A SoSa Retrospective
Hello, is it me you’re looking for?
I thought it’d be nice to take a step back this sprint and do a bit of a retrospective of the last year, see how far we’ve come help give me perspective for the new year!
Before we start looking into how far SoSa has come this year, I wanted to say thank you to everyone who is reading this, whether you’re part of the community, the beta list or just been following our journey from the side lines.
Every one over the last year has been really supportive of what i’m creating and me and I appreciate every single one of you for all your attention, moral support and even financial support.
Even if you haven’t physically done any code, your support has been enough to keep me motivated! So thank you!
I wanted to give special thanks to stand out people who have helped in their own way either by helping create SoSa to date, supporting me or the community directly.
My Mum (she’s just awesome)
Ash Philips (General Support)
Peter Day (Designer)
Karl Aldred (Writer)
Corina Diaz (Writer)
Federica Monticelli (Designer / Tester)
|Patrons (Current and old)||Testers||Mods|
|cbas||Tristan||High King of Skyrim|
The beginning (December 2019)
As you can imagine, it’s quite hard to break down everything that has happened in the last year but I will do my best.
2020 has been an incredibly difficult and interesting time for everyone. When I started this journey I was working full time on SoSa, it was a risk but one I very much looked forward to.
The original plan was to have SoSa live for the end of 2019, but very quickly Covid escalated and it seemed like a sensible idea to get a job before I run out of money! so that’s what I did!
But not before meeting danda and onelatte in prague! <3
Meetups are something I’ve especially enjoyed this year, I wasn’t sure if I should start these again so early in the year but I’m glad we have!
We’ve been running them every two weeks since early Jan, and had a total of 23 in total, not accounting for all the impromptu game nights community members have run!
I don’t think i’ve had a single game night where I haven’t enjoyed everyone’s company and the general banter, energy in the room! it’s been a lot of fun and seen some old faces return to the community which I always love
My main regret is that I’ve not had more time to create more videos from the game nights for everyone to enjoy, but we have been recording every game night and I hope over 2021 I will get more time to turn those videos into clips for you all to enjoy!
Stats / Metrics
Over the last year i’ve been tracking a few metrics to help me measure reach and “success”, although in the great scheme of things these aren’t particularly important they still help me see progress when it’s not so obvious on the development side.
|Metric||December 2019||December 2020|
|Beta list followers||11||391|
|Patreon||0 ($0)||16 ($260)|
|Daily Unique visitors (Average)||500||800|
|Google Position (Average)||45.7||22.6|
In most cases, except Google Position, a bigger number is better.
Patreon and LinkedIn are probably the most stand out improvements. Patreon I wasn’t honestly expecting anything from but almost every month it feels like we get a new Patron and that’s incredible.
I think the LinkedIn change has a lot to do with my more proactive approach over the last year to posting, I’ve made a real effort to connect and engage with people.
Could I have done the same on Twitter or Facebook? yes of course, but I felt LinkedIn would benefit my professional life as well as SoSa.
Also, I feel like engagement on LinkedIn is higher than i would see with similar activity on Facebook or Twitter, we’ve got 24,000 natural followers on Facebook and posts barely get any engagement but LinkedIn most posts will get something.
The other surprising change for me is Google, I actually had a big uphill battle with the sosa.net domain last year and the start of this year, the previous owner used it to spam everywhere and so trying to share it on major platforms I would be seen as a spammer.
So I spent a lot of time working on the domains reputation, slowly increasing the number of natural backlinks to it and consistently asking Facebook to re-evaluate the domain with the hope they would unban it (which they did)
The Google position isn’t incredible by any stretch, but it’s moving in the right direction and I’m hoping in 2021 I can put more energy into the quality of our backlinks and the content that we’re sharing across the web.
Obviously development has been a big part of 2020, and where a lot of my effort has gone into, although i’ve been developing websites and apps for a very long time I hadn’t really ever built a new app in React native before and so this was also a great opportunity to upskill myself and build the community I want to build.
The downside of that was of course that early development was really “gritty” and it took a while to build out some basic components and get a better understanding of the platform I’ve chosen to develop in.
