Saturday, July 31, 2004
One Year Later
Launching myOtaku last year, this time, easily ranked among the most stressful things I've ever had to do in my life.
I had first conceived the service months before. I painstakingly made mockups of every page and tried my best to reason through all the ways the system could be abused.
I also imagined launching with a few interactive sites, alongside a complete redo of theOtaku.com. It was ambitious, but there was plenty of time...
...or so I thought. I had hired a friend of mine, Patrick, to handle all the ultra-technical stuff. I was assured it wouldn't be a problem finishing with time to spare.
It became kind of a disaster. Delay after delay after delay. People on Patrick's team turned out to be incredibly sloppy with code and one-by-one quit. Pat himself, though I love him, was kind of a procrastinator as well...
During this process, we also had massive server problems. I had to keep moving from server-to-server trying to find a decent datacenter to handle our traffic. And server setup fees are expensive!
So I was bleeding money. Our site's traffic was way down because I was busy working on myOtaku and things were going poorly in the development department.
Fast forward. I woke up one morning with only a week left before a huge international flight that would take me out of the country for a good month. The deadline for launch was fast approaching and all we had was a site that not only fell far short of my original vision, but was an absolute mess.
Thankfully, James, who helped develop the new theOtaku layout and Maximus, a longtime friend of mine who programmed our JukeBox function, came through with their parts on time.
I ended up pulling three all-nighters approaching the launch of myOtaku that week. After all, I couldn't let Pat pull sacrifice his sleep coding if I wasn't there to talk to him online and point out glitches and clarify things and error-test.
In the end, we did launch myOtaku, a new layout for theOtaku, and a Fan Art site. The site was massively littered with glitches and it was far short of my original vision for launch, but it worked.
I sent a newsletter to our members notifying them of "Version Next" two hours before my flight.
I thought for sure myOtaku would be a failure. It landed so far away from my expectations. It was also such a new concept. Would anyone submit fan art? Would anyone use the blog feature? Would anyone even register?
A couple days after I landed in Italy, I went to an Internet cafe. I had trouble not trembling: months and months of hard work and I'd finally see if anyone had actually used the service. I'm very thankful to Justin Blessing and James for covering for me in approving artwork and answering people's questions while I was away.
So the browser loaded the site...Yes, there were glitches everywhere. But people liked us! Over 250 people had registered on day 1. Then it quickly steadied to about 70 new members per day. Way beyond my expectations.
Fan art was submitted, blogs were created, comments and guestbook posts were made. It was such a great feeling. I'd continue to lose money on the service for about five months afterward, but it was definitely worth it and I've since guided the network to paying for itself.
Now, a year has passed. Through constant hard work and fine-tuning, myOtaku has rapidly approached my original vision. Now, roughly 200 new people sign up per day.
And we're nowhere near done exploring all the possibilities on where to go next.
But for now, this summer, my big project will be relaunching theOtaku.com into something special. While I'm working full time and don't have as much freedom as I did last summer, I do have a HUGE advantage this time around...
Justin Blessing, now a year older, has become an absolute expert in backend web development. And he's the hardest working programmer I've ever met. This is not going to be a repeat of last year. We're chugging along very quickly and have a beautiful final design submitted by James.
It's going to be great. I'll keep you updated.