About Sketch Fest~ The History of Sketch Fest
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The Complete History of Sketch Fest
Our first event was hosted at livejournal, on March 26th, 2010. 20 people left prompts, between 1 and about dozen apiece, 19 artists participated with sketches. It ran for 12 hours, and about 75 sketches were posted. I say 'about' because it was spread out over 239 comments, and very chaotic, indeed.
The next fest was cancelled, because I went in for abdominal surgery on the day it was scheduled. (I considered that a decent excuse...)
We made up for it with the next one (May 2010)! Before the event, I asked for donations to build an uploading form, and received them from Selina Fenech, Hope Bryant and Jeffrey! It was very bare-bones, nothing fancy, just a way to upload pictures to my server so they could be posted in the comments at the livejournal post. (I also put together a post with recommendations for artists looking to sell their Sketch Fest artwork, exploring several different crowdfunding-style methods.)
For Sketch Fest #3 (June 2010), I got enough donations to put together a basic database that generated a 'wall' of thumbnails of all the sketches we made. See the original Sketch Fest / Sketch Fest #3 at the new site (note that this is the current site with the sketches produced for Sketch Fest #3... this is not at ALL how the site looked at the time!)
For Sketch Fest #4 (July 2010), we had an actual site. It was still pretty ugly (no background, no style), and pretty simple, but it let people leave prompts in the database and post work attached to those prompts, as well as let artists 'claim' prompts (so artists could see what other artists were working on), and comment on artwork. The countdown feature was particularly appreciated. I also added a feature that let artists donate the original of their sketch to support more features for the site. At that point (and for many subsequent Sketch Fests), it was an everything or nothing donation - artists got no portion of work that they made available. Sketch Fest #4
For Sketch Fest #5 (August 2010), we had enough donations to add email alerts - folks who left prompts could (optionally) get notification when someone claimed their prompt, and again when the artist uploaded the sketch. Registration was made possible, and very basic artist pages were built. Sketch Fest #5
Sketch Fest #6 (September 2010) got us improvements to the system that prevented file overwrites, a navigation header (because the browsing to that point had been pretty wretched!), artists pages showed which prompts they'd claimed, next and previous thumbnails on the artwork, and an enlarged comment box. Sketch Fest #6
For Sketch Fest #7 (October 2010), I made several shiny improvements that I do not seem to have specific notes for. Sketch Fest #7
There was no Sketch Fest in November, because so many of us were doing NaNoWriMo. (We made up for it with two in January!)
For Sketch Fest #8 (December 2010), we got counting tools that showed how many folks participated each time, and added random to the way you could sort prompts, and better uploading tools, plus artists could edit their work and upload pieces that they'd finished from sketches they started at a fest. Sketch Fest #8
For Sketch Fest #9 (January 2011), April Vansickle put some CSS together to take the site from its still-ugly no-style state to the sleek, lovely look it has now. Registered users could now edit their accounts, and artist pages showed webpage links and short bios. I gave folks a way to log out, and a link to their own page. You could also comment on a prompt with or without claiming it. And the email notifications became more useful and less vague. Sketch Fest #9
For Sketch Fest #10 (January 2011), I tackled the slow-loading prompts page problem - we were getting so many prompts that the page took a ridiculous amount of time to download. I failed to solve the problem before that Sketch Fest, but wrestled it into shape soon after. At the close of this fest, I opened up nominations for prizes in a few categories - winners in a few specific categories got a free pack of blank ACEO cards. Sketch Fest #10
Prizes continued through Sketch Fest #11 (February 2011), which was greatly improved by the new prompts page (better query functions made it load MUCH faster). Additionally, I rewarded supporters by adding a star by their name (so artists knew which prompts came from folks who made Sketch Fest possible!) and allowing them 15 prompts, as opposed to just 5. I also added the ability to claim work from older Sketch Fests (which enabled artists to edit them and add finished work for them), and turned the prompt into a link so you could easily browse to see the other pieces created for a prompt. The prizes for this Sketch Fest included 'best prompt', and a 'Rock Star of Year One,' which went to Jenny Heidewald, who had participated in every single one, created a whooping 38 pieces for one fest, and donated nearly all of her pieces every month to fund the site, as well as commenting enthusiastically and helping me find bugs in the updates. Sketch Fest #11
