Featured Chat with deviantART CEO Angelo Sotira ($spyed)On March 14, 2011, deviants from around the world participated in a special featured chat with deviantART's CEO and most well known ninja, Angelo Sotira, aka $spyed. Though he was away from the homefront, $spyed took the time to connect with the community while in The deviantART Sandbox at SXSW. Below is the interview transcript in case you missed this event or would like to relive the wonderful memories. Sit back, grab a snack, and enjoy our featured chat!
The Austin, TX deviantMEET was epic! There were two real llamas - A mamma llama and baby llama! I got the baby llama and mamma llama to collaborate with deviantART muro on a piece on my iPad 2! Llamas may not be very good artists, but I do love that dA muro makes the arts approachable even for llamas. I mean, literally, without dA muro there'd be no way for a llama to interact directly with deviantART. And you know, that's what we're all about.
As we transitioned to the Internet in 1996 or so, the potential was much greater with everyone being connected, but the systems were rudimentary by comparison. All I've really wanted to do was rebuild BBSs for the web, allowing others to connect with people who inspire them in intimate digital settings. I'm really glad it was art, creativity and the architecture of a loving supportive society within which to share.
Thanks for the question, I haven't really answered that one before.
Integration is very easy and very quick the moment we want to add Like buttons or Facebook connect, but those guys have some privacy issues to deal with still, and they need to show a bit more of their hand to the world in terms of what they intend to do with all this data before deviantART overtly endorses what they're doing. I could talk more about this, but basically from the perspective of people building networks for many years I think some of what Facebook is getting away with is rather incredible and I think it's because people don't understand what they're agreeing to.
deviantART's single most important attribute is our Culture. It isn't our features, our version revisions, or any of the other things we update you on regularly. It's always been about our Culture. The meaning behind "deviantART Loves You!" has been very important from the day we began, but I think other brands and sites have copied it and given it a more vanilla meaning which really upsets me. I had our trademark firms trademark the term, because I wanted to fight back when the term was cheapened by other companies. It's an important, fundamental, core concept for our Culture and it's always been a fight to keep our Culture positive.
I hate trolls. Anyone involved in any community hates trolls. Lately we have a bit of a troll problem, because I think our core Cultural pillar in "deviantART Loves You!" has been diluted a bit, the spirit behind it as the community has grown has lost a bit of meaning. We have a few really aggressive strategies this year that focus on this that we'll announce soon, but in the meantime, I need you guys to realize that this very room of people is very special and very important to deviantART.
I want you to know that I recognize how incredibly important this room of people is, plus the people who would have been here or wanted to be here. You guys care a tremendous amount about deviantART or else you wouldn't be spending your time here with me today. There's lots going on out there on the Internet. So, for you:
- There are 80 of us who work at deviantART, and I think only a % of that team works directly with the community. We have operations people, and engineers who don't post, so maybe 50 of those people interact with the site.
- We have volunteers, and many of them are incredible! But they aren't full staff members and they can't help with a lot of things, so there's a perception that there's many more of us than there really are.
- There are millions of you. And on a lot of networks the staff doesn't engage or manage Culture the way we do, and that's what makes deviantART quite different.
So, a lot of product is being built in and around dA muro. This tool will see continued advancements month after month. I think the thing that really clinches it is being able to play back the creation of deviations, so you can see how they're made and being able to tune in live as people draw. We develop products live, with you, so that you're a part of every step of the process and can watch the evolution. deviantART muro is only in its humble beginnings.
We've had so many incredible artists consult on every aspect of it: how the brushes work, if they're fast enough, how layers work, how filters work. The lead developer behind dA muro, $mudimba, is a really fantastic artist himself. It's a project we all love, and while it's still very early on and there's some confusion as to its final positioning within deviantART, all will be crystal clear soon as dA muro ascends to perhaps the most widely used drawing tool in the world within the not too distant future.
It's a challenging problem for a few internal reasons. First, we have a hard problem to tackle when we make the arts more accessible for hire. I think we're very protective of you guys, and we're very aware of how the web is used for hiring people and there's a fine line between good and evil on this one. We're toeing that line in order to protect deviants. I'm not too worried about trained designers and people who work already, who will be greatly served by a deviantART platform for accessing deviants for work. We are worried about the youngins and less experienced professionals.
