Putting lolslackbot on the back burner

I’ve decided to stop working on lolslackbot, my social project for League of Legends players who use Slack or Discord. I wrote it originally for a few friends, then slowly expanded it to a few hundred users. But I’ve never put the work in to make it a consumer product and now am not motivated to do it.

The main feature missing is any sort of web interface so people could sign up for themselves. I’ve been maintaining it by hand with database update scripts, doing ~30 minutes of one-off work every few weeks instead of one focussed month-long engineering project. This blog is full of bold plans to port the whole thing to Django and get going on a web interface, but I never did it. Too much product work I don’t really know how to do well, designing interactive web UI. Hell, I don’t even have a proper name for the project.

Also some deeper technical problems. The Django port seems doable but requires database schema changes, specifically in how many-to-many relations work. And I got part of my core schema wrong, an assumption that an individual only belongs to one group. Fixing that would require redoing pretty much all the tests and half the business logic. Also at some point I’d have to migrate from sqlite to Postgres and that doesn’t sound like fun at all. In retrospect it’s too bad I didn’t start with Postgres+Django, but that seemed complicated at the beginning when I was thinking of this as just a cron job.

My real reason for lack of enthusiasm is the market. I like games and I like the idea of making game playing more social. But League of Legends is a hard community to build humble tools for. Most of the energy there is to highly polished and well marketed sites like LolKing and I’m just not that ambitious. There’s not much money in it (Riot’s API requires you don’t charge for services) and not a lot of love either. Me and my gaming buddies are on a bit of a LoL break too, which makes it harder to stay personally motivated. I’m also bummed that Riot hasn’t done anything more with Clubs, their social feature, my hope was to springboard off of that to build out the bot.

I did get some data from the last user population of Learning Fives, a cohort of ~80 people playing games together for a few weeks. 50% said they found it useful, 20% said it wasn’t, and 30% didn’t know what it was (despite seeing it in their channel). Not sure what conclusion to draw from that.

Anyway it’s a weight off my mind to just say I’m not going to do further work on this, at least for now. Truthfully my mind is on political work right now, I’d really like to do some sort of progressive activism combining data processing and GIS. (I’m following Mike’s work on redistricting closely.) To the extent I do anything for games it’s about time to revisit Logs of Lag, which 2.5 years later is still running just fine and uniquely useful. But I have some bugs to fix and maybe some improvements to make.


One thought on “Putting lolslackbot on the back burner

  1. Hi Nelson,

    You and I worked together for a short while at Google. I don’t expect you will remember me as I had a different name and gender back then and you headed out a short while after I joined ads in early 2005.

    Anyway, if you are interested in combining tech with activism: I have some ideas that aren’t completely in line with what you mention above, but you might find interesting. I just attended http://www.abortionaccesshackathon.com/ in SF where we worked on a demo for a system that monitors new legislation at the state level. I could imagine opportunities for mapping there. Secondly, I am just now starting to design a site that lets transgender people navigate local (mostly state) laws regarding birth certificate updates, court orders and federal documents. Thirdly, I will probably be working on an effort to evaluate/share information about new legislation aimed at removing rights of LGBT people.

    Let me know if anything there sounds intriguing. I would look forward to working with you again!

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