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.
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?
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.
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?
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).
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.
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.
inarticulate: Aisling from The Secret of Kells (zomg!)

[personal profile] inarticulate 2012-02-13 10:26 pm (UTC)(link)
My only problem is that I can't tell if you mean "paid account in general" in the post or "just premium paid." Otherwise, this looks really interesting, and I'd be really curious about how it works out!
kerravonsen: (Default)

[personal profile] kerravonsen 2012-02-13 10:33 pm (UTC)(link)
This sounds nifty! I like the idea that the icon slots are permanent; it feels like great value for money! And also that it is less complicated to explain AND less complicated to implement.

I'm one of those seed account holders who haven't used up all their icon slots. Partly because I also have an LJ seed account and I crosspost everything, and LJ has fewer icon slots than DW does for seed accounts (212 versus 250). Also because I feel more comfortable having icon slots free for future use than filling them all up right now and then having to swap out icons later. Yes, I know, some people would call me silly.

[personal profile] rho 2012-02-13 10:47 pm (UTC)(link)
I have no interest in this personally (I don't even know how many icons I'm allowed; so long as it's higher than 0, I'm happy) but this seems like a sensible system. My biggest concern would be what would happen with compromised accounts.

For instance, user x has 20 extra icon slots. They also have an email address on hotmail that expired two years ago and a password of blink182. User y says "yoink" and takes their account, then transfers the icon slots over to their own account.

This isn't too hard to deal with (solution: baninate user y, give user x the icon slots back) but it's worth considering to make sure you have the robust admin back-end that will make doing so easy.
automaticdoor: michelle obama looking super happy with the symbol \o/ (michelle \o/)

[personal profile] automaticdoor 2012-02-13 10:55 pm (UTC)(link)
I think this sounds like a great idea! I'm nowhere near close to using all my icon slots (and I'm probably going to be buying a premium paid account when my paid runs out next, haha, so, REALLY nowhere near close!) but I support this for people who want it! (This also means that you can use the bandwidth I'm not using for them!)

Also holy eff I want icon sets like you were talking about upthread. jdskgkajks YES YES YES. That way I can have holiday ones when I want them and not have them in my list otherwise.

[personal profile] swagneto 2012-02-13 11:12 pm (UTC)(link)
I honestly love the method you guys are presenting for this. From a consumer standpoint I think this is a fantastic idea (and I know next to nothing about economics, so you'll have to forgive me!) in that add ons have always struck me as a permanent fixture rather than temporary ones. Also the fact that you need a paid account seems perfectly understandable to me and basically I have nothing to contribute as far as discussion goes, except yes, do want.

The only thing I might see an issue with is maybe the numbers in that I'm curious if getting a premium paid (in terms of icons rather than features) will be nullified by the add ons + regular paid account.
ariestess: (Default)

[personal profile] ariestess 2012-02-13 11:45 pm (UTC)(link)
Oh how fun! I'm nowhere near my 250 currently, but this is something I would definitely want to do if I did max out...
bzero: C3PO from Star Wars (C3PO)

[personal profile] bzero 2012-02-13 11:53 pm (UTC)(link)
This seems very fair, cool, and uncomplicated. Kudos for explaining the thinking behind it and soliciting feedback BEFORE you jump in with both feet. One more reason why I <3 Dreamwidth.
lannamichaels: Matt Smith holds two thumbs up, before heading into Certain Danger. Cap from season 5 promo trailers. (yay)

[personal profile] lannamichaels 2012-02-14 12:01 am (UTC)(link)
Thanks for doing this. :) I just want to second what other people have said, that if you could only transfer only some of them, that would be great. So the same way you can give dreamwidth points to people, I could donate a couple icon slots as a prize for a contest, or I could divide the extra spots between a couple of RP journals. This would especially be useful if, say, I have just a paid account and I want a bunch of extra icon slots, but not enough to make it be worth buying a premium paid for that account, so I get a lot of extra slots. It would be really great if that could be divided up instead of having to remain a chunk.
runpunkrun: rodney mckay looking intent (genius at work)

[personal profile] runpunkrun 2012-02-14 12:13 am (UTC)(link)
I like the idea of only having to buy extra icons once. Over at LJ my paid account and extra icons always expire separately, and it's a hassle to keep track of. Over here, I'm right up against the 100 icon limit and need some extra slots! I'm just worried that, because the extra icons will cost more upfront, it might seem like too much money to me.
boundbooks: Zhang Ziyi (dinosaur: running)

[personal profile] boundbooks 2012-02-14 12:35 am (UTC)(link)
I have two concerns with this proposed plan: permanent icon slots seems to be very similar to regular seed sale accounts, which DW has been against, and making the slots a permanent add-on would seems to negate the effect of the majority of low-usage users subsidize the high-volume users for expensive features.

