Slips Update: Proof of concept progress report, marketing, on-boarding new team members and more…
Our last update (slightly less than a month ago) was filled to the brim with tasty morsels of news. Just to briefly recap some of the more exciting developments that we announced last month:
- We received a little bit of funding from the Expanse blockchain.
- We had just begun work on the proof of concept
- … and of course we had hired our first recruit as well!
Well we are not the sort of project that rests on it’s laurels so there has been no let up in the progress of development since the last update.
The second sprint was due for completion on the 15th of August (a few days ago) and we had hoped to maintain our high octane development approach and make similar progress on that milestone…
You can play about with the proof of concept at https://slips.network and all the deadlines/milestones mentioned in this update are detailed further in our public roadmap at https://trello.com/b/vjYmqdKj/slips-proof-of-concept-roadmap
The productivity juggernaut starts to splutter…
Sadly we are not robots and one of the biggest eventualities in software development is that sometimes deadlines will slip.
From the get go, we had decided to maintain incredibly tight deadlines with very little padding because like most bootstrapped startup — our runway and burn rate matters.
It’s imperative for us for that reason to release the proof of concept quickly and retain as much money in the bank as possible.
The diagram on the left illustrates why the deadline slipped. Each piece of functionality starts with a written specification (or requirements) like the one we did for My Profile pages and once the requirements are completed, they are swiftly passed to Kyle (our art director).
He gets to work on the creatively exhausting task of designing the visually stunning user interfaces that we have grown accustomed to seeing from him. This is an arduous task — more so because we give him very specific instructions.
Unlike most UI/UX designers, he has to think about components in different states. He needs to consider responsiveness (how the design looks on different devices) and we demand rigorous style guidelines so we can remix his work when modals/dialog and components need to be created which might not have been covered in the initial specification.
Once Kyle has completed his work, the design assets are passed onto Emad (our front end developer) who converts into code whilst I simultaneously start building out any backend API services required. Then integration, testing, deployment etc.
At the end of last milestone we already had the preliminary designs for the “My Profile” functionality and all that was left to do was simply tighten up the design and create mobile friendly variants. Sadly there was one unexpected factor that we had not considered when planning the work that was going to be completed during this sprint!
We didn’t realise that after seven months of single handedly churning out beautiful videos, gorgeous UIs and stunning illustrations that there was a remote possibility that our world class art director might be at risk of suffering from a burn out!
Whilst the art direction we had at the end of the first sprint was good enough and most certainly better than most proof of concepts — we thought it could be better and Kyle was finding it difficult to complete the work under our strict deadlines whilst maintaining the quality that you’ve all become used to.
In fact to his credit, he produced 150 pages during the last two weeks, which as you can imagine involved plenty of long nights working into the early hours of the morning. You can see below how the design has changed from the first concept two weeks ago to the current version. Despite all odds, Kyle was still able to produce a quality final product for us:
Because no-one else will toot our horn for us, I have to take a short pause to give Kyle a quick pat on the back. The work ethic and “can-do” spirit he demonstrated in the last two weeks despite his mental exhaustion characterises the spirit of our team and the reason why we’re so convinced that Slips will be successful. We find a way even when the cards are heavily stacked against us.
It’s worth pointing out that we do not have treasury reserves overflowing with ICO funding with which to hire additional designers or beef up our team with developers.
This handicap or restriction however works to our advantage because it’s also worth pointing out that you can navigate to https://slips.network and play about with a proof of concept that looks as good or polished as any final product released from a venture capital backed startup.
Because we have less to work with, we are force to be more imaginative and smarter with what we do have.
Comparing our efforts to other competing projects in the space:
- Gimli which raised ~$1.7m as far back as 10 months ago (!) have only just got to work on their project.
- Asura which raised $6m in private funding from Fujiam eSports and a further $800k-1m in their ICO are only focusing 30% of their efforts on development.
It puts our small slip (no pun intended) in schedule into perspective.
The fact that we have still made a great amount of progress (as we are about to detail) means Emad and Kyle have little to be ashamed about especially considering the resources we are working with and the heavy responsibility on their shoulders.
Now we’re done with the bad news, let’s talk about the good news.
So as I mentioned just a few paragraphs ago, just because an unexpected hiccup forced our plans to go awry, it didn’t mean we were going to sulk or panic. Instead we decided to make and implement a swift contingency plan.
We got Kyle to produce art work for the “Create Channel” and “Channel Explorer” screens (the specifications for both were already in the can). It gave him a break from his existing work and it relieved some of the pressure — he wasn’t holding the team up any longer.
Now whilst Kyle faced up to the demons of his burnout, Emad and I could focus on several important aspects of the application:
It is now possible for registered users to create channels on Slips. Channels can be private or public channels. The latter costs a small amount of Slips Lite (which are awarded to users for their interactions with the Slips platform).
As part of this functionality we had to code functionality to update the balance of the user’s wallet dynamically (when a transaction is made). This update is pushed to the client from the server. Additionally we had to allow the user to use colours, emojis and other formatting on their channel description. We had to do the appropriate processing of uploaded avatars (validation, resizing and streaming to Amazon S3).
