Dabbleboard’s shutting down

Dabbleboard will shut down on August 31st. If you have any data you’d like to keep, please login before then and download your drawings.

We’ve enabled Pro-level functionality for all users so that you can download SVG files of your drawings too. SVG files are not just images; they can be opened in many other drawing programs (like Visio) so you can continue to edit your drawings.

We’ve canceled all credit card subscriptions. If you’d like a refund for a recent transaction, please contact us at contact@dabbleboard.com.

It truly saddens us to do this. We hoped we could keep Dabbleboard alive, even though it was clear it wasn’t going to be a big success. While the revenue we got was enough to pay the server bills, it was not enough for us to offer good customer service and support.

We were lucky to have Mahnaz work on customer service for as long as she did, but she moved on to other things a few months ago. And I (Zohair), the founder and developer of Dabbleboard, had moved on a long time ago. We had worked for little pay, so we couldn’t really hire others to do the job.

Thank you so much for using Dabbleboard. We know there are quite a few of you that still use Dabbleboard regularly; thank you for sticking with us for so long! Sorry for the inconvenience this shut-down will cause you.

Private drawings only on paid accounts?

We just started a thread on our forum about whether we should allow only paid accounts to have private drawings, and make all drawings in free accounts public. Please visit the forum and voice your views there.

Enhanced undo, embed support

Over the last few weeks we added a couple of key features:

  1. Enhanced undo: Now you can undo others changes as well as your own. E.g. if you draw a rectangle, then someone else sharing the drawing draws a circle, and then you draw a line; you can simply undo in this order: line->circle->rectangle (or redo in the opposite order). Also your history is kept intact per drawing even when you switch drawings, so if you edit drawingA, then work on drawingB, then return to drawingA, you can still undo the last changes to it. Truly unlimited undo!
  2. Embed support: We released a brand-spanking new developer API a few weeks back, but that didn’t directly benefit most of our users. But now any user can click the “Embed …” button and embed a live whiteboard widget with your drawing on any webpage. You can also choose to embed just the static image (e.g. in Google Docs); the image is updated whenever you click Save.
  3. You can change the canvas size by just entering width and height now. Click “Settings” to reveal the option.
  4. When you make a selection, you can use the “Highlight” tool to highlight it to all other users too.
  5. Other minor tweaks: There’s now a handy “Unsaved” message that shows next to the drawing name if you haven’t saved your last changes. The “New” button now gives you the option of “New drawing” or “Clear canvas (of current drawing)”. Etc.

Hope you find them useful. As always, let us know if you’d like to see any feature added or improved.

Database corruption, restoring from backup

We mistakenly ran a broken script today (Jan 21 2009) that corrupted the database. We had to restore from our daily backup snapshot. The result of this is:

  1. We have downtime currently, expected to last a total of 30 mins.
  2. We’ve lost the data that you created in the last 9.5 hours (12:00am to 9:30am PST, or 8:00am to 5:30am GMT). This includes new user accounts created in this timeframe as well as updates to drawings.

We messed up, and we’re really sorry :(. We’re still working on bringing the server back up, and will update this post as we do so…

Update: And we’re back online. Downtime was more like 40 minutes. Everything seems to be working okay now. Once again, we’re really sorry for the inconvenience. I feel especially bad about the loss of data that was created in the last ~9 hours; I know many of you spend a lot of time creating complex drawings on Dabbleboard and I can imagine how frustrating it must be to see your work vanish into thin air.

Please free to drop us an email at contact@dabbleboard.com if you have any concerns, or just to vent your frustration. If there’s anything we can do to make up for this, please let us know.

Posted in Problem. 1 Comment »

Dan Roam: solving problems with pictures

Here’s a great talk by Dan Roam about how you can solve any problem by a “back of the napkin” sketch. The entire video is worth watching, but if you’re short on time, the first 6 minutes are especially significant.

Favorite quote: “We are fundamentally visual creatures”. He also talks about how we all know how to draw before we know how to read/write, but somehow we stop drawing as we grow up.

A lot of stuff he says resonates with us. And this is why we do what we do: we want to help people express themselves visually. Hmm… would “Get visual!” be a nice tagline?

Improved shape recognition, selection

We released some significant changes in the last few days:

  1. Improved shape recognition engine: We’ve made the algorithms smarter, so you should find Dabbleboard detecting the right shapes more often, hopefully always. Let us know if you still find wrong shapes being detected (e.g. triangle when you wanted a rectangle).
  2. New selection system: It was always a pain to hold down the Shift key when needing to select multiple objects. Now when you click in any empty space, you’ll find a tool that you can click to select a rectangular area. And just click objects to add or remove them from the selection. To deselect everything, just click in any empty space.
    Background: We never liked having to hold down the Shift key, but couldn’t figure out the right solution to the multi-selection problem. We really didn’t want to add a Select tool to the toolbar like all other drawing apps (we almost gave up and gave in though!), because it’s annoying to keep returning to the toolbar when switching between drawing and selecting. After literally months of going back-and-forth with various ideas, we had a Eureka moment with this one. It seems obvious now, and we feel stupid for not finding this solution sooner, but we’re glad we finally did.
  3. Save button: This is for all of you that need to push the button to feel safe. Right now, we’re still saving the drawing continuously as well (when it says “Saving… Saved”), but soon we’ll stop doing that. We’ll still auto-save every-so-often (like Gmail or Microsoft Word) but not every second like now.

Dabbleboard Pro now available

Happy new year! I know many of you have been waiting for this release, and now it’s finally ready: the Pro version of Dabbleboard. The Pro version includes SSL access, SVG support, permissions control, and much more. See the Pro webpage for the details.

I also know some of you were worried that once a Pro version was made available, we’d turn off or cripple the free version. As we promised, the free version is still just as feature-packed and just as -well- free. And we’ll continue improving both the free and Pro versions further.

You may have also noticed that we dropped our beta label. That doesn’t mean Dabbleboard is finished; there’s plenty of room for improvement. It just means we will never have any excuse like “but it’s just a beta” when it comes to bugs (not that we ever used such an excuse before). We’ll work hard to keep Dabbleboard a reliable, secure and useful tool; our business depends on it.