denise: Image: Me, facing away from camera, on top of the Castel Sant'Angelo in Rome (Default)
Denise ([staff profile] denise) wrote in [site community profile] dw_biz2012-02-13 03:45 pm

feature design brainstorming: icon add-ons

We said last month that [staff profile] mark's next big project is going to be icon add-on packs to let people buy more icon slots if they want, and this week he and I have been brainstorming ideas to make it work in the quickest, easiest, and most usable fashion. This is what we're currently thinking the system will look like, for you guys to mull over and point out all the things we've no doubt forgotten to think about. ;)

Goal: To let people buy as many icon slots as they want (up to whatever limit we impose for overall performance reasons), as simply and easily as possible.



We started out with the idea that this should be something the user can decide (how many slots you want), not sold in pre-specified numbers of icon packs that stack on top of each other. We kicked around a few ideas for a while of how to make that work (such as paying per icon slot per month, etc), but everything we tried to come up with got really confusing very quickly: we would have had to track a lot of different things, and explaining pro-rating to people is really hard, and it would've been really hard to add more icons later if you decided you didn't have enough.

So, our current working theory: we will charge you up front for each icon slot you want to add, and paying for another icon slot will give you that slot permanently, for whenever you have a paid account. (We have a vague idea of what each slot will cost, but it's not set in stone yet, so I don't want to commit to anything; I'll use the variable $amount while I'm explaining, in order to avoid making any promises.) If your paid account expires, you'll go back to the number of icons a free account gets; if you renew your paid account, you'll go back up to the paid account icons + your add-ons.

It's probably easiest to talk through some practical examples of common scenarios, so everyone's on the same page: let's say that I have a premium paid account, so I have 250 icons. I want 270 icons. I pay $amount to permanently buy those 20 icons; my icon slots go from 250 to 270. In a year, my premium paid time is about to expire, so I renew it for another year; I only have to pay the $50 to renew the premium paid time, and my icon slots stays at 270, not the 250 a premium paid account usually gets, because I bought those 20 icons permanently.

Next year, my premium paid account expires (back down to 15 icons, curses!), and I'm kind of low on cash, so I decide to renew it as a regular paid account ($35 for the year; 100 icons), not a premium paid account. But! I previously bought those 20 extra icon slots. Those still exist, but they're applied to the paid account icon limit (100 icons), not the premium paid account icon limit (250 icons): I'd have the 100 icon slots a paid account usually gets, plus the 20 I permanently bought, for 120 icons.

After a few months, though, I decide I can't live with only 120 icons, and I decide to buy some more. I pay $amount to permanently buy another 50 icon slots. My new icon count is now 170: the 100 for a paid account, the 20 I previously bought, and the 50 I just bought.

When account renewal comes around, I decide I miss the premium paid account benefits, so I renew as premium paid ($50 for the year; 250 icons). I now have the 250 icon slots that come standard with a premium paid account, plus the 20 I bought a long time ago, plus the 50 I bought recently, for a total of 320 icons.

So, you're only buying the icon slots once, and they last forever -- but, you have to have a paid account to access them. (This is to avoid people buying just icon slots, which is bad for us from a business standpoint based on how we set our account limits. For an explanation of why you won't be able to just buy icons without a paid account, see two old mailing list messages I wrote back when we were in development: #1, which explains why you can't buy paid features a-la-carte, and #2, which specifically gets into icons.)

We'll be pricing icon slots based on the cost to support them over time, so you'd pay more up-front than you would in a yearly, expiring type deal. You'll never have to pay again, though, so it will be cheaper in the long run.

What if you want to switch to using a different account, though, the way we know roleplayers like to do? You'd be stuck paying the up-front cost over and over again for each account, which would not be very fair! So, instead we make it possible for you to switch icon slots from account to account.

Let's say I have two accounts, [profile] x and [profile] y. [profile] x is a premium paid account (250 icons) and I bought 50 extra icon slots for it over time (total of 300 icons). [profile] y is a paid account (100 icons). I decide I want to stop using [profile] x and switch to using [profile] y instead: I can go to the icon slot mover tool and say "switch my extra icon slots", and move the 50 extra slots from [profile] x to [profile] y. Now [profile] x has 250 icon slots (the standard with the premium paid account), and [profile] y has 150 icon slots (the standard 100 with the paid account + my 50 extra slots that I bought).

