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EDIT: please +fav and comment on the latest blog. We decide the future of deviantART.
Also, I will be launching steps on europeans on how we can constructively contribute to improving deviantART in the next couple days. Stay tuned!
In our last journal entry titled Thank you x 15000, I announced shutting down active operations for europeans, promising a follow-up explanation. A few months later, nothing has changed in the situation, and I am comfortable explaining you why I decided to shut down the group.
Please note: I might be going into great detail at times, because I still care a lot for the group.
Also, this journal will focus on the technical operations and downfall of europeans, rather than all the fun moments we had (like contests, devMEETs, #Europe). I will save the fun times for a proper eulogy, celebrating our happy moments, as we had plenty of those too.
Lastly, just in case, these views are my own, and do not reflect the entire europeans staff views, both former volunteers and present. I wrote this journal without checking with them.
I'm looking forward to hearing your feedback and ideas on the future of deviantART.
Frits van der Sloot / fritsenator
Why I ended europeans' operations
In February, with a heavy heart, I decided to shut down europeans. To better understand why I had to make this decision, we have to start at its first moments as a group, in September 2009.
On September 2, 2009, a day before my eighteenth birthday, fourteenthstar came with the best birthday gift deviantART could give me. I had applied for alpha testing Groups a week or two before, we were finally accepted, and europeans got super group status! And oh boy, was I happy!
That night, in the middle of the countryside on a GPRS connection, I used my iPhone to set up the initial group, because I wanted to have it running before I had access to a computer again. This could get quite big.
And big it got. So big, that we were the first group to break the membership limit for super groups, which was abolished all together after we hit it.
Building and sustaining a big group
A big group needed a large team. I had many amazing volunteers working with me. We poured heart and soul into this group day in, day out, from the get go – reviewing thousands upon thousands join requests, incoming deviation submissions. On top of that, we hosted deviantMEETs throughout Europe, which deviantART sometimes sponsored with goodies for us to give away to the community we'd grown. We also hosted contests worth hundreds of euro's, most of which came out of my and my staff's own pockets, but also were made possible with your donations.
Around 2011, we were seeing the limitations of the groups platform. DeviantART started working on Dreamup.com and as a result, abandoned a lot of ideas and work for the main website. Some deviantART developers I know personally, who I will not mention by name, decided to leave the company, citing a lack of leadership and vision towards the future. This is when I first got worried about the future of europeans, and deviantART as a whole. I was starting to worry about the future of our art community, and the community inside this community which we had built with so much blood, sweat and tears.
The walls are crumbling down
In late 2012, as a direct result of my volunteering work for deviantART (shout out to fourteenthstar ) and experience running and managing europeans, I found a job at a Dutch social media company called Hyves. I now got paid to do what I did on a voluntary basis here!
Sadly, this meant much of my spare time now went to my job, as I also started university around this time. With diminishing time, added pressure and little help from deviantART in making our lives easier, europeans slowly but surely fell into a state of hibernation.
A lot of team members left, new team members came, management was handed over. Repeat this cycle a few times over.
DeviantART as a company made some very irrational decisions during this time. A lot of amazing people were fired overnight, bluntly ignoring the many years of work they have spent catering to the community, building relationships, making sure you were happy. People like fourteenthstar, ewm, dxd, y2jenn, kozispoon, godofodd, MidnightExigent and Shyree, who formed the core of the community-faced staff team, were suddenly left without a job. Major red flag there.
DeviantART also fired some technical and creative staff, like kemayo, DEVlANT, Pachunka, endosage. The list goes on for a while. These are the people that help build deviantART as a website: they write the code that allows me to write this to you today. They design the way everything looks and feels on the website. They make it possible to upload your art. Long story short; they're the reason dA functions as a website.
Shutting down the group
Last winter, I decided it was time to call it quits. DeviantART was not going to spend time developing Groups any further. Meanwhile, we had to pay 80 euro a year to enjoy basic features the group needed to function properly and not look like a crappy website from the early 2000s, like adding a journal skin.
I waited a few months, hoping for a sudden and radical change by management, but apart from a bunch of spyed (CEO of deviantART) blogs promising change, not a whole lot happened. In February, after a brief discussion in our back room, we shut down the group. For the sake of transparency, my back room announcement which started the shut down is posted after this paragraph.
Europeans has no future on deviantART
This week, another surprising around of layoffs happened. This round of layoffs let me to conclude there is no future for groups, including europeans, on deviantART. Key team members, mostly development, were fired, while management was spared. There might not be a deviantART in five years if management keeps this up.
Because guys, deviantART is not doing well. People are leaving faster than others are joining the website, the website's bleeding visitors and active users. I could bore you with details, but the bottom line is that a change needs to happen, fast, if this website wants to exist much longer.
This round of layoffs included exactly those people you need to quickly change your website around. The people that got fired (again, overnight) were almost exclusively part of the design and development teams as well as responsible for developing the mobile apps, which create the deviantART you see before your eyes every time you use it, as well as the deviantART we hope to use in the future: Mjcdools, baclap, bjkim88, drommk, hmaserrat, iconocrash, inazar, matt789, mudimba, paraglade, Pickley, trezoid, yury-n, KatasiHK, arbiterofelegance all lost their jobs overnight. Without simple features like mobile apps, for instance, there is simply no future for deviantART.
Now, I am not a fool – I know when a business is bleeding money, and having issues staying afloat, some staff members usually end up losing their jobs. I also do not know what's going on behind the scenes, but at this point, I have become highly sceptical of the way deviantART is being run by high level management.
I currently work for a company called Speakap. We build social media platforms for big companies to use internally. We develop the platform, apps included, with five developers, working around the clock. In two years, we have managed to become cost effective and have a very successful platform up and running. We made this possible because of clear vision, minimal management layers and most importantly, no false promises towards the end user. Seems simple, right?
I am calling upon you, spyed, mccann, deviantART, Inc. (product) management, investors like Autodesk.com and anybody else actively involved in establishing a roadmap for the company. Pick the path you are forcing us to walk on very carefully.
The community is not happy.
The community has not been heard.
Actions speak louder than words – instead of writing the umpteenth blog about change, or spending precious resources building an Outlook.com plugin, focus on what's important.
Gain. Back. Our. Trust.
I am just one heavy-hearted community member in the vast ocean of active members. In my lifetime, I have personally spent over $2000 to try and help this community by sponsoring contests and giving away random subscriptions. Please take my words into consideration.
Even after all that's happened, I wish nothing but the best for this place and I really hope you can turn this ship around. At its current heading, the cruise ship we call deviantART is on crash course with a massive iceberg and we don't have any lifeboats.
Of course I would be more than happy to pitch in if I can. If you choose to shout on the barricades, be prepared to get your hands dirty.
A wise man once said: "Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible." Let's be devious again.
Frits van der Sloot