By Russ Freeman, 1325633452
This is a somewhat gushing and rambling post (with lots of “love”) so please forgive me. I just thought it was some useful background or insights, and some interesting teasers for the near future.
I started shooting with models in May 2009. Until that time I had been exploring and shooting derelict buildings and shooting any inanimate objects that took my fancy. After my first shoot with a model she told me to sign up to sites like Purestorm.com etc. Which of course I did.
I have been frustrated with other web sites right from the beginning. All are based around forums of one sort or another and have hacked designs based on old technology. When I joined purestorm.com it didn’t have a castings system and much like net-model.com now it used a forum for advertising for collaborators. It was horrible.
Even when purestorm got casting calls it was hobbled from the beginning. I was in the South West but kind of on the East of it which meant I’d get casting calls for someone nearly 5 hours drive away. Not good.
I registered the domain name PURPLEPORT.COM in July 2010 with the intention of doing something with it but I didn’t. I just didn’t have enough of an itch to scratch as I had only recently sold my company I was focused on integrating that with the new company.
I was made redundant (from my own company dammit) in July 2011 and I had some decisions to make. After much hand wringing I decided that I wanted to start a new company, PurplePort limited, and it would manage PurplePort.com.
It was around this time that I asked Scott to come on board with PurplePort and we spent a couple of months analysing all of the competing web sites that we could find. Looking at every aspect of them from inbox to forums. We also looked beyond model/photographer networking sites, at Facebook, twitter, flickr, fetlife, even techie sites like slashdot.org have had influences which may become apparent in due course.
We’ve feature spec’d dozens of interesting features and ideas that no competing web site has thought of and if they have then they are sitting on them where we will implement them. Features that make our lives easier, make us more productive, make it easier to find creative people to work with and with the beautiful end result of creating awesome images.
Of course we’re approaching this from many directions. I live with a full time professional model and see the difficulties she experiences with other web sites. My aim is to remove all of those difficulties and make her job easier - which in turn helps every other model, or aspiring model, to achieve his or her goals and Scott and I as photographers see a different side of things too. We want a site that gets out of the way, allows us to reach our goals without pestering or nannying.
There are many aspects to a site like this and different sites have adopted one that works for them. I must confess I don’t like any of them.
Many sites have odd rules that limit you in some way and then they employ methods to enforce those rules. Often the enforcement is harsh and unexplained. Neither Scott or I wish that of our community. Whilst we can’t have a lawless community I think the basic rules of society are enough for us. Respect your neighbours, no need to shout, don’t leave the trash out on the street all week. You get the idea. When we get chance we’ll formalise these laws with the lawyer but not in a legal technobabble document - something that is easy to read, like an FAQ.
The aim is to not need a “moderation team” and certainly to avoid a faceless moderator who edits posts, your portfolio page or your casting calls without telling you what was edited and why. This approach to moderation never works and merely helps to create a “them and us” system. If we’re all playing fair, all trying real hard to get along, then where is the need to moderate?
When I started PurplePort in July 2010 I created a business plan but it was only for my own consumption (I write documents a LOT, it’s almost an obsession). I had to be sure that there was indeed a market for my vision of a web site and I had to justify my efforts, and my own personal investment in both time and money, so that it was worth while. And I am spending a lot of time and money on PurplePort.com.
We had planned to have the site functionally complete by end of November but I burnt out and realised I was beating myself up with my self-imposed deadlines. I took almost a month off from writing code and Scott has been engaged elsewhere, however here we are, functionally complete at the end of December instead. Yes, there is much to do but at least now we can compete :-)
In my rudimentary business plan I had hoped to have 500 validated accounts by the end of the 2011 if, and only if, I had finished the site. We had nearly 1,400 validated accounts, nearly 1,000 fully functional accounts (validated is not the same as fully functional, they need to add some images or risk having their accounts deleted) and just under 16,000 images uploaded.
When purestorm.com kicked Artemis and I off, with no explanation so far, it had a massive impact on both of us. We may never have met without Purestorm so it had sentimental value at the very least. The biggest impact it has had on me is to light a fire under me. I was hopeful that PurplePort could be a success but getting kicked off PS made me even more determined to make it so.
Enough of the background and on to the love...In no particular order...
