Meeting people for the first time that you’ve only ever interacted with online can be a bit disorienting. Sort of how it’s odd doing video chat the first few times—the other people can see you now. So much is lost when you’re just typing back-and-forth to each other, and misunderstandings often grow out of the lack of affect. That’s why I'm very glad that all of us at Big Cartel try to get together every six months or so just to hang out and work in the same physical space. I’ve grown comfortable working with these people every day, and it helps that I can hear their voices when I’m reading messages in Campfire.
This was my fourth IndieFest (“BigCartelnival” doesn’t quite roll off the tongue) and my third trip out to Salt Lake City. It’s been a bit surreal to see how large the company has grown in such a short time—the first IndieFest almost two years ago was just me, Chance, Matt and Eric. Now when we get together we have a studio full of people (with Rachel being our latest addition just a few weeks ago).
We wrapped a lot of Big Cartel features this week (between frequent, massive meals). My theme refactor branch is ready for some live QA on staging. Scott finished and deployed a reworking of our announcements system so that our customers can see what has changed “while they were out.” And we have a feature that’s been in high demand for quite a while ready to go out on Monday (more on that next week).
Often, it feels like all of our releases wrap at the same time. We have to pace ourselves on getting them into production because we don’t want to overload the channel with too many new features at once and then go weeks without a new release. On the more technical side, Big Cartel is rather monolithic, and most of our new features require downtime for deployment (something we do not take lightly). As Big Cartel has grown worldwide, our “off-hours” window has evaporated. We’ve been discussing how best to rearchitect Big Cartel so that we can deploy without taking the whole app down every time, and after this past week, we’ve got a pretty good idea what direction we’re headed with that. Matt and Eric laid out the roadmap (or, rather, a pie chart) of where Big Cartel is headed over the next year or two. We’ve got a lot of great features planned. The trick will be balancing needed infrastructure changes (that are hopefully not customer-facing) with new features and, naturally, the occasional fire.