Making Commissions Easier: a visual series

Hello everyone!

We hope you’ve all had a good time this holiday season, and have enjoyed the chance to decompress and spend some time with friends and family. I know our team has – our development team will be back to work shortly after the New Year.

We’ve been working on testing our commissioning interface, and have been putting together some visual guides to help explain how it’s going to work. In the first part of this series, we’ll be focusing on the ‘how’ and ‘why’, along with some animated demos of the features we’re testing. Next week, we’ll be giving you a full walkthrough of the process from the Artist perspective, and the following week we’ll do one from the Commissioner perspective.

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(Important note: throughout this blog post, we use the word ‘Artist’ to represent many kinds of content creators as a whole. All content is a form of art: we consider stories, crafts, fursuits, leatherwork, protography and many others to be part of this, not simply ‘visual arts’.)

Why improve commissions?

We believe that we can substantially improve the experience of both commissioners and content creators, by making it easier to manage and track work, and my making it easier for all parties to ‘do the right thing’. By making a slick, reliable, easy-to-use interface for financial transactions to take place, we hope to be able to encourage good behaviors and make it safer and more enjoyable to commission artists within the fandom.

As an artist, your core competency is in creating amazing content – not necessarily in being an expert in tools to track your job queue, who’s order is at what stage, and keeping track of everything in a spreadsheet. If it was, you’d probably have gone into accounting. Our goal is to make it so you can concentrate on your craft – and see exactly what you need to do, at a glance – without it being a huge pain, or taking away from your creativity.

As a commissioner, you want to get great results for minimum effort – and chances are, if you had confidence you were definitely going to get what you expect, every time, you’d commission a lot more work from others. Our goal is to make your life easier – and provide a valuable and useful service to you and artists.

We’ve all had bad experiences with transactions before – whether its the ‘quick sketch’ that turns into a 6-month epic email adventure, or that commissioner with unrealistically high expectations that believes you should do great, custom work for them for free, we aim to free you of the drudgery of  things that are a chore to you.

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How are you going to make commissioning easier?

We’re going to be making commissioning easier by laying out clear, sensible policies for both buyers and sellers, and backing it up with both Buyer and Seller Protection. Combined with our easy-to-use commission management system and our excellent dispute resolution team, we’ll be offering a service unique in the Fandom: a safe place to both buy and sell in a commission format, with proper on-site payments.

Commission Management Interface

As an artist, you want to be able to see all your commissions in one place, sorted by status. You’d like to see at a glance what you have to work on, and what opportunities for future work you have – and pick the jobs that interest you.

You want to communicate easily in real time with your customers, and uphold the great standard of responsiveness you strive for in all your work – without having to play ‘messenger tag’ using several different IM clients, private messages or emails.

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As a commissioner, you want to be able to see all the commissions you have open with content creators in one place, with notifications when there’s progress updates, or the artist has a question for you. You want to be able to access your commissions from anywhere, on any mobile device – and be notified automatically when one of your favorite artists opens for commissions. Well, we’ve got that:

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On-site Announcements

As an artist, you always want to put your best foot forward – posting a pretty, informative announcement of your availability for commissions as soon as you open. You know that presenting a professional and competent image to all your fans is key, and an attractive and well thought out announcement with an image and full details of your availability is just the ticket. You’ll get a wider selection of offers from commissioners, and enjoy picking the ones that interest you!

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As a commissioner, you want to see a feed of all your favorite artists’ announcements, and receive notifications the second they open for commissions. Want to get an email the instant they open? Sure thing – just tick the box and we’ll do the rest:

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Don’t want to see announements at all, ever? Simply turn them off in your “What’s New” feed, and never see them again.

On-Site Payment Processing

As an artist, you want to accept commission payments with confidence. Good news: we have negotiated with payment processors to allow a wide range of furry content, which means you can get paid for adult-rated art safely, without the threat of having your account shut down. You’ll know exactly where you stand, and  be able to sell in confidence – knowing that we’ve got your back. We’re making it easier than ever to receive money – so easy in fact, that you’ll be able to charge a premium for your work, and have the motivation to provide a great experience for your buyers.

As a commissioner, you want to pay for artwork, stories and other media with confidence, knowing that you’ll get exactly what you agreed to in the timescale provided – or a full refund. Good news is that’s what we want too. What’s more is all of your payment information will be securely processed via a well-known, reputable payment provider – your financial details will never touch our servers. With support for a huge multitude of payment methods (including local European payment methods), you’ll be able to pay for your commissions in confidence, in a way that suits YOU.