(We may charge a small amount to move icon slots from one account to another, especially if it's been a while since you bought them, like the way we charge for a rename token. But we haven't decided that yet; it will depend on what the numbers look like when we diagram the costs of all this out more fully.)

There will be a limit on how many slots you can buy at first -- this is because the system isn't very optimized for large numbers of icons, either for resource usage or for the user interface of displaying and selecting large numbers of icons. (We can fix that over time, and we will! But that will take time, and we'd rather release the feature with a lower limit now than wait. Whatever limit we pick when we release it will almost certainly be raised later once we can do the work.) It's also possible that we might have two limits, and charge $amount for each slot up to limit #1, and $amount*2 for each slot from limit #1 to limit #2, but that, too, will be up in the air until we can really plot out the technical and business details of this way of doing things.

So, if this is all still up in the air, why am I posting about it now? Simple: We know that we can't know everything about how people use their accounts and how people want to use their icons. So, consider this the open invitation to pick holes in this plan: what kind of usage are we forgetting to think about/account for? What problems do you see?

(Also, because I know a lot of people are really sweet about worrying what this will mean for us-as-a-business: we already did all the back-of-the-envelope feasability tests, and this should remain feasable over time. We're gambling that the cost of disk space, bandwidth, and processor power will continue to go down over time the way it's been going, historically, so the pay-once model for icons should work fine for us -- and because it will be tied to paid accounts we won't be promising future services without any additional income the way we would for seed accounts.)
chagrined: Marvel comics: zombie!Spider-Man, holding playing cards, saying "Brains?" (brains?)

[personal profile] chagrined 2012-02-13 09:04 pm (UTC)(link)
You mention seed accounts at the end there; how would this work for them, then? If someone has a seed account and pays for additional icons, is that still only a one-time fee? Then it seems like it could be the "promising future services without any additional income" thing.
mark: A photo of Mark kneeling on top of the Taal Volcano in the Philippines. It was a long hike. (Default)

[staff profile] mark 2012-02-13 09:10 pm (UTC)(link)
My current thinking is that they would just last forever. I believe that we have few enough seed accounts that this will come out in the wash as far as the business practicality goes.

And, as always, insert a caveat about "if it turns out the numbers stop making sense, we'll post and let people know and solicit feedback about how to fix things as well as some ideas". We will do so with plenty of notice to turn things around. (We always have 6+ months of cash in the bank, as per our Operating Agreement, so we really do have plenty of time to go 'hm, that doesn't work' and then fix it.)
triadruid: Apollo and the Raven, c. 480 BC , Pistoxenus Painter  (Default)

[personal profile] triadruid 2012-02-13 09:13 pm (UTC)(link)
Interesting model (buying slots, not access to the slots per se). Is anyone else doing this, or is it a wholly new paradigm?

Also, I'm curious if you've worked out the what-expires-when algorithm yet - I think LJ does, or did, it based on usage. When you drop from 320 to 170 or 15, what stays accessible?
chagrined: Marvel comics: zombie!Spider-Man, holding playing cards, saying "Brains?" (brains?)

[personal profile] chagrined 2012-02-13 09:16 pm (UTC)(link)
Cool, thanks to both of you for the answers! :) Yes, heh, as a seed account holder myself, I probably wouldn't use more icon space, since I don't even use the space I have now, but I was interested in knowing more about how it'd work anyway.
musyc: Green background with silver snake illustration (Slytherin: Mascot)

[personal profile] musyc 2012-02-13 09:21 pm (UTC)(link)
Would there be some way possible to select "please keep these fifteen as active"? I don't know if the coding would be too complex or if the option would be confusing, but I know whenever my icons expired, LJ always picked the most random and useless ones. I rarely changed from my default in my journal, but I used a variety in comms and comments - the very places I commented most often with a non-default icon were the places I couldn't switch, after an expiration. (I'm thinking things like my mod icon for a comm I owned, or an OTP icon I always used for fic advertising. Icons that were never used in my journal, used A LOT outside of it.)
kate: Kate Winslet is wryly amused (Default)

