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Advent

Three months ago, when I first publicised the URL of this pre-launch site, I had 1 December 2011 in mind as a putative launch date for the full members site. It'd be a tight three month schedule getting everything ready in time, but I was up for the challenge. Tentatively, I shared that date in a few places. A couple of weeks later Tom lost his job and (since we were living above the business) he and I both lost our home, and I realised that acts of fate were liable to disrupt even the best laid plans.

Even though I've been rehomed so successfully by D, since then fate has thrown no few spanners in the path of our revised "hopefully before Christmas" launch schedule. I sprained my ankle shortly after the housemove, which disrupted my work significantly for a week or so. While generously attempting to set up a Windows partition on his PC so that I could use it to render video (freeing up my own machine for site development work), D suffered a hard drive failure which resulted in the loss of all his partition tables, and it was a few weeks before his own development environment was reinstated. Halfway through my CCBill application I realised my passport had expired, and it took three weeks for the passport office to send me a new one. Then last week I came down with a bad cold and was off work sick while the original launch date came and went. Today, my computer was attacked by Trojan viruses and another day has been lost to dismantling my machine, backing up all my data and re-installing Windows 7 - never mind the time I'm going to lose to re-instating software and settings.

So it's not been a smooth ride, these last few weeks. Is a pre-Christmas launch still realistic? I wish I knew. Here's the current state of play:

  • The full members site is built, tested and validated, barring some non-essential code tweaks and shiny bits of javascript, and several persistent bugs that I still need to work out how to be killed.
  • There are 13 scenes uploaded to the members site so far. So I guess that's enough to launch with. I have another seven scenes on my computer in varying stages of nearly-finished, and another half dozen in my would-be-nice list; but actually twenty scenes is a perfectly good number to launch with, so if I can just get those seven sorted, I'll be happy.
  • Still to do is all the behind the scenes material. I don't want to launch without this - most sites consider it an optional extra but I've made a point of talking about transparency, fairtrade production and so on, and I think it's crucial to my business model to include this from the outset.
  • Add in online marketing/promotion (which I hate doing, but is a necessary evil) and my pre-launch schedule looks like a crazy amount to fit into two weeks.
  • Meanwhile, D has made good progress with the CCBill integration - surprisingly so; it's not been anywhere near as difficult as we feared. Their system includes options to interact with our site in the way we'd prefer, and their support team has proved very helpful. This might have been a nightmare, so that's very good news indeed.
  • On the other hand, for reasons we have not been able to fathom, the members site is woefully slow to load. A lot of the content is served through the CMS, which checks whether you're a logged in and a paid member or not before deciding whether to e.g. show you full video files or preview trailers, so each image and link requires the site to do some thinking and checking, and it all adds up. But beyond that, page load times are slower than we can explain, so there's clearly something slowing it down which we haven't identified yet. This is something we definitely need to fix before launch, but we're both at a bit of a loss as to how to do so.
  • Relatedly, some members-only pages (such as photo gallery pages) involve so many connections to the server that it times out completely, and the page fails to load at all. Fixing this will probably involve rewriting how the software serves members-only files in a secure way, and we don't yet know what the solution will look like. So that's a bit scary - we can't launch if some of the film or gallery pages break when viewed by more than a couple of people at once, but equally we don't yet know how to fix it or how long it's going to take.
  • Our dedicated server keeps suffering from repeated downtimes, and we'll need to shift it all onto a virtual server if I don't want the downtimes to continue after my site launch. Doable, but involves more time, faff and expense.

I'm sure that's more technical information than you ever wanted to know! What it adds up to is this: frustratingly, we aren't much closer to having a launch date than we were a month ago, because the more progress we make, the more new and interesting technical issues we encounter. Personally I'm desperate to launch before Christmas, but we have to get everything done by early January because D has another contract lined up after that.

I'm still crossing my fingers for a launch before Christmas, but given how many unknown quantities we're dealing with, I'm not so foolish as to commit to it.

Behind all the stress and anxiety and uncertainty, there is still a flickering flame of excitement that we're getting so very, very close. When I let myself think about how it will feel to finally share the fruits of all my labour with the world, I can taste the excitement so sharply it makes me shiver. But I don't dare anticipate that pleasure too much, or pin too many hopes on it. All I can do is put the kettle on, and settle in to an advent of code and late nights.

I'll keep you updated (and try not to bore you with too many gory technical details). Cross your fingers for us. If all goes well, I might have some good news for you all in the week before Christmas. But if it ends up being January after all, please don't be too disappointed. This is a 100% DIY project with everything being done by hand, and I promise you that we are doing our very best. And when we're ready, it will be so, so worth it.