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Dispute Resolution

As an artist, trading safely and not getting screwed over is important to you – after all, all it takes is one bad experience to put you off from sharing your work with others. Our professional dispute resolution team is there to help you every step of the way. Our team has had many years of experience in helping artists and site users resolve their differences amicably and constructively, and will always seek out a constructive resolution for all parties. Consistency and Accountability are very important to us, and we know they’re important to you: our procedures and policies will be specifically tailored to ensure that you get predictable results, every time. What’s more is we’ll be clearly outlining the standards of behavior we expect from both buyers and sellers – so you’ll always know where you stand, and what’s expected of you.

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As a commissioner, you know how important getting what you asked for is – especially when deadlines slip, when ‘things come up’ for the artist, and that sometimes your needs change. Our dispute resolution team understands these dynamics, and want to ensure you are treated fairly as well as have an opportunity to make things right. If you have a problem with an artist, you can ‘flag’ the transaction – at which point one of out disputes team will take a look, and address the issue raised with both parties. What’s more is we’ll be clearly outlining your responsibilities, so you can be sure that you’re doing the right thing.

 

Buyer & Seller Protection

Part of our commitment to artists is to make sure that you’re covered in any eventuality. Our Seller Protection program will protect you from ‘bad deals’ that can burn you when doing a commission directly with a customer. Commissioner made a payment using a stolen credit card, but you completed the work as per the agreement and rules? We’ve got you covered. Did your part, but the customer’s changed their mind and doesn’t want it any more? You’ll still get paid. Sell with confidence – and focus on your craft!

Commissioners: You’re putting money on the line, and want to be sure you don’t have a bad experience. We want the same – and as such, we back up every transaction you make with our Buyer Protection program. Commission an artist, but they never finish the job? Receive a full refund for work not yet completed. Make payment, but get something substantially different from what you agreed on? Get your money back – at no risk to you. Simply ensure you follow our guidance on successful commissioning (and our rules), and you’ll always be covered – risk free.

We have had many years of experience in covering these sorts of transaction issues, which while representing a very small percentage of transactions, are often very disruptive, time consuming and difficult to fix. Because we’re offering a paid service, we are able to cover these losses ourselves – resulting in more confidence and safety for everyone.

Simple to use, with clear, fair fees

We do not charge a monthly fee, show ads, sell your data or force you to answer surveys in order to use the site or these tools. Instead, we charge a per-transaction fee for every commission made through our service. Our pricing is a flat percentage – and is in line with other competing services that allow all forms of content, such as Patreon. Full details and pricing will be coming at launch – but we think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

This simple, transparent pricing allows us to focus on producing great tools, and by providing those services to artists and commissioners, allows artists to charge a premium for their work, in return for the convenience and benefits a dedicated platform for marketing yourself and your work provides. We’ve chosen to support the project ourselves and invest in its future rather than request donations or crowdfunding, because we believe the site will earn back its development and maintenance costs all on its own – and that it ensures we’ll be motivated to make the site as great as it can be.

What’s more is Furry Network is “By the Fandom, For the Fandom” – decisions and management are performed by people intimately familiar with how our community works – and we’re not here to squeeze every last penny out of you. We’re in for the long haul – and we believe that providing great tools will more than pay for itself both commercially and in overall positive effect on the Fandom as a whole.

What value do you bring to the table?

We bring our dedication, resources and commitment to the long-term success of the Furry Fandom – and have a long track record of making things like this happen, as well as following up to make sure things are working right. By providing a platform for artists and commissioners to perform commercial transactions safely, the value we bring is ‘reducing the friction of commerce’ – which means more art, and more fun!

Conclusion

We hope this has been an interesting insight into how we hope to change the status quo in the Fandom through our commissioning service, and that it’s given you the same injection of excitement as it has for us. As always, we welcome comments, questions and feedback via email [varka at furrynetwork dot com]  and our Twitter account – and if you’d like to help test out our commissions system before it’s released, drop us a DM or email with an explanation of your track record, a brief explanation of your involvement in commissioning, and why we should pick you!

Thanks!

-Varka and the Furry Network team

 

 

 

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Holiday Update: Submission Inbox, Navigation & polish

Hello everyone!

Today we are proud to announce our latest round of new features and tweaks, assisted by the feedback and input you’ve given us though the ‘feedback’ button on the site. We’ve also finished a rough draft of the ‘commission’ system, and will be testing it out and gathering feedback with a carefully selected group of users. Of course, we’ll be collecting screenshots and preparing a few demos of how it works to show you all over the next few days. So far – it’s looking awesome!