For Sketch Fest #12 (March 2011 - our one year event!), the biggest improvements were in the backend, improving the buying process (so pieces couldn't accidentally be bought more than once, as was starting to happen...). 'Buy instantly' became an option with EMG credits, so interested parties didn't have to go through the shopping cart and miss pieces that became available during that time. Artists got a link directly to their claims, as well as some minor browsing improvements and a new landing page with random artwork and an actively updated list of sponsors. Most impressive of all, the buying process was changed to allow partial donations. Previously, it was all or nothing - now, artists could choose a portion to donate to EMG (minimum 10%) and set their own cut for their sketches. Sketch Fest #12
Before Sketch Fest #13 (April 2011), I made tools for uploading work from the first several Sketch Fests - not everyone has gotten their older work for them up, so they are not entirely accurate pictures of those fests! Additionally, sketches were automatically put on a one-hour 'hold' for the prompter who left them. Sketch Fest #13
For Sketch Fest #14 (May 2011), that hold became variable - something you could set to any integer of hours. It defaults to 1, still, and you can also set it at 0 (no hold!). Last, but not least, I added an 'inspired by' wall - logged in users could see all the work created to their prompts, and really get a sense of the artwork they made happen. Visual improvements included showing red borders around artwork currently available for public sale, dashed red borders for work on hold, and even gold stars on work being held specifically for you. Hovering over a thumbnail would show you when a hold would expire. Sketch Fest #14
For Sketch Fest #15 (June 2011), I refined the ability to sort prompters, so that you could see at a glance if a prompter had at least one sketch or person working on their ideas. (Alas, a bug in the code excluded those prompters who weren't registered! Doh!) Replies to comments were added, complete with email alerts to the person who left the comment being replied to. These, too, were a little buggy, particularly in regards to the emails they were sending (Doh! Again!). Sketch Fest #15
For Sketch Fest #16 (July 2011), I fixed both of the above buggy features, and built a sales administration page for artists, so they can immediately see which pieces have sold, and to whom. I also did some serious refinements to the artist pages, so that they were broken into each Sketch Fest (it was a seriously block of thumbnails otherwise, especially for some artists!). This involved coding in a new database to track the dates of the various Sketch Fests - something that will be useful in the refinement of other pages throughout the site! Sketch Fest #16
For Sketch Fest #17 (August 2011), major progress was made on automating some of the timing functions of Sketch Fest - which means I spend less time updating pages and more improving them in the future! It also simplified the coding in a lot of places. I also added a link for artists to see their Sketch Fest sales, fixed a bug on the artists pages, and made a few other minor fixes throughout. Sketch Fest #17
For Sketch Fest #18 (September 2011), the registration and account editing process were extensively updated; users can now specify a nickname to show instead of their real name, and include their addresses, which only become available to artists who are mailing them sketches. I've added security to keep spammers at bay. Additionally, I gave artists the tools to delete their own work, and also to upload multiple finished pieces for each sketch. Not content with stopping there, I coded in a check to make sure that artists offering their work for sale were alotting the required 10% to EMG. (I saw a few pieces go up the previous Sketch Fest that would have actually lost me money, if they'd sold!) I disabled hot-linking to images hosted at Sketch Fest. I put a tag on purchases made by credit card, so that I could see at a glance which sales needed to be verified (because they hadn't been instantly bought using credits), and last, but certainly not least, I programmed the instant buying feature to also instantly transfer credits to the artists AND update their patron status! (I worked ahead of the hours earned from donations this month, because I know there will be a few months early next year after I've had my first child when I won't be able to get any work in, and I have some free time available now!) Sketch Fest #18
For Sketch Fest #19 - (October 2011) A LOT of fixes to the nickname switchover. Sketch Fest #19