Like seed sales, it's a one-time payment from the people who are most inclined to pay in the future. Unlike the current balancing of paid account features, this is not a case where the majority of low-volume icon users could subsidizing the small number of high-volume icon users. People who are buying more icons are doing so to use more icons.

With the current proposed icon addon packages, it seems to me like the worst of both worlds: it's a one time payment (sacrificing the future revenue of the people who would most likely pay for this feature) and everyone who buys more icons is a high-volume user (no one subsidizes).

As a user, this plan would be great because it's cheaper and easy for me. From a DW-business perspective, I'm not sure it works.

I'd really, really love to see why you and Mark feel that this one feature plan is the exception to two of those foundational practices for keeping DW in the black: not sacrificing long-term revenue for short-term profits, and boosting features by subsidizing it among many users.

I'm not trying to be a downer, but I'm just really confused by how this proposed plan wouldn't end up costing DW a lot of money in the long run.
jumpuphigh: Pigeon with text "jumpuphigh" (Default)

[personal profile] jumpuphigh 2012-02-14 12:44 am (UTC)(link)
Another seed account here not even close to maxing out her icon spaces. I think, on average, I add about 10 icons per year. So, in 20 years, I'll be looking for extra icon space. :D I wonder what Dreamwidth will look like at that point.
libskrat: (souza)

[personal profile] libskrat 2012-02-14 01:30 am (UTC)(link)
Possibly a really stupid question, or I missed something, but: will icon slots be giftable?
yourlibrarian: DeanThatstheBreaks-hysterya (SPN-DeanThatstheBreaks-hysterya)

[personal profile] yourlibrarian 2012-02-14 02:57 am (UTC)(link)
This sounds like a great idea. I'll bet this will be a really popular gift feature.
tameiki: (Default)

[personal profile] tameiki 2012-02-14 03:15 am (UTC)(link)
Sounds like you guys have thought this through pretty well already! I like your idea even if I don't need any extra icon space, my friends probably wouldn't mind being gifted some. And, as [staff profile] denise mentioned in a comment below, the image hosting for icon sets sounds marvelous! \o/ *throws confetti*

Thank you for your clear communication and listening to user feedback!
0jack: Closeup of Boba Fett's helmet, angular orange stripe surrounding a narrow window on a greenish metallic field. (Walking out of the movie of my past.)

[personal profile] 0jack 2012-02-14 04:11 am (UTC)(link)
I like this idea. You're basically buying extra base capacity for your (paid, correct?) account.... which is remarkably generous of you. I do like the idea that it's an investment and not a recurring fee.

Are accounts going to be structured to have a master account at any point? Because then could you just wad up the total icon space a user has allowed to them and let them sort it out?
Edited 2012-02-14 04:11 (UTC)
lorax: Diana from White Collar, with text reading "this girl is taking bets" (WC - Diana "Girl is Taking Bets")

[personal profile] lorax 2012-02-14 05:49 am (UTC)(link)
I've been adding icons as I find them/want them, but kind of holding off because I was wary of hitting the limit and then having to delete, so the idea of extra, permanent slots is fantastic, and something I would probably most certainly use.

And as an RP'er who still mostly functions on IJ because of icon slots (it is HARD to get RPers to move over and away from 100 free slots), I love it as an enticement for Rpers. Paying for something and being able to KEEP it from account to account would be lovely.
februaryfour: (Default)

[personal profile] februaryfour 2012-02-14 06:08 am (UTC)(link)
I don't care for icons (*says the person who ONLY USES ONE and keeps old ones around because she can't be bothered to delete them*) but this looks fair/neat to me!
sashataakheru: (Default)

[personal profile] sashataakheru 2012-02-14 06:19 am (UTC)(link)
I really like this idea. Gods know I never understood the way LJ did their icon packs/paid accounts/idek. It was expensive enough with the exchange rate. Then they went and made it complicated.

Being able to buy icons and only pay once is a definite benefit. Particularly if I could only buy as many as I needed, rather than end up with IDK 300 icon slots when I don't really need that many.

At the moment, I mainly use my icon slots as fandom/pairing icons for when I post fic, but I'd be interested in buying an extra 10 or 20 if it meant I could have some more personal icons as well as keep something of a buffer, too.

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