SixPrizes 7

Sure, Why Not, It’s a Friday
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Development was slow, but the end-result is (hopefully) fast.

At some point, you’ve got to ship. And after nearly three months of plinking and plonking at my keyboard—almost twice as long as it took me last time—I’m deploying the new SixPrizes. Ready or not, here it is.1

Some Background: It’s been a curious past two-plus years here at 6P. Attentive readers will remember that not long ago I stepped down from my longtime role as chief editor and manager of the site to take a backseat advisory position. I was burnt out from years of what felt like the same old same old and hopeful that fresh management would rekindle the ethos of the site. By early January this year, it was just me again, and we hit a nadir in April: our lowest subscriber count since April 2011, the very first year of Underground. I do not mince my words when I say these were uncertain times. Not many people know this, but over the winter, I considered shuttering SixPrizes. Vitals (i.e., pageviews, revenue) were continually dipping and I was convinced that there was no righting ship. 6P had a good ride, but video content had won out. The market is flooded. Nobody reads anymore. The competitive scene is down. So I began shopping the site around (to no avail) and looking for other work with the intention of starting a new chapter of my life minus SixPrizes entirely. I blasted my résumé out and trialed full-time as a WordPress.com VIP Happiness Engineer (i.e., tech support wizard) for six intense weeks, May through June. I failed my penultimate evaluation, and was let go a week and a half short of being offered a full-time position.

Well, a funny thing happened: During the job trial, while I somehow juggled giving that commitment my earnest go and maintaining our (at times unpredictable) publishing schedule (while working out of public libraries and coffee shops because I don’t have an internet connection at home), 6P started doing better. After the near all-time low in April we rebounded to a two-year high sub count in August. This was unforeseen. I anticipated at best throttling the downfall during this time, but here we were, relevant and rising again.2 Coming up short in the trial was an absolute bummer, but the experience stoked my drive to make 6P awesome again, and after a few days of postmortem sulking I was already starting to code a new site design. Which, after roughly three drawn-out months of development (somehow—I did not anticipate it taking this long), I’m excited to unveil today.

Features

No, contrary to popular belief, SixPrizes is not an underground fight club.

My most general philosophy is SixPrizes needs to be fast. The reason why written content is still relevant in the world of video is because it’s faster to consume. It’s more efficient to skim an article for pertinent information than a video. The average person can read faster than they listen or watch. Some people learn better through audio or video, and that’s fine, but others do better with written content, and I want to make sure our content as approachable as possible for them.

With alacrity in mind, I reassessed everything about the previous design and attempted to make it better.

To be upfront, I don’t know if I’ve achieved “fast” with this iteration. I may have made the design worse. I am still fond of SixPrizes 6.0—”the menagerie of quirks”—and I found it difficult to improve upon that design. The typography there was carefully chosen, a categorical distinction and strength, and we’re now on default system fonts, like everybody else. (Same? Same.) I have a feeling that I’ve made things less legible by homogenizing the typography, but we’ll try this new configuration for a while, see if we get used to it, and go from there. I want to keep improving the design, to make it faster and easier to use, though I’ve reached a point of diminishing returns and need to work on something non-design related for a while so I can see what I’m looking at again.

But, despite those doubts, I do think there are areas where I’ve made strides!

Mobile Design

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Krabby holding the OG iPhone.

When 6P first launched in 2009, phones generally didn’t go on the internet. They flipped open, had horrid ringtones, and buzzed. The first iPhone had already been released by then, yes, but few readers had one, and it took some time (but not much) before mobile web browsing became common. I’ve been admittedly slow accommodating 6P for mobile,3 but at this point, in 2019, mobile users make up more than 60% of our traffic, which means the mobile design is more important than the desktop design. It’s a weird shift for me as far as my development process goes. I’ve always worked on the desktop design first because I work from a desktop computer, but really the mobile design should take priority. I worked on the desktop design first, again, for SixPrizes 7, but with every new element I added I thought “Okay, how is this going to translate to mobile?” So I was more deliberate this time around about the mobile design, and hopefully that’s an area of noticeable improvement.

Tags

“When this article is published, apply 4 tags.”

Moving forward (and backward, eventually) I will be tagging content to make information easier to find. Since the genesis of 6P, there have only been a handful of labels I’ve used to organize content. The old designs listed some of these labels in the navigation bar (more recent designs omitted them), but I ran the numbers and 83% of all articles have been filed under the broad terms (A) “,” (B) “,” (C) “, and/or (D) “.” (Yeah—not that helpful.)

