Solving My Social Problem, with Software

In the late 90’s and early 2000’s when I was around 10 years old, I found a new hobby: PC gaming.

My brothers and I had many fights over whose turn it was on that computer.

As I advanced into my teens it went from a hobby to a lifestyle, and by the time I was 18 I had spent my entire adolescence behind a computer screen. Time that others might have spent playing sports, dating for the first time, or being up to no good, I spent slaying dragons, padding my K:D ratio on noobs, and piloting virtual tanks and helicopters.

Demo CD’s were a kind of pre-internet golden age for PC gaming.

It’s safe to say that I am by nature, an introvert. Looking back, those are actually fond memories, but a problem arose: I wasn’t very good at finding and meeting people. More specifically, finding and meeting people similar to myself.

I am not used to the spotlight. I am not used to anything that goes along with social attention.

This problem culminated in my mid 20’s when I was making a game, wanted people to join me in making it, and had no idea where to start. Literally no idea; I was too timid to really put myself out there. It was around this time that an idea started brewing… maybe I could build a website for that. One that makes it easy to put yourself out there as a gamer.

A few years later, unsatisfied with my day job, I decided to do just that; make a website for putting yourself out there and finding other gamers similar to you. While I don’t consider myself the world’s greatest programmer, I felt that I had enough ability to go out and make it happen. I left my day job and got to work.

Over the next several months, I’d learn just how much can go into a simple website.

The initial framework and core concepts that I had envisioned went up fast. But my lack of knowledge in other areas quickly came to light. Visual design, a good user experience, a fluid interface, figuring out just how to have dozens of input fields without overwhelming the user… these were not simple tasks. But over time, I slowly arrived somewhere acceptable.

I am not a great artist.

Around the time that I was getting happy with the functionality of the website, I started considering what I should call this project. Up until then, I had just been calling it “gamers”, and to my horror, any and all domain names even remotely related to “gaming” were parked. Not used; just parked. People buy them and then don’t use them for anything other than asking for a ransom. So, I had to get creative…

It’s not easy coming up with a new and unique name! After a few days of brainstorming and many fizzled attempts at names — many of them made invalid by parked domains — I had a pool of valid names. Among them, “nubbl”.

I tried comparing against names that worked for the top 50 websites.

It’s not quite “nub”, it’s not quite “nubblet”, but it’s close, and that makes it gaming related enough for me. It’s easy to say and remember, it’s short, and damnit, its domain name was available. I was hesitant, but I had to pick something. The project would henceforth be known as “nubbl”.

The final logo and slogan.

The logo came in quite easily, I opened up MSPaint and was done in a few seconds. It had a “gamer” vibe, was easy to recreate and identify, the bright pink was fairly unique, and it stood out on both black and white backgrounds. Altogether, it stuck.

Once the development legwork was done, the brand was created, the services were registered, and the app was tested, it was time to go public… but… how? I spent my entire life keeping to myself, how the hell was I going to market this thing? I opted for a test run; a closed beta.

Successful reddit posts were very encouraging.

Running a closed beta would allow me an excuse to share the app with only a few people, and test the waters before diving in. Thankfully, there were no major problems; the app worked fine, and I was afforded some time to polish the website due to the “closed” nature of the beta. It also gave me a chance to get ahold of myself…

I am not used to the spotlight. I am not used to anything that goes along with social attention. When I posted the site and it went great, it felt great. When it didn’t go great, I definitely did not feel well. For me, it was stressful and I’d need a day or two to get back on my feet and allow the sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach to go away. Rationalizing can only get you so far; emotions make their own decisions.

There would certainly need to be some adjusting, but I’m glad I did what I did and got it out there. One good thing about emotions is that you can get used to them with practice; this was good practice.

The main search page on launch day.

After a while, it was time to lift the curtain and transition from closed beta to a public release. And that’s where I’m at right now. I just released less than 24 hours ago, and am facing the next major hurdle: Just how in the hell do I share this with people? How do I find my audience? How do I achieve the coveted “critical mass”?

I think that this will be a long, slow, uphill battle. When my savings run out, it will be time to find work again. I hope that by then, the site is somewhere stable, with a strong userbase. This is the great unknown of all of this work; will it amount to anything? Will people use it? All I can do is keep trying.

So what’s the takeaway here? I don’t know… I don’t think we’re at that part of the story yet. For now, it’s just a work in progress:

The user profile page.