Submissions Inbox & Notifications

Many users have contacted us about submissions, and how it’s not clear where you go to see your ‘submissions inbox’. As a result, we’ve reworked the “Activity Feed” page to relate more to “What’s New” – and give you a familiar Inbox-style way of keeping up to date on new content from those you follow in the Fandom.

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You can now remove items from your “What’s New” feed, much like an inbox – which is great for keeping track of new art and working through it at your own pace. We have a bunch of tweaks in the works for making this aspect of the site better, including ‘select all/none’ options for categories, and numbers to show you how many items are new – and of course the familiar gallery view will still be available to see artwork from people you’re following (hint: click on ‘artwork’, then select ‘following’ from the menu)

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A proper notification area of the site is coming soon, and will let you know of all activity that relates to your account (new followers, new comments on your work, new faves of your uploads, etc), together with useful statistics, like how many views each submission has. We are expecting great things!

Posts have been revamped

Posts (similar to Journals) have been revamped to include permalinks (so you can direct people to a specific post), can be set as adult, are now visible on their own pages, and are linked to from the “What’s New” feed. They’re now subject to content blocking settings, and can be easily filtered!

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Tickets

You can now see tickets which you’ve sent to the moderation staff, and communicate directly with our moderation team in real-time, right from the Ticket inbox. This makes it easier to work towards resolutions with our staff, and to solve problems in minutes, rather than weeks or months!

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Character Profile Tweaks

Character profiles have had their navigation updated to allow for more sections to be added in the future (Commissions!) and include submission counts on each tab. When there’s no content for a given tab, it’s hidden automatically – so it’ll only show ‘stories’, ‘multimedia’ etc if there’s something there!

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We are working on some tweaks to the ‘bio’ fields shown on the left, and will be allowing far more customization, to let you show much more content (including icons of friends, and featured submissions). If you’ve already filled out this section, don’t worry – your bio info won’t disappear; it’ll be automatically moved across to the new format when these changes go live.

We’re really excited to see what you do with the bio section – there’s a lot of potential for really expressing yourself, as well as building a really cool looking profile, all within a tidy and easy-to-use interface. No more guessing what to put for ‘tagline’ and ‘bio’ – put whatever you like up!

How do I submit feedback or report a bug?

We continue to recieve a ton of great feedback about every aspect of the site – thank you all! As always, the best way to send in feature requests and bug reports is via the ‘feedback’ button, shown on the left of every page. This is by far the most useful way for us to collect data on what to fix; we always advise using this method to report things to do with the site, as it lets us categorize and sort them effectively to direct our efforts.

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If you don’t see the little ‘Feedback’ button (or speech bubble with a camera icon on it), make sure that Adblock, NoScript, Ghostery etc are disabled in your browser. Similar plugins also block the feedback tool by default – so please double check to make sure it’s not being automatically hidden by your ad blocker of choice.

 

How do I request a beta key?

As always, you can request a Beta access key for the site from our homepage. Simply put in your email address, and we’ll send you an email in a day or two with your very own access key!

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Full Changelog

  • “My Feed” page has been renamed to “What’s New”
  • Users now have the ability to remove items from What’s New, much like an inbox
  • Coming Soon: number of items in the What’s New feed, notifications for new items, and count of items by category
  • Posts are revamped to include permalinks for sharing, can be set as adult, are now viewable on their own pages and linked from the newsfeed, and can be blocked content settings.
  • Users can now see tickets they’ve submitted to admin across the site and can communicate with admin directly through the ticket inbox
  • An “up” button was added to gallery views on submissions pages for quick navigation back to where a user entered a gallery
  • Character profiles have updated navigation to allow for more sections to be added in the future (commissions!) and include submission counts on tabs with tabs hidden when no content has been added by the character. Of note: Bio fields are still available in user profiles and will be migrated over with the addition of custom/key value fields in the next release. No one has lost their bio information, it’s just not currently being displayed until we have that functionality fully built out.
  • Staff badges were added to user tickets
  • Adult content is now being blocked on stories

Next Steps & Future Progress

Our development team is taking a well-earned break for the next two weeks, and will be back in action in the first week of January. We’ll be spending the holiday period getting feedback and collecting tweaks for the Commissions aspect of the site, as well as developing (and testing!) rules and a Code of Conduct for commissions. As a furry-specific commissioning system of this extent has not been done before, we want to make sure that it maintains our commitment to safety, confidence and security in buying and selling commissions. This will be a complex task, but is one we feel will be totally worthwhile!

