2021 in Review

Happy new year!

I’ve been sharing monthly status updates on this blog for the last few months. And I’ve had a lot to report, although most of the work I’ve been doing has been invisible to everyone else. You can get the details from these posts:

December progress report

In the November report, I mentioned that the next step is to upgrade from Python 2 to Python 3. I think I have the source code changes mostly done for that.

But I’ve gotten temporarily stuck figuring out how to deploy the new version to the server that currently hosts Comic Rocket. I’ve been considering switching to a different host, but due in part to decisions I made over a decade ago, that’s surprisingly complicated too.

(You could say I’ve run into a host of issues this month.)

As a result, I’ve been feeling like I didn’t make any progress in December. I’m working on accepting that I did what I could this month and that it was enough.

I need to remember that this month I fixed logging into Comic Rocket using Facebook. Probably the biggest contributor to my depression about Comic Rocket over the last few years was all the messages I got from people who were sad because they couldn’t get to their comics list after Facebook login broke. I didn’t have anything I could do for them because so much else needed to be upgraded first, and feeling powerless about that was awful. So getting this working again is a huge relief.

Accomplishments in 2021

I’m also trying to remind myself that I did a lot this year, including:

  • relaunching my Patreon and getting a wonderful group of new patrons;
  • writing publicly and regularly (here and on Twitter and Patreon) and reconnecting with Comic Rocket’s fans;
  • improving support for reading comics using HTTPS;
  • enabling readers and creators to fix even more issues themselves;
  • making Facebook login work again;
  • and applying at least five years’ worth of dependency upgrades in rapid succession.

I also launched an online shop for Comic Rocket merch, then wrote an article on how webcomic creators can sell merch for free using the same services I chose.

Goals for 2022

I have many hopes for 2022. Obviously, I want to finish the behind-the-scenes upgrades that I’ve started. I’m giving a conference talk in February about that work, called “Back to the Future: Ten years of Django upgrades in one shot.” It’d be fun to have some of you in the (virtual) audience!

Once that solid foundation is in place, though, there are so many ways I want to contribute to the webcomics technology ecosystem, such as:

  • better long-tail discovery, to connect readers with lesser-known comics that they’ll love;
  • more ways for creators to make money from their work;
  • efficient update notifications, by combining RSS/Atom with RFC5005 and WebSub;
  • and open APIs for mobile apps and browser extensions, so more people can build cool stuff.

I’ve written some pretty technical articles related to some of these topics in my personal blog. In the coming year, I want to write more accessible articles for a broader audience.

If you want the technical details, there’s “Feed reader cache coherency with JMAP and RFC5005“, which I published in 2020. Less obviously, “Private and secure multiparty histograms” was a byproduct of some of my research into recommendations algorithms in 2018.

I’ve been thinking about these issues for years and would very much like to get to do something about them one of these days.

Thank you!

I’ll certainly face more challenges in 2022, especially given the excessively high standards I tend to set for myself.

So I really appreciate your support. Not just financial support, whether through Patreon or buying from my shop. I’m also grateful for every time you tell a friend about Comic Rocket, and every nice comment on this blog or friendly message on Twitter.

In the last few months, I’ve heard so many stories about what Comic Rocket means to people. One especially memorable one came from Melissa, a park ranger who has no internet access during the summer months. She relies on Comic Rocket to keep track of where she left off every spring, so she can pick up from there when she gets home in the fall. Melissa’s story was one of the many wonderful comments people left on my first post after relaunching this blog in October. And every one of those comments gave me so much joy.

So my request for you in 2022 is simply to let me know if you like Comic Rocket. Oh, sure, you should also let me know if something isn’t working. But it helps a lot to have those messages balanced out by the positive feedback. (The same applies to a lot of webcomic creators too, by the way!)

Thank you, and let’s do our best in 2022!