Another side effect of using React Native is that it’s actually quite a buggy ego system and although that’s ok for a lot of apps, I want SoSa to be a really tight experience so i’ve spent the time trying to make sure things run properly instead of settling for “this will do”
I did however have a lot of experience building backends, websites and services so a lot of my first few months was spent building the backend, chat server and authentication systems, the very early iteration of the app looked a bit… basic!
From April, I started putting more energy into the app itself, building out the login, registration, and adding core features to chat like tagging, spam protection, a proper navigation system all the good stuff!
With all that work, I was still building out the backend, testing and tweaking so It wasn’t until September that we had something that resembled a more polished experience where I started adding social logins, comment handling, meetups, settings, basic profiles and a bunch of other nice to have features.
And then in October / November work was getting a bit more stressful, so I spent more of my time upgrading the frameworks I had built to date to make them more robust and then spent the end of November, early December cleaning up some of the designs, integrating meetups, adding meetups add screen, adding uploads, embeds and a bunch of other cool features in a relatively short space of time.
This is how the app looks today and looking back, considering i’ve been working a full time job i’m really pleased with how far it’s come!
This is something I’ve had to outsource a lot as I can’t even draw a strawman without fucking it up and I want the whole platform to have a really unique aesthetic and brand.
The first thing that we started designing were the Patreon badges, as I felt that needed a bit of colour and would help me decide what kind of aesthetic I want to go for with the website and app.
One of the tiers is “Power Mad” and I wanted to have a mad scientist giraffe, this is the first iteration of that and whilst it’s a great looking design – it’s very sharp and angry. I want SoSa to feel fun, friendly and a bit derpy so it just wasn’t going to fit.
After a few iterations, this is what we came up with for all the badges and the aesthetic I’ll be continuing the rest of the platform in.
So that’s the patreons sorted, but now I had alpha testers and I couldn’t help but feel like the bots we were using were a bit boring and really not showing the personality I want to get across with SoSa so we set about making a Botface generator! So that all the bots could have unique faces 🙂
Now on first appearance, these don’t look like much – but along with the backend I built, we have 9 heads, eyes, mouths and ears that can all be arranged however we want.
This allows me to generate a total of 6500 bot faces before you introduce custom face and background colours – allowing for millions of variations.
That’s great for Bots, but what about users? Well! We’ve been doing something very similar for human and alien faces too (ignore the pink that’s just because it’s still being worked on)
I’ve also started working with another very talented designer to help building out and design the whole website and apps, I’m only sharing that with Patreon’s at the moment but we’re already a few iterations in and I’m really excited about building out what she’s creating!
Something very few people know about and that i’ve kept quiet about is the lore.
You’re probably wondering “James, why does a social network need a lore?” and you’re right. It’s weird – but I have my reasons and they will all make sense over the next year!
I won’t go in to much detail about it now, but essentially I want an under-pinning lore, something that’s happening in the background of SoSa.
This year I’ve worked with several incredible writers to try and flesh out my vision.
We’ve managed to create a core story, encompassing why SoSa exists, some main characters, and helping explain some of the mechanics of the platform.
I’ve never worked with writers before so this was a huge learning experience for me, but I’m really pleased with the progress we made over this year with the story. I hope 2021 we will get to flesh it out more whilst I’m developing SoSa and that it’s something I can share more with people.
It’s been an incredible journey so far and whilst I’m disappointed that I haven’t achieved what I set out to achieve, I don’t think anyone expected 2020 to happen.
It’s been a crazy year and looking back, I’m really proud of the amount I’ve achieved this year and absolutely taken back with the amount of support I’ve gotten from everyone.
I thought taking a job would cause a much bigger slow down than it has and I’m pleased I’ve found a company that understands what I want to build with SoSa.
Although i think you’ll agree most of this post has been positive, I wanted to end in an extra positive note showcasing some of the things people have sent me this year through e-mail, dms and even surveys that make me believe building SoSa is the right thing to do!
Thank you to everyone once again, have a great Christmas and I’m looking forward to seeing SoSa go live again with you and the rest of the community in 2021