Instead, to facilitate discovery of information, moving forward I’ll be tagging content in a more specified manner with:

This should make it easier for you to find content that’s relevant in your circumstances. For example, if you’re planning to attend one of the upcoming events Atlantic City, Cologne, or São Paulo next weekend, check out the articles tagged UPR–HIF! They’ll contain our most recent UPR-on coverage to help you prepare for those specific events. The idea is to make it more obvious what topics we’re covering so that you can hone in on the info you need.

This is the trending topics list pre-NAIC. It seems about right.

One thing I’m able to do with the tagging system is extend it into a trending topics feature. What this shows is the tags that have gotten the most pageviews in the past month, which should depict at least a partial pulse of the current competitive scene. If nothing else, it will give you a better notion of and way to navigate our recent coverage, which is also helpful.

The trending feature may end up being unrepresentative of what’s actually popular at the moment, but I can tweak the algorithm as we go along.

Comments

I’m coming full circle and reverting to the original, first-party commenting system used on 6P back at launch in 2009. I’ve tried to keep up with the latest and greatest discussion software over the years, hosting our comments on platforms ranging from Disqus, vBulletin, XenForo, and (until now) Discourse, but what I’ve come to realize is that all of these third-party options eventually become lame. In the short-term, they are attractive and can generate more discussion than we would see otherwise. But for posterity, they are dubious. They generally don’t do well at preserving discussions long-term, viz., I can’t guarantee you that any comments left through Discourse will still be here two years from now. The forums are mostly dead and it may make sense to close them down. However, any content that flows directly through WordPress will most likely be here two, three, or even ten years out. That means something. We’ve used WordPress from Day 1, and it’s proven to be a sustainable platform.

Maybe I should continue to value immediacy when it comes to discussion and explore vogue options. (Discord, for example, would probably be the next logical platform for comments if moving away from Discourse.) I’m unsure what’s correct, but I’m willing to try the most conservative option (native, no-frills WordPress comments) once again.

To Do, Still / Looking Forward

There’s always an infinite amount to still work on. Here’s my Wish List (i.e., items that I’ve been too goo-brained to consider implementing yet but still managed to scrawl down). Notably, as mentioned, I don’t think the typography of SixPrizes 7 is quite right, and I don’t love the new archive displays. There’s more scrolling required to reach content than I think there should be, so I need to figure out how to condense everything.

Otherwise, I’m hoping to ramp up content production after this new design has stabilized. Our publishing schedule is going to be different through LAIC and I anticipate it taking a few more months until we hit our stride.

Final Thoughts

It feels surreal to be launching this latest iteration of SixPrizes. I don’t feel ready, but I can’t keep delaying it. Uncertainty has been eating at me and I need to put my efforts out there.

Thanks to my girlfriend Taylor (hi, Taylor) for being supportive of and patient with me these past three months and giving me input on the design. Many repugnant blue links were removed because of her. Thanks to our writers for killing it the past several months. #BustedStaff. Thanks to everyone who subscribed over the summer and over the years and helped make this possible. Thanks thanks thanks.

If you notice any bugs, please contact me. I’ll try to fix them. I’m anticipating having overlooked something nontrivial. And thanks to you, too.


1 For the record: I am not at all feeling “ready” about this launch and have been in full-on internalized Panic Mode for the past 24 hours (meaning externally I may appear stoic, but inside I’m experiencing a major case of the fantods). I’ve already encountered half a dozen bugs since activating the new code (while the site was in maintenance mode, prior to publishing this), design issues which were previously imperceptible to me are now glaring, and I’m trying to high-level function off of a 1-1/2-ounce snack bag of Party Mix I obtained from the library vending machine which I ate for breakfast today. (The Party Mix, not the vending machine.) It is now 2:21 PM and 13 seconds. I will be ejecting from my computer soon to “chill out” and pick up with fixing everything later, throughout the coming weeks.

2 All credit for this shifting of tides goes to our writers—Alex, Pablo, Xander, Peter, Gabriel, Rahul, Jon, Travis, Kenny, Chris, and Connor—for putting out spirited content leading up to NAIC. Thanks for sticking with me through those dodgy times and being exceptional people.

