Kicking Nudging the Bird out of the Nest

On the necessity of bold side steps and giving projects their own chance to fly

Published on March 30, 2024

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If you read the news, it’s true: we’ve taken the bold step of turning BobaBoard into a real “community project.” This has a few implications, with the biggest one being: I’m stepping down as the official lead of BobaBoard to become a volunteer like everyone else..

If you haven’t read the full retrospective yet, this might make you worry about the future of the project. Let me reassure you: BobaBoard isn’t going anywhere. Quite the contrary, this move is the only thing that can lead this project to success and give it the chance it deserves.

An (Eventually) Unmovable Deadline

Let’s add some context to the decision: When you’re trying to make a living with a bootstrapped business, it’s important to set a target goal and a date to reach it. This practice is not a black-and-white “if we don’t meet the target, the project dies” checkpoint, but it helps to step back from the tunnel vision you’re prone to when you pour your soul into something you deeply care about. It reminds you of the need to periodically reassess your strategy.

I first set a goal at the end of 2021, aiming to reach $2000/month in contributions—a very ambitious target, although it would barely cover my living expenses—by the end of 2022. Unfortunately, 2022 ended up being one of the hardest years of my life for reasons outside of my control. Then, as things were looking up, I set the same goal for 2023 only for new unpredictable hardships to get in the way.

At that point, I could not move the deadline any more.

Eventually, just like it was designed to do, this deadline helped me face the truth: no matter how much effort I poured into BobaBoard in the next year, there was no way I could continue carrying the project in the long run without a bold change of strategy.

Learning from FujoGuide

While you can read more about the choice in the BobaBoard retrospective, part of the impetus behind the FujoGuide project was to explore delivering a project people paid for without committing to something as ambitious (and binding in the long term) as a whole social network. As hoped, I learned a lot before, during, and after launching the Kickstarter. It’s one of the achievements I’m most proud of and, as you’ll see soon, something that will make an important impact on our ability to collaboratively grow our projects, BobaBoard included.

This being said, launching something so ambitious in such a narrow window of time (two months from conception to launch), and the amount of effort it required from me and those who saw it through, showed me just how much our work relied on me. As I spent two months focusing my every waking moment on this specific project, issues that would pop up in other parts of the ecosystem were forced to take a backseat, or to be addressed in a satisfactory-but-less-than-ideal fashion.

In the end, working on FujoGuide made it clear how powerless we’d be to navigate the challenges that would inevitably arise as BobaBoard grew in size without the money to pay personnel. I am, to toot my own horn, good. But no one is that good—not every time, not at every size, and not when they’re stretched so thin they barely have space to think.

Churning the Numbers

With that experience, I realized that there was no way we could launch BobaBoard on the income from the few supporters we had and my dwindling savings. Even if we could rally coders together, fix the remaining blocking issue, and finally launch realms, the amount of people we’d have to onboard to keep even just me afloat for a bit longer would be impossible to sustainably manage in the long term.

By relying exclusively on volunteers, many of whom are at some intersection of poor, queer, disabled, or neurodivergent, and all of us with lives at risk of emotional or financial peril, any issue dropped could fall on me at a moment’s notice. In addition, with my (and only my) reputation and livelihood on the line, it was impossible to take any risks that included potential public fallout, which I lacked the resources to address while also juggling everything else.

As we pondered the issue and as more of the web ecosystem crumbled around us, it became clearer that even the fandom projects we tout as “sustainable” are only so because of the underappreciated sacrifices of folks who gave enormous amounts of time, money, energy—and sometimes health!—to a cause they deeply believed in.

Sincerely, that’s not how I want (nor deserve) to live.

Unfortunately all numbers we churned, and those we continue to churn as more social platforms make their financials public, spell the same conclusion: As things are now, social projects do not have the numbers to sustain themselves exclusively with the fandom public, if at all.

Pivoting Around

I hope this story drives home why a bold change was needed. After consulting with some of my collaborators, we agreed that the path forward was clear: BobaBoard was always meant to be a project led by the community. My position there, paired with my need to eventually sustain myself with it, were indeed weighing the project down and keeping me from focusing on things I could reasonably achieve with the tools at my disposal.

Thus, we decided that two things would need to happen:

We also agreed that some of the most impactful work I could use my time on would be educating fandom people on development and collaboration so they could eventually join our efforts and help pull some of the weight themselves. This meant continuing my work on FujoGuide, and potentially publishing articles and videos that would help turn aspiring beginners into effective collaborators.

Boba’s First Months of Independence

While we’re only discussing this publicly now that a volunteer—thank you, Dove!—was able to take on the burden of writing our annual retrospective (a step in the right direction!), this change has been underway for a few months. It is a slow development, but one that we’re all committed to see succeed, and that we’ve been collectively pushing forward small step by small step.

For a while, everything will appear to remain the same. However, know that we’re working hard behind the scenes to set BobaBoard up for success—not on my own shoulders, but on those of the community who cares about it the most.

If you’ve signed up to volunteer in the past, we hope to be in touch soon. If you haven’t, you can find a link to the new volunteers newsletter here.

The Way Forward

This April 1st will mark a new step in the journey of the BobaFujoVerse™—a culmination of the work me and my collaborators have built in the last years. With that announcement out of the way, you’ll soon hear more concrete news about future plans.

As a final push to set everything up for long-term success, I dug deep into my pockets to move my $2000/month deadline to August. At that point, I’ll officially be out of funds and have to figure out how to at least start covering my living expenses.

Reaching the full amount is a tall order, but with people’s support and my highly-valued software engineering skills, I believe I’ll be able to work part-time while I keep chipping away at the problem I’ve cared about solving all along: Turning the fandom web back into the place of creative self-expression and communal acceptance that made such an important impact on my life and those of many queer, kinky, neurodivergent, disabled—overall, weird—folks.

Looking forward to doing more for and with you,

Ms Boba