End-of-Year Report

Ok, so it’s the last day of the year for everyone here at Atrixware.

I thought I would report some stats for any of you interested in how things are going with slidepoint.net.

So we went live with the beta on October 17th. Since then, we have spent minimal time on adding anything new, but did spend some time fixing a few things on the site and inside the application itself (based on bug reports).

As most of you know, there are no ‘paid’ plans yet, so the site runs on ad revenue. Our only expense is the server cost, and I am happy to report that the ad revenue is more than covering the server expense. That was (and is) our goal with the beta – the site should pay for itself minimally while we run the beta.

As far as numbers go, we have just under 600 sign-ups so far, and almost 1,000 presentations. We have had about 6,000 unique visitors so far to the site (and almost 25,000 page hits) – which averages out to roughly 100 unique visitors and 500 page hits a day give or take.

For the beta, we have not been doing any advertising – its strictly word-of-mouth and Twitter. We expected slightly less sign-ups but slightly more presentations – so why are some of you not making any presentations? Getting stuck somewhere – please let us know.

We anticipate keeping the beta going for a while until we get more feedback (we have been getting some – thanks!). Overall, most of you say you like the service, would prefer the PowerPoint conversion to occur on the server instead of having to download an app, and wouldn’t mind getting more than 25mb storage to start (although you do gain more storage as you make more presentations and get votes etc). We are listening.

Happy New Year Everyone!


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Documentation is Online

Ok – took a little longer than anticipated, but the documentation is now online at http://www.slidepoint.net/docs/.

We also noticed a blog bug — seems comments are not displaying, nor are links to articles and categories. So, we will be figuring out that anomaly shortly.

As far as numbers go, looks like we are solidly into several hundred sign-ups so far, and the same for presentations. We haven’t really ramped up the advertising for the site yet (since it’s still in beta stage), so overall we are happy with the sign-ups so far. Would like to see some more presentations, but they are also starting to flow in as well.

Also, the ad revenue thusfar has been just about enough to cover the server costs, so not too bad to start. Our goal initially was to make sure the ad revenue at least covered our hard costs, so we are in good shape so far (although it’s been just short of 2 weeks since we have been live).

Will report with another article soon.


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Almost a Week Live

Ok, so we have been live with the beta almost a week as I write this.

So far, lots of sign-ups, but not so much on new presentations.

So, tell us – is there a hang-up somewhere where you get stuck? Is there something holding you back? We want the site to be great, so please let us know (you can tweet us at @slidepointnet).

So, we pretty much finalized everything on the site (as far as the beta goes). Everything *appears* to be functioning, we fixed several reported bugs, and are now collecting lists of ‘feature requests’ for the production release of the site (along with a column for ‘paid plan’ features).

We are also wrapping up the online documentation. We decided to go with a wiki on this, since it’s easier to update as needed. Look for the documentation this coming week.


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Fixing bugs as we go

Well, today (and yesterday) we have been fixing bugs as they are reported. As is always the case, while fixing some things, other things break.

We spotted an editor bug that prevents you from saving (pretty much rendering the editor useless). We are on it – should be fixed by the time you read this – as it is obviously a very important bug to fix.

So we are slowly rolling along. Will keep you updated as we go as always.


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Slidepoint.net is Live

Today (Monday, October 17th, 2011) at approx 2pm EST, slidepoint.net (beta) went live.

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We Are Ready to Go Live

As I write this, I expect us to be live with the beta shortly (hours maybe).

I thought it might be a good time to say what will not be available right away – as in, yes – we will be doing some development work in the system during the beta.

