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Wednesday, April 16, 2014


Steve Cole's thoughts on ADB and the future of the SFU.

1. One constant problem around this place is that there are too many jobs chasing too few people, and not enough money to hire new people. Getting Jean was supposed to help, but she seems fully busy and the only part of my job she took off of my list of too many jobs were jobs I wasn't doing anyway, so I'm just as busy as I ever was.

2. One aspect of too few people is that constant delay of small but worthwhile projects that just get lost in the cluster. Between doing what it takes to keep the company going and producing entire new products, these smaller projects just never happen. That makes the very creative people who sent them in very upset that they aren't getting any love. It also means some things that are entirely internal also aren't getting done. These are not the "very small" projects where somebody wants something and I take ten minutes and do it; those are one-time things that just get done. I started calling these things quangos (which is a British term meaning something entirely different and unrelated) but finally decided to call them SmaPros, SnapRows, or Small Projects. Looking over the list of things on this list I see an very interesting APP somebody sent in that I never had time to look at (it ran afoul of the lack of a device that could run it, but Jean put it on her Xoom), finding the files for JagdPanther #7, getting the damaged drywall fixed in the back room, and about 30 other things.

3. Jean argued with me for a year over how much to upload to DriveThru RPG and Wargame Vault. I wanted to stick mostly if not only to Warehouse 23 because is has lower fees and is run by a friend of mine. Sometime in February, Jean finally won the argument, and has now started uploading an existing item from Warehouse 23 onto DTRPG/WV every week.

4. As the article in Captain's Log #48 says, we want to improve Starlist, which is our opponent locator service. We know that many of the entries on the list are no longer valid because people move or find new interests, but as there is no way to know which are and which are not valid, we don't delete anything. (Besides, we use it as a master address list in case we need to track down somebody who submitted something a decade ago that we finally got around to using.) The plan to "improve" the list is twofold: reduce the number of obsolete entries and increase the number of valid entries. To reduce the obsolete ones, we have four initiatives. First, we moved everybody from before 2000 to a separate archive list. Second, we cross-check the entries from one state every day (unless we're busy) to identify and remove duplicate entries. Third, we have started to email the people with entries from 2000-2004 to see if they are still valid. It will take months to complete that step, but it does turn some old entries into new ones, removes dead email addresses, and removes some people who are no longer interested. Fourth, we are offering a campaign ribbon to anyone who will contact 20 people on their local list and report which entries are valid or not. To add more new entries, we made the Starlist form on the website easier to use, Jean advertises Starlist every month, and Leanna added an "Add me to Starlist" button to the shopping cart. Nobody gets on Starlist without asking to be on it and providing their own contact information.

5. In late March, Shawn Hantke (who has done a lot of nice things for us regarding PDFs) sent in a surprise new product: SFB SSDs colorized in the Fed Commander pattern. We debated whether to sell this on the download sites. The primary objection was "Will it make people demand that we do all of the SSDs this way?" Well, maybe it will, but people  have been asking for that for a long time anyway, and Shawn's tournament project will show us whether anybody will really buy these things. If only a few buy them, we know to divert Shawn's energy in other directions. If a hundred buy them, we do indeed need to offer more products this way.
6. On the same day that Shawn sent in that project, Gary Carney sent in the Federation Commander Magellanic Playtest Pack. Gary is the "all things non-Alpha" guy and previously did the FC Omega Playtest Pack" which has sold 100 copies so far. We told him to make a few fixes and we'd upload it ASAP. Gary had a reputation for being a pest but has turned into a real staffer of great value to the company. We had to take time to teach him how to do things, such as marking any new material he created in the middle of a larger product so we could identify and review it before it became an official part of the universe.

7. Steven Petrick finished the Federation Master Starship Book but has been waiting for me to do the art. One night at dinner we kicked around ideas for how to do this more efficiently than the way we tried to do it earlier, and hit upon one that may work (to do the ships it batches of the base hull type; I will print out a sheet of the stock hull and Steven P will mark what greebles to change for each variant). Meanwhile, somebody asked if it would include X-ships and Y-ships. We debated this for some time, but finally decided that the book (which currently does not include those) needs to be finished and marketed to see if it paid the cost of two months of Steven Petrick design time and a month of me doing graphics. We need to prove the books will sell before letting them get bigger.