For Sketch Fest #20 - (November 2011) More nickname improvements, comment improvements. Fiddly, detail-oriented stuff that won't show up much to anyone. Sketch Fest #20
For Sketch Fest #21 - (December 2011) erm... Sketch Fest #21
For Sketch Fest #22 - (January 2012) This fest was an experimental 48 hours long... and a whopping success. Artist feedback for the longer period varied from pleased to thrilled. Sketch Fest #22
For Sketch Fest #23 - (January 2012, take 2!) Artist sales administration improvements (for credit card purchases, particularly), plus a fix on the history page that was showing real names instead of (optional) nicknames. Ordered the prompters page by latest updated
For Sketch Fest #24 - (February 2012) Finishing touches to the artist sales admin page. It now sends notification to the artist when a CC purchase is approved. I also added a spammer-catcher to the un-registered comments, to prevent the ugg boot and Ambien spam that snuck in on one picture. Nipped that right in the bud! I also fixed a niggly little image class problem, and added icons to the prompts page so that it's easier to see at a glance which prompts have been claimed or sketched. Tags and claims got little pushpin icons, too! The tagging function itself got a little bit of a re-work - it no longer sends notifications to the prompter when you tag something, and tags don't show up on the prompt page. Tags will still show up on the artist's page, and you will see the pushpin icon by a tagged prompt in the master list if you are logged in. This makes the function more private, though not entirely 'secret,' as per user request.
A few months of no improvements (Dec, Jan) ate up my previous buffer, but the subsequent fixes caught me up again - I'm about four 1/2 hours over what has been earned for the site at this point and will continue to work ahead as I can. :)
For Sketch Fest #25 and #26, following several months of maternity leave, there were no noteable improvements. Used up that buffer, and for Sketch Fest #27, we've got several spiffy updates! A bug in the alert for claims was fixed, the prompts page look was improved, the art page was brushed up.
For Sketch Fest #28 (September 2012), I changed the function of claims and tags - claims were now for work already completed (or with a solemn promise to complete WITHIN the Sketch Fest window), and I made it so that people could then upload their work after Sketch Fest as long as that claim had been set.
Sketch Fest #29 (October 2012) improvements were largely backend, with a lot of structure work on things that wouldn't be seen until...
Sketch Fest #30 (November 2012) came with major, major changes. Artists were able to sell multiple products on a sketch, with variable functions, so they could sell a single original, or an open edition print, or a limited edition, and the site would track those and remove its availability when it ran out. It allowed a variable hold for prompters, and a special price for them. The gallery went away from a 'wall' of thumbnails to a neat table, and became paginated. I talked about some of the changes I wanted to continue to make in my journal, here. The art page was revised to incorporate many of these new changes.
The big changes from Sketch Fest #30 required a lot of bug fixes for Sketch Fest #31 (December 2012), and a lot of other minor improvement, too: Items for sale showed as a border, with a star for originals available. Names with links to artist pages showed in the gallery. The artists and total art are counted on the gallery pages. A bug was fixed that was charging prompters the regular price instead of the special prompter price. The prompts page was re-written with a new way to count tags and flags that reduced the load speed enormously. (The actual act of claiming and tagging is still a little slow - I continue to try to improve that speed!) I added a filter to my admin page so I could view the work by one artist only. (Which helped ME a great deal!) I also fixed a bug that was chopping off artist addresses that were too long.
For Sketch Fest #32 (January 2013), I have improved the customer's 'bought' page so that a pending purchase (made through the credit card cart) could be re-added to their shopping cart, switched to credits, or cancelled. (With appropriate sales completed and product counts updated!) Fixed a bug with the registration of names with nicknames - it hadn't been saving nicknames, woops! I also fixed a bug that was showing some items more than once in the gallery of art to purchase. I also worked some bugs out of a slideshow script, though I haven't quite figured out what to do with that... I have updated the 'finished' gallery to the new type, and art pages now show products for sale by default, rather than hiding them. I also fixed a little bug that wasn't letting you edit your finished pieces. (Woops!)
