Season finale of great TV shows often recaps the highs and lows of what’s happened during the year. Grab a cup of mulled wine, curl up on your sofa and prepare for some nostalgia and hazy memories of grandeur while our co-founder Linus wraps up 2011.
January, Episode 1 – “We Want Donations!”
Crazy times, Wikileaks broke into the mainstream and it was clear that a lot of people couldn’t or didn’t want to use PayPal to support the controversial organization. Flattr came to rescue and released the most requested feature at the time – donations. Peter and myself shared some thoughts later why we decided to stick with them during that tough time.
January also introduced Flattr QR codes that started as a hobby project by our team. Suddenly it was possible to take Flattr out of the digital and into the real world. Apps to scan the codes for both iPhone and Android followed shortly.
February, Episode 2 – “That Warm And Fuzzy Feeling”
Nothing gives karma points like supporting a charity so we teamed up with a site we love – givv.org – to make it possible to flattr a number of the biggest and most well-known charity organizations in the world.
Winning the Swedish Hoola Bandoola band award was something that meant a lot to us and we topped off the month by making our website available in more languages. Good timing too as Peter (the other co-founder) took to the stage in Germany and within 40 minutes turned our Teutonic friends into our biggest fans. Vielen Dank!
March, Episode 3 – “Big Country, Big Party”
Everything is bigger in Texas, and of course we had to go and check out the biggest of them all, the SXSW. It was time to put guitar virtuosos, drummers and acrobats to work and see if they could make a living by displaying large QR codes instead of the traditional tip jar while entertaining the folks on the streets of Austin.
April, Episode 4 – “The Good, The Bad And The Changes”
Being questioned, even accused, of running some kind of pyramid scheme is never fun, especially when we had designed a system that we thought was perfect. Listening to user feedback we did one of the most fundamental changes to Flattr system so far – got rid of the loved/hated requirement of forcing every user to give money in order to receive money.
In hindsight it was also one of the best changes we’ve ever done.
May, Episode 5 – “A Tweet That Matters”
The long anticipated feature of flattring any Twitter account was a match made in heaven. It was obvious that while finding someone’s email address was hard, their Twitter handle was public and just one search away.
Both users and journalists loved and love it and while Randall Munroe of the XKCD fame still hasn’t claimed his hundreds of flattrs (he’s #1 in the unclaimed list) it immediately opened up Flattr to a whole new audience of authors and creators.
June, Episode 6 – “Sounds In The Clouds”
“Our band has made more money with Flattr than with iTunes” is the sort of thing one loves to hear. Teaming up with Soundcloud and making it simple to add a Flattr button into all your Soundcloud tunes really was a no brainer. (Later in the year another music plaform Libre.fm jumped on board and I have a feeling ;) we’ll see a lot more happening in the music space).
A lot of Flattr buttons is nothing without enough people who want to support their favorite creators so joining forces with Telenor that is one of the largest ISP in Europe meant that we had a big partner helping us grow by seeding customer accounts with some “welcome to Flattr” money.
July, Episode 7 – “Sharing Is Caring”
Summer, the time of vacations, enjoying the beach, a cocktail (or 6), BBQ, and sharing good times with your friends.
In the spirit of sharing our buttons got an overhaul and new sharing functionality to make it easier to tell your own friends and followers what great content was SO GREAT that you just had to hit that button. In the end flattring is not just about the money, (social) recognition is just as important.
August, Episode 8 – “A Conference Called “The Conference””
Attending SXSW earlier in the year had given us a crazy idea we wanted to test – making an entire conference flattrable. That meant you could flattr the speakers, the presentations, other participants, baristas, you name it. The Conference (god bless the brave souls on the choice of this Google-friendly name), that took place on our home turf in Malmö, was the perfect testing ground.
I belive it turned out a great success, the visitors actually got a bit crazy about the set up and we had queues in our booth almost all of the time. I’ll put this down to the great looks of our team, not the €10 we gave everyone to test out the service ;)
September, Episode 9 – “OMG!!! Nothing Is Happening!”
September was one of the weakest episodes we produced this year. It might look like that the only thing we did was copy something from Facebook (gasp!) and removed our dying tech forums to Stack Overflow. The relative silence can only be explained by being deep in the development of under-the-hood technology to be able to extend Flattr in new ways.
Couple of clear learnings from that period:
First, a startup cannot crawl into their cave for weeks and months and secretly develop something. We need to make stuff quick and get it out to collect real world feedback.
Second, even when we’re heads down in dev work that isn’t visible to the user we need to assign some time to actual user experience improvements. Frustrated users = not good. Frustrated users who feel that nothing is happening = bad, bad, bad.
October, Episode 10 – “No REST For The Wicked”
Flattr will only become a real success if we can inspire more 3rd party developers to integrate our service with their products and services. Releasing v2 of our API was the first step to give them the right tools to do so. January will bring a cool developer competition, check back on the 4th of January if you’re a code slinger :)
Live broadcasting service Bambuser, that has been a central tool in both the Egypt revolution but also with the Occupy Wall Street movement, was one of the first to integrate Flattr deep into their service.
November, Episode 11 – “First We’ll Take Manhattan”
Time to escape the cold Sweden but instead of New York we flew to sunny San Francisco to rub noses with the great startups of the west coast and drop by the Crowdconf. Riding the famous cable car and going crazy drinking frappuccinos were inevitable must-see-must-do on the side.
All those meetings paid off on November 29 when the world’s first Pay a Blogger Day took place. We had partnered with great companies/products who helped to promote the idea of giving back to people who’s posts you’ve enjoyed for months and years.
I personally tried to go really crazy with the jetlag flying back to the US just days after of returning from there. This time the destination was the beautiful Savannah in Georgia to turn another event – Geekend – flattrable, and talk about getting your fans to pay for your iPhone 5. I survived the jetlag, but barely.
December, Episode 12 – “Set Phasers On Stun”
With 2011 running out we sat down to contemplate the journey so far and figure that we hadn’t done and gotten far enough! In a few crazy and tough days we changed the team and refocused our efforts on our core product.
This resulted quickly in a more user friendly and better designed dashboard and profile pages. We got rid of the rule that if you don’t flattr anything in a given month we’ll donate your monthly budget to a charity. And thanks to a new framework prepared earlier in the autumn it was relatively easy to roll out a new Chrome add-on that makes it possible to flattr any Wikipedia article.
I was happy that the team finished the year at a high note and user feedback has been positive too. It’s great to see comments like “It feels that Flattr is buzzing again”.
Pheew, it’s been a busy year. To bad you don’t loose any fat of coding, would be especially useful to burn off that Christmas candy.
Teaser for the first episodes of the next season (read with the voice of this man for added cool)
The redesign continues. Flattr will actually become social. Finding cool content comes to focus. Simpler partner integration. Flattring unclaimed content by non-registered users will be extended from just Twitter. Browser add-on will grow out from just Wikipedia.
Thanks for the ride and stay tuned for an even more awesome 2012!