So, here is a list of things that will (magically?) appear during the beta:

  • YouTube Video Cross-Platform Rendering
    Despite our best attempts so far, we can’t seem to find the careful balance of youtube embed codes that work everywhere. We will be on it though -
  • Paid Plan Features
    We have some initial features for this (you will see some in the editor relating to javascript, css and privacy). We will roll out some more and define them better during the beta.
  • Ad Rendering
    Yes – we will be tinkering with different ways to display ads, seeing which ones offer that careful balance of non-intrusive yet we-get-enough-clicks-to-keep-this-service-free ratio.
  • Documentation
    All developers hate writing documentation. So do we :) . However, you will be able to access it – it is planned to be an online-version, so it will be easy to get to. For now though, if you need something, we do have documentation for our Weblearning-Plugin version of the Slidepoint Editor (which is very similar). Its here: http://www.slidepoint.net/files/manual/manual.pdf

Of course, there are dozens of other things to do as well (small bug fixes and feature adds for example), and of course, this platform will be perpetually improved.


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Final Home Found – slidepoint.net Site moved to LiquidWeb

After an exhaustive search and many discussions with various hosting companies, we decided to host the slidepoint.net platform on liquidweb.

We developed the majority of the platform on one of our servers over at rackspace, but we did not want the slidepoint.net traffic/processes/etc to affect our existing sites hosted on that particular server, and quite frankly, rackspace pricing is very expensive these days, so getting a dedicated server was way over budget at this stage.

We researched various ‘cloud’ options. We looked at rackspace and amazon. I’ll admit it up front – cloud servers are a mystery to us — we have very little experience with them – we are ‘old school’ I guess you could say, we just know servers.

So, I had a long discussion with the folks at rackspace, and here is what I got out of it.

  1. a cloud server is pretty much just a VPS server, with metered usage
  2. cloud servers start cheaper (when they are not used, that is), but you pay way more when you actually use it (not to mention the paltry specs you get)
  3. they don’t automatically ‘scale’ (I guess the ‘cloud buzz’ tricked my thinking)
  4. want support? add $100/month (and then some)

I my opinion (based solely on my conversation), there is zero benefit to using the rackspace cloud servers. Maybe its just me.

So, we spent two days tinkering around with the amazon cloud servers. Basically, you get a linux box with a command line. While we were able to get something going, it became clear this was going to be a non-starter. What happens if something goes wrong? What if something breaks? There is zero support initially. You can add support, but it gets very expensive, and quite honestly, it is not very clear. In the end, pretty much the same scenario as rackspace cloud – if you want any level of support, monitoring (any kind of reasonable SLA), expect to pay some big bucks.

So, we went with liquidweb. They have a nice assortment of VPS and Dedicated Server plans, each which can scale in either direction. Their starting price is approachable (they are as low as $60/month for a very capable VPS), they have a quite nice interface for building servers, cloning, backing up, etc. The key for us was this – the prices include 24x7x365 phone support, port and hardware monitoring, and SLA’s.

We did hit a bunch of issues on our first day (including needing a cpanel upgrade, httpd service configuration issues, php not working). It did take the better part of 4 hours total for everything to be worked out, but they were very responsive on chat as well as on the phone — we never had to wait, and Josh was kind enough to let me vent a bit on the phone (thanks Josh!).

So, we have reset our DNS to point to our new home. By the end of this weekend (meaning 10/16/2011), everyone should be landing here instead of the old home for slidepoint.net.

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We are Almost There …

As I write this (Tuesday October 11, 3:00 pm EST), we are almost ready to go live with the beta!

Crossed off of our list since my last post are the following:

  • PowerPoint Converter App is finished, now recognizes most navigational commands on objects and converts them into slidepoint.net properly
  • Added Cropping Functionality to Image uploads
  • Soundtrack mode complete – lets you set up a ‘soundtrack’ for your presentation (and is flexible enough to enable you to let your audience pick different soundtracks too, and also enables concurrent narrations on top of a soundtrack)
  • A bunch of ‘annoying/hard-to-understand-why-it-is-happening’ bugs were fixed
  • Lots of editor cleanup (consistent type, colors, layouts, messaging, etc)
  • Editor Settings section complete (presentation settings, editor settings, presentations metadata settings)
  • Quiz Question functionality was added – you will be able to add quiz questions, and treat them as either a graded question, survey question, or instant-feedback question (added {placeholder} system as well to enable the display of the dynamic data inside text regions)

So, still about a weeks worth of stuff left to do. We still have some editor stuff to complete. Then, we have the ad integration to complete inside the presentations themselves (this is how we pay for this thing and keep the free plans free).