Thank you everyone for your patience! It’s been a long road since we’ve started, but we’re confident that you’ll love the site more and more as we near our official launch.

-Varka and the Furry Network team

December Site Update: Bug fixes!

Hello everyone~

It’s been another busy few weeks for us; we’ve been polishing story support, and getting a bunch of progress made on the final piece of the Furry Network puzzle: commissioning!

Progress on Commissioning

We’re turning our focus to finishing the Commissions support, including functionality to request a quote, upload files, have a conversation, view message history, the commissions queue and filtering functions on the commission list. We’re really excited about this part of the site – we believe it has the potential to revolutionize how commissions are done in the Fandom, and want it to be as good as it can be.

Our payment processor went live yesterday, and we can now officially process credit and debit cards for payment of commissions! This was the one of the more difficult pieces of the puzzle to make happen: given the wide variety of content in the Fandom, we wanted to ensure that we could reliably continue to process payments on your behalf – without the risk of being ‘cut off’ for issues related to the nature of furry content.

We expect to do another gradual beta test of this functionality, first with staff and people directly involved in the project, then a carefully selected list of testers, before finally turning it loose in a ‘playground’ format (no real money exchanged) to see how people use it. We expect this to happen in the run-up to the winter holidays.

Once we’re confident it’s working as it should, we’re going to invite some content creators to try accepting some commissions through it ‘for real’ -as with any system that handles money, it’s important that we thoroughly test it before currency flows, so we expect this to take a few weeks to get right, both from a technical and a policy standpoint. Fortunately our team is no stranger to mission-critical, payment handling code – we expect this to go pretty smoothly.

Tweaks and General Improvements

We’ve updated the popularity algorithm to show content from the last month, instead of ‘all time’ – this should make the popular content feed more relevant and fresh!

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What we’re working on now

We’re focusing primarily on the Commissions functionality, but we’re also making progress on a number of improvements:

Posts

We’re building out the ‘posts’ functionality a little more, giving them permalinks and the ability to flag them as adult content when you post. These refinements should help them feel more polished and permanent.

We’re experimenting with different ways of encouraging both long-form ‘blog post’ style content, used for announcing and discussing things, and shorter ‘social-media-style’ individual posts, used for chatting with others and speaking your mind. Getting the balance between art site and social site is important to us – and we think building the site with both of these uses in mind is key to this.

Notifications

We’ve read through a lot of feedback about notifications on the site, and are currently designing some improvements which should make it a lot easier for everyone to understand and use.

Many people reported that notifications could use some tweaking: we’re planning on building a specific ‘notifications center’ for Furry Network, that incorporates a lot of the feedback we’ve gotten about what people want to be notified about (namely, things that relate directly to you / your work), and to tweak the Feed page to be more content oriented.

As always, we’re committed to getting this right – so we’re going to be getting the design work done on this (as well as consulting with people on how it should work), before we build it.

Sending us Feedback

After the release of Stories, we received a ton of great feedback about every aspect of the site – thank you all! As always, the best way to send in feature requests and bug reports is via the ‘feedback’ button, shown on the left of every page. This is by far the most useful way for us to collect data on what to fix; we always advise using this method to report things to do with the site, as it lets us categorize and sort them effectively to direct our efforts.

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If you don’t see the little ‘Feedback’ button (or speech bubble with a camera icon on it), make sure that Adblock or Ghostery is disabled in your browser. Similar plugins also block the feedback tool by default – so please double check to make sure it’s not being automatically hidden by your ad blocker of choice.

 

Requesting a key

As always, you can request a Beta access key for the site from our homepage. Simply put in your email address, and we’ll send you an email in a day or two with your very own access key!

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Full Changelog

  • Continued work on frontend and backend for commissions support including adding components for quotes and uploads, conversations, message interface and history, commissions queue and list filtering
  • Updated popularity algorithm from all time to previous one month
  • Began building posts permalink pages to increase functionality of this content type to include ability to mark as adult, posts will be displayed in Story format with permalink and adult content blocking will be enabled
  • User ban function now available for admins of site (currently blocks user from logging into the site but leaves all content)
  • Flagging and flag reasons have been added to Stories and Multimedia for site administration
  • Support added for linking embedded images in profiles, Stories and posts so users can link to friends’ accounts, artwork samples on FN or point to external links
  • Pagination was added to submission manager for easier scrolling of large submission galleries
  • Foreign languages now supported in profiles
  • Various other bug fixes and improvements including removing the ability to promote a user’s own drafts

 

Thank you for your continued support! Together we’ll make Furry Network awesome!

-Varka and the Furry Network team