One thing I noticed about other web sites is the almost total lack of discussion about photography. I joined FetLife.com and was pleasantly surprised by the discussions of art and photography there. I was inspired. I even invited a couple of people who impacted me over to PurplePort and they are active contributors now. I love this. Just browsing the recent discussions shows how much more involved in photography we, our small community, are. Isn’t it great? I love it. It’s thought provoking and we need to nurture it in all aspects of modelling, photography, and related interests. It helps us all.
Browsing the forums of other sites it’s often difficult to see the content because the fog of war obscures the view. People are fighting. Why? Don’t we share a common goal. Don’t we all, models, photographers, MUAs and other creatives, have the same goal; to create great images and be all that we can be? Here we are not fighting (yet) and instead we seem to be helping each other. I love this. Let’s keep this up. Let’s all help each other and by helping others we may even help ourselves. Wouldn’t that be great?
When we designed lists we knew it would be useful and even now it’s not as powerful as initially spec’d out... it will be so in the future, just wait and see! I had used “favourites” on purestorm but it was a useless or severely limited feature. During the design process it hit me “People I’d like to work with”. It reduces the barriers and sends a clear signal to the listee “Hey, I’d like to work with you” BUT it has none of the potential rejection associated with sending a direct message. Wow. I’ve spoken to a few people, and I have experienced it myself, where I add someone to my “work with” list and an hour later they message me saying something like “I’d like to work with you too but was afraid to ask”. How cool is that! I love it!
Simple is good. I love simple. PurplePort is simple. Well, it’s simple to use but behind the scenes it’s nearly 100,000 lines of code and related files. Why-oh-why does such a web site have to be complicated (I’m looking at you NM and in some respects PS and MM). It doesn’t have to be so. Just get out of my way. When someone sends me a message tell me what they said. Don’t make me browse to the web site to read it. I love the way PurplePort does it and in the future it will only get better!
And talking of simple; I like the way Apple designs it’s stuff. I always have. Very few options and toys to tinker with. Instead it’s designed correctly right from the drawing board. It’s my aim to have zero options on PurplePort where possible and where things can be changed you shouldn’t need to dive around in various settings to get to it. I’m looking at you other web sites. You’re all a bit shabby in this department. I accept it’s because you have evolved, or perhaps mutated, rather then designed but it’s no excuse. I love the lack of options on PurplePort.com and both Scott and I aim to maintain that.
Arranging images has always been a pet hate on all of the other sites . I love the way the PurplePort does it. Drag and drop. No mess, no fuss. Look, we simplified it. There is no “arrange your images page”. No need. Simple.
Front Page Images. It’s an accolade. I have lost count of how many times I have seen people posting screen shots of the front page of Purestorm with their images proudly displayed but...it’s random. Your image wasn’t there when I looked. I wanted people to relish in the glory of having one of their images added to the front page of PurplePort but I didn’t realise the impact it would have. People really love that and I love that they do. We plan to add a badge and show how many images you have created that have got onto the front page because you deserve it. It’s awesome when we create images that have a value beyond our own perception. We love it and I know you do too.
Image categories have always bothered me. Is it glamour nude, fashion nude, art nude, fetish, or something else. I don’t know and I don’t care. Around a year ago I changed all the categories on my Purestorm account to be “misc” because I couldn’t care which arbitrary category they should go in. That’s why we don’t have image categories. Instead we have something much more powerful; tags. Add keyword tags to your images, be generous with them. If there is a TV in the background tag it. By doing this it enhances the exposure of your images to browsing and also better explains your image. By all means tag it as “fashion nude” but also tag it as “fashion” and “nude”. That way people will find your images and will find you too. I love the discover-ability of it and it’s only going to get better as we further enhance the keyword tagging and searching. It’s going to be much more important so get ahead now and tag those images!
Limits always bug me. I always run into them, as I’m sure you do to, and they stop me in my tracks. Limits and censorship are both dipped in the same poisons. Why censor swear words on a forum where many images on the site are nude. Makes no sense. Why implement a system where a model can post a paid casting call only to be told she can’t without a paid account. It just makes no sense. Why have a rule that says “no vote for me threads” when it does no-one any harm and it forces you to employ a moderation team. I love that we don’t have such rules, and we likely never will. I love that you can put your facebook page on your portfolio or that you can include your email address in a casting call. It’s your portfolio, your casting call, you can do with it as you please. I love that we allow this where most don’t and I know that you find it a refreshing change too.