A lot of the code we wrote here will be useful later down the line (for example, users can also buy premium themes using their Slips Lite to customise their profiles).
If you have a few minutes, please go to https://slips.network. You will get some Slips Lite just for registering which you can use to create a public channel.
If you need more, you can login at https://slips.io and get a unique referral link. Share the link with your friends and you’ll get additional Slips Lite for each friend that signs up.
We also produced an interface that allows users to discover channels on Slips. The interface is responsive, it updates in real time and lets you filter by the different streaming services, by specific games and a bunch of other filters (e.g. language, viewers, subscribers etc).
Any of the channels that users create using the “Create Channel” interface also automatically appear on this interface (and on the homepage). We also linked the “Featured Games” widget on the homepage to this interface, if you select Fortnite for example from the homepage, the interface will filter channel showing you only streamers that are currently playing Fortnite:
The main focus of this sprint was supposed to be allow users to create their own profiles, to follow other users, add status messages and so on. Instead we ended up adding two important pieces of functionality to the project that were scheduled for the next sprint. This detour also gave Kyle the time and room to complete the design for profiles to a much higher level of quality than we had originally planned.
My Profile Art Direction
Now that this sprint has been completed, we are immediately beginning a smaller one week sprint focused entirely on making up for lost time. The main focus will be completing the My Profile functionality now that all the art work has been completed.
In terms the work Kyle has produced, we have beautifully designed user interfaces for both desktop and mobile ready to begin converting into code. Kyle has also produced several (8 at my last count) beautiful skins that users can choose from to add a little bit of personality to their profile:
We estimate that we are about 10 days behind schedule at this point. So we will be hiring an additional backend developer to give us extra firepower during this period and hopefully ramp up the velocity.
I spent a few days during the last sprint finding someone who would be able to come on board, be familiar with our code base and hit the ground running.
#PrayForKyle (only kidding!) … our marketing campaign begins.
You might be wondering whether or not to be concerned about Kyle’s burnout! Thankfully the work that he just completed was the final push on the design front. If you have been following our project for a while, you will know that we already have a design concept ready for the final piece of the jigsaw — the actual channel screen.
There is a specification in the works — which will be fully fleshed out during the course of this next “mini-sprint” that will outline all the small interactions, dialogs and modifications that need to be added to this concept.
Apart from that we do not have much more design work left; so from Kyle’s perspective we do not need to flog him any further.
We did a spend a portion of the last sprint trying to find a designer to take some of the slack from him— we actually spoke to 6 different designers and even commissioned one to work on a small project. Sadly it’s difficult to get the level of quality we wanted (within our budget anyway) so we ended up abandoning the plan and persevering with our broken soldier.
Another thing to point out is that for the first time, we have some spare capacity. Whilst Emad, our new backend developer and I try to get the My Profile functionality completed in the next seven days, Kyle will have the pleasure of spearheading our marketing efforts. It will be a welcome respite from the gruelling slog of the sprint and a chance to stretch himself in different ways.
Our goals for the next seven days on the marketing front:
Interview a selection of streamers from various different demographics. There is no point in us running a fully fledged marketing campaign until our proof of concept is completed. But we are interested in validating our concept. Until the product is completed and in the hands of users, we will always have doubts about what we are building — will people like it? will all the hard work we are putting into Slips be worth it?
It’s natural to have these questions, so we decided that we could use this small seven day sprint as a way to get feedback from a wide range of people about every aspect of our project — from their reaction when introduced to the Slips concept to their first interactions with the application. The interviews would then heavily feed into the development of our marketing strategy.
Asking streamers for interviews is better than asking for anything else at this stage of development. We can start a dialogue with interested parties and try and build a longer term relationship.
We want to know what kind of people respond best to Slips and what drives them. We won’t have the marketing budgets that other fully funded projects will have at launch so again we have to be smart with what we have. Part of that is doing thorough research into our market. The other part will come from creating personalised relationships with our initial 100–500 users.
Start building up an initial seed community of users.
We also need to create attractive incentives for people to give up their time and to support us whilst the product is in development. We can probably reach out to people, have them incredibly pumped about the project and then the excitement dies down as development on the product continues. We want to avoid that as well as motivate people to eventually do some of the outreach for us. Coming up with reasons why they would want to help us will make this job a lot easier.
One Final Note
It’s been a tough two weeks and anyone who has run a startup knows the gauntlet of emotions that founders go through —in particular it was a rough landing when the elation of receiving funding from Expanse, extending our runway and the success of our first sprint gave way to an ennui as we realised we still have a huge amount of obstacles to navigate.
Nonetheless I’m extremely proud of what the Slips team produced in the last 15–20 days regardless of whether or not we achieved the lofty goals we had set out to achieve at the start of the sprint.
We are still on course to release a beautiful proof of concept and with the support of the Expanse team and their community, we feel a lot stronger than we did a few months ago. We hope you enjoyed this update and will join us either on our Discord or the Expanse one to give us some feedback.
For now — over and out!
Still confused about what Slips is? Then you may want to watch our famous 50 second introduction video:
… and remember if you are interested in this exciting new project then please make sure you follow us on the following social channels: