From technology to politics to video games; these are the random thoughts of a geek with too much time on his hands
2007 Was Good, 2008 Will Be Great!
Published on January 3, 2008 By Zoomba In OS Customization

You've seen Brad's article on what Stardock needs to do in 2008, and a few of the items touched on WinCustomize and the community specifically.  Now that we're into 2008, I wanted to add my own thoughts on what we accomplished on WinCustomize in 2007, what some of my goals are for '08 and what that means for the community in terms of content, events and opportunities.

Looking Back at 2007:

Vista, Dreams & New Opportunities

2007 was a year of change for Windows customization, there's no doubt about that.  Vista brought with it a completely new set of challenges and opportunities for people looking to tweak their PC to get the most visually and performance-wise.  Stardock brought a lot of new goodies to the table in 2007 specifically for Vista.  WindowBlinds was updated for Vista features, and even brought several Vista visual enhancements to Windows XP.  IconPackager handles Live Folders and the increased image size requirements.  We also updated Skin Studio to take care of all the new WB6 and Vista features.

On top of updating our stable of customization tools, we've added a plethora of new applications that let you further customize and tweak your Windows experience: DeskScapes, SoundPackager, CursorFX.

DeskScapes is without a doubt the biggest new customization tool of 2007.  With Windows Vista Ultimate, animated desktops became much more reasonable and less resource intensive.  On top of the regular DreamScene feature of playing video files, DeskScapes built on that with a new file format to allow authors to retain credit and protect their work, as well as allow for the ability to run dynamic wallpapers.  Animated desktops that weren't pre-rendered video, but dynamically rendered scenes utilizing the graphics card instead of your CPU.

Dreams are our fastest growing content category here at WinCustomize.  In the 11 months since the launch of Windows Vista and DeskScapes, we have received over 400 Dreams from our community.  Every month we've had dozens of outstanding quality dreams, and every month since March, Island Dog has been featuring the best work:

And in February of 2008, DeskScapes 2.0 comes out, making animated wallpapers available to virtually all Vista users.

Sound Packager also finally saw the light of day, giving users the ability to customize even how their PC sounds.  No more manually changing out system sounds one by one, now you can create packages or theme sets of sounds for your system and share them with your friends or the community at large.  It's one thing to customize the look, now you can customize the sound of your PC just as easily.

2007 was all about new choices in Windows customization, and we kept ahead of the curve here at WinCustomize.com.

WinCustomize 2007

In preparation for what we wanted to do for Windows Vista, our web dev team spent months preparing a completely new version of WinCustomize.com.  After years holding together the old code with chewing gum and twine, they went back to the drawing board and rewrote the site for .NET 2.0.  This time, with the knowledge of running and coding the site for 5 years, they built things with an eye towards expandability and stability.  The single biggest improvement you've probably seen from this rewrite is the fact that the site is actually available and loads quickly 99.9% of the time now.  For those of you around in 2006 or earlier, you'll know how much of an achievement that is.

On top of the functional improvements, stability and speed, we also added the ability for community veterans to sell their skinning work through the Master Skins program.  For years these skinners have helped support WinCustomize with their free work, making us the premier site on the web to get skins and customization content, so it was time to give them something back.  Now, Master Skinners can sell their work to an audience of over 2 million folks every month.

On the news and article front, 2006 was the year we revived the news page with updated Monday through Friday.  Tech news, skinning news, random funny stories etc.  We wanted to make WinCustomize an active site again that gave users a reason to come back every single day.  2007 went like this for most of the year, but starting in late summer, the focus shifted from more generic and wide-reaching technology news to news specific to WinCustomize and the skinning community.  Daily and weekly skin features, moderator and skinner picks.  Interviews with master skinners, developers and more.

This summer we also launched the WinCustomize Wiki, a user-driven documentation project that many of you have taken on as your own.  Huge thanks to sViz, Bebi, CerebroJD, Doctor Nick and others for their tireless efforts to make that project a success!

We've also upped the number of contests.  Maxthon, Dreams, periodic give-aways and more.  Outside of the GUI Champs, 2007 was one of the best years to get your hands on free goodies for your skins.

But perhaps the biggest event of 2007 was the Charity/Subscription Drive we held in November/December.  Thanks to your support, and the generosity of several Master Skinners, we raised over $4,200 for Childs Play, a charity dedicated to donating toys, games and movies to children's hospitals around the globe.  The money we raised went directly to the Children's Hospital of Michigan in Detroit and will go to purchase much needed toys and games to lighten up what is otherwise a very dark place.  I'm incredibly proud of what we accomplished and count myself very lucky to be able to work every day with such an outstanding group of people.

On top of all that, we crossed a major milestone in December.  We crossed the 3,000,000 (yes, that's 3 MILLION) user line.  It was in 2005 that we crossed 2 million, and we've just been gaining momentum since.  I can't wait for us to hit 4 million!

Looking Forward to 2008

After everything that happened in 2007, it's hard to imagine how we'll top ourselves in 2008.  Plans however are already in motion to make 2008 a year to remember.  We've got events, projects, contests, and big announcements to make.  New efforts to expand the community in new ways, make what we're already doing even better, and overall helping to bring customization back to the forefront.  You've seen how Stardock plans to advance skinning to a wider audience, well, we're going to be playing a key role in that here.

The 2008 GUI Championships

In 2006, we gave away $12,000 in cash, software and prizes.  JJ Ying walked away with a great Alienware laptop, others got XBoxes, and many others got nice fat checks.  And we did all of that on a website originally written in 2004, and with very little advanced planning.  With all that has happened since then, we've got a list of ideas for the 2008 event as long as my arm.  This year the event will be bigger, with more events, more prizes, and a lot more exposure.  Island Dog and I have discussed the event at length and we're confident the 2008 GUIC will be the single biggest event in the customization world period.

Community Skin Projects

Yesterday I talked briefly about the first new Community Skin project in years.  The effort, being organized by Jafo, aims to do a project on the scale and quality of the original Heavy Equipment.  The community hasn't had many events or projects to rally around in recent years.  As time has gone on, skinners have become more insular, and small groups have started to split off to do their own thing.  Community Skins were a great way to bring everyone together, to pool the great talent of the community and make something really great.  It's for this reason, that the WinCustomize staff decided that the Community Skin project needed to make a comeback.  If this first effort takes hold, expect more in the future. 

WinCustomize v6 (or 2k8)

WinCustomize v5 (2k7) was all about making the site stable, fast, and be able to handle a growing community.  We feel we accomplished that and now it's time to focus on making the site more usable, more inviting and easier to navigate.  We've begun (very) early design work on the site and are excited about the changes coming up.  A big focus across all things Stardock the last year has been on improving the user experience when using our tools.  WinCustomize is one of our largest tools, and its time to bring it fully up to date.  Expect more news, previews, screenshots and more as we get nearer completion.  There will probably be a subscriber-only beta test of the site as well, like there was for v5 early this year.

JoeUser 2

JoeUser is being rewritten completely.  Originally coded in 2003 and largely left alone since, this revamp is significant.  We're taking everything we've learned from both JoeUser and WinCustomize to make a community discussion/blogging site that's very special and unique.  For the WinCustomize community, this is important because JoeUser 2 is a test-bed for many changes and improvements we want to bring over to WinCustomize.  JU2 will have features you'll benefit from here, plus it will grow the community and bring more and more people to WinCustomize, which will in turn expose them to skinning.

JoeUser 2 is getting very close to a testing stage now.  You'll be hearing more about that very very soon.

More Galleries, More Content, More Everything!

We're looking to keep expanding what applications we cover here at WinCustomize.  Over the course of 2008, we'll be adding galleries, and reaching out to more in the skinning application community, and to those in the wider customization community.  WinCustomize is the leader in this area, but there are gaps that others have stepped in to fill.  Working more closely with the rest of the community, forming partnerships with developers and other sites is going to be an important aspect of our work this year.  When one of us is prosperous, all of us benefit.