3 And myself: I didn’t own a smart phone until 2016.

4 I had originally planned to tag articles with tournament locations (e.g., Atlantic City, Cologne, São Paulo, etc.) but as I started tagging with this approach on the live site, I noticed redundancy. I think tagging with formats is a more concise way to go about classifying the content, but I’ll reevaluate as we go along.

Reader Interactions

17 replies

    • Adam Capriola  → Steve

      Thanks Steve! It’s great to hear from you. You’ve been around since the early days of 6P and it makes me happy to still see you around. I appreciate the support!

  1. Tyler Craig

    I only very recently began playing PTCG(O) competitively and I quickly recognized the quality of the articles and information you guys were putting out, so I subbed up quick. You guys do awesome work.

    I appreciated your philosophy of speed in the written medium in a world full of video, and I think the way you use a “table of contents” approach to your formatting really helps with that. The question I have is, is it feasible to live in both the written and video world?

    I come from a very heavy competitive background in Magic: The Gathering, and one thing that all of the good-quality strategy sites out there have is a mix of written and video content. I would love to something like with 6P, if possible. It could even all be linked to a 6P YouTube channel that could spread the good word of 6P as well.

    I’m sure you guys have thought about this – and I don’t pretend to know the first thing about making a profitable business happen – but that seems to be a winning combination for other very similar sites.

    Thanks again for all you guys do!

    • Adam Capriola  → Tyler

      Hi Tyler! Thanks for the comment. I agree, the Table of Contents approach makes a big difference when it comes to discoverability. I’m still trying to think of more ways to make it easier to identify and locate content.

      The question I have is, is it feasible to live in both the written and video world?

      That’s a great question. There was a point a few years ago when I considered producing video content in conjunction with the articles, but I still feel like we ways to go until the workflow for publishing articles is completely smooth. We have a pretty quick turnaround time between an article being written, submitted, and published, but there are areas where we are slow and I’m attempting shore up those deficiencies. With video, I imagine the turnaround time would be significantly longer to achieve a similar, polished end result. (I have almost no experience with filming/editing video, so that’s something I’d need to learn or be willing to collaborate with someone on.)

      Also, what’s ended up happening is you see more individuals going the video route in the PTCG scene (and all over gaming, really). I don’t have much of a vision for how a 6P YouTube or Twitch channel would angle itself or look.

      So, to summarize, I don’t think I could do video well or quickly, and I still feel like I have a ways to go when it comes to improving 6P as a written content publishing platform.

  2. Jason Moore

    Hey Adam,
    I appreciate you writing this all out. Your doing great so don’t get discouraged. Your writers are great and I look forward to each and every article.

  3. Alex Halow

    Congrats on both the resurgence and the redesign!

    For me (primarily as a pokedad but also as a casual player), 6P really proved it’s full worth in the run up to World’s this year. You and your staff did a great job pumping out lots of quality content heading into the new format.

    Good luck with everything and keep up the great work!

    • Adam Capriola  → Alex

      Thank you, Alex! I’m glad to hear that our content proved to be helpful. It was exciting covering the new format for Worlds.

  4. Anthony Smith

    Congrats on the new version release. It looks great! Always interesting to read your perspective Adam.

    I think it’s great seeing comments on the articles. Looking back through time can be thought provoking and seeing the comments from readers equally so (if only for posterity).

    • Adam Capriola  → Anthony

      Anthony! It’s awesome to hear from you. I still want to make a trip to the Oceania IC one of these years to see you again.

      I enjoy seeing the comments too. There are stretches of years where there are no comments visible on the articles, which is a bummer. It makes it feel like the articles weren’t read or something.

  5. henry572518

    Getting it right I think.

    Articles are the right length and well written, regularity is good, website is clean and readable.

    Subs feel a little pricey, but hopefully if more people sub, you might consider lowering it slightly.

    Anyway, keep up the good work, and don’t sweat the small stuff!

    • Adam Capriola  → henry572518

      Thanks Henry! We’ve put a lot of effort into making articles a good length and publishing regularly, so I’m glad you’ve mentioned that. It’s unlikely that we’ll lower the sub price, but I’m open to the idea if it seems like it would make sense.

  6. bryant773465

    Congrats Adam! I recently got back into the competitive scene and was unable to get into my old account. I had friends on here and now I’m unable to really let them know I am back because of this new account. I haven’t found a way to access messaging. If there’s anything I need to do to unlock this please let me know. Also, on a better note, I love the new design!!

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