We now have casting calls. Without limits of course. We don’t have paid, gold or silver memberships so no limitations there. So by all means post casting calls for paid work. You won’t be reprimanded like a naughty schoolchild for using the system to it’s full potential. Include images, your email address, telephone number, links to other modelling web sites, facebook pages. Anything you like to make sure you get together with like minded creatives to go on to create some fantastic images. I love the liberation of this. No big brother editing, or like on MM removing your casting calls.
Friends - we all love them but on ModelMayhem it’s about as useful as an ashtray on a motorbike. I like facebook, and I like twitter, and I like contacts on flickr. All of the aforementioned web sites keep me up to date with the people I’m interested in. We wanted this on PurplePort and I love it. Just the other day Artemis was testing casting calls before it was live. I had only just added posting a casting call to the activity feed. Her casting call was the first to test it. Quite literally a few minutes later she got a message about it from someone who couldn’t see the casting call but was interested in it anyway...just from the activity feed. I bloody love that! The activity feed we have now is a baby. It’s spec’d to do much more and will get more attention in the future to make it more useful...but I already love it. I love seeing what the people I am following are doing. Posting, commenting on interesting images, adding images, following cool and interesting people, and now creating casting calls. I’m Lovin’ it!
Search right now is a baby. It’s fairly limited in what it can do. It’s going to get much more criteria so you can better find people to collaborate with. But, even now, you guessed it... I love it. We adopted a very different approach from other sites to displaying results for searches, image lists, collections, pretty much everything - no paging, just scroll and see more results. Simple and effective.
Image browsing is beyond painful on all other sites I tried so I made sure I fixed it so you can easily browse images. A good example; I want to browse through front page images on purestorm or net-model. I can’t. Well, I can but it’s a constant click, back, click, back. I designed it to be much easier so that when you click on an image that is in a collection of some sort you can just go “next” or “previous” (using the arrow keys or clicking on the left or right hand side of the image) through the list. This works (almost) everywhere. Click on my list of “awesome images” and you can easily browse through that list. The only place we have yet to do it is tagged images but it works on portfolio images, front page images, more images from someone etc. It’s great. I love it.
CoolIIris support - enough said. Love it.
The little window that pops up when you hover the mouse cursor over someones name is something else I love. I liked the way Purestorm did it but it just didn’t go far enough and isn’t used consistently (image comments, forum posts on the main page, etc. none have it). I also wanted to interact with it. I wanted to see some images, follow them and see more. On PurplePort you can with a single hover and click see a persons group posts and casting calls, and as the site gets more features you’ll be able to do much more with the little popup - it’s interactive by design and will only get more so. It’s great and I love it.
Images and their layout are somewhat important for a web site like this. We looked at a whole bunch of other portfolio hosting web sites, image sites like flickr and DeviantArt, and many others before deciding how our images should look. Most web sites are a jumble of images. We wanted a layout that was clean and simple. Sites like Fetlife and Facebook do this really well indeed and I took a lot of inspiration from them. I love the clean look of square cropped images BUT, unlike FL and FB, you to control the crop. Purestorm crops your images when it posts them to their front page, flickr does when they are viewed in contacts images. I love having the control of it and I love the clean layout of images on PurplePort.
Statistics. Love them. They enable me to see if what I’m doing is working or not. They are the essential feedback I need in order to make decisions. Other web sites allow some stats but none go far enough. Net-model and model mayhem allow you to see how many times your image has been viewed. Purestorm shows a number of times your casting call has been viewed etc. All have some numbers but that number alone gives you little information, it’s purely data. Right from the beginning PurplePort has had a wealth of stats. Those little graphs you see on your images, casting calls, and profile allow you to make decisions. “should this image go”, “did posting this image on FB increase my exposure”, “does tweeting about my casting call do anything” - knowing if what you’re doing is working helps you to save time and effort, and to stop doing things that don’t work, and of course do more of what does work. I love it and we’re only going to add more stats to help you decide where you should focus your efforts.
Scott and I feel very fortunate to be working on this site surrounded by so many enthusiastic people. It’s heart-warming and we love it :-)
We have a great many features planned, many not seen on competing or similar web sites, and to say we’re both extremely excited about them is an understatement. We just wish there were more hours in the day.