This means more content of all sorts.  Island Dog, myself, Brad, ZubaZ, Jafo and others have been turning out articles, helping with projects, contests, doing interviews and much more to make sure that you never run out of new things to see or read here on WinCustomize.  And we have even more planned.

2007 was a great year... and 2008 is looking to be even better!  I hope everyone sticks around for the fun and helps make 2008 our best year yet!


Comments
on Jan 03, 2008
Hey, where else do I have to be, except here.

So If I really liked 2007, I guess from what you are saying I'm going to love 2008.   

Now that makes me wonder how I am going to feel about 2009, oops getting ahead of myself here.    
on Jan 03, 2008
Sounds exciting

I bet GUI Champs will be fun to watch!
on Jan 03, 2008
Hey, you'll be able to participate 
on Jan 03, 2008
the 2008 GUIC will be the single biggest event in the customization world period.

  

Nice Article Zoomba, I look forward to being part of a most successful year for WC, SD and My own site.

on Jan 03, 2008
any chance the GUIC will have a category for some CODEING in DX? not just skinning existing things?
on Jan 03, 2008
WinCustomize v6 (or 2k8)

WinCustomize v5 (2k7) was all about making the site stable, fast, and be able to handle a growing community. We feel we accomplished that and now it's time to focus on making the site more usable, more inviting and easier to navigate. We've begun (very) early design work on the site and are excited about the changes coming up. A big focus across all things Stardock the last year has been on improving the user experience when using our tools. WinCustomize is one of our largest tools, and its time to bring it fully up to date. Expect more news, previews, screenshots and more as we get nearer completion. There will probably be a subscriber-only beta test of the site as well, like there was for v5 early this year.
Better compatibility with Opera browser?
on Jan 03, 2008
Great article, and I can't wait to see all the good things coming this year!




on Jan 03, 2008
WinCustomize v6 (or 2k8)

WinCustomize v5 (2k7) was all about making the site stable, fast, and be able to handle a growing community. We feel we accomplished that and now it's time to focus on making the site more usable, more inviting and easier to navigate. We've begun (very) early design work on the site and are excited about the changes coming up. A big focus across all things Stardock the last year has been on improving the user experience when using our tools. WinCustomize is one of our largest tools, and its time to bring it fully up to date. Expect more news, previews, screenshots and more as we get nearer completion. There will probably be a subscriber-only beta test of the site as well, like there was for v5 early this year.


Better compatibility with Opera browser?


Yes, that will be a major goal. In fact, better support for many more browsers!
on Jan 03, 2008
@Dark-Star: Ohhh perfect!
on Jan 04, 2008
One thing I'd like to see in the galleries is a page jump/goto option that allows us to begin searching where we may have left off before, etc. At present we can only progress one page at a time, and that can get pretty monotonous in large libraries.
on Jan 04, 2008
What starkers said.


on Jan 05, 2008
Proper paging is on the fix list, don't worry 
on Jan 06, 2008
Better compatibility with Opera browser?


I haven't encountered any problems with Wincustomize and Opera, are you running the latest version?
on Jan 06, 2008
It would be nice to have the 'losing your place in a thread problem' fixed.

You know, the annoying problem where the thread you've been keeping up with for umpteen pages and WC decides you've never been there before and puts you at the beginning of the thread instead of where you last left off?
on Jan 07, 2008
Has anyone thought of revamping the WinCustomize Browser? I used it to great effect on XP but it doesn't render at all well on Vista. Like SD Central it's looking a bit tired particularly when the websites have been so greatly improved.

A big issue for me amongst all of this is Vista compatability. Whilst one can now filter the website for Vista Blinds/WB6/both, oher library areas are not so friendly eg. Iconpackager where it's not always clear whether a package is or isn't for Vista.

Whilst XP rules the day in terms of the volume of skins etc. those of us that now use Vista have a less happy time anticipating using things that end up not running. I'd rather download art that will work.  

Meta
Views
» 2795
Comments
» 15
Category
Sponsored Links