Today I wanted to talk a bit about the birth and objectives of WIPUP – a subject I haven’t really revealed before. WIPUP, for those who aren’t already familiar with it – is an open-source web application I created which allows people to document, share, track, and critique their works-in-progresses, or in short, WIPs.
The project began quite a while back. I had made relatively significant progress on the ThoughtScore project – my hobby animated film, and I wasn’t content with sharing it on the BlenderArtists forum – it seemed very limited and non-specialised for project documentation. I had also had the VisionBin project – a portfolio-generator webapp – running for a few months. My “finished” renders didn’t fit well there either. VisionBin had been running for some time and it wasn’t doing too well – the concept wasn’t differentiated enough and it didn’t perform its task particularly well either (especially in hindsight). I also hadn’t touched programming for a while and was getting a tad rusty.
That’s right – the time was ripe for a new project.
I evaluated the situation and decided that I needed to make a system dedicated to sharing the in-between. Not the mini-projects and small-time creations which forums, blogs, twitters, deviantarts, etc, were fine for, but also not for massive projects which were kept under wraps until they were unveiled – for everybody to enjoy the finished project but disregard the beautiful, hidden, shunned process behind it. I needed to expose this beautiful process. This was the key behind keeping ThoughtScore alive. Turning the arduous learning process behind an impossibly ambitious project into something to be celebrated. This – yes – this was WIPUP.
As you can see, WIPUP was a very selfish invention. It was a system for myself. I wasn’t interested in communities or distribution. In fact, the first release on WIPUP wasn’t built on the open-source Kohana framework, but instead on a company-tied solution called CodeIgniter, and that WIPUP release was closed-source.
It was only later when I was frustrated with some of the slowly developed aspects of the CI framework did I have a discussion with the folks in the Kohana channel, and WIPUP was half-built did I begin the Eadrax project. The Eadrax project was the open-source rewrite of the then alpha-quality WIPUP under Kohana. That was the time I decided to share this system – and guest WIPs and user accounts were added to the system
During the development of Eadrax, I was exposed to similar projects such as Dribbble, the *bins (temporary WIP hosting), and various others I can’t recall right now. They still didn’t suit me – they lacked flexibility and organisation. For flexibility – most were very oriented towards a very specific format – an image snapshot, a sound upload, etc. None offered the flexibility to have an update to be a simple as a Tweet to the complexity of embedded video and multiple image attachments. I worked on a huge variety of projects and just supporting one but excluding others wasn’t good enough for me. Similarly, for organisation, none seemed to offer any form of proper project categorisation. I needed a way to separate out my work into projects – view my progress as a whole and split within projects. That was how projects in WIPUP were introduced (they were also taken from VisionBin)
Finally – I needed my data to be free. I didn’t want my careful documentation of my personal projects to be lost to a third-party, forever bound within the constraints of their system. I needed to be able to retrieve it however I wanted and format it as I liked. None of those systems were open-source or offered any form of security. WIPUP then turned open-source, and implemented the Open Collaboration Services API, and is now looking towards project export capabilities.
Much more interesting than these dissatisfactions was the realisation that my needs were – perhaps sadly – a rarity. Count the number of people you know who has a hobby where they create stuff which can be shared. Now within that group of people, count the number whose hobbies have sufficiently long-term work-in-progress periods such that it makes sense to document the process. Already we have a very small number of people, if any. Then, out of the remaining few, pick out those who have multiple concurrent projects of varying nature and characteristics. Almost nobody? Perhaps one or two? Finally, single out those who actually want to or can share this process. That’s the killer. Most can’t. Most don’t want to. Perhaps they’re restricted by a group project or by a company. Perhaps it’s such an amazing project they believe it should be kept completely secret. Perhaps they don’t see the point. Perhaps they don’t have time, or are too focused on the finished product.
I then followed through this realisation by testing out if there really were people in everyday life that thought like me. I took the idea brought about by Atlassian – the idea that once in a while, you have a day where a group of people can do whatever they want – hobbies, work, personal, family, whatever – with the single restriction that at the end of the day they shared what they did alongside an enjoyable, informal dinner. They discovered that this 20-80 ruled production and sharing period was mindblowingly useful. So useful until Google took up the same system and did similar with their employees.
So I took the attitude that whatever I did, I should be proud of it. There isn’t any use in doing something you aren’t proud of. I’m not proud of killing time, and so I made it known to people. I worked on what I loved. And then I shared what I loved. Sadly the feedback was less than favourable. People didn’t share the same interest I did in just hearing about things people love – irregardless of field or industry. Extrapolating that – I didn’t find people who wanted to be proud of what they did. They were content with just living. Perhaps I was searching in the wrong place, perhaps I was searching at the wrong time, perhaps I was searching for the wrong signals.
Slowly digesting this information – I realised more and more that WIPUP is built for almost nobody. It was designed for such a niche that the euphemism of the word “niche” (ie. most people simply don’t care) doesn’t apply any more. This brings up a very important thing to consider – what do I want to achieve for WIPUP outside my personal wants and needs?
In WIPUP’s current state, most of the previous users have moved on. Despite being online for a couple years, WIPUP is only home to 150 user accounts, only a handful of which are active (ie. can be counted on your hand), and of those which are active, the majority are people I have known for some time online. There are no advertisments, no total filesize restrictions, completely for free, and recently it seems as though some idiot has written a bot to register an account and insert updates with spam links in them. Development has stalled due to almost all of the features I wanted to include already implemented.
So what exactly, then, is WIPUP’s current objective?
I’m hunting, folks. I’m hunting. More to come.