User numbers, you and the fail whale


I haven’t written a blog in a long time because things have been a bit crazy around here – in a good way. In six months, user numbers for Forgotten Trail are up 400%, for Making Camp Premium, 600%, for Making Camp Bilingual, users have doubled.

Every day something new pops up. It reminds me of when I joined Twitter, back in 2008. Maybe you haven’t been on twitter for that long, or maybe all you know about it is that it helped someone get enough visibility to be elected president. Well, those of us who were on Twitter in the early days remember the “Fail Whale”.

I know this is salmon, not a whale, but our next game features salmon

Why the Fail Whale Was a Good Sign

The ‘fail whale’ -a picture of a whale being held up by a bunch of birds and nets – is what you saw when there were so many people trying to get on Twitter at the same time that there servers would get overloaded and you couldn’t get on the site. It annoyed a lot of people, including me, but it also showed how many people wanted an app that was easier to use than blogging to connect with a lot of people.

These days, I feel as if 7 Generation Games is in the same boat. When you have four or six times as many people using your products you need to increase your staff, and quickly.

Mo’ Money Mo’ Problems

Like the Notorious B.I.G. sang, the more users you have, the more problems. Well, he may not have been exactly talking about educational games … Still, if you have four times as many kids playing a game then you have four times the odds that you are going to have that one student who does every single activity in Making Camp Premium over and over and somehow triggers a bug where she suddenly has 6 million points. Dennis is trying to figure that one out now.

If you have six times as many school districts, you are going to have one or two come up with completely reasonable requests that you had not needed to handle before.

It’s great that you have reports for each individual student and by classroom but I’m the Native American student coordinator for the district, can I get the data for all the students in the district, sorted by number of sessions, minutes played and problems answered correctly? I’d like to recognize both achievement and persistence.

– Very reasonable requestor

I will have that to you as soon as Dennis figures out the 6 million point bug, which he is working on right now at 10 pm on what is supposedly our vacation and has instead turned into a 7 Generation Games hackathon.

Here’s my view during “vacation” and Dennis trying to solve the 6 million point problem

Explain to me again why this is a good thing?

There are a long list of improvements and enhancements we have on our list and that list has suddenly gotten much, much longer. I tell our staff all the time this is a good thing, for a couple of reasons. More people using our software means that any potential problem comes up much sooner and thus we can identify and fix it much sooner.

It means that we can add more staff and thus add more features and more games much faster.

You may know that the Growing Math project started in December. We wrapped up the Empiric Empire project (fill out this form if you want to download the beta and we’ll send you the link). We have another new game, Making Camp Dakota, being released this month.

That’s why it’s better for YOU. As for us, I tell everyone at 7 Generation Games all the time that new bugs, requests for new data reports, new enhancements to games or new games or lesson plans that address additional topics are all a GOOD thing. Those mean that people are using our software often enough to have ideas for what could be better.

We have DOUBLED in staff size in six months

How crazy is that?

We brought some people on short-term to help us with projects (thank you, James Wall) and permanently. We now have a new Community Manager, Christy Hanson, who has been writing most of the blogs, a Director of Regional Partnerships, Juliana Taken Alive, who is picking up educator outreach and support, and three new developers, Anthony Kampa , Julie Malyshev and Ali Mohamud. The last two are so new we don’t even have them on the website yet!

We feel super fortunate at the quality of people we have been able to hire, but at the same time, every person I mentioned has been here six months or less. Some came on just in January.

Be assured, we are working on making more features and more support

We are growing as fast as we can and I cannot tell you how much we appreciate YOU. Those of you who have been here from the beginning, like I was with Twitter, have seen how we have gone from just one game to 18 (we also have 3 mental health apps), have gone from a start on two reservations to dozens of states and multiple countries – I really do remember the names of the first people who downloaded our games and the first schools that used them.

We’re just getting started. Stay tuned for all the improvements and additions coming out every day.

At least our dog is having a relaxing vacattion

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