[personal profile] kate 2012-02-13 09:23 pm (UTC)(link)
Not helpful, but: \o/

This sounds like an excellent plan. And I'm a seed account that probably won't be buying any icon slots, though I might buy them for my other (paid) account.
mark: A photo of Mark kneeling on top of the Taal Volcano in the Philippines. It was a long hike. (Default)

[staff profile] mark 2012-02-13 09:25 pm (UTC)(link)
I admit, I drew some of the inspiration from models like this I've seen in MMOs/online games that I've played. I.e., you pay $x to access an additional character slot, which you then get to keep as long as your account is active. World of Warcraft uses this with bank slots, e.g., but that's in-game currency and not dollars. Similar idea though.

Personally, I consider it a compromise between having a system that is "ideal" for the business (pay for what you use) and "ideal" for the customer (minimize confusion, maximize utility). While Dreamwidth stands to make more money (over time, less up front) if we implemented a system like LJ's, I think that it's not the right call for us.

Additionally, the proposed system is cheaper on some other fronts -- easier to build, easier to maintain, easier to document, easier to support. That counts for a lot right now -- we're a small project! We don't really have tons of staff, and almost every one of our developers also has day jobs that pay the bills.
musyc: Stock photo of old-fashioned hanging lantern (Stock: Lantern)

[personal profile] musyc 2012-02-13 09:25 pm (UTC)(link)
OH YAY HURRAH. Yes, yes, yes. As you've said so often, it's the tiny things that make people so happy. That's one of mine. XD
opusculus: Higurashi's Rika and Hanyuu are adorable and innocent and totally safe (Innocuous adorableness)

[personal profile] opusculus 2012-02-13 09:56 pm (UTC)(link)
I like this a lot, personally. Even when I was buying the add-on packages for icons for LJ I never quite bothered understanding it, and this suits perfectly how I actually go through my accounts.

My big question from this is how will you be able to split up icon slots when you transfer accounts? Say you're an RPer, and you had 10 characters, and you got a new job and dropped down to 4 for a bit because you just didn't have time, and then when you started adjusting to the new job you went back to 6 or so and want to redivide some of the ones you sent to the four accounts when you dropped. Or, for that matter, say you've played this character for years, know exactly what icons you need and you need forty extra and you have 60 extra, and you have this shiny new just apped character who needs all the icons. How flexibly could you divide them among your accounts?
kyrielle: A photo of kyrielle, in profile, turned slightly toward the viewer (Default)

[personal profile] kyrielle 2012-02-13 10:03 pm (UTC)(link)
And I wanted to have permanent "premium paid" features, but...dear lord I will never use all my current icon slots. (Never say never. But I think it unlikely. Heh. I actually am contemplating *removing* some of my icons. I swear I have some I never have used, and likely never will.)
algeh: (hmm)

[personal profile] algeh 2012-02-13 10:05 pm (UTC)(link)
That sounds like a well-thought-out plan, while not something I'd actually use (I'd basically like to be able to use all of the icons I already have and use on LJ, which is less than 50 but more than 15, here also without a recurring cost because I suck at those, and I understand why it doesn't make business sense for you to offer me some way to permanently up my quota to 40-ish icons from 15 without a recurring payment, so that's more of an "I want a pony, but definitely not to take care of a pony" want).

What I'd really like (in addition to being able to select *which* 15 I get to keep, which I see from the comments above is already in the bug database) is to be able to mark over-quota icons as "archival" or something rather than deleting them so that I'd be able to easily re-activate them with the same keywords (and have them thus again show up on old posts/comments) if I ever did buy a paid account again.

Right now, if I want to track that info for possible icon re-use if I buy a paid account again later, I have to make a note-to-self somewhere of what keywords I've used with what icon before I delete it and save the icon elsewhere with that info attached. Since the icon costs presumably come mostly from displaying the icon all over the site rather than from storing it on disk, I suspect only making it viewable to the user and no one else and only on their icons page (or even on a separate "archived icons" page to further reduce incidental loads) wouldn't add too much cost compared with deletion (and possibly add a temptation for users to re-buy their paid account again since they'd then be able to quickly use the old icon they remembered they wanted, whereas now they'd have to go look for it and might get sidetracked in that process).
kyrielle: A photo of kyrielle, in profile, turned slightly toward the viewer (Default)