Comments

Launch

It will be worth it..Can't wait :-)

Thankyou! D was trying to persuade me today that it wouldn't be the end of the world to launch in January. I'm trying to take it on board!

Launch

I woldn't worry too much about getting it out before gthe Solstice, just about everybody will be rather busy from now until after the first. I think it would be better to get it right (not perfect) and keep your sanity. It will come in due time.

Uh, you've never mentioned cost.

Yeah? I guess my big fear is that no-one will have any spending money left in January and my first month will bellyflop. But it's not like my product is particularly suited for Christmas presents unless you're in a spanko couple, so maybe it's not as big a deal as I think.

Anyway, I'm happy to launch before I think it's "perfect" and add improvements later, but if the billing and fileserving isn't working that's kind of a non-starter. So I guess we'll see how long that takes :)

Thanks for the encouragement, it's much appreciated! Cost: I'm thinking (non-recurring) price points at £10/5 days, £20/30 days, £50/90 days. Plus an optional 30 days recurring which recurs at around £16. I know £20 is at the high end for membership sites but it's quite hard to put your prices up over time, so I'm hoping people for whom that's too much will use the shorter membership to dip in from time to time instead.

I don't know about other people, but I do that a lot anyway (dip in from time to time). I like the product of a few sites, but for most of them I don't have a permanent membership. Instead I sign up and quit right away or after a few periods and come back in a few month. Like that I can be "member" of several sites to an affordable price...

*nods* I know it's how a lot of people use spanking sites. I think that's fair enough: unless your tastes are *so* niche that only one site fits the bill, most people are going to want to sample different sites and very few of us can afford to stay long-term members of multiple sites at once. Some producers rant and rave about it but in my opinion it's an economic reality and producers need to adjust to it. It's one of the reasons my default subscription options are non-recurring (that and I always think default recurring subscriptions seem a bit sneaky - having to opt out if you don't want to stay a member would put me off joining a site, personally).

Wait...

...you do web development? As if you weren't awesome enough :)

And fine art ;)

Web development is how the lass has kept herself wealthier than I am for the last six years, and she's a painter too. And yes, I am bloody smug ;)

*kiss*

Sort of - webdesign and front-end dev (so that's XHTML, CSS, swearing at javascript/jquery and asking D for help with Template Toolkit).

My job's making it look nice. D makes it actually *work*. :)

Do you use Dreamweaver, Coda, plain text editor, or something else?

My current favourite text editor is Notepad++ :)

Advent

A major theme from advent is that the coming is worth the wait.

I'm terrifically excited. I (mostly) lurk here, because I'm running all over creation being busy in real life and don't have nearly as much time to play online as I would like. (Factor in Facebook time, and my porn consumption drops even lower.) But I've been reading this blog for a while now, and my initial 'ooh, that looks interesting' was replaced by a resounding 'woohoo!' when you started talking about M/M and female gaze. As the thoughtful, earnest, well-intentioned posts have continued, I've realized two things: first, I want to be your friend. ;) And second, I desperately want this site to be a success.

Which is why, when you launch, I'm going to take the super-exciting plunge of actually subscribing. I have never actually joined a site before, because money is always tight here and most of my jollies can be gotten on the cheap - but you're going to be my first. ;)

Additionally, I'm delighted and amused by the idea of "fair trade spanking."

Win condition 2: met :) :)

I'm working on that #1 google spot ;)

Win condition 1: met :)

When I saw this comment my jaw dropped. Then I danced around the room. Thankyou SO MUCH.

This is exactly, exactly the effect I've been hoping for. I know that there are women out there, like me, who are turned on by spanking and turned off by the majority of spanking porn, or if not the porn itself, by how it's marketed. So step one: make stuff I'd want to watch. Step two: make sure the presentation is one which would attract me. Step three: hope like hell :)

I'm so glad that you care about the female gaze, that you care about fairtrade production and that I've managed to pitch this right that you're willing to take a chance on me. Thankyou. It's an amazing validation and this is the best comment I have possibly ever received.

(Of course my big fear now is that my novice film-making skills will mean the actual product a big disappointment... but I'm trying to ignore that voice. The photos are beautiful, and I know for a FACT that some of the films are actually awesome, no matter how many technical imperfections I can spot in others!)

Judging from the preview videos, I'd say you have nothing to worry about. ;)

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