Fanpop" turned into "My First 20 Months on Fanpop", then "My first 22 Months on Fanpop"...in the end I decided that I had to get it out at 2 years au I'd never
get it done. So it's highly likely that I've missed stuff. If you're particularly aware of something I've missed, well kwa all means write your own makala about it
! You're almost certain to write faster and put out a zaidi concise article, after all! Two years and counting...
Two years now, and still going strong (both me and the site itself). It's been a great time for me. fanpop - as well as the wonderful users on the site that I've come to know - has been a delight as well as an obsession. But of course the staff isn't standing still; certainly zaidi features are on the way, and the site is sure to experience significant changes in the coming year, too. What will they be? Will suggestion X from the link
foramu thread get implemented? Will the site ever launch out of beta? Who can say?
The only thing I can say for sure is that whatever comes, it will definitely be good