[personal profile] kyrielle 2012-02-13 10:07 pm (UTC)(link)
I can see that being a headache for someone who consolidates and then regrets it, but I also see the advantage to not letting someone shove bits here and pieces there. If partial transfers are allowed, maybe only two options - "all extra slots" or "block of X" where X is an acceptable (business-wise) number. For example, if X ended up being 20, someone with 10 extra slots would have to transfer them all - but someone with 25 could transfer 20, then transfer the other 5 somewhere else (or keep them there). Someone with 80 could transfer 20 off and keep the other 60, or send batches of 20 to four separate accounts.

...I'm actually just musing about ways to keep it simple if it's done, and not suggesting it should be or shouldn't be done, by the way. I cannot imagine a future in which I need more icons than this account can have. *wry*
elialshadowpine: (Default)

[personal profile] elialshadowpine 2012-02-13 10:11 pm (UTC)(link)
Oh goddess bless you. My icon pack on LJ just expired (because of all the "free" time they have added due to the DDoSes, my actual paid account doesn't expire for a bit yet) and there is absolutely no rhyme nor reason to what they've chosen to keep active.

Along those lines, is there support for changing your default icon when you technically are out of icon spaces?
kriski: (Default)

[personal profile] kriski 2012-02-13 10:17 pm (UTC)(link)
i love the idea. i have about 80 icons uploaded right now. and use regularly (or, you know, AT ALL) maybe half a dozen. icon-heavy is just not the way my personal DW usage developed over time. so, unfortunately, i cannot give constructive input in terms of possible snags i might forsee...i'm simply very unlikely to ever come close to even looking in that direction.

however, I LOVE THE IDEA LOTS! it sounds very logical and fair and if it's feasible to you from a business perspective, i'll be proud and pleased as punch to have my online home at a place that can be a variety of things for an oodleplex of user needs.
haruka: kermit waving arms with caption yay omg (zz - kermit-yay)

[personal profile] haruka 2012-02-13 10:21 pm (UTC)(link)
That's a relief, because I'm one seed account holder who will definitely be purchasing more icons! :D My wife and I are tired of RPing on Insanejournal only because all our icons are there. We miss our DW features when we're away!
algeh: (hmm)

[personal profile] algeh 2012-02-13 10:22 pm (UTC)(link)
Having through about it slightly more, here's a dynamic that you may not have considered (I'm not sure how it actually affects your calculations, but it's worth thinking about if you haven't):

"Gifting" icon slots around between users. For example, [user 1] posts "I'm going to let my paid account lapse because reasons. Who wants my extra icon slots, since I won't be using them anymore?" [user 2], who has a paid account and likes free stuff, steps up and asks for them, and the slots are transferred to [user 2]'s account.

In and of itself, this may or may not be an issue you've already thought of, but it also creates two new additional sources of headaches that may be less obvious:

- [user 1] buys a paid account again in a year and wants [user 2] to give them back their icon slots. [user 2] either doesn't want to, or, if implemented as upthread where you can't transfer partial amounts of slots, may be unable to due to having also bought other slots. Anger ensues. Presuambly, this can be solved by making it officially Not DW's Problem, but it's worth being aware of.

- [user 1], rather than gifting the slots to [user 2], sells them to [user 2] for less than the cost they'd be to buy originally. [user 1] is happy because they got money for something they aren't able to use anyway, [user 2] is happy because they got a discount, but it creates problems for Dreamwidth since people would presumably look for icons on this "secondary market" before buying directly from DW and thus throw off the cost projections, and also because, no matter what kind of DON'T DO THIS NO REALLY policy DW has in place, users would still get defrauded and then complain to DW when someone didn't follow through with transferring the slots they'd "paid" for.
opusculus: Digital Devil Saga's Argilla's voring mouthboobs (Cannibal mouthboobs)

[personal profile] opusculus 2012-02-13 10:22 pm (UTC)(link)
That makes sense! I'd expect complete granularity or all at once for the sake of simplicity, and complete granularity just strikes me as an invitation to constantly max out the icons based on who they're playing today for some RPers. A mild ongoing cost for the way some RPers prefer to play sounds more reasonable to me.

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