October progress report

As I mentioned in my Comic Rocket Updates post a couple weeks ago, most of the work I’m doing right now should be invisible to everyone else. That makes it the worst kind of work. If I do it right, it looks like I didn’t do anything. If I get it wrong, people will see things break. But it has to be done. This modernization work is necessary to allow me to make more interesting changes later.

Of course, I want to convince you to either become or remain a Comic Rocket patron. And therefore I need you to understand what your support helps me to do.

So I thought I’d show you a little visualization of what’s been going on behind the scenes. This only covers changes to the software that runs Comic Rocket itself. It doesn’t cover time I spent on things like

  • setting up this blog, 💤
  • responding to the wonderful messages I’ve received from so many of you, 😊
  • or constantly checking Patreon. 😅
Each circle in this visualization represents one file I’ve modified in Comic Rocket’s software. Video made with Gource and ffmpeg.

I keep getting distracted just pushing the play button on that video again. It’s so pretty…

How often did I get things wrong this month? Well, all the time, but I usually caught them before anyone could notice. There are only a few bugs that I let slip out to where any of you saw them, and I’ve been quick about fixing them. Folks encountered any given bug at most 7 times before I figured it out and fixed it. (That’s according to my reports from Sentry, which I love for monitoring errors in my software projects. They won’t pay me to say that, though. I checked.)

November forecast

In the upcoming month I expect to do a lot more invisible work, but here are a few plans with more visible impact.

I’m looking into setting up a store for people who want their own Comic Rocket merchandise. I love the Comic Rocket t-shirt I have from the last time we did something like this, and I know a few of you have your own. I think a spiral-bound notebook with the Comic Rocket logo on the cover would be fun to carry around conventions for sketches, too… 🤔 If you have any experience with drop-shipping and print-on-demand services, I’d love to hear about it.

I need to get some changes into the Chrome extension that a fan developed for Comic Rocket years ago. It’s open source (Tickolas/comic-rocket-reader on GitHub) so if you’re a programmer, you can contribute too. According to the Chrome store listing, about 500 people currently have this extension installed, which is cool! But every 30 seconds, the extension asks Comic Rocket whether you’re logged in. Multiplied across the growing number of users, that gets excessive. My server can take it! But I’d like to fix it sooner rather than later.

I’m working on a tool for merging two listings when they’re both for the same comic. I won’t be opening this up for everyone to use, because it’s too easy to lose data if you merge things which didn’t belong together. But I hope to make it available to a few volunteers, like I previously did with the “Fix Me!” button. Hopefully everyone will see the impact in higher quality listings. I put a lot of thought into the UI for this, so I want to show off a screenshot of my current prototype.

Screenshot of my current prototype for merging listings.

Integrations with comic hosts

A few years ago, Kyo of ComicFury shut off the integration we’d arranged between our sites. He did that because I wasn’t responding to comic creators’ requests to claim ownership of their comics. That’s honestly understandable, and he couldn’t have known that it came at a time when my depression was about the worst it’s ever been. Unfortunately Comic Rocket still expected to get updates for those comics through the integration. So about 3,000 comics just stopped updating on Comic Rocket, and I didn’t have the energy to fix them.

I’m partway through cleaning that up, finally. Those comics are transitioning back to using the same crawler that we use everywhere else. And once I’ve finished the merge tool, I can take care of the 47 remaining special cases.

This should actually solve the problem that led to Kyo shutting things down in the first place, because the crawler-based claims process is automated. If you’re a creator who has a comic hosted on ComicFury, I encourage you to try claiming your comic again.

I’ve also neglected comic creators hosted on The Duck. But fortunately for me, OzoneOcean left that integration in place. I got back in touch with him last week and we’re currently working out how to automate ownership claims. He’s been great and I hope to work with that community on more projects later.

Summary

I’ve been hard at work this month, whipping Comic Rocket back into shape, but I have lots more to do. You can encourage me to do more of this by supporting Comic Rocket on Patreon. Many, many thanks to all of you who have already pledged!

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