So, for example, take our thumbshare forum on deviantART, rename it Jobs! and let companies post jobs for some price per post or something. We could turn that system around in about a week probably, but there's a lot more to consider when you get in to the details, and the devil is definitely in the details on this.
But if you look closer at Portfolios which are doing incredibly well considering how little we promote them, and build a directory around them and then build in guidelines for how people access artists and maybe consider publishing the paid rates, we start having more information to share with artists about how to set prices so they don't get screwed over. So that's a larger project but, very much something we're looking at this year.
The sheer number of people who show up to our meets warrant this and I think connecting people IRL is what ultimately fulfills the mission of deviantART: to truly enhance the lives of our members.
Everything has changed, but everything is still the same. If you're starting a business in this environment, it's just as challenging as it has always been, but the rules remain the same: businesses need to be built where they are needed and not where a businessman wants to be necessarily.
It's very rare to build a business and also love the business, as those are even harder businesses to build; but I assume you're asking me because I'm the single luckiest person in the world and I get to do what I love most while also building a business. So to that end, it depends what you love and what opportunity you see in that space. The important thing is always going to be determination. A business is going to test you to your very core, challenge your every emotion and I think the key to success is fighting through all the pain and all the challenge.
As $mccann and I love to talk about, there's very little difference between a completely crazy person and an entrepreneur. They both see things that don't exist, and live their lives as if they do. So be prepared to be crazy, and to find comfort there, even if that's kind of strange advice. All I really wanted to underscore and what I try to talk to entrepreneurs about is that the challenge and tenacity is most of it. Ideas are a dime a dozen, execution is 90% of everything successful.
Forums are wrapped in to a greater network inefficiency. As Forums exist in Groups in backrooms and in the commonly known Forums environment, there is also desire for Forums in Groups in public facing areas. So I think we're going to look at that overall bundle of tangled wires and iron it out. I have to say, I think the Forums are a little scary for us to touch. We once tried to make the Shoutbox run off of dAmn so the Shoutbox channel was in real time, and this was pretty much greeted with angry mobs holding pitch forks. I think changing the Forums might get us killed, so it's not just an engineering problem -- it's a social issue and the Forum folks are really hardcore. Even lolly once told me, if you touch the forums I'll fn' kill you.
So I took that a little too much to heart. I think if the Forum community articulated exactly what they wanted done, we could probably accommodate. (Have your say at $chix0r's journal)
The people I met during those years were some of the most intuitive people about the web that I think I'll ever know. It's like we had discovered a wide open new world and everything and anything was possible. We set our sights and I don't think we've really looked back with any regret. It always felt right, and it continues to feel right.
In 10 years, I see deviantART fulfilling its mission to bring the arts back in to mainstream culture. By then, it will have already happened. Artists will be accessible, art curated to taste for each person, venues performing dynamically curated collections for the public and a greater percentage of society will be releasing their creativity to the world than today.
What is your favorite art style/medium you follow on deviantART? Are there a few deviants you like to watch on a daily basis?
And what ever happened to Groups getting point donation pools? Needing a deviant account to accumulate points is moving backward, to the club-era. Groups need points--namely for Super Group upgrade (it's not cheap). Thanks.
We're officially ready to talk about the development of version 8. It will definitely piss people off and they will definitely want version 7 back, until a few months go by and then people would be really upset if we changed version 8 and it became version 9. There's going to be a difference this time though, in that it won't be a wide release without prior notice and it's suddenly all v8. deviantART v8 is largely powered by a massive underlining architecture change that $mccann has been leading over the past number of years. The new search engine architecture will have a massive impact on just about every aspect of deviantART over time, beginning with the home page and expanding in to the message center and beyond.
So, as we unlock the chat today and let everyone talk for a while, I wanted to say thanks to Andrew for what has been an incredibly lonely mission in invention and a testament to his incredible contributions to deviantART. You've yet to see this thing, but I'm playing with it as we design v8, and the power we have to bring experiences to you that we've always wanted to is now there because of him.
It's the type of work you can't really see. Dozens of systems that work together seamlessly. If done right, the very point is to take the whole thing for granted and use it without thinking about it being there. It's the kind of stuff that makes you ultimately feel like deviantART is awesome, and you get to browse art and connect with people.
But just like being in a cold data center, it's grey, colorless, and cold, which is a stark contradiction to what you'd think it means to "run the world's largest art community". So, there's a little emote called "worship" that looks like this If you could please use it a few times, for $mccann, as we unlock the room. Thanks