For Sketch Fest #33 (February 2013), we got product editing tools. A clever efficiency improvement (moving a common function to a shared page) disasterized a few extra pages unexpectedly... I spent some time chasing the tail on that one! Artist pages also got the spiffy new gallery look, with art that is available on products showing a red border. At the very end of the Sketch Fest, I found a bug... patrons who made purchases via credit card or paypal weren't getting their donations tally added to correctly. It took me a while to track down why, but that's fixed now. I'll need to go back and credit folks for their purchases since the switch to the new system... Bah.
For Sketch Fest #34 (March 2013), I added categories! Each piece of artwork can select tags for media, style, theme, subject, etc. It doesn't do anything at the browsing end yet, but it will! Also, I built a comments page, so you can see at a glance the comments you've recently received and left - as well as replies to them. A bug on the purchases page was causing products with " and ' marks in the names to error out of the shopping cart, and I fixed that, too. Also, folks could now remove products. (Not delete, but at least remove them from their page. I didn't want to enable a delete, because if a product had already been purchased, it would break that report.)
For Sketch Fest #35 (Bonus Birthday round!), the look of the site was polished up just a tad to include EMG branding.
For Sketch Fest #36 (April 2013), we got massive changes. Product editing tools were greatly refined, the site will show you if a purchase of an original is only pending, so that you can watch it in case it comes up for sale again, a bunch of little (mostly cosmetic) bugs in the sales management pages were fixed, I got sales summary tools (doesn't help you guys directly, but it saves ME a lot of time, which means more time programming on site improvements for you!), and there are new account options you can set regarding your country and selling products. But most critically and most time consuming, a big backend security improvement has been implemented. Your data is MUCH more secure now, and registrations can be generally open to the public. Users will be prompted to update their passwords when they next sign in. This month, it's optional. Next month it is mandatory, and accounts that aren't updated will be disabled to protect EVERYONE'S data.
I dropped the ball keeping upgrade notes at this point. Oops. I will go back through my journals at some point and compile them from that. I made many improvements, really! Lots of security upgrades, a password retreival page (that has saved me a LOT of time), better product management tools, I made pending sales show that way publicly (so you'd know if something wasn't REALLY sold yet), some upload improvements, I made products expire, preferences could be set for how long you want people to hold originals done for your prompt, which later was added as a default when someone uploaded work to your prompt!, you could set your country, and more...
Sketch Fest #49 (March, 2014 - a bonus midweek fest!) was our fourth birthday bash, and I made a chatroom for registered members!
Sketch Fest #50, I did prizes - for favorite sketch, best interpretation of the prompt, most improved artist, most supportive artist, and a special newbie award for the most enthusiastic new artist (as judged by comment and art count). This was great fun! Folks donated prizes, and I built a little nomination form.
What's on my list? Waitlists! If an original is held by a pending sale, folks can sign up to be 'next in line' for it if it gets canceled. Auctions! I have the parts in place for auctions, just need to VERY carefully put them all together...
What features would YOU most like to see? I make Sketch Fest better in direct response to user input, with funds from user donations. Results are usually available by the very next Sketch Fest! Make this project better and stronger and see your ideas shape it! Contact me using this form!
Random Sketches and Comments
Sue Rundle-Hughes says: Awww, this is such a lovely sketch. Poor lady. I hope she gets him back :)
Ellen the Million says: Precious treasure!
mikka says: Must squish the adorable bear! Nice shading.
Mayumi Ogihara says: She has lovely eyes!
Ellen the Million says: Oh, she's adorable!
Sylvia Heidewald says: Very beautiful.