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Latest Progress

This week has been full of progress!

We pretty much finished up our web-app (non-editor) portion of slidepoint.net, including these core pieces:

  • Account Overview and Settings
  • Account Profile (avatar, metadata, social links etc)
  • Referral ID system (refer people, get extra reputation points)
  • Reputation points system (gain reputation for being active on the site)
  • Rewards system (gain extra features and storage space for racking up reputation points)
  • Favorites, Following, and Followers system
  • Import from PowerPoint (still adding a few things here though)
  • Manage and Create Presentations

So, we are tweaking the PowerPoint importer application (this will likely evolve quite a bit after the beta release as well), as well as some other areas (but mostly layout and display tweaks).

We have moved on to finalizing the presentation editor.

Earlier this week, we fixed many of the bugs (caused mainly from migrating the editor used in our Weblearning System to this stand-alone slidepoint.net version of the editor).

We have also started adding some extra features. Just today we began adding the image cropping feature (where you can upload an image, and crop it before adding it to your presentation).

We estimate about another week to finalize the editor for beta, then we have to come up with a strategy for which ads to use, where to place them, etc (probably of minor interest to you, but this is how we pay for the system – hopefully we generate enough ad revenue so the system minimally pays for itself).

We are still on track to have the beta ready to use by the middle of this month, but the ‘official’ ready date is ‘it will be ready when its ready’ — you know how that goes.



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today’s slidepoint.net progress

Today is all about fixing rendering issues on Chrome and IE browsers.

Like many companies, we do our development using Firefox as the base browser (mainly because it has Firebug, but also because it is very standards compliant relative to the other browsers – although chrome is good too).

So today, we scrub through the site, and try to catch the rendering and layout issues (and perhaps catch a few other scripting bugs in the process). This is of course a never-ending mission. Every time we change something or add something, we need to make sure it works on all target browsers (and sometimes its just ‘works’, and not necessarily ‘looks great’ — especially when it comes to older versions of IE).

So maybe this is a good time to talk about the browsers we are targeting. Our goal here is to enable presentations to work everywhere (including mobile devices that don’t use Flash – like iPad and the upcoming Windows 8 tablets). At the same time, there are some older browsers still in use that are just a pain to get working, so we had to come up with some framework of targeting that scales.

Currently, here is the baseline rule we are using:
The last 3 versions of every major desktop browser, and the default (built-in) browser for any actively-used Apple or Android smartphone or tablet. Based on that, here is what we are targeting for support:

  • Internet Explorer 7, 8 and 9
  • Firefox 4, 5  and 6
  • Chrome (is now always current version – makes it easy – thanks Google!)
  • Safari 4.1.3, 5.0 and 5.1 (Macintosh)
  • iOS 4 and (upcoming) 5 browser
  • Android 2.x, 3.x and (upcoming) ice-cream-sandwich browser

We made a decision midway through this project not to support IE6. Some stuff does work in IE6 (actually just about everything), but it just holds us back for future development of the presentation engine framework. slidepoint.net is a cutting-edge technology, and we want to make sure it is not held back by 10-year-old technology.

Next week will be some more site cleanup, and then finalization of the editor features and bug fixes (along with a separate editor that works in IE). By the way, even though we target various browsers for the website and presentation of the presentations, the editor itself is very sophisticated, and requires Firefox, Chrome or IE9. Older browsers will not be supported. We have plans to create mobile versions of the editor (either in-browser, or as a native iOS/Android App) in the future.



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